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Reading Challenges > March 2016 Reading Challenge: Pop Science

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message 1: by Justin (last edited Mar 07, 2016 10:20AM) (new)

Justin (ars_legendi) | 75 comments Mod
I've always had a complicated relationship with what many people call "pop science:" nonfiction books that tackle hard science concepts in a way so that they read like narratives or consumer handbooks. On one hand, these books can often be overly trendy or even misleading in the way they present scientific information. On the other hand, some of the most fascinating books I've read, including a few that have indelibly taught me something and become part of who I am, fall into this category.

I'd wager to guess that for some, reading anything associated with hard science can be a bit of a challenge. Which is why I'm going to challenge you with it! There's a nonfiction book designed for the layperson on just about any scientific topic you can imagine, from neuroscience to animal husbandry. I've listed some of the most well-known pop science authors on the group bookshelf (Michio Kaku and Mary Roach, for example). However, for the "official" book, I've selected The Drunkard's Walk by Leonard Mlodinow, a physicist who collaborated with Stephen Hawking on the latter's A Briefer History of Time and The Grand Design. This book talks about the underestimated effects of chance in just about everything, and the ways in which people assign patterns to things in order to make sense of it. It's got some truly insightful things buried between the covers. It's also full of math, and if you're like me, that's a challenge worthy of a triathlete.

Whether you get a hold of that book or give a pop science book on your favorite topic a try, make sure to talk about it here for a chance at a pre-published book. Happy reading!

message 2: by Greg (new)

Greg Self | 2 comments Thanks! I'll check it out!

message 3: by Brendle (new)

Brendle (akajill) | 235 comments Mod
Well this works out well for me! Not only is it right up my alley when it comes to things I like to read, but also I was just notified that my audio copy of Quiet: the power of introverts in a world that can't stop talking is ready for download. Excellent!

message 4: by Robin (new)

Robin M. | 28 comments Quiet sounded like an interesting read when I ran across it's description in one of my articles. I added it to my list on Encore. I could also finally get around to reading Packing for Mars because I never did re-add it to my holds when my time was up a few years ago. Since I just picked up 6 holds on Wednesday I'm not sure I'll have time but we shall see.

message 5: by Susan (new)

Susan (yetanothersusan) | 203 comments I'm a triathlete who loves math. I think that means I must read The Drunkard's Walk!

message 6: by Justin (last edited Mar 14, 2016 03:35PM) (new)

Justin (ars_legendi) | 75 comments Mod
In The Drunkard's Walk, I'm most taken by the section that talks about baseball players and CEOs in terms of how we assign order to things; namely, how they get raises and lose their jobs based on performance that looks like it has a trajectory but is mostly beyond their control and due to general fluctuations as they rise/regress to the mean. It's a thought exercise that reshaped how I statistically analyze just about everything.

And I haven't read Quiet yet. I've been meaning to for a long time, but I think I've stayed away so far mostly because I'm a textbook sociable introvert, and tend to react to the excerpts I've read with a general feeling of "yeah, I could have told you that."

message 7: by Brendle (last edited Mar 15, 2016 07:12PM) (new)

Brendle (akajill) | 235 comments Mod
Justin wrote: "And I haven't read Quiet yet. I've been meaning to for a long time, but I think I've stayed away so far mostly because I'm a textbook sociable introvert..."

I am a textbook introvert as well, and had similar reasons for not picking up Quiet before now. However, now that I'm about a third of the way into it, I'm very glad I finally did. It's actually quite inspiring in the way it validates the strengths of introverts. It also talks about the strong national culture of extroversion that can often denigrate those strengths. It's made me think about changes I can make in my professional life to better play to those strengths as well.

message 8: by Justin (new)

Justin (ars_legendi) | 75 comments Mod
I really do need to read Quiet. But in the meantime, revisiting my favorite Mlodinow book was fun. He also wrote a book called Subliminal that looks at how influenced we really are (or are not) by our subconscious, which was also fascinating.

I hope you all found something interesting in this genre to read! I realized this month that I haven't read a pop science book in a while, I think because my nonfiction reading got hijacked by history books (as it is wont to do). Finding a good book in this genre can not only be an illuminating experience, but make you a pretty interesting conversationalist, as well.

message 9: by Susan (new)

Susan (yetanothersusan) | 203 comments I should be starting "Proof: The Science of Booze" shortly. I wanted to wait until after Lent ended since abstaining from liquor makes reading about it much more difficult! I am still waiting for "The Drunkard's Walk."

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