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Saturday, 13 November 2010

mo'vember books of the month

Some notes (mostly cut 'n paste) on some books and some other stuff.

Richard Feynman: A life in science, by Mary and John Gribbin, is a book about one of the important physicists of the 20th century. Feynman himself wrote or related stories about his personal experiences and adventures in the humorous auto-biographical books Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman! and What Do You Care What Other People Think? (with Ralph Leighton). This biography by the Gribbins is an excellent companion book to the other two, capturing Feynman's life and also discusses some of his physics.

Paul Krugman. The conscience of a liberal. A brilliant history of the rise and fall of middle class America.

In Deer Hunting with Jesus: Dispatches from America’s Class War, Joe Bageant offers an enlightening, humorous, sad, and often scary look at the rural white working class. The key difference between Bageant and “his people” is that he left and got an education. Access to quality education apparently liberalizes society. Indeed knowledge liberates the mind.


A life in letters. George Orwell, despite his commitment to intellectual honesty, was a habitual self-mythologist. This is a choice volume for readers wanting a vivid self-portrait of the man behind Nineteen Eighty-Four, Animal farm and other classics.

James Hansen Storms of My Grandchildren This is a whistle-blower's account, of how political systems are so willfully and deliberately blind to environmental realities that we have now no choice but to take direct physical action against the polluters. Hansen explains the basic science that the burning of oil and coal is emitting so many warming gases into the atmosphere that we are now at the point of triggering a series of catastrophes we won't be able to stop. He has advised that if the leaders weren't going to act:
"they should spend a small amount of time composing a letter to be left for future generations. The letter should explain that the leaders realized their failure would cause our descendants to inherit a planet with a warming ocean, disintegrating ice sheets, rising sea level, increasing climate extremes, and vanishing species, but it would have been too much trouble to oppose business interests who insisted on burning every last bit of fossil fuels. By composing this letter, the leaders will at least achieve an accurate view of their place in history."

Editors James Gleick and Jesse Cohen have selected 19 choice eclectic pieces for The Best American Science Writing 2000, resulting in this engrossing enjoyable volume with something for nearly every reader. The scope of topics is broad: a stellar collection of accessible scientific papers, science-related essays and prose about evolutionary biology, medicine, paleoanthropology, particle physics and more.  


Kasey Chambers Poppa Bill and the Little Hillbillies is an album made up of 16 of family friendly songs recorded by Kasey and Bill Chambers and the Chambers family.

Valleys of Neptune — a collection of more-or-less previously unreleased tracks recorded with the Jimi Hendrix Experience in 1969.

Bryan Ferry. Dylanesque. There is nothing here to rave about or as potent as his 1973 cover of "A Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall." Ferry’s choice of the usual covers rather than the less obvious cuts is the main gripe here, but this just highlights once again Dylan's class-above-the-rest as a songwriter.

 Jamie Buchanan. As Easy as Pi. In this book you’ll find what makes "seventh heaven" and "cloud nine" so blissful and the number 13 so unlucky. Or why "fourth-dimensional" thinking is really out of this world.

 John Brockman (ed). This will change everything. "What game-changing scientific ideas and developments do you expect to live to see?" This is the question John Brockman, publisher of Edge.org, posed to more than 100 of the world's most influential minds. Read the thoughts of: Ian McEwan, Frank Wilczek, Brian Eno, Alan Alda, Jared Diamond, Richard Dawkins, Lisa Randall, etal.

The economist. Style guide. This new edition of the best-selling guide to style is based on "The Economist"'s updated house style manual, and is an invaluable companion for everyone who wants to communicate with clarity, style and precision.

Philip Roth's latest book, The Humbling, is his third in as many years and he apparently has already completed another. Defying the concept of retirement, Roth is speeding up instead of slowing down with age.

Lustbader. Ludlum’s the Bourne objective.

Mungo MacCallum. Quarterly essay - In Australian Story, Mungo MacCallum investigates the political success of Kevin Rudd. The book argues that Rudd overlooked the concerns of Australia’s very fickle swing voters, that his predecessor Howard chose to ignore in his final term. To their regret, the conservatives kept Howard as PM for too long, but alas for Rudd, Labor panicked and subsequently chose Julia Gillard to lead them into the next election.

David Marr. Quarterly essay - Power Trip shows the making of Kevin Rudd, prime minister. In Rudd’s formative years in governance, Marr found recurring patterns: a tendency to chaos, a mania for control and a strange mix of heady ambition and retreat. Marr sought to discover what makes an extraordinarily driven man tick, and duly finds that what led to Rudd’s rise also causes his subsequent swift fall.

Backstage Politics. Phillip Adams has been close to governments of various persuasions for over fifty years and has built up an unparalleled collection of anecdotes about Australian political and cultural leaders. Backstage Politics is a funny, insightful and revealing journey through the Australian political landscape.

Tim Flannery is a distinguished biologist, environmentalist and global warming activist. He has made significant contributions to our understanding of the unique biota of Australia and New Zealand. This is a very good book exploring evolution and sustainability. Here on Earth is not just a dazzling account of life on our planet; it will change the way you live. Jared Diamond and Bill Bryson (among others) endorsed this book.

In An Explorer's Notebook is a selection of essays and articles written over a period of twenty-five years. Tim Flannery, the Australian of the Year (2007), writes about the challenges of the climate crisis that is now upon us. This traces his evolution from the young scientist doing fieldwork in remote locations to the major thinker about climate and global warming.

Alistair Wisker. TS Eliot a beginner’s guide. The Complete Poems and Plays of TS Eliot.

Sean Wilentz. The age of Reagan. Strange that Wilentz, a professor of history at Princeton University, would write about Ronald Reagan as the historic alpha dog of postmodern American politics. In 1998, Wilentz testified that the impeachment of Bill Clinton was an abomination. He also endorsed Al Gore in 2000 and Hillary Clinton in 2008.

The Rise of American Democracy: Jefferson to Lincoln. Sean Wilentz traces the checkered history of American democracy from the Revolution to the Civil War.

I enjoy reading Wilentz's writings on music and shorter articles and columns, more than his books on history, but i can't wait to read his latest book (on Bob Dylan).