Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Books

Happy New Year! I suppose before 2015 begins I should clear the 2014 book queue.

Here is New York, by E.B. White - Even at nearly a hundred years old, this extended essay perfectly captures the allure of New York City.

Think Like a Freak, by Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner - Cute.

An Astronaut's Guide to Life on Earth, by Chris Hadfield - Disappointing. He needs a more aggressive editor. No one reads books by astronauts to hear grumpy lectures on the same life lessons their grandparents scoldingly ramble about. We want more awesome stories about space travel! Unfortunately, the title is accurate.

Going Solo, by Roald Dahl - Followup to Boy. Roald Dahl has even more ridiculously awesome stories, this time from working in Africa and being a fighter pilot.

Brief Interviews with Hideous Men, by David Foster Wallace - DFW is an unmitigated genius. The way he captures the over-analyzing brain is scary.

The Armchair Economist, by Steven Landsburg - Steven Landsburg is amazing at explaining things such that they seem completely obvious. But in this book he often oversimplifies, not by presently incorrectly simplified arguments but by ignoring important side issues.

The Right Stuff, by Tom Wolfe - Best book I read all year; I could not put it down. If you want awesome stories about space travel, you can't do any better than this. It covers the Mercury NASA program and the selection and training of the original seven astronauts, starting with their test pilot days, and now I desperately wish he would do the same for Gemini and Apollo and Skylab and the shuttle and anything else space related. This also isn't a dry scientific topic; it's entirely character driven, wonderfully.

Digital SLR Cameras and Photography for Dummies - This was surprisingly fairly useful; I knew a lot of it already but it tied everything together for me and had lots of new useful bits and pieces. I recommend it for photography beginners who have played around with cameras a bit but want to improve.

The Devil in the White City, by Erik Larson - Very engrossing story about a serial killer in Chicago during the 1892 World's Fair. Not always well written but the story is good enough to compensate.

How to Fight Presidents, by Daniel O'Brien - This appears at first glance to be a silly book about how to beat any of the American presidents in a fist fight but is actually chock full of the most interesting and entertaining American history I've read in a long time. Highly recommended.

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