Decoding the Heavens

July 1, 2009 at 2:38 pm | Posted in History, Nonfiction | 1 Comment

Decoding the Heavens, by Jo Marchant, has everything I love in a non-fiction book.  It’s fascinating, fast-paced, peopled with memorable characters, and it even includes a mystery.

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The topic is the Antikythera mechanism, one of those classic “unsolved mysteries” that conspiracy theorists eat up with a spoon.  I’d read about the device before but knew very little about its provenance.  Imagine my excitement when this book came along!  It delivered beyond my expectations.

The Antikythera mechanism is a geared device found in a shipwreck, from what was evidently the first successful underwater archaeological dig.  What’s amazing about it is that from the existing historical record, geared technology should not have been available until many centuries later.  How this device got there and what purpose it could have served are questions that have racked many a fine mind.  Thankfully, Jo Marchant is here to help ease our curiosity.

My degree is in history, and I studied Greek and Latin.  In all the classical history courses I took, the Antikythera mechanism was never mentioned.  I have a penchant for anomalies and unexplained findings, partly because mainstream educational institutions seem to gloss over them.  It is a fine thing whenever someone undertakes a scholarly investigation of a topic that has often been treated dismissively or skeptically.  Decoding the Heavens is truly a welcome read.


July 1, 2009 at 9:35 am | Posted in Challenges | 2 Comments

This year I decided to try to read 500 books.  Now we’re midway through the year and it’s time to consider my progress.

Technically, we’re not quite halfway there because we’re on day 182 out of 365.  But I’m still only at #237, so I’m 13 titles behind.

At this time last year, I was on #177.  If we assume I can continue to read at the same rate as last year, I’d finish at 469, significantly more than in 2008 but still well away from my goal.

I’m going out of my way to seek out and read shorter books, but still, my average page count is 11 pages higher per book and 66 pages higher per day than last year.  This is going to be a struggle, because I have several really lengthy titles to cover for challenges.

This weekend, my man Rocket Scientist is going on a trip.  I get three entire days to curl up on the couch and read!  There’s also the Read-a-Thon in October, when I seem to be able to get through six books.  It seems like I might stand a chance of catching up to myself.  I’d have to read an average of two books a day for the next three weeks.

My other goal of reading through the Pulitzers would appear to be laughable.  I’ve only finished three so far this year, after all, and I have 62 left on my list.  Watch me, though.  I may surprise you.

Anyway, this would be the time of year to place your bets.  Will I make it?  Will I ever finally read The Grapes of Wrath?

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