A Brief History of Everyone Who Ever Lived (2016) by Adam Rutherford
I got this book from my family when I went back to South Africa. I can’t recall whether it was a Christmas or birthday present. In any case, I spent the last two-and-a-bit days in the Czech Republic for a PhD retreat and was able to use some of the time there to finish reading this book. Overall, I liked it but with some reservations. Continue reading →
The Conquest of Bread (1892, translation 1926) by Peter Kropotkin
Despite some inconsistencies, what I do know is that Peter Kropotkin is the English version of the name of a Russian prince who gave that up to become an anarchist and a communist. His philosophy was detailed in several books, including The Conquest of Bread which was originally published in French in 1892. I believe the English translation which I read (also available on Project Gutenberg) was published in 1926.
The books two main themes are communism – the communal ownership of the means of production, the elimination of class and money and the distribution of goods to fulfil the needs of all members of society – and anarchism – the elimination of all forms of government in favour of equality and free association between people. This bares similarities to the predominant Marxist form of communism but is not exactly the same and nearly every reference to Marxism in the book is in a negative sense. Continue reading →
One reason I can be glad of the two weeks I spent with my family in South Africa is because it gave me some time to catch up on some reading. It was also hot, so I didn’t actually write anything but we’ll forget that. Let’s start the 2018 book list!
I remember my interest in reading the Jeeves and Wooster stories came from a small extract in one of the English comprehension pieces we did at school. There wasn’t much there but there was something about it that made me curious and I was disappointed when I couldn’t find any copies of the books at the time. Continue reading →
This one’s a little different from the others as it is a collection of short stories. I guess in that way it’s similar to Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde which was also a short story in a collection but in that case I only read the eponymous story. Another difference is that this one is not quite as mainstream and is instead published by FurPlanet, one of several furry publishing houses.
All the stories revolve around sex in one or another fashion although the role it plays varies from pure erotica to merely being mentioned in the context of a fur needing her ex’s sperm because her current partner is incompatible for producing children. That is due to the furry nature of the stories which includes anthropomorphic characters of a variety of species, all of which are given individual traits.
With sex as a central facet of life and one with many personal and societal implications it is used here to provide the drama that the characters need to react to. And their reactions are always interesting and unique. The strongest part of the stories is the excellent characterisation of all the participants even in a very short space of time and even for minor characters. While my own interest in each story did vary, in all of them I found the characters to be well formed and I was always eager to see what would happen next.
I finished The 120 Days of Sodom and Daring Do and the Eternal Flower and can now give short reviews here and add them to the list of books I’ve read in 2017.
The 120 Days of Sodom (1785 (first published 1904), this edition + translation 2016) by The Marquis de Sade
A highly-controversial book which has been banned at various times – it’s still, I hear, illegal to display Sade’s works in shop windows in France. Even if the name of the book isn’t familiar, the name of the author should be. The Marquis de Sade is the man from whose name we get the term “sadism.” He was a French Nobleman and a libertine who followed his passions without concern for others. This led him through a number of scandals over his sexual behaviour and eventually saw him imprisoned.
While in prison, he wrote The 120 Days of Sodom, whose manuscript was only re-discovered and published decades later. The story details four libertines who, with a cast of boys, girls, young men and old ladies, seclude themselves in a Swiss castle to indulge in their most base urges. In the narration it is described as “the most impure tale ever written.” It certainly lives up to that name and there would be very few people not shocked by some of the content which includes paedophilia, bestiality, scat, watersports, rape, torture and snuff. I think one of the footnotes by the translators gives a taste of what it is like in the later chapters. Continue reading →
I was thinking it might be nice to have a record of the books that I have read over the year. It could help me to make sure that I am at least reading something. I do plenty of reading online but those are usually shorter pieces and not complete novels and such. It also might be of interest to friends and family or for anyone wondering what to read. I will try to keep this list updated as the year progresses.
Magic in the Middle Ages is a Coursera course offered by the Universitat de Barcelona. It is actually the fifth course from Coursera that I have done and the third one done purely for my own interest. I was initially quite excited because of the topic but, since completing it, I have lost a fair bit of enthusiasm. That’s not to say that it is entirely without merit but I think that, currently, it is not taking advantage of the format and could be aimed better for a Coursera audience.
The course aims to teach students about magic in the middle ages, this includes how magic was perceived, different magical practices and the treatment of magic in both Christianity and Islam. As with most of these courses, it primarily consists of a series of short video lectures followed by a multiple choice quiz each week. There are also two short essays in this course which are judged by your peers. Continue reading →