Tag Archives: Donna Leon

Housekeeping: Second Quarter Roundup, Books Reviewed

A bit of housekeeping at the end of Q2.

The usual

This quarter has seen daily posts, a steady stream of comments on research papers* and general articles on favorite topics including blockchains, the new economy, solar power, environmental sensing, computer security, and “brilliantly executed BS”.

I’ve begun to pay attention to Quantum Computing, which is surely a coming thing.

And Robots! And Dinosaurs!

*Note: discussion of scientific and technical research always refers to the primary sources.


Books Reviewed This Quarter

A summary of the books reviewed in the second quarter.

Fiction

New Boy by Tracy Chevalier
The Refrigerator Monologues by Catherynne M. Valente
Touch by Courtney Maum
Mother Land by Paul Theroux
Walkaway by Cory Doctorow
Startup by Doree Shafrir
Off Rock by Kieran Shea
The Wrong Dead Guy by Richard Kadrey
Earthly Remains by Donna Leon
The Underwriting by Michelle Miller
Luna: Wolf Moon by Ian McDonald
Huck Out West by Robert Coover

Non-Fiction

Half-Earth by Edward O. Wilson
The Book of Joy by Dalai Lama, Desmond Tutu with Douglas Abrams
Solve For Happy by Mo Gawdat
The Totally Unscientific Study of the Search for Human Happiness by Paula Poundstone
Lenin on the Train by Catherine Merridale
The Spider Network by David Enright
Churchill’s Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare by Giles Milton


Some ideas for band names

 Following the lead of Sensei Dave Barry, I occasionally suggest names for bands.

This quarter’s harvest include:

Penguin Guano
Adelie Census
Fog Orchestra
Shape Changing Fog Screen
The Fog and the Eye
First Ringplane Crossing
Grand Finale Dive #2
The Grand Finale Toolkit
Last View of Earth
Final – and Fateful – Titan Flyby
Robots On Europa
Gay Robots on Europa

 

 

 

Book Review: “Earthly Remains” by Donna Leon

Earthly Remains by Donna Leon

Yet another installment in Sonna Leon’s the long running and beloved Venetian stories.

Like the author and many of her readers, Commissario Brunetti is aging. The thoughtful and introspective detective grows ever more thoughtful and introspective as time goes by. (If you are hoping for swashbuckling cinematic excitement, these stories are not the droids you are looking for! :-))

As Brunetti faces his own eventual retirement and mortality, he acutely observes other older people. He also worries about the past and the future, and what will be left for the children.

In the last decade, Brunetti has watched his beloved city of Venice become overrun with tourists, touristy junk, mega cruise ships, and all the other horrors. He has also had to watch the slow degradation of the fragile coastal environment under the pressure of industry and human activities.

This story involves the death of an old man Brunetti is staying with, which may or may not have been an accident. The Commissario cannot let it lie without finding the truth of the matter. This requires uncovering the old man’s life, including dramatic events in his past, grief follow the death of his wife, and the slow death of the Laguna, including his colonies of bees.

(It’s not all about old people—Brunetti’s younger colleagues are fascinating as always.)

It’s all a rather sad story, beautifully told in Leon’s understated style.

As I said in an earlier review,

Reading Lean makes me want to live a little more “Venetian”. Not indolent luxury, but gently caring for my home town and the people who live here.

And, of course, “I wish I could write this well!


  1. Donna Leon, Earthly Remains, New York, Atlantic Monthly Press, 2017.

 

Sunday Book Reviews

2016 Roundup and Books Reviewed in 2016

In 2016, this blog passed the milestone of posting at least once per day for1,000 days in a row! January 5 will mark three years of daily posts to this blog.

My blog may not be great, but it is consistent!  Or at least persistent.


Regular readers know that this blog is somewhat random, touching on any topic I find interesting enough or have something to say about. But some topics were visited more than once.

This year saw many posts on coworking and similar “co” movements (cohousing, platform cooperatives, the future of work, the sharing economy, etc.)

These posts give you a preview of a new book that is in preparation, titled, “What is coworking?” It should be available in early 2017. I.e, Real Soon Now.

I posted nearly weekly about cryptocurrencies, blockchain technology, and the communities that have risen around these technologies.

Cryptocurrency and blockchain technology has so many perspectives, it is hard ot keep track, but some of the topics overlap with coworking, the sharing economy, and similar “bottom up” movements.

Reflecting earlier research, I have also posted frequently about HCI, particularly wearables, and haptics. I know quite a bit about these topics, though the most important thing is that no one really knows how to use them well.

I posted nearly weekly about robots and bio-inspired design. Robots are really cool, though in this area I am just an enthusiast, not an expert.

Other general science-y topics have included dinosaurs (naturally) and animal intelligence. I have also posted frequently about space exploration and remote sensing of the environment especially observing the retreat of the ice.


I should note that I had been posting comments on items picked up from Wired magazine on line. In fact, I was reading Wired so regularly, I was just about to subscribe. But then they decided to close off access to me unless I accept their advertising or pay $1 per article. I might have subscribed to this deal, were it not for the fact that even the “ad free” option still wanted to aggressively track me. So I stopped reading Wired.

You know what? I never even noticed it was gone.

I think you miscalculated, Wired


On a less contentious topic. Following Sensei Dave Barry, I suggested a number of names for rock bands based on current topics and reading.

I suggested some band names with cryptcurrency themed names, including “Fintech”, and “Hard Fork” (not to be mistaken for “Haardvark”, which I have actually heard of.)

Other nerdy names might be Feather Evolutionor the Saturn themed “First Ring Grazing Plunge


Books Reviewed

As always, I posted short book reviews every week. In case it isn’t clear, these are all books I read this year.

In total, I wrote about 100 books (a happy milestone, purely by luck). The majority of the books are relatively recent, and, with only a few exceptions are recommended.

But if I had to pick a few “best” books, I would say:

Best Fiction: Stiletto by Daniel O’Malley

 An eagerly awaited sequel to the The Rook (2012), this is easily one of the most enjoyable and imaginative fantasies of the year.

Best Non-fiction: The Euro by Joseph Stiglitz

A timely and riveting explanation of what went wrong in the Eurozone, and what might be done to salvage the situation. Considering the subject matter, I was expecting difficult and obtuse reading. Instead, I found it clear and easy to understand, if hard to swallow.

Walking the Walk:  How to Make Money (and a whole lot more) by Sharing by Claire Marshall

In a totally category, “walking the walk”, there are quite a few  important books about how to live right, but  the 2016 nod must got to Sensei Claire Marshall.  Actually living for a month in “the sharing economy”, and now teaching that “we are happiest when we share”.

Other notable reads

I read new  books by old favorites by A. Lee Martinez, Charles Stross, Carl HIasson, Connie Willis, and others.

I started reading Donna Leon, and wrote about a few of her books (there are many more great novels on the back list to be read).

I found some great new favorites, including Guy Adams.

In non-fiction, there have been several great books about animal intelligence, by Jennifer Ackerman and Frans De Waal. Many new articles and books about dinosaurs are coming out.

In addition to Stiglitz, Robert J. Gordon’s book on economics was good.

At a more personal note, there were a number of ebooks about “the new way of work”, by people who are  definitely walking the walk, including Angel Kwiatkowski and Beth Buczynski, Sebastian Olma, and Anastasia Cole Plankias.


For reference here is a list of the books reviewed in the fourth quarter:

Fiction

1636: The Chronicles of Dr. Gribbleflottz by Kerryn Offord and Rick Boatright
A Second Chance by Jodi Taylor
Crosstalk by Connie Willis
Curioddity by Paul Jenkins
Dark Matter by Blake Crouch
For a Few Souls More by Guy Adams
Hag-seed by Margaret Atwood
Pirate Utopia by Bruce Sterling
Silver on the Road by Laura Anne Gilman
Swing Time by Zadie Smith
The Lesser Bohemians by Eimear McBride
The Terranauts by T. Coraghessan Boyle

Nonfiction

Best State Ever by Dave Barry
Pax Romana by Adrian Goldsworthy
The Euro by Joseph Stiglitz

And here is a consolidated list from Q1, Q2, Q3:

Fiction

2 A.M. at the Cat’s Pajamas by Marie-Helene Bertino
A Question of Belief by Donna Leon
A Symphony of Echoes by Jodi Taylor
At the Edge of the Orchard by Tracy Chevalier
Beastly Things by Donna Leon
By Its Cover by Donna Leon
China Rich Girlfriend by Kevin Kwan
Coconut Cowboy by Tim Dorsey
Empire State by Adam Christopher
Falling In Love by Donna Leon
Inside a Silver Box by Walter Mosley
Just One Damned Thing After Another by Jodi Taylor
Lovecraft Country by Matt Ruff
Made To Kill by Adam Christopher
Miller’s Valley by Anna Quindlen
Monstrous Little Voices edited by David Thomas Moore
Once A Crooked Man by David McCallum
Razor Girl by Carl Hiaasen
Rewired edited by James Patrick Kelly and John Kessel
Robot Uprisings ed. by Daniel H. Wilson and John Joseph Adams
Save Room For Pie by Roy Blount, Jr.
Slade House by David Mitchell
Stiletto by Daniel O’Malley
Still Life With Bread Crumbs by Anna Quindlen
The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay by Michael Chabon
The Assistants by Camille Perri
The Black-Eyed Blonde by Benjamin Black
The Clown Service by Guy Adams
The Decent Proposal by Kemper Donovan
The Everything Box by Richard Kadrey
The Golden Egg by Donna Leon
The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt
The Heart Goes Last by Margaret Atwood
The Invoice by Jonas Karlsson
The Last Adventure of Constance Verity by A. Lee Martinez
The Lost Time Accidents by John Wray
The Mad Scientist’s Guide to World Domination edited by John Joseph Adams
The Nightmare Stacks by Charles Stross
The Path by Drew Magary
The Rain Soaked Bride by Guy Adams
The Regional Office is Under Attack by Manuel Gonzales
The Underground Railroad by Colin Whitehead
The Waters of Eternal Youth by Donna Leon
Vinegar Girl by Anny Tyler

Non fiction

Are We Smart Enough to Know How Smart Animals Are? by Frans De Waal
Chaos Monkeys by Antonio Garcia Martinez
Coworking: Building Community as a Space Catalyst by Angel Kwiatkowski and Beth Buczynski
Coworking: How freelancers escape the coffee shop office and tales of community from independents around the world by Angel Kwiatkowski and Beth Buczynski
Digital Nomads: How to Live, Work and Play Around the World by Esther Jacobs and André Gussekloo
Dude, Where’s My Drone: The future of work and what you can do to prepare for it by Liquid Talent
Hedy’s Folly by Richard Rhodes
How to Make Money (and a whole lot more) by Sharing by Claire Marshall
Inventology by Pagan Kennedy
Labor of Love by Moira Weigel
Magic and Loss by Virginia Heffernan
Reclaiming Conversation by Sherry Turkle
Straight to Hell: True Tales of Deviance, Debauchery and Billion-Dollar Deals by John LeFevre
The Farm on The Roof by Anastasia Cole Plankias
The Genius of Birds by Jennifer Ackerman
The Global Code by Clotaire Rapaille
The Invention of Nature: Alexander Humbolt’s New World by Andrea Wulf
The Rise and Fall of American Growth by Robert J. Gordon
The Serendipity Machine: A Disruptive Business Model for Society 3.0 by Sebastian Olma
The Tyrannosaur Chronicles  by David Hone
Tribe by Sebastian Junger

 

2016 Wrapup

 

Housekeeping: Books Reviewed Third Quarter 2016

In the past quarter,in addition to daily posts, comments on articles and products, I posted brief book reviews for 21 books and ebooks in the third quarter.

Here is a list, in no particular order.

Fiction

A Question of Belief by Donna Leon
A Symphony of Echoes by Jodi Taylor
At the Edge of the Orchard by Tracy Chevalier
Beastly Things by Donna Leon
China Rich Girlfriend by Kevin Kwan
Razor Girl by Carl Hiaasen
Robot Uprisings ed. by Daniel H. Wilson and John Joseph Adams
The Assistants by Camille Perri
The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt
The Invoice by Jonas Karlsson
The Last Adventure of Constance Verity by A. Lee Martinez
The Nightmare Stacks by Charles Stross
The Path by Drew Magary
The Underground Railroad by Colin Whitehead
Vinegar Girl by Anny Tyler

Nonfiction

Magic and Loss by Virginia Heffernan
Tribe by Sebastian Junger
The Tyrannosaur Chronicles  by David Hone
The Genius of Birds by Jennifer Ackerman
Chaos Monkeys by Antonio Garcia Martinez
Are We Smart Enough to Know How Smart Animals Are? by Frans De Waal

 

Book Reviews: Two More from Donna Leon

Beastly Things (2012) by Donna Leon

A Question of Belief (2010) by Donna Leon

From prolific author Donna Leon, two earlier novels set in Comissario Brunetti’s Venice.

Beastly Things (2012) investigates the unexplained death of a nice but very unhappy veterinarian. Brunetti must unravel the sad story of his family and the people he apparently fell in with. Along the way, we learn far more than we want to know about where meat comes from.

A Question of Belief (2010) recounts the misadventures of a charlatan who appears to be fleecing an old lady of thousands. The nasty trickster is then murdered, and Brunetti must solve the crime. Brunetti’s investigation encounters corruption in the judicial system which requires courage and finesse to handle.

As always, these stories are filled with the charm and beauty of Leon’s adopted home, Venice. Leon populates this city with lovely people (OK, there are some nasty ones, too); Brunetti’s own family and friends, and other ordinary people. Her prose matches the refined, soft, sunny tones of Venice and its inhabitants. It’s beautiful stuff.

In these later works, Leon portrays the changing and disappearing city of Venice, sinking under the weight of pollution, mega-tourism, and the twenty first century. These books confront not only the tourist menace, but also the deep corruption in Italian public life. These are tough and painful topics, but Leon retains a civilized style that let’s her portray the truth without screaming.

I wish I could write this well!


  1. Donna Leon, A Question of Belief, New York, Atlantic Monthly Press, 2010.
  2. Donna Leon, Beastly Things, new York, Atlantic Monthly Press, 2012.

 

Sunday Wednesday Book Reviews

Housekeeping: Books Reviewed Second Quarter 2016

In addition to posts about Blockchain technology, coworking, and robots, I posted brief book reviews for 22 books and ebooks in the second quarter.

Here is a list, in no particular order.

Fiction

Stiletto by Daniel O’Malley
Just One Damned Thing After Another by Jodi Taylor
The Everything Box by Richard Kadrey
Save Room For Pie by Roy Blount, Jr.
2 A.M. at the Cat’s Pajamas by Marie-Helene Bertino
By Its Cover by Donna Leon
The Golden Egg by Donna Leon
The Regional Office is Under Attack by Manuel Gonzales
The Decent Proposal by Kemper Donovan
Empire State by Adam Christopher
Rewired edited by James Patrick Kelly and John Kessel
Lovecraft Country by Matt Ruff
Miller’s Valley by Anna Quindlen
The Clown Service by Guy Adams
The Rain Soaked Bride by Guy Adams

Nonfiction

Labor of Love by Moira Weigel
Coworking: Building Community as a Space Catalyst by Angel Kwiatkowski and Beth Buczynski
Coworking: How freelancers escape the coffee shop office and tales of community from independents around the world by Angel Kwiatkowski and Beth Buczynski
The Farm on The Roof by Anastasia Cole Plankias
Straight to Hell: True Tales of Deviance, Debauchery and Billion-Dollar Deals by John LeFevre
Digital Nomads: How to Live, Work and Play Around the World by Esther Jacobs and André Gussekloo
The Rise and Fall of American Growth by Robert J. Gordon

For reference, the list from Q1 is here.

Book Review: “By Its Cover” by Donna Leon

By Its Cover by Donna Leon

I’m reading through Donna Leon’s novels from the past few years, By its Cover (2014) is yet another fine story, set in Comissario Brunetti’s Venice.

Brunetti and colleagues are shocked and infuriated by the report of theft and vandalism of old books from the local library. What has the world come to, if people are pilfering Italy’s ancient treasures? And who will act to protect these beautiful and significant objects?

As the title suggests, things are not necessarily as they seem, and when murder is committed the police must rush to uncover the secrets and hidden lives of these apparently unworldly and harmless people.

As usual, Leon gives us a number of interesting characters who live in the most mysterious and romantic city of Venice. If everyone else is cynical and corrupt, Brunetti is gentle, honest, and empathetic. This is his city, these are his people, and he walks quietly among them.

Reading Lean makes me want to live a little more “Venetian”. Not indolent luxury, but gently caring for my home town and the people who live here.


  1. Donna Leon, By Its Cover, New York, Atlantic Monthly Press, 2014.

 

Sunday Book Reviews