August 2020 books read

  • Crazy Rich Asians – Kevin Kwan, 2013. I like the trailer for the movie but still haven’t watched it, and I wasn’t planning on picking this up until I read an interview with Kwan. His description of the “fun and name-droppy” writing voice (“nothing like what he thought of as his ‘real’ writing voice”) coming first and making the novel possible intrigued me. I enjoyed the read but the extravagance got a little much and I wouldn’t go on to the sequels when the world is so full of things to read. (But if I were stuck in a B&B and that’s all there was… I would!)
  • Most Secret – Nevil Shute, written 1942 but published 1945. Shute is one of the authors I love so much that I read and re-read everything of theirs, but this is one of his darkest novels and this may only be the third time I’ve read it. My favorite bit is the rabbit Geoffrey.
  • In the Pleasure Groove: Love, Death, and Duran Duran. John Taylor, 2012. Very enjoyable! I was a DD fan early on and saw them at the Peppermint Lounge in July 1982 – it’s still one of the tightest live performances I remember. Taylor wishes he had stuck with his birth name, Nigel. Nice depiction of both youthful raw ambition and long-lasting friendships. Funny bits: his wife Gela, not interested or impressed by musicians, getting their names wrong – I wish I’d written down all the malapropisms (Bruce Springfield, Three Blind Mice for Third Eye Blind).
  • Miss Hargreaves – Frank Baker, 1940. Recommended by Jonathan; it was so much fun to talk to him about this completely bizarre, often-delightful book. And then we got to enjoy the TV adaptation, which is completely different but also bizarrely good in its own way. The closest analogue to MH is probably The Brontës Went to Woolworths; no wonder Bloomsbury Publishing re-issued them both as part of The Bloomsbury Group (a misleading name!)
  • The Fear Factor: How One Emotion Connects Altruists, Psychopaths, and Everyone In-Between – Abigail Marsh, 2017. Absolutely fascinating book about psychopaths and altruistic kidney donors, who are according to Marsh represent the ends of the spectrum of under-and-overactive amygdalas/ability to recognize fear in others. Her TED talk is great; the book is even better!
  • The Life of the Fly; With Which are Interspersed Some Chapters of Autobiography – Jean-Henri Fabre (translated by Alexander Teixeira de Mattos), 1913 – quotes pulled, tbd
  • Rasselas, Prince of Abissinia – Samuel Johnson, 1759 – quotes pulled, tbd
  • The Quare Fellow (1954) & An Giall (The Hostage) (1958) – Brendan Behan – quotes pulled, tbd
  • How to Be an Anti-Racist – Ibram X. Kendi, 2019. Interesting and in-depth exploration of various kinds of racist ideas and their intersections, many of which Kendi shows himself believing and then rejecting; the autobiographical element was compelling and tied the whole thing together.
  • Crystal Singer – Anne McCaffrey, 1982. Comfort re-read of an old favorite. The food descriptions are mostly great but get lazy; it’s a common mediocre SF fault (other genres as well?) to introduce something like Yarran beer, and then no matter who is speaking or what planet you’re on, everyone can only drink/request/talk about Yarran beer. Steakbean, pepper fruit, Alderbaran paste with Forellan biscuits, and milsi stalks all sound interesting – there’s not enough description to find a real-world cognate, but the names are evocative.

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