Don Hosek - Recent reading

I tend to be a voracious reader, and I read widely. This list has its origins in an old signature file which I would update periodically with the current book that I was reading. That gradually transmogrified itself into the current massive archive with brief reviews.

What I've been reading lately
Number of books read and reviewed each year
1995* (28)
1996 (47)
1997 (74)
1998 (61)
1999 (62)
2000 (27)
2001 (51)
2002 (60)
2003 (37)
2004 (36)
2005 (32)
2006 (46)
2007 (109)
2008 (78)
2009 (65)
2010 (68)
2011 (98)
2012 (129)
2013 (114)
2014 (101)
2015 (48)
* Partial year
God by Alexander Waugh
[Finished 22 June 2015] See my review at dahosek.com

Don’t Look, Don’t Touch, Don’t Eat: The Science Behind Revulsion by Valerie Curtis
[Finished 17 June 2015] I’m always skeptical about the claims of evolutionary psychology. There’s a certain quality of mythology around these claims that feel not much different from Phaeton scorching Africa with the chariot of the sun. Here, Curtis does a decent job of justifying her theory (that disgust comes from parasite avoidance), but still falls into the mythology trap. Perhaps most notable about the book is how much Curtis acknowledges areas in which additional research is needed.

Narratology by Mieke Bal
[Finished 16 June 2015] A simply outstanding introduction to the theory of narratives. Ball writes in a clear style, making clear from the outset the meaning of any jargon she employs (perhaps most subtle being the distinction between the narrative text, story and fabula. There are times when Bal’s theory causes her to reject categories of narrative (most notably she dismisses second-person as little more than a gimmick, ignoring the possibilities that are available in the second person which are not possible in first or third and is quick to accept uncritically Jonathan Culler’s dismissal of omniscience). Even with these limitations, however, this book is essential reading for both scholars and writers alike.

The Invisible Bridge by Julie Orringer
[Finished 12 June 2015] A wonderfully detailed historical piece played out by Hungarian Jewish protagonists against the times just before and after the second world war (apparently at least partially inspired by Orringer’s own family history). I realized while I was reading this that I knew little of Hungary’s involvement in World War II so I read the wikipedia article and when I read about how roughly 70% of the Jewish population of Hungary was killed during the war, I was left with a feeling of deep dread as the war began and continued.

Unfortunately, the book fails somewhat in its final chapters, perhaps because Orringer was conscious of the already sizable length of what she had written and she engaged in a great deal of compression to the story as it reached its conclusion, to the detriment of the narrative. It seems strange to say about a book so long, but it could have stood to have been a fair bit longer.

A Void by Georges Perec
[Finished 4 June 2015] A re-read. Coming back to the book, it was possible to catch more of Perec’s humor and the esprits joyeux of his use of language. Still an amazing work of literature.

The Parables of Kierkegaard by Søren Kierkegaard
[Finished 2 June 2015] See my review at dahosek.com

Zombies: The Recent Dead edited by Paula Guran
[Finished 2 June 2015] A mixed bag of stories. Some are relatively strong, more or pretty weak, with a wide variety of conceptions of zombies, from the traditional Haitian zombie to Romero zombies to any other sort of revenant as zombie. It was worth getting as part of a Humble bundle, but not something that I would have otherwise read.

Superman: Earth One, Vol. 3 by J. Michael Straczynski and Ardian Syaf
[Finished 28 May 2015] Zod. A new girlfriend for Superman (and one who even knows the Clark Kent/Superman connection). Plus Lex Luthor comes to the fore. Again, with the new universe, there are possibilities to upend the expectations, although there needs to be more of this, perhaps earlier on in the stories to allow for the usual course of events to not always be the expectation.

Batman: Earth One, Vol. 2 by Geoff Johns and Gary Frank
[Finished 27 May 2015] One of the benefits and also drawbacks of established mythologies like with mainstream comic book characters is that there’s an understanding of the characters that is present regardless of how the story gets presented. We know that if we meet District Attorney Harvey Dent, then Two-Face is waiting in the wings. The Earth One series has the advantage that it’s creating its mythos from scratch and can play with these expectations in different ways, like the transforming of Alfred from butler to bodyguard and the surprise of just how Two-Face comes about.

An Introduction to Chinese Philosophy by Karyn L. Lai
[Finished 26 May 2015] See my review at dahosek.com