Books

For the purpose of cultural enrichment and personal development:

  • Unseen City: The Majesty of Pigeons, the Discreet Charm of Snails & Other Wonders of the Urban Wilderness

  • Structures: Or Why Things Don’t Fall Down
  • Command and Control: Nuclear Weapons, the Damascus Accident, and the Illusion of Safety

    • The book is really a history of nuclear weapons, from the US side. The idea started with that missile accident in Damascus. But the author goes into all the glory details about the development of nuclear weapons, control of them in the government, and all sorts of accidents that involved them. It is ruther surprising that no nukes have accidentally exploded in the last 60 years. I liked to learn about all the technical details of those weapons.
    • There is a documentary on PBS American Experience about this accident.
  • Poison: Sinister Species with Deadly Consequences (American Museum of Natural History)
    • It was moderately interesting. The book serves more as an introduction to probe further rather than some comprehensive source like this one.
    • Some of the author’s language looks like he was trying too hard to be funny but didn’t succeed.
  • The Innovator’s Dilemma: The Revolutionary Book That Will Change the Way You Do Business
    • To put it simply – I wish I’ve read this book 10 years ago.
    • The author explains, with many examples and research data, how the disruptive technology does or doesn’t work. He shows that often it isn’t known in advance what a particular new technology can do, who will use it, or even for what application.
  • Is God a Mathematician?
    • A very interesting exploration on the nature of mathematics. In fact most of the book is actually spent talking about the history of science and scientific thinking. This history showed how the humanity slowly started understanding that the mathematics is not necessarily describing the world around, but it could also describe something else, or the side of the world we can’t yet see.
    • In the end the book doesn’t answer its title question. I think the final point that the author makes is that we could never answer this question, but pondering it enlarges our minds.
  • The Forest Unseen: A Year’s Watch in Nature
    • Excellent book describing how nature (a small patch of old growth forest in Georgia in this case) works. The author was consistently checking this patch of forest through one year over the seasons. It had a lot of very interesting facts about natural world (like how trees survive freezing winters or how many genders mushrooms have). But sometimes I had to look up how things look like to understand them.
  • The Foundation Series – Finally finished all the 6 books.
    • Interesting, inspiring, lively reading. However, the latest three books lack the laconism of the first three – Violence is the last resort of the incompetent. They read more like Danielle Steel than Arthur Clarke. Soap operas. The last three can be safely skipped without much loss.
  • Rendezvous with Rama by Arthur C. Clarke.
    • I picked up this book on a whim in Sunnyvale Public Library before flying to Korea. And what a nice book it was. The main idea is that there is some sort of alien craft passing through the solar system. It actually looks more like an arc – huge rotating hollow cylinder. So the people dispatch a spacecraft to study this Rama. It is interesting how the author really well describes all the physics related to Rama – the Coriolis force, the environmental differences, effects, etc. So, people try to observe and understand what is going on, but Rama just goes about its busyness pretty much ignoring them. Eventually … well, you should read it.
    • There are actually more books about Rama. Perhaps I should give them a try. However, usually they are not as good as the original. Well, after reading some of the reviews, I think I will postpone reading the sequels for now.
    • There is a very good rendering of potential RAMA world at this web site, with a movie version also.
  • Childhood’s End by Arthur C. Clarke.
    • Well, I was quite inspired by the awesomeness of the Rama book. As a result, I decided to give a try to another Clarke’s Sci-Fi creation.
    • This book has a bit grander scale. It describes the transmutation of the entire humanity, which is a bit more difficult to make well (as opposed to a simple alien ship). The idea is interesting (I don’t want to describe it here in order not to spoil the fun for some prospective reader). However, for some reason the book feels more like a curious Sci-Fi fantasy rather than a serious thinking work.
  • The Fountains of Paradise by Arthur C. Clarke.
    • Very well written science fiction novel. Well in terms of the technical details.  All the technological and scientific details that can be written are described in great details. In these terms this is one of the best science fiction that I’ve ever read.
    • However, the rest of the novel is rather boring. There are many subplots, different routs sometimes going nowhere with no clear purpose of their belonging in this novel in the first place.
  • Brave New World by Aldous Huxley.
    • As the reading progresses the book kind of jumps around a lot. The story line seems like a Simpsons’ episode with one plot line flowing into another.
    • The ideas are from the era of 1984 – all of that grand all society systems that guide all humans. Interesting, but largely already not very feasible. However, the technology is probably different, but the same ideas can still arise, using some other means.
  • Babylon Babies by Maurice G. Dantec.
    • Decent science fiction with a rather complex multicharacter plot. It loosely follows that sad of a movie Babylon AD with Vin Diesel. Or rather the movies follows the book.
    • I liked how the author described the characters and all different technical situations. None of that magic nonsense that sometimes comes in science fiction. Everything is pretty logical.
  • Alaska on Foot: Wilderness Techniques for the Far North (Hiking & Climbing)
    • I bought this book as a preparation to thus far not happened trip to the Gates of the Arctic NP.
    • It has a lot of useful notes and information on how to travel in the far north. Food, equipment, terrain, mapping, etc.
    • So far the best book I found in this subject.
  • Siddhartha by Hermann Hesse.
    • To be honest I still don’t fully understand this book. The book is also very short. It says it is a novel, but seems like a short story.
    • It talks about Siddhartha – a Buddha like person – who was trying to find enlightenment. Did he find it? In a way.
  • The Yiddish Policeman’s Union by Michael Chabon.
    • I picked this book simply because the original plot sounded very interesting – Jews were resettled in Alaska territory (it wasn’t a state yet) when the state of Israel was destroyed by the first wave of attacks.
    • This book really pushed my knowledge of English. Chabon used so many words that I had to keep a dictionary handy while reading it.
    • The plot is interesting and made for a lively reading. You don’t have struggle through this book – it unrolls easy. It was kind of funny to see all that Jewish shtetl life applied in Alaska. Same things as they were in East Europe.
  • Superorganism: The Beauty, Elegance, and Strangeness of Insect Societies.
  • Into Thin Air
  • The Public Domain.
  • The Trouble With Testosterone: And Other Essays On The Biology Of The Human Predicament.
  • The Fountainhead.
  • A Thousand Years of Good Prayers: Stories.
  • The Dominant Animal: Human Evolution and the Environment.
  • The Drunkard’s Walk: How Randomness Rules Our Lives.
  • The Food of a Younger Land: A Portrait of American Food–Before the National Highway System, Before Chain Restaurants, and Before Frozen Food, When the Nation’s Food Was Seasonal.


Libraries:

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s