Reading Room: July

**Every year I do a reading challenge through the site Goodreads. For the last few years, I’ve set my goal as 365 books for the year. It’s not something I realistically think I can achieve, but there’s definitely a sense of accomplishment in striving.**

This month was very heavy with commissioned reviews and assigned book reviews. But it turned out to be a rather interesting balance between (white) feminist nonfiction and some rather enjoyable science (astronomy, evolutionary biology, and cosmology).

I read 15 books this month for a total of 118 for the year towards the rather unrealistic goal of 365. Yet, I feel comfortable with my pace even though I’m quite behind. 

The playlist for the month is rather scattered. The release of the new Lana Del Rey album sent me down a rabbit hole. This meant there wasn’t nearly as much variety as I would have hoped as I listened to that over and over only cutting it with Mark Lanegan’s new album.

Also, my reading somehow gave me a hard 90s nostalgia. Summer is a dark time for some of us.

So, here are the books…


The Evolution of Beauty by Richard O. Prum

Recently, I’ve begun doing short book reviews (200-250 words) for the San Diego Book Review. This was part of the first round of books I received last month. Prum writes an engaging and compelling re-assessment of how aesthetics plays a significant role in evolution. Towards the end of the book, he gets a little punchy but what can one expect out of a birder.


Quantum Fuzz by Michael S. Walker

Another reviewed for San Diego Book Review. Tracing the development of quantum physics from the early days of 20th century to the practical benefits of it today, this book is at once nice general history of science, theoretical & applied physics for general audience, & a pragmatic look at the vital importance of understanding physics today.


Universal: A Guide to the Cosmos by Brian Cox and Jeff Forshaw

This was my first contribution to San Diego Book Review. Brian Cox has long been my favorite television presenter of physics and cosmology. Unlike the rather condescending and generally uninteresting Neil deGrasse Tyson or the bumbling speculation of Michio Kaku, Cox looks to not just explain but show and prompt us into performing science. This is at once a mildly entertaining coffee table book and an excellent introductory guide for adults and students.


The Girl with the Lower Back Tattoo by Amy Schumer

Over the course of our brief summer vacation, I read the books my wife had picked up to read while traveling between Sweden, Scotland, and England. For a comedian memoir, this was actually funny and entertaining throughout. The celebrity memoirs don’t really tell us anything new but rather just satisfy our curious need to ‘get to know’ those that make us laugh. I like Schumer’s work and this was satisfying in the same way Tina Fey or Amy Poehler’s books were.


Not That Kind of Girl by Lena Dunham

I began reading this hoping that it would change my mind about the tenor and quality of Dunham’s work. It did not. The most accurate review of this is a phrase found about midway through–“vague irritant.”


The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot

Read at my in-laws’ house, this was the second time I have read this. Somehow I had forgotten all but the most bare bones facts so it was a good refresher as I prime myself to endure an Oprah movie.


Beyond Our Degrees of Separation by Judith Ravin and Muhammud Hassan Miraj

The last commissioned review for the month. This collection of braided essays was very enjoyable. A kind of travelogue but also memoir of time and place, I found it difficult to convey what exactly it was that so interested me about this.


The Age of Darkness by Joseph Murphy-James

The first in a rather thorough series mixing hard fantasy (dragons, elves, demons, and magic) with serious history of England. As a commissioned review, this was an entertaining and promising first book but a bit too expository for my tastes. However, I am going to read the series.


Pop-Out Girl by Irene Woodbury

Certainly the most ridiculous cover of any of the commissioned reviews I’ve yet done, yet actually a rather solid romance thriller.


Amira Can Catch by Kevin Christofora & Dale Tangeman

(also read, Nick’s Very First Day of Baseball, Magic Bat Day, & TGIT)

The first children’s book I’ve done a commissioned review of and definitely worth it. I’ll be giving this and the subsequent books to my sister for my niece and nephew.


Intergalactic Travel Bureau Vacation Guide to the Solar System by Olivia Koski and Jana Grcevich

Not quite a novelty book, rather just a fun way to think about space travel. The artwork is gorgeous and as clever as the writing.


The Idiot by Elif Batuman

Perhaps the best college novel I’ve read. This is another review for San Diego Book Review. You’d think all the people who fawned over Donna Tartt’s tiresomeness would read this and feel ashamed of themselves. At least, I hope. Set in the mid-90s, this story that less about foreignness or otherness than it is about being estranged from the everyday and making that normal speaks to me. This shouldn’t come as a surprise as the novel essentially overlaps with my own collegiate time.

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