Susan is out of the hospital, rehabbing at home after her brain surgery. Sharon was feeling a bit under the weather and didn’t make it as well.

Richard, a lifetime Mensa member, and his friend Mary, drove up from Belton to join us. It is always swell to welcome new participants. Also meeting in person were Coleen, David, Peggy, Rodney, and myself. Cynthia and Michael joined us via Zoom.

Those present critiqued my piping skills on a practice bunch of cupcakes I made in advance of the Cabin Fever RG. (I would not win any awards.) They also decided foil liners were better than paper, and that red would be the perfect liner color.

On to books…

Peggy read the latest from Alexander McCall Smith, The Joy and Light Bus Company. This is the 22nd installment of the No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency series.

She also read To Rescue the Republic: Ulysses S. Grant, the Fragile Union, and the Crisis of 1876, by Bret Baier with Catherine Whitney, the fascinating story of the contested presidential election of 1876 which produced no clear victory for either Republican Rutherford B. Hayes or Democrat Samuel Tilden (who carried most of the former Confederacy). Southern states vowed to revolt if Tilden was not declared the victor. Grant was determined to use his influence to preserve the Union, establishing an electoral commission to peaceably settle the issue. Grant brokered a grand bargain: the installation of Republican Hayes to the presidency, with concessions to the Democrats that effectively ended Reconstruction.

Peggy’s final read was Broken Glass Park, the debut novel by Alina Bronsky which was a finalist for the prestigious Ingeborg Bachmann Prize.

Rodney reported on seven books at our meeting:

In the 1960s, Modern Library issued a seven-book series containing The Complete Greek Tragedies. Volumes I and II were entitled Aeschylus I and Aeschylus II. Aeschylus I contained four plays: Agamemnon, The Libation Bearers, The Eumenides (constituting the Oresteia trilogy, the only completely preserved Greek dramatic trilogy) and Prometheus Bound. Aeschylus II contained The Suppliant Maidens, The Persians, and Seven Against Thebes. Aeschylus actually wrote some seventy or eighty plays and, although passages from other plays occasionally turn up when archaeology lab workers process mummies made from already-written-on papyrus from schoolboys in antiquity, only seven complete plays have survived.

Cleverly Crafty Five-Minute Mysteries and Utterly Ingenious Five-Minute Mysteries, by Ken Weber. Each mystery is 3–4 pages long. Good books to pick up when you only have a few minutes to read here and there.

An Outline of Psychoanalysis (Modern Library, 1924), edited by J. S. Van Teslaar. Collected essays, including one from Sigmund Freud. Modern Library issued another book with the same title in 1955, twice as long and containing none of the 1924 essays. One passage from the 1924 essays, and Teslaar’s entire concluding essay, voiced the notion that the ideation of savages could be somehow contained in the thought processes of children, prompting the “Ontogeny recapitulates Phylogeny” comparison and a brief display of the Stephen Jay Gould book, Ontogeny and Phylogeny.

The Black Death (1969), a 12-page essay by Philip Ziegler. Back when the word pandemic really meant something, the black death killed one-third of the European population.

1177 B. C.: The Year Civilization Collapsed (2021 edition) by Eric H. Cline. For a hundred years archaeologists have tried to identify the Sea Peoples who attacked Mediterranean civilization from the 1190s to the 1170s B.C. and brought about the fall of the kingdoms of the Hittites, Luwians, Ugaritic people, the Mycenaean Greeks, and others, and severely scaled back the Egyptians, but more recent scholarship says droughts may have had a greater role in these events than previously surmised. 1177 B.C. can be compared to 476 A.D. and the Fall of Rome, but droughts in the earlier event may have led to political instability and widespread migrations.

Richard majored in classical languages many years ago; he has a deep love of history which resulted in this reading list (sans author info):

The Story of America. There are two books by this title as identified by Mr. Google. No listings at all on Amazon, so I’m uncertain who the author was.

Great Events of the 20th Century. Same story. Four different books with the same title.

Reader’s Digest Illustrated Story of World War II. Text heavily supported by photographs.

David read A Step Farther Out, by Jerry Pournelle. Although the author is known as a science fiction author, this is a collection of articles about science. Originally published in 1979. Very interesting.

Detectives in Togas, by Henry Winterfeld. A children’s book about a mystery in ancient Rome. Based on graffiti (CAIUS ASINUS EST, or Caius is an ass) found in 1936 on a wall during an excavation of ancient Pompeii. Fun book.

Firekeeper’s Daughter, by Angeline Boulley. Set in the early 2000s in Michigan. An Ojibwe girl starting college in the fall gets pulled into an undercover investigation into drugs and other issues involving the Ojibwe reservation. She uses her knowledge of chemistry and traditional Ojibwe medicine to help in the investigation. Quite a thriller. This Young Adults novel hit #1 on the New York Times bestseller list and is being adapted at Netflix for TV with President Barack Obama and Michelle Obama’s production company, Higher Ground.

Coleen was in a bible study class, the topic of which was Advent. She therefore read Light of the World, by Amy-Jill Levine. Jewish scholar’s interpretation of the Advent story, mostly based on Luke. Very interesting.

The Windsor Knot, by S. J. Bennett. The 92-year-old Queen Elizabeth II investigates a suspicious death in Windsor Castle. Fun, lightweight mystery.

As Chimney Sweepers Come to Dust, by Alan Bradley is the 7th in a series of ten Flavia de Luce novels.12-year-old Flavia gets shipped off to the boarding school in Canada that her late mother attended. Predictably, she finds a dead body. Being the genius she is, she solves the mystery. Always a pleasure to read about Flavia.

Michael read the first three books in the Dune series: Dune, Dune Messiah, and Children of Dune. He was impressed with the breadth and depth of the worlds created by Frank Herbert. Really just one very long story, divided into three books.

He also read The Pushcart Prize XLVI: Best of The Small Presses 2022 Edition. Over 60 brilliant stories, poems, and essays from dozens of small presses, as selected from 900 presses worldwide by more than 200 distinguished staff contributing editors. The American Academy of Arts and Letters awarded Pushcart its 2020 recognition for “Distinguished Service to the Arts.”

Cynthia read the 2019 Ann Cleeves book The Long Call that launched a new senior detective, Matthew Venn. Venn is homosexual, recently married, and has a new(ish) job in North Devon, the area where he grew up. It starts with a man, stabbed to death, on a local beach and ends with a bunch of corrupt people getting caught in a cover-up. I liked Venn and apparently so did others: a follow-up novel, The Heron’s Cry, was released this November.

I took a break from nonfiction and read books 2–6 of Martha Wells’ The Murderbot Diaries: Artificial Condition, Rogue Protocol, Exit Strategy, Network Effect and Fugitive Telemetry. The series is about an artificial construct designed as a Security Unit, which manages to override its governor module, thus enabling it to develop independence, which it primarily uses to watch soap operas. As it spends more time with a series of caring people (both humans and fellow artificial intelligences), it starts developing friendships and emotional connections, which it finds inconvenient. I heard the voice of Bender from the animated series Futurama as I read each book. Highly recommended.

All Systems Red won the 2018 Nebula Award for Best Novella, the 2018 Hugo Award for Best Novella, and the American Library Association’s Alex Award, and was nominated for the 2017 Philip K. Dick Award. The three following novellas had enough votes for the 2019 Hugo Award final ballot, but Wells declined all nominations except for Artificial Condition, which won. Network Effect won the 2021 Nebula Award for Best Novel and the 2021 Hugo Award for Best Novel. The Murderbot Diaries won the 2021 Hugo Award for Best Series. Wells had contracted to write three additional books in the series.

I also read volumes 6, 6.5, 7 and 8 of The Expanse series, by James S. A. Corey, the joint pen name of authors Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck. The complete series won the 2020 Hugo Award for Best Series. Another great read. I’m on the library’s wait list for the 9th and final book in the series.

Book Lovers SIG meets the 2nd Sunday of each month. If you join us in person, please wear a mask. General chat begins at 2:00 p.m. Book discussion begins at 2:30 or when Peggy rings the bell. If you live out of town or don’t feel like making the drive, we also simulcast on Zoom.

If you would like to join our literary chat fest, please email me so I can add you to the invite list for the February Book Lovers SIG. Keep warm, everyone! ~Brad Lucht