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Some Book Reviews and Updates

Originally Posted: [2022-03-27].

We'll see how often I keep up with this, I guess. I missed the old Journal, but I'll try my best to not get quite as personal here.

I've been trying to replace late-night doomscrolling with reading. I burned through Isaac Asimov's collected I, Robot stories in a matter of hours. It was honestly rather delightful. 10 stars out of 10. I'd been meaning to take on the classic sci-fi canon, and I figured it was as good a place as any to start. I've also borrowed a copy of Prelude to Foundation to finish at my leisure. My local library gives ten free (and automatic!) renewals for print media. They are currently out of copies of Frank Herbert's Dune though, which has been on my list for quite a while. The stars just haven't aligned. I haven't seen the new movie.

I picked up the Wordsworth Classics translation of Dostoevsky's Crime and Punishment last summer as part of a pile of classic Russian literature and finished most of it, but the last few chapters sat unread on my shelf until pretty recently. Solid 9/10. Somewhat ponderous, but quite a lot is done with that, really. Very lovely prose, even in translation!

I couldn't even get past the first thirty pages of The Plague Cycle by Charles Kenny. I had pretty high hopes for it as the subject matter is maybe my absolute favorite to learn about, so I was rather disappointed with how it was written. I'm not opposed to an economic approach to the history of infectious disease on principle, but I literally couldn't take it in as anything except for a very half-hearted attempt to cash in on popular interest in the wake of the current pandemic. Shallow dive after shallow dive, written at the level of maybe a C+ college essay, and stretched out to novel-length. It seemed to me as though he started the book and knew he had to finish it, but didn't actually have anything to say. Figures. I'm glad I borrowed it rather than buying my own copy. Good as a primer, but nothing else besides. No stars, I didn't finish it.

In constrast, though, I borrowed Hugh Aldersey-Williams' Periodic Tales a few months ago and just started reading it as my go-to insomnia companion. I'm not too far in, but it's really lovely so far! It's a truly heartfelt exploration of the cultural history of the elements. It restored my faith in scientific nonfiction almost immediately. Stay tuned here for updates, I guess - it's rather dense and I tend to jump around through the books I have on my shelf, borrowed or otherwise. I'm not sure how far it'll take me to complete.

I also wanted to borrow the Che: A Revolutionary Life graphic novel, but couldn't fit it in my backpack, so I sat down in a comfortable chair in the fiction section and read the entire thing start to finish. It's adapted from Jon Lee Anderson's biography of the same name and features 400 odd pages of beautiful illustrations by José Hernández. It's quite good, but I took it in too quickly to rank it definitively (and am a little stumped on how to rank a graphic novel alongside everything else - what's the criteria there? Should I consider genres and catergories in ranking? Do I have to redo all of my previous rankings? Aghhh). I'll probably pick up the plain text version in the near future.

I didn't really know where this post was going to go when I started writing it, but books have been on my mind lately. I spend a few hours a week at the library and might be looking into a job there soon. I like milling around the reference section and have, as a pretty direct result of that, developed quite an interest in coleopterology. I poked around in my backyard for beetles this afternoon, but it's below freezing again here (snowing, even!), so it's rather likely that they're all entirely out of sight to an amateur seeker like myself until it warms up again. I don't have anything in which to store a collection quite yet, so I'm going to start with a bit of ecological surveying around my family's home and the nature trail down the hill once it's actually feeling like springtime again. I'll likely make some traps once I am certain I can start collecting specimens less-than-wastefully. I know my favorite species lives in my region, so I'm hoping to find one!

Anyway, I feel like it's about time to wrap this one up. Hope you're doing well. Stay curious, and check back here from time to time. x_x