Tag Archives: Hugh Kennedy

2017 Roundup and list of Books Reviewed

This year I continued daily posts, which I have done for just under four years now.  Overall, traffic to the blog was up about 18% over 2016.

As always, the coverage is mainly review and commentary on topics of interest to me, including “the new way of work”, robots, dinosaurs, cryptocurrency/blockchain, quantum cryptography, internet of too Many things, computer software in general, and so on.

This year I continued weekly posts noting and commenting on books I have read.  Most of the books were recently published, with a few older ones.   (Listed below.)

Throughout the year, I offered a number of “great names for a band”, in tribute to Dave Barry who pioneered the genre.  Most of these are “sciency”, inspired by technical articles I read and commented on.

Countershading
Banded tail
Dinosaur bandit mask
Paleocoloration
Beryllium hydride
Biomimetic Robotic Zebrafish
Chicxulub    [Note:  pronounced ( /ˈtʃiːkʃʊluːb/; Mayan: [tʃʼikʃuluɓ])]
The Chicxulub Event
We Are Children of Chicxulub
Thanks to Chicxulub
Brought to You By Chicxulub
Service Office Industry
Comfortable edgy fit outs
As Greenland Darkens
Recent Mass Loss
Larsen C
My Raptor Posse
A Rip of Raptors
Personal Raptor
The Robot Raptor Revue
Final Five Orbits
Kuiper Belt & Braces
A Belt of Kuiper
The Grand Finale Toolkit
Fog World Congress
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


Books Reviewed in 2017

Overall I posted 79 book reviews, 58 fiction and 21 non-fiction.

In fiction, these include old favorites (Donna Leon, Charles Stross, Thomas Perry, Tim Dorsey, Ian McDonald, Gregory Maguire, Tom Holt).

Some new favorites include Richard Kadrey,  Viet Thanh Nguyen, Emma Straub.

I really liked Robin Sloan’s Sourdough, and Touch by Courtney Maum, but my best reads for the year have to be

Joe Ide,  IQ and Righteious.  <<links>> Righteous by Joe Ide

In non-fiction, I liked Weird Dinosaurs by John Pickrell and Eugenia Chengs Beyond InfinityHow America Lost Its Secrets by Edward Jay Epstein is both good and important.

<<links>>

But at the top, I’d probably pick

The Totally Unscientific Study of the Search for Human Happiness by Paula Poundstone

List of Books Reviewed

Q4

Fiction

First Person Singularities by Robert Silverberg
The Adventurist by J. Bradford Hipps
Artemis by Andy Weir
Hiddensee by Gregory Maguire
Willful Behavior by Donna Leon
A Selfie As Big As The Ritz by Lara Williams
Righteous by Joe Ide
Shylock is My Name by Howard Jacobson
The Gap of Time by Jeanette Winterson
Border Child by Michel Stone
Dunbar by Edward St. Aubyn
A Spool of Blue Thread by Anne Tyler
The Muse by Jessie Burton
Sourdough by Robin Sloan

Non-fiction

Napoleon in Egypt by Paul Strathern
After Piketty edited by Heather Boushey, J. Bradford DeLong, and Marshall Steinbaum

Books Reviewed In Q3 2017

Fiction

Rich People Problems by Kevin Kwan
The Answers by Catherine Lacey
Woman No. 17 by Edan Lepucki
The Management Style of Supreme Beings by Tom Holt
The Delirium Brief by Charles Stross
Shiver Hitch by Linda Greenlaw
Dichronauts by Greg Egan
Killing is My Business by Adam Christopher
The Painted Queen by Elizabeth Peters and Joan Hess
Standard Hollywood Depravity by Adam Christopher
Seven Wonders by Adam Christopher
Will Save Galaxy For Food by Yahtzee Croshaw
Reincarnation Blues by Michael Poore
Arlington Park by Rachael Cusk
Transition by Rachael Cusk
Death at La Fenece by Donna Leon
A Sea of Troubles by Donna Leon

Non Fiction

Giant of the Senate by Al Franken
Weird Dinosaurs by John Pickrell
Made With Creative Commons by Paul Stacey and Sarah Hinchli Pearson
How Not To Be Wrong by Jordan Ellenberg
Beyond Infinity by Eugenia Cheng

Books Reviewed 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

Books Reviewed Q1 2017

Fiction

Revenger by Alistair Reynolds
The Sympathizer by Viet Thanh Nguyen
The Refugees by Viet Thanh Nguyen
The Girls by Emma Cline
Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman
The People’s Police by Norman Spinrad
IQ by Joe Ide
Clownfish Blues by Tim Dorsey
The Vacationers by Emma Straub
Empire Games by Charles Stross
The Cold Eye by Laura Anne Gilman
Modern Lovers by Emma Straub
The Golden Gate by Robert Buettner
The Old Man by Thomas Perry
Last Year by Robert Charles Wilson

Non Fiction

The Caliphate by Hugh Kennedy
The New Better Off or Reinventing the American Dream by Courtney E. Martin
How America Lost Its Secrets by Edward Jay Epstein
Valley of the Gods by Alexandra Wolfe
Wonderland by Steven Johnson
Measure for Measure by Thomas Levenson


That’s all for 2017!  Happy New Year!

 

Housekeeping: Books Reviewed Q1 2017

As I generally do, I have collected all the books I reviewed in the first quarter of 2017, in no particular order.

The week of February 20 was “book week”, with a book review every day, including longer reviews of five non-fiction books (starred).

Fiction

Revenger by Alistair Reynolds
The Sympathizer by Viet Thanh Nguyen
The Refugees by Viet Thanh Nguyen
The Girls by Emma Cline
Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman
The People’s Police by Norman Spinrad
IQ by Joe Ide
Clownfish Blues by Tim Dorsey
The Vacationers by Emma Straub
Empire Games by Charles Stross
The Cold Eye by Laura Anne Gilman
Modern Lovers by Emma Straub
The Golden Gate by Robert Buettner
The Old Man by Thomas Perry
Last Year by Robert Charles Wilson

Non Fiction

The Caliphate by Hugh Kennedy
* The New Better Off or Reinventing the American Dream by Courtney E. Martin
* How America Lost Its Secrets by Edward Jay Epstein
* Valley of the Gods by Alexandra Wolfe
* Wonderland by Steven Johnson
* Measure for Measure by Thomas Levenson

 

Book Reviews

 

 

Book Review: “The Caliphate” by Hugh Kennedy

The Caliphate by Hugh Kennedy

In recent years, the ancient idea of The Caliphate reemerged as a powerful inspiration and model for many Muslims around the world. The contemporary idea of the caliphate is a transnational Muslim state, with the caliph as leader of all Muslims everywhere.

Hugh Kennedy traces the history of this idea throughout the Muslim age. The Caliphate has appeared in many places over the centuries, with many variations in expectations and political reality, “[T]he idea of caliphate is a rich and varied tradition.” (p. xvi)

Kennedy points out that interest in a new Caliphate is notable because it is more than just nostalgia for a more glorious past, for a time when men were pious and willing to sacrifice for the path. For many, historical events are not just a heritage, but they are take as a concrete model and justification for contemporary action. IN contrast, contemporary Britons might find interest and inspiration from, say King Alfred’s Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, but few people would take it as an example for contemporary politics to follow.

Over the centuries, ideas about the Caliphate have evolved and been disputed. The very word means “deputy” or “successor”., who all Muslims owe allegiance. But does this mean the caliph is a deputy for God, or successor of the Prophet? Is the caliph ordained by Allah, selected by people, or recognized by military success?

What is the job of the caliph? He should defend Muslims through jihad, and should protect the hajj. He should mint money, and support civil order. But does he interpret or enforce sharia law? And which versions of Islam does the Caliph represent?

Over the years, these and other questions have been disputed, and there have been many Caliphs, with capitals in Baghdad, Egypt, Cordova, and other cities. Some Caliphs were militarily powerful, others were captives of military rulers. Some were Sunni, some Shia. Arabs, Persians, Turks, and others have been Caliph.

Kennedy sketches the lives and times of some. There “have been caliphs of many different sorts, warrior caliphs, pious caliphs, intellectual caliphs, pleasure-loving caliphs, cruel and tyrannical caliphs.” (p. xvi) today and in ages past, opinions differ on the merits and even legitimacy of different historical caliphs.

Clearly, the Caliphate is not a simple or uncontested concept.


Along the way, Kennedy visits a broad swath of Islamic political and religious history, much of which is still visible today. He relies almost entirely on Muslim sources, which certainly have their flaws and biases, but do not suffer from the orientalist myopia of Western and Christian sources.

From this point of view, Kennedy does an admirable job of portraying Muslim history in its own terms, with due respect for the people and the times. Much of the story recounts complicated (if not downright obscure) clashes along many political, cultural, and religious lines. Many of these disputes are outside my own experience and, I suspect, are almost as distant from the life of contemporary Muslims.

On the other hand, long-standing conflicts persist today between Shite and Sunni, and among ethnic and tribal groups persist today, and cannot be comprehended without understanding their history.


I learned a lot of history from this book, much of which I had never heard before. Like many Westerners, my schoolbooks gave me very limited and highly distorted versions of Islam. Kennedy has used the Caliphate as a vehicle to help rectify this gap in my own and many non-Muslims. This is a timely and important lesson.

Definitely worth reading.


  1. Hugh Kennedy,, The Caliphate: The History of an Idea, New York, Basic Books, 2016.

 

Sunday Book Reviews