Book Review: Smoke Gets In Your Eyes

SmokeGetsInYourEyes

Summary: Morbid, irreverent and funny, but a subtle and compassionate humanism runs throughout.Caitlin Doughty is a mortician, the creator of a popular YouTube series answering questions about the funeral industry, and the founder of the Order of the Good Death, a "death acceptance" organization dedicated to helping people reconcile with mortality. Her book Smoke Gets in Your Eyes and Other Lessons from the Crematory grows out of that mission, offering a disarmingly honest glimpse into an … [Read more...]

Book Reviews: Fighting Back the Right, Living the Secular Life

Dec2014BookReviews

(Author's Note: The following reviews were solicited and are written in accordance with this site's policy for such reviews.)Fighting Back the Right by David NioseI previously reviewed Nonbeliever Nation by David Niose, a past president of the American Humanist Association. His new book, Fighting Back the Right, tells the story of how the right wing became a formidable force in America's culture wars and what we can do about it.The modern conservative movement, in Niose's account, is … [Read more...]

SF/F Saturday: The Years of Rice and Salt

I've been getting into alternate history novels lately - The Guns of the South by Harry Turtledove, Lest Darkness Fall by L. Sprague de Camp - and one of the better ones I've read is Kim Stanley Robinson's 2002 book The Years of Rice and Salt. I've read Robinson's Mars trilogy, which I thought was interesting but lacked a strong central concept to drive the plot, but this book is an accomplishment.The classic strategy of alternate history is to pick some important historical event, assume … [Read more...]

Book Review: Recovering Agency

RecoveringAgency

(Note: This review was solicited and is written in accordance with this site's policy for such reviews.)At the American Atheists convention in Salt Lake City this year, I toured the grounds of the Mormon temple with some other attendees. At the time, I thought of it as an exercise in appreciating wacky religious camp. But the goofy theology of the LDS church is a cover for something darker and more troubling, as I found out from author (and ex-Mormon) Luna Lindsey's book Recovering Agency: … [Read more...]

Book Review: Nature’s God

NaturesGod

(Editor's Note: This review was solicited and is written in accordance with this site's policy for such reviews.)Summary: A dense philosophical-historical synthesis that rewards the diligent reader by opening up a new window on the beliefs of America's founders.Matthew Stewart's book Nature's God: The Heretical Origins of the American Republic, like Susan Jacoby's Freethinkers or Jennifer Michael Hecht's Doubt: A History, plumbs the freethinking ideals that played an outsize role in the … [Read more...]

SF/F Saturday: The Long Earth

TheLongEarth

Terry Pratchett is famous for his Discworld fantasy series, but he's tried his hand at science fiction as well. His most recent effort in this vein, in collaboration with the author Stephen Baxter, is The Long Earth, which is based on an idea that predates the Discworld books and that he's only now decided to bring to life.The premise of The Long Earth is humanity's invention of a device called the "stepper", which makes it possible to travel to parallel universes. But these universes come … [Read more...]

Book Review: Doubting Jesus’ Resurrection

DoubtingJesusResurrection

(Author's Note: The following review was solicited and is written in accordance with this site's policy for such reviews.)Summary: Hampered by its own extraordinarily modest ambitions.Doubting Jesus' Resurrection: What Happened in the Black Box?, by Kris D. Komarnitsky, is a narrowly focused, skeptical explanation of what could have inspired Christian belief in the resurrection other than a miraculous revival of Jesus from the dead. Although the author isn't an atheist (he says "I … [Read more...]

SF/F Saturday: Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell

"Can a magician kill a man by magic?" Lord Wellington asked Strange.Strange frowned. He seemed to dislike the question. "I suppose a magician might," he admitted, "but a gentleman never would."Since I've just heard the welcome news that it will soon be a TV miniseries, this SF/F Saturday presents a good opportunity to write about one of my favorite modern novels.Published in 2004, Susanna Clarke's debut novel Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell is an alternate-history fantasy set in … [Read more...]

Book Review: The New Jim Crow

Summary: A work of consciousness-raising with the visceral impact of a gut punch. One of the rare books that will transform the way you understand politics in America.I've always been an advocate of legalizing recreational drug use. The drug war is stupidity, wastefulness and futility on a colossal scale, and the results speak for themselves: prisons crammed with hundreds of thousands of nonviolent drug users, prohibitionist policies that ensure drug profits fuel criminal gangs rather than … [Read more...]

SF/F Saturday: His Dark Materials

There's a lot of fantasy fiction that I enjoy in spite of its religious themes - C.S. Lewis' Narnia series, or Madeleine L'Engle's A Wrinkle in Time. But sometimes I'm in the mood for fiction that takes an explicitly atheist and humanist point of view, which is why I've lately been rereading one of my favorite series, Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials trilogy.The first book in the series, The Golden Compass (published as Northern Lights outside the USA), is set on an alternate Earth that … [Read more...]


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