Well I like to read and nonfiction is my favorite kind of book. My wife, on the other hand, likes novels (wonder why?) and we occasionally trade off, one kind for the other.
This got me to thinking that many of us read while on the road too, and perhaps we could start a thread about good books that we've enjoyed. We could call it Anadyr's Book Club or something? Ahem, but I digress.
I am nearly finished with a new book called Blackett's War, by historian Stephen Budiansky. It's a fascinating, well-researched book about the scientists who were involved with the Allied war effort before and during World War II to make sense of both Axis weaponry (U Boats being the most talked about in the book) and their own need for countermeasures.
I have always been intrigued by the incredible intelligence (in all sense of that word) that went into breaking the Enigma machine that the Germans used, first at Bletchley Park in the UK and later in the US. Having been to the National Cryptologic Museum a number of times and involved with the Chatham Marconi Maritime Center, a Navy ship to shore listening post on Cape Cod largely responsible for spotting most U Boats in the war, I keep looking for new evidence of the brilliant men and women who toiled to defeat the Axis in the war.
Budiansky details the perseverance of the scientists, many of whom had to overcome both bureaucratic inertia and other embedded interests who were seen as more credible than they. One adviser to Winston Churchill came up with far-fetched schemes to thwart the Nazi's U-Boats, wasting time and effort in the process. Patrick Blackett and others needed to give good scientific advice while circumscribing this adviser.
All in all, a good read, plenty of archival primary source research, and filled with wonder of that time and place when the world was nearly overrun by the Fascists.
Just finished reading:
THE HIDDEN BRAIN
How Our Unconscious Minds Elect Presidents, Control Markets, Wage Wars, and Save Our Lives
By Shankar Vedantam
Easy informative reading that really makes you think.
Colorful characters form the backbone of the narrative; we meet a bickering, long-married academic couple, a rapist with great teeth, a woman working the night shift at a tire factory, a woman suffering from a rare form of dementia and a cult member. What binds this motley crew together? All are victims of some form of irrationality — those imperceptible forces that often prompt our actions in the real world, the ones that are at odds with our ideals.
Most of us assume that honesty and generosity are personality traits polished over a lifetime of social interaction. But Vedantam shows how imperceptible social signals determine, for example, how deeply you’ll dig into your pocket. In offices with an honor system for coffee, people are more likely to pay on days when a photograph of human eyes is discreetly posted above the coffee machine, according to one British study. They’re more prone to cheat if a still life of daisies is pasted there instead — even if they say they’re unaware of either picture. Another experiment demonstrates that you’re likely to give a handsome tip to a waiter who repeats your food order verbatim. In fact, you’ll tip an average of 140 percent more than you would if he just paraphrases it. It’s all about social mimicry, apparently, our hidden ability to sync our behavior with the group’s.
I am ready to take the plunge into the world of ebooks. I have a long list of books to read. The one I'm dying to sink my frontal lobe teeth into is Thomas Jefferson: The Art of Power. My husband has a Kindle Fire and I have the iPad mini. Do you or anyone else out there know if there is a way that we can buy ebooks with different accounts but still share them? I've downloaded the Kindle app to my iPad. That's as far as I've gotten.
Both books above, Blacklett's War and the Hidden Brain sound interesting. In the book I'm finishing, Follett's Winter of the World, book two of his Century Trilogy, he tells about good old fashioned spying, in which German nationals (non-Nazis) steal information, photograph it and then sending it off to the Russians either physically or else through code. The people who sent the codes were called Pianists and the transmitting devices were known as pianos. They had to work quickly because the Gestapo could triangulate the outgoing signal and find the location of the transmission. Anyway, it's interesting, and the spies are very courageous, many just ordinary people. They gained nothing except an end to war and Fascism, and had everything to lose in the form of a torturous death.
For "book" reading I really prefer the Kindle reader, black on white and there is no glare in the sun. I love the built in dictionary function, so I can learn new words while reading. For magazines I prefer my iPad because of color screen. I just accept that I will not read a digital magazine outside in the sun. It is amazing the extra content that most magazines provide with their digital versions. I have not done it, but have heard that you can share books with other Kindle users.
I am adding all books to my reading list (download to my Nook)
If you like books about very brillant minds working on very complicated, previously unsolved problems that benfit all of humanity, then you may enjoy, "The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer" by Siddhartha Mukherjee. It's an amazing history, going back to the earliest written accounts from the ancient writers, and anthropolgical remains of people's with no written history, to modern times. Its a subject I have stayed away from, even though a large part of our business, as I have found it overwhelmingly depressing. This is the first written account I have read that has so intrigued me, that I have been able to endure the overwhelming depressing business of following patients until death to measure the extension of survival time and qualtiy of life, and the impact on families of patients. It also has documented the success stories and victories as well.
Other threads on recommended books (includiing our very own MR authors):
Thanks for compiling these links. The topic and book you mentioned is indeed something for the brave at heart. Wearing the mantle of courage to immerse ourselves into difficult segments of life, such as the wounded, dying and marginalized increases our humanity.
To shift gears, the depressing topic reminded me of Tolstoy's epic tale of Anna Karenina (and since we just watched the movie last night - and what a disappointment, btw), and my daughter informed me that all of the classics are available to download for free on Amazon, which I didn't know. That's pretty neat. (She mentioned that Catcher in the Rye was not free.)
Favorite Historian - Novelists
I also like to listen and to read non-fiction books. The latest non fiction book that I had listened to was, "Surely You are Are Joking Mr. Feynman" published in 1997. It is a memoir of Richard P. Feyman a Noble Prize winning Nuclear Physiscist who passed away in 1988. This was a great book about an American Scientist who was involved in the buildig of the Atomic Bomb at Los Alamos back in the 40s. He met and intereacted with many of the great physiscist who created and advanced the science of nuclear physics an Quatum mechanics.
the book speaks about his work in science but really centers on the broad subjects of interest he had. He was interested in music, art, biology and almost anything that crossed his path. It is a fun book. I recommend it to anyone with an interest in science and in the mind of a man who found joy in everything.