Well, I lied. Two months and no blog. My humble apologies. By the time of year, you may have guessed it was because I was once again busy with summer reads. Check it out. Awesome lists of recommended titles, great for book clubs or your personal reading pleasure. Busy as I was, I still kept reading (odd how that works) so now I have a big backlog to share with you. Will whiz through them fairly quickly over the next few weeks until I'm caught up.
Resurrection by Wolf Haas is the first Inspector Simon Brenner mystery but the third to be translated into English. This is an odd little series, extremely popular in Germany and Austria. Brenner's investigations, a rather loose description, are narrated by an unnamed smart-ass who seems to personally know the Inspector. Newly retired from the police force and hoping to start a career as a PI, Brenner is prone to migraines, susceptible to alcohol and unable to prioritize. He just hangs around a la Colombo, chatting people up and asking questions while all sorts of ridiculous things happen, until the truth eventually emerges. The crimes themselves are always startling. Resurrection starts with the discovery of two elderly Americans frozen to death on a chair lift in the Austrian Alps. Somewhat like Weissbier, the Brenner mysteries are an unusual taste but once acquired, there's no going back.
'An unnatural history' is how Elizabeth Kolbert describes her The Sixth Extinction. A mass extinction is when the diversity of life on earth suddenly and dramatically contracts. We are now in the middle of the sixth and it is unnatural in that it is being caused by a species – us – and our technologies. Kolbert uses specific examples and personal stories to trace the evolution of humanity's understanding of mass extinctions and to explain the underlying scientific concepts. Well-organized, solid science, an interesting and important read.
During May, the start of the Triple Crown in horse racing, I reread Horse Heaven (previously talked about in this blog) and local writer Kevin Chong's new book Northern Dancer. Northern Dancer (1961 – 1990) was a Canadian Thoroughbred, owned and raced by Canadian mogul E. P. Taylor. Dancer won 14 of his 18 races but his true genius was in passing on his running ability. He has been named the 20th century's best stud and is in the bloodlines of 70% of today's Thoroughbreds. Chong's 'thesis' is that Northern Dancer was 'the legendary horse that inspired a nation'. In the early 60's, Canada had shaken off its identity as a British colony but still felt inferior to its giant neighbour to the south. By challenging and beating American horses in American races, Northern Dancer became emblematic of a newly emerging Canada that could stand on its own and even compete. This is a bit of a stretch and the book is not particularly well-written (it's certainly not another Seabiscuit) but it was fun. We don't often get the chance to wallow in Canadian nostalgia, particularly of a horsey kind.