May Reading Thread

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Extollager

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I finished Walter de la Mare's collection The Connoisseur and Ruth Downie's Medicus (which seemed longer than it needed to be). The de la Mare book was worth reading, but I think his On the Edge impressed me more. I've begun a rereading (after 49 years) of Mervyn Peake's Titus Alone.
 

Victoria Silverwolf

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Well that was the clear plan, but I idly took down a Patricia Highsmith from the shelf and just read a couple pages while I was waiting for someone and I got hooked, so in fact I’m now reading The Cry of the Owl. I’ll have to get back to Banks once I’ve read this.


A fine novel. Great psychological depth. Proof that suspense fiction can be great literature.
 

hitmouse

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I finished Walter de la Mare's collection The Connoisseur and Ruth Downie's Medicus (which seemed longer than it needed to be). The de la Mare book was worth reading, but I think his On the Edge impressed me more. I've begun a rereading (after 49 years) of Mervyn Peake's Titus Alone.
I seem to be the only person in the world who likes Titus Alone.
 

Stephen Palmer

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Metazoa: Animal Minds and the Birth of Consciousness by Peter Godfrey-Smith. Stick to the first book. This is just an extension of that. In an attempt to examine the origins of animal consciousness, Peter Godfrey-Smith has written what is essentially a semi-coherent, superficial mish-mash of science, philosophy and memoir. The author starts off with sea sponges and ends up with vertebrates, writing vaguely about their nervous systems and how they sense/interact with their environment. The "animal facts" are very interesting. So are the vignettes about the author's experiences with animals when diving. However, Godfrey-Smith is not very good at explaining why any of these "animal facts" and experiences are relevant to his thesis/hypothesis, or how it fits into the bigger picture. An intelligent reader that is paying attention can figure it out, but the book isn't particularly well written, the topics aren't covered deeply enough to be really useful, and Godfrey-Smith tends to ramble too much. Maybe a different organizational structure would have helped? Covering animals as they evolved does tend to lead to rather a lot of repetition. This book lacked substance and was therefore, disappointing. If the Peter Godfrey-Smith ever wrote a diving memoir with interesting "animal facts" thrown in, I would read that (he is good at the memoir stuff), but I would have to think really hard about another science-philosophy-memoir mishmash.
Imo, you've greatly undervalued the impact of this book. Even if it was "just" an extension, what's wrong with that? He has an original line of inquiry.
 

Elentarri

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Imo, you've greatly undervalued the impact of this book. Even if it was "just" an extension, what's wrong with that? He has an original line of inquiry.
It's not that it's an extension that's the problem (the introduction practically stated it was an extension); it's that the book is terribly written. The author is terrible at putting his ideas down on paper properly. He doesn't properly match up his "evidence" with what he claims is his goal. He also doesn't tell us anything that isn't already covered in the first book (Other Minds). This book is all over the place, very shallow (I wanted more details!) and you have to weed out what he is going for. The first book wasn't much better in terms of actual writing, but it did have the benefit of being more narrowly focused (not to mention the cute octopus stories). I'm also not so sure how original his line of inquiry is, since most of the stuff in the books is old hat to anyone who knows something about evolution and physiology.¯\_(ツ)_/¯ And if it's meant for the general reader who knows nothing about evolution and physiology etc, then I doubt they are going to get much out of this mish-mash of a book, except possibly an education about evolution in general and the nervous system in particular. I did not find the book "brilliantly written" or "compelling". I kept wool gathering and having to go back and re-read sections. I've read calculus text books that were more coherent and compelling. I will admit that some of the contents was interesting, but again, nothing that someone even vaguely familiar with nature books/documentaries hasn't come across before. To me, this book was disappointing and does not reflect all the media hype. Maybe this book worked better for you because you haven't read Other Minds yet?

I've got The Deep History of Ourselves: The Story of How We Got Conscious Brains by Joseph LeDoux and The Book of Minds by Philip Ball lined up. So hopefully they will work better for me, though LeDoux is not currently earning any brownie points by regurgitating generic evolution and tree of life pictures in 5 incredibly short and shallow chapters. Seriously, don't people learn this stuff in primary school or just by osmosis via the internet/TV?

PS:- The 2 middle paragraphs of your review are already more coherent than the whole book. If Peter Godfrey-Smith had put that in somewhere near the beginning instead of all the hand-waving waffling, I wouldn't be so annoyed with his book. If it makes you feel better, the book did get 3/5 stars on GoodReads. It wasn't that bad, it just could have been much better.

PPS:- Looking forward to your Taurus book. It sounds interesting.
 
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