Monday, 11 December 2017
Publisher:New York : W.W. Norton & Company, 
Characteristics: 222 pages
I really enjoyed this book and think that Dr. Tyson's explanations of astrophysics are very complete and extremely easy to understand with little math required. I'm not sure when I first became aware of Dr. Tyson's work, but I believe it was possibly during the controversy that erupted following the demotion of Pluto from a planet to a dwarf planet in 2006. I grew up in a time when we all thought that the solar system had nine planets, and now we have eight, so what? It was either that or when I saw the updated series Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey, which I feel is a great complement to the original series by the late Dr. Carl Sagan. If you haven't seen this series, I would definitely encourage you to do so, but would recommend that you watch the original first.
In any case, "Astrophysics for People in a Hurry" is a great book, and well worth the read. I've been a fan of space for many decades, but still learned a fair bit from this book which examines topics such as the Big Bang, Dark Matter, Dark Energy, and much more.
Dr. Tyson's sense of humour is quite unique, and adds to the fun of what some might think of as a rather unwieldily topic for a book that is marketed to the general public. His views on the viability of levitation are very interesting, and I would be very interested in seeing his equations on how this could be accomplished, and even more so in see an actual demonstration (but preferably not inside a closed room).
Monday, 4 December 2017
Daniel J. Boorstin (1914-2004)
Publisher:New York : Random House, 
Characteristics: xvi, 745 pages ;,24 cm
The overview of this book says that it is "An original history of man's greatest adventure: his search to discover the world around him. In the compendious history, Boorstin not only traces man's insatiable need to know, but also the obstacles to discovery and the illusion that knowledge can also put in our way. Covering time, the earth and the seas, nature and society, he gathers and analyzes stories of the man's profound quest to understand his world and the cosmos."
This book is one of three Mr. Boorstin wrote in this same vein, the others being "The Creators" and "The Seekers".I haven't read either of these yet, but they are on my list, and will be reviewed in time.
The Discoverers was a fascinating book, and even thought it took me a long time to read it (684 pages of text) it was well worth the time. I believe this book (and possibly the other two mentioned above as well) would make fantastic texts for a history or anthropology class at the University level. Granted that the majority of students might not read them, but those that did would benefit immensely from the information to be gained.
The book is separated into four major divisions Time, The Earth and the Seas, Nature, and finally Society. Within each of these are sub sections that breakdown the divisions into more manageable works. These are sub sequentially separated into chapters dealing with a specific idea.
The detail with which Mr. Boorstin was able to present this information is wonderful. An example of this from the section of Time is: "Part I: The Heavenly Empire" which deals with rudimentary astronomy and it relation to astrology and how it was connected with religion and how they all influenced various historical events.
"Part II: From Sun Time to Clock Time" traces the development of time keeping through its many phases. Including Calendars, Sun Dials, Clocks, Time Keeping at Sea which allowed for the determination of longitude, etc.
I could go on and give an overview of the entire book, but then you wouldn't have to read it, which is something you should definitely do! All in all this was a great book, and I'm looking forward to reading the next ones in the series, however I won't be reading them right away as it will take me a while to digest all the information presented in this volume.
Monday, 27 November 2017
Superfreakonomics was a delight to read, as well as being very informative. I had read Freakonomics a few years ago and found that it too was well researched and well presented (however this was before I started writing reviews on this blog). I never took any microeconomics courses while I was in university but a book like this makes me wish I had done so.
The in depth examination of the Kitty Genovese murder was very interesting to read. My first exposure to this tale was during one of my psychology course at University, and like is mentioned in Superfreakonomics it was the standard telling (accounts from the regular news media), and that was many years after the fact as I was very young when it happened. The information provided in this book however sheds new light on the subject and makes you pause and think, rather than just be abhorred by the the bystanders did (or in this case didn't do).
Two other chapters that were very thought provoking was the one on global warming and the final one about monkeys. I would definitely like to hear more about the monkeys!
One criticism I have though is that when you consider that Canada is the Northern neighbour of the United States, and that we share the longest undefended border in the world. It seems odd to not see any mention of our existence in the book, mind you this is rather typical to a certain point in pretty much all books published in America so I guess I can't fault them on that (well, not too much at least).
All-in-all a very good book worth taking a good look at, you do tend however to want to read a whole chapter at once (and they're fairly long) so brew a big pot of tea and go to it. For sake of clarity I would recommend that you only read one chapter per day (or however long it takes, as there is a lot of information to absorb), and then sit back and reflect on what you have read.
Monday, 20 November 2017
Wednesday, 15 November 2017
Publisher: [Toronto] Viking, 2017
Characteristics: 264 pages
Once again Mr. Le Carré has written a superb novel. This story once again revolves around the the actions of the Circus and George Smiley, and fills in a portion of the back story that fans have likely been curious about for many years. While Mr. Le Carré hasn't written a Smiley novel in 25 years, the same panache and expert storytelling hasn't gone away in this page turner.
If you have never read any of the George Smiley novels - "Call for the Dead" (1961); "A Murder of Quality" (1962); "The Spy Who Came in from the Cold" (1963); "The Looking Glass War" (1965); "Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy" (1974); "The Honourable Schoolboy" (1977); "Smiley's People" (1979); and "The Secret Pilgrim" (1990) - then you might want to tackle them first however this means you'll have to put off reading "A Legacy of Spies" until much later, which would be a shame. If however you want to read "A Legacy" right away then read "Tinker, Tailor Soldier, Spy" and you'll be in the groove.
While the Cold War subject matter is based of factual events and the world of George Smiley and his fellow clandestine operatives is fictional, I am in awe at the amount of research that Mr. Le Carré had to have done to make these novels seem so realistic is astounding. If on the other hand he did minimal research then it is even more amazing as this and the other novels in the series are so well crafted that they are very difficult to put down even for short breaks.
After reading this novel, I plan to go back and reread all the other George Smiley novels to refresh my memory of all the details. This will however take some considerable time. However seeing as there are likely numerous reviews of these great stories already it is unlikely that I'll review them on this blog.
I hope you enjoy this novel as much as I did!
Publisher: [Toronto] Viking, 2017
Characteristics: 264 pages
Monday, 6 November 2017
I had eagerly been awaiting the release of this book since I first heard about it on the YouTube channel Ask a Mortician which is run by Ms. Doughty as is the website The Order of the Good Death. It definitely lived up to all my expectations as it was a fantastic read and definitely gave me insight into other cultures and practises of how they treat their deceased.
Ms. Doughty wrote about eight different funerary practises in six different places, three of these were in the United States, but they were different enough from each other to make them worth including. The ones outside the United States were South Sulawesi, Indonesia; Michoacán, Mexico; Barcelona, Spain; Tokyo, Japan and La Paz, Bolivia. The three United States visits were in Crestone, Colorado; Cullowhee, North Carolina; and Joshua Tree, California. In the epilogue Ms. Doughty also treats us to a view of some of the practises in Vienna, Austria.
Despite what some may expect or want this book is not a simple travelogue designed to shock the reader into what people do with bodies in other cultures. Instead it is an insightful look into different cultural practises surrounding death, in cultures that treat death not as something to be afraid of (as it is typically in the Western World), but as something to celebrate both the life of the individual as well as the ongoing lives of the rest of the deceased's family.
It is my sincere belief that everyone should have this book (and her first as well "Smoke Gets in Your Eyes - Lessons from the Crematory) on their to-be-read list, and if it's already there move it further up on the list so you can get to it sooner rather than later. Westerners for the most part are scared of death and all it's ramifications, due primarily to in my opinion the hold organized religion has on our culture. It's about time that we started to think otherwise, as whether you like it or not you will die.
Having been trained as an anthropologist, I can see the value of this book a either one of the texts in an introductory anthropology course, or as the main one in a senior course on death acceptance and practises. As I also hold a degree in Education, I would like to see this subject taught in schools as well, however I realize this will likely never happen, after all we still have many who oppose the teaching of sex education in schools.
I do hope that Ms. Doughty will consider writing a sequel to this book, and explore even more cultures and their death practises.
Monday, 30 October 2017
Monday, 23 October 2017
Monday, 16 October 2017
Back when I first read this book (or at least portions of it), I was an undergrad student at the University of Alberta. The class I was assigned this in was a overview of classical technology. I don't remember the actual course designation anything but it was a very good course and I thoroughly enjoyed it.
At the time I did not know L. Sprague de Camp as anything other than a science-fiction writer. I was soon to find out that he worked alongside other great authors such as Robert A. Heinlein and Isaac Asimov and numerous others who also became famous science-fiction authors.
This book is an overview of the history of engineering from pretty much the very beginning until approximately the 1960s. It was written in 1960 and this therefore limited the author in what he could talk about. In some places I felt Mr. de Camp tended to skip over or at least gloss over some of the pertinent details that led to the invention being discussed but for the most part he gives a very good review of how engineering developed, the people in involved and the historical events that were occurring at that time.
The only major criticism I have of this book (which quite likely may be a minor one for many readers) is that they were nowhere near enough illustrations and other graphical forms of information to allow the reader to understand what is being explained. However, if these were included the book would need to be expanded to multiple volumes.
The book itself is organized by time period, and this does cause some confusion when speaking about certain types of inventions, as there is significant overlap in most of these sciences. I believe it might've been easier to read if the book was to be organized based on the given type of invention and proceeded from the very beginning street to the modern times.
It would be great to see a new edition of this book be published that takes up where Mr. de Camp left off, unfortunately he died in 2000 so it will have to be by someone else.
Monday, 9 October 2017
Rendezvous with Rama, is one of the classics of science fiction. For those who have not read the book it describes a first contact situation in the year 2130 when a new celestial object is discovered in the solar system heading towards the sun. It is named Rama after the Hindu god, who is the seventh avatar of Vishnu.
This object turns out to be a gigantic spaceship some 50 kilometres long and 20 kilometres in diameter. The story revolves around a brief three week investigation by "The Endeavour" commanded by William Norton which is the only ship able to reach Rama while is approaching perihelion with the sun.
The book itself is extremely well written as are virtually all of Arthur C. Clarke's works.
I first read this book many years ago, back when I believe I was in either high school or possibly even junior high. When I first read this book I enjoyed it quite a bit but don't know if I really grasped all the nuances of the story itself.
On my second reading (yes, it took me a while to get around to reading it again) I found that it is well-crafted and quite suspenseful, even though the characters themselves are a bit two-dimensional (at least in my opinion).
In today's style of writing it probably would not be considered suspenseful or adventurous as authors now-a-days tend to lean more towards battle sequences and the like whereas this story is essentially more of a traditional mystery. I'm not sure why author's today seem to intentionally neglect more thoughtful stories, but it may have something to do with the way everyone today is wired, and on-line all the time (but who really knows as I didn't take many psychology courses).
Two or three books followed this one a number of years later, and they will be reviewed at a later date, as I've not read any of them so far.
Monday, 2 October 2017
Monday, 25 September 2017
A Review of "Unmentionable The Victorian Lady's Guide to Sex, Marriage, and Manners" by Therese Oneill
Monday, 18 September 2017
Monday, 11 September 2017
Monday, 4 September 2017
Publisher: New York : Lark Books, 
Characteristics: 160 pages :,color illustrations ;,30 cm
I found this book to be fascinating. I didn't realise there was so much involved in this process, and now that I've finished it I'd really like to try my hand at making some paper. I know some people who do this as a hobby, and they produce some very high quality products, but I never realized it could be as easy as outlined in the book. I originally got interested in this when I obtained a set of construction plan for replica of the Gutenberg press, which I would also like to try building. When this feat is accomplished, what better thing to pair a manual press with, than homepade paper? I believe it would be a very good partnership, that might be desireable for someone who has just written a family history.
However in the mean time ... back to the book in question. This work goes into great detail on the history of paper, and how it was developed then deals with the characterists of different types of paper. The rest of the book gives detailed instructions on the processes and equipment required. It even has samples of the end product for you to touch so you can compare your result to what the author based his instructions on.
With a guide such as this anyone can easily make their own paper, and feel it would be an excellent project for schools to undertake.
Monday, 28 August 2017
Monday, 21 August 2017
Monday, 14 August 2017
An in depth look at the career for the science fiction author Robert Anson Heinlein, that reviews his various stories and give some insight into his personality. This book was published in 1968, and this does limit it's scope somewhat as Heinlein published a number of books after this.
I found the Mr. Panshin's critique to be extremely harsh, and got the feeling that he had a general dislike for Mr. Heinlein for some reason other than his writing. He belabours his points continuously, and while it is true that some of Heinlein's stories were rather simplistic, you have to take into account the fact that some were written for young people (primarily boys at this time in history), and were published by magazines that didn't pay very well. Whether this was a factor in the types of stories I can't say as I wasn't alive when these stories were first published, but I have read most of Mr. Heinlein's books, and found them to be quite entertaining.
Now I first started reading books by RAH when I was about 13 or so. I don't remember what it was that I read first, but all of his stories to me were fascinating. I began reading what are now considered to be his juvenile stories such as (in no particular order) Red Planet (1949), Space Cadet (1948), Tunnel in the Sky (1955), Star Beast (1954), Between Planets (1951), Revolt in 2100 (1953), etc. Some of these I read multiple times, and I still read them now and again because they are simply good stories. Methuselah's Children was one of the ones I read a little later on, and a few years later (about 1979 or so) I read Time Enough for Love (1973).
As he went on Mr. Heinlein's worldview started to show up more in his writing, which is to be expected. And this in the end influenced my worldview as well. Some of his later works were a little difficult to understand, and need to be read a couple of times to get the underlying themes, but it is time well spent. As I mentioned above Mr. Heinlein's book make you think, even his so called juvenile novels typically have a message.
What this comes down to, in my opinion, is that Mr. Panshin's critique which I can only assume he thought was well written, I can only see as a thinly disguised rebuke at both Mr. Heinlein's success, and his outlook on life in general.
Monday, 7 August 2017
Monday, 31 July 2017
Monday, 24 July 2017
Publisher:New York : W.W. Norton & Company,  Edition:First edition. Copyright Date:©2017 ISBN: 9780393609394 Cha...
I originally posted this on the Edmonton Writers' Group Blog way back in January 2012. And while a couple of members (Natasha and Simon)...
Publisher: New York : William Morrow an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers,  Edition: Tenth anniversary edition. Copyright D...