Someone once called A Brief History of Time the most popular book that nobody had finished, but in my case that wasn’t true: I was reading quite a few popular science books at the time it appeared, and there was none more popular than that, so I bought it and read it—all the way through. It was only a few years after my own peak science period, when I’d taken advanced maths and physics in grade 12 and moved on to a maths degree. (That eventually became a computer science degree, and then gave way to postgrad studies in political science, so thoroughly did I fall out with calculus and linear algebra at university—although I kept the stats going until the end).
In my undergraduate years I decided to get serious about science fiction, which I’d read and loved since childhood, and used a critical guide (David Wingrove’s Science Fiction Source Book) to identify gaps in my reading that needed filling. This must have been what steered me to The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. Le Guin, which I read at around the same time as The Female Eunuch; the combination swept away any tendency I might have had to see 1980s Australia as enjoying an acceptable state of gender relations. But it was left in the shade by The Dispossessed.
Last week’s news about The Cranberries’ Dolores O’Riordan was a shock. Bracing for the departure of the elders of rock is one thing, but forty-six is unbearably young to go.