[Thanks to Ruxandra, sonic-maineboom, picklefactory, Taymon, and Emily for getting me books.]
Self-Therapy: A Step By Step Guide To Creating Wholeness And Healing Your Inner Child Using IFS, A New Cutting-Edge Therapy. About halfway through this book I was like “God, that seems familiar” and then I thought to myself “holy shit, it’s magick.” Specifically, the techniques to work with parts in IFS seem very similar to the creation and empowerment of thoughtforms/tulpas. It’s interesting to me that the same techniques seem to have been independently invented, and makes me think it’s more likely that tulpas/thoughtforms/parts are a thing brains naturally create under certain circumstances (although of course that doesn’t mean that creating one is a particularly effective therapy).
I did not complete any of the exercises in this book. A year or so ago, I read that a large number of iatrogenic multiples are borderline, and as soon as I read it I could feel the parts of my brain I’d have to rip up to become a multiple; IFS exercises felt like they were straining those parts. For that reason, I’m curious if IFS has a history of causing multiplicity. I am also somewhat concerned about the fact that all exiles (parts in pain, fear, shame, or trauma) are believed to be a product of a traumatic childhood memory. I feel like that’s a setup for false memories of abusive or merely bad parenting, as well as undue pressure on parents (“if you don’t feed your child on demand then they could grow up to have long-term psychological damage!”).
Getting Things Done. This book thinks I have much more filing to do than I actually have to do. However, I am generally in support of the “make lots of lists” strategy of time management, and am pleased about the new list ideas it has given me. I might swap over to GTD next time I get bored of my current productivity strategy. [ETA a ~month later: I swapped over to GTD and it is in fact delightfully full of lists.]
The Varieties of Scientific Experience. A treat, if only for the question-and-answer section in the back where Sagan explains to a variety of New Agey/liberal theists that it is important to believe only things that you have evidence for and that Einstein’s god was more of a metaphor. Sagan makes the universe feel deeply spiritual. The same resonance which a Christian writer gives to the Incarnation and the Redemption, Sagan gives to the size of the universe and the fragility of life. In a lot of Sagan’s writings, it feels like Sagan was a theologian for a religion that didn’t exist yet; reading a book which is actually about his opinions on religion only makes this feeling more intense. I was continually thinking of Secular Solstice as I read. Very pretty galaxy pictures.
The Ayn Rand Cult. I totally had a lot of grown up thoughts about this book, but they were entirely derailed by the LAST COUPLE PAGES in which the author outs himself as A GODDAMNED MISOGYNIST. In the last few pages, the author writes an alternate universe in which Ayn Rand had a child, which apparently makes her become a well-respected philosopher and author instead of an abusive asshole. Like, seriously? Would you pull this shit about a man? What kind of nineteenth-century dunghole did you dig this “intellectual work is all very well for the ladies as long as they remember their true role as wives and mothers, lest it tax their uterus and turn them into hysterics” shit from?
This book is very reassuring, because people keep accusing Less Wrong of being a cult and yet we don’t do half this shit. I mean, I assume if people were being excommunicated they would have gotten around to me or Topher (cw: basilisk) by now.
Empowerment and Interconnectivity. The author continually feels the need to interrupt a very interesting history of nineteenth-century utilitarian feminists with ramblings about the methodology of feminist history of philosophy. It reminds me a lot of the way that sociology books, by genre convention, must have a chapter where they talk about incorporating Foucault’s theory of blah and Butler’s theory of whatever. Apparently no one can just be interested in feminist utilitarianism or small-town abortion politics, they have to have Greater Meanings and comment on Ongoing Intellectual Discussions. The rest of the book is tremendously interesting, particularly the chapter which argues that Catherine Beecher, the founder of home economics, is actually a feminist utilitarian philosopher. I have a slight grudge against the author for criticizing Mill’s The Subjection Of Women for being written by a privileged man unaware that he isn’t a complete expert on women’s experiences, since this is totally erasing Harriet Taylor Mill’s influence on his philosophy and continuing the erasure of nineteenth-century feminist utilitarian philosophers that this was supposed to correct. I suspect I have fundamental issues with the concept of feminist philosophy, to be honest. I feel like if your metaphysics has a whole lot to say about the subordination of women you’ve probably made a wrong turn somewhere.
Hard Magic. I read this book because a later book in the series was one of the first Sad Puppies candidates for the Hugo, and I felt I ought to have an informed opinion about Mr. Correia’s work. Inevitably, this led me to compare it with John Scalzi’s Redshirts and Bujold’s Vorkosigan Saga, those being the recent Hugo winners I’ve actually read. I really don’t think Redshirts deserved its Hugo– it had a clever premise, but was not exactly well-written– but it deserves a Hugo much, much more than this book. The premise is sort of X-Men Film Noir. The worldbuilding has a couple nice details, particularly in the epigraphs at the beginning of each chapter, but mostly feels like setpieces for fighting to happen during. The villains are lazy, sloppy Yellow Peril cliches. The witty dialogue feels like the sort of dialogue I thought was witty when I was eight years old and pretending to be a superhero. The hero is characterized as smart, yet underestimated because of his gruffness and working-class background, primarily via having all the other characters talk to each other about how he’s smart yet underestimated because of his gruffness and working-class background. (No less a figure than Teddy Roosevelt is recruited for the purpose.) One really good touch is that the magic powers are used very creatively: the characters not only notice their required secondary powers, they deliberately hone them.
Awareness Through Movement. A very strange book which is under the impression that the full development of one’s personhood happens when one has excellent posture and moves gracefully and efficiently, apparently based on the logic that whatever things one does as a person they are probably all going to involve movement. Contains a lot of descriptions of various stretches, which are probably about as good for you as easy yoga, but at least the yoga gives you the opportunity to learn to do a headstand.
Language in Thought and Action. Holy shit Eliezer ripped this book off a LOT. (And did it better, IMO.)
The Expanded Dialectical Behavioral Therapy Skills Training Manual. Sort of an expansion pack for DBT. Several of the classic DBT modules have new skills and several old skills are rebranded. In addition, there are new modules: setting boundaries, figuring out that the truth lies between the two extremes, basic CBT, and building routines and structure into one’s life. For several of the skills, I would have appreciated more examples and specific guidance: telling people “you should be gentle!” is not terribly helpful unless you more clearly outline what is and isn’t gentle. I suppose that’s what therapists are for. However, some of the skills were extremely well-operationalized, particularly the Routines one, which contained many long and helpful lists of things you really should be doing on a regular basis like “talking to friends” and “watching TV shows you enjoy.”
Starship Troopers. Every woman adores a Fascist, the boot in the face, the brute brute heart of a brute like you.
(In other words: I liked it.)
Dataclysm. The first book by the author of OKTrends. I was sort of expecting more meat to it. While I appreciated the reiteration of several classic OKTrends posts (sorry, black women and women over 22), I was sort of expecting more, well, content. It definitely includes some “man, I’ve got to tell people THIS” sections, including one on the linguistics of Twitter and one on the most common words in people’s profiles by sexuality and gender, but mostly it’s just… meh.
Queer and Pleasant Danger. Kate Bornstein’s memoir about being a nice Jewish boy who grows up into a kinky genderqueer lesbian borderline by way of Scientology. Like all of Kate Bornstein’s books, it comes off as if you’re getting coffee with your cool aunt; this time, instead of giving you advice about your mental health problems or your gender, zie’s telling stories from her checkered past. The book is actually intended to be for hir children: because Kate is a suppressive person, hir children are not allowed to interact with her. Zie decided to become a famous author so that if they ever wanted to track hir down or even read about hir life they could.
The Leather Daddy and the Femme. An excellent porn novel. The protagonist is an assigned-female-at-birth femme genderqueer who passes as male well enough that she’s picked up by a leather daddy. Queer, kinky, and strangely sweet. I am now vaguely upset that my life has not included getting gangbanged by leather daddies and trans women. (Yet. Growth mindset.)