Susan Page is an American journalist and biographer and the Washington Bureau Chief for USA Today. Prior to Madam Speaker, Page published another biography titled, the Matriarch, a biography on Barbara Bush. I haven’t read this biography, but it is on my to-be-read shelf. I have a great admiration for Nancy Pelosi, which I will explore in a bit, but the big reason I wanted to read Madam Speaker (and eventually the Matriarch) was because of my history with Susan Page. She isn’t a major celebrity journalist. That is, she doesn’t host any television segments or any podcasts. However, she is a semi-frequent guest on some public radio/broadcasting shows. In fact, it was on NPR’s the Diane Rehm Show (now the 1A) that I first heard her discuss various political topics. I think this was around 2011-2012, when I first started listen and it made me want to be the kind of person who listens to NPR. I figured, I could try. Next thing you know, I actually really liked it.) The Diane Rehm Show was the first show I really became attached to, but in 2016, Diane Rehm retired. I really hoped Page would be her replacement (as did many others), but it went to a new face. All in all, I really like where the 1A is now, but it left me wishing there was more amazing reporting by Page to enjoy. Which is why, when I learned that she had written a book (the Matriarch), I knew I had to read it.
Not long after buying the Matriarch, I realized Page was writing a new book. I did what I often do; I looked for an advanced reader copy. Sadly, it wasn’t on NetGalley, so I emailed the publisher. They didn’t answer. A few months later, I sent a snarky email (that I now wish was more cordial) about how the least they could do is say no. I quickly got a response apologizing, explaining there had been a change in employment that lead to my email being lost. The representative said “Sure!” to my request and asked for my address. I was shocked. I’ve never actually gotten a physical review copy before, so many many thanks to the publisher both for the opportunity and sheer thrill of getting to review the physical copy.
My thoughts on Speaker Nancy Pelosi
As I alluded to before, I have great respect for Speaker Nancy Pelosi. I say that because I know many (on the left and right) have great animosity toward her). I recognize she is the quintessential politician, but I always thought there was more to admire than to hate. Even her fiercest opponents acknowledge and respect that Speaker Pelosi. Many on the right characterize her as a far leftist, but in modern times, many on the left say she hasn’t gone far enough. The tendency in politics to draw a binary is very strong. A person is good or bad with no room for complexity. I am far from unbiased, but I try to acknowledge that fact. I could go all in about the ins and outs of what I think and why, but there is nothing I can say that isn’t already explained by Page, more coherently than I could ever could.
Page vs Speaker Pelosi
Let me be clear, I don’t think Page wrote this biography to bolster the Speaker’s image. Nevertheless, it’s hard to read this and not see the respect, and likely admiration, that Page has for the Speaker. Regardless of if you agree with Pelosi’s politics, her achievements as speaker are unmatched in recent history. There will be those who disagree, but it’s important to separate animosity for politics from animosity for Pelosi. Furthermore, there will be those that judge Pelosi in a way they never would a man doing the same things. When I speak of her achievements, it assumes a mutual respect, if not for Pelosi’s politics, then of the system of governance itself and what that system is capable of in it’s most idealistic state. I often think of Leslie Knope (in the shows later seasons) and her pure belief of what government can do even if it fails to be as pure as we would like. I recognize many do not hold that view, but you don’t have to agree to appreciate why or how one might find Speaker Pelosi admirable.
Overall, this book is about about Pelosi’s life as a whole, but it feels centered on her time in politics. Pelosi’s early life is merely a filter by which to better understand Pelosi as a politician. However, it’s no secret that Pelosi is very guarded. Page compares Speaker Pelosi with First Lady Barbara Bush when she asks to see their transcripts from high school. The first lady laughed at the triviality of it; the Speaker scoffed and refused. That guarded persona is present throughout the book. Page’s attempt to work around it is one of the best parts about the book. Early on in Pelosi’s life, it seems hard for Page to separate fact from narrative when the facts are so sparse, but as the Speaker gets further into her political life, Page is able to dig deeper into every situation beyond what Pelosi is saying in their interviews.
This likely makes the Speaker sound calculating or deceptive, but I would argue against that, nor does Page portray the Speaker that way. All Page does is present the Speaker as she is in a way that is intended to appreciate the subtleties of her character and motivations. She never tells you what to think, but she does her best to provide you with the information for you to make your assessment yourself. I’m leaving with an emboldened respect for the Speaker, but I’d be naïve to think my own bias doesn’t shape my view of the book. I wonder what others will think. Pelosi isn’t an angel, but no one is. The fact is, this book, in my view, conveys the fundamental motivations of the Speaker that feel true and pure.
Reflecting on Madam Speaker and Nancy Pelosi
One thing this book achieved was convincing me that Pelosi is far more liberal than I gave her credit for. Time and time again she has advocated for liberal causes, from the moment she took office. Even with the healthcare bill, I got a different perspective with this book. She very much wanted a much more liberal version of the bill. She was not happy with the bill that got through. However, a series of unfortunate political events stole that win from her. She was so close and a small shift in power made it impossible. In fact, everyone was ready to give up. Obama’s own administration wanted to get past the failure. The fact that we have anything is only because the Speaker chose to do what could be done. I knew she was responsible, but I never truly appreciated just how far she wanted to go or how close she got to it. Speaker Pelosi is the epitome of what I want in a leader. She is competent, effective, and realistic. She doesn’t waste tears on what might have been; she asks what can be. She is not a god. Although, what she’s able to achieve sometimes gives that impression.
Speaker Pelosi, like Secretary Clinton, is not very personable, nor is she a very open person. Human instinct is to distrust those kind of people. That doesn’t mean our instinct is always trustworthy. So much of the good that has happened in the last few decades is thanks to Speaker Pelosi. This book conveys that, and if you’re not liberal, it conveys that Pelosi is a formidable opponent that the left is lucky to have had.
To read or not to read
From an average reader’s perspective, I thought it was written well. I listened along with Page’s narration of the book, and it was just as well narrated. Page uses her journalistic voice, but she isn’t afraid to insert emotion or inflection where necessary. What’s more, the book was just as engrossing as it was fascinating. I sat there reading about everything Pelosi did during Trump’s presidency, eager to find out if she was successful, only to remind myself, you lived through this, and it failed. That really speaks to how well the book is crafted, for me to feel like I am reliving this but from the Speaker’s perspective. For those of you who don’t read a lot of political nonfiction, I think this will be an easy book to read and enjoy.
Big picture, I’d give this between 4.5-5 stars (final rating determined after sitting on it a bit). Anyone interested in Speaker Pelosi, either as a supporter or an avid opponent, should consider reading this. I can’t promise you’ll leave with as positive a view of her as I have, but you’ll leave with a better understanding of who Speaker Nancy Pelosi is.
Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for an E-ARC of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review.
Gutter Child was a fascinating and amazing book by Canadian author Jael Richardson. This is Richardson’s first novel, preceded only by her memoir, The Stone Thrower. I had not heard much about this book before it’s release. It was from Richardson herself that I heard of it. She was leading a discussion on the 2020 Canadian Reads competition on her Instagram feed, and it was there that she mentioned her forthcoming book next year. I did not look into what the book was about–not even its genre. However, I ordered it and requested in on NetGalley to review because of how much I appreciated her discussion on the Canada Reads novels. Fast forward to 2021 and imagine my surprise upon learning that this was the type of science fiction light dystopia that I really like in books. For whatever reason, I was expecting some mundane narrative, historical or contemporary. I was thrilled to learn it was more speculative because of how thought provoking these types of books often are. Right away, I realized this was going to be an awesome book from the writing to genre and topic.
The book is set in a fictional world with similarities to our own. The Gutter people are a group of indigenous people who were colonized by a Euro-type settler. By the time our story begins, we see the Gutter people segregated and discriminator against, forced to live as slaves to work off the debt their ancestors accrued when they fought back against the settlers. Our perspective follows that of a young girl who was taken from the Gutter people and given to one of the Colonizers to raise as their own. There are heavy racial themes in this book, and I believe our main character is brown skinned. However, race is not the key identifier for this caste system. Rather, Gutter people have marks embedded on their hands.
The story follows our young protagonist as she’s forced to learn the truth of her world, a truth she has been shielded from by her adoptive mother. The story is fast paced and depressing. As our main character learns the truths of her world so do we. This book is an analysis of the horrors done by colonizers throughout history, to bother black and indigenous peoples. In fact, some of the ideas explored are of crimes that are, at best, only recently stopped. It’s this mirroring of real world issues–both modern and historical–that really makes the book shine.
Since I read the book, I’ve heard several great reviews. Njeri from ONYX Pages review is one checking out for sure!
Thank you to NetGalley for a copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review.
The Disordered Cosmos is probably the best book I have read all year. The book starts focusing on cosmology and particle physics giving a broad background. Then it evolves into being a focused discussion on the author’s primary focus of research, one area being Dark Matter. In this way, it works well as a science book. She gives a good background of the science in a way that I think really helps get the reader interested in what it is she does and the cosmos. This is common in science writings, especially in cosmology. I found her writing as good as, if not better than, many people who write popular cosmology books. I have noticed some reviewers complain because they find this section difficult to get through, but I would urge you not to be turned away because of this. There seems to be this assumption that if you can’t understand everything in a book then it isn’t worth reading. Well, I’ll tell you a little secret: no one understands moderately advanced topics in science their first time exposed to it. It takes time, and part of that process means being willing to get confused. You’re likely to still leave this big with a better appreciation for the science than when you started. If you’re interested in pursuing it further, then you can, and if not, that’s okay too. This is still meant for the average reader.
I think what really makes this book shine is when it transitions into being a larger conversation about race in science. She starts with discussion about the science of blackness, for example focus on melanin. She uses ideas in space physics to study blackness to give a new perspective on what it means to be black. The decision to do this is both fascinating and an effective transition from the cosmological discussion to the broad sociological discussions she has in the book. She goes on to discuss life as a scientist. She explores what it means to be a scientist, especially for her as a queer agender black Jewish fem scientist. In doing so, she explores how discrimination and racism has integrated itself into the institutions of science and the process of science itself. Then she goes on to talk about the ways in which it needs to be improved. One of the major ideas she explores is on the interconnectedness of everything. As a physicist, she is able to take this to a quantum level, but it extends far beyond that. Everything we do in science is influenced by the society we live in, including the colonial and racist mindsets within said society. If we do not acknowledge how we interact with our science, then we will continue to do flawed science. Part of that means ostracizing other voices and leading to the low level of scientists who are black or who challenge the traditional gender binary.
For those who are interested, there was a recent(ish) paper specifically on this topic in AGU Publications titled, “Double jeopardy in Astronomy and planetary science: women of color face greater risks of gendered and racial harassment,” Clancy et al., 2017. This discusses just how prominent an issue this is within our (the planetary science and astronomy) community. Furthermore, if you are interested in exploring more books on science, gender, and race, I would direct you to the list of books Dr. Chanda Prescod-Weinstein says inspired her in the writing of her book.
Now I could go on and on about this book, but I think really the best bet for you is just to pick it up and read it. I recommend it for everyone. While it may be someone esoteric in its science, I think you are seriously depriving yourself if you do not give it a shot. If you decide to pass on it because of the science, you would also be missing out on more nuanced conversation about science, representation, and the black experience in science. Read this book!
Thank you to NetGalley and Twelve Books for an e-arc of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review.
I heard about this book on an NPR show and was intrigued by the premise. The story follows President Carter in his reelection campaign for president as he is challenged, as an incumbent president, by Ted Kennedy. This was news to me. Nobody challenges a sitting president. Except, this time, someone did. This comes before my time, but it’s recent enough to feel modern. That was why I asked for a copy to review. It ended up being even more relevant than I realized.
Ted was a Kennedy, raised like royalty with the privilege of his family, and this is in stark contrast to Carter came from a much smaller background. His father was a peanut farmer, but he left the farm for the Navy where he got a Bachelor of Science. After his father’s death, he left the Navy to return home. There was little money to be had from his father’s death, so we essentially a lowly farmer. He began having political aspirations that would drive him into the Georgia Senate and eventually governor. He ran on a platform of antisegregation, but it was still a very problematic one. He never really lied, but he worked really hard to mislead southern whites to make them think he was your traditional southern democrats. This was the first indication of his political mindset. He was not afraid to put on the fact that was needed.
I have to say, this was all mind boggling to me. I have had such an elevated view of Carter, but this turns him into a bit of a…well politician. I don’t hate the act of politicing, but I can’t help but question his authenticity. Did he believe what he said? He definitely fought for it, eventually, but was that because he wanted that or because he saw a path to victory with it? I don’t know the answer, but I need to learn more about him. This book really motivated me to do that.
On the flipside, Kennedy’s background was, as I said, like a Kennedy. He was designed for public office, and he was driven by much of the entitlement that came with being a Kennedy. It’s really interesting because he was arguably more progressive than Carter. That would end up being part of the platform he used against Carter. Although, I can’t help to ask how much was true convection versus entitlement.
I’m not as interested in delving into Kennedy’s background. I believe he joined the senate before he would challenge Carter (I read this a month ago now), but he was always seen as a potential contender. The only reason he didn’t challenge Carter in his first go was due to his history of major politic scandals. The biggest one being his, likely drunk, driving a car off a bridge into a lake. He escaped, but the same can’t be said for his girlfriend (or someone he had on the side, because he was a major womanizer). The real kicker here, is Kennedy just left the scene. If had a called for help, she would have a survived. Evidence suggest that she survived for, I believe, up to an hour after. Somehow, this did not end his career. He would go on to serve in the senate until his death. It is mindboggling but also too easy to believe given his race, gender, and class.
I left this book with a much lower opinion of both of them. Not that Kennedy was very memorable. They both had their problems, and this book spends maybe a third of its time talking about just this. I absolutely applaud it for that. I think it was necessary for Ward to give us sufficient context for everything that led to this challenge. Of course, a big player was also the many failures of Carter who was universally hated even by his own party, but understand, the feud between Kennedy and Carter was still fairly personal.
It was a tight campaign, but Carter managed to eventually pull though. I am less interested with the final details than the comparisons to today. Carter would go on to lose reelection to Ronald Regan. A racist celebrity with zero experience. I can’t help but see the contrast with a more recent campaign. Not long ago, a democrat ran for office. She was not an incumbent, but it was pretty well understood she’d win reelection. I am not critiquing her opponent for running. Primaries are a part of the process. However, this ideolog ran on a sense of purity, like Carter. He demonized and ostracized his opponent. Even as it was clear (more clear than even with Carter) that he would not win. Even after losing, he failed to really support his candidate. The result was we got a Regan-esk politician with not actual understanding of how to run.
Of course, Trump is arguably worse than Regan. What’s more, Clinton was a woman, and it’s interesting to see how Bernie has played with Biden, likely in part because of the damage he sees he caused. To be clear, neither Carter nor Clinton were perfect, but we can’t ignore the role they played in this process. Clinton was far more prepared for office than Carter. I can’t help but question whether Carter was even prepared. Sure, he had a background in science, but he was still very new to politics. His identity as an outsider is part of what helped get him elected. Although, I can’t help but compare him to Pete Buttigeg, a sweet talking politician who easily loved but lacks much experience. I want to learn more about Carter’s time in office, and I intend to. Nevertheless, his time in office seems to be accept as a bit of a debacle.
All in all, I loved this book. It gave me everything I wanted and more. I felt engaged and eager to discuss what I was learning. What’s more, I felt the strong urge to continue learning even about Kennedy who I still don’t care much about. Lastly, this book shattered my opinion of Carter, and forces me to reckon with my own tendency to idealize politicians.
I am beyond grateful to be offered the opportunity to review this book. I just recently finished one of Carroll’s older books, and it is one of my favorites of the year. I know this book is already out. Nevertheless, the copy I was granted expires on the 31st of December, so intend to finish it before then to provide feedback for the copy I received. When I reviewed From Here to Eternity, I tried to review each part of the book. I think the result was a bit of mess; it was also a lot of work. Here, I will stop after each chapter to very briefly summarize his points and to discuss how effective it was as a chapter. Summarizing it will help me get a sense of how well I really understand it. Basically, I’m blogging my entire experience with the book. When I’m done, I’ll summarize my thoughts above my blogging experience (right after this).
I absolutely adored this book. I am so grateful to NetGalley for providing me with an e-ARC of this. I didn’t even realize it was already out, and I ended up using the audiobook (also amazing) to read the book. I still am happy I got the ARC because I may not have read it otherwise. I have only just started on NetGalley. I am a fan of Carroll, so I wanted the chance to review his newest book early. Even if it was already out, I may not have read it without the ARC because that was really the biggest motivator (the need to provide a review).
Otherwise, I might have read a different book by him because I was honestly very afraid of this book. The first time I saw the synopsis (prior to finding it on NetGalley), I read quantum mechanics and thought this was not for me. I have never understood it and was unlikely to start trying now. Then, with the added incentive, I decided to give it a try. Dear Sagan am I happy I did. I left this book feeling as though I actually understand quantum mechanics. Then add on the extra benefit of being beyond fascinated, intrigued, and excited by his discussion of Everett’s Many World’s hypothesis. I go in depth in my thoughts on that in my live bloggingwhere I responded after each chapter. I would refer you there, jjoshh.com, if you are interested in reading that.
All in all, this book did everything I want from a science book. It challenged my fundamental way of thinking all the while in a clear and structured manner. What’s more, it is one that doesn’t shy away from the tough parts of science while not creating a story that completely hinges on your reader to have an expert level understanding to follow along. I highly recommend this book and Sean Carroll (and his podcast Mindscape). This will probably be one of my top 10 books of the year. 5/5 stars
I will probably do a review on my channel as well, but that will be in a week or so when I have time.
Rating Break Down Writing Style: 10/10 Content: 10/10 Structure: 10/10 Summary: 9/10 Engagement: 10/10 Enjoyment: 10/10 Comprehension: 8/10 Pacing: 9/10 Desire to Reread: 10/10 Special: 10/10 Final Rating: 4.785/5 Note, each rating is weighted based on personal importance (see blog for more details).
The book is already out, so I should be okay to quote it. Lastly, I am reading this via the e-arc in conjunction with the audiobook (on Scribd). The audiobook is narrated by Carroll himself, and it is very well done. If you haven’t already, check out his podcast, Mindscape where he gets guests to discuss leading topics in science. I mention that here because the first thing I noticed was how much the audiobook was like listening to this podcast. It feels natural well performed.
Carroll uses the Prologue of this book for a very simple purpose. He is here to talk to us about Quantum Mechanics, but before he does that, he has to make has to make us care. He takes a subject that, I suspect, most people assume is resolved, and explains why what we think we know is wrong. What’s more, he hints at how he intends to make us look at Quantum Mechanics in a brand new way. He does it in a way that highlights how skilled a science communicator he is, and it gets me beyond excited to dig deeper into this book.
Part One: Spooky
In Chapter 1, His first step is to explain exactly what quantum mechanics tells us, generally speaking, and where it sits within the realm of physics. Basically, it is a foundation chapter. He discusses how quantum mechanics compares to classical mechanics in how we go from a world of concise reality to one of probability. He sums it up as follows: “What we see when we look at the world [through quantum reality] seems to be fundamentally different from what actually is.” Quantum mechanics works similarly to classical; that is, the system is set up and is let to evolve. The difference comes with the act of measuring. The fundamental problem addressed in this chapter is to understand that quantum theory, as it currently exists, doesn’t explain how reality works only that it is how it is.
The concept seems simple enough, and his background feels like a good description of what quantum mechanics is. In Chapter 2, Carroll takes us on a journey to how this all came to be understood. He tries to make his point, stated in Chapter 1, that there is something missing in our understanding. Carroll explains the difference between epistemology which is the state of our knowledge versus ontology which is the state of reality. Essentially, this says there are ways of getting to the result without fully understanding how we got there. I get a little lost as he transitions to thinking about QM in a different manner. He treats the idea of a wave function as reality. where everything is literally a wave and when we observe it as otherwise, we aren’t observing a fact of reality, simply a piece of reality lacking a bigger picture. The impression I get from this is that the problem with QM isn’t an ontological one but an epistemological one.
I can’t pin point exactly how he goes from each point to the next, but I find his explanation overall effective. I’ve never quite understood what it meant to be a wave function. Now I think I do. Waves aren’t just a construct, they are a fact of reality, where reality acts fundamentally different than we perceive it in classical mechanics. That is, the universe is as much in a state of superposition as the quantum particles that make it up. That leads Carroll to the idea of Many Worlds, where many worlds are simply an extension of quantum theory. “The potential for such universes was always there,” and each world is a realization of that each position. This may be the best explanation of the many worlds theory that I’ve ever read (not a cosmologist). What’s more, Carroll doesn’t hold back that this could be wrong, and he takes the time to address other possibilities.
Chapter 3 felt like an introduction to quantum mechanics. Carroll provides a reader with the history of the science that lead to our current understanding. He concluded by explaining how the scientific community came to the understanding that quantum mechanics is fundamentally probabilistic despite many attempts to assign it a deterministic nature. It was a fine review, but I found myself wondering what the point of it all was until he spelled it out that they never really explored the implications. Overall, I can’t help leaving the chapter unsure what it means to be probabilistic. Ideally, that is the point; I just wish I could, as a reader, have ascertained his point without him spelling it out.
Carrol is an apt story teller and science communicator. He uses Chapter 4 to explore probabilities, or more specifically, the nature of uncertainty, further. It seems the most important thing to understand is that the wave and uncertainty descriptions are not a broad description that works with gaps of knowledge. The physics that governs this world is fundamentally different than the rules of classical mechanics. I’ve got a background in that area, and it makes sense to me.
He finishes his discussion by focusing on the nature of what it means to be a wave. It was probably the most difficult material he has covered yet but still easily understood. He gets into a conversation on spin that feels esoteric and a bit over my head. Luckily, he doesn’t leave us stranded. He uses the information to guide us in our understanding. The nature of waves is a confirmed fact. The act of measuring quite literally appears to alter the wave like nature of a “particle.” I think he explains it best but it is fascinating.
Chapter 5 is what feels like, a concise discussion of the nature of entanglement. It is a doozy. I’m here reviewing the material trying to make sense of what Carrol is saying, but I am having a tough time. It seems entanglement is when two electrons share the same spin. The trick is, their spins are in superposition, and they don’t consolidated until measured. The trick is, once one is measured then the other is guaranteed to be measured as such too. What I don’t get is how we know this isn’t a correlation; why must it be an entanglement.
If a photon is used to force particle a into a fixed spin that doesn’t change the spin of what it is entangled to, it only passes that entanglement on to the photon used to change the spin. That suggests a shared dynamical relationship not an intrinsic entanglement. I have to assume there is an independent way of identifying them as entangled.
My initial impression at the start of the chapter was that entanglement is the way the wave function of the universe (or of these two particles) is intertwined. That is more than a coincidental correlation. All that is to say, the chapter is complicated, and I hope it becomes clearer later in the book.
Part 2: Splitting
Chapter 6 was easier to read. It discusses the nature of decoherence and it’s implications on the many worlds hypothesis. I can’t say I left the chapter absolutely convinced, but it was a much more compelling story to read. Now we are getting into the nitty gritty.
Chapter 7 tackles the nature of probability and the effect on the multiverse. I think the first very compelling point was how it doesn’t feel like we live in a multi-world universe, but the same was said about the earth rotating or the earth orbiting the sun. Sometimes, our intuitive senses aren’t enough. I found this chapter immensely fascinating. The nature of probability means all that can happen does happen. Now I’ve heard that before, but I’ve always wondered what the realistic effect is on the macro scale (vs micro/atomic).
If the position or spin of an electron can be in superposition, what difference does that make on the classical physics of the world. I still don’t really know, but one fantastic point Carroll makes is how we can discuss probabilities. Say we do a random number generator our interpretation of that will vary. If we assume the RNG is quantum (which Carroll’s actually is) then a string of 16 spin directions (1/0) will produce a world where every possible line of 1’s and 0’s exists. In that world, Carroll’s use of this list in his discussion would be directly effected by unlikely results like all 1’s or weird patterns. It’s fascinating to think of the different directions his book and life would take in those scenarios. It’s debatable how big of an effect it would have, but it’s a substantial example of a direct influence of these quantum superpositions on the macro world.
Carroll finishes the chapter exploring how we might differentiate between more likely scenarios. This part highlights my biggest problems with the book which my inability to comprehend the more esoteric discussions. That said, Carroll continues to keep us grounded by walking through each piece such that I leave understanding (I think) the points he is trying to make. Unfortunately, I don’t have the time to study what he’s saying to fully appreciate every step along the way.
The fascination continues in Chapter 8 as Carroll begins to attack, head on, the question of whether the Many Worlds perspective is (1) the most logical conclusion and (2) really science. The quintessential simplicity of the theory is that anything else would have to add on or change the laws of quantum mechanics as we understand it. Basically, if you want to deny the existence of an infinite number of worlds, you have to complicate our own. As far as occurs razor is concerned, that just doesn’t work. Then as far as science, it is said that a theory must be falsifiable, and one cannot deny that the law that implies the multi-world perspective is entirely falsifiable simply by disproving the laws of quantum mechanics.
Chapter 9 is dedicated to the opposing theories that have been proposed to counter the Everett Many-Worlds interpretation. I thought it was a great overview and comparison. To be fair, we have multiple theories condensed to one chapter with 2/3 of this book to talk about Everett’s view, but I thought it Carroll did a good job defending against them. Granted, I may struggle to explain this myself without further review.
What we got in Chapter 10 is really what I’ve been waiting for all along. He talks about the implications on us. He delves into the question of free will, consciousness, and whether these quantum processes can really be assumed to extend to the choices we make. He makes a compelling case that it is unlikely that our choices are in fact quantum. That is to say, the processes that govern it are probably not probabilistic. Nevertheless, he talks about opportunities that we might introduce such randomness into our decisions. We can use quantum number generators to help make decisions to ensure multiple versions of our-self, however minor.
Now, I came to this revelation last month, and ever since, I’ve been striving to make decisions by it. Right now, I’ve used it to decide which books (or the order by which) I read. This may be minor, but books can have profound effects on us. I can imagine a world where I read one book and not another and it seriously effecting me. This book is a prime example of that. I may expand on this discussion in another post, but I’ll summarize with how exciting I find this all to be. The ability to actively create multiple versions of one’s self is so enthralling to me.
Part 3: Spacetime
In Chapter 11 Carroll begins to explore what this actually means for reality. That is, where are the other worlds, and how are they connected to us. My understanding is that these states all coexist in the quantum realm, but there is something about our entangled selves that then experience these physical laws for our specific reality given. However, the others can be thought to be there, experiencing reality slightly different. I think he did a good job explaining this. It is still very abstract but overall a good take on how this relates to the greater universe.
I found Chapter 12 to be a bit esoteric. He seems to be discussing the nature of quantum field theory, and, while interesting, I didn’t understand the point as it relates to the Many Worlds interpretation. I think he was trying to highlight the fundamentally difference between the way reality works in quantum mechanics than in how we perceive reality. That is to say, particles aren’t strictly what we perceive them to be. Perhaps this suggests the same may be true for Many Worlds? It may be that it has nothing to with that and Carroll is branching off into another tangential area of research.
On that note, Chapter 13, the last chapter, is all about quantum gravity. He makes sure to be very clear: this is purely hypothetical. Quantum gravity may be an intriguing idea, but it is not yet on the same level as say even the Many Worlds interpretation which at least is based on an understood scientific idea. I think it did a really good job bringing this section to close. While it is very theoretical and ongoing research, I can better appreciate how chapter 12 was building up to this idea which is essentially that space, and maybe time, is emergent. That is, the nature of entanglement of particles brings space into existence as we perceive it. As such, that might explain why we perceive our world from a different world where the quantum state is a bit different.
Epilogue and Appendix
This was pretty straightforward close to the book. I like that he read the appendix (or selected parts) on the audiobook.
I approached Jill Watt’s book with a little trepidation. I was intrigued by the concept and the topic because it’s not something I’ve ever heard of. History is not my profession, and I know there’s always more for me to learn. As the publication data approached I grew wary of reading it. It wasn’t that I wasn’t interested in learning about what was in it; I was just worried about my ability to comprehend what I read. Some of these more academic books can be really difficult to get into and read through. It doesn’t help that I’m a better reader when listening to audiobooks. Lucky for me, May was a tough month, and I was late to reading this. By the time I got to it the book was published. The audiobook was out. So I chose to listen to it. And I’m glad I did because I ended loving the audiobook. What’s more, I also think this would probably make a fantastic book to read physically as well.
The black cabinet first informally started in the age of Theodore Roosevelt, not long after the reconstruction when we begin to see a few black figures begin to get a voice in the federal government. Unfortunately this is also the time of the reconstruction when the federal government was supposed to be keeping the South from implementing things like Jim Crow, basically forcing them to follow the law rather than be resistant as they were prone to do.
Unfortunately, black Americans proved to be more trouble than it was worth, so the Republican party decided to let it go. Any issues to do with black Americans was put to the sideline. Voices were ignored and after Theodore Roosevelt left the office the few people in the black cabinet were removed from the federal government and lost any sway they might have had. A few presidencies passed and we begin to see a few voices pushing back on this idea that the Republican party as the party of African Americans.
African-Americans may have played a part in the election of Woodrow Wilson, but that democratic win was also in part due to a third party candidate. Around the time of FDR we begin to see black Americans really pushing for his election. We see people thinking that this might be the candidate who can represent them and can make things happen.
When he finally is elected, we begin to see a few African Americans again in positions of power. They weren’t a cohesive group of people, nor was it anything formal orchestrated by FDR. These were just a few individuals placed throughout the federal government or in organizations tied to the government. In fact fractions begin to form as certain African Americans push back against each other in the fight for civil rights and equality.
Income Mary Bethune and things change. Where there was a fraction there was now a group of people held together by this amazing woman who was capable of inspiring and leading them into standing together. Across FDR’s several administrations, they would go on to decrease black unemployment and increase funding in black American education. They fought for in the military, but this battle was not completed before FDR’s death in his fourth term.
While by the end of the book we may begin to feel a bit disenfranchised by all the ways in which they failed to get everything they had strove for, Watts still helps us recognize that despite their shortcomings they played an immeasurable part in the move towards civil rights. They set the stage for Kennedy who introduced the civil Rights act. Even before him, FDR’s successor would go on to desegregate the military, something FDR fought against out of fear or apathy. Of course, eventually Johnson would sign into law the civil rights act. Johnson had a had a relationship with Bethune before he took office, and it is impossible to measure the effect that kind of connection may have had on him. Many of the civil rights figures, who you may be more familiar with, were inspired by people like Mary Bethune.
In all of this, FDR is often remembered as being responsible for putting together this group of people to help advise him. However, that is not the case. The reason in which they could not get everything they wanted was because of FDR and his cabinet. FDR may not have played an active role in fighting them, but he stood by and let the rest of his administration do that for him. Either out of a desire to prevent it or a apathy toward African American, he would consistently fail to act. Any of the few actions that may have happened under his presidency were done very much against his will. To him the problems about the Americans were too much of a risk.
In his death he may have been memorialized as this civil rights figure, but it is important to recognize that the progress of his time was not due to him. It was due to this group of people who fought him every step of the way. While his untimely death (well he did get elected four times) may have caused a slight rewriting of history, it’s important to remember that this was because of a group of African Americans who put themselves at risk to fight for equality and they deserve to be remembered. What’s more, I think this book is very relevant today when we think about the existing inequalities whose existence is similarly denied or marked as unavoidable. What’s more, it speaks to the need for representation. When people say why do we need a women of color VP, this is why. They aren’t just overlooked when qualified, their viewpoints are necessary to truly overcome our inequalities.
Now the book itself was fantastic. There were times where I got a bit lost. A part of that is just because it is very detailed, and there are a lot of names we need to remember. Mary Bethune is just a leader here, and there are four or five other important figures who you might want to take note of. I mentioned them in my video review and vlog. Watts begins the book with an introduction where she talks about this basic setup of Bethune guiding the black cabinet and her relationship with Eleanor Roosevelt and how FDR really played no part in the black cabinet. However, I would have liked if she had mentioned the other key figures there too just so that I would have known to keep an eye out for those figures. When we’re talking about so many different individuals in history, it’s easy for these more significant individuals to get lost in the details. Once I identified them I did a better job keeping up, but that was really my only complaint in this book.
However, even with that one complaint I never stopped being thoroughly engaged. I enjoyed reading this. I did not want to stop; I wanted to find out what happened next even if have a general idea of what was to come. I was also just very excited to learn about history and politics. I’m excited to continue learning and to find other resources about the past. I’m interested in learning more about the civil rights movement and the different people who played a role in the past and the intricacies that are often lost in the history books. For that, I applaud Watts.
I adore this book, and I’m so happy that I read it. Any hesitation I had about it being too academic or too difficult to read was wrong. I highly recommend this book if you have any interest in the history of civil rights movement or politics because it is fascinating for all of those reasons.
Towards the end of March (2020), I came across the Queer Lit Readathon that happens every six months. This is a readathon that is meant to encourage reads to read LGBTQ+ books (i.e. queer books). I decided to participate because I had the time to fit in a couple books at the end of the month.
I choose to read The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde, The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller, and Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides. The audiobooks add up to ~40 hrs (20 hrs at 2x speed). It was a very ambitious goal. Going in, I managed to read the first two books (Dorian Gray and Song of Achilles) on Saturday, but by the time Sunday came around, I was distracted by Covid-19 stress and did not want to read. Therefore, I decided not to force myself to read Middlesex.
I will finish Middlesex this month (April 2020)! Below I’ll briefly discuss my thoughts on each book. However, I am also going to talk about one more book as well. I was granted an e-ARC of Female Husbands: a Trans History by Jen Manion which is published today (April 1st, 2020). I decided to include it’s review with this reathathon wrap up because it too is queer related and was read right after the readathon.
Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides
This is a historical fiction book about an androgynous person born with both sexes. He is raised as a girl until he eventually comes out as a man, and the book follows his fictionalized life starting with his parents. I started this on track to finish, and I was actually enjoying it. I thought the narrator was fantastic; he was enthusiastic and engaging. I just wasn’t in the mood to read, so I decided to hold off on finishing this book until after the readathon. I intend to finish it this month.
The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde ⭐️⭐️⭐️1/2
This is a classic horror or psychological book about a main named Dorian. He is young and loved by many for his beauty. We first learn just how enthralling he is at the start of the book when he is painted by a famous (?) artist who becomes enamored with him. The trick is bad things seem to happen to people around Dorian. It isn’t exactly him doing it, but it is a result of his own arrogance and self absorption. This begins to be reflected by the painting that was made of him. What unfolds is a dark and creepy tale.
I enjoyed this, but it wasn’t as scary as I was hoping. It also wasn’t the level of queerness I was hoping for; it was much more subtle. Perhaps the only reason it didn’t do better was the fact that it’s a classic, and they aren’t as effective for me as more modern works.
The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
I loved this book. It was just as beautifully told as Madeline Miller’s book Circe but with even more weight to it. Last year I read several Greek mythology retellings, among those was Circe. I enjoyed each of them, but they definitely did not look fondly on Achilles as a person or character. Nevertheless, Miller is able to write a story that convinces me that all of those past stories can be true, but hidden behind them, is still this man who is fundamentally good. Granted, part of that means seeing Achilles through the eyes of Patroclus, his friend and lover. This story is entirely from his perspective and is their story.
It was the queer side of the story that really resonated with me most of all. Circe was great all around, but it never hit me at my core, not like the Song of Achilles. I loved it and I highly recommend it.
Female Husbands: a Trans History by Jen Manion
This book was provided by NetGalley for a fair and honest review.
This book is not for me. It is a very detailed account of people in history who challenge preconceived assumptions on gender, with a focus on people considered “women” dressing and living as men. This isn’t what I was expecting as a trans history, but it is not my place as cisgender man to decide what that classification is. My issue with this book isn’t what it has to say, but with how it is said. This is a very dense and dry book. I think it is probably a great academic reference, but it it is not a good book for me.
I have DNFed this book at 45%. I normally would make a point to push through a book that has been provided for review, but it just wasn’t worth it because I wasn’t retaining the information. It is clear by the other reviews, that it works great for plenty of other people, so you may still get something out of it!
I also don’t consider this read a complete waste. Upon reading other reviews, there were a few other books of similar subject that I will be looking into.
I was granted an e-ARC of The Glass Hotel by Emily St. John Mandel by the publisher on NetGalley to provide a fair and honest review.
Emily St. John Mandel’s novel is a fictional story that spans decades as we follow a series of characters trying to live their best life. At the center of all of them is the hotel featured in the title, but the moral of the story is one of redemption and second chances. We see our characters dealing with issues around drugs, relationships, and financial issues. In this review, I won’t be going any deeper into the plot; I will only convey my feelings about the book. Although, I will discuss the writing and the structure of the plot.
Overall, I enjoyed the book, but I did not love it. The best thing about the book was St. John Mandel’s writing. I spent the first quarter of the narrative trying to figure out exactly where the story was going. Who are the characters that matter, and what role do the people we are meeting play in the bigger picture. Around ~a third of the way in, our characters begin to piece together. Although, there is still a mystery as to what the issue of the story is all about. Not much later, that too begins to be revealed, and it becomes a bigger look at the implications.
Up to this point, I was engaged and intrigued at the possibilities that awaited us. Although, intricate story telling can only take you so far. When it finally comes together, it all left me feeling wanting. It was like, this is it? This is what everything lead to? It all felt so mundane and trivial. That is to say, the plot just isn’t compelling. The writing made the story more compelling, but that doesn’t save a boring plot.
The character work is great. The way she tells the story is by focusing on each character and letting the plot form around them. That is, we follow them at different points in there life, in a not entirely linear fashion, and it is on the reader to piece together the bigger picture. The act of discovery is exciting. What’s more, it produces well written characters, and even as the mediocre plot came to an end, the character endings were still satisfying. That doesn’t stop there being a disconnect between interesting character stories and a cohesive and compelling story at large.
I go a bit more in depth in my Vlog (post at the top), so you can watch that if you would like more details. Although, that is mostly repeating what I have said here, and the spoilers are mostly contained to a couple minutes. As I said at the start, I enjoyed reading this. I still can’t say it was worth it though. My enjoyment of parts was outweighed by my being bored by the overarching narrative. 3.5/5 stars.
Rating Break Down Writing Style: 8/10, Plot: 6/10, Characters: 9/10, Ending: 10/10, Engagement: 8/10, Enjoyment: 7/10, Comprehension: 8/10, Pacing: 8/10, Desire to Reread: 0/10, Special: 3/10, Calculated Rating: 3.49/5, Final Rating: 3.5/5 Note, each rating is weighted based on personal importance to calculate a final score that is rounded to the nearest half.
I was granted an e-ARC of The Girl From Nowhere by Eliska Tanszer by the publisher Mirror Books on NetGalley to provide a fair and honest review.
Read 1/23/20 to 1/31/20
This was one of the first books I choose from NetGalley, and I chose it because the cover seemed interesting. As the deadline approached, I sort of lost interest. Part of it was how obscure it is; this is a book that isn’t even being published in North America (based on the available information). However, I said I would review it, so I made a point to at least try. I am beyond happy that I did. I loved pretty much everything about this book.
I could tell within the first 10 pages that I loved her writing. It is dark and vulgar, and it really encapsulated the ton and setting of the story she was telling (it also seems like just normal conversation). The hardest part of a book is ensuring it can pull me in. If that doesn’t happen, I will have a very hard time focusing and retaining information. Tanszer’s writing pulls me in an enjoying and engaging manner. Now, I won’t pretend it is easy to read.
There are parts where I cringed at how Tanszer would minimize or explain away the terrible things her parents did to her. In the end, I got the impression she was articulating her feelings at the time because by the end of the story we have a very good picture of her relationship with them. I really appreciated how she articulated the complexities of her relationship with her family. It is so toxic, but she seems to always hold out hope that they truly care.
Her story is inspiring because it is one of persistence. What’s more, she recognizes her way to a better life is by learning. Learning and proving she is more than so many people would have her be. That was a feeling I could relate to. I don’t mean to suggest people think little of me or that my life is the same as hers, but my love of learning is, in a way, me trying to move up the societal ladder. I really connected to and enjoyed that aspect of the story. I recommend this memoir. 4.5/5 stars
Rating Break Down Writing Style: 9/10 Content: 10/10 Structure: 10/10 Summary: 10/10 Engagement: 10/10 Enjoyment: 9/10 Comprehension: 9/10 Pacing: 9/10 Desire to Reread: 0/10 Special: 7/10 Final Rating: 4.405/5 Note, each rating is weighted based on personal importance (see blog for more details).
Thanks to NetGalley and Tor Teen for providing me with an electronic advanced copy (e-ARC) to provide a fair and honest review.
I’m about 75% through Strange Exit, and I am not loving it. I’m going to finish it because I don’t absolutely hate it, and I want to push through it to provide the best review possible. I will say it’s an interesting idea; essentially earth has been destroyed, and there are a ship of humans who had to take it to survive. However, they had to be put in homeostasis which seemed to involve this virtual reality system to help them cope with the trip. It seems like they only took kids, for whatever reason, and, honestly, I don’t quite understand why we had this setup. I guess it’s something to do with re-population and an innate “right” to be saved over adults who’ve had a chance to live their life. Unfortunately, it just feels like a convenient way to write a YA novel.
On that note, I don’t love the writing of this book. It reads very YA but not just in style of substance as well. I don’t mind a YA perspective, but I want depth in my story and characterization. I am mildly interested in what is going on , but to me it just all seems bland. Obviously, I wish I was more excited by the book. Something seems to be going on with the ship, and they have to wake up all of the people in the virtual reality to avoid a major catastrophe. The novel, it seems, revolves around this task, so naturally it’s not an easy task to wake them up. I’m not entirely sure how it all fits together because it seems very convoluted, and what I do understand feels like plot convenience.
I understand the nature of writing is creating, but I a good story should sell the idea and plot naturally (particularly the plot given a specific idea). I feel bad because I am very happy to have been granted this arc. However, it just isn’t a book for me. I think YA readers are probably more likely to enjoy it.
I finished the book, and while I enjoyed the ending, overall my opinion isn’t very high. I’ll admit I don’t read that much YA, but it’s a genre that personally I’ve been trying to explore more to figure out what type of way works for me. I couldn’t connect with the characters, and the most exciting thing about the plot was the idea. Of course, an idea doesn’t write a book. There were some things that seemed convenient for the sake of the plot, the sake of action, and for the sake of emotion. Obviously these are all necessary to develop a new story. However, it just didn’t work for me.
By the end, the plot drove everything. It wasn’t a special accomplishment of the characters. The ending was near, so the characters arbitrarily make progress where they couldn’t before. I will probably read another book by Parker Peevyhouse, specifically because I know one Books and Lala gave a decent rating to one of them. I recognize her name for a reason, so I don’t want to give up on Peevyhouse just yet. It may just be at this novel isn’t that great, or maybe she isn’t right for me. Thanks to the publisher Internet galley forgive me that we reviewed this book. 2.5/5 stars
Rating Break Down Writing Style (7%): 5/10 Plot (15%): 5/10 Characters (15%): 4/10 Ending (1%): 7/10 Engagement (5%): 5/10 Enjoyment (25%): 4/10 Comprehension (20%): 8/10 Pacing (2%): 7/10 Desire to Reread (5%): 0/10 Special (5%): 0/10 Final Rating: 2.38/5 Note, each rating is weighted based on personal importance.
Special thanks to NetGalleyand Amazon Original Stories for providing me with a an electronic advanced copy (E-ARC) of this book for a fair and honest review.
Read 12/17/19 – 12/19/19
This is a short story that follows a young girl with a negligent and abusive (mentally and physically) mother. We follow her as she struggles to cope with having to live with the atrocious human she has for a mother. This makes for a rich family drama that I love to read. It is all about the characters, their motivations, and their struggles. As a story, I think it works well. Hoffman takes the time to get us invested in the characters so that we care what is going on. Then she uses that in the climax of the story as the mother-daughter dynamic reaches its limit.
The only problem I had with the story was with the pacing. More specifically, the ending felt rushed. We spent so much time getting to the point where we were. Then Hoffman rushes to reach some type of resolution. As I read, I remember wondering if there was going to even be a conclusion or if the story was just the messed-up mother-daughter situation. Then comes the abrupt ending. This probably would have been resolved by taking more time to draw out the ending. Sure, it makes for a fast paced end, but it needs to meld with everything that preceded it.
All in all, it was a really good story, and I appreciate the opportunity to review it! 4/5 stars