I didn’t get through much this month because I’m reading Modern Operating Systems in slow motion and Seveneves took forever, but here are the books I read in February! Part of an ongoing series.
tldr: READ IT IT IS GOOD. HOly shit this book was turned up to 11. Completely unapologetically crass and carnal narration, chaotic bouncing around to different pov and people until the narrator materialises within the story themself. Intense, headstrong and tragic characters charging directly into anguish. Maybe because I was raised under a rock in upper middle class white suburbia but this book was bleeding a vibe and culture and a completely different way of experiencing america/the world than I’ve ever seen or heard and I liked that so much. And maybe the most surprising part that I didn’t bargain for but was amazed by, a stern talking-to about my ignorance of and catchup with a particularly brutal part of Dominican history, dictatorship under the Trujillo cult of personality. 1000/10 it’s a good dog read this book!!
How to read this book: with wikipedia on hand for historic sidetrips!
All in all middle-of-the-road Stephenson; it’s a single threaded plotline with fast paced edge-tickling action cut with long, more boring analysis/gratuitous description of random pieces of technology.
I can see some people being super into the future-tech deep dives but I just came here for the philosophical thought experiments about future human societies. The thought experiments are super interesting!
Some of the book is maneuvering the situation as to set up the various thought experiments so it does give off a bit of feeling contrived, and more softer scifi. I recognised this trade-off and felt pretty forgiving. I’d recommend this book if you like Stephenson, but if you’re new to Stephenson you should probably read Snow Crash or something instead!
How to read this book: play along with the thought experiments and have a discussion buddy as you read; reading this book definitely felt more satisfying when I had someone to talk/rant about the ideas in it with.
Also DON’T READ the back cover summary (and I’m not even a person who cares about plot twists). It’s more motivating get through such a long book if you have no idea what’s going on :D
I like how this book formalises a lot of ideas I have floating around in my head about how to meet people where they are at emotionally, expressing your own needs in terms of actionable items, etc. (a whole ‘nother topic for another time). I like comparing it against How to Talk So Kids Will Listen and Listen So Kids Will Talk, which has similar axioms but angles it more towards parenting/interacting with children (which is really powerful for communicating with adults sometimes).
I’ve started teaching again this month and have gotten some nice reminders that putting these ideas to practice is a muscle I must constantly flex (like how I am starting to injure my back while climbing because I’m out of bouldering shape, oops).
Incidentally, I’ve also had a couple of encounters with adults that really put me in my place in terms of my wild expectations for how I can make my life better from self-improvement. (If people are super mad and feel entitled to making you miserable, it takes a better person than me to not regress to profuse apology in order to make them go away and stop yelling at me. Fuck that noise. I’m tired of people telling me I need to be kinder and more understanding and more gentle. That’s the case for the kids I teach, with my family, my friends, my peers and colleagues. If someone approaches you with the attitude that you are lesser than them sometimes there’s nothing you can do to convince them to respect and consider you as an equal. If a rando doesn’t want to be reasoned with FUCK them, that is super not ok and I will not be cornered into emotional prostration.)
How to read this book: I find it really helpful to take bullet notes as I’m reading. I’ve discovered that I really need to jot down specific examples of phrases and words when reading these types of books, because the examples tend to illustrate ideas better than describing them in abstract.