Books! January 2016 Edition

Books finished

  • The Philosopher Kings, by Jo Walton. A sequel to The Just City, in which Jo Walton explores a society dedicated to enacting Plato’s Republic. Very good read, and it explores a few interesting varients of the Republic idea, but it spends a bit more time than I’d like following the adventures of specific characters. (This is not normally a complaint I’d have for a novel, but I feel like this series is more about the ideas than the characters.) On the whole not as interesting or good as the first book, but still recommended.

  • Pride and Prejudice, by Jane Austen. I actually avoided being forced to read any Austen in grade school, but I was recently recommended Mary Robinette Kowal’s Shades of Milk and Honey, and reading at least one Austen book first was suggested. I have yet to read the Kowal, but I’m glad I waited until now to read Austen. I would not have appreciated this book in the least as a teenage boy, reading it now was extremely enjoyable. It helps a lot that Leigh is a huge Austen fan, and was able to help me understand some of the cultural context that informs the story. I was also surprised to find the book to be much funnier, and more absurd, than most of the media adaptations.

  • The Checklist Manifesto, by Atul Gawande. This was an excellent read for a book with such a simple message: checklists (or other simple, task-oriented memory aids) make it easier to deal with complexity. Their use appears to improve outcomes across the board. The book covers a variety of fields, citing both peer-reviewed research and anecdotes to make its case, and the author tells the story of introducing checklists into regular practice in surgery.

  • Star Wars: Scoundrels, by Timothy Zahn. Yes, it’s a Star Wars book; sometimes you just need something light and silly to read. However, despite normally being a fan of Zahn’s work, I found this one fairly disappointing. A heist novel starring Han Solo and Lando Calrissian should be breezy and fun, but this honestly dragged on a bit. It was still fun, but I had to work at it.

In progress

Want to talk about any of these books, or to send me a recommendation? Friend me on Goodreads or send me an email. I read a lot, and I love talking about books.

Questions, comments, interesting anecdotes? Tweet to me at @ajdecon, or send me an email at ajdecon@ajdecon.org.