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The Drowned World

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  The Drowned World, by J. G. Ballard  In 2145, decades of solar flares have melted all the ice on earth, drowning cities and leaving most of the world uninhabitably hot for humans.  Dr. Robert Kerans grew up in the 85-degree Arctic circle among what's left of the world's population; now he's a scientist with an expedition to explore an old, flooded city to see if it can be rendered usable again. The drowned city now has only some tall buildings poking up from the water, and enormous plants grow everywhere.  Solar radiation has changed plant life, rendering it Triassic in character; everywhere, both plants (and reptiles too) are huge and tropical.  The world seems to be regressing into the far-distant past; humans and other mammals are on their way out, and reptiles are taking over. Soon the heat and ancient atmosphere are affecting the crew with dreams and hallucinations.  The psychologist Dr. Bodkin theorizes that everyone is experiencing the surfacing of ancient genetic

Breaking Bread With the Dead

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 Breaking Bread With the Dead: A Reader's Guide to a More Tranquil Mind, by Alan Jacobs I quite like Alan Jacobs and have been following his blog, Snakes and Ladders .  I only ran into him a couple of years ago when I read his book, How to Think.   Evidently he's doing a sort of series of that, this, and The Pleasures of Reading in an Age of Distraction , which I have not read.  Here, Jacobs lays out his reasoning on why old books is a good idea, and important to do.  With me he's pretty much preaching to the choir, as a look at Howling Frog will show, so the question is, was it worth reading as an already convinced old-book-reader? Jacobs starts by acknowledging that reading old books is often painful.  Yes -- old literature is frequently racist, sexist, or just plain alien.  Why should we even subject ourselves to reading difficult or ugly or incomprehensible books when there are plenty of less painful books to read that we can more easily understand and agree with? Well,

My 26th lucky number!

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 The lucky number for the CC Spin is.... That gives me Tayeb Salih's Season of Migration to the North , which is about newly postcolonial Sudan.  It was originally published in Arabic in 1967, and the English translation in 1969.  In 2001 a panel selected it as the most important Arabic novel of the 20th century. Honestly that sounds on the intimidating side, but also like something I want to read!  So here goes.  I'll report back on May 31st.

More Time Traders!

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 The Defiant Agents and Key Out of Time (Time Traders 3 and 4), by Andre Norton I got so into the Time Traders books I read in January that I went ahead and got the next two, which kept up the excitement.   The Defiant Agents : Travis Fox, Apache rancher and accidental time agent, has gathered a whole team of tribal members for an expedition to explore the planet Topaz.  It was once part of the now-vanished alien empire, but nothing else is known about it, except that they're trying to beat the Russians there.  Everyone in the ship will be put into suspended animation, and the explorers will be given a new treatment that will awaken genetic memories from the past, rendering these scientific experts more skillful in survival and teamwork.  Plus they have enhanced psychic wolf companions! They do not beat the Russians to Topaz, and so the ship is shoved off-course and crash-lands.  Travis Fox and his teammates awaken with little idea of what is going on, but they survive and begin ex

Midway

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 Midway: The Battle That Doomed Japan, by Mitsuo Fuchida and Masatake Okumiya  After I read Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo , my brother informed me of the existence of this book, so I borrowed it.  While I love reading history, and I'm fascinated by lots of things around war, I'm not much on reading the actual military war part with battles and weapons.  As a result, I'm somewhat ignorant; I've hardly ever heard of famous war books like Thirty Seconds , or this one, and a month ago I could not have told you about the importance of the Battle of Midway.  Which was pivotal! Mitsuo Fuchida, the main author, explains himself as a naval aviator.  After being badly injured at Midway, he went to teach at the Japanese naval academy and was asked to write up an analysis of the battle for his superiors -- the truth of which had been covered up in Japan.  He was given access to secret documents, wrote the analysis, and the copies were sent off.  In the Japanese surrender, all these do

Tangled Up In Blue

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  Tangled Up In Blue: Policing the American City, by Rosa Brooks I heard about this book from a podcast interview with the author; if not for that, I would never have known that this book is what it doesn't look like -- a memoir about a Georgetown law professor in her mid-40s becoming a reserve police officer in Washington DC.  And it so happens that the law professor is the daughter of Barbara Ehrenreich, the well-known writer, activist, and cop-hater. Rosa Brooks has traveled the world, studying law and violence, and as tensions around race issues and policing heated up, she wanted to know what the world looks like from the cop's point of view.  She wanted to try it herself and think about what good policing is and whether we even know what we want from the police.  (Seems like no.)  And in DC, it's possible to become a part-time reserve officer, complete with swearing-in.  So she went to reserve police academy, while her mother had a meltdown. The world of the police and

The Woman Who Had Two Navels

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 The Woman Who Had Two Navels and Tales of the Tropical Gothic, by Nick Joaquin I really like this wonderful cover image, which illustrates one of the stories.... Nick Joaquin (1917 - 2004) is, as far as I can ascertain, a fairly major Filipino writer.  His full name was Nicomedes Joaquín y Márquez, and he also wrote as Quijano de Manila.  Although his first language was Spanish, he wrote his stories in English, and he wrote for 70 years.  These stories were written over time, with the earliest in the 30s and others in the 60s.   Joaquin started off wanting to be a priest, but decided that his calling was to be a writer.  These stories are suffused with Catholicism both cultural and faithful, but not conventional.  In fact none of Joaquin's characters could be described as conventional; they seem to exist in order to upend expectations. The first stories are set in the days of Spanish colonialism, and are indeed Gothic in tone.  A girl meets her own granddaughter and decides that s