Tuesday 21 December 2010

Holiday reading list

For the past few weeks I've been mentally tending to my Christmas holiday reading pile, adding and removing and debating over books. Here's where I'm at now:


I'm still working my way through the 2010 Royal Society science book shortlist. I'm currently reading (and loving) Nick Lane's Life Ascending: The Ten Great Inventions of Evolution:

Thermodynamics is one of those words best avoided in a book with any pretence to be popular, but it's more engaging if it's seen for what it is: the science of 'desire'. The existence of atoms and molecules is dominated by 'attractions', 'repulsions', 'wants' and 'discharges', to the point that it becomes virtually impossible to write about chemistry without giving in to some sort of randy anthropomorphism. Molecules 'want' to lose or gain electrons; attract opposite charges, repulse similar charges; or cohabit with molecules of similar character. A chemical reaction happens spontaneously if all the molecular partners desire to participate; or they can be pressed to react unwillingly through greater force. And of course some molecules really want to react but find it hard to overcome their innate shyness. A little gentle flirtation might prompt a massive release of lust, a discharge of pure energy. But perhaps I should stop there.

From that shortlist, I also have Brian Cox and Jeff Forshaw's Why Does E=mc2? on loan from the library to take away with me.


Having recently been bowled over by this 1969 interview with E.B. White, I've collected a copy of One Man's Meat, a 1944 collection of his essays, written on his farm in Maine.

And left-over from last Christmas: Michael Chabon's Manhood for Amateurs.


A buck three way - the first three books of Anthony Powell's Dance to the music of time in one chubby edition, Cormac McCarthy's Blood Meridian, and Paolo Bacigalupi's The Wind-up Girl.

Young Adults

The last book in Patrick Ness's Chaos Walking trilogy, Monsters of Men has finally arrived in paperback, so I could finally satisfy my obsessive-compulsive need to have a copy that matched my first two books in the series. In an act of great sacrifice, I lent my brand-new copy to a friend who I recently put on to the series. I'll be collecting it back on my travels.


I'm housesitting for an avid reader during my holiday, so all the good intentions above may be swept away by the call of their bookshelf.

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