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Reading Diary for 2020
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  and earlier
"A Maiden Weeping"
by Jeri Westerson
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  • Hardcover
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  • TITLETechnically the ninth entry in the Crispin Guest medieval noir series, this is in effect the first Jack Tucker mystery. Crispin's loyal apprentice, the orphaned former cutpurse finds himself having to uncover who is strangling prostitutes in 14th Century London while Crispin sits in Newgate Gaol, accused of the very crime. Seemingly related, a holy relic is claimed by two families both facing fading fortunes. As always, author Jeri Westerson does a masterful job of re-creating the London of the 1300s – not only the layout and architecture, but how human life was largely dictated by the rhythms of the sun, and how much Christianity imbued everyday living.

    "How I Killed Pluto and Why It Had It Coming"
    by Mike Brown
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  • Hardcover
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  • How I Killed Luto and Why It Had It ComingThis warm, personal memoir by the planetary astronomer whose discovery of a large Kuiper Belt object eventually led to the International Astronomical Union voting to hold that Pluto is not, in fact, a planet is ultimately compromised by an elitism that fails to recognize that astronomy is not just for astronomers. Brown does a truly wonderful job of weaving his budding professional career with his personal life: Falling in love, marrying, starting a family are clearly far more important to him than his work as an astronomer. But that utterly human grounding makes his impassioned defense of the vote to demote Pluto all the more baffling. One of the charms of theoretical physicist / author Lee Smolin is that he openly acknowledges that scientists owe their careers to the public that pays their salaries, either through university salaries or government research grants. It's why Smolin works so hard to write books about very difficult subjects that can still be inderstood by those of us who ultimately foot the bill. And give him credit — Brown is very bit as good as Smolin in explaining complex technology and concepts in easily understood language. But his ultimate conclusion that professional astronomers are best suited to decide what is what isnt' a planet, and the rest of us should bow to their expertise, frankly undercuts the logic he uses in making his case. After all, the solar system belongs to all of us.

    "Past Tense"
    by Jack Reacher
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  • Past TenseJack Reacher realizes, as he works his way south from New England, that he's passing by the town his father had said he grew up in. Curiosity draws him in, and as he explores his family tree through old public records, his path becomes inexorably crossed with that of a distant relation engaged in a horrid scheme. Hint: Reacher wins.