frayadjacent: Rona from Buffy, text says, "haters gonna make some good points" (haters gonna make good points)
What did you recently finish reading?

Our Magnificent Bastard Tongue: the Untold Story of English audiobook, written and read by John McWhorter. This was mostly an interesting and engaging book. He focuses on changes in English's grammar, which he argues (and I agree) is a lot more interesting than just word etymologies, and specifically looks at how encounters with other languages changed English. First when the Angles, Saxons, and Jutes came to Britain and had their language changed by the Celts. Then the Vikings came and brought a language that was similar to proto-English, but not the same, and what emerged was simpler than either, in a least-common-denominator sort of way. He argues that the Normans had little influence on English grammar because French was the language of the ruling class and only spoken by a tiny minority (and not for very long). In the last chapter, he speculates on the possible influence of Semitic languages on proto-Germanic to account for the differences between Germanic languages and other Indo-European ones. That hypothesis really is just a hypothesis, without enough evidence to support it fully, but it's interesting nonetheless.

As interesting as the story of English itself was the insight I got into the methods that linguists use to trace how languages have changed. McWhorter also discussed how those methods can lead linguists astray -- for example, by assuming that changes in spoken language are mirrored by changes in written language, which isn't even true for all languages now, much less at a time and place where most people were illiterate.

He also had a chapter debunking the Sapir-Worf hypotesis (of Arrival fame), but I'd already heard and been convinced by that argument in his podcast, so it was the least interesting chapter to me. I get the impression that the Sapir-Worf hypothesis is to linguistics as the Gulf Stream* is to climate science -- its importance is vastly overstated in popular literature, media, and even some introductory textbooks, much to the chagrin of experts.

I like McWhorter's writing and narrating style, and he has a very pleasant voice to boot. The book gets a bit dry at times when he is describing conjugations etc, but those times are brief.


What are you reading now?

Ninefox Gambt, by Yoon Ha Lee. This is working much better for me now than last week. First, I followed [personal profile] isis's suggestion and stopped to read this short story prequel first, which helped me make sense of the world a bit. Second, I realised that the word "calendar" is actually used in more or less the usual sense, to mean tracking time and noting dates -- at first I was convinced it had to mean something totally different and unfamiliar, because it was being used *so weirdly*. Third, I realised that I needed to stop approaching this story like hard sci-fi and start approaching it like fantasy -- I needed to just accept the magical tech rather than hurt my head trying to make some sense it. In a way, it's almost the inverse of the Steerswoman books.

What will you read next?

I'm gonna catch up on some podcasts and then choose my next audiobook. I'm thinking one of the Great Courses history series, but I'm choosing from a few.

* 1) the Gulf Stream is not the main reason why Northern Europe is warm -- the Atlantic Ocean generally is the first reason, and, interestingly, the Rocky Mountains are the second. 2) even if the thermohaline circulation were shut down a la The Day After Tomorrow, the Gulf Stream would still be there, because it's driven by winds which exist because the Earth rotates and the sun shines more on the tropics than the poles -- global warming isn't going to change that fact.

frayadjacent: Connie Maheswaran on a beach reading excitedly (!reading)
I haven't done one of these in a while! Also it's Tuesday evening here, close enough.

What I just finished reading

Black Wolves
, by Kate Elliott. It took me a while to get into it. Not that I disliked it, but I was content to read it on the bus and right before bed and leave it at that for a good long while. But then it sucked me in properly and I liked it a lot. The story is exciting and the characters are compelling. It's mostly women's POV! And their points-of-view contradict in some really cool and interesting ways. I kind of fell in love with the setting, too, at least as much as any of the characters. And now I have to *wait* for the next one. It usually takes me so long to find out about and read something that waiting for the second installment is kinda a new experience.

What I'm reading now

Spirit Gate
, by Kate Elliott, whose books I really wanted to get into and finally have! I read A Passage of Stars a few months ago, and I liked it enough that I finished it but never got invested in it. It moved too fast: I never had time to get really interested in a place or situation before something new was happening, and I didn't connect with the POV character. I also strongly disliked one of the secondary characters. After I finished it I read the excerpt from the second book in the trilogy, and it was from this detested character's POV. So I gave up on that series, cool as it sounded (revolutionary uprising! in space. Except I was mostly annoyed by her depiction of said uprising in book 1.). 

Spirit Gate was my second attempt at reading Elliott. I liked it well enough but Spoiler for an event early in Spirit Gate (like 30 pages in) ) I was not interested and, after having not much liked A Passage of Stars, I wasn't feeling super charitable. So I gave up.

So, after having read Black Wolves, I'm much more trusting in Elliott, and, as I mentioned before, I fell for the setting of Black Wolves as much as for the characters. Well, Spirit Gate is set in the same world. And I quickly realized that this could maybe be a very vague minor spoiler for Black Wolves and/or the Crossroads books, mainly if you've read one but not the other. ). So now I'm reading Spirit Gate and it's going much better this time.

Monsoons, edited by Jay Fein and Pamela Stephens. This is work related but I kinda like it! It was published in 1987 and it covers not just the physics of monsoons (mainly the South Asian monsoon) but also talks about its study by South Asian and European scientists, its cultural significance, and it describes the development of the Indian Meteorological Service. It also covers the material at a broad level for someone with my scientific background, which I really enjoy.

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. I'm listening to the Stephen Fry audiobook. I think this might be my least favorite HP. I would have thought Book 1 was my least favorite but I actually loved listening to that and cried like three times. This one has some great moments but also a lot of plot developments I find irritating or boring: Ron not talking to Harry, the whole Triwizard Tournament, S.P.E.W. I can't put my finger on why I don't like the Triwizard Tournament but it just annoys me.

What I plan to read next

Shadow Gate by Kate Elliott, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix.

Anything else book related

I signed up for supporting membership at Worldcon! So I guess I can nominate and vote for the Hugos this year. I doubt I'll be nominating as I've read so few books, but I hope to read as many of the nominees as I can and am already planning to read some presumed nominees. Because apparently I've decided to become a reader again.

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