The Fabric of the Cosmos, Brian Greene
I saw that Greene's latest had just come out, so I figured I should read this first. As always, Greene is excellent at using examples and metaphors to explain extremely complicated subjects. This time he takes on the nature of space and time, the origins of the universe, and the underlying reality of matter, now informed by recent discoveries in cosmology.
Unfortunately, I've done some real study since reading his first book, so this wound up feeling remedial and boring. And I'm still not sold on string theory, his favorite. But for someone who wants to get an understanding of what quantum mechanics and relativity mean, without doing all the heavy math lifting, no one explains it better than Greene. Now with Simpsons characters in all examples, for that extra serious touch!
A Fire Upon the Deep, Vernor Vinge
Yay, for epic science fiction! I'd been saving this as a treat. :)
This is set in a universe where the speed of light is no longer a limit in certain regions of space. The farther away from a galactic core you get, the faster space ships and signals can travel. So civilizations in the outer regions become extremely advanced, right up until they point they reach singularity and become gods.
Out near the realm of the gods, some humans undertook some ill-advised archaeology, dug up and reactivated a malevolent godlike being. They fled, but only one ship escaped, carrying some children in suspended animation and a secret which may be the only thing which can stop the being which is quickly destroying every advanced civilization it contacts.
The story shifts between various sects of the pack-intelligence aliens on the world where the escaping ship landed, a few surviving humans (and allies) headed out to try to retrieve it, and usenet-type messages discussing, misinterpreting, and acting on events. It's a big, complicated book and I liked it a lot, though the ending wasn't quite as spectacular as A Deepness in the Sky.
One interesting detail -- the Kindle version includes hyperlinks to revision notes, both from the author, his editor, and some other people whose initials I couldn't identify.
Jesus of Nazareth, Parts One and Two, Pope Benedict XVI
A fascinating pair of books -- I've never read anything like them. Possibly why they already very busy Cardinal Ratzinger/Pope Benedict took the time to write.
The author takes gospel events, assumes them to be essentially factual, puts them in historical context and uses what we know of the era, cultures, and languages to tease out what actually happened, and what that means for Christians. Reading was sometimes tough going -- following the meaning of a specific word through several pages of analysis is not a skill I've kept up lately.
He insists that this is not a magisterial document. He's not teaching or declaring anything -- it's just a scholarly investigation, but it sure is amazing reading. Looking forward to the next volume.
The Immortality Virus, Christine Amsden
I know Christine from Codex, and this had just been released and was on sale when I was looking for my next book, so I thought I'd give it a shot. Good choice.
In a world where people mysteriously stopped aging a few hundred years ago, Grace has been hired to find the guy who may have caused it. But looking for him means that everyone wants to find her, now, either to stop her, or get whatever information she's collected. Fast paced, interesting, good characters, clean style. Very fun read.
From Words to Brain, Livia Blackburne
A short essay on what our brains are doing when we read. Interesting, though I'm not sure I can do much with the information. Was hoping for a little more in the way of tools than just info.
Starve Better, Nick Mamatas
Various collected essays from nihilistic_kid. Includes one of of his best LJ posts ever. Loved this, though I never write non-fiction and rarely write short stories. Still lots of fun with useful advice. Writing books are always better with professional wrestling metaphors.