The Library Basement
Reading under ground

Readings for November 2013

I have a healthy backlog of things to read, and can expect to be gifted more in the holidays. I'm a lucky man.

Doomsday Book by Connie Willis

Doomsday Book is the award-winning precursor to the Blackout/All Clear novels of Willis which I have already read. The time-traveling historian platform does make for some excellent story telling opportunities. Willis does a good job in this novel piquing the readers' interest in the historical context (medieval England) in addition to making you care about the characters.

One deficiency of all of Willis' novels which I have read is the tendency for there to be a lull in plot development in the middle. There comes a point in the story where the main conflict is fully explained, yet chapter after chapter goes by with that conflict being merely reiterated rather than advanced. But as with All Clear, once that logjam clears in this novel, the ending is fairly satisfying.


  • The Weekly Standard, October 21st 2013 - The last two random magazine purchases I've made were International Socialist Review and 2600 The Hacker Quarterly. So I decided to even things out a bit and try The Weekly Standard on for size for the first time. I was a bit disappointed by the bulk of the magazine, since it was a fairly formulaic critique of Obama's policies and scandals (Obamacare, Fast and Furious, Benghazi, etc.). However this particular issue had a book review special at the end which I really enjoyed.
  • Harper's November 2013 - Joyce Carol Oates' based-on-research-yet-fictional account of an interview with Robert Frost was eyebrow-raising to say the least.
  • Harper's December 2013 - Colson Whitehead had the cover feature, an essay on Las Vegas which must have had the lowest word count of any Harper's lead. But it was Colson Whitehead, and therefore excellent.
  • Scientific American June 2013 - I was immediately turned off by the interview with Markus Hoffman on the topic "How to build a smarter internet." The content was not the problem, but the picture. Sure it was silly, but you're not going to build a smarter internet with copper.

Markus Hoffman in silly pose