Books read, early June

Adam Regn Arvidson, Wild and Rare: Tracking Endangered Species in the Upper Midwest. This author went and had an in-person encounter with each of the species on the endangered species list in Minnesota and wrote about it. I LOVED THIS. I wish every state had a book like this. It gives a different context and perspective on your immediate habitat even if you’re a person who thinks about conservation and habitat frequently and broadly. I think it would be very readable even for non-Minnesotans, but for Minnesotans, a must-read. Mussels, orchids, lynx, all sorts of things.

Aliette de Bodard, The Tea Master and the Detective. This is a short piece but stands under separate cover, so it gets a separate review. This is a female PoC Holmes-and-Watson in space, but the in space part is baked into the bones. There’s no part of this that’s just plunked down in space with no thought to implication, no part where the shift in culture and gender is not done with careful consideration. As a result, I found it to be far more charming and interesting than the versions in which the template is used too exactly without regard to worldbuilding and character context. If you like nontraditional minds as characters, this one’s for you. No, I don’t mean Holmes….

John M. Ford, The Princes of the Air and Web of Angels. Rereads. These are Mike’s first two books, and I hadn’t reread them since he died in 2006. What struck me this time about Web of Angels in particular was how emotionally and culturally Protestant it is. Possibly the most Protestant book I’ve ever read that was not about conversion theology. It’s proto-cyberpunk, is what it is, it’s cyberpunk before movement cyberpunk, and the aesthetic and tonal differences are fascinating.

Victoria Glendinning, Anthony Trollope. This is a fun biography of the author in question, talking about his relationships and their effects on his work, particularly his relationships with women including his mother and his niece. It made me want to read more Trollope, although he is the scariest author I read, so I will still probably not do more than one. But soon.

Justina Ireland, Dread Nation. I think it’s worth looking at Deb Reese’s commentary on a Native perspective on this book, including its endnotes. I see what Ireland was trying to do, and the parts of it that were away from the residential school were as interesting as a zombie novel ever gets for me, interesting enough that I was very glad to keep reading and see what she was doing with it. But I also see that there are some areas where wounds are still very, very fresh in some communities, so…this book simultaneously does an amazing job with prejudice and perception and power in its main characters’ lives and has some caveats around it that I expect Ireland will be keeping in mind for future work, knowing how good this is and how good the work she’s done elsewhere has been.

Sinclair McKay, The Secret Life of Bletchley Park: The WWII Codebreaking Centre and the Men and Women Who Worked There. This is a “life of the Park” book mostly–a little bit about codebreaking, but mostly a book about how it was to live there, how it felt and who ate what and how it was to arrange lodgings–the sort of thing that a writer who wants that background will probably find valuable.

E. Nesbit, The Magic World. Reread. A set of Nesbit shorts, all aimed at kids and doing that Edwardian upper class thing where she’s talking at kids but assumes a great many specifics about their background. Simultaneously there are a few pre-Soviet socialist moments that are fascinating in their British Edwardian details. But mostly it’s a book where some small magic takes place and some child enjoys it or manages to squirm out from under it, often but not always with animal transformation and frustrating relatives.

Ryan North, Erica Henderson, Jacob Chabot, et al, The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl: I Kissed A Squirrel and I Liked It. I’m sad that it’s still necessary for some of these tropes about dating and what NOT to do to someone you’re dating are necessary to mention–and really glad that comics are willing to mention them, and put them in the context of superpowered adventures. I raced through this.

William L. Shirer, The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich: A History of Nazi Germany. This was the last of Grandpa’s books on my pile, and it took me forever to read–not mostly because of my awareness that it was the last, mostly because it is over a thousand pages of Nazis, and I kept needing to take breaks for my emotional well-being. Shirer was a journalist who had a front-row seat for a lot of things and could comment on the situation firsthand, which was particularly interesting in the early chapters (he did not have a front-row seat for the plot to assassinate Hitler, for example). This book is of its time, does not have all the context that we’d later have, but that’s also where its value lies: you can see how much of this stuff was terrifyingly known immediately or soon thereafter, what it looked like while it was happening. I’m glad I read this. I’m glad I’m done reading it.

Martha Wells, Artificial Condition. The second Murderbot novella! Now featuring ART! I like ART so much. I continue to do the dance of Murderbot as it wends its way through frustrating human customs and societies and tries to figure out a place for itself. Looking forward to more unreservedly, highly recommended–I read this as a reward for finishing my own book draft.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *