Thumbs up for Stuff Matters: Exploring the Marvelous Materials that Shape Our Man-Made World by Mark Miodownik. Science.

Once I picked this book up, I couldn’t put it down. There’s no guarantee that a scientist passionately obsessed with their subject will be able to convey the beauty of the topic to a lay audience. Miodownik succeeds with ease. In chapters focused around everything from concrete to aerogel, chocolate to porcelain, he touches upon every level of the material, from the Why (does it act like it does) to the How (do we make it) to the What (do we use it for).… >> Read more

Thumbs up for A Book of One’s Own: People and their Diaries by Thomas Mallon. Literary history.

It is a crying shame this book is out of print. After contemplating at length what to say about it, I will have to bow to the supremacy of Phyllis Rose’s review on the back: “This is more than a book about diaries; it’s a celebration of life and the many ways people have of savoring it.” Yes, that.… >> Read more

Thumbs up for If Hemingway Wrote JavaScript by Angus Croll. Computers/Humor.

JavaScript exercises written as if great authors had solved them. This book is a work of wonders but you must be the right audience. Do know something about the literary styles of great authors? Do you know something about computer programming? Do you have an extremely nerdy sense of humor?… >> Read more

Thumbs up for The Lost Art of Dress: The Women Who Once Made America Stylish by Linda Przybyszewski. Fashion history/Women’s history.

I read this in one sitting. The jacket blurb emphasizes the group of women called the Dress Doctors, who gave wardrobe advice to American women in the early- to mid-20th century; but it ranges much broader than a few personalities.… >> Read more

Thumbs up for Monster, She Wrote: The Women Who Pioneered Horror and Speculative Fiction by Lisa Kröger and Melanie R. Anderson. Literary history.

The publisher Quirk Books’s jawdropping and funny reference to vintage horror novels, Paperbacks from Hell, was one of my favorite books of 2017. When I saw they were publishing a history of women horror writers I got very excited.… >> Read more

Thumbs up for Hotel du Lac by Anita Brookner. Literature.

A quiet woman writer who has acted disgracefully in love is shipped off by her friends to a Swiss hotel. A small, precise, witty, internal book: if you read non-genre fiction, you know the sort of thing, I think; and it is one of the best examples. Very enjoyable indeed. This was my first Brookner but it won’t be my last.… >> Read more

Thumbs up for The Affair of the Mysterious Letter by Alexis Hall. Fantasy.

This is one of the only books I’ve found that fill the void in my life created by the lack of any more Johannes Cabal. It’s a Sherlock Holmes/Lovecraft mashup narrated by a straightlaced ex-soldier who falls in with powerful, colorful, and not at all straightlaced consulting sorceress Shaharazad Haas.… >> Read more

Neither thumbs up nor thumbs down for Childhood’s End by Arthur C. Clarke. Science fiction.

I think I’ve passed the point where I can read classic science fiction without noticing how much it creaks. I didn’t hate reading this, but I didn’t particularly enjoy it, either.

The person most immediately affected had been George Greggson. He could never forget his feeling of terror as Jean pitched into his arms.

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