Thursday, 2 July 2015

The Human Story

What I'm Reading: The Penguin History of the World (33% through)
What I'm Watching - Castle Series 7
What's Cooking? - Paprika Beef & Sweet Potato Pie

I've always found it hard to reconcile the different interests I have, and nowhere is this more pronounced than it what I choose to read. My tastes shift from time to time and in any given week are influenced by how busy or stressed I am, but can be just about anything (excluding celebrity biographies and Mills & Boon perhaps!). On the fiction side I usually prefer science fiction, some historical fiction, and the occasional bit of contemporary veering towards literary fiction. On the non-fiction side it tends to be history, science, travel and a few other odds and sods.

The biggest contrast I always think is between history (-fiction) and science (-fiction), particularly when these sum up the core of what I like to read. Then it finally occurred to me the other day that they are far more similar than you might think. What links them, and what I love about both of them, is the idea of what I think of as The Human Story. History is all about what we humans got up to in the past, how we got where we are today. When you stop to think about it, the story is frankly an incredible and wondrous one in such a short fraction of a second in geological or cosmic time. Science, and especially science fiction, is forward looking and asks how might the human story continue in the centuries and millennia ahead? Thinking about this is every bit as exciting and wondrous as the story of how we got where we are today.

Well my reading tastes have - for now at least - shifted a little back to history (though one of the books I'm so looking forward to coming out this month is a science fiction one- more on that later). A visit to a museum recently gave me a hankering for history again. I started 'A History of the World in Bite Sized Chunks', but it was far too bite-size and not meaty enough for what I wanted, so I instead picked up 'The Penguin History of the World 6th edition' by J.M. Roberts and Odd Arne Westad. At well over 1,000 pages it is quite a read, but at least I've got it on Kindle to save me lugging all that paper around. History is so full of great stories, and I hope to share some of them with you soon.

A couple of books I'm looking forward to this month couldn't be more different from each other (and the book I'm reading):

'Go Set a Watchman' by Harper Lee - One of my favourite ever books is 'To Kill a Mockingbird' by Harper Lee. I think it helped that I read it as an adult and not at school, as most people who read it school didn't seem to appreciate it. It is one of great classics of the 20th Century, set in the 1930s Deep South and dealing with racism that was endemic in the American South at that time. It is the only book published by the author... until now. More than half a century later, she is releasing 'Go Set a Watchman' which is a kind of sequel, although it was actually written before To Kill a Mockingbird, and deals with the child characters Scout and Jem as adults. The book is published on 14 July.

'Armada' by Ernest Cline. A couple of years ago I read 'Ready Player One', Cline's first book and absolutely loved it. It was science fiction, and also a 1980s nostalgia fest. I've never read anything like it before. Well now he's written another one 'Armada'. This book is about a science fiction geek who really wishes he could help save the world like he does in computer games. Only now an alien fleet has arrived in orbit and needs his (and other people's) help to save the Earth. This one comes out two days after 'Go Set a Watchman' so I'm going to have a busy time reading! I'd also better get cracking on The History of the World, as I've still got about 800 pages to go...

Lastly for now, I've started a new feature on my blog, What I'm.... to let any blog readers out there what I'm upto, whether that's what I'm reading, listening to, watching, drinking. Will vary it depending on what I'm doing. And while I'm only an occasional cook, I did cook Paprika Beef & Sweet Potato Pie, a Pampered Chef recipe, and it was yum!