Category: Books

Book: Burnout Generation

A short, audible-only, collections of essays by Anne Helen Peterson.

First, I dislike the millennial thing. Yes, naming generations is easier than repeating “adults aged 25-35”, but it smacks of cliche and I guess it just annoys me! 🙂 But, embracing cliche, we’ll say that this book explores the burnout that many millennial feel.

First, I’m not sure there is anything different in the burnout Anne describes and the crisis facing previous generations. Everyone has their struggles and each of us searches for our own meaning. It just seems self-centered to elevate one generational set of issues above another.

But, all things considered, I do appreciate the explicit naming and discussion of social issues.

  • Student Debt.
  • Housing Prices.
  • Wealth Inequality.
  • Social Media

The discussion I liked most revolved around the stress that comes with being always connected to social media. So many folks advocate getting disconnected, but it’s just not happening. I got my oil changed yesterday and spent about 20 minutes in the Jiffy Lube lobby with nearly a dozen folks. Every single one spent the entire time crouched over their phone…

DKT

Book: Children of Ruin

Note: I’m not a book reviewer and I’m not an English professor! 🙂 Three years ago I made a new year’s resolution to read a book a week and I’ve stayed pretty much on track. But, sometimes I fly through books without thinking much about them – which seems such an awful missed opportunity! So, I’m typing up my quick thoughts after finishing.

Adrian Tchaikovsky’s follow up to the sci-fi book Children of Time.

The first book was strange, this book is stranger. The first book was amazing, this book is slightly less so. I loved following the evolution of the Portiads on Kern’s World and the narrative was so immersive. Children of Ruin spent a little more time building anxiety and fear, with much less time given to the stories that made Children of Time so great.

I tried explaining this book to my wife… bad idea. How do you sound sane when you’re describing “spiders, who were supposed to be monkeys, who evolved into a super-species on a distant planet and now partnered up with humans to travel the galaxy. And they run into a partially terraformed planet where sentient octopi try to keep them away from a cellular infection that destroys life but is actually a new form of life itself“. What? Huh? Why am I reading this? Also, why is it actually pretty good.

The first book was recommended to me by a friend and I loved it. I’m partial to books that explore culture. In this case, how differently cultures might develop when left alone. Because, yes, you’ve always wondered how a group of space-faring spiders would interact with each other. Actually, I’m pretty sure only Adrian (the author) has ever pondered that question and I feel strange just typing it out, but somehow the book is immersive and rewarding and weird and great.

DKT

Book: A Short History of Nearly Everything.

Note: I’m not a book reviewer and I’m not an English professor! 🙂 Three years ago I made a new year’s resolution to read a book a week and I’ve stayed pretty much on track. But, sometimes I fly through books without thinking much about them – which seems such an awful missed opportunity! So, I’m typing up my quick thoughts after finishing.

Wrapped this one up on Audible – what a great read! Written by Bill Bryson, this book walks through the history of scientific discovery with a relaxing and approachable touch.

What entertained me most was the “behind-the-scenes” descriptions of the discoveries. The background of the scientists, the drama between them and the random facts of their life were sometimes more memorable than the science itself.

I loved the opening description of science books. Bryson describes reading a book about the Earth’s core and wondering “how do they know?” He complains about exciting topics being reduced to boring paragraphs that put students to sleep. In comparison, his book makes DNA, evolution and ancient geology engrossing and memorable.

My most memorable part was the poor folks trying to measure the transit of Venus in order to calculate the size of the solar system. To spend years traveling across the world in the 1700’s for the perfect viewing point of a once-in-a-hundred-years event, only to have cloudy skies ruin all visibility… ugh.

Not high on the list for “re-readability”, but a good mix of education and entertainment.

DKT

Book: Gentleman in Moscow

Note: I’m not a book reviewer and I’m not an English professor! 🙂 Three years ago I made a new year’s resolution to read a book a week and I’ve stayed pretty much on track. But, sometimes I fly through books without thinking much about them – which seems such an awful missed opportunity! So, I’m typing up my quick thoughts after finishing. Might contain spoilers, mistakes and gross misinterpretations! Read on at your own peril!

Loved this book by Amor Towles. I brought it with on a trip to Chelan as a “back-up book” and just couldn’t put it down. I accidentally purchased the large-font version on Amazon, so the volume felt substantial, but the pages sadly went by twice as quick.

The first chapter places the Count under house-arrest at the Hotel Metropol for the remainder of his life. We later have a flashback to his grandmother’s admonition, which explains his resolute happiness; “there is nothing pleasant to be said about losing. But, Sasha, my dear, why on earth would you give [them] the satisfaction [of your misery].” What great advice for fictional-grandchildren and readers alike.

Amor picked an interesting structure where the time elapsed between chapters doubles until halfway through the book, where it reverses and cuts in half each time. So the beginning and end of the book both take place over a few days and weeks, where the middle of the book jumps over 16 years at once. I’m embarrassed I didn’t catch on to this until reading a Q&A by the author.

The Metropol Hotel.

A couple things stuck with me through this book.

  • Loved the tradition of toasting on the tenth anniversary of the death of a family member. On that note, what a great friend Mishka was.
  • Montaigne’s Essays we’re described so romantically and roasted so barbarously, that when I spotted a selected version in a used book store in Alaska, I had to pick it up and I’m about halfway through. It’s eminently relatable for being nearly 500 years old, but works as advertised for curing insomnia.
  • Would love to visit the Metropol if I’m ever in Moscow. I wonder how their occupancy rates and prices have been affected by this fairly popular book.

I’d recommend this book to most readers. Not sure about the “re-readability” of it, but it’s a favorite of the year so far.

-DKT

Book: Ball Lightning

Note: I’m not a book reviewer and I’m not an English professor! 🙂 Three years ago I made a new year’s resolution to read a book a week and I’ve stayed pretty much on track. But, sometimes I fly through books without thinking much about them – which seems such an awful missed opportunity! So, I’m typing up my quick thoughts after finishing. Might contain spoilers, mistakes and gross misinterpretations! Read on at your own peril!

Just finished Ball Lightning, a sci-fi novel by Cixin Liu originally published in China, but translated to English last year. Cixin Liu wrote The Three-Body Problem series that had me hooked last year, so I’ve been looking forward to this one!

The book stays true to his previous work, valuing accuracy and logic in his descriptions of scientific research. I love this style! The beginning of the book encourages you to let your guard down as you read through descriptions of real (or at least completely plausible) events. It doesn’t feel as like sci-fi book, but just a novel with some technical explanations along for the ride. Slowly the book exits normality and you find you’re reading descriptions of watermelon-sized electrons and “Ball Lightning Accelerators” with equally technical descriptions. It’s hard to notice when you left reality and the narrative is so much more captivating because of it.

The translation is great and adds another joy if you like reading books from other cultures. I had a little difficulty keeping the names straight in the beginning, but not nearly as tough as Russian novels. I got a particular joy out of the character traveling somewhere in China that I’d been lucky enough to visit and recognizing the region’s name.

Lin Yun, obsessed with militarizing seemingly everything, was an interesting character, but I didn’t really like how her arc wrapped-up. I liked her until the end, where she retold her backstory. Maybe I missed something deeper, but I felt her obsession with pushing toward her goals was more meaningful without the whole daughter/father conflict at the end.

I’m not sure I’d recommend this book to my non-sci-fi friends, but I liked it. The character building was a little weaker than The Three-Body Problem, but the “science-building” was stronger. In fact, most of my excitement in the book didn’t come from the character arcs, but from wondering where the phenomena of ball lightning would progress.

-DKT

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