Rain: a natural and cultural history by Cynthia Barnett (Crown Publishers, 2015)
I thought this was a fairly interesting book, but then I’ve always been interested in weather. My first summer job as a college student was in the Meteorology department of the local university. Cynthia Barnett approaches the topic of rain as a journalist, traveling around the U.S. and the world interviewing people and doing historical research. She covers pre-historical climate, rain and ancient civilization, the history of weather data collection and forecasting, rain makers and geo-engineering, drought and rains of frogs, the scent of rain, and the rainiest places in the world. Barnett concludes with a down-to-earth discussion of climate change and how it may be changing rain patterns around the world. I am pretty knowledgeable about weather and climate, but I learned a lot. If you enjoy watching the Weather Channel, you’ll find this book worth reading.
Infomocracy by Malka Older (Tom Doherty Associates, 2016)
I first saw this science fiction novel reviewed in BookList’s online site, and wanted to read it badly enough to ask my local public library to get it by interlibrary loan for me. It was pretty good – I’d give it about 8 on a 10 point scale. It takes place in the 2060’s in various major cities around the world such as Tokyo, Jakarta, Paris, and a bunch of cities whose names are not familiar to me, being only an armchair traveler myself. I assume they are real cities in the Middle East, South America and Asia since the author’s bio claims she has been to all of them. In this world they have “micro-democracy” in place of nations, and each group of ten thousand citizens gets to vote for their preferred government every ten years. There are dozens of political parties to choose from, and an almost infinite amount of information available from the entity the Internet has evolved into 50 years from now. The “Information” is a global bureaucracy that keeps this supply of knowledge analyzed, updated, and transmitted. The main characters include a small set of Information employees, party employees, contractors, and activists who try to bring down the system (or save it, depending on their role) during the third 10-year cycle. It’s an imaginative concept and a thought-provoking plot.