Last July 11th was the 15th anniversary of this blog. I meant to have a 15th anniversary post, but of course my posting was far behind my reading. It’s taken me this long to catch up. So here’s my belated anniversary post.
My first post was 15 years, 7 months, and 13 days ago; that was 5707 days ago. Since then I’ve posted 939 times; 913 of the posts have been book reviews. Of the book reviews, 476 have been for fiction and 437 for non-fiction.
On average, I’ve been reading a book every 6.25 days for the last decade and a half. That doesn’t include books I started but didn’t finish or books I just skimmed or dipped into.
I don’t consider any of this particularly remarkable, though I think I can claim the title of “oldest blog with the least readers”. What amazes me is all the other changes that have take place since I started blogging.
Fifteen years ago I was a software developer for a company that no longer exists. Now I’m retired. My wife and I had just passed our 25th anniversary. Now we’ve been married over 40 years. What surprises me most is that my immediate family back then consisted of me, my wife, and two sons. Now it’s the four of us plus two wonderful daughters-in-law and, as of this week, 8 amazing grandchildren. The oldest grandchild, at 6, is already reading at 2nd grade level, and I expect she’ll beat my stats. The other ones (well, except for the newest one, but give him time, he mostly sleeps right now) aren’t quite readers, but they are voracious consumers of books. And I just now realized that I haven’t blogged about the many kids books I’ve read over the last several years.
I’m tempted to figure out how many more books I can read given an average life expectancy. But retirement brings increased time for reading, so that estimate would not only be depressing, but probably inaccurate. I’ll update you if I’m still here in another 15 years.
Ahmed Abul Ella
This is a good, though somewhat amateurish, book about Egyptian archaeological discoveries. I appreciated how the author — an Egyptian tour guide — told the story of how Egyptians came to “own” their own past and how, over time, more and more Egyptian archaeology has come to be conducted by Egyptians.
After seeing King Tut’s tomb and its contents on my recent trip to Egypt I wanted to know more about him. This book proved to be a perfect match for what I wanted. It covers what we know about Tut’s life, the discovery of the tomb, and his significance in history and to archaeology. What I really appreciated was the author’s refusal to make definitive statements about things about which we don’t have much solid information. There are too many books and documentaries about the “secrets” and “mysteries” of history that are full of sensationalist speculations. There are too few books like this one that explain what is known while also explaining how we know it and how much we don’t know.
A tedious conclusion to a most tedious family saga. The long nightmare is over.
Last month my wife and I went on a Road Scholar tour of Egypt (“Beyond the Pharaohs: Egypt Past and Present“). This book was on Road Scholar’s suggested reading list.
The parts of the book on ancient Egypt are invaluable as a survey of ancient Egyptian history. I wouldn’t call it “superficial”, but it is definitely an overview. The parts about the time between the arrival of Islam and the fall of the Ottoman Empire are less interesting and it tends to get bogged down in the various ruling dynasties. The pace — and my interest — picked up when Tignor reaches modern Egypt.
Overall the book is a little dry but it really helped me to understand what I saw on the trip.
As for the trip itself, it was pretty incredible. Egypt is a fascinating place full of (to borrow the phrase Howard Carter used to describe his first view of the wonders of King Tut’s tomb) “wonderful things”. An organized tour seems like the only practical way to visit Egypt and even though we decided we’re really not “tour people”, I’d recommend this tour to strongly to anyone interested in visiting Egypt and to anyone who wants to focus their travel experience on learning (as opposed to, for example, on shopping).
I enjoyed the travel aspects of this book, especially since it’s about a region I have an interest in. Victoria Clark does a good job of talking about the political aspects of “Orthodox Europe”, but her writing about the religious aspects isn’t as on-target. It’s as if she wants the spirituality of the Orthodox world to be something it isn’t, while not quite getting in touch with what it is. She also focuses on priests and monks while ignoring all but the externals of laypersons’ faith.
Bond’s latest is a typical techno-thriller: fun to read but forgettable.
Steven Lee Myers
Considering recent events, this is a must-read. Despite the depth of the reporting and overall quality of the book, Putin is still an enigma to me. He wasn’t obviously ambitious, and, since taking power, it’s not clear how pure (i.e., how purely nationalistic as opposed to self-interested) his motives are. It’s clear that even if Putin is, in some sense, a patriot, he’s also in charge of a criminal organization. Given the layers of security surrounding the topic, it’s hard to imagine a more complete book on Putin; it’s also a good survey of post-Soviet Russian history.
John Sandford and Ctein
This is a good “hard SF” novel about the US and China racing to access the secrets of an alien spaceship in orbit around Saturn.
Sometimes it’s a good idea to examine that things we take for granted. For instance, is “work” in the modern, economic sense, the only (or most sensible) foundation for our lives? Frayne looks at how work has changed over the last couple of centuries, the disproportionate role is has in our lives, and possible alternatives.
In a world where automation continues to take jobs from workers, a book about “post-work” is increasingly relevant.