What are you reading?

Hey you, what are you reading?

Currently I’m reading The Silk Roads: A New History of the World, by Peter Frankopan. It’s one of those “big picture” history books that were in vogue so very long ago. As such, it’s pretty messy, jumping all over the globe and moving back and forth through time within and between chapters. The broad theme is one of long distance trade and shifting centers of economic power, but at times it’s hard to discern any sort of consistent narrative. At times fascinating, at times boring. I’m halfway through and running out of steam.

The last two books I read are:

  • The Creation of Feminist Consciousness: From the Middle Ages to Eighteen-seventy, by Gerda Lerner. Did you know that many libraries hold book sales? And not only that, some of those book sales fall on a day where you can fill a huge bag with books for $5? It’s pretty amazing, and might be the most informative thing I’ll ever write on here. Anyways, I found this book at one of those sales. It’s the second part of Lerner’s Women and History series (the first being The Creation of Patriarchy). Particularly striking and sad was learning about individual women rising above the suffocating patriarchy of their time, but not having the means to build on feminist thought that came before them. Before the modern era, such thinkers were so isolated through space and time that the same ideas recurred over and over. It’s fucked up that books like this aren’t mandatory reading. It’s one thing to have a broad idea that women have been subject to oppression historically, and another to, you know, actually try to learn about it.
  • The Animals’ Agenda: Freedom, Compassion, and Coexistence in the Human Age, by Marc Bekoff and Jessica Pierce. The authors meticulously excoriate the science of animal welfare and its inherent ethical issues. They utilize a wealth of research to back their claims. There are a few things I take issue with. For example, their section on zoos should have included an outline of zoos in history, as well as where the animals come from and how they are accumulated. The section on hunting also should have had a discussion on the different cultural contexts in which people hunt. But overall it’s great, and its science-driven approach might be persuasive to those not typically inclined to regard nonhuman animals that aren’t cats or dogs with empathy.

So what about you? What are you reading? What have you recently read?


  1. chigau (違う) says

    The Ten-Cent Plague: The Great Comic-Book Scare and How It Changed America
    by David Hajdu

  2. Ogvorbis: Swimming without a parachute. says

    I am currently reading Scramble for Africa: The Great Trek to the Boer War by Anthony Nutting, 1971. It pales in comparison to Pakenham’s books on the Boer War and the scramble for Africa, but goes into some details regarding Katanga, Barotseland, Ngamiland, Matabeleland, Mashonaland and Nyasaland that Pakenham glossed over. Basically, Rhodes tried to take them all (and succeeded with some).

  3. Pierce R. Butler says

    I recently finished Jefferson Davis, Confederate President by Herman Hattaway & Richard E. Beringer.

    The best thing about the racist Rebel leadership was their abundant incompetence.

  4. A. Noyd says

    I’m reading Ankoku Joshi (The Dark Maidens) by Akiyoshi Rikako. It’s a murder mystery set in a Catholic girls school in Japan and is told through the short stories of the members of the literature club whose leader died.

  5. StevoR says

    Currently reading Terra : our 100 million year old ecosystem and the threats that now put it at risk by Michael Novacek (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2007) plus Australian Sky &Telescope magazine’s Nov-Dec 2017 issue with articles including theend of our solar system and how to spot the outer ice giant planets as well as re-reading Pamela Sargent’s Venus of Shadows (Bantam, first published 1988, this edition 1990) novel, the second in her excellent trilogy on terraforming Venus.

  6. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    Especially for this audience, I strongly suggest this novel series that I just found and I adore it.


    The Salvation War is a Web Original trilogy that premiered online in the beginning of 2008, asking a simple question: what if God announced that everyone’s time was up, and that Satan was coming to claim the bodies and souls of everyone on earth?

    The answer author Stuart Slade gives is simple: the governments of the world declare war on Heaven and Hell, and bring upon them all the might of the modern military services aided by every single technological advancement we’ve made since the Bible Times.

    In short, the series can be summarized as war fiction heavy on Technology Porn in the vein of Larry Bond or John Ringo that goes on a ramming course in order to deconstruct apocalyptic horror along the lines of The Taking or the hard-handed evangelism of Left Behind.


    Of the Demonic Invaders. In real life, they would had been curbstomped by humanity’s modern weaponry just the same way as in the story.

    Of Biblical tropes in general, really. Take the supernatural elements of The Bible and Word of Dante, make them conform to the laws of physics enough to interact with the real world but otherwise play them as straight as possible, put them in the modern world, and what do you get? A joke. God Is Evil, the Demonic Invaders are ugly but no real threat to a modern army, the only really bad thing about Hell is the torture, and Heaven is supernaturally clean but still basically a Third World country. It would all be awe-inspiring to a Bronze Age culture but not to anyone who has ever driven a car.

    From the official FAQ for the story, from the author:

    Nearly all of Armageddon??? is about the people involved and how they adapt to what is happening around/to them. Even the scenes set in battle are focussed on the people and the weapons are described only in terms of what they do to people. The daemons are the most affected, primarily because they are the ones faced with the unimaginable. As humans, we don’t need to imagine what salvo rocket launchers, nerve gas, high explosives, landmines, rifle bullets etc do to their victims because we know. We do it to each other all the time. To somebody with a bronze age mindset, its horrible and unimaginable. Something completely unknown and beyond any form of understanding. Most of Armageddon is about the Daemons coming to grips with that and what it means. The humans end the story much as they started, just sickened by the slaughter they’re inflicting yet grimly determined to keep on inflicting it until their enemy (no longer Daemons) gives up. The daemons change incredibly, read how Memnon enters the story and how he leaves it. He’s gone through an epiphany and he’s done a heelfaceturn. Once a creature of horrific evil, he’s seen where that leads and is seeking a different path – as is the whole of Hell itself.

    The fighting sections of the book (actually about a third of the total) do two things, one is to provide the impetus for the character development, the other is to tell people what weapons do to their victims. Amateurs are all too free with their recommendations to use weapons (eg “Stop illegal immigration by setting minefields along the border”) without understanding what those weapons do. So, I tried to make it clear that weapon effects aren’t nice neat little clean departures but a hideously brutal and cataclysmic way to die. There is a very good reason why most people on a battlefield die screaming. People say ‘war is hell”, Armageddon makes it clear its far worse than that. The way humans kill their enemies fills daemons with terror, that’s worth thinking about as well.