Monday, October 1, 2007

Recent Reading

Between work, DVD watching and travelling, I haven’t had as much time as I’d like to read lately. But I did manage to knock some smaller books off my “To-Read” list:

“The Oregon Trail” by Francis Parkman. This is an excellent travelogue of the the Old West. The author has some very clear prejudices but he writes concisely and without the wordy style so many 19th century authors were prone to. The work describes inter-tribal Indian wars, shortages of food, disease and personality conflicts among the travellers. The buffalo hunting chapters (toward the end) are especially weird reading for me. One instance in particular comes to mind where they had hundreds of pounds of meat but still kept chasing after and shooting every buffalo they came across. I’m not the most eco-oriented person on the planet, but it struck me hugely wasteful.

“Chindi” by Jack McDevitt. I picked this up at “Half-Price Books” a week ago. It’s a nice science fiction story with an interesting premise, good characters and a thrilling conclusion. McDevitt did an excellent job with the cast of characters, creating believable people from their time and place that act and react like real people in extraordinary circumstances. I’m always on the lookout for a writer with multiple works and this is in the middle of a sorta series of books loosely connected but set in the same future universe. Definitely a good way to spend 2-3 hours.

“The Buried Book” by David Damrosch. This tells the story of how the long-lost “Epic of Giglamesh” was recovered through 19th century archeology and translation. It covers some biography of the characters involved (the esteemed Mr. Budge ends up looking like a true a**hole). Also, there’s some great discussion of what Assyrian court life was like and what factors led to the story being recorded millennia ago. All in all, it was an excellent work of literary history. The only odd thing is at the end when the author tries to connect the universal appeal of the Giglamesh story to the current War on Terror in order to discount the idea of a “clash of civilizations”. It doesn’t really fit with the rest of the book in terms of tone or structure. It’s like the author switched from literary history to op-ed for the last chapter. Still a recommended read though.

There’s more traveling next week for work. Hopefully, I can get a couple more books read then as well.

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