Category Archives: Books

Books

The last few years had been pretty light on reading for me. I’ve been trying to change that. I can’t say I’m catching up on my to-read list very well since I keep adding books, but I have read a bunch of books – mostly listened to them – over the last year or so. Here are the ones I remember.

The Origin of Species – Charles Darwin (audio). Turns out to be a pretty darned good book. It’s written for the layperson, so like most science books I read, it left me wanting more detail. And like those other science books, it’s not that the detail doesn’t exist. Thinking that is a huge mistake. This stuff is totally cool, and reinforces my amazement with the workings of the world and the universe. (Not to go into it here, but discovering how things actually work is so much more rewarding than having unfounded faith in made-up stories from thousands of years before humans had tools to make these discoveries. It boggles my mind, and saddens me, that so many others don’t experience this wonderment.) If people are interested, and want to read a real book, I suggest you get a copy with lots of pictures and annotations. I can’t recommend one, but having pictures of all the things Darwin describes would probably add much to the book.

So why did I list this book first? Not because of a (not so) hidden agenda of promoting science. I simply finished listening to the book yesterday.

Foundation Trilogy – Isaac Asimov (audio). I re-read this after probably 20 years. Definitely felt dated, but after the first book I really started to get into it again.

The Art of War – Sun Tzu. What complete crap. I simply don’t understand why people think this is so good. If you use it as a model of modern capitalism, it simply encourages you to cheat and lie. Jeepers.

The Ascent of Money – Neil Ferguson (audio). A rather dry, but easy to listen to description of how modern markets evolved. I’m not sure I could have finished this if I was reading instead of listening. I was hoping it would talk more about the structure of modern markets, but it mostly just dealt with history.

Confessions of an Economic Hit Man – John Perkins (audio). One of the more interesting books I’ve read. I rather chilling detail of what really goes on. And yeah, I believe it. Of course, saying I believe it doesn’t mean that I think it’s a complete picture of the world. Far from it. But I do believe there’s a huge amount of disgusting and immoral enslavement (for lack of a better term) that the US and its largest corporations are inflicting on the world.

Don’t Be Such a Scientist – Randy Olsen. Good stuff. Talks about using emotion and not worrying about being so damned precise when communicating to the general public. Inspired by his work with filmmaking after being a tenured professor.

The God Delusion – Richard Dawkins. Not sure this book needs much description. Dawkins is right-on, though I wish he had discussed how and why humans are so good at self-deception.

Fahrenheit 451 – Ray Bradbury (audio). I certainly knew the story, but couldn’t remember if I ever read it or not. Very good stuff. Book burning is bad. Period. 🙂

iWoz – Steve Wozniak and Gina Smith (audio). Apparently, this Woz guy was kinda smart. Though he comes off as well-aware of this, he also comes off as a really good person. It was fun reading every now and then about some of my friends.

A Man Without a Country – Kurt Vonnegut (audio). Hmm, this guy sounds kinda liberal, with some very similar views to my own.

The Mote in God’s Eye – Larry Niven & Jerry Pournelle (audio). An excellent Sci-Fi read. (“God’s Eye” is a nebula (I think), and “The Mote” is a star in it.) The book deals with the first contact with an alien race and with over-population.

How To Brew – John Palmer. My first book on homebrewing. Very detailed, but not as good an introduction as the next book. Just gives too much information for a first-time brewer.

The Complete Joy of Homebrewing – Charlie Papazian. Probably the best introductory text on brewing beer. Easy to read, and very informative. I read the Kindle version, which has all the tables formatted horribly. Buy the paper version.

Physics for Future Presidents – Richard Muller. It would be nice if some presidential candidates actually read this book. It’s at a very simple level, but I expect still beyond many of them. We should never elect (or even seriously consider) a candidate who couldn’t understand this stuff.

Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk – David Sedaris (audio). Not his best book, though a couple of the stories had me laughing out loud.

The 4 Percent Universe – Richard Panek (audio). A simple history of the discovery of dark matter and dark energy. Very interesting coverage of the two rival supernova discovery teams. I remember the competition going on, but this goes into lots more detail. Made for an interesting tale.

It’s a lot easier to get reading done when driving in the car (by listening). Reading at 2x speed has worked out really well for me. I now often skip the podcasts I’ve been listening to for the last five years in favor of books.