||[Jun. 11th, 2009|07:55 am]
Just a few quick reviews.
#35: A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson
Breathtakingly vast in its scope yet clearly narrated and comprehensibly laid out, this book is the most complete description I've ever read of how life (and specifically human life) came to be on this planet. He starts with a brief discussion of the Big Bang (much of which I already knew from Simon Singh's excellent book The Big Bang) and sweeps through the history of scientific discovery several times to build a progression from astrophysics to geology and oceanography to biochemistry to biology to ecology and paleontology and anthropology. Naturally, being a Bryson book it regularly digresses for a few paragraphs to examine some of the more quirky characters in scientific history, and in addition to walking away with a sense of the interconnectedness of the sciences the reader comes to realize that science is as ego-driven as any other human endeavor.
If I had to recommend one single popular science book to someone, this would be it - I've never read another book that handled so many topics so well.
#36: On Basilisk Station by David Weber
The first of the Honor Harrington books, this is quintessential space opera. It's essentially 19th century naval fiction translated into science fiction. And I'm fine with that. While it's very much a work of "hard SF" - the science is detailed and hangs together well, and much of the plot hinges on it - that doesn't mean that Weber's neglected his characterization, and in the end the actual details of what Honor and her ship have to do are mostly just background for the development of her relationship with her crew. I'm definitely looking forward to reading the rest of the series.
#37: To the Happy Couple by Sarah McElwain and Diana Marye
I normally wouldn't include a reference book like this in my reading list, but I did actually read this one cover-to-cover. It's just what it sounds like - guidelines for writing wedding toasts, and I found it pretty useful even though it didn't cover my particular situation very well.
#38: Fathom by Cherie Priest
In a tiny little island town on the gulf coast of Florida, two old gods are fighting - one to destroy the world, the other to save it - and a pair of teenaged cousins are pulled into it as pawns for the gods. The plot is gripping, the mythology is fascinating, and I rather enjoyed reading it. I don't know when "Southern gothic horror" became such a distinct genre, but the setting suits the story very well here.
#39: Passenger to Frankfurt by Agatha Christie
I randomly grabbed this one when I saw it at a book sale at my church. I was expecting one of her standard mysteries - I've been getting more into mysteries lately, in general - but instead I was treated to what I take to be a radical departure from her normal form, as this was an international-conspiracy thriller in the mold of LeCarre or Benchley (with perhaps a bit of Dan Brown thrown in). It was a lot of fun despite a few of the narrative cliches, though it wasn't quite what I was expecting. I'll have to find a Poirot collection or something. (It also bothered me just a bit that the author felt the need to explain in a preface that she was deliberately setting out to describe a more fantastical world than usual, and gave away a few of the early plot points in the process.)
I don't know what's up next, since I just finished the last one yesterday and forgot to grab another book this morning. I've got a pile to choose from, though...