I needed to get up to speed quickly with symbol fonts, and this proved the perfect resource. In clear and straightforward language Brian Suda takes yo...moreI needed to get up to speed quickly with symbol fonts, and this proved the perfect resource. In clear and straightforward language Brian Suda takes you through what symbol fonts are, why you might want to use them, how to embed them in your site and how to create your own symbol fonts. I was fully up to speed in the space of a 30 minute train journey. For any additional research I might need to do, an excellent selection of resources has been provided.
This is the first of Five Simple Step's Pocket Guides that I've read, and I'm impressed. I'm very much looking forward to reading some of the other titles in the series.(less)
I've always had a bit of a thing for tricksters. My favorite Greek myths always seem to involve Hermes, and I love a good coyote tale.
Trickster Makes...moreI've always had a bit of a thing for tricksters. My favorite Greek myths always seem to involve Hermes, and I love a good coyote tale.
Trickster Makes This World is an excellent study that tries to get to the bottom of what makes trickster figures so fascinating.
It is excellently researched and well constructed. Lewis Hyde takes us through the various aspects of trickster and explores each of these aspects in depth. In each case it is a fascinating, wide-ranging discussion. Hyde has put together a masterpiece of digressions. He not only tells one tale after another about Hermes, Loki, Coyote, Raven and Monkey; he uses a wide range of interesting people to illustrate his point. John Cage, Pablo Picasso, Marcel Duchamp, Maxine Hong Kingston, and Allen Ginsberg all make an appearance.
I found most of his arguments exhilarating. His discussion of Snorri Sturluson playing Loki's role as the bringer of Ragnarök was fascinating. His comparison of Frederick Douglass' life and The Homeric Hymn to Hermes was equally engrossing.
This is about as perfect as a non-fiction book gets for me. I find the topic endlessly fascinating. The breadth of Hyde's interests and research means that I have a number of new topics to explore more fully. Finally, Hyde's writing, while not quite conversational, is very approachable and occasionally exquisite, which is not surprising given that he's a poet.(less)
There are times when it feels as if A Fraction of the Whole is trying very hard to be the Great Australian Novel (if there is such a thing). There are...moreThere are times when it feels as if A Fraction of the Whole is trying very hard to be the Great Australian Novel (if there is such a thing). There are times when if feels as if it succeeds, at least to an American who has visited the country only once. It is simultaneously a love letter to and harsh critique of Australia.
It is also the story of a hyper-dysfunctional family, told from the point of view of a son, Jasper Dean, whose only goal in life is not to become his father.
But we also get the point of view of the Martin Dean, the father. We hear him tell his own story. Through journal entries, conversation and autobiographies, we hear him narrate his many frustrations, most of them of his own invention. This is where Steve Toltz really shines. He manages to convey Martin's progression of selves (or regression of selves, it's hard to say) from a child living in his brother's shadow to a young adult trying to escape that shadow to a father still desperately trying to make sense of the world and raise a child.
In the end, the book is also a harsh critique of and love letter to a slightly mad, overbearing father. It is bizarre, hilarious and all too human.(less)
This is one of the best popular science books I've read in a while. It is an explanation of Evo Devo and the contributions the discipline has made to...moreThis is one of the best popular science books I've read in a while. It is an explanation of Evo Devo and the contributions the discipline has made to genetics and our understanding of evolution.
Carroll takes the reader through key experiments, many of which he was involved in. This is an excellent way of getting across difficult concepts. It takes a bit of effort on the reader's part, but it's worth it.
The final chapter is absolutely amazing. It is the single best argument for science and evolution (as opposed to against religion / intelligent design) that I've read. In fact, it may be the only argument that I've read that concentrates on the science -- and tries to get people excited about the science -- rather than spending time slamming religion.
September 11th forms the backdrop for this honest examination of love and loss. In the case of many contemporary novels, that last sentence would have...moreSeptember 11th forms the backdrop for this honest examination of love and loss. In the case of many contemporary novels, that last sentence would have ended "love, loss and redemption," but here there is no single, easy moment of salvation, acceptance or understanding. While the novel contains all of those things, each of the characters has to work continually in order to achieve them.
If that sounds depressing, I promise you it isn't. These characters never fully recover from their loss; they deal with it from day to day. They think about it, write about it, travel with it, ignore it, run away from it and return to it. Foer has managed to turn this struggle into something extraordinarily beautiful, while recognizing that it is also extraordinarily difficult.(less)
The notion of looking at what would happe to the world if human beings were to disappear from the face of the earth is brilliant. It allows Weisman to...moreThe notion of looking at what would happe to the world if human beings were to disappear from the face of the earth is brilliant. It allows Weisman to take an objective look at the current state of human impact on the world, without slipping into the preachy, doom and gloom style that is often used by authors of such books.
The breadth of the topics Weisman covers is impressive. I felt that I learned something new in every chapter, whether it was about the existence of centuries-old cities hidden beneath Turkey, the birdlife of the DMZ in Korea or the wholesale destruction of mountaintops in West Virginia.
Weisman is also an extraordinary writer. There are a number of verbal gems here, such as the following sentence, which perfectly describes at least one of my cats: "The villain is the purring mascot that lolled regally in Egyptian temples and does the same on our furniture, accepting our affection only when it pleases, exuding inscrutable calm whether awake or asleep (as it spends more than half its life), beguiling us to see to its care and feeding."
What truly saves this book from being the usual depressive environmental tome predicting our imminent destruction is the people. Weisman must have interviewed well over 100 people. He does not simply explain their reseach, their ideas and their opinion clearly. He brings them to life. It is their passion, brilliance and commitment that makes the book truly worth reading.(less)
I haven't read any of her other books, but Irene Nemirovsky was a writer of extraordinary talent. Her characters, Her attention to detail and her abi...moreI haven't read any of her other books, but Irene Nemirovsky was a writer of extraordinary talent. Her characters, Her attention to detail and her ability to inhabit a future that she would never know are the reasons that this book is a great work of literature, despite the fact that she was never able to finish the book.(less)
This book is filled with memorable characters. They are so well drawn that entire conversations take place without Pezeshkzad having to indicate who i...moreThis book is filled with memorable characters. They are so well drawn that entire conversations take place without Pezeshkzad having to indicate who is speaking.(less)
The sheer humanity of Greene's characters is incredible. They characters themselves are completely ordinary, but what is truly amazing is how Greene m...moreThe sheer humanity of Greene's characters is incredible. They characters themselves are completely ordinary, but what is truly amazing is how Greene manages to explore their very ordinary lives.(less)
David Mitchell is without a doubt my favourite living author.
Cloud Atlas is his finest work so far. Mitchell is superb at constructing a related serie...moreDavid Mitchell is without a doubt my favourite living author.
Cloud Atlas is his finest work so far. Mitchell is superb at constructing a related series of stories and characters that simply jump off the pages. The writing style changes so completely and convincingly from one story to another that it's almost hard to believe that they were written by the same author.
This is an excellent overview of the importance of biodiversity. Wilson is an excellent writer. He is able to convey large amounts of information with...moreThis is an excellent overview of the importance of biodiversity. Wilson is an excellent writer. He is able to convey large amounts of information with both clarity and style.
On finishing this book, I regretted having dropped my biology degree for cultural anthropology. Wilson makes saving the world's biological heritage species by species seem exciting and chalanging.(less)
This is a whistle-stop tour of the planets of the solar system. It's not a comprehensive guide. Instead, it focuses on interesting aspects of the scie...moreThis is a whistle-stop tour of the planets of the solar system. It's not a comprehensive guide. Instead, it focuses on interesting aspects of the science and history of each of the nine planets (plus the Earth's moon).
Dava Sobel's prose is a pleasure to read. The narratives she spins for each planet, while sometimes a bit silly, are always compelling. (less)
This is a book of two intertwined parts. The author has a background as an academic, but now prefers to work as a motorcycle mechanic. This book refle...moreThis is a book of two intertwined parts. The author has a background as an academic, but now prefers to work as a motorcycle mechanic. This book reflects this.
The tone of the book changes quickly from the academic language of a PhD thesis to engaging narratives of his work as a mechanic.
Much of the first 50 pages felt like a slog. Most of those pages are dedicated to setting up his argument in the stilted language of academia. It's worth persevering, though.
While the ideas he puts forward of learning by getting wrong, the value of mentorship, the satisfaction of seeing you work in use and thinking with your hands aren't ground breaking, the stories he uses to support these ideas make for great reading.
I very much support his call for reinstating shop class, but I also believe that the much of what he describes can be found outside of the the traditional trades. Many of his stories were familiar to me not because I have a mechanical background, but because of my background in software design and development. (less)
I'm two weeks in to this book, so I can't speak to the overall results.
Nevertheless, this seems very much like the strength training plan I was lookin...moreI'm two weeks in to this book, so I can't speak to the overall results.
Nevertheless, this seems very much like the strength training plan I was looking for. It involves no extra equipment, means I don't need a gym membership and fits nicely into my already busy life.
I should make clear that I'm not looking to get buff, though apparently you can do that with Mark Lauren's plan. I run and swim, and wanted to ensure I was spending some time working on my overall strength so I can improve at both of those sports.
The initial 10 week plans require 36 minutes four times a week. This allows me to run and swim in the morning or afternoon, and use the evenings for strength training while I'd otherwise be watching TV. Using the iPhone app makes these training plans even easier to follow.
The book includes over 125 exercises, so this allows me to swap out exercises if I need to or if I get bored with the existing exercises.
The only downside is that some of the areas of the books, such as the nutrition section and the "science behind this book," are a bit thin. While the nutrition advice seems solid based on the research I've done, it's pretty high level. The same can be said for the "science behind this book" appendix. But I don't think most people will be reading this book for in depth nutrition or sport science advice. You can easily get that elsewhere (though a few recommended books would have been nice).(less)
I read Good Calories, Bad Calories over several months. This book is incredibly well researched (Gary Taubes says he's spent over fifteen years resear...moreI read Good Calories, Bad Calories over several months. This book is incredibly well researched (Gary Taubes says he's spent over fifteen years researching the book), and very well written.
It examines the science behind the "carbohydrate hypothesis." The hypothesis is that excess carbohydrate consumption, specifically sugar, high fructose corn syrup and other refined carbohydrates (e.g. white bread and white rice) is behind the rise in obesity over the last twenty years.
In order to make this argument, Taubes shows how he thinks public health officials got it wrong, leading them to effectively recommend that we eat more carbohydrates (we're replacing the fat we stopped eating with something, usually carbohydrates). This is perhaps the most fascinating part of the book. Taubes documents how a hypothesis (fat raises cholesterol causes heart disease and obesity) that was based primarily on epidemiological studies became the basis of the recommended diet in the United States (and elsewhere in the world). In the tale that Taubes tells, this wasn't because this hypothesis was rigorously tested. The studies designed to test the cholesterol hypothesis were inconclusive. Instead, this was a battle of personalities, with careers and reputations at stake.
Taubes then reviews over a century of research. In doing so, he make a compelling and convincing defence of the carbohydrate hypothesis.
While the book is an impressive work, I had a two small issues with it.
The first is that Taubes effectively portrays some of the scientists mentioned in the book as the villains of the piece. This is not a dispassionate book, and you will leave with an unfavorable impression of a number of scientists. I'm not entirely convinced that it was necessary to do in order for Taubes to effectively make his argument.
The second is the lack of illustrations. Taubes is often describing complex biochemistry. While he is a fantastic writer and his descriptions are always clear, he often spends several pages describing a process that could have been made clear with a one page illustration.
Those are both somewhat minor issues and I wouldn't hesitate to recommend this book to anyone with an interest in nutrition.