California Against the Sea. Even if a miracle occurs and we manage to get climate change under control by 2040, global warming and its effects are already happening. And people are neither willing nor ready to deal with it.
On a much lighter note: JFK Jr and Carolyn showed us the right way to be famous for being famous. Elegant refusal is going to be my new motto.
Men Know It’s Better to Carry Nothing. I actually have A LOT of thoughts about this, but they boil down to: yes, women, especially moms, are the pack animals of the family and IT SUCKS. But I enjoy my small-ish cross-body bag – I can’t stick a book in my back pocket, but I can in my purse.
I Wanted to Know what White Men Thought about Their Privilege. So I Asked. So, so frustrating.
What Americans Do Now Will Define Us Forever.
Modern Media is a DDoS Attack on Your Free Will. It is the attention economy; as I sit here, the laundry needs to be tended to and the beds need to be made. But instead of taking care of my chores, I am catching up on my internet reading. It’s taking me out of my everyday reality onto web pages where the companies want my attention so they can make money. But it’s also not that simple. I’m reading more about issues that will and do affect my life: climate change is going to f*** up my retirement and my child’s life; theoretically all people are created equal, and society falls SO SHORT of that reality and that affects me and my friends. How do we fix these things? Is reading more really going to change anything? What can I do to fix these issues? Not to mention funding places that are doing important work investigating the state of the world. But I still need to get clean sheets on the beds.
Dynasty is a story of a particularly prominent and dysfunctional family: the Julio-Claudian set of Roman Emperors. It includes Augustus (who started the empire), Claudius (subject to a relatively famous BBC series), and Nero (who fiddled while Rome burned), amongst others. They’re notable because they were the first emperors: Augustus managed the transition from republic to empire; Tiberius couldn’t live up to him; Caligula was either crazy or really spoiled; Claudius was underestimated; and Nero was complicated.
It was also a complicated time in the Roman state: how does a republic transition to an empire? Why? How did the prominence of women in the family (Livia, Agrippina the Younger) effect anything?
Dynasty is popular history (not scholarly), and both readable and enjoyable.
What’s it about?
Tigerman is about war and superheroes and what if the Iraq and Afghanistan wars bred a superhero from the British troops? What on earth would he be like? Why would he be created? What does that say about Western society? Plot-wise, there’s a soldier, suffering from PTSD-lite, who’s been stationed on a make-believe island near Yemen that is about to environmentally self-destruct. There’s an attack on a local cafe, and a boy asks the soldier to avenge the cafe owner. How does he do that under the nose of a local UN force, and what are the ramifications?
Why should you read it?
Because Nick Harkaway is a pretty awesome author. He’s got the right amount of swagger and touch for narrating international politics. (John le Carre is, literally, his father. It runs in the family.) His stories are funny and touching and in this book he has a sentence where he uses the f-word as every major part of speech. I laughed out loud a number of times. Recommended.
What’s it about?
Plot-wise, A Brief History of Seven Killings is about Jamaica in the 1970s. It wasn’t a happy place. Two parties wanted to control the government. The CIA worried that the country would become communist, like Cuba. Gangs were aligned with both parties, full of not very nice people. The CIA was giving them guns. And Bob Marley was putting together a peace concert. There was a shooting at Marley’s home two days before the concert. This book posits what happened in the lead-up and in the fall-out to that shooting. Subject-wise, the book illustrates power relationships, what it’s like to live in a third-world country, how the CIA’s meddling in said countries screwed things up, and tries to pick apart why people do what they do.
Why should you read it?
An actual conversation with a friend yesterday:
me: Did you like Wolf Hall?
me: Oh. Then you’ll hate this one.
Because, despite the differences between 1970’s Jamaica and Tudor England, the books are largely about the same things: power, how do people get power, how do they keep power. It is dense and not at all brief. It’s also very violent. It, at one point, made me wish I had an English degree so I could properly analyze it. It’s good and important and educational but it is not entertaining. And that’s ok. I’m glad I read it.