Books to Read While the Algae Grow in Your Fur, December 2006
- David Nasaw, Andrew Carnegie
- Readable, sympathetic and highly detailed biography of Pittsburgh's most
famous and important citizen. (Like most biographies, it seems to me at least
twice as long as necessary.) The sympathy does not prevent Nasaw from being
quite blunt about Carnegie's dishonesties (on, e.g.,
the great Homestead
Strike of 1892, or union-busting generally, or avoiding financial
speculation) and self-delusions. For all that, Carnegie still emerges as a
truly remarkable man, and, if we must allow the concentration of great
wealth into private hands, far better that it be used the way Carnegie did than
the common alternatives. Interestingly, the idea that he somehow deserved his
fortune, or earned it through special efforts, was not among his
self-delusions. (In fact, some of what Nasaw quotes him as saying is not unlike
by Herbert Simon.) This
strikes me as one of the most remarkable things about him.
- On a local note, it was a bit disconcerting to learn that
the Carnegie Mellon University at which I
teach (an expensive
research university, emphasizing the graduate education of students from around
the world) is so thoroughly not what "our founder and benefactor" had
in mind (a vocational-technical school for the children of the local working
class). It is hard for me to wish this change undone, but...
- Stanislaw Lem, Solaris
- See: On First Looking Into
- David King, The Commissar Vanishes: The Falsification of Photographs and Art in Stalin's Russia
- A sermon, in pictures, on the text "The state is the coldest of all cold
monsters ... and whatever it says, it lies." With abundant thanks to John
"reprieved" Burke for lending this book to my brother.
- Max Décharné, Straight from the Fridge, Dad: A Dictionary of Hipster Slang
- Of course, he could have made four fifths of this up, for all I can tell,
but at least he gives sources for almost everything, and, well, se non
è vero, è ben trovato.
- C. J. Box, Savage
- Enjoyable mystery novel in contemporary Wyoming, centering on conflicts
between environmentalists and ranchers, with a likeable, and
only-too-familiarly-imperfect, game warden caught in the middle. Second book
in a series, but I read this without having read the first one.
- Cecilia Dart-Thornton, The Ill-Made Mute
- Brain-candy fantasy. Clear influences of
Tolkien, Vance, Celtic
folklore, and Australian natural history (also pretty clearly a first novel).
I read it with enjoyment while doped up with cold medicine, but think it would
have been fun regardless. First in a trilogy; I'll be getting the others out
of the library.
- P. C. Hodgell, To Ride a Rathorn
- Latest (fourth) installment in Hodgell's long-running, and remarkable,
fantasy series. Probably incomprehensible if you haven't read the previous
volumes. (The first two — Godstalk and Dark of the
Moon — are so long out of print I won't even bother to give them
links; a two-in-one
reprint, Dark of the Gods, is only recently out of
Mask, the third, is still available.) For instance, I one am not
about to try explaining why Our Heroine has earned the undying hatred of the
titular creature, a sort of carnivorous, unicorn by rendering his mother a
profound service. But, if you like fantasy, you owe it to yourself to read
them: for Hodgell manages, by seamless turns, to convey wonder, humor,
intrigue, profound creepiness, and the resolve to struggle against fate which
comes close to the heart of epic.
- Steven Hamilton, A Cold Day in Paradise
- Reasonably good detective novel, somewhat hard-boiled (e.g., the Beautiful
Woman Who Is Trouble For The Narrator), but not, you should forgive the
expression, inedibly hard-boiled. Won multiple awards when it came
out, which I don't get at all.
- Andrea Camilleri, The Terra-cotta Dog
- A modern campaign against the Mafia intersecting oddly with WWII-era
secrets; very different
from Forbes's Waking
Raphael, despite these thematic similarities, and even the shared
obsession with food. Very fun. However, the cover has nothing to do with the
book. (Previous Camilleri plugs, June
'05 and July '06;
Forbes, January '06.)
- E. J. G. Pitman, Some Basic Theory for Statistical Inference
- Review: Intermediate Statistics
from an Advanced Point of View.
Books to Read While the
Algae Grow in Your Fur;
Heard About Pittsburgh, PA;
Scientifiction and Fantastica;
Pleasures of Detection, Portraits of Crime;
Enigmas of Chance
Posted at December 31, 2006 23:59 | permanent link