10.04, Saturday 30 Aug 2008 Link to this post
Books read August 2008, with date finished:
- Midnight's Children, Salmon Rushdie (9th, r.)
- Ender's Game, Orson Scott Card (14th, r.)
- The Black Swan, Nassim Nicholas Taleb (15th)
- Body of Glass, Marge Piercy (16th)
- Then We Came to the End, Joshua Ferris (17th)
- Ways of Seeing, John Berger (20th)
- Envisioning Emotional Epistemological Information, David Byrne (23rd)
- The Compass Rose, Ursula K. Le Guin (23rd, r.)
- How Buildings Learn, Stewart Brand (26th)
- An Introduction to Cybernetics, W. Ross Ashby (27th)
- Essays in Love, Alain de Botton (27th, r.)
- Subspace Explorers, E. E. 'Doc' Smith (30 August, r.)
I read a lot or a little when I'm feeling glum, and this month I read a whole bunch plus there was some travelling. (For those of you keeping count, this means I need to average 7.5 books/mo. for the rest of the year. So if I'm lagging behind in November, look for me to instigate a personal crisis or two to get the reading rate up. You have been warned.)
The Black Swan points out that big, rare events dominate continuous trending (50 years of stockmarket movement is mostly accounted for by 10 days), and that you should put yourself in positions where black swans - when they do occur - will be positive. A good framework. Ashby's 1956 Introduction to Cybernetics is a straight-forward argument from one end of cybernetics to the other: enough to see why it was believed to hold so much promise. There are foreshadowings of both the inevitability of order (autocatalytic loops) and selfish gene ideas in there, which shows how much was nascent in that early crystal seed.
I've had David Byrne on my to-read list since the book came out, and I can't believe I waited. Intelligent art and wise words:
the cake results as least as much from the shape of the pan, the cooking and the timing than from its ingredients. Ways of Seeing is also enlightening and brilliantly designed.
There's nothing in this month's reading I'd shy away from recommending if it took your fancy--we'd be able to have a good chat about it whatever you picked up. Le Guin's short stories are actually better than I remember; both Piercy and Ferris I couldn't put down; Doc Smith's space opera is pacier even than his subspace drives; and although Essays in Love seems a little childish now, and the protagonist is a dick, love is childish, and we are all dicks. Well, I am.
Okay, but I need to recommend one book and it's between Byrne and Berger. I'm going to say Berger's Ways of Seeing because it's rescued art for me and given me a way into a new world.