What I Talk About When I Talk About Running — Haruki Murakami
I was surprised that this book is as much about writing as it was about running. I guess that can be expected from a writer but there are some surprising gems and insights about writing in here that readers not interested in running might miss.
I Loved and was also incredulous at the description of the moment Haruki Murakami decided to be a novelist. I love that he remembers this in great detail. And also how irreverent it is. Also the fact that in japan writers are considered somewhat degenerate or depraved and being a writer is part of an unhealthy lifestyle.
Also loved his description on how to keep at it as a novelist (and also a runner), based on his experience of running a night club. Basically, he realized, you only need to satisfy 1 out of 10 customers, and keep at it. That’s it. You grow your satisfied customer base, your avid readers, repeat customers that way. Slow and steady and stay the course of what you’re doing – whatever your unique brand is – and nevermind the naysayers or the other 9 people. refreshing.
Humble Pi — Matt Parker
“WHEN MATH GOES WRONG IN THE REAL WORLD”
We all make math mistakes. Sometimes people die because of them. Matt himself tried not to put too many of those examples in this book, instead we get an amusing compendium of errors that illuminates how we are wired to make math mistakes.
Matt is also the owner of an entertaining math themed youtube channel and be sure to check out his live math show if/when he tours again.
p.s. counting pages backwards is a stroke of genius! I kinda wish all books did this from now on.
Best Non-Digital Digi-Art Coolness
Mumbai-New York-Scranton — Tamara Shopsin
From the cover to the inside back cover photo, to the weight of the paper, to the choice of font to the margins on the pages to the color of the cover ALL transported me back to the 70’s or perhaps the late 80’s when I was reading tattered library books from the decade before.
Only the occasional mention of blogging on the inside made me realize I was in fact reading a modern book. It didn’t help that traveling through India, at least according to this account is a bit like being in the past, so the subject matter throughout the first half of the book just kept the confusion going. But what a wonderful incongruous journal and journey it is!
Short snippets and snapshots, observations and glimpses, each mirrored by the style of the included square format photos. You are thrust into a travel journal encompassing the wondrously incomprehensible india. This is a rich and wonderful tapestry of sights and sounds but slowly you realize what you are really experiencing is a beautiful private shared moments glimpse into an amazing relationship.
Before you know it we are (back) in New York – just as crazy in it’s own right, and just as accurately relayed in tiny glimpses, from there we even make down to Scranton. But with each page turn, unbeknownst to you an alternate tension slowly builds, just under the surface the water is shifting, slowly building into a roaring waterfall. You don’t realize it but all of a sudden you are in a different book. Still told in observational snippets accompanied by the witty and funny photos, but all of sudden you are watching and rooting for someone who is fighting for their life.
Overall a wonderful wonderful journey I would heartily recommend for any adventurous souls who appreciates the details (probably an introvert).
The Bonobo and the Atheist — Frans de Waal
Wow, what an interesting read. Even if you don’t agree with the many, many ideas brought forth in Frans de Waal’s central argument, or if you’re a staunch anti-atheist or hate bonobos, there is no denying there is a lot to chew on in the pages of this book.
There are some really, really interesting theories put forth about the origins of morality and how, contrary to popular belief, perhaps they do have a basis in biology.
Certainly de Waal’s work with bonobos, and other scientists with other animals like elephants, but even rats, helps support his claims.
If there is one criticism it would be De Waal’s obsession with Hieronymus Bosch’s The Garden of Earthly Delights, I mean I think it was meant to be an interesting jumping off point, but mostly it felt like a huge distraction, especially since no full reproduction is included only bits even though many other parts of the painting are discussed. What does a 15th century painting have to do with Bonobos and Atheism? to be honest I don’t remember anymore.
Yo Miss – Lisa Wilde
Yet another graphic novel, but I love them. Usually if the drawing style doesn’t jive with me I have to put the graphic novel down, I just can’t deal with it, it’s a very important part of a graphic novel for me.
Things were different here, I was in danger of putting Yo Miss down, but the story just won me over. I couldn’t put it down. Fairly standard fare about a school full of kids, a second chance school for inner city kids, but the story is so full of heart and you grow to like the teacher (Lisa Wilde / Author) and the kids are so endearing (reflects I’m sure, the teachers love for her students) that you just keep turning the pages.
Lucy Knisley (Nice-ly) is my new favorite Graphic Novelist. I had the pleasure of reading through three of her books.
Age of License was the first book I read. It was a pretty good read. I enjoyed the subject matter — travel. But I didn’t fully connect fully with the book or its drawing style for some reason despite the fact that I usually love travel books. My favorite part was when she visits Angoulême famed for its own love of comics and their authors because I would probably share Lucy’s excitement in being there.
Displacement I read this book next. I liked it even better. Lucy goes on a cruise (which can be trying in the best of times! see DFW’s take on it) but she takes things to a whole other level by going on this adventure with her very geriatric grandparents. Hilarity, well more like poignant resignation and frustration ensues! My favorite part however were the flashbacks to her grandfather’s wartime journal entries ( I could read a whole illustrated graphic novel of just her grandpa’s experiences! hint hint)
Relish This was the last one I read and it was by far my favorite, perhaps it was the subject matter. Being a foodie myself, I could really appreciate another foodie’s journey through life plus the book is littered with detailed cutely illustrated recipes throughout. This one really hit it home for me – a coming of age story, a foodie romp through farm to table, city life AND country living, awesome recipes and a lightness throughout but once again grounded by its poignancy of family life and a life lived.
Geek Sublime – Virkam Chandra
This book is hard to pin down, and because of that it suffers a bit. It would seem that not a lot of readers possess the unique qualities and experiences that form the foundation of the theories touched upon in this book. Authors (of Novels), authors (of code) a.k.a. programmers, and people with a deep historical knowledge of indian culture and mythology.
The author possesses all three in spades, he is an indian novelist who coded on the side to make ends meet. He is very smart and seems a good novelist and probably coder too. His writing is eloquent enough to cover all three of the seemingly disparate topics, he makes a case that perhaps they are not so disparate after all — but it still seems despite the authors best efforts that there isn’t an audience for this all encompassing thesis.
Still I applaud the effort – there are some gems in there – even if for me it didn’t quite come together, and it seemed to be in need of some editing (by an outside editor, is this self-published?) in the middle to rein it all in a bit. I hope the author found some peace in putting his thoughts and theories to paper, and I appreciate him letting us in on the workings of the mind which can get messy with flashes of brilliance.
P.S. I also suspect as it did me that the title can mislead, even though the book is non-fiction the title is applied more like a work of fiction – meaning the poetic lyricism is more important than the literal meaning and I suspect geek is such a loaded/coded word right now that readers might be doubly surprised by the literary tone on the inside.
Through the Language Glass – Guy Deutscher
Wow this book goes there and back. Apparently the premise that language shapes your thinking, worldview, possibilities is quite widespread, quite old and apparently utterly untrue.
At least that is what Guy Deutscher would have you believe towards the beginning of the book but by the end he comes full-circle and acknowledges that indeed it can color your thinking – it just doesn’t limit your thinking like some cultural theorists would have you believe in the 17 and 1800’s, they would use it support their “theories” about “less evolved” cultures and things like that.
The book starts out with the bizarre color associations in Homer’s Odyssey and Illiad what with his wine-colored sheep and green colored eyebrows. What to make of that? And it ends with an interesting language and culture of the Guugu Yimithirr which does not have “egocentric” coordinate concepts such as Left or Right, instead it only uses “geographic” coordinates so that speakers must always be aware of North and South no matter if they are in a room without windows or jumping out of a sinking boat in shark infested waters – they will always know which cardinal direction they swam to escape and their children always know which direction the tv was facing because Punch might have been to the West of Judy.
For someone who takes painstaking pains to back up his theories with evidence – the final pages of the book go into some wild hyperbole and flights of fancy and in fact the ending chapters somewhat unravel as if the author ran out of time or grant money or perhaps missed his children and just wrote some stuff to get the damn thing finished.
Overall I learned some stuff – but it wasn’t the book on language I was hoping for. And the author’s final revelation that naming things in a particular language is what actually carves up reality for us and not how reality is indeed divided, he presents as the ultimate revelation. Unfortunately buddhist monks have known about this for years.