arduinna: a stack of books, with the top one opened (book stack)
[personal profile] arduinna
Both [personal profile] dorinda and [personal profile] rosaw asked what I've been reading lately, so it seemed like a good one to tackle next. I've gotten weirdly out of the habit of reading novels in the past few years, but started picking up nonfiction. Sloooowly, though; and huh, I just realized it's because I have a mental block against getting too involved in anything in case I need to drop everything and Go Do The Thing (whatever the thing may be). That is an incredibly useful thing to know, so yay for this question!

Anyway. Novels/fiction may finally be working their way back into the mix, as I settled in a few days ago with Anne of Green Gables (♥) on the theory that I could really use something gentle and charming to sink into in the midst of this political miasma - and wow, good call, I felt much better afterward. I have oodles of fiction on my to-read list, so am looking forward to getting back into that. I got Ted Chiang's Story of Your Life and Others for Christmas, after loving The Arrival, so that will be up soon.

But other than that, it really has largely been nonfic for a good while now. I am still reading Ron Chernow's biography of Hamilton - I was going great guns with it but put it aside and haven't gone back to it yet. I will, though. It really is that good. (And then up: Chernow's Washington. Good writer, Ron Chernow!)

I'm also reading (about 3/4 done with) And Then I Thought I Was a Fish by Peter Welch. I got there via a metafilter post about something else this guy posted to his website, and in the comments someone linked to his essays recording his psychotic break. I went to read them (still online for free here) and got so sucked in that when I hit the point where he posted a link to the $2.99 kindle version, I had to buy it.

I'm ALSO reading (well, listening to - it's good highway listening) Elizabeth Warren's A Fighting Chance. She does the Audible narration herself, which is sort of fabulous. I just kind of want to follow her around like a puppy, really. She is amazing.

As for stuff I've finished more-or-less recently (past couple of years):

I'd been hearing about 1491 and the sequel, 1493, off and on for years, and finally pushed 1491 to the top of my list to see if the hype was really justified. It was; I have to force myself not to shove copies in people's hands and tell them to read them. I knew I'd been taught mostly incorrect history, and had picked up bits and pieces of better information as I could, but these laid things out as a cohesive whole I'd never seen before. It was one of those worldview-shifting experiences for me.

A whole bunch of epidemic/disease-related books, of which my favorites were:

* The Great Influenza: The Story of the Greatest Pandemic in History

* Polio: An American Story

* On Immunity: An Innoculation

* The Great Mortality: An Intimate History of the Black Death, the Most Devastating Plague of All Time

* The Ghost Map: The Story of London's Most Terrifying Epidemic--and How It Changed Science, Cities, and the Modern World

And not a disease but my favorite of the disaster books I read during the same phase: Dark Tide: The Great Molasses Flood of 1919 (true story!)

And finally to lighten things up a bit, two books by Jenny Lawson (aka The Bloggess). Both draw heavily but not exclusively on her blog, and her writing just cracks me the hell up.

* Let's Just Pretend This Never Happened

* Furiously Happy: A Funny Book About Horrible Things


... and now I've written this list up and am suddenly re-interpreting the request to be "talk about the actual content of things you're reading", but it's nearly midnight and that will have to be another night. *g*

(no subject)

Date: 2017-01-06 05:07 pm (UTC)
isis: (Default)
From: [personal profile] isis
I have read 1493 but not (yet) 1491, and I agree, very good. I also enjoyed Hamilton, though I bounced off of Washington when I first tried it rather a long time ago - maybe it's time to give it another go.

(no subject)

Date: 2017-01-06 06:30 pm (UTC)
dorinda: Jared Stone and Larimer Finch, from "Peacemakers". (stonefinch)
From: [personal profile] dorinda
One of my political-miasma-comfort-reads was a reread of all the Lord Peter Wimsey books. Well, except for the one in Scotland that depends so heavily on railway timetables, because that's the one I've always found the most emotionally opaque & unsatisfying, but I did read the rest of them.

I don't think I've read The Great Influenza...I did read Gina Kolata's Flu: The Story of the Great Influenza Pandemic of 1918 and the Search for the Virus That Caused It, which was a good one.

I think The Great Mortality sounds right up my alley!

(no subject)

Date: 2017-01-07 05:42 pm (UTC)
dorinda: From a French postcard of 1902: a woman in hat, coat, cravat, and walking stick writes on a pad of paper. (writer)
From: [personal profile] dorinda
Because flu and pandemics. (Yay? *g*)

Hee! I think I might've mentioned to you that I sometimes go through a phase where I want to read a ton of 'well-written historical-disaster books'. I have sometimes categorized these kinds of books as "If Only They Had Known"--the book shows the causes of a disaster, slowly building up, laying down flagstone after flagstone through incompetence, ignorance, accident, malice...all the while the people involved don't quite see the disaster coming, or if they do they can't prevent it.

Like, the Hartford Circus Fire or the Cocoanut Grove fire, the Children's Blizzard of 1888, the Galveston hurricane, etc. etc. etc. The Great Molasses Flood included!

And back before ebooks, I would sometimes have a couple-few of these exact kind of books in my carryon luggage. If I had been searched--or if the plane had crashed and someone found my luggage, more to the point--there woulda been a LOT of eyebrows raised.

I don't know, sometimes I just get in a mood! Not sure what it's about. Possibly something about the ability of a good historian to look back and draw together strands of things that at the time were invisible, showing the causality and gradual direction in something that at the time seemed sudden and incomprehensible and irrational.

(no subject)

Date: 2017-01-07 09:33 pm (UTC)
sakana17: gargoyle with teeth (fontaine-henry-gargoyle-teeth)
From: [personal profile] sakana17
You both have lapped up Erik Larson's books and Daniel James Brown's Under a Flaming Sky, right? I know I yammered about them to [personal profile] dorinda some while ago, but if well-written historical-disaster books is your thing, these are right up your alley. (I also highly recommend Daniel James Brown's The Boys in the Boat, though it is not about a historical disaster.)

Adding Dark Tide to my reading list!
Edited Date: 2017-01-07 09:33 pm (UTC)

(no subject)

Date: 2017-01-08 04:27 pm (UTC)
dorinda: Mike and Tino silently clasp hands, their gazes locked. (From "Trapeze".) (Trapeze_clasp)
From: [personal profile] dorinda
No, not yet! And thanks for mentioning the title again--I remembered you recommended me a good firestorm book (...I sound so terrible :D ) but hadn't remembered the specifics.

And I have Larson's book about the Lusitania on my list and coming up soon. *rubs hands*

(no subject)

Date: 2017-01-08 10:28 pm (UTC)
mlyn: (Default)
From: [personal profile] mlyn
Came here to see if everyone was familiar with Tim Egan. He's probably pretty entry-level and popular for historical non-fiction, but I just want to make sure. I hope I'm not all like "you like 20th century literature, have you heard of this guy Kurt Vonnegut" but whatever.

"The Worst Hard Time" is a must-read. I know how cliche that is, but seriously, if you live in America you should read that book. Ditto "The Big Burn." I haven't read "Short Nights of the Shadow Catcher" but I have it on Audible, and I saw him give a talk in promotion, and I am thrilled he covered the subject matter, so I'll just go ahead and rec that one too.

(no subject)

Date: 2017-01-10 01:23 am (UTC)
sakana17: yoochun holds junsu backstage at o concert (yoosu-o)
From: [personal profile] sakana17
This is a name not familiar to me, so I appreciate the rec! Adding his name to my reading list.

(no subject)

Date: 2017-01-06 09:47 pm (UTC)
ainsley: (falling from the stars)
From: [personal profile] ainsley
...good thing I was looking for things to add to my tbr pile. :) (No, seriously, the subgenre of history books that correct the falsehoods of the official curriculum is my favorite nonfiction subgenre, history being the favorite genre.)

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