Book Report

Here are a few interesting books I’ve read recently but didn’t get around to blogging about:

Monkey Mind: A Memoir of Anxiety by Daniel Smith.
A fascinating tour of a mind plagued and sometimes crippled by anxiety. To his credit, Smith does not hide the fact that severe anxiety can drive people to act selfishly, and also make them really irritating.

Pandemonium, After Party and We’re All Perfectly Fine by Daryl Gregory.
In one of these, our heroine busts out of a mental hospital and teams up with her girlfriend to track down the maker of a drug that induces religious belief; in another, a therapist organizes group therapy for victims of demonic visitation. In the other other one, our hero investigates demonic possession by what appear to be characters from children’s stories, with the help of an alternate-reality version of Sinead O’Connor.

Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie.
A fragmentary spaceship-mind occupies a zombie body and plots to assassinate the many clones of the dictator who created her. Kind of a standard sci-fi plot these days, but fun.

Capital in the 21st Century, Thomas Piketty.
Lots of awesome historical stuff—did you know that the standard considered minimally acceptable by Jane Austen characters (500 to 1000 pounds a year) placed them in the top 0.5%? That in 1900, 10% of all income in Britain consisted of clipping coupons from overseas investments? Of course Piketty’s main point is that the relative egalitarianism of the postwar period may just have been an aberration and that we seem to be heading back to a society dominated by inherited wealth.
Sadly, when he gets political, he gets cranky and annoying. He maintains, astonishingly, that no-one in the old days thought that rich people had more money because they deserved it. He might want to look up ‘noble,’ ‘gentle,’ and ‘villain’ in the dictionary.

A Landing on the Sun by Michael Frayn.
British civil servants gone wild. Quite funny and pretty gripping, considering that you kind of know how it ends from the start.

First Peoples in a New World by David Meltzer.
Lots of cool stuff about Ice Age life in the Americas. Not a literary masterpiece, but I’m thankful to read a serious account not written by some nutjob with an axe to grind.

Biscuit Joint by David Kirby.
Musings about stuff like being offered a senior coffee and whether you say the t in Turandot.

Selected Poems by Li Po.
A great classic of Chinese literature, lots of poems about getting drunk and looking at the moon, hiking in the mountains and looking at the moon, and occasional mentions of the fact that his world was shattering into a devastating civil war.

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