Genre: contemporary fiction, lgbt; gay & bi main characters, dark academia
Hidden away in an Oxford back street is a crumbling Georgian mansion, unknown to any but the few who possess a key to its unassuming front gate. Its owner is the mercurial, charismatic Mark Winters, whose rackety trust-fund upbringing has left him as troubled and unpredictable as he is wildly promiscuous. Mark gathers around him an impressionable group of students: glamorous Emmanuella, who always has a new boyfriend in tow; Franny and Simon, best friends and occasional lovers; musician Jess, whose calm exterior hides passionate depths. And James, already damaged by Oxford and looking for a group to belong to. For a time they live in a charmed world of learning and parties and love affairs. But university is no grounding for adult life, and when, years later, tragedy strikes they are entirely unprepared. Universal in its themes of ambition, desire and betrayal, this spellbinding novel reflects the truth that the lessons life teaches often come too late.
Rating out of five:four
I was almost turned away from this book because it had bad reviews, but the synopsis sounded like the dark academia type of book I was looking for. And it’s a great dark academia book, with found family, an extremely wealthy young man in the middle of it who studies theology and a morale that the people that (by what were first seen as flaws) escaped this elitist university got the better end of the deal. And, of course, the characters experiencing (well-written) tragedies in their lives. It was the comparison to “The Secret History” by Donna Tartt that made me pick it up eventually. It’s impressive how much you can start with the same type of premise, but as a writer bring an entirely different feeling to the story. I don’t adore this book as much as I did “The Secret History”, but here the cast of characters has less of a mythology around them and more real and recognizable emotions, flaws and fears. There’s no great professor to rally around, quite the opposite as the protagonist James gets extremely little support, mostly reprimands, from his physics tutors. And the group as a whole isn’t quite pushed towards murder, but yet their personal tragedies hit me even harder.
Kendall smiled at me apologetically. I watched them go and wondered if he knew what he’d escaped, or if he still pined for the quads and rooms lined with ancient books. We always value things that are hard to get, regardless of their intrinsic worth.
The problem with this type of book is that it’s more a biography of a group of people’s lives than a plot, and so you have a so much better chance of liking it if that’s what you’re into. And also some reviews seem to dislike there being queer characters or how they’re portrayed, as it’s more yearning and dealing with a lot of religious homophobia. It is a dark book in that the characters in it are majorly morally flawed and that shows in their relationships, some turning abusive. James, for instance, is a swamp of a person, struggling with having any identity of his own. It’s fascinating to read the book through his perspective, because his opinion is shown to change as the people around him states theirs. It’s like his whole reality, value system and base of truth shifts, all the time.
This, this was the chance I’d waited for. Here, if I said the right things, I could enfold her into my life, and wrap myself in hers, in the Oxford life I had somehow missed. […] yes, just take me with you wherever you are going, I don’t need my life any more, I will take yours.
But James also has an impressive insight into what’s going on with the friendgroup, only his new girlfriend Jess beats him in that she more often seemingly knows what to do. And as the years passes, James finds his identity, but the daily life things, what he enjoys on his own, seems to still be affected by those around him. Or because of the skewed narrative, you could interpret it as James having a mental illness that shows in the start of university and every barricade of comfort he builds up from that point is to protect him from his own mind and its possibilities. It’s somewhat weird to watch James go from this ambitious physics student facing too much pressure and fall into this group of people of academically good people, yet he and Mark are the only two of them who loses that ambition. It does kind of point to the second alternative.
I did not eat much that weekend, I barely stirred from bed. It was clear to me that this was my natural condition; that without Jess I would return to the state in which she had found me – incapable, bleak, desperate. It was only late on Sunday night, when I heard her key in the door, when I saw her face, that the mood lifted, suddenly, all at once, as though it had never been.
Mark on his side comes into this book and friendgroup with a bunch of problems he already knows of, but has the charisma, the house, (the drugs) and the passion to keep them together. At least in the beginning. There’s a very specific tipping point at the very end of the book, in which he pursues teenagers, that everyone should be at the point where they hate who he had turned into. But there’s a weird slope to that point, in which he might seem narcissistic and manipulating, but he stays what the friendgroup expect, with certain few brighter and kinder moments. He is the cult-like personality they rally around.
I really appreciated the ending, where James and Jess gets to sit down and have a final talk about what went on between them. It differs this book from the similar books I’ve read. Because Jess gives James the final push out of his comfort, into Mark’s arms to take care of him, but didn’t realize the disastrous consequences. And as she’d made every right decision towards their friendgroup until that point, it only fit that she was the one to right her mistake by reminding James of his worth at the end.
Is it accurate to studying physics? Not to the average student. But the average student doesn’t find a rich friend to move into a basically castle with. James describes having been a smart kid who didn’t have to try hard up until this point and now is struggling to create study habits, which is accurate for a certain type of person. The weird competition between students at the beginning that turns into hauling each other over the finish line as the workload increases might be exaggerated, but not unaccurate. The scene where the professor laughed at the idea of doing the next weeks tasks without having done the the past ones, yet won’t give extensions seems a bit too accurate to a certain type of personality. The pre-exam scenes in themselves should come with their own warnings of accuracy as they hit a bit too close to home.
We’re already a month into the year but here we go –
Firmament by Simon Clark
Releasedate: 27. January 2022
Why I want to read it: The first book by Simon Clark, which is exciting. His explanations of climate change are always great and easy to follow, and I should probably get to reading this soon as motivation before my atmospherical physics and climate change exam this semester :))
This Woven Kingdom by Tahereh Mafi
Releasedate: 1. February 2022
Why I want to read it: I usually like Tahereh Mafi’s writing and would love a Persian mythology inspired fantasy story from her. So I hope this isn’t just another generic ya fantasy series, despite the title and cover.
Other People’s Clothes by Calla Henkel
Releasedate: 1. February 2022
Why I want to read it: It’s an unusual pick for me, but I want the promised thriller showcasing the “dangerous intensity of female friendships”, murder and morally gray characters.
Lakelore by Anna-Marie McLemore
Releasedate: 8. March 2022
Why I want to read it: I don’t have the best track-record with getting as much into McLemore’s books as I would want to, but both the book’s premises, the magical realism and the writing of them are usually amazing. And I can’t keep away from the promises of “two non-binary teens are pulled into a magical world under a lake“ in this book either.
Portrait of a Thief by Grace D. Li
Releasedate: 5. April 2022
Why I want to read it: a heist novel! Featuring a heist I even deem very acceptable; stealing back pieces of art and people’s belongings displayed in Western museums stolen under war and colonialism. More specifically a group of Chinese American college students (one lesbian, one queer) are stealing back Chinese sculptures and pondering the ethics of it.
Kaikeyi by Vaishnavi Patel
Releasedate: 26. April 2022
Why I want to read it: The protagonist Kaikeyi “transforms herself from an overlooked princess into a warrior, diplomat, and most favored queen, determined to carve a better world for herself and the women around her”, which sounds like a powerful and interesting story. It’s a Ramayana retelling with an asexual protagonist. I’ve seen some reviews disagreeing to such a prominent villain being retold as anything else, but as someone unfamiliar to Hindu stories that’s hard to assess.
I bought and started to read The Myth of Sisyphus by Albert Camus until I realized I was truly not in the right head-space to read about the philosophy behind taking your own life right before Christmas, which I think is fair.
Sweetdark by Savannah Brown!!! It’s so good!!! If you’re looking for a poetry collection, this is it. Review will be out sometime soon.
I might have read the whole, very popular hp marauders fanfic All The Young Dudes by MsKingBean89 and then added it as a book to my goodreads because it’s … 520k words. It is breath-takingly amazing, the writing only gets better as the years pass for the marauders. Remus and Sirius are both queer, but not in a forced way. Everything in the story just makes sense and gives hp fans everything they deserve, I am just late to the party here. All praise to MsKingBean89, must you have a wonderful christmas and a wonderful life. Someone yell it from the sky at me if they publishes writing of their own.
I read Foundryside by Robert Jackson Bennett the night I was awake before my train home for christmas, then the whole train-ride home. It was amazing fantasy.
Added to TBR:
Shorefall (The Founders Trilogy #2) by Robert Jackson Bennett (fantasy, lgbt; f/f romance, found-family trope, heist book). The first book of the series Foundryside was not perfect, but it was really good.
What If? Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions by Randall Munroe (nonfiction; science, physics, illustrated). Made by the same author as the great & nerdy webcomic xkcd, also a former physicist and NASA robotics employee, so this book got to be good.
Three things on my mind:
I have never needed a good amount of time to not do anything, with nearly-free-conscience, this much before. Exams went to hell, not because I did bad, but because I didn’t do them at all. (You can’t fail me if I do not participate and all that). It’s very on-brand in that I have a tendency to do something completely or not at all, which is the mind-set I truly had pre-university. Abandoned it at uni this far for a reason. Sometimes things start out as irony and develop into a part of yourself, as with that one. Anyway, exams failed because of bad health and chronic illness flare-up. Surprisingly, when you go home from the hospital after doctors haven’t found out what the fuck is wrong with you this time, you can’t suddenly expect to get better the next day, or week, or month? I really pushed myself through all those medical things (and there were many), went home to my mom for a break, failed to study for exams, failed to go back to my university city at scheduled time because I was feeling too unwell for the train-ride. Then finally got back to the city a week later, failed to study even more and then did more medical things while being on the brink of exhaustion. That last medical procedure felt like torture, just because my body was so done with it all, while it might be the easiest of them all overall. In many ways, I did get the whole exam period stress and then the relief-from-completion experience, only with a lot more shittier steps to it. 2/10 won’t recommend, with the plus point for having been worse before.
I bought myself a couple jewellery items as a gift from my mom this christmas, which is very rare for me, but I got so excited over them and have been for months. We were all feeling bad because of getting to the christmas shopping too late in the middle of this chaos and no one really knew what to do. Ended up with getting her more gifts than usual in fear of nothing making it before christmas, my favorite of them all being the very useful hairbrush, but with Frozen Elsa motive because what else do they sell online here? Nothing else, I can assure you. (When Amazon rarely/expensively sends to your country). As I write this, I haven’t gotten the jewellery yet but loooook –
IT’S THE DAGGER EAR THING OF MY DREAMS. I might just go ahead and use the rest of my gifted money on actually getting piercings this new year, when corona hopefully sometimes calms down, that would be cool.
I should have said this already, but I hope you are having as good of a christmas or holiday season as you can! I am so sorry if your area is hit badly with COVID-19 right now. As someone who is in the risk group; I am so deeply tired, I understand and I feel so much sympathy. From the tone of this post, it might not be a surprise to find out my christmas has been rocky. Here’s some of my things I’m really grateful for this season, that I do not take for granted; I am with my mom & brother, who means the world to me. I am on a never-ending quest to text the people I care about, who I might not have stayed in touch with as much this past year, and wish them well. Photos of people getting the corona vaccine are making me happy every time I see them. My 17 year old brother have not out-grown or gotten too embarrassed to dance to old Nicki Minaj songs on Just Dance on our very old, but newly found Wii console. I have to learn how to make christmas dinner, because we do not have access to our family of chefs this year, even though they’re literally across the street. I am grateful that no one of the affected by COVID that is close to me have been at particular at risk or hit hard by it.
Soooo merry christmas, happy holidays and let’s all stay safe, also over new years?
Because I’m not going to pretend I can give advice, especially not as my circumstances will be vastly different as my first year was cut short because of corona, but now everyone is dealing with it from the start. Since the world is in widely different stages of having been through corona, this list is mostly unrelated to that.
I’ve made many “mistakes” this first year, but at some point you realize you just didn’t have the knowledge to make the better decisions at the time. But I have accomplished the things I was most worried about not being able to going into university, especially as a queer woman in a high-percetage male STEM program that is physics; to get a good group of friends. And we have reflected on and discussed our first year a lot. So here’s me summing up the conclusions we’ve arrived at for hopefully someone else to find some use of, or at the very least I will as I go into my second year.
1. Expect to do everything perfectly, already in the first semester you will achieve absolute balance
It just won’t happen. I’ve not talked to one person that’s got their whole life together and means it, you always feel lacking in one area or another. Think about what you need in your life to function, then what you would like to achieve and then whatever extra you could do to improve your life. You might have achieved really good grades in high school, but recognize that you need to find friends or another form of support network (or both) to be able to get through a whole uni programme. You might be neurodivergent or disabled or have mental health issues that you should dedicate time to get acommodation for or get a new doctor/hospital doctor/therapist/contact at disability office and figuring all that will take its toll and new coping strategies. New routines! Making food! It’s not as stressful if you go into it mentally prepared and not already overwhelmed.
What you can do; go into the first semester very aware of your priorities, observe how much time everything takes in a week, reconsider your plan & priorities the second semester. Understand it’s a learning process and about personal growth. Have compassion with yourself.
2. Change who you are to fit in or fit with an idea you have an uni student of X program
I’ve been thinking about this a lot recently. Because I and many others realize that we got the chance to reinvent ourselves going into uni. But the whole dark academia aesthetics reminds me that some first years come into physics ready to “fake it ‘til they make it” in shaping their life and style and persona and I would advice – no matter how much you love the idea of academia or any other aesthetic – to let that aesthetic/goal compliment you as a person instead of trying to show yourself off as some (WRONG and honestly toxic) idea of a physics student/professor. This goes for any area of study. Don’t change ur clothes, dress more modest in every setting, hide questioning of sexual orientation or gender, not ask dumb questions, pretend you’re more introverted or extroverted, change ‘not mainstream’ interests or shame people for anything like this just to fit into this perception of an aesthetic necessary for success. I’ve seen all of those happen this year. Most common one is to drink to feel less socially awkward; it’s not worth it! Do it because you want to, not feel pressured into it.
3. Hang on to only the first people you meet and not spend time with a wider array of people.
This particularly includes starting to date someone the first week/month and not attending any social gatherings. I’ve seen people do this and reappear three months into the year or more being like ‘oops I got a boyfriend’ and having to reintroduce themselves only to disappear again. Take into consideration how dependant you’re going to be on your partner (or bff really) for a while as it might be your only friend, and whether they’re also spending time with friends and creating a network or if you’re spending all free-time together. It’s okay to state those concerns out loud to someone before you two getting involved at all.
The new people I find easiest to talk to is a smaller friend-group that is trying to be inclusive because the flow of a conversation, teasing and topics of interests are already known. But where I come from people usually all move to the same place, as a friendgroup, and never learn to really include others that way because they don’t need to and it’s a sad thing because so many potential people you might love to talk to and you’re basically shutting them all out before they get a chance. If I hear one more ‘so hard to date’ I will punch them bc the problem is so obvious, they only know other people from back home.
What you can do; wait to date and state concerns or remember to spend time with possible new friends as well, maybe especially in a group with the potential partner if that’s natural. don’t hang on to one person, but try to decide to split up and find potential friends to introduce to each other or go make friends together.
4. Believe that you’re going to find your eternal friend group the first week.
Maybe you had a good group in high school, maybe you’re finally ready to discuss interesting things with like-minded, interesting people. Sometimes it just doesn’t work out as quickly as hoped.
What you can do; see it as a way to get to learn to speak with many different types of people, seeing who you vibe the best with. Become casual friends with a couple people only increases the chances of having a familiar face in a lecture or someone to ask for help when stuck or simply study side by side in a room.
5. To shame people hooking up. Or who dress less or more revealing than you. And to not keep an eye out for others experiencing unwanted sexual advances.
And of course most of all, should go without saying; never make unwanted advances when someone is saying no or clearly uncomfortable or too drunk. Actually, even if you think of yourself as a good person, get a very clear ‘yes’ to any sexual advances. If it’s one thing I’ve learned it is that you should never underestimate the trauma a person can already be carrying with them around sex (and then how they react in certain situaitons), and so thread carefully and be on the safe side.
It’s a time for people to start experimenting in all aspects of their identity, keep your judgement to yourself pls. I heard a guy make a critical comment on an older female student’s low neckline and I wanted both to kick him and it struck me how much it just emphasizes my idea of him as insecure, no matter if that is true. Don’t be that person.
6. Forget the due date for signing up for lab partners or times.
Ours was at 7 am the only free day we got! The first two weeks our schedule was insane because we didn’t have normal lectures yet, so my program the day before went from 8 am to 8 pm, I have to make dinner and am deeply tired getting to know roommates and go to sleep at 1 am, then remembering I need a lab partner for the day afterwards. I sent so many texts at 1:30 am, waking up at 6:30 to see if anyone had responded. A lab partner you know don’t matter that much, but it truly was good to have one I didn’t know, but knew I could at least be civil with. This year it was the same damn thing only we had to choose the people of our corona-friendly groups to be with the whole year, without warning. It was one stressful hour.
7. Feel like you need to participate in all aspects of student culture or be on your own. Or go the other way and think you need to focus too much on studies the first month, which is very busy.
Clubs! Interest groups! Sports! Volunteering! Each uni program’s society. I don’t know what your university offers, but you should after the first week! They’re all there to be a support and a place to meet people, spend the first month wisely by trying out which places of the university/college you feel like you are most comfortable and like. But also don’t feel like you need to drink, or that you need to drink to attend parties. It’s okay to be sober in any situation, do you think college drunk people notice your potential higher awkwardness? Mostly not. Personally, I went into the physics programme from the real world being considered someone who liked the occassional party, but not really. But I just don’t like that many people around anyway. The moment someone started talking about physics stuff at an after-party, I was in love with that aspect of the culture. If you find your people, you might find that the ‘parties’ and their conversation is a lot more interesting as well. Or not, and then you might want to do some daytime activities with a club/sports team. And again – you don’t need to drink.
8. Not look for one older, very active student’s name that you write down, (befriend on facebook) and is ready to ask if you got questions which needs to be answered quickly. Or elected student representative.
Often councellors are inaccessible in the beginning of the year and even through they’re supposed to be there every mail seem to go missing. Not to mention the professors. Usually a STEM class will have layers of people with responsibility and even knowing someone to ask who to turn to or where to look it up is truly valuable. Cue me trying to reschedule an obligatory lab time for a Germany trip and not realizing there’s one certain person resposible for all the labs among the many names of ‘lab assistants’. I had time, but if say you’re ill and can’t join – especially in corona times – have that name and a plan ready.
What you can also do: Generally familiarize yourself with what to do if ill or not able to attend obligatory work and the consequences. You think you won’t need it and suddenly you got a fever. Or just need motivation to get your hungover self out of bed and get to that 8 am thing.
9. Feel like you don’t belong in certain rooms.
I have a strange background (school-wise), making me feel like I definitely do not fit in with all these smart people I’m surrounded with. You just have to be uncomfortable sometimes, of course that’s a long way away from unsafe. Looking back there’s certain people I’ve met & gotten help from and actually courses I’ve switched out because I went into those rooms; I once joined a group of guys arguing loudly in a room only to find out that they were discussing how awful matrix calculations are by hand are with older students and I joined in after some truly shy thirty minutes. I joined a party the first day where I wanted to leave the first five minutes, near panic, but a girl took my hand bascially and introduced me – making me take inspiration from that the rest of the year. After a few weeks two older girls, separately, noted that I was the only other girl in the room (kind of like a break-room, but at 1 am and filled with older students, it’s fun & weird) and if that bothered me – at that point I’d gotten enough familiar faces that I was surprised it didn’t. (Like obviously in a working for gender equality kind of way, but not in a personal anxiety level way hahha.)
What you can do; fake a bit of courage if necessary, stay in a room for ten-fifteen minutes before fleeing, don’t do anything that’s actually unsafe, but not let anxiety/self-confidence hold you back. Only you know what you want, only you know where you belong and not let anyone tell you otherwise.
10. Not explore early on what modules/classes you want to take, even if two seem very similar
Here the older student advisor comes into good use. I briefly mentioned how I changed one of my courses the first week, it was a difficult, but good decision. There’s always the ones that take too many classes or have already taken some in high school (an offer I never got??). You don’t need to know what you want to do or which special field you like the first year, but perhaps ask anyone in your major what they would’ve done differently. My physics friends mostly agree on how we should have had one year of pure maths before then going into a physics bachelor course, because it would’ve gone pretty seamlessly at my particular university, but we didn’t know about that possibility. It’s still not something I would recommend randomly, but if you do really care about getting good in a programme, the A4 solution given might not be the best way for everyone. Or it might be a good reason behind the set-up, but now you’ll know.
11. Not go to lectures
This is straight off the press (tongue) of my math major roommate who was ahead of all of us even as first years; “my first advice to new students would be to go to lectures, even if I barely did.” I had a laugh, because if someone was way worse than me to show up; it was him. Give it a good two months’ worth of trying. Even if the lecturer is terrible, you can bond over that with other students and find out a strategy to create some kind of plan together. I didn’t attend lectures at all after the first few times in two courses; first semester’s intro programming course because it was truly annoying to sit through (but I should’ve stayed even if doing something completely different, just to pick up on possible exam questions) and second semester’s wave & fluid mechanics. The second one I had learned my lesson, but I had a weekly appointment I had to go to and it was the only day I could – let’s just say I recently retook the exam and it went better this time :)))
I hope this was useful to someone, it was at the very least useful for me to think through new students arriving! Stay safe in the corona season we are suffering through. Think about the people in the risk groups (like me) that have to be super careful, and will suffer greatly for you not participating in that work of being careful. Wish you the best of luck and please feel free to add something!
I don’t know why I’m doing this either, it was a 2 am idea I might still want to reverse if that helps. Have this fun (or not) thing while I’m hopefully studying for after-summer exams and please comment honestly on if I shouldn’t have posted this. In chronological order from oldest to newest.
that’s it, kind of. i had so much fun spending time with new friends, working hard and spending so much time trying to understand concepts, occassionally writing this book blog with updates. my home-situation living with 15 other people, but in a more fancy apartment and each having our own space, turned from a scary decision into something very interesting. I found two of my best friends in the two math and electrical engineer students living with me. We became a trio of sorts; sometimes cooking together, watching the engineer do smart shit while trying to guess what the fancy circuit boards were, everyone cursing at our computer code (different levels, to be fair) while drinking a beer, staying inside during the weekends for movie nights, all of us already being too familiar with insomnia and stress. If anything I truly realized how much I’m always in the middle of them and enjoyed that; on everything from cooking-knowledge to whether an abstract or practical smart person and the scale of how social you are. definitely also in the middle of the more unusual scales of “how likely are you to drunkenly show off your soldering skills?” and “how likely are you to resteal a shopping cart for a good cause (like cheering up your extremely-stressed-with-school friend that looked forward to motorize it)?” then corona happened sadly and we return to regularly scheduled programming aka back on the internet ranting ❤
Next post is based on a similar post based on two people finding each over staying up doing their obligatory reading for literature classes and I was like … oh I actually had this very similar thing happen in real life & also why make everything romantic?
A bonus one from pre-uni, showing you that my doubts in myself did not mysteriously appear during university. For the record, I’ve learned so much this first year, that just doesn’t quite come through here.
Also, if you need a new zoom background for the new semester, this one of a larger than average black hole has been my go-to lately (along with an actual photo of my dorm just weird-looking enough to confuse people when I was away);
I also have this one to-go for more depressing times like 8 am (it’s the bleakest picture I have of my home pre-uni basically):
This one is to show some slight self-awareness as I sit down with a cup of tea and give life-advice to my friends like they should listen to me (which you should know by now is not true at all):
And finally the zoom background I’m excited to use next semester (from debbie-sketch on tumblr, check it out for other hogwart house dorms):
I’ve got a currently-reading shelf on goodreads that always contains too many books that I picked up and never really finished or stopped reading. And then I made a post all about my excuses and what I liked or didn’t like about them, which got way to long and this is the second part of that. Here’s part one.
Permanent Record by Edward Snowden
When I started reading the book: September 2019
Have I picked it up since? No
I listened to Edward Snowden’s voice in the audiobook go through every aspect of how he turned out a whistle-blower, about mass surveillance, how intelligence agencies work, how his experiences has made him into an expert the last six years. It’s about growing up online, morality and that’s how far I got. I think I found some pieces truly interesting, but was a bit bored by the background of the person that is Edward Snowden (it is part memoir after all) just because I’m less interested in that than what he thinks about the digital now and future. Which I’m sure he would’ve gotten to eventually.
Why am I not reading it? I don’t quite know? But it’s that type of book that you want to dive into and do your own research as well, and it’s a bit thought and time consuming, which I’m not up for right now.
Physics of the Impossible by Michio Kaku
When I started reading the book: December 2019
Have I picked it up since? No
I truly can’t say much about this book as I got 50 pages into a 300 page book and hadn’t made up my mind quite. It’s supposed to be about the science needed to mmake impossible things like death rays or force fields or invisibility cloaks real.
Why am I not reading it? I don’t know why I never got back to it
A collection of norwegian debut poems
When I started reading the book: February 2020
Have I picked it up since? No
Here I am trying to become a better person by reading more norwegian – my first language – which I haven’t done much of the last decade and only because of being forced to through high school.
Why am I not reading it? have you ever borrowed a book from the library and then … left town leaving it there? It’s somewhat of a pain to have to extend the return date for half a year (blaming corona again). I would just get a new copy of this one, the problem being that it’s a bit difficult to get my hands on. Poetry and ebooks aren’t always a thing, I’ve recently come to learn.
On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous by Ocean Vuong
When I started reading the book: February 2020
Have I picked it up since? No
I read Ocean’s poetry and felt a strong need to read his newer fiction as well. It’s as strikingly beautiful and vulnerable, but I picked it up at a highly-anxious time and found that it wasn’t the mindset I wanted to be in reading this book. It’s synopsis explains it truly well actually; “Asking questions central to our American moment, immersed as we are in addiction, violence, and trauma, but undergirded by compassion and tenderness, On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous is as much about the power of telling one’s own story as it is about the obliterating silence of not being heard.”
Why am I not reading it? too powerful in its pain and violence in a time where I unfortunately wasn’t up for that
By Grand Central Station I Sat Down And Wept by Elizabeth Smart
When I started reading the book: March 2020
Have I picked it up since? No
I truly am mad about not finishing this book because it’s only 128 pages. It’s not that complex, to be real, even if it is a good story. And I was about to finish it in one sitting, as I was literally sitting on the floor in front of the oven waiting for my food to cook. And into the empty kitchen comes one of the many people I live with and comments on it in a way that left a bad taste in my mouth. As if I was sitting there crossed-legged and disheveled reading an old book for the quirky ~aesthetic~ of it, even though no one else was there. I don’t even know now why it made me so suddenly furious, but it was a generally bad time for me, on the verge of deciding whether to leave town because of corona and being very sick from migraines. Simply put, if commenting on what someone is reading, don’t be an asshole about it.
It is a pretty cute, worn edicition though, I picked it up form an Edinburgh used book shop extremely cheap.
Why am I not reading it? I can still feel the ghost of the fury I felt every time I try to finish it
To The Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf
When I started reading the book: June 2020
Have I picked it up since? Yes
Why am I not reading it? Each summer I seem to bring with me one ‘heavy’ physical book absolutely everywhere, and never get to it until my patience runs out and I just sit down and get through it, finding myself enjoying it a lot. I think this is this years book, as I do truly like Woolf’s writing, even if her style is what makes this particular book ‘heavy’, while last year it was the physics of ‘Six Easy Pieces’ by Richard Feynman.
So I’ve got a currently-reading shelf on goodreads that always contains too many books that I picked up and never really finished or stopped reading? Like sometimes I dive into them again, sometimes there’s good reasons, sometimes I’ve just forgotten to read the last two chapters. This happens way more with nonfiction, but also poetry collections and classics. So here’s those books, from ‘oldest to newest’ in when I first picked them up, so that maybe I will guilt myself into starting the new school year with a empty currently reading shelf and less loose threads in my head.
Einstein biography by Walter Isaacson
When I started reading the book: June 2017
Have I picked it up since? yes, I read about half and then read some more in 2018, so I think I’ve only got a few chapters left I just never finished it
You think you know Einstein’s life, but if you haven’t read an in-depth account of his life – you don’t. I truly love this biography, but it was heavy for two years younger me and I was constantly searching up things to learn more. It’s got so many highlights and notes in it by now.
Why am I not reading it? Truly just because I’m separated from my physical copy bc of corona
We Have No Idea: A Guide to the Unknown Universe by Jorge Cham and Daniel Whiteson
When I started reading the book: January 2018
Have I picked it up since? Yes, several times
This book is truly trying to learn you everything you want about what we know and don’t know about the cosmos through funny and original graphs and cute illustrations (!!!). Mostly quarks, black holes, gravitational waves, whatever dark energy and dark matter is and why it’s dark. It’s meant to be humorous and peak your interest. I got at least 25% in, I guess. Some of my problem was the balance of skimming what I did know already, but then not wanting to miss out on the rest. Would be fun to see how much more different I would approach it now, one year into a physics degree. But it’s really appropriate for someone without much knowledge on the matter (haha) already as well.
Why am I not reading it? I forgot I guess???
The Collected Poems of Emily Dickinson
When I started reading the book: March 2018
Have I picked it up since? Yes, I read poems here and there for about a year. Got 50% through it.
Big poetry collections of a particular poet are strange because you might like on era of their poetry more than another, and that takes time to figure out. Especially with a 200 pages ebook filled to the brim with classical short poems. Thankfully most of them are pretty understandable without a knowledge of the time or much of Dickinson’s life.
Why am I not reading it? I truly forgot I liked individual poems this much, even though the collection itself left me confused often
The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde
When I started reading the book: April 2019
Have I picked it up since? Yes, I’ve continually gotten back to it
I didn’t know it had been that long since I first started it. 2. I don’t know why I wanted to read it in the first place or what I expected. 3. It’s never … well, bad or uninteresting, it just never cuts to the chase of what’s going on.
Why am I not reading it? I always think I’m reading it occassionally, but then I’m also only 35% into a 270 page book so who knows what’s happening there
Alex’s Adventures in Numberland by Alex Bellos
When I started reading the book: July 2019
Have I picked it up since? Yes, to read a single other chapter.
With a mind-blowing first two chapters I really liked this book all about how we use maths. That might sound boring or strange, but I strikingly remember the author writing about how different groups of humans count differently depending on their need, and too a much higher degree so do animals. Like the difference between immediately recognizing the size of a herd compared to babies being able to recognize when a number change in number of objects, or something like that. And also cultural differences in how we learn children to count. Fascinating stuff, only problem was that I then started a math-heavy physics degree and then there was little interest in reading non-fiction books for a while, which I’m warning you is a theme here.
Why am I not reading it? separated from my physical copy by corona as well, but mostly lack of will to read more maths on freetime when I’ve just finished math lectures
Hey, this post was created a couple weeks ago actually, and I somehow never posted it. So I’m going to create a newer one, with all this corona stuff really impacting my life as it does many right now, but enjoy this light-hearted one hahha. Also my france/germany trip was before outbreaks happened in the area.
On earth we’re briefly gorgeous by Ocean Vuong (currently reading)
Night sky with exit wounds by Ocean Vuong
Felicity by Mary Oliver
Soft science by Franny Choi
Ordinary beast by Nicole Sealey
Corazón by Yesika Salgado
When We Collided by Emery Lord
Added to TBR:
Loveless by Alice Oseman (ace! character! and fantastic author)
Red, white & royal blue by Casey McQuinston (gay royal romance)
Akata witch by Nnedi Okorafor (YA fantasy)
Freshwater by Akwaeke Emezi (magical realism & mental illness; fractured sense of self, set in Nigeria)
How to make a wish by Ashley Herring Blake (YA f/f romance)
Crier’s war by Nina Varela (queer fantasy; i’m promised f/f romance, bisexual and lesbians and enemies to lover trope)
Come to the rocks by Christin Haws (mermaids with f/f romance)
Storm in a teacup by Helen Czerski (science! physics! this could be very good or very bad)
Tesoro by Yesika Salgado (poetry)
Three things on my mind:
I’m still doing this physics first year of university thing, funny enough. Is it crazy that I thought I would fail before now? It’s not going great overall, but I really like the physics and uni and friends part. One reason it’s not going great overall; I’ve been sick. A bit of a physical illness. But mostly, looking back, my productivity has been greatly damaged by mental illness as well, leading to general inconsistency. Ah yes, I was also diagnosed with a mental illness this week. Which I didn’t think would happen? But it made sense and oh well, it’s going to take some time to get used to having a label on my troubles.
I was in France!! And Germany!! Drinking wine!! With this physics & maths wine club I’m in. I became a real wine enthusiast on one (1) trip, and two wine tastings. I also might’ve smiled too wide at the table when the last and most fancy wine expert basically GURGLED his wine, like in parodies. AND MY BOYFRIEND, GERMAN-SPEAKING, HAD TO TRANSLATE THIS GUY SAYING IN A STERN VOICE “THIS MIGHT SEEM STRANGE, AS THE YOUNG WOMAN IS LAUGHING, BUT IT HELPS TO -” (insert expand surface and tastebuds and all that explanation). I was too many glasses of wine in and too entertained to be embarassed, but it was embarassing. And beautiful – the whole trip. The most embarassing moment, for who I’m not sure, happened while we were all learning about making wine, from someone who had more humor. My best friend said what I itched to say, but decided not to; “oh we make wine too”, pointing to the leader of the group. And he had to swifly try, and fail, to explain is that our university wine club’s wine is not made from grapes picked carefully and hundreds of year’s of expertise; but y taking basically grape juice, adding yeast and trying to get a high alcohol percentage. I smiled the whole rest of the tour, while the wine expert repeatedly turned to our leader and spoke to him like he knew the process, waiting for the moment we were alone and my best friend to get yelled at. It was all I hoped for. Lesson learned; don’t expect a bunch of physics & math students to take the social cue in any situation.
So the trick to read more books again is to take a flight to France/Germany (it was the border, so we were both places), as well as be just sick in general and forced to relax aka read.
Richard Feynman is a well-known physicist, he was awarded the Nobel Prize of physics in 1965 for his developments to the quantum field theory. This book isn’t lying when it claims he’s one of the most brilliant physics teachers as well, particularly well-known for this introduction series of lectures from Caltech university in 1964, that this book is based on.
Rating out of five: four
My background going into this book: one and a half year into physics classes. I read this book a while ago and just now decided to post the review, the day after I sent my application for a physics bachelor at university!
The only reason this isn’t getting five stars are that the lectures are older. This book was first released in 1994, it’s an abbreviated form of the 1964 Feynman Lectures, which has been edited later. I just feel as an introduction this should have more side-notes on later development (just a couple words) and where to find more information on them, because it’s meant as an introduction.
The way Feynman talks about physics de-mystifies it, and makes it accessible. As someone who is going into physics, I’ve already learnt to love formulas. They say so much in so few sentences! It’s like abreviations, but you got to have an understanding of what they mean. Feynman is so aware of this, and instead put physics concepts into words, very elegantly. I really do get why he’s so looked up to. He’s up there with Stephen Hawking, in the quality of his writing. I’ve read parts of Einstein’s biography, and while he was a incredible scientist, his lectures were known from the beginning for jumping straight to the top-level difficult problems, leaving most of his students behind. I think Feynman explains really well concepts of physics, that we look at the universe and create certain rules or theories through observations and experiments that explain what we see. But also gets into more specifics, where my favourite parts were comparing physics to other science fields, the history of finding particles that everything in the world is made of, about the strangeness of fluid physics (especially turbulent fluids, Smarter Every Day made a great video about it that I’ll link to down below) and conservation of energy as a great intro to the concept of energy that everyone hears so much about, but usually don’t understand.
What I felt reading this book: not so weird for loving physics, and that more people would if this was the type of intro they got
A beautifully written book about our universe and how and why it was designed. It’s written for people of many different levels of knowledge of physics already, from short and clear explanations of atoms to mentioning a few things I personally need and want to look more into like string theory, bosons, where plancks constant comes from and Feynmans sum over histories. This is a book trying to give philisophical answers based on scientific history and theories. As the book says itself:
“Why is there something rather than nothing?
Why do we exist?
Why this particular set of laws and not some other?”
Rating out of five: five
I’ve honestly never read a full Stephen Hawking book, even though I take physics classes and am very interested in it. I was personally really surprised at how much I understood, that I’ve gone through in classes before and this book looked more at the “why” behind it, the connection that I so much love. This is the book you need to read if you’re interested in the how and why’s of the universe, no matter what level of understanding you’re at now!
This book absolutely made me reflect on the nature of the universe, even though I already have some experience there. It also made me so very excited about learning more, and what we could find out in the future, with newer technology. Multi-verse and possibly no objective reality existing are examples of rabbit-holes of information and theories I love to fall into, so this book was ideal.
“While concending that human behaviour is indeed determined by the laws of nature, it also seems reasonable to conclude that the outcome is determined in such a complicated way and with so many variables as to make impossible in practice to predict.”
“[…] philosopher David Hume who wrote that although we have no rational grounds for believing in an objective reality, we also have no choice but to act as if it is true.”
“Such calculations show that a change of as little as 0.5 percent in the strength of the strong nuclear force, or 4 percent in the electric force, would destroy either nearly all carbon or all oxygen in every star, and hence the possibility of life as we know it. Change those rules of our universe just a bit, and the conditions for our existence disappear!”
“If the [M-] theory is confirmed by observation, it will be the successful conclusion of a search going back more than 3.000 years. We will have found the grand design.”