Books and house projects

Just a quick note on my reading and activities lately.

Son of the Storm – Very interesting fantasy novel about climate change across a continent where the world building has roots in West Africa. There is a magic rock
called stone-bone or ibor (which I keep imagining as dinosaur fossils, but, I’m sure more will be revealed in book 2) A somewhat reckless and privileged mixed race university student, his rather horrible and power hungry girlfriend who has her own battles to fight, and an invader from the Nameless Islands. Complicated politics!

Travel narrative of Rabban Sauma from around the 1290s – I read Wallis Budge’s translation and his honking big preface which was extremely boring but that the book exists at all is very cool. Sauma and his student or acolyte or fellow monk, whatever, travel from China (Mongolia? anyway China adjacent central Asia with a free pass from the Khan) to Persia, Rome, and then further west visiting I think a French and English king but I’ve already forgotten. Charles somethingth…. The point was to get the Pope to agree to join with the Mongol Khan to attack the Arabs in Jersusalem and elsewhere (this plan did not come to fruition). The writer adds they removed many of the trivial details (probably just what we would want to read today). Lots about splendid churches, fancy tile, vestments, a peaceful interlude of prosperity and close ties to various Khans, then our hero gets his ass kicked and it’s very sad.

This was a little detour from an edition of Ibn Battuta’s travels (much abridged but very good).

Annals of the Cakchiquels – Another nifty old book, a Mayan history from 1571. If you are going to read something Mayan then go for the Popol Vuh, but if you’ve read the Popul Vuh and want more depth and want to know about first contact with the Spanish (spoiler, everyone dies of various diseases and society collapses), try this!

Accounts of China and India:55 (Library of Arabic Literature). This was a good anthology with a ton of footnotes.

The Mill Town Lasses (a series). Fairly light fiction, a family saga set in a Lancashire cotton mill town (pretty much exactly where a good chunk of my ancestors worked in the mills and mines.) Well written and researched! I enjoyed these!

The Open Society and its Enemies – Karl Popper. I read this if I have trouble going to sleep. Works every time.

The Lost City of the MOnkey God – Douglas Preston. Interesting non fiction story of various searches for “lost cities” of Honduras. (Spoiler – Using LIDAR, they find a crap ton of archeological sites in jungle so thick and remote it has been uninhabited for hundreds of years).

Botchan – Natsume Soskei. Famous Japanese novel from 1906 about a sort of bumbling dork, I don’t know how to describe him but he is earnest and mediocre and unambitious, a bit spoiled by a nanny, half assees his way through school and goes off to the provinces to become a teacher – Suddenly embroiled in the politics of small town life – Always fucking up but in a kind of endearing way ! I loved this book.

Victories Greater than Death – Charlie Jane Anders. What can I say, this was fabulous. Young adult space opera that has crucially cozy “chosen family” moments while also having a lot of ass kicking and a fast moving action plot and complex, interesting politics. I love the aliens and the scariest villain with the scariest superpower you have ever seen.

The Vanishing Half by Britt Bennett. Recommended enthusiastically and it was ok but basically the sort of book a lot of book clubs are going to read this summer or maybe already did in some recent year. If you like twins who go their separate ways and one lives as black and one passes as white and then their very dark and very pale children meet, this book is for you. It’s good but kind of like if current day Nella Larsen hit you over the head with a hammer.

Firebreak by Nicole Kornher-Stace. Fabulous! YA dystopia, perpetual war, extreme water rations, war orphans living in bombed out city dorms ekeing out a living by streaming their VR gaming in a simulation of the actual war zone they’re in. Highly recommend!

The Misfortunes of Alonso Ramirez – Another cool history “primary source” about a Puerto Rican guy from the 1600s who goes off to sea and kind of ends up a pirate. Actually written by Carlos Sigüenza de Gongora who is very interesting indeed! I love him! So, I heard you like prefaces, ok, if you don’t, then maybe stay away, but if you really like longity-ass explanations of a fairly short primary text then look for all the books about Alonso Ramirez, because there’s years of scholarship about how this is a novel by Sigënza and is Mexico’s first novel and then it actually turns out it is an amazingly provable mostly-true story, or at least, Alonso is a historical person whose movements we can partly trace.

The World of Alphonse Allais – This is a tiny, charmingly printed hardback that I somehow had on my bookshelf & hadn’t read till just now. It’s little humorous vignettes of Paris life that were printed in I guess a newspaper or journal, and the preface here (ALWAYS READ THE PREFACES AND INTRODUCTIONS! BEST BIT!) goes into a long funny ramble about how Allais isn’t THAT amazing, but hits a perfect note of just amusing enough to be amusing. (True) If you like whimsical nonsense, absinthe, the hijinks of of a little light adultery, and Paris bistro life from I guess around 1890, go for it.

In 1965 – Albert Robida. Ok this is wild – it is French science fiction from 1920 – kind of lighthearted BS about the future of aircars and spires (fabulously reminiscent of Buckminster Fuller’s zepplins and towers) along with a powerful feminist manifesto (which sadly must be defeated but which has some cool potential) . Then a Gulliver’s Travels-ish novella about a guy who is shipwrecked on a Centaur Island. My favorite bit of that story is how the centaurs finally force him to wear a prosthetic horse butt so he won’t look so deformed, and they never understand that he can’t just gallop several miles with them especially with a giant prosthetic wooden horse butt strapped to him. Kind of awesome read from a disability perspective.

MORE TO COME and I haven’t even mentioned all the stuff about moving, the new house, various house projects, etc. but that is taking up a lot of my thoughts and energy. Am writing some poetry but not a ton. Also reading for the Otherwise Award.

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