Reading is the one thing I managed to do to my own satisfaction this month. A lot of short books, but still a pretty good month with some interesting material. It also looks like I’ll knock out my queue without much problem.
1. A Tear at the Edge of Creation by Marcelo Gleiser (5/5) – This book changed how I view the world. I believe that is the primary requirement for a great book, especially a great science book. I found his ideas and arguments so compelling that they are forcing me to revise substantial portions of my book (Lonely Human Atoms). Basically, he points out in very simple ways, how a lot of theoretical physics is making assumptions that aren’t based on much fact. I think everyone should at least read the first and last sections of this book.
2. The Mysteries of Pittsburgh by Michael Chabon (5/5) – I haven’t rated this book as a five before. Certainly, there are flaws, but reading it this time, it struck me how very careful all the construction was and how real all the characters are. And the ending is so wonderful. It all unravels so believably. It feels like life.
3. Krik? Krak! by Edwidge Danticat (4/5) – Very wonderful stories. A few lack depth and a few hit the same note a little too often, but there is great writing here. I’m excited to read other things by her.
4. Willful Creatures by Aimee Bender (3.5/5) – You know how sometimes a good band puts out a meh record and you can tell they were trying to be different for the sake of being different. That’s what a lot of these stories felt like. Some were really, really good and interesting and strange and beautiful and some were really, really neat. Sadly, some of the stories are just weird without having anything to say.
5. A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway (5/5) – Fuck. This book is wonderful. My favorite Hemingway so far. Fantastically honest. I don’t know what else. Go read it.
6. Look Me in the Eye by John Elder Robison (3/5) – This is the summer read for the school where I teach. Not my thing really, but okay as squishy memoirs go. The sentences are almost unfailingly simple and I think the writer thinks a little to much of himself, but he’s had an interesting life that was interesting to read about.
7. The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox by Maggie O’Farrell (4.5/5) – This was an impulse read. I read a few pages in a book store, didn’t buy it, but couldn’t stop thinking about it, so I got it out of the library. It was very good. The only reason I’m not giving it a five is that I wanted just a little more at the end. This is almost at the William Maxwell level in terms of telling a very complicated story with lots of characters very quickly while making sure that almost all the characters are still well-developed and interesting. A really neat book. I’m probably going to read everything else she has written.
Summer Book Queue Update:
Life Ascending: The Ten Great Inventions of Evolution by Nick Lane
Eaarth: Making a Life on a Tough New Planet by Bill McKibben
A Tear at the Edge of Creation by Marcelo Gleiser
Pandora’s Seed: The Unforseen Cost of Civilization by Spencer Wells
They Came Like Swallows by William Maxwell
Nobody’s Fool by Richard Russo
Mysteries of Pittsburgh by Michael Chabon A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway A World Lost by Wendell Berry Willful Creatures by Aimee Bender