My favorite book so far this year. It is set in that pseudo-rural England of estates and vicars and class that in my head at least spans 1820-1920; in...moreMy favorite book so far this year. It is set in that pseudo-rural England of estates and vicars and class that in my head at least spans 1820-1920; in other words Jane Austin to P.G. Wodehouse. Structurally, it is a time travel mystery as the protagonists run about Victorian England trying to avert the end of the universe by making sure history happens the way "it was supposed to". Mix in literary references (primarily to Three Men in a Boat but lots of others like Alfred Lord Tennyson, and Lewis Carrol), a love story (with some great lines for wooing women), the best causality explanation ever, and a mystery that does keep you guessing (even if she does cheat). I heartily recommend this one to anybody.(less)
What a difference a decade makes. I last read this in 1998, and I've certainly matured in my thinking since then. The book is clever. Very clever. The...moreWhat a difference a decade makes. I last read this in 1998, and I've certainly matured in my thinking since then. The book is clever. Very clever. The author knows he is being clever, and at many points delights in pointing it out to you. Any book with the subject that this book has would of necessity reference itself, but the self-congratulations is still annoying. In my opinion the book is best viewed/read as part of the raging AI book debate that was occurring at the time, as it provides much of the context that the author does not include. Having said all these bad things, I love the book. I want most of what he says about the human mind to be true. Reading this has me really wishing I were more musically apt. I guess the big difference between now and a decade ago is that my art and math literacy have improved immensely. Too bad I can't say the same about the third pillar(less)
I'm a long lover of film noir, grew up listening to the radio dramatization of this book, and yet never read it. I enjoyed it. Well worth your time. B...moreI'm a long lover of film noir, grew up listening to the radio dramatization of this book, and yet never read it. I enjoyed it. Well worth your time. Books used to be well written and well edited, and this is one. The fact that he wrote The Thin Man means I'm not done with him yet. (less)
A wonderful book. As deserving of being remembered as it has been. For those with kids, I would suggest reading it before embarking on reading it out...moreA wonderful book. As deserving of being remembered as it has been. For those with kids, I would suggest reading it before embarking on reading it out loud as standards for what is child appropriate has shifted from when it was written (largely to the child's detriment :) ). The book was written after the play, and you can still see some features of a live audience in the book. Having given my previous warning, I would suggest taking the opportunity to read outloud when appropriate, as the language is delightful.(less)
We just finished reading this as one of the bedtime stories for my kids (6 and 4), and the selection may have been a mistake. I loved reading it aloud...moreWe just finished reading this as one of the bedtime stories for my kids (6 and 4), and the selection may have been a mistake. I loved reading it aloud and giggled internally at the puns, jokes, and general wonder; but the kids were lost. They had seen the Disney animated movie, and I don't know if that helped or hurt. They always wanted me to read more each night, but struggled to pay attention. But, the book. It is delightful, and the annotations are insightful and added much to the experience. I would take the book and read ahead to try to avoid drifting off and reading an annotation to myself while the kids sat. I think the most delightful part was when we had the kids reenact the Lobster Quadrille. I'm sure I'll try again when they are older.(less)
I am only 6 pages in, but it is clear that the thesis of this book inspired The War the Made America. If you haven't seen that documentary and are eve...moreI am only 6 pages in, but it is clear that the thesis of this book inspired The War the Made America. If you haven't seen that documentary and are even vaguely interested in history, you owe it to yourself to see it. On with the reading.
Okay, this is a great book. I learned tons. It certainly helps to have lived "back east" now for a couple years, as I had a much better idea of the geography out here. I really need to find an even-handed biography of George Washington now, as this book paints a wonderful picture of an unsure young George Washington taking his first steps, and I really really want to know the rest of the story. Hopefully as full of reality and devoid of rose-colored glasses as possible. He seems to have been a very fascinating and astute man.
If I were to level one complaint about the prose, it would be that the author clearly delights in bon mots and other clever turns of phrases. Particularly when he is trying to use a metaphor to illustrate his point. Unfortunately, these often seem to not quite work. There was only one occasion it seemed clear to me that the author was aware that they don't quite work. I'm going to give three examples (these are from memory, and therefore paraphrased and probably horribly misquoted :) )
1. (in describing a very complex international political situation). These issues were an equation of Einsteinian complexity. Err, except Einstein was really a great simplifier of situations. The beauty of special and general relativity is how easy it made equation sets the physicists already dealt with on a daily basis. Or take a different tack, take away the knowledge of the mathematician or physicist, and what is the one Einsteinian equation everyone knows? E=mc² . Hardly rocket science.
2. (in describing Louisbourg) Lousibourg was America's Dunkirk. Now, unless you are familiar enough with Dunkirk in the early 1700s to know that it had temporarily become a heavily fortified French port (to be destroyed during the Seven Years War), you start wondering when the heroic evacuation is going to begin.
3. Describing Benjamin Franklin testifying before Parliament "he danced through the interrogation like a cocky teenager waltzing down Philadelphia's Market Street with a Dutch dollar in his pocket and a great puffy roll tucked under each arm."
Anyway, loved the book, the bizarre metaphors don't get in the way of your enjoyment. Read the book(less)
My second Kipling book this year (not counting Just So Stories, that I read to the kiddos often), and I'm more convinced that he should be in school c...moreMy second Kipling book this year (not counting Just So Stories, that I read to the kiddos often), and I'm more convinced that he should be in school curricula. The thing that repeatedly struck me reading this book is how much hubris there is in the US calling itself the "melting pot", when there is this larger, older, more diverse country melting cultures in ways we never even imagined. The prose was smooth and expressive, and I saw what he was describing (which is rare for me and reading). I also felt his descriptions of Kim hiking up and down hills as I did the same on a campout, but that is another story. My only complaint about the book is that my copy had notes added by an editor that were laughably bad. They would note strange words tens of times after it had first appeared, and random references to the KJV of the bible appear at random intervals, with the reference being single common words with no commonality between the situations in the two books. The closest and subtlest award for this one (or in other words one that almost worked) was tagging "and bear by Elisha's allowance" as a reference to 2nd Kings 2:9 "And Elisha said, I pray thee, let a double portion of thy spirit be upon me." rather than 2nd Kings 2:24 "And there came forth two she bears out of the wood" to explain that the phrase meant that there were two bears in the hills they are walking through. I found a much better notes set for Kim at: http://www.kipling.org.uk/rg_kim.htm
But, that isn't the text of the book. That is what Borders and the people they hired to prepare their edition of the public domain text thought would sell more books. The text of the book is wonderful, and well worth a read.(less)