The book developed from a series of six lectures on being a writer Atwood delivered at the University of Cambridge in 2000. I read two books recently...moreThe book developed from a series of six lectures on being a writer Atwood delivered at the University of Cambridge in 2000. I read two books recently that attempted the same thing in a way: Elizabeth Costello, and The Mysterious Flame of Queen Loana. Coetze fictionalized his lectures and actually added the character of a writer (Elizabeth Costello) to present them, and Eco’s book held great literary promise, but did not deliver in the end; it concentrated on the legacy of comic books. Atwood, on the other hand, wrote a zestful and delightfully erudite treaty on being a writer, full of insights and literary references which is a pleasure to read. Atwood’s way of thinking appealed, as usual, to me. I just felt that illusive satisfaction coming from every line I read.(less)
A very comprehensive guide to mantras and meditation techniques written in a distinctly unadulterated Eastern way of thinking. Actually, he lost a poi...moreA very comprehensive guide to mantras and meditation techniques written in a distinctly unadulterated Eastern way of thinking. Actually, he lost a point from me anywhere he tried to adapt his Eastern views to the Western way of thinking as it didn't work very well then. A fascinating read otherwise. (less)
It is a journey through the tree of evolution- starting from the leaves (us) way down to the roots of man’s origin. Each section which discusses a bra...moreIt is a journey through the tree of evolution- starting from the leaves (us) way down to the roots of man’s origin. Each section which discusses a branch of our ancestors also discusses interesting genetic developments that took place at that time. We learn about the evolution of colour vision, bipedalism, taxonomy and the latest molecular/DNA advancements that help us arrive at these conclusions. There is also the most prosaic description of us- human beings I have ever read in my life: “We are modified worms swimming on our backs, descended from an early equivalent of a brine shrimp which, for some long-forgotten reason, turned over.” p.329(less)
At the very end of the 18th century in England, William Smith made a groundbreaking discovery that changed the picture of the whole world. He noticed...moreAt the very end of the 18th century in England, William Smith made a groundbreaking discovery that changed the picture of the whole world. He noticed that the rocks were arranged in layers which followed a pattern, and that certain fossils always appeared in certain layers of rocks. His discoveries shook the foundations of the belief that the earth and the universe were all created their entirety about 5000 years before. The discovery gave birth to geology as a science, and later to evolutionary biology, and all the sciences that followed. It is interesting to note that Smith, as many others, was unappreciated for the most part of his life and many wanted to steal his discoveries without giving him any credit. Some published his maps in books ‘without any indication of either permission sought or payment made’, and the poor man ended up in debtors’ prison and suffered years of homelessness before he was properly honoured at the end of his life. Not a bad book, but I would shorten it considerably on the details of Smith’s life and conversations he had with various people, and put more information on the geological processes and the history of Earth in general, especially that Winchester is an educated geologist.(less)
I initially started listening to it, but Winchester’s sentences were so long and adorned with such long lists of adjectives, and his writing so dense...moreI initially started listening to it, but Winchester’s sentences were so long and adorned with such long lists of adjectives, and his writing so dense with information, that I constantly found myself re-winding the CD to get the full meaning. Still, as I found the subject matter quite fascinating, I promptly got the paper copy of the book and continued. This book is about much more than the title suggests. The San Francisco earthquake of 1906 serves as a focal point for a treatise in Earth geology, earthquake geology, American history, history of California, urban development and many other things that are however vaguely connected to any of the above mentioned topics. It must be one of the most comprehensively researched books on the subject, and even though it digresses for hundreds of pages, it still makes a coherent and fascinating whole.(less)
Interesting and well written portrayals of Delbruck and Gamov- only 'ordinary geniuses'- as Segre playfully calls them, yet far from ordinary scientis...moreInteresting and well written portrayals of Delbruck and Gamov- only 'ordinary geniuses'- as Segre playfully calls them, yet far from ordinary scientists and human beings. Max Delbruck is best known for his work on macrophages (how bacteria become resistant to viruses through mutation) which paved the road for genetics and genetic code discovery, and for which he got the Nobel prize in Physiology and Medicine. Gamov is a flamboyant Russian physicist who is the father of the Big Bang theory. Both of them were proteges of Niels Bohr, knew each other and lived roughly at the same time. Both came from countries that became oppressive for freethinking scientists in the thirties of the twentieth century and both of them found asylum in the States during the Second World War. They both had the audacity to propose extraordinary theses and spur research that would open new areas in science and then abandon it when they were becoming too comfortable in it and start to work in completely different fields.
I must admit that I was a bit disappointed when the book started with a detailed history of recognition and treatment of cancer; I rather expected the...moreI must admit that I was a bit disappointed when the book started with a detailed history of recognition and treatment of cancer; I rather expected the latest research on what cancer was. Yet, it turned out that Mukherjee had complete control of his subject- everything came in due course, the latest theories on cancer included. Then he tied everything up masterfully at the end- case histories, treatment history and the latest research. And, what he delivered was a real biography of cancer in the end. (less)
Part physics, part biology, part chemistry, but first and foremost a very well written biography of Turin and his quest for recognition of his theory...morePart physics, part biology, part chemistry, but first and foremost a very well written biography of Turin and his quest for recognition of his theory of smell according to which smell is detected through molecular vibrations. His theory contradicts the well established theory of smell as detection of the shape of molecules. The book is not only about the theory itself, but also about the reception of it among other scientists, and about how much the process of scientific investigation can fail, since it so much based on human prejudices and vested interests.
In Burr's words, "I began this book as a simple story of creation of a scientific theory. But, I continued it with the growing awareness that it was, in fact, a larger, more complex story of scientific corruption, corruption in the most mundane and systemic and virulent and sadly human sense of jealousy and calcified minds and vested interests. That it was a scientific morality tale."
He is preaching to the choir here, but no matter, he is doing it very well. The book is laid out in a very logical fashion and has all the characteris...moreHe is preaching to the choir here, but no matter, he is doing it very well. The book is laid out in a very logical fashion and has all the characteristics of a well designed university course. It is written for somebody who may be encountering his arguments for the first time, yet it's not boring for the one who has read a lot about the topic. Ultimately, it may be the best and most clearly written book about evolution I have ever read. Well done. 5+/5 (less)
The book is a report from discussions held between Western scientists and the Dalai Lama at the latest (2004) Mind and Life Institute conference in Dh...moreThe book is a report from discussions held between Western scientists and the Dalai Lama at the latest (2004) Mind and Life Institute conference in Dharamsala, India, where the Dalai Lama has his residence. The topic of the summit was neuroplasticity, or the brain’s capacity to change. In each chapter, Begley reports on what the various scientists told the Dalai Lama on the topic. There is a lot of interesting research presented including the impact of voluntary activity on neurogenesis, cognitive- behavioural therapy and its power to change faulty brain chemistry, or gene expression depending on the environment. The final conclusion seems to be that ‘Our genome is not nature’s orders. It’s more like a suggestion.’ Meditation and other forms of mental training can bring forth changes thanks to neuroplasticity, and regular meditation can effect enduring physiological changes in the brain. All in all, its message is interesting. Even though we are born with a certain set of genes that predispose us to be one way and not the other, we can change what we are through mental training like meditation or psychotherapy.
The problem I have with the way the book is written is that I feel that Begley either oversimplifies so that everybody could understand what she is writing about, or she doesn't always understand what she is writing about herself. There is a lot of repetition, but not enough elaboration. The content of the book doesn't live up to the title either - there isn't enough on meditation or any other forms of training the brain. Recently, there have been a few books published on neuroplasticity of the brain, and there is a t least one that explains it in a more coherent fashion, The Brain That Changes Itself by Doidge.(less)