Thursday, December 3, 2009

What's That You're Reading??

I realized it's been a while since I shared what I had been reading, what was good, and what wasn't so good.  I have been doing a fair amount of reading despite being pretty busy.

What I've read so far:

Predictably Irrational: The Hidden Forces That Shape Our Decisions - This was a fantastic read about why people do silly things.  It's a discussion, reinforced by a series of fascinating and simple experiments, about how the human mind is wired to do things that just plain don't make sense.  What makes this one really good is Dan Ariely's easygoing writing style and the fact that the experiments were so well explained.  It was a really quick read, spanning only about 5 train rides, but it's the kind of book you could easily go back to a few times and get something out of it again and again.

Sway: The Irresistible Pull of Irrational Behavior - I liked Predictably Irrational so much that I went ahead and bought this one.  This is along the same lines as Predictably Irrational, and in fact cites that book a few times.  It's even shorter and a quicker read than Predictably Irrational, but takes a bit different tack on irrational behavior, by describing a real-life situation, then illustrating the forces that drive the irrational behavior using experiment results.  I especially liked the section describing people who are 'initiators, blockers, and observers', which I'll talk about more in another forthcoming post.

Fooled by Randomness: The Hidden Role of Chance in Life and in the Markets - Don't read this book.  The ideas in it are fine.  Randomness is all around us, and anyone who thinks they can take on the gravity of randomness is a fool, and will be ruined.  Good premise I suppose.  Unfortunately the author spends roughly 200 pages of the book describing how smart he is compared to the rest of the world, and how everyone else is a buffoon who just doesn't get it.  Right or wrong, man is he ever pompous, and it poisons what could be a pretty insightful book.

The Day of Battle: The War in Sicily and Italy, 1943-1944 (Liberation Trilogy) - I finally finished this tome about the Allied campaign in Italy in WW2.  Good gracious, if you read this book, you will be taken aback by some of the horrors of low-tech warfare.  It's amazing that people had to go through some of the things that were forced upon these soldiers by ambitious officers and politicians, and it's AMAZING that the Allies won with all the blunders they committed during this war.  It is a true testament to the courage and grit of the Allies that they could overcome this.  This is a really well-written and well-researched book, with much of the narrative coming through letters and diary entries from enlisted men up to General Patton himself.  Fascinating book.  I recommend it highly to any of my fellow history buffs!

Long Tail, The, Revised and Updated Edition: Why the Future of Business is Selling Less of More - This is an interesting book by the editor of Wired about how the Internet and e-commerce have changed the way people buy and sell things.  I was expecting something earth shattering, but I think the ideas in the book have been out there for so long that I kind of felt like I had already read the book.  Good, quick read, nonetheless.

Sherlock Holmes : The Complete Novels and Stories (Bantam Classic) Volume I - Ah, I can reread these over and over again and never get tired of them.  Anyone who hasn't read these should, and probably won't help but enjoy them.

1434: The Year a Magnificent Chinese Fleet Sailed to Italy and Ignited the Renaissance (P.S.) - This is the 'sequel' to 1421, which I talked about a while back.  The premise here, building upon the idea that the Chinese fleet led by the great Admiral Zheng He sailed around the world, is that the Chinese made visits to Venice and Florence in 1434, passing on great quantities of information that helped to spur the Renaissance.  There are endless references to ideas that European thinkers of the time passed off as their own, but are obviously based on something from China that had been invented decades if not centuries before the Europeans did it.  This book is not written as well as 1421, but was full of thought-provoking stuff.  It came across as more of a transcription of a bunch of notes rather than a well-written book.

What I am reading right now:

The Map That Changed the World: William Smith and the Birth of Modern Geology (P.S.) - A book by the author of 'The Professor and the Madman', this is a book about the life and times of the man behind the modern science of geology. So far so good.

The Whiskey Rebels: A Novel (Random House Reader's Circle) - I have already read David Liss' other three historical fiction works, and loved each of them. This one moved away from his previous books, which centered around European Jews, and is set against the backdrop of early America the Whiskey Rebellion. It's excellent so far, and I enjoy the way it's written, trading chapters between the two main characters in the book, whose circumstances bring them closer to an intersection.

Eating in the Dark: America's Experiment with Genetically Engineered Food - This is a so-far reasonably interesting book about the way that genetically engineered food made a sly entrance into our lives and onto the shelves of our grocery stores. There is no denying the bias of the author, but she manages to include some arguments from both sides in this slightly frightening book.

What's in the queue:

All the Pretty Horses (The Border Trilogy, Book 1) - If I like this one as much as 'The Road', then I'll be a happy camper.

An Army at Dawn: The War in North Africa, 1942-1943, Volume One of the Liberation Trilogy - I liked the book about Italy so much I bought the prequel to it.

blog comments powered by Disqus