On summer reads

During my time at the beach, I read three completely different books. I enjoyed them all, so I figured I'd give all of them a plug.

I'm actually very surprised that I read this book. I mostly read to escape, so I tend to pick fiction, and I tend not to think too much about the plot. I just read, try to enjoy the story, and then put the book down. I almost never read non-fiction. I have never had a strong interest in history, biographies, or Westerns. I really enjoyed the movie Tombstone, and I also found the TV show Deadwood to be pretty interesting, though, so I've been meaning to read up a bit on the truth behind those two stories. I've had a copy of Tefertiller's book for a while, and so I decided to start reading it right before the beach. I found it to be pretty fascinating. I had no idea at all about the real story of Wyatt Earp. This book definitely paints a completely different picture of "cowboys" compared to what TV and the movies lead you to believe. I got the feeling that the folks who write Deadwood got some of their inspiration from Tefertiller's book, because there are passages in the book that reminded me of scenes I had seen in the TV show, even though Deadwood is a completely different story. The final parts of the book that covered Earp's later life when he was betting on horses and refereeing prize fights were less interesting, but I can see why they were included for the sake of completeness.

On to the next book:

Another non-fiction book -- which makes this twice as many as I've completed reading during a span of a few weeks compared to the rest of the previous year. If you're curious -- the other non-fiction work I spent time reading this year (and also recommend highly) is The Hundred Greatest Stars by James Kaler. Anyway, back to Longitude -- I read this because my job in astronomy outreach has led me to an interest in learning more about the history of celestial navigation, and the use of tools like the cross-staff, quadrant, and sextant. I even have dreams of wanting to teach this topic some day in some format to some audience. Anyway, the natural progression after reading about devices for measuring latitude was to read about the solution to the longitude problem.

I read this book in less than a day. It was definitely a fast read and interesting. One thing that stood out to me was that the book definitely made Astronomer Royal Nevil Maskelyne out to be an incompetent, corrupt, almost Disney-like villain. The real life battle between Maskelyne and John Harrison definitely seemed like the plot of a work of fiction. The author points out that the book came from what was originally an article, and my biggest criticism of the book is that you can absolutely tell that this is the case. There was certainly enough information to fill this short book, but at the same time some of it seemed like filler and it probably could have been shorter than it was. Regardless -- I still enjoyed the book and learned some information useful for my course. I'll let everyone know when I'm going to offer it and in what format. Start holding your breath now.

Book 3, and the only science fiction work in the group:

I bought this book at an airport. I bought it because I've heard good things about Doctorow, I'm on the lookout for new authors to try out, and because I read BoingBoing. If you read the amazon reviews, the book either gets 5 stars or 2 stars, and it's average score is 3.5. I would say that this book can be summarized by saying it is a 2 star/5 star book. I read it quickly, too, because the plot kept my interest, and I wanted to get back to it as soon as I could after having to put it down. However, for every 5 star aspect of the plot, I would read something and think it was a 2 star part of a 5 star book. The biggest problem is the end. I had to go back and re-read the end about an hour later to try to figure it out (which I think I did) and to see if I had missed anything (which I don't think I did). In some ways, I think this is a fault of mine -- I admit that I don't read looking for deep meanings or to try to discern the author's symbolism. I read for fun. I read the surface and don't worry to much about the depths. Given that, it is likely the ending just went over my head, but it just seemed to leave behind way too many loose ends for the reader to try to tie up on their own. Still, it was worthwhile reading.

This ends my book report and what I did on my summer vacation all rolled up into one post. I'm going to go work on my diorama now.


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