January 2015


2015 #Books Number 2, 3, and 4 (plus 5)

Ah… now that I’m feeling better, I thought it was time to update everybody on what I’ve read – since I am keeping track of books that I read in 2015.

Book number two was, as I feared, embarrassing: BAMF (SJD Peterson; Kindle) – a gay romance novel. Unfortunately it was not particularly well written. Its main role was to provide relief while I was reading Pioneer Girl – Pioneer Girl took serious effort and a lot of time, but was incredibly serious.

Glory and B*llocks: The Truth Behind Ten Defining Events in British History by Colin Brown was my third book – strictly speaking I’d read part of it last year, but had to put it aside for some reason. The book explores ten years in British History, trying to outline why any given year was the most important: 1215, 1415, 1588, 1688, 1815, 1833, 1928, 1940, 1948, or 1982.

Never having studied British history, it was almost all new to me – even 1982, which happened when I was 8. Safe to say this was the year of the Falklands War – and it was the least interesting year. But among the rest, there are some interesting issues to debate. I’d argue that either 1940 (World War II) or 1948 (Establishing the NHS) was the greatest year of modern Britain. Looking backward at the earlier years – Magna Carta, Azincourt, Armada, and so on – these are harder to judge.

The fourth book was Scott Kirsch’s Proving Grounds: Project Plowshare and the Unrealized Dream of Nuclear Earthmoving – a history of the plans by the US Government to use nuclear bombs (“nuclear devices”) to build harbors (in Alaska and Australia), cut through mountains to build highways and railroads (hello I-40—but never actually carried out, or build canals (hello Mississippi and Central America).

I, of course, have much more experience with one of the last Project Plowshare proposals, Wagon Wheel in Wyoming – which I wrote my Master’s Thesis about. I also read Scott Kaufman’s Project Plowshare: The Peaceful Use of Nuclear Explosives in Cold War America last year.

Proving Grounds covers the earlier years of the program using a geography rubric – it’s interesting, but not as engaging as Project Plowshare. To somebody seeking a readable primer on the topic, I’d recommend Scott Kaufman’s book. Proving Grounds is a bit too technical.

The next book in my reading pile – the fifth of the year – is Geek Love by Katherine Dunn. Currently I’m two-thirds of the way through it. Written in the 1980s, I’ve never encountered it before. Before I started reading it, I knew nothing about it – but what a crazy ass book. It’s about a family of circus freaks and related chaos. There are two main stories being told, both featuring the most of the same family members.

I’m pretty sure I’ll finish it this week – and I’m not sure I’d actually recommend it to that many people. It’s got something to recommend it (and it’s stood the test of time), but I’m having trouble putting my finger on exactly what.

By count: I have 16 unread books on my Kindle and 8 physical books. Many of the Kindle books should be read over the next month or so – although I will probably add books to that “pile” – and I know of at least two more books getting added to my physical stack in the near future.

I’ll never get completely caught up – but having this list on my blog is motivating me to read more.

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