Books! January 2016 Edition
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.
Gentleman Jole and the Red Queen, by Lois McMaster Bujold
1177 B.C.: The Year Civilization Collapsed, by Eric H. Cline
Effective Monitoring and Alerting, by Slawek Ligus
Promise Theory: Principles and Applications, by Jan Bergstra and Mark Burgess