Sunday, March 3, 2013

What I've been reading

For some reason, I tend to go on reading binges at the beginning of the year. Partly it's because I have new books to read, but I never lack for reading material really. Taking stock, I found that I've read the equivalent of nine books since Christmas. Without intending to, I've been reading a lot of books by LDS authors:

I got four new Brandon Sanderson books. My favorites were The Alloy of Law and The Emperor's Soul. Alloy is the fourth book in the Mistborn series (new characters and you don't have to have read the trilogy behind it) that I hope he returns to someday. It's a fascinating mix of western, steampunk, magic, and mystery. Emperor is a very powerful short story I read in close to one night. I felt changed and empowered by reading it, and the changes have lasted more than two months so far. I was also strongly intrigued by his short story Legion, which I hope he does more with. It's about a fellow who interacts with his multiple personalities to glean specialized knowledge and insight. Firstborn is the only one of the short stories I'm not worried if he returns to or not - it's a complete silhouette of a morality play. [For clarity, Alloy is a full book. All the others are short stories.]

I devoured the first two books in L.E. Modessitt's Recluce series (Magic of Recluce and the oddly named Towers of Sunset.) After the second one, I felt like taking a short break from him and while I'm halfway through the third book (The Magic Engineer) I feel like taking a longer break once I'm done with this one. He has a nice magical world based on chaos vs. order, but there are enough similarities between the books and the characters that it's getting a touch repetitive. The fact that each book jumps to a new point in the time stream without ever really telling you how each fits into the whole is off-putting.

On my father's recommendation, I picked up William Bennett's Jacob T. Marley, which views the events from Dickens' A Christmas Carol from Marley's perspective. It adds a remarkable amount of richness to the original and is quite faithful to Dickens' tone and world. (Though with that said, I read just the week before how old authors never referred to minutes or seconds because no one had a watch to tell time that exactly, and then read Marley complaining about minutes and seconds. Ah well.) The ending is beautiful and, for sticking to a very well-known plot, has a delightful twist I shan't spoil. I will definitely be reading this again.

I also read (non-LDS) Anne McCaffrey's Dragonriders of Pern, which was alright. Since it includes time travel and dragons, I really ought to be frothing at the mouth excited ... but I find too many holes in their time travel, complained first about their limited use of the power, and then foresaw the ending much too early. I'm also not thrilled about a romance that involves a husband who shakes his wife whenever he's mad, a "marriage" that lasts only until your dragon decides to bed someone else's, and a thaw from antagonism to love without explanation.

Those were since we got back here 5-6 weeks ago. I also read Darth Plagueis while in Goleta. The best part of the book was the last 60 pages that overlap the events in Phantom Menace from Palpatine's point of view. The book adds a certain amount of depth and provides a palatable explanation for some of the stranger parts of the first prequel. I'm deeply considering rereading some of the expanded universe in preparation for the seventh movie coming out.

Then there were the free books. I read a few chapters of Brent Weeks' Shadow series and didn't like it - too gritty and dark. I read Soulkeepers by someone and I don't care to return to it.

Other books I'm reading include Reforming the Unreformable about Nigeria circa 2003-2005, which is very likely to be required reading for my public choice class next semester; Hayek's Monetary Theory, which I was disappointed to find out deals more with trade than I had thought/hoped; Reached, the conclusion of Allyson Condie's trilogy; A History of Joseph Smith by His Mother and a bunch of other directly Church related reading. On the list of books to read next are Tyler Cowen's An Economist Gets Lunch and Amartya Sen's Development as Freedom.