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drneutron's (Jim's) Reading to Avoid Work - Chapter 7

This is a continuation of the topic drneutron's (Jim's) Reading to Avoid Work - Chapter 6.

75 Books Challenge for 2018

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Edited: Aug 16, 12:05pm Top

Post-launch edition of the thread! Here's one last PSP pic for a topper.

Edited: Aug 16, 12:07pm Top

The Usual Stats

Total Books: 67

Author Gender
Male: 49 (64%)
Female: 28 (36%)

Author Status
Living: 76 (99%)
Dead: 1 (1%)

Publication Medium
Hardback: 5 (7%)
Trade: 20 (32%)
Mass Market: 2 (3%)
eBook: 40 (60%)

Fiction: 47 (70%)
Nonfiction: 20 (30%)

Library: 46 (69%)
Mine: 21 (31%)

ARC: 7
Re-Read: 1
Series: 27
Group Read: 2

Aug 16, 12:37pm Top

Happy new thread!! Great topper!

Aug 16, 1:16pm Top

I have meant to drop by and holler a "congrats" on the launch. When I saw the launch news I went oooh that hasta be Jim's. So so cool.

Aug 16, 1:54pm Top

Congratulations, Jim. Thanks for letting us share the experience!

Aug 16, 2:32pm Top

>6 jessibud2: Thanks! I thought it was a neat shot.

>7 RBeffa:, >8 Oregonreader: Thanks! I'm glad folks have enjoyed following along.

Aug 16, 3:04pm Top

68. THe World of Gerard Mercator by Andrew Taylor

Pretty much anyone who's seen a map has at one time or another seen the world represented in the Mercator projection. See, it's really hard to turn the surface of a sphere into a flat map - you either get directions between points right or you get distances right, never both. Mercator was the first to develop a map that navigators could use to plot straight-line courses, which was a huge development that, weirdly, didn't catch on for 50 years or so after his death. Yeah, the map has its flaws, like overly emphasizing the size of Europe and underemphasizing out America and Africa, but this was the gateway to a modern understanding of projective geometry and a great stride forward in geography.

But Mercator was more than a one-off creator of a map. Most of his life was spent collecting and collating geographic data from a wide variety of sources to produce accurate maps and intricately made globes, with a hand in scientific instruments. He was a businessman first, but also proponent of Church reform in a time when that could (and for him, did) result in interference by the Inquisition. Taylor's biography is a good retelling of an interesting life, though I wish there were more sources available to give more detail.

69. Bimbos of the Death Sun by Sharyn McCrumb

Yeah, the title. *Sigh* In reality, McCrumb's book is a satirical mystery that pokes fun at the mid-90s fan and con culture. Fun - at points, laugh out loud - and frothy, there's not much mystery here. But really, that's not the point. Nice brain candy.

70. Badass Librarians of Timbuktu by Joshua Hammer

Timbuktu was quite the academic center in it's heyday, and one of the results was the production of many, many manuscript works in Arabic and regional languages from the period when Europe was Medieval. And surprisingly, these manuscripts were mostly saved as treasures kept within families. In the late 20th century and several centers were built in Timbuktu were built to collect and preserve these manuscripts. But times change, and when Al Qaeda and other fundamentalist groups formed in Mali, the manuscripts became the target of these groups. Hammer's book tells the story of how these ancient treasures were saved.

Aug 16, 5:14pm Top

Do love that topper!

Aug 16, 6:16pm Top

Happy new thread, Jim!
It was so special to see the launch & knowing someone in the team :-)

Aug 16, 6:16pm Top

>10 drneutron: What?! You have had time to read during all the launch hoopla? You are Super Man! : ) Happy new thread.

Aug 16, 6:27pm Top

>10 drneutron: - I have that Timbuktu book on my shelf!

Aug 16, 7:06pm Top

Happy new thread Jim! >1 drneutron: Glorious!

>10 drneutron: Tempting...

Edited: Aug 16, 8:13pm Top

Happy New One, Jim!

Speaking of brain candy, Thrawn was pretty good on audio. I am going to try The Commodore Deutermann while waiting for the new Thrawn: Alliances from the library. I know you stick to print, but thought I'd drop the seed on the book anyway.

Aug 16, 9:20pm Top

>11 SuziQoregon:, >12 FAMeulstee: Thanks!

>13 Berly: Yeah, some reading was done. I’m hoping to make a personal best this year.

>14 jessibud2: Give it a shot!

>15 humouress: Thanks!

>16 brodiew2: I’ll check it out!

Aug 16, 9:46pm Top

Happy new thread, Jim! Looks like you are nearing 75!

Aug 17, 4:30am Top

Happy new thread Jim, great topper.

Aug 17, 6:46am Top

Happy New Thread!!

Aug 17, 8:02am Top

Thanks, everyone!

>18 thornton37814: Yeah, I've got 71 and 72 in the works.

Aug 17, 8:33am Top

Happy New PSP Thread, Jim!

Have you read the Murderbot Diaries yet? You'd get a kick out of them, methinks. The first is All Systems Red.

Aug 17, 8:34am Top

Happy new thread! Love the topper!

Aug 17, 11:34am Top

Happy new thread.

I suppose it is too early to say how well PSP is doing but it is exciting to think that you will start getting data before the end of the year.

Aug 17, 1:43pm Top

Happy new thread, Jim. That is a topper to be proud of!

>10 drneutron: Great strategy to sneak something fluffy in between the two more serious reads. Although, I thought that The Badass Librarians of Timbuktu was easy to read because it delivered the information it had to between the events of what seemed like and adventure story at times.

Aug 17, 2:58pm Top

>22 jnwelch: THey're definitely on my list! I'm still trying to clean out my pile of TBRs before getting more, though... 😀

>22 jnwelch: Thanks!

>23 RebaRelishesReading: PSP's doing well right now. We're commissioning, i.e., trying everything out and learning how to fly it.

>25 Familyhistorian: It definitely was easy to read, but the thought of all that destruction of manuscripts (and other stuff and people) gets to me. So brain candy!

Aug 17, 2:58pm Top

Saw this on another thread - NPR's recommendations for horror and scary stuff. Pretty much all great selections!


Aug 17, 4:08pm Top

>26 drneutron: ... um ... shouldn’t you have learned to fly it before you launched it?

Aug 17, 4:59pm Top

>28 humouress: Unfortunately, until we actually get spacecraft in space, not everything is completely testable - gravity and atmosphere, for instance, change the way the spacecraft behaves. So we always find quirks in behavior that we need to understand. This is what gives a spacecraft personality!

Aug 18, 12:38pm Top

Happy new thread!

>27 drneutron: Thanks for sharing! I'll be sure to check that link out
I think some of us are going to do a group read of The Fireman by Joe Hill in October if you are interested

Aug 18, 9:04pm Top

Oh, definitely interested!

Aug 19, 12:03am Top

>30 ChelleBearss: Remind me later!!! I'd like to give it a go. : )

Hi, Jim!

Aug 19, 1:27pm Top

>30 ChelleBearss:, >31 drneutron:, and >32 Berly: Hmmm, maybe I'll join in. I can have all of you virtually holding my hand through it.

Aug 19, 5:37pm Top

Congratulations on the launch!

>10 drneutron: I am a huge fan of Bimbos of the Death Sun and its sequel Zombies of the Gene Pool. Yeah. The titles. But they make me laugh.

The Bad-Ass Librarians of Timbuktu was interesting, but that's definitely a title I didn't love.

>28 humouress: Snort. You made me laugh, Nina, because I was thinking something along those lines....

Aug 19, 6:10pm Top

>34 Dejah_Thoris: Thanks!

Bimbos was a reread, but I’ve never read the sequel. Time to track it down!

Aug 19, 7:45pm Top

Hat's off to you and your colleagues, doctor. Hope your highly sophisticated gizmo continues to work excellently.

Thumbs up too on your reading numbers.

Aug 19, 7:49pm Top

Happy Sunday, Jim. Happy New Thread! Love that topper. I got seriously behind on the threads, so it is going to take me awhile to catch up.

Hooray for The Fireman in October! Lets do it!

Edited: Aug 21, 9:58am Top

Hi Jim. Happy new thread, happy continuing success with PSP.

>10 drneutron: Bimbos of the Death Sun and The Bad-ass Librarians of Timbuktu. Two wonderful titles that made me smile. Timbuktu is now on my wish list.

Aug 21, 10:10am Top

>36 weird_O: So far so good! We completed our biggest propulsion burn to target Venus yesterday morning - it was a great success!

>37 msf59: Yep, I want to make sure that group read happens! Started Bearskin last night. Five chapters in - so far it's great!

>38 karenmarie: Thanks! Yeah, those are some pretty good titles. Fortunately, the books live up to them. 😀

Aug 21, 10:44am Top

What a great photo topper, Jim! I'm back home now and catching up with everyone, slowly but surely. I really enjoyed the McCrumb books back in the day (circa 1988) but think the first book is better than the second. They are fun, regardless.

Aug 21, 3:20pm Top

Happy new thread.

Aug 21, 3:45pm Top

Jim, thanks to your review, I've just ordered Bad Ass Librarians of Timbuktu. I'm looking forward to it.

Aug 21, 4:15pm Top

>29 drneutron: I never thought of spacecraft as having personality but, when I really think about it, most of our vehicles have some type of personality. I have just been doing research on the Empress of Ireland which was sunk in 1914 and ocean liners definitely had their own quirks as well. That ship had one personality above the water and a different personality for the divers that explore the wreck where it lies in the St. Lawrence.

Aug 21, 8:16pm Top

>40 ronincats: I suspected that might be the case - it strikes me that the idea might get stretched a bit thin. 😀

>41 figsfromthistle: Thanks!

>42 Oregonreader: Cool! I hope you enjoy it!

>43 Familyhistorian: Oh, yeah. Every one is unique with it’s own personality. PSP is flying well, but likes to spin in the sunlight a little more than we’d like. 😀

Aug 23, 11:14am Top

71. Irresistible North by Andrea di Robilant

About 150 years before Columbus sailed the ocean blue, a guy named Nicholó Zen, sailed from his native Venice to the north to do some trading, and on subsequent trips joined by his brother. Their journey took them from the Orkneys and Faroe Islands to Iceland, Greenland, and maybe to the northern stretches of North America, producing a map that shows these Venetians really discovered America that influenced mapmakers for centuries afterward.

Or maybe not. The only record we have of this is a book written some generations later - well after the exploration of the New World and successful voyages around Africa - by a descendant based on five letters that were preserved by the Zen family. And the map? It's a struggle to connect the geography shown on the map with anything we know about the actual geography of the supposed trip. So there is, naturally, quite a bit of academic controversy (bring the popcorn!) about the story and whether these voyages really happened.

di Robilant is clearly in the camp of those who believe the Zens really did make it to America, and from what I've gathered, that's definitely a minority opinion. He makes a good case, though, and it's fun to see how he spins gold from so little straw (mostly from interpreting place names on the map). Controversy aside, it's clear that there was more trade and travel going on by the Norse across the centuries across the region than the naive picture usually taught about Columbus sailing off into the unknown and discovering something nobody else had ever seen - indigenous people aside...

72. Stonehenge by Francis Pryor

Short history of the development of Stonehenge in the context of other local sites and the spiritual/communal uses of these sites. Has some more up to date archaeology that I hadn't seen before, and the breakdown of how the features were built up across the prehistoric eras when it was used.

73. The Flanders Panel by Arturo Pérez-Reverte

An art restorer preparing a painting for auction discovers a hidden message under the layers of paint. It appears the painting may be a message giving the identity of the murderer of one of the people in the painting - a knight from hundreds of years ago. The key to the mystery, though, is in a chess game being played in the painting. And when the painting leads to a modern day murder, the restorer must solve both mysteries before the killer gets her.

74. Kindred: A Graphic Novel Adaptation by Octavia E. Butler

Fantastic visual adaptation of the classic sf story - a great representation of the story!

Aug 23, 1:33pm Top

Hi Jim, I've started the annual September Series & Sequels thread.

It's over at: https://www.librarything.com/topic/295308

Hoping interested people will stop by.

Aug 23, 4:55pm Top

Happy new thread Jim.

Aug 23, 8:45pm Top


Aug 24, 10:22am Top

>45 drneutron: The Flanders Panel put me onto a huge Perez-Reverte kick. I especially liked his Alatriste series.

Aug 24, 12:02pm Top

Hey Jim, I know this is "preaching to the choir" for you, but I thought all the rest of us might enjoy this video from the YT channel Smarter Every Day. The host, Destin went to Florida before the launch and interviewed a bunch of your fellow scientists about the design of PSP. Pretty cool stuff...


Aug 24, 1:39pm Top

>49 Oberon: Cool! I'm definitely going to read more of his stuff - will look into the series.

>50 mahsdad: Hadn't seen that one yet - very cool! Felipe, the mechanical engineer he interviewed, is one of the smartest engineers I know.

Aug 24, 2:11pm Top

>45 drneutron: Ah, I'm adding that Stonehenge book to my TBR. I read the Bernard Cromwell fictionalization a while back and found it somewhat lacking in actual, you know, facts. :-)

Aug 24, 8:53pm Top

😀 The author has other books on British archaeology out - i’m Going to see if I can find them. I liked his writing style and his science seems well founded.

Aug 25, 8:16am Top

I really should read some more of Francis Pryor's work, I really liked the 2 I have read. He's also appeared on TV ... I first saw him on Time Team, a UK archaeology program.

Aug 25, 8:25am Top

Which two did you read? I’ve heard of a time Team, but never watched it. I should check to see if it’son Any of our streaming services.

Aug 25, 8:37am Top

Britain BC: Life in Britain and Ireland before the Romans and The Making of the British Landscape : how we have transformed the land, from prehistory to today and I actually read both of them when I was reviewing books.

Time Team was a really interesting series - a team of archaeologists had 3 days to dig a site of interest. Francis Pryor wasn't in all of them, I think it depended on what sort of site they were investigating, so if it was prehistoric he was more likely to be involved. It was presented by Tony Robinson (Baldrick from Blackadder) and I still watch the occasional re-run episode when it shows up on TV.

Aug 27, 7:51pm Top

Hello Jim! I hope all is well.

Did I mention 'The Expanse'? I finally completed season 3 and, WOW!, what a cool show. Have you seen it or read the books? I can't remember if I asked about it before.

Aug 27, 8:16pm Top

Yup! I’ve seen the first two seasons - it’s really good. Books are on my Overdrive wish list.

Edited: Aug 28, 9:09am Top

I accidentally put this on the wrong DrJim thread. Trying again ...

Hi, Jim! The student newspaper at the University of Iowa, where I work, had an article in today's paper about the Solar Probe:

UI Experiments on Board NASA's Trip to the Sun

I'm sure you know that UI is the home university of James Van Allen, who discovered those pesky radiation belts. It's very cool that we continue to have a role in current space magic.

Aug 28, 8:05am Top

Nice! We should be turning on their instruments in a few days.

Van Allen worked at APL, where I work, off and on in his career. He always had close association with the scientists here - and we built and operate the Van Allen Probes studying the radiation belts.

By the way, for the first 15 years or so of my career, my job was to model and predict space radiation exposure for spacecraft and make sure that systems would survive that exposure!

Aug 28, 9:12am Top

>60 drneutron: I'm sure you know way more about Dr. Van Allen than I ever could, especially since you started your career in space radiation, Jim. I'm sure you got glowing reviews! (Sorry, I had to do it.) :-D

Aug 28, 9:27am Top


Aug 28, 11:54am Top

No doubt those glowing reviews were due to that radiant personality of yours. Your career seems to be on a firm trajectory, with the sky (not) the limit.

Aug 29, 7:35am Top

Happy somewhat belated new thread, Jim!

Edited: Aug 30, 9:41am Top

And now for

Bearskin by James A. McLaughlin

Rice Moore is hiding from his past as a runner for a drug cartel - and from a violent act of revenge he committed against them. He's now caretaker for a wilderness preserve in Appalachia. But when he finds a series of bear kills - for paws and gall bladders to sell on the black market - he decides it has to stop, and he's the only person who can do it.

Thanks to Mark for sending me this one - it's a really good thriller, full of suspense. At times very violent, it'll keep you on the edge of your seat. McLaughlin's a new author and I'll be watching for more from him!

Aug 30, 11:40am Top

Congratulations on reaching 75, Jim!

Aug 30, 11:54am Top

Congrats on hitting 75!! :)

Aug 30, 3:58pm Top

Hi Jim, congrats on reaching 75 mate.

Aug 30, 4:47pm Top

Thanks, everyone!

Aug 30, 9:19pm Top

Congrats on 75!

Aug 30, 9:34pm Top

Congrats on 75, Jim! (I saw over on the Bragging & Backslapping thread that you'd hit the mark and wanted to come see the title of the milestone book!)

Aug 31, 1:08am Top

Congratulations on reaching 75, Jim!
And thank you for your work for this georgeous group!
Keep on reading and doing!

Edited: Aug 31, 3:25am Top

Congratulations, Jim!

Aug 31, 5:27am Top

Yay for 75!!

Aug 31, 8:13am Top

Thanks, everyone! I'm surprised given the year I'e had, that I'm on track with my reading to make a personal best since I started counting. 😀

Aug 31, 9:03am Top

Congratulations -- on reaching your goal even early in a very demanding year AND on being on track for a personal best. Way to go!!

Aug 31, 9:26am Top

Congratulations Jim.

Edited: Sep 2, 3:35pm Top

76. Report to Megalopolis by Tod Davies

Fourth (though largely stand-alone) in a series giving the history of a land called Arcadia, Davies has adapted and manipulated the story of Frankenstein to talk about civilizations and ambition and how we treat each other.

Honestly, I don't think the author could have been any more heavy-handed, which ruined what could have been a great fantasy tale. I'm a fan of stories with unreliable or morally questionable narrators - these stories often explore some really interesting aspects of psychology. But instead, this just came off strident more than anything else.

77. Binti: Home by Nnedi Okorafor

The second volume of Okorafor's series of novellas talks about many of these same themes. And the contrast couldn't be starker. Binti's story is compelling and thought-provoking with out the stridency of Davies' writing. This is a beautiful piece of work with characters, not caricatures, and worlds, not stereotypes. These are must-reads!

Sep 2, 4:50pm Top

Congratulations on 75!

Sep 2, 6:23pm Top

Woo hoo on blowing past the 75 book mark, especially with the workload you've had this year!!

Sep 2, 7:04pm Top

>78 drneutron: I read the first book in that Arcadia series many years ago, because I got it from LTER (as I imagine you did with this one). Boy, was it awful. I feel your pain!
When I saw the 4th one available from LTER recently I was surprised anyone would publish more of them! And then I remembered....the author owns her own publishing company.

Sep 2, 8:30pm Top

Congrats on 75!

Here's another Smarter Every Day video. Destin got to be on the platform with the CEO of ULA when they did rollback prior to launch. This stuff never gets old...


Sep 2, 8:47pm Top

>79 banjo123:, >80 ronincats: Thanks!

>81 norabelle414: Ah, her own publishing company. That explains a lot! Yep, pretty bad.

>82 mahsdad: Cool! I’m pretty impressed with Smarter Every Day. When I get a minute, i’ll check that one out.

Sep 3, 2:46am Top

Amazing topper! So glad it is up. Also, congrats on 75 :)

Sep 3, 2:17pm Top

Congratulations on 75!

Sep 3, 7:28pm Top

Thanks, Bekka and Reba!

Edited: Sep 3, 8:31pm Top

^Congrats on hitting our magic number, Jim. And I think Bearskin was the perfect choice. I am glad you enjoyed it.

Happy Labor Day, my friend. I hope you had a great holiday weekend.

Sep 3, 11:48pm Top

And another congratulations on hitting the magic 75, and early, too!!

Sep 4, 8:06am Top

>87 msf59: Thanks! I did have a good weekend. In spite of a friend's daughter's wedding all day Saturday, I was able to get in about 250 pages of reading, mostly on Monday. I'm just about finished with The Rise and Fall of D.O.D.O - which I loved - and am a pretty good way into The Mechanical. Plus steaks on the grill yesterday! 😀

>88 Berly: Thanks!

Sep 9, 10:50pm Top

That was last week. What about THIS week? : )

Sep 10, 12:48pm Top

Wow it's been that long since I posted?

- All instruments on PSP have been turned on and checkout has begun. So far so good!
- First Venus gravity assist is coming up, so preps are beginning.
- Mostly just working around the house on my off hours to catch up on things missed over the summer. And mowing. Always mowing.
- Went to the first home football game of the season at the Naval Academy. Rained on us the whole time. Still enjoyed a good game!
- Finished The Rise and Fall of D.O.D.O. Am most of the way through my next two - a clockpunk thing by Tregillis and a book on the interplay between science and magical belief during the Renaissance period (which has been a little disappointing, but not bad).

Sep 11, 3:19am Top

Oh, there you are! Welcome back. And thanks for the update. Good luck with the mowing. And all the rest of the stuff you mentioned. : )

Sep 11, 1:16pm Top


Sep 11, 5:39pm Top

"the interplay between science and magical belief during the Renaissance period"

That sounds interesting, looking forward to seeing your thoughts on it

Sep 15, 8:17pm Top

Been a bit since I’ve posted an update, so...

78. The Rise and Fall of D.O.D.O. by Neal Stephenson and Nicole Galland

This one punches all the right tickets for me: time travel, quantum physics, satire of government bureaucracy... I’m seriously hoping for a second!

79. A Magical World: Superstition and Science from the Renaissance to the Enlightenment by Derek K. Wilson

Not at all what was promised. Apparently “magic” includes any and all “non-rational” thinking. So what this really covers is the interplay of scientific and (mainstream Christian) religious thought during the time period called out with a bit of alchemy and radical apocalyptic prophecy thrown in. Not a bad book - it reminded me that the people (white males) who were leading the scientific and rational philosophical changes were embedded in a wider culture, and our attempts to understand them have to take this into account.

80. The Mechanical by Ian Tregillis

Jax is a servitor made by alchemists of the Dutch Empire. Now, servitors are controlled by punishing “geasa” , so must do what humans command, and are completely devoid of free will. Except every so often, something happens to a servitor, and this control is broken; rogues have free will, but cannot be allowed to continue existing. And Jax has stumbled across a hidden bit of alchemy that has freed him...

Very good clockpunk!

Sep 16, 12:20am Top

>44 drneutron: That PSP sounds like one joyful gal!

>65 drneutron: Belated congratulations on your 75 Jim!

Sep 16, 9:15pm Top


Yesterday, 12:29pm Top

So, in reviewing my book-tracking spreadsheet, I discovered that I missed adding a book earlier this summer during my Florida banishment.

81. The Burning Page by Genevieve Cogman

Third in the Invisible Library series - better than the second, as good as the first.

Group: 75 Books Challenge for 2018

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