Tuesday, 31 July 2018

2018 Reads: April to June

Again, better late than never! The second quarter of 2018 was very busy professionally, and when that happens, I tend to stop reading in my leisure time...since that usually means I'm reading and writing more for work, and I tend to Netflix and game when I get home. 

It's also been ridiculously hot for most of July here and I've been spending my time not in my air conditioned office melting in my non-air conditioned attic apartment. When it stops being so hot that I sweat while lying on the couch in the dark, then I promise more consistent blogging. Basically all of my Instagram photos lately have been taken in the first five minute home from work when I'm still cooled by the hospital and blasting the AC on my drive home. 

I'm behind on where I want to be, reading-wise, but I've been making much better progress in July, so things are looking up for the second half of the year.

Jade City - Fonda Lee

This was a recommendation I got from a Reddit thread - the commenter said that this was excellent fantasy with strong world-building. Correct! Since George R.R. Martin has ruined book series for everyone forever, I was hesitant about reading this since it's the first book of a series that was published in 2017. But I'm really glad I did. In Jade City, jade is a magical stone known for granting enhanced capabilities to those who can wield it, and has created an upper class of warriors, with those cannot viewed as lesser. This has family struggles, mafia-like structures, war, fraud, a drug that permits anyone to wield jade and threatens the order of Kekon, the fictional country where the novel is set. The characters are complex and interesting. It's easily the most riveting book I've read so far this year. 

Dragonfly in Amber, Voyager, and Drums of Autumn - Diana Gabaldon

Still trekking through the Outlander books. I kind of despise Claire, and her daughter Brianna, is worse. Unfortunately the story revolves around them, though I'm hoping someone will drop kick their time-travelling asses off a cliff or something. It's a shame, because Gabaldon has built a very interesting and vivid world and I'm committed at this point to finding out how it ends, even though the one fantasy element of the story isn't focused on as much as I like. This is a story about time-travelling and instead I'm ready about the minutiae of how to run a still in 18th century North America? Come on.  

Prairie Fires: The American Dreams of Laura Ingalls Wilder - Caroline Fraser

This was a great biography of Wilder, as well as her daughter Rose Wilder Lane. It picks apart the truth and the fiction of the Little House books, setting it in the context of Wilder's real life, world events, and her relationship with her daughter. If you, like me, have very fond childhood memories of the Little House books (and only the books; I tried to watch the TV show once, said "What is this garbage?" ten minutes in and shut it off), and are interested in the history of "settling the West," this is fantastic. It's got historical context for the world in which Wilder was born and ended up writing about, as well as the story of how Wilder ended up writing her books. It's critical but fair about Wilder and Lane.

Young Pioneers - Rose Wilder Lane

I picked this up because I've already read Free Land and I wanted to see how similar this was to the Little House books. The answer: pretty similar but less good. I think Rose Wilder Lane had some questionable political views at best, and honestly every memoir or portrayal of her as an adult makes her sound awful, so the fact that I've now read two of her books makes me wonder about myself. You want a story about plucky pioneers and a nice dash of pulling yourself up by the bootstraps? Read Laura Ingalls Wilder, she at least makes it less in your face. This was at least short. But I felt like I'd read it before, which I pretty much had.

Come As You Are: The Surprising New Science That Will Transform Your Sex Life - Emily Nagoski

I think every woman should read this book. The end. Read it. Do it. Everyone should, really, but I'll start with you, fellow women. There's so much shit in the way that society frames narratives about sex, the way in which we shame women and make them feel other, the way we tell women they ought to feel, and the expectations that society places on everyone. Sometimes you just need someone to tell you that you're not broken, and it's okay to feel the way you do - and how to work with that. This was good and I think very necessary for everyone. It's geared toward women, but the examples are varied and broad enough to help everyone who wants to sort something out.

Weapons of Math Destruction: How Big Data Increases Inequality and Threatens Democracy - Cathy O'Neill

This was on a reading list about artificial intelligence that was referenced at a conference I went to in June. Since I spend a lot of time creating and manipulating search results, I find AI and algorithms endlessly fascinating. This was a very sobering look at the tech we use and the algorithms that have changed decision making, democracy, society, and how we live.  A lot of that is coming out in recent times, so it's very timely, but still something which isn't taken seriously enough. I recommend this as a good starting point for beginning to understand where we are with algorithms, big data, and how they impact your life.

Total this quarter: 8
Total this year: 18

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