Books, Books, Books

The ennui hiatus continues as I fill my blogging time with reading books and mudding on Facebook. Books I've read in the past week include:

The Steel Bonnets is a historical review by George MacDonald Fraser (the author of the hilarious Flashman series) that is filled with interesting characters. Bonnets is an amazing account of how tough and violent the border marches between Scotland and England were in Elizabethan times. Comparatively, the Wild West was a girl's school gym class. The descendants of these frontiersman and border reivers (including my ancestors) went on to subdue Northern Ireland and then the American frontier in turn. Violent and resistant to authority, they were, but also very brave and honorable in their own way.

World Made by Hand, which is a post-apocalypse novel that explores the world long after the apocalypse is over rather than focusing on how the immediate disaster is survived. In this world, the technology and infrastructure that civilization depends on has been destroyed. People have to learn new (and old) ways to cope. Kunstler shows how different groups might adopt different coping strategies, and how those strategies might conflict with each other. Needless to say, the moral environment is pretty complex which is one of the great points in favor of post-apocalyptic settings for a novelist.

The God Delusion is Richard Dawkins' latest diatribe against the religious mind. It starts out well, outlining the various arguments against common objections to atheism. But it falls off into a smug dismissal of value systems that don't agree with his own utilitarianism. There are solid secular reasons why some people share moral positions with religious people (for example anti-abortion -- which I won't get into here; email me if you want), but Dawkins treats any difference of opinion with his secular humanist liberalism as essentially irrational. I absolutely loved his book The Selfish Gene, which helped inform my understanding of evolution, but he should really be a little more considered in his public policy thinking.

The Pushcart War was one of my favorite books when I was a kid. It is the story of a fictional turf war between the big bad commercial trucks and the pushcart vendors of New York City. I wanted to read it again as an adult to see if it was really as funny as I remembered. It is.