hawkwing_lb: (Default)
Books 2009: 110


110. Stephen Hunt, The Kingdom Beyond the Waves.

Stephen Hunt writes very strange books. Which is not to say I don't enjoy them, but I stopped reading this halfway through six months ago and only decided to finish it now because it's bad luck to end the year with a book half-read.

It'd work better if it were a film. Because then the strange and impenetrable distance that lies between the reader and the characters wouldn't matter so much: they are opaque in their motivations, unconvincing, for the most part, as human beings.

And yet the book itself is interesting, a hurly-burly race in discovery of ancient ruins, and then to save the world: steammen and flying people and crab-like people and people people and all manner of weirdness, explosions, and battles. Also doom, death, terror, horror, dread.

Very strange book.
hawkwing_lb: (Default)
Books 2009: 110


110. Stephen Hunt, The Kingdom Beyond the Waves.

Stephen Hunt writes very strange books. Which is not to say I don't enjoy them, but I stopped reading this halfway through six months ago and only decided to finish it now because it's bad luck to end the year with a book half-read.

It'd work better if it were a film. Because then the strange and impenetrable distance that lies between the reader and the characters wouldn't matter so much: they are opaque in their motivations, unconvincing, for the most part, as human beings.

And yet the book itself is interesting, a hurly-burly race in discovery of ancient ruins, and then to save the world: steammen and flying people and crab-like people and people people and all manner of weirdness, explosions, and battles. Also doom, death, terror, horror, dread.

Very strange book.
hawkwing_lb: (Default)
Books 2009: 108-109

108. C.E. Murphy, Walking Dead.

Joanne Walker, police detective and shaman, is made of snark. This is a kind of fantastic book, funny and full of action. And it has the cauldron of Matholwch. And zombies.

So. Funny.


non-fiction

109. Richard J. Evans, In Defence of History, London, 1997.

I will confess that I was supposed to read this book three years ago, and I'm kind of glad I only read it now. There is much in it I wouldn't have appreciated if I hadn't been reading it in the shadow of my own poor attempt to write history in the form of my thesis.

I have a number of arguments with it, but, it seems, that's its point. Evans mounts a defence of the idea that it is possible to write history, raising a vigorous argument against hyper-relativity. He has interesting things to say about causation, the history of historiography, the moral component to history, and the limits of objectivity. He's also quite readable, even if I suspect many of the "post-modernists" against whom he argues would probably disagree with his conclusions.

While Evans defends the idea that history can be written, however, he fails to advance an argument for why it should be. That seems to be left up to a quote from G.M. Trevelyan, which captures the spirit of historical enquiry in poetic 19th-century prose:

"That which compells the historian... is the ardour of his own curiosity to know what really happened long ago in that land of mystery which we call the past... It haunts him with a passion of terrible potency, because it is poetic. The dead were, and are not.Their place knows them no more, and is ours today. Yet they were once as real as we, and we shall tomorrow be shadows like them... The poetry of history lies in the fact that once, on this earth, once, on this familiar spot of ground, walked other men and women, as actual as we are today, thinking their own thoughts, swayed by their own passions, but now all gone, one generation vanishing into another, gone as we ourselves shall shortly be gone, like ghosts at cockcrow."

I've had this argument before, against scientists and business-oriented types who see only that the benefits of historical enquiry cannot be quantified in terms of value, and create a false dichotomy which opposes function to aesthetics. Aesthetics does too have a function in and of itself, and history is a discipline which relies on aesthetics, on the poetic, to justify itself. We do it because it's the right thing to do: it's right to remember what has gone before, to preserve some candle-flicker trace of the hundred billion uncounted dead.

To me, the value of history lies in empathy. In what we learn from it about others, and ourselves. History is a branch of the tree of literature, which has its basis in recoverable truth. For certain values of truth. And it's worth doing, and it's worth doing right, because human life is terribly brief, and terribly fragile, and if we do not remember, who will remember us?

My biases, let me show you them.




I have been to town. I'm still gloating over my purchases, which include - I have coveted it for months! - Sidebotham et al's The Red Land: An Illustrated Archaeology of Egypt's Eastern Desert, a book on Tamerlane, a book on the Great Fire of London, the collection poems of Constantine Cavafy in English and Greek, and - sadly, unavoidably necessary - Teach Yourself German.

Bookses!

I also now have a moleskine notebook of my very own to do duty as a diary in the New Year, and Mark Knopfler's Sailing to Philadelphia. I feel... smug. Smug is a good word. Also satisfied.

Now, sadly, it's time for thesis, damnit.
hawkwing_lb: (Default)
Books 2009: 108-109

108. C.E. Murphy, Walking Dead.

Joanne Walker, police detective and shaman, is made of snark. This is a kind of fantastic book, funny and full of action. And it has the cauldron of Matholwch. And zombies.

So. Funny.


non-fiction

109. Richard J. Evans, In Defence of History, London, 1997.

I will confess that I was supposed to read this book three years ago, and I'm kind of glad I only read it now. There is much in it I wouldn't have appreciated if I hadn't been reading it in the shadow of my own poor attempt to write history in the form of my thesis.

I have a number of arguments with it, but, it seems, that's its point. Evans mounts a defence of the idea that it is possible to write history, raising a vigorous argument against hyper-relativity. He has interesting things to say about causation, the history of historiography, the moral component to history, and the limits of objectivity. He's also quite readable, even if I suspect many of the "post-modernists" against whom he argues would probably disagree with his conclusions.

While Evans defends the idea that history can be written, however, he fails to advance an argument for why it should be. That seems to be left up to a quote from G.M. Trevelyan, which captures the spirit of historical enquiry in poetic 19th-century prose:

"That which compells the historian... is the ardour of his own curiosity to know what really happened long ago in that land of mystery which we call the past... It haunts him with a passion of terrible potency, because it is poetic. The dead were, and are not.Their place knows them no more, and is ours today. Yet they were once as real as we, and we shall tomorrow be shadows like them... The poetry of history lies in the fact that once, on this earth, once, on this familiar spot of ground, walked other men and women, as actual as we are today, thinking their own thoughts, swayed by their own passions, but now all gone, one generation vanishing into another, gone as we ourselves shall shortly be gone, like ghosts at cockcrow."

I've had this argument before, against scientists and business-oriented types who see only that the benefits of historical enquiry cannot be quantified in terms of value, and create a false dichotomy which opposes function to aesthetics. Aesthetics does too have a function in and of itself, and history is a discipline which relies on aesthetics, on the poetic, to justify itself. We do it because it's the right thing to do: it's right to remember what has gone before, to preserve some candle-flicker trace of the hundred billion uncounted dead.

To me, the value of history lies in empathy. In what we learn from it about others, and ourselves. History is a branch of the tree of literature, which has its basis in recoverable truth. For certain values of truth. And it's worth doing, and it's worth doing right, because human life is terribly brief, and terribly fragile, and if we do not remember, who will remember us?

My biases, let me show you them.




I have been to town. I'm still gloating over my purchases, which include - I have coveted it for months! - Sidebotham et al's The Red Land: An Illustrated Archaeology of Egypt's Eastern Desert, a book on Tamerlane, a book on the Great Fire of London, the collection poems of Constantine Cavafy in English and Greek, and - sadly, unavoidably necessary - Teach Yourself German.

Bookses!

I also now have a moleskine notebook of my very own to do duty as a diary in the New Year, and Mark Knopfler's Sailing to Philadelphia. I feel... smug. Smug is a good word. Also satisfied.

Now, sadly, it's time for thesis, damnit.
hawkwing_lb: (Criminal Minds mathematics is like sex)
Books 2009: 105-107


105. Daniel Fox, Jade Man's Skin. ARC, courtesy of [livejournal.com profile] desperance.


You might remember a couple of weeks ago I finally came round to reading Dragon In Chains, and raved about it? Well, this is the very shiny sequel, all mine courtesy of [livejournal.com profile] desperance's generosity. Is it as good? Well, if anything, it's better.

Following hard on the heels of the events of Dragon In Chains, written with a fantastic ear for language and rhythm. Battle, betrayal, love, anger, trust, war, the dragon unchained and a goddess speaking through the damaged and mute. Fabulous Chinese milieu.

I finished reading it at seven o'clock this morning. It is a very taut book. I am very glad to have read it. And very sad to have to wait more than a year for book number three. Seriously, here. Good book.


106. C.S. Forester, The Happy Return.

Horatio Hornblower, captain of the frigate Lydia, has nautical adventures in the Pacific. Storms, sea-actions, a madman, and a lady of quality are involved.

Entertaining.


non-fiction

107. Robert Harvey, A Few Bloody Noses: the American Revolutionary War, London, 2001.

Coming in at not quite six hundred pages long, this isn't light reading. It is, however, very readable: a deft and even-handed account of the American war for independence. It feels - I cannot say is, not having a grasp of the sources - very much like a balanced assessment, both of the causes of the revolution, the course of the war, and how what started as a revolution of the middle and lower classes - quite a radical revolution - was co-opted by an unelected Constitutional Convention dominated by the gentry.

I found it very interesting.




So. It is giftmas. And now family stuff is over! And soon it will be 2010! And my mother gave me a Loeb Classical Library edition of Seneca's Epistulae Morales and loose chai! Best giftmas ever!

Hope things are going well for you, friends, citizens, fellow denizens of the internets. Peace, love, joy, and all the rest of that sappy stuff.
hawkwing_lb: (Criminal Minds mathematics is like sex)
Books 2009: 105-107


105. Daniel Fox, Jade Man's Skin. ARC, courtesy of [livejournal.com profile] desperance.


You might remember a couple of weeks ago I finally came round to reading Dragon In Chains, and raved about it? Well, this is the very shiny sequel, all mine courtesy of [livejournal.com profile] desperance's generosity. Is it as good? Well, if anything, it's better.

Following hard on the heels of the events of Dragon In Chains, written with a fantastic ear for language and rhythm. Battle, betrayal, love, anger, trust, war, the dragon unchained and a goddess speaking through the damaged and mute. Fabulous Chinese milieu.

I finished reading it at seven o'clock this morning. It is a very taut book. I am very glad to have read it. And very sad to have to wait more than a year for book number three. Seriously, here. Good book.


106. C.S. Forester, The Happy Return.

Horatio Hornblower, captain of the frigate Lydia, has nautical adventures in the Pacific. Storms, sea-actions, a madman, and a lady of quality are involved.

Entertaining.


non-fiction

107. Robert Harvey, A Few Bloody Noses: the American Revolutionary War, London, 2001.

Coming in at not quite six hundred pages long, this isn't light reading. It is, however, very readable: a deft and even-handed account of the American war for independence. It feels - I cannot say is, not having a grasp of the sources - very much like a balanced assessment, both of the causes of the revolution, the course of the war, and how what started as a revolution of the middle and lower classes - quite a radical revolution - was co-opted by an unelected Constitutional Convention dominated by the gentry.

I found it very interesting.




So. It is giftmas. And now family stuff is over! And soon it will be 2010! And my mother gave me a Loeb Classical Library edition of Seneca's Epistulae Morales and loose chai! Best giftmas ever!

Hope things are going well for you, friends, citizens, fellow denizens of the internets. Peace, love, joy, and all the rest of that sappy stuff.
hawkwing_lb: (Default)
Books 2009: 104

non-fiction

104. Roberta Tomber, Indo-Roman Trade: From Pots to Pepper, Duckworth, London, 2008.

The term in the international community for archaeologists who love pots, I recently learned, is "sherd nerd". Tomber is a respected scholar and specialist in Roman and Indian Ocean pottery, so I suspect she's one in good standing.

This is an interesting book. A survey of Indo-Roman trade connections, it relies extensively on the pottery evidence - as you do. There's technical discussion of Torpedo Amphorae and Red Painted Ware and Black Organic Ware and sigillata sherds, but for all that, it's remarkably accessible, for an archaeological monograph. There's a lot in it about the Indian sites, the Red Sea sites, the Ethiopian connections, and the trade routes connecting with the Arabian peninsula: much of the scholarship cited is very recent, by which I mean within the last decade. It seems an exciting area.

There is also mention given to possible communities of foreigners and traders in each of the sites, and how trade may have functioned socially: not as much as the historian in me might wish, but enough to send me off wanting to read Sidebotham's publications of the Berenike excavations, and to want to track down the Myos Hormos publications. It's fascinating stuff, tracking the trade by pots, and sherds, and the odd inscription or graffito, and making informed arguments regarding Muziris and the Muziris papyri, and the handful of literary writings that mention the Red and Indian Sea trade.

I really enjoyed reading this, which probably goes to show how much of an archaeology geek I've become.
hawkwing_lb: (Default)
Books 2009: 104

non-fiction

104. Roberta Tomber, Indo-Roman Trade: From Pots to Pepper, Duckworth, London, 2008.

The term in the international community for archaeologists who love pots, I recently learned, is "sherd nerd". Tomber is a respected scholar and specialist in Roman and Indian Ocean pottery, so I suspect she's one in good standing.

This is an interesting book. A survey of Indo-Roman trade connections, it relies extensively on the pottery evidence - as you do. There's technical discussion of Torpedo Amphorae and Red Painted Ware and Black Organic Ware and sigillata sherds, but for all that, it's remarkably accessible, for an archaeological monograph. There's a lot in it about the Indian sites, the Red Sea sites, the Ethiopian connections, and the trade routes connecting with the Arabian peninsula: much of the scholarship cited is very recent, by which I mean within the last decade. It seems an exciting area.

There is also mention given to possible communities of foreigners and traders in each of the sites, and how trade may have functioned socially: not as much as the historian in me might wish, but enough to send me off wanting to read Sidebotham's publications of the Berenike excavations, and to want to track down the Myos Hormos publications. It's fascinating stuff, tracking the trade by pots, and sherds, and the odd inscription or graffito, and making informed arguments regarding Muziris and the Muziris papyri, and the handful of literary writings that mention the Red and Indian Sea trade.

I really enjoyed reading this, which probably goes to show how much of an archaeology geek I've become.
hawkwing_lb: (Default)
Books 2009: 103


103. Daniel Fox, Dragon in Chains.

I have stayed awake in this after-midnight to finish this book. I started it a little over three hours ago. It is lucid, luminous, fabulous, and I do not think I would have appreciated it half so much if I had not just finished reading a book on Chinese history: that cultural milieu is the very heart of this book, with its fleeing boy-emperor and its fisher-girl concubine and the jade and the dragon.

Especially the jade and the dragon.

It just sweeps you up and carries you along. Someone tell me what the sequel's name is, and can I have it now?
hawkwing_lb: (Default)
Books 2009: 103


103. Daniel Fox, Dragon in Chains.

I have stayed awake in this after-midnight to finish this book. I started it a little over three hours ago. It is lucid, luminous, fabulous, and I do not think I would have appreciated it half so much if I had not just finished reading a book on Chinese history: that cultural milieu is the very heart of this book, with its fleeing boy-emperor and its fisher-girl concubine and the jade and the dragon.

Especially the jade and the dragon.

It just sweeps you up and carries you along. Someone tell me what the sequel's name is, and can I have it now?
hawkwing_lb: (Prentiss disguised in Arthur's hall)
Books 2009: 102

non-fiction

102. Valerie Hansen, The Open Empire: A History of China to 1600, W.W.Norton, London & New York, 2000.

I owe [livejournal.com profile] tanaise for the recommendation. This is an introductory textbook for Chinese history, stretching from the Bronze Age to the Ming Dynasty. It's reasonably well-written, and offers an overview accessible to the most ignorant of beginners (to whit, me).

It recounts history both chronologically and thematically, with the themes incorporated into the historical sections. As a historian, I would have preferred slightly more analysis and discussion both of the sources and of what they reveal, but. Introductory textbook. Nearly three thousand years' worth of data. Fortunately, it has numerous suggestions for further reading at the end.

Definitely worth reading.




Still sick, in case you were wondering. Although I suspect at this point it's more to do with the antibiotic and too much time in bed than the original illness.
hawkwing_lb: (Prentiss disguised in Arthur's hall)
Books 2009: 102

non-fiction

102. Valerie Hansen, The Open Empire: A History of China to 1600, W.W.Norton, London & New York, 2000.

I owe [livejournal.com profile] tanaise for the recommendation. This is an introductory textbook for Chinese history, stretching from the Bronze Age to the Ming Dynasty. It's reasonably well-written, and offers an overview accessible to the most ignorant of beginners (to whit, me).

It recounts history both chronologically and thematically, with the themes incorporated into the historical sections. As a historian, I would have preferred slightly more analysis and discussion both of the sources and of what they reveal, but. Introductory textbook. Nearly three thousand years' worth of data. Fortunately, it has numerous suggestions for further reading at the end.

Definitely worth reading.




Still sick, in case you were wondering. Although I suspect at this point it's more to do with the antibiotic and too much time in bed than the original illness.
hawkwing_lb: (No dumping dead bodies!)
Books 2009: 98-101

98-99. Laura E. Reeve, Peacekeeper and Vigilante.

Space opera influenced more by nuclear disarmament than the traditional clash of superpowers. Ariane Kedros is a Reserve Intelligence officer for the Consortium of Autonomous Worlds, something that occasionally interferes with her job as a pilot for Aether Explorations. In both these books, Kedros's past with Temporal Distortion Weapons (the nukes of the future) comes back to haunt her. Entertaining, if a little ragged around the edges.


100-101. C. S. Forester, A Ship of the Line, Admiral Hornblower.

Admiral Hornblower is an omnibus comprising the last four Hornblower novels. A Ship of the Line is their immediate predecessor. Less exciting naval action, but still plenty to go around.
hawkwing_lb: (No dumping dead bodies!)
Books 2009: 98-101

98-99. Laura E. Reeve, Peacekeeper and Vigilante.

Space opera influenced more by nuclear disarmament than the traditional clash of superpowers. Ariane Kedros is a Reserve Intelligence officer for the Consortium of Autonomous Worlds, something that occasionally interferes with her job as a pilot for Aether Explorations. In both these books, Kedros's past with Temporal Distortion Weapons (the nukes of the future) comes back to haunt her. Entertaining, if a little ragged around the edges.


100-101. C. S. Forester, A Ship of the Line, Admiral Hornblower.

Admiral Hornblower is an omnibus comprising the last four Hornblower novels. A Ship of the Line is their immediate predecessor. Less exciting naval action, but still plenty to go around.
hawkwing_lb: (Criminal Minds mathematics is like sex)
Books 2009: 96-97

96. C.S. Forester, Hornblower and the Atropos.

Nelson's funeral, a sloop of twenty-two guns called the Atropos, Turks, diving for treasure, sea-faring action.

You know. That kind of thing.


97. Celine Kiernan, The Crowded Shadows: Book 2 of the Moorehawke Trilogy.

As I said when I read the first book, The Poision Throne, this is rather darker than your average run of young adult book. But it pulls it off quite excellently. Solid characterisation, strong plot, a robust and workmanlike approach to language: I look forward to the final book in the trilogy.




Lately, my head hurts. Quite a lot. I wish it didn't. I wish I could write again.
hawkwing_lb: (Criminal Minds mathematics is like sex)
Books 2009: 96-97

96. C.S. Forester, Hornblower and the Atropos.

Nelson's funeral, a sloop of twenty-two guns called the Atropos, Turks, diving for treasure, sea-faring action.

You know. That kind of thing.


97. Celine Kiernan, The Crowded Shadows: Book 2 of the Moorehawke Trilogy.

As I said when I read the first book, The Poision Throne, this is rather darker than your average run of young adult book. But it pulls it off quite excellently. Solid characterisation, strong plot, a robust and workmanlike approach to language: I look forward to the final book in the trilogy.




Lately, my head hurts. Quite a lot. I wish it didn't. I wish I could write again.
hawkwing_lb: (Criminal Minds JJ what you had to do)
Books 2009: 94-95

94. C.S. Forester, The Young Hornblower Omnibus.

I suspect that an omnibus should count as more than one book, but hey. I skipped the bits I remembered too well from the television version. Verdict? Excellent high-seas naval action, if very much of its time.


95. Patrick O'Brien, The Ionian Mission.

What can I say? This weekend was a weekend in want of sea-faring action.

I dislike Aubrey and Maturin as characters. And yet I am peculiarly - one might even say particularly - fond of these books, albeit in small doses. This one involves politics and actions with ships of the line and some problematic othering of the Ottomans and the Greeks.


In other news, I am sitting in the library beggaring myself by making interlibrary loan requests. But if all goes well, I will have some material from this library to work with tomorrow, if they manage to dig what I'm looking for out of stacks.

Despite the fact that I am doing work, I don't feel as though I'm doing work. Not nearly enough, anyway, when I add in the fact that I've let my running slip away to nothing.

Oh, well. The rest of today is for fun. Tomorrow is time enough to worry about Isis lactans and Kition and and and.

Well. Sufficient unto tomorrow is the evil thereof.
hawkwing_lb: (Criminal Minds JJ what you had to do)
Books 2009: 94-95

94. C.S. Forester, The Young Hornblower Omnibus.

I suspect that an omnibus should count as more than one book, but hey. I skipped the bits I remembered too well from the television version. Verdict? Excellent high-seas naval action, if very much of its time.


95. Patrick O'Brien, The Ionian Mission.

What can I say? This weekend was a weekend in want of sea-faring action.

I dislike Aubrey and Maturin as characters. And yet I am peculiarly - one might even say particularly - fond of these books, albeit in small doses. This one involves politics and actions with ships of the line and some problematic othering of the Ottomans and the Greeks.


In other news, I am sitting in the library beggaring myself by making interlibrary loan requests. But if all goes well, I will have some material from this library to work with tomorrow, if they manage to dig what I'm looking for out of stacks.

Despite the fact that I am doing work, I don't feel as though I'm doing work. Not nearly enough, anyway, when I add in the fact that I've let my running slip away to nothing.

Oh, well. The rest of today is for fun. Tomorrow is time enough to worry about Isis lactans and Kition and and and.

Well. Sufficient unto tomorrow is the evil thereof.
hawkwing_lb: (Criminal Minds JJ what you had to do)
Books 2009: 93

93. Kat Richardson, Vanished.

Ghosts, vampires, undead, and a Seattle private investigator in London. It's fast, and gripping, and well-written in any number of ways, and I do recommend it.
hawkwing_lb: (Criminal Minds JJ what you had to do)
Books 2009: 93

93. Kat Richardson, Vanished.

Ghosts, vampires, undead, and a Seattle private investigator in London. It's fast, and gripping, and well-written in any number of ways, and I do recommend it.

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