Fantasy & Beyond

A Book Forum for Speculative Fiction

Discuss and recommend non-fiction books & other media here.
User avatar
By JMack
#133
Fascinating book I listened to most of: An Immense World. Deals with all the senses and variations of senses that animals have, from bat’s able to sense things in millionths of a second to fire beetles smelling a forest fire from hundreds of miles away and more.
Last edited by JMack on February 1st, 2024, 20:53, edited 2 times in total.
User avatar
By Magnus
#184
I read tons of fascinating non-fic, though I admit my general reading pace has lessened considerably of late.

I am now reading Ibn Fadlān and the Land of Darkness: Arab Travellers in the Far North, a fascinating travel journal by an Arabic scribe in the 10th century who travels far north and meets, among many others, vikings, and describes their culture and customs. Yes, this is the account that inspired Michael Crichton to write Eaters of the Dead, later filmatised as The 13th warrior.

JMack wrote:Fascinating book I listened to most of: An Immense World. Deals with all the senses and variations of senses that animals have, from bat’s able to sense things in millionths of a second to fire beetles smelling a forest fire from hundreds of miles away and more.
I recently read this! I did enjoy it, though it was a bit too much of a list of facts at times. But a lot of it was fascinating, so I didn't mind too much! The bit about spider web's being an cognitive extension of their consciousness was one of the things that stuck with me. There's SF story potential there. Just no one tell Adrian Tchaikovsky! (Who am I kidding, he already knows...)

I've also read Words Are My Matter by Ursula K Le Guin. Her non-fic work is often fascinating, though this particular collection was less interesting to me because a lot of it was book reviews. But her unique writing style and down-to-earth yet relentless sensibility means I can appreciate her regardless of what she writes about. But I do much prefer her various essays on writing and literature. Her essays on genre are among the gems in this collection.

Before that it was The End of Everything (Astrophysically Speaking) by Katie Mack. It's about the various ways the universe might end based on our current knowledge of astrophysics. It may seem doomy & gloomy but it surprisingly isn't. Or at least I didn't find it so, having come to accept ours (humanity's) and my own insignificance in the greater cosmos a long time ago.
User avatar
By cupiscent
#187
Magnus wrote:I am now reading Ibn Fadlān and the Land of Darkness: Arab Travellers in the Far North, a fascinating travel journal by an Arabic scribe in the 10th century who travels far north and meets, among many others, vikings, and describes their culture and customs. Yes, this is the account that inspired Michael Crichton to write Eaters of the Dead, later filmatised as The 13th warrior.
Pretty sure this guy also shows up in a Guy Gavriel Kay - as one would expect.

I am currently reading Four Queens: the Provencal Sisters Who Ruled Europe by Nancy Goldstone, which is looking at the four daughters of the Count of Provence who married, respectively, the King of France, the King of England, the "King of the Romans" and the King of Sicily (in the 13th century). I'm not very far into it yet, but speaking of the GGK mentions, obviously Provence in this period is very adjacent and similar to GGK's Arbonne; we're just coming out of the period of regular crusading against the Cathars in Languedoc, and part of the appeal of these girls is their elegance, education and sophistication from growing up in a troubadour-heavy court.
By OnlyOneHighlander
#307
Magnus wrote:
I am now reading Ibn Fadlān and the Land of Darkness: Arab Travellers in the Far North, a fascinating travel journal by an Arabic scribe in the 10th century who travels far north and meets, among many others, vikings, and describes their culture and customs. Yes, this is the account that inspired Michael Crichton to write Eaters of the Dead, later filmatised as The 13th warrior.
That sounds great. 13th Warrior was a guilty pleasure of mine when I was at uni. Didn't realise it had its origins in a real account.

I'm dipping into a couple of non-fiction books at the moment:

Autumn in the Heavenly Kingdom by Stephen R. Platt - this tells the story of the Taiping Civil War in China starting in the 1850s. Kicking off when a failed Chinese civil servant christens himself the brother of Jesus, despite being from a part of China reportedly untouched by missionaries, and leads an uprising against the emperor, the story follows what becomes one of the largest civil wars in history.

The Power Broker by Robert A. Caro - A biography of New York urban planner/destroyer extraordinaire Robert Moses, Caro's expertly researched tome makes the case for Moses being both the most prolific builder in human history and a man who baked his prejudices and ideology into the fabric of one of the biggest cities on earth. I'm reading this one as part of the 99 Per Cent Invisible bookclub/podcast and really enjoying it so far. Only a thousand pages more still to go...
User avatar
By DragonFlame
#309
Making It So - A Memoir
The audible version of the life to date of Sir Patrick Stewart, written and read by the great man himself. It is 18 hours long so am listening in stages. Any autobiography is obviously going to include much "I did this and then I did that.." in the prose so I need breaks. This is not a criticism, but his life is packed out with detail, once famous names and anecdote so needs time to sink in.
Many younger people may not realise that, long before StarTrek, Sir Pat was a distinguished Shakespearean actor with the Royal Shakespeare Company at the time of Sir Peter Hall's directorship.
Have reached the point where at age 46 he has been called to audition before the Star Trek executive, both with and without hair. He knew nothing about Star Trek or even knew who Gene Roddenberry was. He had previously starred in Dune and thought Sting played in a police band. :beaming:
This promises to be a fascinating listen and his narration is a pleasure. His voice is naturally the confident in control Picard style, but his humour often creeps in with little giggles about certain stories.
Have always admired Sir Pat and was an ardent Trekkie, but he endeared himself to me even more during COVID. All through the worst times he read all through the Shakespeare sonnets, one a day, every day on Instagram and it was a bright treat to anticipate in a bad time, his gift to everyone.
ScarletBea liked this
User avatar
By ScarletBea
#478
Magnus wrote:I'm confused. This is the non-fiction forum...
Sorry, it's just because the book isn't SFF - you're right, I'll move these to the media section , new thread.
User avatar
By Christopher C Fuchs
#566
Magnus wrote: February 2nd, 2024, 18:48 I read tons of fascinating non-fic, though I admit my general reading pace has lessened considerably of late.
I read more non-fic than SFF. That is where I get most of my inspiration for my fiction, oddly enough. Just posted a review in the Non-Fic board: Newton and the Counterfeiter.

I'm currently reading The Nature of Technology (non-fic) and Journey to the Center of the Earth (SF). So far so good.