19 April 2005

Latest Reading: Fiction and Non

While I haven't been reading that much fiction lately, I have been reading a fair bit of non-fiction (you'll notice a certain . . . trend in my non-fiction reading). I guess I'm just in the mood for non-fiction. I haven't even been reading much in the short story book I have from the library, and I've already had to renew it once (and it's really good, just not what I feel like reading right now). This whole non-fiction dominance thing has been going on for quite a while. Eventually, though, I'll probably want to read nothing but novels. Or maybe short stories. (Or poetry, but that's fairly unlikely.)


  1. An Antic Disposition by Alan Gordon. Gordon returns to Shakespeare in the latest jester mystery. This time, something's rotten in the state of Denmark. I'm quite addicted to these books. They're well written, literate, and fun (which isn't to say they aren't also serious). Oh yeah, and sharp, witty, and a bunch of other stuff. Just the idea of a secret society of jesters working behind the scenes to influence world politics appeals to me.
  2. The Shadow in the North by Philip Pullman. I wasn't going to buy any books at the remaindered book sale in the mall the other day. I didn't even know there was a sale until I walked out of WalMart with my bag containing a bright orange chew-stick for rabbits, a package of GameBoy game cartridge cases, and something else I no longer recall. They have these sales every now and then. Usually I end up buying something, but I was resisting gallantly, until I found a copy of The Shadow in the North. It's the second book in Pullman's YA mystery series (though, really, the YA designation is only somebody's idea of good marketing; these are all-ages books and grown-ups will enjoy them, too). I loved the first one (blogged not too far back). I will read the others. (Oh, and thanks, Mr Pullman. You made me cry. Twice. Not many books can do that anymore.)


  1. Dinosaur Lives by John R. Horner (with Edwin Dobb). I was watching Daily Planet (pretty much my only regular TV these days, besides InuYasha and the new Dr Who--I watch it instead of the news every weekday). There was a very, very cool story about finding soft tissue in T. rex bones. Soft tissue! It was flexible, once they'd removed the rock (blood vessels, they think). So they interviewed Jack Horner, whose former graduate student had extracted the tissue. Afterwards I thought, "I think I have one of his books." So I started to read it. And it's very good. It combines narrative about excavating dinosaur bones in Montana with explanations of what some of the things they discovered mean. There's a lot of stuff about discovering eggs and the possibilities of dinosaur parenting. I enjoyed this one so much it sparked off a dinosaur-reading streak (these reading streaks happen from time to time, when I get caught up in excitement about some topic or other and proceed to read every book I own on it).
  2. Tyrannosaurus Sue by Steve Fiffer. Horner's book had briefly mentioned the discovery of the world's largest T. rex and the subsequent legal circus, so I decided to go on to this book next (I got it from the discount section at Chapter's in Nanaimo). While the book has a very journalistic style that I found tiresome in large doses, there was so much interesting stuff in here that I enjoyed it anyway. Fiffer supplemented his investigative tale of the events surrounding Sue with historical detail about dinosaur collection and the development on palaeontology in the US.
  3. The Science of Jurassic Park and The Lost World or, How to Build a Dinousaur by Rob DeSalle and David Lindley. I heard about this book on Caitlín Kiernan's blog; she recommended it. It's a book for a popular audience, which shows in the writing style. The authors take the whole dinosaur-reconstruction thing and go through it step-by-step, from finding sources of DNA to finding a suitable place to keep the finished dinosuars, and point out how the movies got it wrong. Then they explain how it could have been done, maybe, if our technology was better and the scientists were really, really lucky. Maybe. There were some things about those movies that always bugged me, and now I know I wasn't wrong. Plus I know a bunch of other things I didn't know before.
  4. Dragon Hunter: Roy Chapman Andrews and the Central Asiatic Expeditions by Charles Gallenkamp. Something Jack Horner mentioned in his book (above) was the Gobi Desert and the amazing fossils it has turned up (including lots of dinosuar eggs and an Oviraptor incubating a nest). I remembered I found this book at a dollar store in Nanaimo. Part biography, part travelogue, part history of science, this book describes Roy Chapman Andrews and his explorations--especially the ones in the Gobi Desert--in the 20s and 30s. Some people say Chapman was the model for Indiana Jones, though George Lucas says not (and remember Chapman was a palaeontologist and Indy was an archaeologist--and if you don't know the difference, go find out right now) (annoyingly, the book I'm reading now--also on the early days of dinosaur digging--was categorized as "social science/archaeology" by its publisher) (aargh!). Anyway. Adventure, romance, international politics, bandits, unexplained and suspicious deaths, and very cool science.

See, I'm making up for not taking palaeontology in university. I wanted to, but at U of C all the palaeontology courses were upper-level bio courses, and I'd made the mistake of not taking any sciences (aside from phys anth). Even though I had the highest score on the Biology 12 exam in my school (or maybe in the school disctrict or province; they never actually made that clear--but I don't think it was quite high enough to be highest in the province). They should have had a palaeontology for non-biologists, like they have "rocks for jocks" and "stars for . . ." er, I can't remember. Astronomy for non-astronomy students. Poetry for non-English majors. Etc.

No comments: