Been a long time! I'm still around, I'm on Mastodon but seem to just have less and less time each year.
What I'm Reading
Here's a bunch of quick roundups.
"A Very Political Railway" by Anthony Warner
Specialised book about the history of the North London Line, a local railway in North London. Was neglected by the authorities for years but kept alive by vigorous local activist groups. Has some interesting documents proving both that there were underhand efforts to close the line by disrupting the service, and that at other times fear of activist groups secretly kept the line from being closed. Fascinating to me, but I think pretty few people would be interested.
"The galaxy, and the ground within by Becky Chambers
I've liked some of the other books in the science fiction Wayfarers series, but couldn't get into this one. A disparate group of aliens of different species with different problems are stuck at a kind of space-motel by a kind of space-storm. I just didn't really care about any of them,
"How to deal with idiots (and stop being one yourself)" by Maxime Rovere
Book by a French philosopher, the original word was "con" rather than "idiot" which has connotations of being a oaf or boor, not just unintelligent. Describes various kinds of con and how to deal with them, seemed interesting at the time but didn't really stick in the memory.
"Richmond Park : from medieval pasture to Royal Park" by Paul A. Rabbitts
Book about a park near me, basically a few square miles of medieval countryside fenced off by Charles I as a deer park and largely left alone: it's surprisingly wild for a London park. Appropriating the land wasn't popular, the locals refused to build the wall with proper foundations and it kept falling down. Hostility to it was one minor factor in Charles I eventually losing his head, but nobody gave it back afterwards.
Minor notes: Eiesenhower lived in the thatched cottage there while planning the D-Day landings. Richmond was named after the Earl of Richmond who later became Henry VII after defeating Richard III at the Battle of Bosworth. He was originally earl of Richmond in Yorkshire, but his palace was named after him and the area named after the palace. Presumably if the battle had gone the other way it would have been Gloucester Park.
"Meetings with Remarkable Manuscripts" by Christopher de Hamel
Book going in detail through twelve lavishly illustrated medieval manuscripts, pretty interesting.
"Zonal Marking" by Maxime Rovere
Book about the evolution of football (soccer) tactics in Europe through the clubs and managers who influenced them. Quite interesting though I'm never sure that all this abstruse technical stuff is the most important thing.
"There is no map in hell: the record-breaking run across the Lake District fells" by Steve Birkinshaw.
Slightly disappinting book by a top ultrarunner about a record breaking run he did. Has some interesting detail on how he did it, but he's not really able to convey the emotions or sensations or views very well, and it reads rather woodenly.
Scott Jurek's books are easier to read, not sure if he's actually any different or just has a better ghostwriter.
"The Children of Ash and Elm" by Neil Price
Excellent book about the history and culture of the people we usually call Vikings. Has fascinating detail on their spiritual beliefs. Also it's unusually honest about the vast amounts we don't know: we only have partial records, mostly recorded late and in the Christian era, so we know surprisingly little about their religion. Unusually, the Norse gods are shown as sacrificing and praying to the gods: were there super-Gods who were Gods to the gods? Nobody knows.
Also is quite honest about both the appealing aspects, and also their propensity for violence and rape which seems to have been pretty intense.
"Aftermath" by Harald Jähner
Good book about life in Germany from 1945 to 1955 after the second world war. Busts some myths about it, and has some interesting historical detail.
Rather than being depopulated, there was a higher population level than before as the slave laborers were still around, and ethnic Germans fled back there.
There were more ugly conflicts than I was aware of. Food was short, the daily ration only 1,500 calories. Farmers got rich selling small amounts of food in exchange for whatever valuables city workers could scrape together. People with small gardens or plots of land had to guard them day or night to keep their vegetables from being stolen. There was ongoing hostility from ethnic Germans towards the Eastern European workers who had remained in the factories were they had been forced to work.
Overall, a fascinating book on an era that's sometimes overlooked.
"Running Until You're 100: A Guide to Lifelong Running " by Jeff Galloway
I think I read this before this year but couldn't find a diary link about it. Decent book with good advice on keeping running as you get older.
As you'd expect recommends the Galloway Run-Walk-Run method though, which doesn't have particularly strong evidence behind it.
"The White Ship: Conquest, Anarchy and the Wrecking of Henry I’s Dream" by Charles Spencer
Book about how a ship with the heirs to the king Henry I was lost, leading to a period of political instability. Interesting account of how Norman kingship worked, in particular the scramble to the throne after a previous king died.
Does seem like a chaotic event where a tiny change could have had a major impact on history, like having someone sober on board the ship to not sail it into rocks.
"All About Me!" by Mel Brooks
Autobiography of the great comedy music director. As you'd expect a good story with funny lines and good anecdotes. No particularly shocking revelations though.
"The Burgundians" by Bart Van Loo
Book about the Dukes of Burgundy, in particular Charles the Bold, and their rivalries with king of France. Quite interesting.
"The Brothers York" by Thomas Penn
Book about the brothers King Edward IV, Richard III and the Duke of Clarence. Good account which seems to treat them fairly. The Duke of Clarence seems to have got exceptionally good treatment in Shakespeare's play where he's treated as innocent victim: in fact he had openly rebelled against his older brother and tried to raise an army against him.
"The Knowledge Machine" by Michael Strevens
Excellent book about the history of science and how science actually works. One of the key elements was an instance that only experimental data is allowed to be evidence under science. Ancient philosophers did plenty of experiment and observation, but they always used elegance and grander theories alongside. According to the author it was the discipline of removing everything but empiricism that was the key.
Very enlightening book, well worth a read.
"Exercised: The Science of Physical Activity, Rest and Health" by Daniel Lieberman
Excellent book by the anthropologist who partly inspired "Born to Run" about how exercise works, and how much activity traditional societies do.
He points out that there is a kind of myth of hunter-gatherers as being naturally supermen, but while they're significantly fitter than most Western sedentary people, they're not all on the same level as pro atheletes.
"Burn: The Misunderstood Science of Metabolism" by Herman Pontzer
An OK book that has some good material, but overhypes a not totally convincing claim that our bodies adapt to our calorie intake more than some people think. The data comes from a small group of people who are at or below the healthy weight range, and don't necessarily reprensent everybody.
|< Do I write a whine or do I toot on hulvr.com|