What I've Been Reading During the Pandemic
Reading is one of my favorite pastimes, and the pandemic hasn’t stopped my appetite for books. I have, however, steered clear of anything dystopian or post-apocalyptic, because who wants to read about that at a time like this! Instead, I’ve taken in the rare historical fiction novel along with the usual sci-fi and mystery/thriller books. Here are the latest books I’ve read and some selected highlights from them.
- Loving Day by Mat Johnson
- Exhalation Day by Ted Chiang
- Vanishing in the Haight by Max Tomlinson
- Eye of the Needle by Ken Follett
- Prelude to Foundation by Isaac Asimov
Loving Day by Mat Johnson
"I mean, that’s the ultimate freedom, isn’t it? To define oneself as a human being! Is ‘Human Being’ not a category? I draw my doodles inside the confines of boxes, but I refuse to let the preconceived boxes of others define me."
“That’s not stupid. That’s the single hardest thing to accept in the world. That everything changes. Sometimes it changes for the better, though.”
And it is a little thing, saying “I’m mixed” instead of “I’m black,” yet it’s like the difference between the comfort of wearing shoes that fit as opposed to bearing the blisters of shoes just one size too small.
Exhalation Day by Ted Chiang
Nothing erases the past. There is repentance, there is atonement, and there is forgiveness. That is all, but that is enough.
Anyone who has wasted hours surfing the Internet knows that technology can encourage bad habits.
People are made of stories. Our memories are not the impartial accumulation of every second we’ve lived; they’re the narrative that we assembled out of selected moments.
We don’t normally think of it as such, but writing is a technology, which means that a literate person is someone whose thought processes are technologically mediated. We became cognitive cyborgs as soon as we became fluent readers, and the consequences of that were profound.
“Science is not just the search for the truth,” he said. “It’s the search for purpose”
The more often you make compassionate choices, the less likely it is that you’ll make selfish choices in the future
Vanishing in the Haight by Max Tomlinson
the older Colleen got, the more she realized she should trust her intuition. It was the best bellwether one had when the supposed facts didn’t add up.
Eye of the Needle by Ken Follett
People my age shouldn’t make pronouncements about life. But my life has been a matter of making do, and the same goes for most of the women I know. Steadfastness always looks like a sacrifice, but usually it isn’t.
War was grueling and oppressive and frustrating and uncomfortable, but one had friends. If peace brought back loneliness, Godliman thought he would not be able to live with it.
The trouble with being inspired to perform the impossible, he reflected, was that the inspiration gave you no clues to the practical means.
Prelude to Foundation by Isaac Asimov
“The history of mathematics is full of simple questions that had only the most complicated of answers—or none at all.”
“How harmful overspecialization is. It cuts knowledge at a million points and leaves it bleeding.”
“I suspect that those elements of a population that have a smaller stake in the material natural world are more apt to find solace in what you call supernaturalism—the poor, the disinherited, the downtrodden.”
“I can’t bear to hear a human being spoken of with contempt just because of his group identification—even by other human beings. It’s these respectable people here who create those hooligans out there.” “And other respectable people,” said Seldon, “who create these respectable people. These mutual animosities are as much a part of humanity—” “Then you’ll have to deal with it in your psychohistory, won’t you?”