What are you reading?

(7 pm. – promoted by ek hornbeck)

This is a series that has a history on dkos.  I’m going to try it here.  I list books I am reading, with some comments, and you can do the same in the comments.

If you like to trade books, try bookmooch

Just finished

Dissolution by C. J. Sansom.  A mystery set in England in the era of Henry VIII.  Very good.  And, it’s a series!

Now reading

The Inheritance of Rome: Illuminating the dark ages by Chris Wickham.  A really good history of Europe and western Asia, from 400 to 1000 AD.

This one is more or less on hold.  I need to pay more attention to it to keep track of all the unfamiliar names.

The Great SF stories volume 1: 1939 ed. by Isaac Asimov and Martin Greenberg.  I have this whole series on my shelf and I think I will re-read them

Best Writing on Mathematics 2010 by Mircea Picci.  A collection of articles about mathematics.  Most of them are really great.  Math lovers will want this one.  (This book has disappeared on my shelves; I gotta find it)

Judgment under Uncertainty: Heuristics and Biases ed. by Kahneman, Slovic and Tversky.  A collection of now classic works on how people reason under uncertainty.

Washington: A life which I am reading on my new Kindle 2 (my old Kindle broke).  So far, it’s living up to the hugely favorable reviews, although the beginning was a bit repetitive about some aspects of Washington’s personality.

Just started

Dark Fire by CJ Sansom. The second in the Matthew Shardlake series.  I like this one too.  (spoiler alert).  In Dissolution, Shardlake has been disillusioned with Cromwell (that’s Thomas, not Oliver), having learned that he did a lot of foul things.  But now he is drafted by Cromwell again.  

A re-read of Quicksilver, the first in the Baroque Cycle by Neal Stephenson.  A huge novel (3,000 pages altogether) about all sorts of things related to the era of Newton and Leibniz.  Definitely worth a re-read.


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  1. I have not acquired the book yet, but heard Mr. Alexander being interviewed at length on NPR the other night.  I was impressed with his candor and obvious understanding of how to do a real interrogation rather than the brute force methods advocated by some. I prefer to think of myself as an “interviewer,” but am always interested in learning how other successful investigators do it.  

    Full title of the book is: Kill or Capture: How a Special Operations Task Force Took Down a Notorious al Qaeda Terrorist

    • RiaD on February 16, 2011 at 14:24

    christopher moore books

    fast paced, funny, light reading.

    i’m thoroughly enjoying them.  

  2. Cheating at Solitaire by Jane Haddam.  It’s part of her Gregor Demarkian mystery series, set (mostly) on a thinly-disguised Martha’s Vineyard.  Haddam (pen name of Oriana Papazouglou) has a very nice touch: highly recommended.

  3. When I went over the confluence of events that led to my decision not to go to DK4, high on the list of things I would miss was WAYR.  So finding this here today has made my day: joy and the greedy, cliche ridden delight of, well, eating cake and having it too.


    • mplo on February 16, 2011 at 15:37

    I recently read Chuck Hogan’s novel, Prince of Thieves, on which the new Ben Affleck movie The Town is based.  This particular novel is based on an actual occurrence;  a bank robbery up in Hudson, NH, that occurred back in the late 1990’s, when a five-man gang of thieves from Charlestown, MA (a tough white working class Boston neighborhood) attacked an armored car that had arrived with a delivery of cash to a bank in the area.  The four men (one of the gang wasn’t at the robbery) came out of their van, attacked the armored car, in order to rob it of cash, and shot and killed two guards in the process.

    Both the book and the movie about the above, are about 4 buddies who’re lifelong residents of Boston’s tough predominantly white working class Irish Catholic Charlestown section.  These four thieves from the Town, who’ve always prided themselves on robbing banks and armored cars, coming away clean and getting what they wanted, now decide to  rob a  Harvard Square bank.  Dressed in all-black ninja outfits and Hallowe’en masks, and armed with guns, they make the attractive female bank manager, Claire, open the safe at gunpoint, beat up the assistant manager, and then briefly take Claire hostage, blindfold her, and then drive her around.  

    A little unnerved that she also resides in Charlestown (a gentry resident), and afraid that she might rat them out to the FBI,  “Jem” Caughlin, the fireplug of the gang wants to “off” Claire and throw her into the sea, while Doug MacRay, the leader of the gang, just simply follows her around to find out what she knows.  Unexpectedly, Doug ends up falling in love with Claire, and she in love with him.  A romance develops between Doug and Claire, despite the gang’s crime careers,  much to the anger and disapproval of the rest of Doug’s gang, especially “Jem”, and Doug is compelled to make the choice of skipping town on his friends, or losing Claire, the woman he’s fallen in love with.  The FBI is closing in on Doug and his gang, and he has to quickly make a choice, and, in any case, he runs the risk of putting Claire in the line of fire, also.  

    In the end, however, Doug and Claire’s plans to elope do not pan out.  Claire ends up “diming” Doug to the FBI, as does  his former girlfriend, Krista, a drugged-out prostitute who’s the sister of the hot-tempered “Jem”, Claire ends up staying, and, although the book and the movie have different endings,  their love eventually goes up in smoke.  In the movie, Doug ends up fleeing to Florida, while, in the book, he’s ultimately gunned down, like his other three friends, and he comes to Claire’s Charlestown condo apartment to die.

    The movie was pretty good.  I largely enjoyed it, although the scenes in the Fenway and in the North End of Boston,  are too overblown, with too much exploding on the screen, which, I believe, took away from the film considerably.  The book, a real page turner, was even better.  

    • Xanthe on February 16, 2011 at 16:06

    by Doris Goodwin – a warm remembrance of her love affair with the Brooklyn Dodgers in Post War USA.  

    The Samurai’s Garden by Gail Tsukiyama. A young Chinese/Japanese man in 1938 living in Hong Kong is sent to his parents’ Japanese summer home to recover from tuberculosis.  The island is also a refuge to lepers –

    At its very soul, this is a novel about goodness.  And it has a real hero, not a modern day anti-hero.

    Gail is a soft, clear writer and she loves her characters –

    as you will.

    Also Greg Palast’s The Best Democracy Money Can Buy – a most difficult book to read, especially coming out of an awful January keeping many of us indoors.  I can only take it in small doses – but he delivers the goods – even if they’re tainted.

    At our book club, we’ll be reading in March Mario Puzo’s The Fortunate Pilgram – a story of an Italian Immigrant Family in the 30’s, 40’s, 50’s – focusing on the mother, a woman of character and grit.  I read it about 30 years ago, so it will be enlightening to see how my perceptions about it will hold up or change. It is his best novel – notwithstanding The Godfather.

    Oh, this feels good, doesn’t it?  

    • Xanthe on February 16, 2011 at 16:42

    sad.  But appropos that books should take a hit in these times.

    • larin on February 16, 2011 at 16:44

    I read “Cakewalk” a memoir bu Kate Moss and am still have bad dreams.  A true dysfunctional family but the kids turn out alright.  In fact, after many years mom and dad do too, but boy what a life!  Mom was a piece of work.

    Didn’t finish it, just lost interest in “The Life and opinions of Maf the Dog and of his friend Marilyn Monroe” by Andrew O’Hafan.  You have to be a huge fan of Monroe and well I am not.  The book is not without charm, but it just wasn’t for me.

    I am into “Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter” and this one works.  In fact, it weaves fact and fiction into a valid and interesting story.  I have read several in this genre and this is the only one that really works for me.

    Have a great week and keep reading.

  4. I like it. I’m reading “Craftsman Homes” by Gustav Stickley and “The Houses That Sears Built” by Rosemary Thornton. I’ve been living in a hotel for so long, i’m jonsing for house porn. no, not really. i’ve always loved old houses. And the sears kit homes made home ownership possible for a large amount of the working class.

  5. The Poisoner’s Handbook: Murder and the Birth of Forensic Medicine in Jazz Age New York, though admittedly, I had strayed for an evening or two, immersed as I was in the February 14 edition of The New Yorker, particularly Lawrence Wright’s excellent piece on Church of Scientology and their former accolade, Paul Haggis. (link to article here http://www.newyorker.com/repor


  6. my list as I have spent the winter reading mostly mysteries.

    I have almost exclusively been reading mysteries from other countries as they seem to publishing a lot of new and interesting authors.

    I started with some Scandinavian authors.I am currently reading the last book in a series by Norwegian author Jo Nesbo his books are procedurals and really fascinating politically as well as in plot and character. It’s interesting to learn about how their more socialistic society functions. His books tend hook back to the dark times of Fascism though generational ties. His hero is a moody philosophical guy with a drinking problem. I highly recommend them they are good entertainments with depth

    by Jo Nesbro

    The Redeemer


    The Redbreast

    The Devils Star (#4 and my current read)

    Then there are the Icelandic authors my favorite among them is Arnaldur Indridason. I started with Jar City and am now reading the Draining Lake which is has  historical ties  back to the Cold War.

    I think I’ll stop here as i could go on all day and I need to work in the mundane world of earning some money.

    One last author to pimp…Fred Vargas a French female author and historian. my favorite of her books so far is The Three Evangelists, the heroes here are three young history scholars of varing periods and an excop who share a old house. Very eccentric and well plotted. Set in Paris.  


  7. I’m reading “War and Peace.”  I was always daunted by the length, but find that it is a very smooth read.  The most daunting thing about it was sorting out all the Russian names in the beginning.

  8. http://www.amazon.com/Politica

    Not like I don’t get the basics of sociopaths running the world.

    • hester on February 17, 2011 at 02:26

    about the civil war White Doves at Morning. I’ve been reading all his stuff for the past several months. I love his work.

    Just finished Taiibi’s Griftopia

    Waiting for “When Corporations rule the World” to arrive.

  9. I contribute here, too!

    Warmest regards,


    • RUKind on February 17, 2011 at 05:10

    Part way into:

    Stalin’s Ghost
    by Martin Cruz Smith. I just ran out of steam because the story was a bit slow in developing for me at that point in time. I will finish it as I have everything else he has ever written.

    Lots of books on gardening, greenhouses, three and four season harvests by Elliott Coleman. Johnny’s Selected seeds catalog plus Gurneys. Organic Gardening, Fine Gardening. Mags shouldn’t count but these are part of the ouvre I devour in winter. Nothing like a trellis catalog on a sub-zero wind chill day.

    Neal Stephenson’s The Baroque Cycle. Stuck there also in the first of the trilogy. I bought Anathem at a big discount. I may read that first. And I originally passed on William Gibson’s Spook Country but it lies beneath my bed with Zero History. Hopefully they are devourable. That’s what I need right now.

    Chet Raymo’s Honey From Stone just a few pages per sitting to savor it the more. In the same vein, Anam Cara, Divine Beauty, and To Bless the Space Between Us by John O’Donohue.

    And Ecological Intelligence and Fractal Time – a V-Day gift.

    They stand there and silently guilt me while I ponder the most appropriate responses to LHMan’s latest posts. It all comes out even in the end. 2012. Sweet – my 401K will last me out!


  10. I haven’t read it–yet–but my husband (hobby historian) is and every time he comes across an interesting new point, which is frequently, he has to stop and discuss it with me.  At length.  No matter what I’m doing.  He’s fascinated by it, so it looks like I’ll be reading it when he’s done.  Since it sounds like it would give the “America is a Christian nation” fanatics apoplexy, I don’t think that will be a chore.

    Just finished “Cryoburn” by Lois Bujold.  Excellently well written as usual, but I have to say it was depressing.  Thought-provoking, but depressing.  Set in the Miles Vorkosigan universe, it’s about a world where the main industry–practically the only industry–is cryogenics.  Sick and old people get frozen by the millions–everybody gets frozen eventually–expecting to thawed out when there are cures and/or rejuvenation.  And expecting to pick up their lives where they left off.  There are problems with that …

    • mplo on February 17, 2011 at 15:39

    J. Anthony Lukas’s book, Common Ground;  A Turbulent Decade in the Life of Three American Families, which is based on true events and facts, is my alltime favorite book, which, I admit, have not only read a number of times, but just got finished re-reading it.  It’s about Boston’s school crisis back in the mid to late 1970’s, and how three Boston families viewed events, and coped with everything that happened.  The families included were the Twymons,  an African-American family from Boston’s  Lower Roxbury-South End area,  the McGoffs, a white workingclass Irish Catholic family who lived in the projects in Boston’s Charlestown section, and the Divers, who were a white Yankee gentry  family originally from Lexington, MA, who, after much investigating the various neighborhoods in Boston, bought and moved into, and renovated a townhouse in Boston’s South End, in order to be nearer to their work, and to help non-white poor people in Boston.

    The Twymons ended up joining in a protest in Roxbury against  the firing of a liberal white teacher who’d taught fourth grade in Roxbury for many years by the all white, conservative Boston School committee, who’d pointed out the shortchanging that Boston’s black children were getting in the Boston public schools, but who also pointed out that Boston’s white working class students also fared little or no better than the black students under the current Boston school system, under the current Boston School Committee.  The mother, Rachel Twymon,  who was separated from her husband, did not want her kids to stay in the all black schools in Roxbury, and tried to get a better education for her kids elsewhere.

    Eventually, when mandatory school busing came to Boston, the Twymons were first bused into Brighton, where, except for some minor incidents, largely had a good experience.  The next year, however, her daughters, Rachel Jr. and Cassandra, were bused into poor white Charlestown, where, along with the other nonwhite students bused into Charlestown,  they faced constant taunts, assaults, and general abuse by many of their white Townie classmates, as well as vicious rock throwing mobs outside the schools,  while the boys managed to avoid Charlestown by somehow gaining admissions into other high schools in the city, or to college prep programs.

    The Twymon kids found all kinds of ways to rebel, against their mother’s strict disciplinary measures around the house, and, eventually against being bused into Charlestown.   Much to  Rachel’s Twymon’s distress,  the girls would often stay out late, getting into sex and dope, and began skipping school.   A number of the boys, on the other hand, turned to crime and ended up being in constant trouble with the law.  

    The Twymon family also had many divisions in their families, and, due to extreme poverty, where Rachel was dependent on public assistance due to chronic illness, and unable to work, while her sister, Alva, with considerable striving, entered the computer world, where she got a job with Gillette, in South Boston.  After Alva’s first marriage stalled, she moved back to Boston, and determined to buy a house, she and her new husband, decided to buy a house in the  mostly white  and Irish Catholic  section of Dorchester.  Alva Debnam, her husband and two children were constantly subjected to a long campaign of intimidation and vandalism of their house by many white youths in the neighborhood. The efforts of a  white liberal group from Cambridge,  to organized  white working class people from Dorchester and form an alliance to control racial tensions, which resulted in the formation of a group called RUN (Racial Unity Now), which had helped protect and defend a number of nonwhite families who’d been under attack by white neighborhood youths, also worked to defend the Debnams, who were under attack, but became overzealous.  

    Only after Tommy,  a member of the Twymon family who came up from out of state despite not being wanted around by the rest of the family due to an extremely volatile temper,  became angry enough to retaliate, and seriously injure several white youngsters in the neighborhood,  however, despite did the police appoint two of their strongest cops as a racial squad to bring the increasingly tense, violent situation under control and arrest the troublemaking white youths, and

    The McGoffs, along with many, if not most of the white Charlestown townies,

    actively resisted the mandatory school busing order as hard as they could.  Alice McGoff, the mother, joined a group called Powder Keg, the Charlestown Chapter of the citywide antibusing organization ROAR (Restore our Alienated Rights), her daughter, Lisa, and a couple of friends, were often the student leaders of the White Caucus at Charlestown High School, who, with the support of white adults from Powder Keg, often led the resistance to busing inside the high school, with many demonstrations, both in and around the school, as well as marching to Boston City Hall to protest to Mayor Kevin White, and even to Judge Garrity.   Some of the boys joined a known fighting gang in Charlestown, which was the toughest gang in the Town, and, like many of their friends, frequently engaged in skirmishes with the police who were assigned to busing duty in Charlestown at that time.  One of the boys, Billy, whose primary interest was sports,  although not openly in favor of busing, was more laid back about it, preferring to concentrate on sports, rather than be involved in walkouts, boycotts and demonstrations, or even skirmishes with the police. much to the distress and anger of his sister, Lisa.  

    The Divers, who had moved into Boston’s South End, due to its being one of the few racially diverse neighborhoods in Boston at that time, had a real committment to work with the poor and disadvantaged, and they found a real opportunity to do so in the South End.  For awhile, things worked out quite well, as the Divers made many friends in the neighborhood, both white and nonwhite alike, and they helped establish the Bancroft School, which was not only integrated racially and ethnically, but had Open Education and classrooms.  At length, however, as tensions increased in the neighborhood between the white gentry and the  life time and longtime nonwhite residents in the area, due at least in part to the busing crisis, the Bancroft which was founded by a number of idealistic white liberal South End parents, including the Divers, was ultimately broken up by Judge W. Arthur Garrity’s order, lost its specialness, and, in addition to that, the increase in violent  street crime and property crime became too much for the Divers to bear, and they ultimately moved out to suburban Newton, MA, so their kids could get a better education.  

    The book Common Ground;  A Turbulent Decade in the Life of Three American Families, in addition to beginning with the backgrounds of the three families portrayed in this particular book,  also depicts the role that prominent politicians such as then-Mayor Kevin H. White, the late Boston School Committeewomen Louise Day Hicks and Elvira (Pixie) Palladino played in Boston’s school crisis, as well as the role of the Church, the police, and the Federal District, under Judge W. Arthur Garrity Jr, who, along with a number of experts working under him, had blueprinted what turned out to be an extremely divisive largescale, crosscity mandated school busing plan.

    I believe that the title of the book speaks for itself.  The Twymons, the McGoffs, and the Divers, although separated and pitted against each other, were all caught up in Boston’s busing crisis together, with many of the kids getting into crime and trouble with the law, the kids both being totally dependent on and locked into a poor school system that shepherded very, very few kids into college, and yet, in many instances, coming up to be reasonably decent people despite all the strife and trouble that occurred at that time.

    • Alec82 on February 17, 2011 at 18:09

    Africa’s World War: Congo, the Rwandan Genocide, and the Making of Continental Catastrophe by Gerard Prunier.  Absolutely gripping material.  

    Redemption Ark by  Alastair Reynolds, the second in his Revelation Space series.  The first one (Revelation Space) was excellent. Hopefully the second will pay off.  

    Buddhism Without Beliefs and Confessions of a Buddhist Atheist by Stephen Batchelor.  About halfway through the second and I’ve finished 3/4 of the first.

    I’m about halfway through Use of Weapons by Iain Banks, one of his Culture novels.  I finished the first Culture book, Consider Phlebas, a little over a month ago.

    I also downloaded and began reading No Death, No Fear by Thich Nhat Hanh.  I am not sure what to make of it just yet.  

    There’s more waiting once I have finished at least three of the above.    

  11. I’ve just read “Travesty in Haiti” by Timothy Schwartz, about how little good and how much harm some major charitable organizations have been doing in Haiti.

    On Kindle, I’m continuing my Honorverse marathon, nearing the end of “Flag in Exile”.  I’m also most of the way through “Science as a Contact Sport” by the late Stephen Schneider. I like it because it gives a sense of the development both of climate science and climate denialism over the last few decades.

  12. but I saw your posting that you were coming over here.

    If they do not fix that site, I am going to have to give it up for the sake of my blood pressure.

    I have recently found an entirely new subject area to investigate and I cannot more highly recommend the following books for completely changing the status quo about what we understand about patriarchy/matriachy.  The writing is so, so, but the content really  changed my thinking.  In this order,

    The Chalice and the Blade, Eisler

    In Search of the Lost Feminine, Barnes

    The Civilization of the Goddess: The World of Old Europe,

    Marija Alseikaite Gimbutas

    The last one is a huge book, coffee table size.  I got a used one on Amazon for only a few dollars more than the paperback and it was really worth it because of the pictures and diagrams. Gimbutas was the outstanding archeologist in this field for decades.  This was her last book and collected a lot of information in one place.

    Eisler has a theory about what I am calling Pre-patriarchy.  The chapter that really sent me spinning was what archeologists had found in ancient Crete over the past thirty years.  Women were at the center of Cretian culture.  Cretan art was astoundingly lyrical.  The pictures in the Barnes book are extraordinary.  There was not idea of war in ancient Crete; no weapons appear in their art at all.  When compared to ancient Egypt, Cretian art is graceful, not rigid.  And the pictures of the women have been compared to Parisian women of the 19th century.

    Barnes explains that Mycenaean Greek culture battled the ‘goddess’ cultures that had been in place for a few thousand years in what is called “old Europe.”  In other words, all the myth that we are familiar with was constructed to wipe out the earlier beliefs and practices which revered women.  

    The Cretian bull which we are generally familiar with was part of their worship of the generative principle.  The bull’s head resembles the uterus and fallopian tubes.

    And get this.  Young women and men practiced the ancient art of bull leaping together, side by side.  Bull leaping was transformed into bull fighting, a decidedly patriarchal sport.  The pictures of young women and men leaping bulls and full of joy, not to mention the incredible athleticism, totally transformed my imagination regarding pre-history and women.  I have always believed that many non-Western societies have revered women far more than the average educated Westerner would imagine, but realizing that these women were at the center of their culture and performed in this way alongside young men, both bare breasted by the way, absolutely solidified this belief.

    In fact, I have been sure for a long time that Western intellectuals have framed their studies of non-Western cultures and indigenous peoples in such a way so as to profoundly distort those alternate systems.  To have proof that women were accorded such status in highly developed, highly sophisticated societies with writing is stunning.  We have not decoded their language, but I feel certain that eventually we will be able.  Of course no literature survives in any form.

  13. “The Lady in the Tower: The Fall of Anne Boleyn” by Alison Weir.  Which prompted me to go back and re-read “The Six Wives of Henry VIII” by the same author, which I’m about halfway through.

    My favorite factoids so far:

    1.  Anne Boleyn was the only queen consort to ever be crowned queen regnant in British history.

    2.  After Jane Seymour’s death, Henry sent emissaries to approach Christina of Denmark, Duchess of Milan, with a marriage proposal.  Christina’s reply to his envoy was that ‘if she had two heads, one of them would be at His Grace’s service.’  In other words, ‘No, thanks.’

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