Wednesday, November 26, 2008

This Week at the Library (26/11)

Books this Update:
I began reading Harry Turtledove's Colonization series this week, which is a sequel series to his Worldwar. The Worldwar books, you may remember, featured a race of aliens interrupting the course of World War 2 by invading -- forcing Nazis, Soviets, the Japanese, Chinese nationalists, Chinese communists, and the Allies to work together. The lizards -- who call themselves the Race -- are unable to complete their plans to annex Earth, as they were unprepared to fight humanity, which had industrialized far more quickly than the Lizards anticipated. This series is set twenty years later. Human society and Lizard society co-exist, fairly peacefully, and each influences the other. Some humans -- Chinese nationalists and communists, as well as Muslim fundamentalists -- still fight the Lizards. Human technology has increased dramatically: cars are now hydrogen-powered, and humans have landed on both the Moon and Mars. As the book wears on, we see the increasing strain that the arrival of the Race's colonization fleet -- full of equipment, females, and so on -- is putting on Race-Human relations. Very good stuff: a refreshing change from the military-focused writing of the last books in the Worldwar series.

Next I continued reading the Gies' medieval history series with Life in a Medieval Village. The Gies' approach was similar to previous works -- using a case-studying, quoting heavily from primary sources, and weaving an enjoying and fairly interesting narrative. I didn't find this one qite as captiving as others -- like last week's Cathedral, Forge, and Waterwheel -- but perhaps those more excellent ones have spoiled me. We'll see.

Next I read a collection of short stories by Isaac Asimov called The Winds of Change and Other Stories. There were 21 stories in all, and I found all but one of them to be quite enjoyable. There's humor here as well as Asimov's brand of technological "thriller" stories. Quite enjoyable. Some were repeats, but I don't mind re-reading Asimov's stuff. Even if I know what is going to happen, his stories are such a delight to read for me.

Lastly I read a compilation of two works by Epictetus, a Stoic philosopher. The works were translated into modern English by Sharon Leben. The book is rather short (I finished it in two sittings) but very page is full of wisdom. The discourses are simply worded, quite frank, and exceptionally compelling to the student of philosophy. I was thrilled to read it. Epictetus advocates a life of virtue and self-control, saying that philosophy is a matter of everyday living -- not something that should be limited to religious instructors and professional philosophers. Exceptional stuff, I think.

Pick of the Week: The Art of Living, Epictetus, trans. Sharon Leben
Quotation of the Week: Anything from The Art of Living. Here's a sample: "Those who seek wisdom come to understand that even though the world may reward us for wrong or superficial reasons, such as our physical appearance, the family we come from, and so on, what really matters is who we are inside and what we are becoming. [...] The overvaluation of money, status, and compeetition poisons our personal relations. The flourishing life cannot be acheieved until we moderate our desires and see how superficial and fleeting they are. "

Next Week:
  • Armageddon in Retrospect, Kurt Vonnegut
  • Women in the Middle Ages, Frances and Joseph Gies
  • Colonization: Down to Earth, Harry Turtledove


  1. Oooh! Vonnegut. I'm such a fan.

  2. I'm looking forward to it, although with Vonnegut I never really know what to expect. ;)


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