Since the last thread: I finished Gibson's The Difference Engine, which kinda tapered off into an anticlimax. I then got subsumed by Ryan Holiday's Conspiracy for a few days:
After that, I read Thirteen by Richard K Morgan, which is a great scifi thriller. Morgan doesn't fuck around, everything is neatly explained and dare I say it has (some) well-developed characters.
I then read the first third of someone's scifi manuscript. If I wasn't sidetracked a bunch lately I would be been further in by now.
Read Evicted by Matthew Desmond, partly because it recommended here (blackbootz?). It's pretty darn good. Reminded me of George Packer's The Unwinding, as it follows eight families in Milwaukee that all relate to housing issues in different ways, interspersed with facts and trends about how fucking awful housing for the poorest is, and normal evictions have become. Like how in court, each kid you have is just as bad for your odds as four months of rent backlog. That for every formal eviction, two informal ones occur. How for every poor white woman, nine poor black women are evicted. Poor black men are locked up - poor black women are locked out.
To be more precise, it's not just that the book follows the families, it's Matthew himself followed those families around for months as an embedded researcher. And also built the sociological studies that the eye-popping stats and facts are from. Two facts that for some dumb reason he saves for the epilogue, even though it makes the book stand out from so many similar books that only depend on desk research and hearsay.
Then I read Emperor of All Maladies by Siddhartha Mukherjee. I really loved his book The Gene last year, so had this in my to-read for quite some while. Great read, although it loses some pacing near the end.
Fundamentally, it is a hopeful book about science developing over time. One of the stories it tells is of the first public campaign for cancer, where they took a sick child and got his favourite baseball team to see him on-air. I wrote down that
"...despite the inspiring interview, the illness was not named - the depressing reality that he, too, would die hung over the conversation and the room." In many ways, I thought that also reflected on the book itself - the depressing morbidity of cancer research hangs over its story of progress and successes.
Just this weekend I started reading Johann Hari's Lost Connections. The book is about getting rid of the idea that depression is just a chemical imbalance. Instead, the bulk of it looks at nine (mostly) external factors that seriously impact depression and anxiety.
The common denominator is that each factor is a form of disconnection: a normal, human craving or need that modern society has severed us from. The disconnect from meaningful work, from people, from social and financial stability, from dignity, and natural habitats.
While I like the read and the stories Johann tells (I'm writing a ton of notes), I can't help but find it to be a bit too pop-sci for my taste. On a scale from 1 to 10, where 1 is Scientific American and 10 is academic literature, this is a solid 3 where it could have been a 6 if he didn't simplify everything.