2021/05/20

Five books: Pandemic Pentateuch

During the last 12 months,  I read quite a few books that I really liked.  I doubt my overall reading volume increased during the pandemic (more time at home, but also less time in trains and planes), but for some reason, the past year yielded a memorable crop of books. Here are five of them: 

  • Apocalypse Never, an interesting and timely book, with solid coverage of the fundamentals of climate change. Besides being full of information, as I wrote in a previous blog post, it helps you think more clearly about what is good for the environment.
  • Apollo's Arrow  a very good book about the topic of the year: Coronavirus.  It covers all dimensions and is very educational on how to understand the pandemic in terms of medicine, epidemiology, sociology, evolutionary biology, public policy, history, etc. Lots of interesting details about how the pandemic unfolded in different places from  Wuhan to New York City.   It also helps to understand how things might evolve going forward.  For example, are future mutations of SARS-CoV-2  likely to be more lethal or less lethal? I won't tell you the answer because you should really read this book!
  • The Shadow King: "Fiction is a shadow of real life, great fiction is Truth! Furious, illuminating, warm, fantastic, can't say enough about this book. Highly recommended",  I  tweeted.  The author is a childhood family friend, and I was really happy to see it short-listed for the Booker Prize. But I can honestly say that was not at all on my mind while engrossed in the story.  
  • The Plot to Kill Graziani. "Deeply researched, meticulously sourced, highly readable account", was my brief review on goodreads.   This real life historical thriller would be fascinating to anyone interested in Ethiopia, Fascism, etc.  As a personal bonus,  I was able to use this book to fill in  a few specific details in my family tree. Interestingly I read both Shadow King and this book before the current war in Ethiopia started in Nov 2020.  Having the 1930s fresh on our minds is helpful  perspective on the current crisis. In the darkest hours, it helps to remember two thousand years of history, could not be wiped away so easily.
  • The Monk of Mokha, a real-life story of a guy who decides to make Yemeni coffee "great again" (my silly choice of phrase).  Nice deep dives into the ancient history of coffee,   the technicalities of high quality coffee in the modern world. A real tragic, dramatic and hilarious story, brilliantly  told.  If Shadow King shows how fiction can be very real, the Monk of Mokha is the converse, it shows how non-fiction can be as good as a novel. 
As usual with my "five books" -- not definitive. If I did it again, I'd likely come up with a different list. Some honorable mentions:   The Master and Margarita, an absolute classic; and  Le naufrage des civilisations a poignant personal view of history from one of my favorite authors, who has appeared a few times on this blog. 

No comments:

Post a Comment