November 20, 2009

BOOK LIST V

I've got six weeks to catch Karl Rove...I might make it, if I didn't exhaust my light reading during this batch.

50)  The Road To Serfdom  (F.A. Hayek)
The previous nine books have been largely fluff, so I decided I needed to do some mental calisthenics of my own.  I thought Capitalism and Freedom was an easier read, but this wasn't as dense as I'd been warned.  And I'm glad I read it.

49)  Everything Bad Is Good For You  (Steven Johnson)
This was an interesting book, the premise of which is that popular culture is making us smarter, not dumber.  It's the reassurance I need after watching Idiocracy!  Johnson argues that people are doing more mental calisthenics these days from playing Sim City vs playing checkers or watching complex shows like 24 compared to the old Dragnet.  He argues that our leisure time is spent following more complex forms of media, which work to make us smarter, counter to popular wisdom.

My favorite anecdote was this:

Several years ago I found myself on a family vacation with my seven-year-old nephew, and on one rainy day I decided to introduce him to the wonders of Sim City 2000, the legendary city simulator that allows you to play Robert Moses to a growing virtual metropolis.  For most of our session, I was controlling the game, pointing out landmarks as I scrolled around my little town.  I suspect I was a somewhat condescending guide--treating the virtual world as more of a model train layout than a complex system.  But he was picking up the game's inner logic nonetheless.  After about an hour of tinkering, I was concentrating on trying to revive one particularly run-down manufacturing district.  As I contemplated my options, my nephew piped up: "I think we need to lower industrial tax rates."  He said it as naturally, and as confidently, as he might have said, "I think we need to shoot the bad guy."

48)  The Apostle  (Brad Thor)
I think I might've liked this one better than The Last Patriot.  Blasphemy!  And now I'm out of Brad Thor.

47)  The Last Patriot  (Brad Thor)
Like the Da Vinci Code, but for Islam.  I think I may have built up the excitement too much over the past two years, but it was still enjoyable.

46)  The First Commandment  (Brad Thor)
I'm on my way to The Patriot, finally.  I liked this one, as usual.  A very good use of Biblical plagues...

45)  Glenn Beck's Common Sense  (Glenn Beck)
I enjoyed this book, but I am finding that right-wing nutjobbery just doesn't do the same thing for me that it used to do.  Back when I read Larry Elder or Dinesh D'Souza for the first time, I had never been exposed to writers who said the things I was thinking.  Now that I surround myself with likeminded people, these books aren't as shocking as they once were.  Still worthwhile, but they don't pack the punch they once did.

44)  Crazies to the Left of Me, Wimps to the Right  (Bernard Goldberg)
I liked Bias better, but this was a quick read and relatively entertaining.  I also read it in about a day.

43)  Never Again  (John Ashcroft)
My aunt lent me this book while I was visiting my grandparents, and I read it in a day.  I enjoyed reading about the rationale behind the PATRIOT Act and other aspects of 9/11 that I was too clueless to follow at the time.

42)  Eaters of the Dead  (Michael Crichton)
I finished the previous book on my flight out to San Diego and started this one on the way home.  It was unlike his other books, and not really my favorite, but it was OK.

41)  Sphere  (Michael Crichton)
I needed a quick book to read on the airplane, so I always reach for Crichton.  As usual, he didn't disappoint.

Previous Lists:
31-40
21-30
11-20
1-10

Posted by: Sarah at 07:49 AM | Comments (5) | Add Comment
Post contains 656 words, total size 6 kb.

1 Micheal Crichton wrote a book called Travels back in '88 that was a really good read.  Apparently I've lost my copy...  :-(

Posted by: Beth at November 20, 2009 10:25 AM (ZT9NN)

2 Are you excluding For the New Intellectual from your list because it's really only a new essay plus a lot of reprints from books you're already read? (I can't remember if you've read For the Living.)

I have not read Everything Bad Is Good for You, but if we assume its premise is correct, I must be one of the stupidest people in America, since I read zero popular fiction, have not seriously watched any TV other than V in years, have never played a video game designed after the mid-90s (and even that attempt lasted a few minutes in 1996 and was the first time I had played any video game since 1985), etc.

Seriously, I wonder, does this increased ability to deal with complexity have any sociopolitical consequences? I doubt it. Being able to follow a complex TV show makes you more ... able to follow a complex TV show. Millions of these modern media sophisticates voted for Obama, even though it does not take a genius to question his credentials.

Complexity is not intelligence. The former often entails a lot of brute force memory which may or may not be accompanied by analytical ability. Is a speaker of Sanskrit more 'intelligent' than us because his adjectives have 72 forms corresponding to a single form in English? There are perhaps a billion people who use Chinese characters, but how many of them understand how their writing system works?

I am finding that right-wing nutjobbery just doesn't do the same thing for me that it used to do.  Back when I read Larry Elder or Dinesh D'Souza for the first time, I had never been exposed to writers who said the things I was thinking.  Now that I surround myself with likeminded people, these books aren't as shocking as they once were.  Still worthwhile, but they don't pack the punch they once did.

I know what you mean. I thought Dinesh D'Souza was a big deal when I discovered him back in 1992 and I enjoyed Goldberg's Bias in 2002. But I now find most Rightist writing to be extremely boring. I pretty much know what they're going to say, and I don't need the reinforcement. But I can still be surprised ... e.g., by Lindsey Graham the other day.

Do you watch the movie adaptations of Crichton's books?

Posted by: Amritas at November 20, 2009 01:53 PM (+nV09)

3 I didn't mean my first question to sound hostile. Sorry if I came off that way.

I was too harsh when I wrote,

"There are perhaps a billion people who use Chinese characters, but how many of them understand how their writing system works?"

The vast majority of users understand the basic principles, but the structure of many characters - including the most common - is probably opaque to most users. For instance, the standard Mandarin possessive marker 的 de - the most common character of all - is composed of 白 bai 'white' + 勺 shao 'ladle'. Why? (The answer is on my blog.)

Chinese writing is like English spelling - one uses it every day without thinking too much about it: e.g., why write words with silent gh? (Hint: compare such words with their German cognates containing nonsilent ch: night with Nacht, through with durch, etc.)

"But I can still be surprised ..."

It would have been better if I had ended that sentence with an example of a surprising passage in a Rightist book instead of Graham's behavior. But I can't remember a single passage in, say, Bias - I just remember thinking, I feel like this guy!

Posted by: Amritas at November 20, 2009 03:55 PM (+nV09)

4 Sweetie (or in this trimester, sweaty may be more appropriate) did you know the movie "the 13th Warrior" is based off "Eaters?"

I could recommend a few really good history books, if you ever finish this list.  They aren't texts, per se, but they are fascinating reads.

As for light reading, I am all into John Ringo for scifi--and believe it or not, got hooked by his "The Centurion" a non-scifi but very near future yarn.  Excellent read.  David Webber is another really good read--I am starting his second book in the Armageddon's Reef series.  Horatio Hornblower meets LtCDR Data.  Fun reads, and like the old masters, based on a view of what could happen in our own society.

And for chuckle till the bed shakes and read whole passages to the Mrs. reading, I totally recommend Tim Dorsey.  His hero is a bipolar manic depressive serial killer, who uses really creative and interesting ways to kill people.  But the real gem is the dialog and the way he absolutely NAILS Florida culture and inhabitants.

Amritas, You have a golden opportunity to start a blog based on pictures of Chinese character tattoos--what they say and what their wearers think they say.  If you are ever bored, I could think up about a thousand sayings I would love translated into Chinese, Korean, whatever.  The fact that you understand the language, beyond just the mechanics, fascinates me as much as it humbles me.  I am a smart guy, but damn.  Compared to you, on a scale between Smart and Dumb, I'm just above knowing better than to eat my own boogers and yet still doing it.

Posted by: Chuck Z at November 22, 2009 12:39 AM (bMH2g)

5 Chuck Z, the Asian tattoo blog you described already exists. It's so painful to read that I only visit it about once a year. I could never write such a blog.

Posted by: Amritas at November 24, 2009 04:02 AM (ogTuw)

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