From Hardy to Fry via a gazillion tonnes of missing mass

With so many books one can read, it is taking me many years to find opportunities and inclination to read some of the ‘classic’ authors. But, I have had a crack at Thomas Hardy whilst away skiing. ‘Jude the Obscure‘ is still unread on the bookshelf – it just looked too bulky when I really wasn’t sure I’d like the style, so I took ‘Under the Greenwood Tree‘. The social observation of the country life of a century and a half ago was fairly interesting, and felt quite believable.  But, definately far enough in the past to be a foreign country.  Whilst reading it I felt myself wondering what the characters in the book would done if transplanted to a modern metropolis (or indeed skiing).  But,  though it was quite entertaining, it might be a few months (read as years) before I next go for Hardy. Jude can remain Obscure

As a complete difference, I’ve also read ‘The 4-Percent Universe‘ which runs through the evolution of thinking about dark matter and dark energy, and Stephen Frys second volume of autobiography – both rather impulse buys in the airport. The first has helped understand the basics behind the theory much better without requiring a physics degree, and also has some colour about the characters involved. But, it does feel a bit like the author couldn’t work out whether he was writing about the theory or the people, and since it also jumps too and fro in time, it feels slightly harder to get engaged than with other similar books (‘Chaos‘ by James Gleick comes to mind as a really good example).  Interesting to find out why it is felt that everything we can see, all stars, planets and everything else is just 4% of what is in the universe – close to a rounding error.  So, worth reading, but don’t see myself reading it again.

Stephen Fry’s second volume of autobiography “The Fry Chronicles” was pretty much exactly what I expected.  A rather self-concious book, though fairly interesting, and definately not a book of self-aggrandisment which is always just tedious.  But, what I would judge a ‘light’ read; ideal for a low mental energy holiday read.  Indeed that would describe all three books – if you want a holiday triple of a ‘classic’ novel, a bit of science and a biography then you could do worse than these, and I wasn’t close to abandoning any of them.  But, you could do better; none of these would make my top 100 books list by some margin.

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