Books that you are currently (or were) reading?



Some good choices you have mentioned Whiskey bristles, thank you for the reply.

I also love reading about the history of regions and in the different places I have lived I have always tried to read about local / regional / national history to try to understand what has shaped the people and culture.

Now you have mentioned post-1492 , there is a book that comes to mind that I read a couple of years ago , I wonder if you have checked it out ? if you havent then I highly reccomend it , it deals with the America’s in general.

I also love books on ecology and environmental philosophies (I’m a student of conservation biology/ ecology) so I read heavily on that topic. Love Cormac Mccarthy too although “The Road” was a very disturbing read.


My previous reply needs to be moderated for some reason and it was pretty lengthy.
Hopefully the post will be approved but in the meantime here is a link to the local history case that I am investigating.|JE3240182799&activityType=BasicSearch&failOverType=&commentary=



Haven’t read that series. But the best fantasy work I’ve ever read is The Book of the New Sun by Gene Wolfe. The characters are unique; the world they live in is set in the distant future. The language is remarkable. Wolfe has said one of the challenges in writing it was the task of translating a language that won’t spoken until five million years from now. It is vaguely reminiscent of Dune, but, in my opinion, better written.


So , my local mystery that I am trying to investigate is quite a morbid one but its fascinating for a number of reasons.

I began researching news archives of the history of the area where I am currently living in the UK a couple of months ago. I wasnt really expecting to find anything too interesting , and mainly wanted to find information about victorian archeological discoveries in the district.

But what I actually discovered once I started looking into archive news report was really quite disturbing. Basically the area was once (In Victorian and Edwardian times) the infanticide capital of the UK and I found news report after news report chronicling these sorts of murders and a lot of them were pretty gruesome. I guess the reason these sorts of things were happening at that particular time of history was down to a combination of factors.

  1. People were living in ever larger urban populations due to the industrial revolution

  2. There were no real contraception back then and no sex education whatsoever

  3. Poverty was rife so it was incredibly hard to support a child economically and materially and there was absolutely no safety net for impoverished mothers

  4. The area was a barrack town so there were lots of young men coming into the local towns and forming casual relationships

  5. There was a very cruel social stigma on single mothers who were seen to be morally depraved and if news got out about a pregnancy or any kind of casual sex , they would be ostracized and the subject of vicious gossip. So in these communities where people lived for the entirety of their lives there was literally no escape from it and it must have been hell.

  6. Lots of working class women worked as maids and other kinds of servants in the houses of the rich and well … the masters of those houses due to their wealth and status could literally get away with anything and often did some evil things to these girls.

  7. Post Natal depression must have figured into this somehow , as there was no real knowledge of the importance or medical validity of mental health conditions. My guess is a lot of women would have suffered from this condition and gone undiagnosed.


Right now I’m caught up in the novels of the Irish writer, Sebastian Barry.
So far I’ve read The Whereabouts of Eneas McNulty, Days Without End, The Secret Scripture, and A Long Long Way. His language is beautiful without being florid. His characters are endearing, and his stories manage to be moving without being maudlin.
Absolutely love Phillip Roth. American Pastoral is probably the best. But The Plot Against America, published in 2oo4 is so precognitive it will chill you to your bones.
For a page turner that won’t make you feel dumb for reading it The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins is a good choice. The characters are complex and the plot will keep you guessing to the end.
As far as nonfiction is concerned I just finished Factfulness by Hans Rosling. It will help you to see the world as somewhat less depressing than you might think it to be. In times such as these a little optimism is much appreciated.


That’s the exact volume I have! It’s the most reliable thing on my bookshelf.

(Incidentally, the notion that, on Amazon, it has 4 out of 5 stars is an abomination.)


The case I am trying to investigate which you can see on the link I posted , caught my eye for a lot of reasons. First of all it seemed like something from a gothic horror film it was so gory , and of course it was big news back in the 1890s but then conveniently was hushed up. The more I looked into it the more loose ends to the story there were.

Basically, the police found in the course of their investigations that the sender of the package was an unnamed wealthy aristocratic young woman in the West End of London.

When she was interrogated by the police she at first denied any knowledge of it and then said her brother who had died a few years previously was a doctor who kept human anatomical specimens and that it must have come from him. But her account doesn’t really make any sense at all.

The question is what were her motivations , was she a lover (or victim) of the officer who had become pregnant and decided on this elaborate and sadistic form of revenge that would destroy his reputation socially ? was she angry at the social stigma she would have recieved in high class society as a single mother? Or was she a member of one of the many Victorian occultist societies which were almost exclusively composed of members from the upper and upper middle classes ?

It turns out that the commanding officer of the barracks it was sent to was a decorated millitary man and also an explorer who had been pretty much all over Africa and Asia and was kind of rumoured to be into the occult. After the discovery and the initial news reports the officer was posted to a different barracks in Dublin , Ireland which was then under the yoke of the British empire. This suggests to me that his posting elsewhere was a classic Victorian attempt to hush things up and avoid further scandals.

Ultimately both the officer and the mysterious West end aristocratic lady got off the hook for this. My guess is that it was probably down to the fact that they were both from the upper classes. Because if the same thing had been done by a working class lady she would have been given the death sentence and hung in prison or sent to the lunatic asylum which was pretty much a socially polite death sentence anyway because conditions were horrific and inmate mortality rates were exceptionally high.


Its a fantastic book isnt it ? I absolutely love my copy !

I think the four star thing may be down to some people just not getting into Borges. Honestly I dont know how someone could read one of his short stories and not enjoy it or find it intellectually stimulating , but well , each to their own I guess , I am always going to be a fan of all things Borgesian and I’m glad to hear that you are too.


That’s bizarre. And now I’m wondering if it was indeed an occult motive or an unwanted pregnancy. When you first started describing the incident, the first thing that came to mind was Amelia Dyer and her baby farm. Killing orphan babies was unfortunately common in that era.


Definitely, it’s a very strange case for sure , because its a rare one in which the suspects are from the upper classes. I still have no idea what the motive for it was but whatever had transpired it appears that the suspect was wealthy enough to be able to bend/influence the law in her favour.

The real difficulty in trying to find out more about this case is that all clues as to the suspects identity other than her social class (Which I’m sure must have gotten out to the press by accident) were kept secret by the media of the time. So its hard to do any real guesswork as to what these motives could have been beyond mere conjecture. Its a very difficult trail to follow.

Totally agree and its a pretty terrifying thing to think that there were almost certainly hundreds of predators of Amelia Dyers ilk wandering the streets of Victorian England at that time. Its even more chilling that the majority of them actually got away with it, never having to face any legal repurcussions for their crimes. Some of them probably died of old age in the early 20th century after a life spent living off of the misfortune of others.

But far more common than even the notorious baby farmers were cases of mothers who simply murdered their infant children like in the link below


A friend of mine tipped me off to this book this weekend, and while I haven’t read it yet, as someone who’s semi-obsessed with gratitude, it looks amazing!


It looks like an interesting book for sure , and it kind of reminds me of a phrase from the book “Meditations” by the stoic philosopher and Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius

“Pass through this brief patch of time in harmony with nature, and come to your final resting place gracefully, just as a ripened olive might drop, praising the earth that nourished it and grateful to the tree that gave it growth.”

I’ve finished my last Viking saga for the time being and started reading something I have been meaning to for quite some time


That’s a lovely quote, and a fine philosophy to live by. To put it more crassly, living in gratitude is the coolest. Also, right from the Sagas to the Travels, you don’t mess around.


Its definitely a cool way to live, totally agree. Hahaha! yep, I’m sort of in a classical phase right now.


I discovered an interesting way to add value to reading books that inspire travel. Read an old book online by a famous explorer and track it in a satellite map. It creates an itinerary for travel and is enjoyable even if you cannot go there either because you cannot afford to, or due to safety concerns. For example I have read Isabella Lucy Bird’s book Yangtze Valley and Beyond, Marco Polo’s book *The Travels of Marco Polo", Charles Darwin’s book The Voyage of the Beagle, Lewis and Clark’s Journals and Ernest Shackleton’s book South! The Story of Shackleton’s Last Expedition 1914-1917 and mapped them all. Each plotted location has a quote from the book to confirm the location and a page reference in order for you to follow the explorer’s travel. You can check them out here.

Travel agents even make use of these maps and the one’s I created on ancient ruins to develop travel itineraries for their clients. Other maps I have created relied on Atlas Obscura for destinations worthy of plotting.


Sounds like you might like Devil in the White City by Erik Larson about the serial murders during the Chicago World’s Fair and the large hotel built by the killer specifically designed as a place to cook his female victims while they were still alive complete with secret passages and chutes. The book even covers how the world’s fair was involved in the murders.


Hey Pragmatic Statist

Thanks for the reply , and that is a fantastic idea which I may just try out. I love and appreciate maps (although I really hate GIS for other reasons). When I am reading a travelogue of one of the Penguin classics books I often find myself returning to the map illustration if there is one and trying to put things in geographical context.

Recently I was reading through some penguin classics translations of the Viking sagas and as the characters would jump around from Norway to Iceland to Sweden to the British Isles to Denmark etc. there were maps provided. But after a while I just sort of couldnt keep up with tracing all the jumping around and just read the book without following the maps.

I’ve only just started Marco Polo so I am still getting my bearings with his writing but I have read Darwins “Voyage of the beagle” and “The Malay Archipelago” by Alfred Russell Wallace , have you read Wallace? if not I highly reccomend his books which are similar in style and theme to Darwin.


I am currently reading a book called “Shapeshifting: Techniques for Global and Personal Transformation” by John Perkins. If you are looking for ways to make your life what you want it to be, read this book! John Perkins learned his techniques studying with Shamans all over the world. Amazing, life-changing stuff!


I have to admit I’m not so big on reading about serial killers and particularly those that deal with the killing of women because I find them to be one of the most sickening things.

This might come as a suprise due to my interest in the Aztecs and a lot of other violent civilizations and history but I literally find the whole Jack the Ripper thing to be just far too disturbing to even contemplate.

I guess more than the crimes themselves , what interests me is how these peoples pathologies are formed , like what makes them that way ? what is the historic setting they live in that moulded them ?

In terms of the Victorian era its interesting how the social conditions influenced the emergence of these kinds of serial killers and crime in general because society was going through monumental changes at breakneck speed.

The case you mention is pretty fascinating indeed, I think I heard about it on the Lore podcast , it was an episode called “The castle” if I’m right. What I found most terrifying was the testimony the guy gave when he was caught , it sent shivers up my spine.


There is definitely something to shamanism and animism. I guess I find spiritual beliefs that encapsulate a reverance for the natural world to be the most authentic and deeply human of all the worlds religions.

I might check that book out , and thank you for the reply !