Recent Reading

One nice thing about the long plane and train rides on my trip to Finland was that it gave me time to read (especially on the flight home, when the power at my seat wasn’t working!).  And the lack of English-language newspapers encouraged me to read the books that I’d brought with me instead of blowing my time on USA Today.

On the flight to Finland, I mostly read magazines I’d brought along to read and discard, as well as doing some reading in preparation for the session, but I did squeeze in one book, Rumpole and the Penge Bungalow Murders, by John Mortimer.  Since Leo Kern is no longer with us, I guess this will never be turned into a TV production, but I could hear him thundering in my head anyway, along with the rest of the cast (especially She Who Must Be Obeyed).  This was a quick read, but definitely fun — recommended.

In Tampere, I found myself eating dinner alone most evenings (my IBM contact recommended I stay at the Tampere City Center, which was quite nice, but almost everyone else was at a slightly less-expensive hotel, the Cumulus, four long and cold blocks away).  Fortunately, the dining room was well enough lit to let me read while I waited for my meals; the book which kept me company was Bill Bryson’s A Short History of Nearly Everything.  I enjoyed Bryson’s wandering around cosmology, evolution, and other scientfic topics nearly as much as I’d liked his Notes from a Small Island, and considerably more than I’m a Stranger Here Myself, which, as a collection of columns, was less consistent than the other books of his that I’ve read.

I was sufficiently busy throughout my stay in Finland that I didn’t finish the Bryson until the end of my flight to Frankfurt.  So I started Neil Gaiman’s American Gods partway across the Atlantic.  I’d been meaning to read it for quite a while, probably ever since I saw it win the Hugo at ConJosé, but I knew I’d need a concentrated chunk of time, and the flight seemed like the perfect opportunity.  I’m not sure I got out of my chair after starting the book — and, even though I was exhausted when I got home, I continued reading it, and finished it on Sunday.  It’s been a long time since I’ve been that intensely involved in a book or had finished a long novel so quickly.  I strongly recommend the book, and am planning to read more of his stuff soon.

I enjoyed getting back to reading SF so much that I decided to read another novel almost immediately, Ken MacLeod’s Cosmonaut Keep.  I’d seen MacLeod on many panels at Interaction, where he struck me as intelligent and entertaining, so I put him on my “to read” list, and put the book in my briefcase, where it made several long trips without being opened.  But I pulled it out after this trip, and started it a couple of days ago.  I didn’t have quite as much free time available to read it as I might have liked, so I had to split the book over several evenings, but it was well worth the time — lots of ideas and politics, not to mention sex, drugs, and some awful lines from SF of the past.  This book is the first of a series, and I’m looking forward to reading the others. 

But not yet — I’ve also been getting the library at work to buy books for me (not fiction, at least not deliberately so), and it’s probably a good idea to finish them and make them available to folks on the waiting list.  So the next book I plan to read is Freakonomics, which made its first trip in my briefcase on Friday night.  I’m on jury duty next week, so I may have some good blocks of reading time available.