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text 2018-09-03 17:13
My summer 2018 reading assessment

It's Labor Day here in the States (take that international socialists and British English!), which is the popular end point of summer for us. It's an ideal point to look back on the reading goals I detailed back on May Day (or Labor Day for most of the rest of the world) and judge how well i did in achieving them.


1) Reading modern European history. As I indicated, I started by reading Richard Evans's The Pursuit of Power. Four months later, I'm still reading Evans's book, though I read a few others for reviewing and podcast purposes that fit the category, as well as the first volume of the Wilhelm bio that I've been working my way through in fits and starts. If I were grading myself, I would probably give myself a D+, maybe a C-.


2) The Chaco War. This one was an outright fail. I acquired the books, only to de-prioritize them to the point where I realized I wasn't going to get them anytime soon, so back to the library they went.


3) The Hornblower novels. I ended up not reading more of Forster's novels, either, though this was largely because my decision a few days later to reread the early Star Trek novels. For the original assignment, another F; for the substitute, after 24 novels read or re-read, I believe I earned a solid A.

So in the end I did achieve more of my reading goals, though admittedly the bar was pretty low to start. Still, I enjoyed immensely nearly all of what I read and isn't that the real goal?

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text 2018-08-17 17:04
Delving into labor history
John L. Lewis: A Biography - Melvyn Dubofsky,Warren Van Tine

Today a former classmate of mine messaged me to say that a professor we knew from graduate school had died last week. While I never really knew him (I doubt we exchanged more than greetings in all of my time there), he was a real institution, known for his work in business history, and I went to the department's website to read his bio before it was removed.


As I went over his CV, one of his books caught my attention. It was a biography he wrote decades ago on Samuel Gompers, the longtime leader of the American Federation of Labor. Seeing it there reminded me about one of my long-ago resolutions to read more labor history, something that I have neglected for far too long. There are many reasons for this, but the one that matters is that I find it a depressing subject: too much of it is about the thwarting of the efforts of ordinary people to earn a living wage for their daily drudgery. Yet with Labor Day approaching and my recently having gained greater flexibility in my reading choices, I decided that the time has come to start filling in the gap by reading a few biographies of labor leaders. I ordered a copy of Dubofsky's classic on John L. Lewis (which I passed up an opportunity to buy years ago and yes, I still remember that and I'm still annoyed with myself about it), and I may try to squeeze in one or two more while the opportunity lasts.


And one of those that I'm going to squeeze in is that Gompers biography. I feel like I owe it to that old curmudgeon.

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text 2018-06-12 15:43
The latest reading choice I'm facing
Young Wilhelm: The Kaiser's Early Life, 1859-1888 - John C. G. Röhl

In a few weeks I'm traveling to my in-laws's farm for my summer vacation. I'm looking forward to it for many reasons, not the least of which is the uninterrupted hours of reading time I have while I'm there (my in-laws are generous in that way and many others). This, of course, then raises the question inevitable question of what to bring to read.


This time I'm not approaching it as a question of limited availability once I'm there; I have some books there left over from my last trip there, and I'll probably bring a paperback or two from my Star Trek novel stack. This time it's more an issue of what to prioritize among my current interests. Among them is the first volume of John Röhl's biography of Wilhelm II, which I started reading three years ago and DNF'd a fifth of the way in. t was a fine read, but its size limited my ability to take it with me to read while I was out-and-about and other priorities intruded. Miranda Carter's recent New Yorker piece about Wilhelm has definitely increased my interest, though, and with my desire to read more modern European history for the fall semester this seems like a prime opportunity to make this my main selection.


Unfortunately my interests as always spin in multiple directions at one. I also have a biography of Georges Clemenceau that has long gathered dust on my shelf, and which has the added virtue of greater portability, as well as one of Raymond Poincaré right next to it which might be an even more important read. David Weber's book on Spain's empire in North America is also looming large given my upcoming Southwestern history class, and there are also a couple of other titles on German history which seem appealing. Fortunately I still have some time to work all this out, but I'm hoping to do so before it becomes one of those last-minute panic issues.


So, which book would you be most interested in seeing reviewed?

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text 2018-05-14 00:17
I have my first Star Trek novels!

So, for my plan to read the Pocket Book series of Star Trek novels I went out to the local used bookstore and came back with these finds.



To be honest, I was just a little disappointed with the selection, as I thought they would have more of the older ones available than they did. Still, I took most of the ones they had and walked out the store happy.


I've already picked one -- Greg Bear's Corona -- and started on it. So far it's validating my decision in ever respect, being both an entertaining read and one unburdened by the need to be faithful to the collective mass of the Star Trek universe, At this clip, I should be done with this bunch in a couple of weeks, buy which time I'll probably have a few more to get through. I may even save a couple and box them up for future rereading, as they are definitely proving to be fun.

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text 2018-05-13 06:11
Going back to basics!
The Entropy Effect - Vonda N. McIntyre

I'm still chewing my recent experience with reading a Star Trek novel over in my head. the reason, I suspect, was a combination of disappointment with the book and the sense that this was because of the heavy burden imposed by the author of dealing with over a half-century of accumulated backstory. Perhaps this is unfair to Dayton Ward, considering that it was the very idea of a Star Trek novel set in its universe's past that drew me to it in the first place. Yet I can't help but think that Ward over-egged the pudding, at the expense of the story.


In that respect Ward's novel differed from what I remember about the other Star Trek novels I've read in the past. They seemed so much simpler than Ward's book, with the focus on their focus on the things that matter most in a novel, namely characters and plot. They may not have been on the level of Tolstoy, but they certainly were a cut above Ward's effort.


It was while contemplating this a realization dawned on me: I should go back and read the original Star Trek novels. I remember vividly the Pocket Books series they published when I was growing up, and while I didn't read most of them the ones I did I enjoyed. Whether nostalgia is tingeing this is an open question, and one that I suspect will be answered easily enough once I delve into them, but I suspect not. The early novels were written by SF writers who knew their trade well, and who also had the advantage of writing something that was truly fresh in terms of something for Star Trek. Tomorrow I will make a stop at my local used bookstore and see which books in the series they have on their shelves. It should be a fun exercise!

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