Books I’ve Read Recently

The best book I’ve read this year is Quicksilver by Neil Stephenson, a hefty 900 pages of amazing history, a blend of science and adventure that works well. I hope to read the sequels soon.

I went through a Scottish phase and read Rob Roy by Walter Scott which was disappointing because it wasn’t about Robert MacGregor at all but about an English banker who runs into Rob a few times, plus the verbosity of novels from that age annoys me. I read some of
Night Geometry and the Garscadden Trains because I’ve met Al Kennedy at Faslane nuclear weapons protests but it was completely uninteresting to me, a bunch of short stories that just arn’t exciting. Lanark by Alasdair Grey is a classic with an imaginative version of hell and a two book autobiography stuck in the middle but essentially not that much fun and very bleak. But-n-Ben a Go Go on the other hand is fun and well worth a read, a Scots science fiction novel set in a world where Scotland has been submerged by water and everyone lives on ships.

Darwin and the Barnacle seemed like the most interesting book on the shelf of my friend who works for Faber and Faber. A very detailed biography into the decade that Darwin spent investigating barnacles (forget the Galapagos islands, barnacles have a dozen different ways of reproduction) it ultimately failed to link into his evolution theories.

Finally I gave up on the Silmarillion by Tolkein. On this third attempt I got to chapter 3 and decided the whole thing was just silly. I enjoyed The Lord of the Rings and the Hobbit but this is written in the style of a bible with characters you can’t follow or care about. (‘And then Vlobadobadob spoke to the Elven king Thingy etc etc.’)

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time by Mark Haddon is excellent. It also has a lot of sentences started ‘And then’ but in this case it’s because the narrator really does have a mental condition (a form of autism) which prevents him having emotions. A great story seen from the point of view of someone who can’t understand what is happening, very enlightening.

On my to read list is the second Maus comic from Art Speigelman (second world war story with mice as Jews and cats as Nazis). The Garbage King by Elizabeth Laird and A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson (which is meant to explain scientific thought up to the present day in a fun way). Currently I’m reading The Collapse of Chaos which is about complexity and simplicity.

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3 Comment

  1. I tried reading Quicksilver (Cryptonomicon was one of the best books I’ve ever read), but only got as far as page 40 something. Stephenson’s “reinvention” of MIT really *grated* as a plot device, and it wasn’t the first time I found something so clumsy (‘though maybe I’m not being fair – I suppose I’ve only read a fraction of it).

    Does this sort of thing happen throughout the book, or is is just a scene setting thing thing I should grit my teeth and ignore ‘cos it’ll be over soon? I really enjoyed Cryptonomicon and *really want* to like this book.

  2. This is a fictional book, since I don’t know or care anything about the real MIT it seems like a perfectly good plot device to me. Metaweb.com tells you what’s true and what’s not, see MIT entry.

  3. Fair enough. Cheers for the link, I’ll maybe give the book another shot.

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