What are we reading?

I’ve had some free time lately, so I’ve been using it to catch up on all sorts of reading. I thought it might be fun if we could all chime in with our impressions on books we’ve recently read, so maybe we can all see a few that interest us. Please throw up a comment if you have one– the site is “supported by viewers like you.” ™
Today I’m finishing up Mutants: On Genetic Variety and the Human Body, by Armand Marie Leroi. It’s a fascinating mix of historical cases of human mutation and deformity mixed with excellent developemental biology and genetics. At first, I thought it would be “pop science”, and it is written with a very conversational tone, but it doesn’t skimp on the science– I wouldn’t reccommend it to anyone who hasn’t taken at least an introductory MCDB-type course.
I also recently read Skinny Legs and All, by Tom Robbins. If you’ve never read Tom Robbins, you should check him out- irreverent, satirical, and often nostalgic of a drug-trip, his works are hilarious and insightful takes on the weird modern world we live in. “Skinny Legs…” is (at least mostly) about a Jew and an Arab who open up a restaurant across the street from the united Nations building in New York. Good stuff for these politically charged times.
One last recent read from me: The Cartoon Guide to Physics, by Larry Gonick. Gonick is a genius with presenting issues in a funny way that really cuts through layers of complication to get to the importance beneath. This book of his is no different. Honestly, his discussions of both Momentum and Virtual Particles resolved long-term confusions that I’ve had. If you feel like sometimes you missed the “why does this matter?” in physics, this book is great.

So.. what is everyone else reading?

7 Responses to “What are we reading?”

I’m reading tea leaves.

Okay, not really.
Right now I’m reading a collection of Ambrose Bierce ghost and horror stories. It’s nifty stuff, though somewhat sedate.
Also reading Life of Pi (thanks, Megan!) Just started it, though.
Last read one of the Patrick O’Brien “Jack Aubrey” books. Nifty swashbuckling goodness.

Owen - September 3rd, 2004 at 11:14 am

I just had a book club meeting about “The Diaries of Adam and Eve” by Mark Twain. It was very good, though a bit unlike Twain. The premise is that he discovered the diaries of Adam and Eve and translated them. It’s basically about their relationship, but it does have some funny parts Eden, Eve’s pet Brontosaurus, and how Adam just wishes she’d shut up . . . eventually, they make a cute couple. 🙂

I’m also in the middle of “The Satanic Verses” by Salman Rushdie. It’s this crazy tale about two Indian men who fall out of a plane that was destroyed by highjackers. One begins to take on characteristics of a demon, the other an angel. This is, of course, after they survive this absurdly long fall. Rushdie is very smart, witty, and has loads of commentary on Indian society . . . it’s no wonder he was expatriated.

ShortSpeedFreak - September 4th, 2004 at 3:55 pm

Not so much expatriated as the Ayatollah Khomeini put the mark of death upon him.

Owen - September 4th, 2004 at 5:55 pm

I’m actually reading two books now. First is Marcus Aurelius’ Meditations, but that’s not real good for when I have a long time to sit and try reading, so I just keep it in my backpack to read on the train into the city. I’m also reading parts of a scifi trilogy by Sean McMullen, though at least the first two could probably stand alone. It takes place about 2000 years in the future after nuclear war pretty much wiped out civilization except in small pockets. Some satilites still function that zap electronics and large fastmoving machines, limiting the types of technology that can be developed. There also something called the Call that causes any mammals larger than a small dog to become unconscious and start walking towards the ocean.

The first book called Souls in the Great Machine takes place in Australia where the religions have coped with the satilites by prohibiting all steam engines, instead wind, animals or pedals power most things. A lot of stuff goes on in the book, but the main idea is the creation of a supercomputer with slaves and kidnapped mathamaticians acting as componants to do calculations.

The second book, the Miocene arrow, moves to western America (not as random as it seems if you read the first book). Here they’ve figured out the restrictions on size and speed that allow some forms of reasonably modern transport. It’s developed into a feudal society where only the nobles have access to airplanes. Instead of war there are only air duels between nobles. The book takes place as one noblemen becomes supported by a group of Australians that are immune to the Call. With their help he starts a “unchivalrous war”.

These are very cool books since they seem to develop their world in complex ways. There’s a lot of complex things going on that I’ve left out, but are probably the most interesting parts of the book.

mcmillan - September 6th, 2004 at 7:36 am

At the risk of sounding uninformed (which I probably am), what is Meditations about?

ShortSpeedFreak - September 6th, 2004 at 11:51 am

Well, you know. It’s like when the Iraqis say “freedom fighters” and we say “insurgents” or “terrorists” or “evil, God-hating, West-hating, Democracy-hating, Bush’s-daddy-hating, Freedom-hating assholes with guns who won’t accept our Christian doctrines.”

Of course, maybe I have the definitions of my politically correct terms all messed up. 🙂

ShortSpeedFreak - September 6th, 2004 at 12:39 am

Meditations is basically Marcus Aurelieus’ journal that he wrote his random philosophical thoughts down in. That’s the reason I said it’s hard to read for a long time, there isn’t really and coherence over more than a couple paragraphs, and sometimes as little as a sentence. But it’s also pretty interesting to see the personal thoughts of a philosopher and Roman emperor. He was a stoic, so it’s a lot of comments about how he shouldn’t let things get to him. He believes that everything that goes on has a purpose to benefit the “universal nature” so nothing could really be said to be bad. I kind of like the view that we are all connected, with everthing being a componant of this nature.

mcmillan - September 7th, 2004 at 6:02 am

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