I've been bouncing from book to book and as is often the case with me I am reading several books. As usual, I am reading short stories, though I haven't really geared up for seriously plowing through the short fiction of 2009 yet.
Regarding fiction, I was most recently reading the March issue of F&SF: "Shadow-Below" by Robert Reed is terrific. Reed stories vary widely in technique, tone, and approach. Here's he's writing a Gene Wolfe-type story. Good stuff. "The Unstrung Zither" by Yoon Ha Lee is also really fine; I appreciate it for its mathematical/musical aesthetic logic. Getting to the ending is like reading a good proof. I've read half of Marc Laidlaw's "Quickstone" which is going well so far. In general, this seems a really strong issue of F&SF.
But mostly I've been reading non-fiction: either ordering books on impulse and then trying to remember why I bought them when they come in the mail a week later, or cooling my heels while David
loots shops large used bookstores.
Today, I was reading Social Work: Themes, Issues, and Critical Debates (2nd edition), Robert Adams, Lena Dominelli, & Malcolm Payne, eds. I bought it for Mary Langan's essay "The Legacy of Radical Social Work," but have dipped in here and there reading individual essays.
Based on a comment section recommendation, I ordered Scott E. Page's The Difference: How the Power of Diversity Creates Better Groups, Schools, Firms, Schools, and Societies. I've read the beginning, which was pretty good. Then he got into arguments concerning how problems that are hard from one perspective can be easy when translated into a different genre of though, and I found myself nodding, yeah, yeah, category theory and decided to put the book aside until I was willing to follow the actual mathematical and logical arguments closely, since in terms of the arguments that draw on category theory, he's preaching to the choir with me. Seems to be a good book, though not bedtime reading; I was reading it at bedtime. (He does discuss the extent to which ethnic and gender diversity are and are not what he's talking about.) Page is "a professor of Complex Systems, Political Science, and Economics." It is a rigorous book, which is good.
The book I finished yesterday is Mobbing: Emotional Abuse in the American Workplace by Noa Davenport, Ruth Distler Schwartz, & Gail Pursell Elliott. It is a very useful book for anyone who has experienced mobbing. The writing is very utilitarian, and while it does pull the plow, one could wish for the prose style of someone like Oliver Sacks.
The book I was reading, with some fascination, on the way back from Westport this weekend is Confessions of a Master Jewel Thief by Bill Mason. I bought it in Lake Placid while waiting for David to finish going through the stock at With Pipe and Book. What is most interesting about the book is the point of view. Mason robbed celebrities, because they felt socially compelled to show of their jewels. He viewed the society pages as a catalog. And once he'd seen someone with what he called "serious stones" it became an idea fix: he couldn't stop thinking about the details of how he would take them. For lack of a better phrasing, Mason seems to be a man with tremendous discipline and almost no impulse control. To an extent, the jewel heists are things that happen to him rather than things he does. I'm about a third of the way through the book.
Recently read: White Awareness: Handbook for Anti-Racism Training by Judith H. Katz. I have the 2nd edition. It is a quick read, a book rooted in the 12-step movement, conceiving of racism as a disease in need of treatment. By reputation, it is the book that coined the equation "racism = prejudice plus power." In the book, it's on page 53, almost an aside, an optional addition to dictionary definitions of racism. The failings of this book's approach are discussed in Mary Langan's essay mentioned above. It tends to cause acrimonious confrontations.
There are several books I have in hand but have not yet started:
- Free Range Kids: Giving Our Children the Freedom We Had Without Going Nuts with Worry by Lenore Skenazy, which I had preordered from Amazon and which arrived a week ago.
- Ponary Diary 1941-1943: A Bystander's Account of Mass Murder by Kazimierz Sakowicz. Another book aquired while waiting out David's habit in a bookstore. I picked it up because I am descended of people with a similar last name from a similar part of the world. (All of my ancestors were in North America by 1900.) It crossed my mind to wonder whether the author and I were distantly related, and once I picked up the book it looked interesting.
Update 4/15/09: I finished Confessions of a Master Jewel Thief. Fun book.