Saturday, March 26, 2016

Books I've Recently Read

Apparently Noam Chomsky is a famous writer that no major publication wants to carry because his claims of neoliberalism in America are upsetting to the big companies that buy ads that fund those publications.  After reading this book, I can understand their concern.  They surely don't want mainstream America to embrace these views because that might jeopardize their profit.  Chomsky's perspective isn't mainstream, but is reinforced by a growing cohort who think the country's become a plutocracy.  All said, the book is a bit interesting as well as a bit dry.  Confessions of an Economic Hitman is a more engaging tale of neoliberal world order loosely orchestrated by the US.

The Invention of Nature
I really enjoyed The Invention of Nature - Alexander von Humboldt's New World by Andrea Wulf.  I've been wanting to read about the adventures of Alexander von Humboldt for a very long time.  It bothered me that my American public school education contained nothing about this man, who's name is plastered all over the country.  Living before the age of scientific specialization and the adoption of standardized fields, Humboldt pursued a holistic approach to natural studies.  He tackled the interrelationships between (what are now) various fields such as geography, meteorology, biology, botany, and more.  His books describing his travel to South America, Cuba, New Spain (Mexico), and even the US, were extremely popular and were an inspiration for many future scientists and naturalists, including Charles Darwin, Ernst Haeckel, John Muir, and Henry David Thoreau.  He even influenced the life of Simon Bolivar, years before Bolivar returned to South America to become a revolutionary leader and eventual President of Venezuela, Columbia, Bolivia, and Peru.

This short book by John Scalzi was more interesting than I thought it would be.  Set in the future, The Android's Dream is the name of a genetically engineered sheep that is required for an alien coronation ceremony.  All such sheep are being hunted and killed in order to prevent the coronation.  The last living thing with this sheep's DNA must be protected in order to prevent the alien race from starting a war with Earth.  A war we would lose.  The story is fast-paced and a bit complicated.  I enjoyed Scalzi's book Redshirts more, but I don't regret listening to this one.  Like Redshirts, The Android's Dream audiobook is read by Wil Wheaton.

This is a very interesting book that reads like a soap opera or a fictional movie as it jumps from character to character around the secret events of the atomic bomb development in the US.  It's all true though.  It's not a rigorous or comprehensive account of the bomb's development.  Instead, the book focuses on the involvement of a few people, some of whom I've never heard of.  I knew this going in, so I wasn't disappointed.  I enjoyed the book.  It was perfect entertainment as I listened to it while driving to Utah.

What can I say?  I like the Covert-One series of espionage thrillers and their protagonist: Colonel John Smith, MD.  Smith is an American James Bond like character, but with more intellect and less womanizing.  Some of the Covert-One novels are better written than others.  For example, I liked The Patriot Attack more than The Paris Option.  I listen to these audiobooks on long drives.  They're a great way to stay alert and fend-off the hypnotizing highway lane markers.

These books are currently in my queue: The Name of the Wind, The Three Body Problem, Foolproof: How Safety Can Be Dangerous and How Danger Makes Us Safe, Capital in the Twenty-First Century (Picketty's famous new book), and The Virtue of Selfishness (an old one by Ayn Rand).  That last one is a maybe.

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