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The Hidden Half of Nature: The Microbial Roots of Life and Health
David R. Montgomery and Anne Biklé
WW Norton, 2016

The authors began a journey into examining the role that microbes play in our lives by reconstituting the soil in thei yard. They discovered the soil was brought back to life with relatively little effort. This lead to a lot of research into what, exactly what going on, and a discovery of the rhizosphere, the wealth of bacteria and microbes that surround and enrich the roots of plants, providing available nutrients for the plant in return for carbohydrates and other exudates. When the wife of the team contracted cancer, they embarked on a similar journey into the depths of the colon and the microbial life we support and which supports us. (Full review to be posted on Nature Intrudes.)



Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End
Atul Garawande
Metropolitan Books, 2014

At times heart breaking and heart filling, this book looks at the way we handle death and dying in the USA, how we got that way, and some changes that are beginning to improve our way of death. Up until very recently, we would do anything, expend every effort, without regard to how much time it bought or the quality of life of the person being treated. Now, we're beginning to learn to ask dying people what they want, what matters most in the time left to them, and to tailor treatments to their wishes. Frequently, they live longer than people getting aggressive treatment. There are two important lessons for me from this book: Have the difficult conversation much earlier than you think you need to. (Also, the difficult conversation is much more nuanced -- and hence more difficult -- than I thought before reading this book. ) Second, people have unreasonably optimistic views on their lifespans; they'll still be thinking in decades when the reality is days. I'm still thinking in decades (although it's only a few) when who knows how long I have left.



Half Resurrection Blues (Bone Street Rumba #1)
Daniel José Older
Roc, 2015

After a book about how farming practices are destroying the soil biome and medical practices destroying our gut biome, and another book about how unregulated global capitalism is destroying the world, and ANOTHER book about how American medical practices are destroying the quality of the ends of our lives, it was nice to read a book that merely threatened to destroy the world through demonic possession. It was a fun read, pleasantly blending elements of noir and urban fantasy. This is the second Daniel José Older book I've read and I'll read more. (Not least, the next one in the series.)



The Wandering Earth
Cixin Liu (translated by Holger Nahm and Ken Liu)
Beijing Guomi Digital Technology, 2013

I didn't finish this, but I did read eight of the 11 stories. Five of the stories have won the "China Galaxy Science Fiction Award," between 1999 and 2005, so it looks like these were all written prior to "The Three Body Problem" and any other novels, but there's no original publication data given so it's impossible to tell. They feel like early writing to me, a little clumsier than "The Three Body Problem", a little less assured with characters and emotions. In any case, there are bid ideas in every story -- arks of humanity sent into interstellar space to avoid a helium flash, Cretaceous civilizations, giant solar sails, and others. The stories feel very different to me than western SF. It's not just the slight clumsiness with characters and emotions, but in their favor they have a freedom from cliche that allows Liu to explore ideas that might not have been publishable in the west. If you really liked "The Three Body Problem" (as I did) this might be worth investigating to see the early work of Liu.



Peculia
Richard Sala
Fantagraphics Books, 2002

A collection of short stories that appeared in Evil Eye, a pamphlet comic published by Fantagraphics Books in the late 90s -- early 00s. Peculia is a "goth comedy" featuring an attractively-drawn young woman who gets into various scrapes and misadventures, all of which involve other cutely-drawn young women and/or removal or tearing of already-skimpy clothes. If I'd discovered this when it was being published, I'd have gushed over the line, the drawing, the art as if it mattered. Now, 15+ years older, I have the reaction above. However, my ultimate reaction (being slightly turned on) is the same. ;>





There was one unfinished book this month, "That Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. The Climte" which I hope to get back to soon. I returned it unfinished rather than run up library fines.
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