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May 2023 Book Roundup

The books are good, but there sure are a lot of them. Here’s May’s book roundup.

The Shame Machine by Cathy O’Neil

It’s no secret that Cathy O’Neil’s Weapons of Math Destruction is one of my favorite books. Despite my best efforts, I tend to bring it up whenever something related to big data or AI pops up. The Shame Machine doesn’t quite meet that high bar, but it’s an excellent analysis of the ways our culture uses shame both for good and bad.

And she backs it up with both data and personal experience. It appeals to my emotions and logic. The audiobook, read by O’Neil herself, is not terribly long and very well produced. It’s definitely worth a listen. I might even go so far as to say it’s required reading for anyone wishing to participate in the social media discourse rattling around this little internet of ours.

Mercy Falls and Copper River by William Kent Krueger

Double-header for the Cork O’Connor books this year. Yes, I’m reading these because they’re excellent Minnesota thrillers and I like to use them as inspiration for my Old Code books.

Also, they’re a lot of fun. These two are kind of a duology, with the events of both novels taking place in the span of a couple weeks. The story goes some dark places, and I’m not entirely pleased with how everything was handled. Still, I wasn’t able to easily guess the guilty party in the first third of these books, and I think that’s probably a good thing. If anything, in Mercy Falls, the real baddie kinda comes out of nowhere.

Copper River, however, is a very well-structured mystery. Once the truth comes to light, a lot of pieces click together. The pieces were there before, but they weren’t terribly obvious. I’m looking forward to continuing this series over the summer. There are plenty of books to go, and the audiobook reader is fantastic.



Not Me by Kate Bold

I’m trying to get more into the indie books space, since, um, that’s what I write. Not Me by Kate Bold is a crime thriller, and the audiobook is available on the subscription service Scribd. It’s short, but I don’t see that as a terrible thing. The book moves fast, drops hints, and takes left turns. It’s well written except for a few tiny nitpicks that I have over structure or word choice.

Bold has a whole series of these, and I’ll be continuing this as I find time. The fact that they’re on the subscription service and not tied up in Amazon’s exclusivity jail is a huge plus for me, and I’m genuinely interested in finding out where she goes with these characters.

The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russel

Oof, this was a tough one. I learned about this one in my chat with Michael Wayne Selznick over on Sonitotum when I mentioned that I was working sci-fi centering around Catholics. It was a fantastic suggestion. Wildly different from the kind of stories I write, but it’s a powerful novel and I’m glad I read it.

Sparrow is a first contact story. Music is discovered coming from a nearby system at odd intervals, and its the Jesuits who respond quickly enough to be the first to visit. It’s told mainly through a framing story (the bulk of the story is in flashbacks) and we know from the beginning that things do not end well. The way the book is structured lends it such an ominous tension, which pays off wonderfully in the end. It’s an exploration of faith and the chastity of priests and love.

And language. Language, and the learning of new languages, is the central conceit of this novel. It makes some fascinating points about how language works and how new languages should be approached.

The book is definitely worth the read, and it’s another good audiobook. Brutal, though. It made me think. It made me feel. This was a good book.


That’s all I have this month’s book roundup, but you may have noticed that it’s mostly audiobooks. This is because I’m currently reading Perdido Street Station with my eyeballs and it is so long. Good. Dark. Sometimes gruesome. But very long. Stay tuned for next month and I’ll let you know how that works out for me.

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