What I’ve been reading

1. Dan Sinykin, Big Fiction: How Conglomeration Changed the Publishing Industry and American Literature.  An excellent history of U.S. trade publishing, and not the sort of anti-capitalist mentality snark you might be expecting from the title.  Recommended, for those who care.

2. Richard Cockett, Vienna: How the City of Ideas Created the Modern World.  It’s not the same kind of deep explanation as Toulmin or Schorske, nonetheless an excellent survey and introduction to the miracles of Viennese science, philosophy, and culture, earlier in the 20th century.  I enjoyed this very much.

3. Peter Kemp, Retroland: A Reader’s Guide to the Dazzling Diversity of Modern Fiction.  Is this an actual book, or just some smart guy running off at the mouth and writing what he really thinks?  Would I prefer the former?  No!

4. Cat Bohannon, Eve: How the Female Body Drove 200 Million Years of Human Evolution.  It is getting harder and harder to find good popular science books, due to exhaustion of the major topics, but this is one of them.  I kept on seeing reviews of this book, and not buying it due to fears of pandering.  But most of this book is genuinely illuminating and on a wide range of biological topics, most of all how the female body is different.  Ovaries, menopause, differences in brains — you’ll find it all here.  Furthermore, the book does not drown in political correctness.  Recommended.

5. Larry Rohter, Into the Amazon: The Life of Cândido Rondon, Trailblazing Explorer, Scientist, Statesman, and Conservationist.  I loved this book, in part because I like Brazil so much but not only.  Rondon, arguably the greatest tropical explorer of all time, played a central role in the development of northern Brazil.  He laid down a 1,200 mile telegraph line in the Amazon, at the time considered one of the world’s greatest achievements (radio telegraphy made this obsolete, however).  He was Teddie Roosevelt’s guide for two years, published over one hundred papers, and advocated rationalism, tolerance, and a Comtean version of progress.  Rondon’s indigenous background has made him a hero of another sort as well.  Recommended.

Note also that Ethan Mollick’s Co-Intelligence is coming out in April, likely to be very good.  I haven’t seen it yet.



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