Read Recently — May — Nonfiction

The Age of Wonder: how the Romantic Generation discovered the beauty and terror of science by Richard Holmes

Basically, the pre-Darwin era was an exciting time in all the sciences, and pretty much all the romantics were involved. Hughes begins with a botanist going on a long sea voyage: Joseph Banks going to Tahiti with Lt. (later Captain) Cook, nicely paralleling Darwin’s voyage, a century in the future. One thing I found interesting about this trip (aside from all the scientific history stuff) was how it dovetailed with Chris Roberson’s Set the Seas on Fire.

We go on from there to German/British astronomers building the biggest telescope in the world and discovering Uranus, and a balloon war between Britain and France (okay, it was never a shooting war, but still). Along the way, pretty much all the Romantic Poets get involved, at one point or another.

Anyway, it’s a great book, well-written, and full of stuff I didn’t know about a period of history that I only just realised I am very ignorant of–though less so now. Highly recommended.

Sleeping With Extra-terrestrials: the rise of irrationalism and perils of piety by Wendy Kaminer

Kaminer writes a column in Free Inquiry magazine, and it would be fair to say that she’s not my favourite of their columnists. On the other hand, I will admittedly read almost anything, and given the subject of the book (from the subtitle you can make a pretty good guess, right?) I was interested. About a hundred pages in, she takes the time to skewer the first of the Left Behind books. SOLD! Sadly, this book was published in 1999, so there was no chance for her to take on the rest of the series. Anyway, recommended.

American Prince: a memoir by Tony Curtis and Peter Golenbock

I saw an interview on TV one time with Tony Curtis. He seemed like a real class act, and I was reminded of how I’ve always liked him in the few of his movies that I’ve seen (Operation Petticoat and Some Like It Hot, in particular). So when I saw this one, I grabbed it.

He’s a little less classy in print, naming names particularly when it comes to who he slept with (he had a thing with Marilyn Monroe before she broke big, but then, it seems like all you needed to date Monroe was to be (a)living, and (b) a mammal, so that’s no big deal) and sharing a lot of the gossip of the times, but on the other hand, he’s perfectly willing to gush about everybody’s good points, too. So, overall, he comes off okay.

Anyway, this is recommended if you’re interested in biographies, or Hollywood history.


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