Books I have read lately

I’ve been putting this off too long, so I’m just going to bang these out.

In the Garden of Beasts

Erik Larson

About the American ambassador to Germany in the years when Hitler was gaining power before WWII.  I liked how well the book conveyed the general feeling of menace by the SA, the Gestapo, the SS.  But ultimately the book is about a guy, the ambassador, who didn’t matter that much.


Kim Stanley Robinson

The book follows the events of the Mars Trilogy.  A few decades have passed and humanity has colonized most of the solar system, even going so far as to terraform Mars.  I liked it better than the Mars Trilogy- the action was tighter and the story more focused, but Robinson is as brilliant at imaging the future as ever.  For instance, I loved his imagining of a solar system populated with hollowed-out asteroids acting as floating terarria for all the plants and animals that had died out on earth, but brought back to life.  Some really great sci-fi.

American Babylon- Race and the Struggle for Postwar Oakland

Robert O Self

I was really interested to read this one because of a question I’ve been trying to answer- what’s wrong with Oakland?  And by that I mean that Oakland is mere miles from both San Jose and San Francisco, two of the wealthiest, most dynamic cities on the west coast, but Oakland remains a deeply troubled city.  American Babylon answers a lot of my questions (but not all).  Segregation in California doesn’t get much notice, but it was a real thing, and it determines our physical landscape to the present day.  Beyond that, there was the way West Oakland being bisected by a giant freeway and the fact that originally the BART system had ONE subway stop in all of Oakland, running right through the city to the suburbs beyond.  This book wasn’t an easy read, but well worth it.

The Other Wind

Ursula K LeGuin

The last book in LeGuin’s Earthsea cycle, which I really enjoyed.  I don’t know if I can recommend them to other people because they’re not really epic in the usual sense.  And I’m not really a big fantasy reader, but I like her books.  They’re more about characters’ moral development than about swords or fighting dragons (though there are dragons).  I find them comforting in some way that I can’t really describe.

Game of Thrones

George R R Martin

I have been resisting getting involved in this series for a few years now because, again, I’m just not that big on fantasy novels.  I found this book tedious.  One of the main characters is constantly expressing his distaste at the palace intrigues.  I thought, now here’s a guy I can relate to!  Spoiler- he dies.  Crap.

Unconditional Parenting

Alfie Kohn

I actually have read this one before but my wife suggested I do them again.  This book had a huge influence on my parenting style and it was good to read it again.  In short it’s a rethinking of parenting styles, avoidance of traditional methods of rewards and punishment.  If that sounds nuts to you, well, I got nothing.  I hate arguing about parenting.  It worked for me.



  1. Garden Of Beasts – The ambassador’s daughter was a moron, but he was a fall guy who did the best who could in an impossible situation. That nobody listened to him is a tragedy. His daughter, on the other hand, sholud have been sent home in a trunk.

    I thought Game of Thrones was a bore, half the book was filler. He spent more time describing food at banquets than advancing the plot. I read two books, quit in the middle of the second, don’t know why or how I got that far.

    I read a lot of fantasy, though lately more history. I kind of wore out on bad rip offs of LOTR.

    1. Garden of Beasts was really enjoyable, well, maybe that’s not the word. It was thrilling, I guess. like a horror novel. I found myself feeling really depressed while reading it. His daughter WAS obnoxious. I might have liked the book better if he’d have left her story out, though I did think her romance with the Soviet spy was kind of interesting.

      I like fantasy, but not really the kind that focuses on sword battles- more the Golden Compass, Earthsea type of books. Sword battles make for better movies than books.

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