Books Read: September 2020

A slow reading month for me, Death’s End took me a bit as the book was long but also a bit hard to follow at times. The fires near us and the bad smoke we had for over a week also made it hard to focus on books. But reading Solnit after all of that was a balm for my soul.

Death’s End

The final book in the Remembrance of Earth’s Past trilogy is an incredibly ambitious book. Liu attempts to tie everything together and wrap it up and well, I don’t know that he quite manages it. The first half of the book was really well done, but then it felt like there was too much left to sort out and as he rushed to get it done in a reasonable length, the story got a bit out of control to me. I didn’t love the way this series wrapped up, but there are a lot of interesting ideas in it that are still rolling around in my head.

A Paradise Built in Hell

Rebecca Solnit takes a look at a series of disasters that occurred over the course of roughly 100 years in the US and Canada, specifically looking at how common people and those in power react to them. While many folks I talked to about the book as I was reading it thought it would be a difficult read, I found it incredilby comforting and hopeful. From the San Francisco earthquake in 1906 to Katrina in 2005, Solnit show repeatedly how people in the midst of these situations react well, helping each other, taking care of their communities. It’s when those in power, or as Solnit calls them, the elite, panic and beging to enforce rules and beuracracy that things can start to go downhill. This is especially true, with utterly distastrous results, during the aftermath of Katrina.

“The instant formal government is abolished, society begins to act. A general association takes place, and common interest produces common security. So far is it from being true, as has been pretended, that the abolition of any formal government is the dissolution of society, that it acts by a contrary impulse, and brings the latter the closer together.” It’s a revolutionary statement: government represses the potential strength of civil society. (loc 1657)

What difference would it make if we were blasé about property and passionate about human life? (loc 4004)

The Looking Glass War

It probably seems an odd move to go from disasters to a 1960s era cold war spy novel, but they complemented themselves quite well. And as is typical with Le Carré, the machinations of the Circus and Control, while behind the scenes, are pulling the strings of the story. This is the story of a separate ministry attempting to bring back the glory of World War II and the operations they ran in that time. A quick read and very much in the vein of other Le Carré books, this one spoke to me about the times we live in and how much we haven’t seemed to figure much out since the 1960s.