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Full title Asimov's New Guide to Science [permalink]
Original title The Intelligent Man's Guide to Science
Language English
Author Isaac Asimov (author)
Publisher Penguin Books
Categories Biology, chemistry and science
Publication year 1987
Original publication year 1984
ISBN 978-0-140-17213-3 [Amazon, B&N, Abe, Powell's]
Pages 880
Synopsis

This is a thick door-stopper of a book, dealing with all of science (and the history of science in general). It's divided into two major parts, The Physical Sciences and The Biological Sciences.

Review

Asimov wrote very well fiction, but I think non-fiction is where he shines, and this book is no exception. Go buy it, and get an overview of the vast fields of science!

Images Back of Asimov's New Guide to Science.Spine of Asimov's New Guide to Science.Front of Asimov's New Guide to Science.
Full title The Blank Slate: The Modern Denial of Human Nature [permalink]
Language English
Author Steven Pinker (author)
Publisher Penguin Books
Category Psychology
Publication year 2002
ISBN 0-14-200334-4 [Amazon, B&N, Abe, Powell's]
Pages 509
Synopsis

A very good synthesis of and commentary on the nature-nurture debate from the point of view of an evolutionary psychologist. The book is divided into six parts named "The Blank Slate, the Noble Savage, and the Ghost in the Machine" (in which Pinker outlines the debate and discusses the three doctrines in the title), "Fear and Loathing" (in which he describes the reactions from scientists and lay people to the discoveries of the modern sciences of human nature), "Human Nature with a Human Face" (in which he discusses four fears — inequality, imperfectibility, determinism, and nihilism — that seem to flow from the dismantling of the three doctrines outlined in the first chapter), "Know Thyself" (in which he attempts to allay fears by making human nature explicit), "Hot Buttons" (in which he deals with five topics — politics, violence, gender, children, and the arts — and explain how the sciences of human nature touch on these), and "The Voice of the Species" (which is a single chapter where Pinker draws examples from poetry and literature to illustrate his main points and bring the book to a natural end).

Review

A very good book about human nature, and why gut feelings and folk theories on psychology are often wrong (or not right enough). This is the first book on evolutionary psychology I've read, so I had a little trouble keeping up with the parts of the book that described its history and methods, but I think I got the gist of those parts. I especially enjoyed the last part of the book, titled "The Voice of the Species", where Pinker quotes various poets and authors (such as Emily Dickinson, Mark Twain, and Kurt Vonnegut), in passages illuminating human nature. I can wholeheartedly recommend this book!

Images Back of The Blank Slate.Spine of The Blank Slate.Front of The Blank Slate.
Structure [Toggle visibility]
  • Preface
  • PART I The Blank Slate, the Noble Savage, and the Ghost in the Machine
    • Chapter 1 The Official Theory
    • Chapter 2 Silly Putty
    • Chapter 3 The Last Wall to Fall
    • Chapter 4 Culture Vultures
    • Chapter 5 The Slate's Last Stand
  • PART II Fear and Loathing
    • Chapter 6 Political Scientists
    • Chapter 7 The Holy Trinity
  • PART III Human Nature with a Human Face
    • Chapter 8 The Fear of Inequality
    • Chapter 9 The Fear of Imperfectibility
    • Chapter 10 The Fear of Determinism
    • Chapter 11 The Fear of Nihilism
  • PART IV Know Thyself
    • Chapter 12 In Touch with Reality
    • Chapter 13 Out of Our Depths
    • Chapter 14 The Many Roots of Our Suffering
    • Chapter 15 The Sanctimonious Animal
  • PART V Hot Buttons
    • Chapter 16 Politics
    • Chapter 17 Violence
    • Chapter 18 Gender
    • Chapter 19 Children
    • Chapter 20 The Arts
  • PART VI The Voice of the Species
  • Appendix: Donald E. Brown's List of Human Universals
  • Notes
  • References
  • Index
Full title The Catcher in the Rye [permalink]
Language English
Author J. D. Salinger (author)
Publisher Penguin Books
Category Novel
Publication year 2010
Original publication year 1945
ISBN 978-0-241-95043-2 [Amazon, B&N, Abe, Powell's]
Pages 230
Synopsis

Holden Caulfield is doing poorly in school, being kicked out of school after school. This new school is no different: Caulfield is being kicked out, but doesn't want to confront his parents about it. He's naive yet street-smart and resourceful, and the book follows his exploits roaming around New York City doing nothing in particular, dreaming, exploring, and horsing around.

The title is referencing a dream that Holden has about catching falling bodies coming off a cliff into a rye field. Holden, when explaining this dream to someone, is misremembering a line from the poem Comin' Thro' the Rye: "If a body catch a body / Comin thro' the rye." The line is actually "If a body meet a body / Comin thro' the rye."

Review

A fascinating read. I especially liked the conversation in the beginning of the book between him and one of his teachers, Mr. Spencer. Mr. Spencer is trying to help Caulfield by giving him practical advice, but Holden is too distracted to really pay attention, in addition to not wanting to be there in the first place. It's funny watching him trying to worm his way out of it.

I think everyone can see something of themselves in Caulfield, even though one doesn't always empathize with him. He's not really a likeable character, but he's charming and funny, and his adventures around New York City makes for an enjoyable read.

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Full title Gulliver's Travels [permalink]
Alternative title Travels into Several Remote Nations of the World, in Four Parts. By Lemuel Gulliver, First a Surgeon, and then a Captain of Several Ships
Language English
Authors Jonathan Swift (author) and Robert DeMaria (introduction)
Publisher Penguin Books
Categories Fantasy, novel, satire and travel
Publication year 2003
Original publication year 1726
ISBN 978-0-14-143949-5 [Amazon, B&N, Abe, Powell's]
Pages 306
Images Back of Gulliver's Travels.Spine of Gulliver's Travels.Front of Gulliver's Travels.
Structure [Toggle visibility]
  • Plates
  • Acknowledgements
  • Introduction
  • Further Reading
  • A Note on the Text

Travels Into Several Remote Nations of the World. In Four Parts. By Lemuel Gulliver

  • Advertisement
  • A Letter from Capt. Gulliver to his Cousing Sympson
  • The Publisher to the Reader
  • The Contents
  • Part I: A Voyage to Lilliput
  • Part II: A Voyage to Brobdingnag
  • Part III: A Voyage to Laputa, Balnibarbi, Luggnagg, Glubbdubdrib and Japan
  • Part IV: A Voyage to the Country of the Houyhnhnms
  • Notes
  • Textual Notes
Full title Mathematical Puzzles and Diversions [permalink]
Language English
Author Martin Gardner (author)
Publisher Penguin Books
Categories Mathematics and puzzle
Publication year 1965
Original publication year 1959
ISBN 0-14-02-0713-9 [Amazon, B&N, Abe, Powell's]
Pages 154
Synopsis

Based on articles written for Scientific American, every chapter has an addendum, explaining further points or elaborating new ones, and some chapters have letters from people sent in after the article in question was published.

Review

An awesome book with lots of interesting things. Read the chapter titles in the Structures for a preview.

Images Back of Mathematical Puzzles and Diversions.Spine of Mathematical Puzzles and Diversions.Front of Mathematical Puzzles and Diversions.
Structure [Toggle visibility]
  • Introduction
  1. Hexaflexagons
  2. Magic with a Matrix
  3. Nine Problems
  4. Ticktacktoe, or Noughts and Crosses
  5. Probability Paradoxes
  6. The Icosian Game and the Tower of Hanoi
  7. Curious Topological Models
  8. The Game of Hex
  9. Sam Loyd: America's Greatest Puzzlist
  10. Mathematical Card Tricks
  11. Memorizing Numbers
  12. Nine More Problems
  13. Polyominoes
  14. Fallacies
  15. Nim and Tac Tix
  16. Left or Right?
  • References for Further Reading
Full title More Mathematical Puzzles and Diversions [permalink]
Language English
Author Martin Gardner (author)
Publisher Penguin Books
Categories Mathematics and puzzle
Publication year 1963
Original publication year 1961
ISBN 0-14-02-0748-1 [Amazon, B&N, Abe, Powell's]
Pages 186
Synopsis

This book is written in the same vein as Mathematical Puzzles and Diversions.

Review

I truly loved this book. My favorite chapters are The Five Platonic Solids, Mazes, and Eleusis: The Induction Game.

Images Back of More Mathematical Puzzles and Diversions.Spine of More Mathematical Puzzles and Diversions.Front of More Mathematical Puzzles and Diversions.
Structure [Toggle visibility]
  • Introduction
  1. The Five Platonic Solids
  2. Tetraflexagons
  3. Henry Ernest Dudeney: England's Greatest Puzzlist
  4. Digital Roots
  5. Nine Problems
  6. The Soma Cube
  7. Recreational Topology
  8. Phi: The Golden Ratio
  9. The Monkey and the Coconuts
  10. Mazes
  11. Recreational Logic
  12. Magic Squares
  13. James Hugh Riley Shows, Inc.
  14. Nine More Problems
  15. Eleusis: The Induction Game
  16. Origami
  17. Squaring the Square
  18. Mechanical Puzzles
  19. Probability and Ambiguity
  • References for Further Reading
Full title Plato and a Platypus Walk Into a Bar...: Understanding Philosophy Through Jokes [permalink]
Language English
Authors Daniel Klein and Thomas Cathcart
Publisher Penguin Books
Categories Humor and philosophy
Publication year 2008
Original publication year 2007
ISBN 978-0-14-311387-4 [Amazon, B&N, Abe, Powell's]
Pages 215
Synopsis

The book is divided into ten chapters, each dealing with a different area of philosophy. The chapters explain concepts concerning each area, interspersed with banter and jokes.

Review

As many people have observed, a session of jokes can often illuminate a subject more than hours of discussion can, and this book is an example of that. The book is essentially a string of jokes with banter to connect them and explain the concepts introduced in the jokes. The explanations themselves are light-hearted and full of puns. An example of a joke illustrating the difference between what philosophers call essential and accidental attributes:

"Why is an elephant big, hairy, and wrinkled?"

"Because if he was small, white, and round, he'd be an aspirin."

And another on skepticism and the scientific method (or inductive reasoning, if you will):

A scientist and his wife are out for a drive in the country. The wife says, "Oh look! Those sheep have been shorn."

"Yes," says the scientist. "On this side."

In the section on the philosophy of religion are also jokes, of course, and I found this Jewish one pretty funny:

Two women are sitting on a bench. After a while the first woman says, "Oy!"

The second woman replies, "Oy!"

The first woman says, "All right, enough about the children."

And a final one, on the relativity of time:

A snail was mugged by two turtles. When the police asked him what happened, he said, "I don't know. It all happened so fast."

Go read it if you've got time to kill.

Images Back of Plato and a Platypus Walk Into a Bar....Spine of Plato and a Platypus Walk Into a Bar....Front of Plato and a Platypus Walk Into a Bar....
Structure [Toggle visibility]
  • Philogaggin: An Introduction
  • I. Metaphysics
  • II. Logic
  • III. Epistemology
  • IV. Ethics
  • V. Philosophy of Religion
  • VI. Existentialism
  • VII. Philosophy of Language
  • VIII. Social and Political Philosophy
  • IX. Relativity
  • X. Meta-Philosophy
  • Summa Time: A Conclusion
  • Final Exam
  • Great Moments in the History of Philosophy
  • Glossary
  • Suggestions for Further Reading
  • Index
Full title QED: The Strange Theory of Light and Matter [permalink]
Language English
Authors Richard Feynman (author), Leonard Mautner (foreword) and Ralph Leighton (preface)
Publisher Penguin Books
Categories Physics and science
Publication year 1990
Original publication year 1985
ISBN 978-0-140-12505-4 [Amazon, B&N, Abe, Powell's]
Pages 158
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Structure [Toggle visibility]
  • Foreword by Leonard Mautner
  • Preface by Ralph Leighton
  • Acknowledgment
  1. Introduction
  2. Photons: Particles of Light
  3. Electrons and Their Interactions
  4. Loose Ends
  • Index
Full title Unweaving the Rainbow: Science, Delusion and the Appetite for Wonder [permalink]
Language English
Author Richard Dawkins (author)
Publisher Penguin Books
Categories Astronomy, biology and science
Publication year 1999
Original publication year 1998
ISBN 0-14-026408-6 [Amazon, B&N, Abe, Powell's]
Pages 336
Synopsis

This book is a celebration of science, and an explanation of its beauty.

Dawkins discusses the probability of your birth (it turns out to be very low), the notion that knowing things about the universe diminishes its beauty (like Feynman before him), sound waves, DNA fingerprinting, astrology (always witty to condemn), genes, brains, and, finally, memes.

Images Back of Unweaving the Rainbow.Spine of Unweaving the Rainbow.Front of Unweaving the Rainbow.
Structure [Toggle visibility]
  • Preface
  1. The Anaesthetic of Familiarity
  2. Drawing Room of Dukes
  3. Barcodes in the Stars
  4. Barcodes on the Air
  5. Barcodes at the Bar
  6. Hoodwink'd with Faery Fancy
  7. Unweaving the Uncanny
  8. Huge Cloudy Symbols of a High Romance
  9. The Selfish Cooperator
  10. The Genetic Book of the Dead
  11. Reweaving the World
  12. The Balloon of the Mind
  • Selected Bibliography
  • Index
Full title Artemis Fowl and the Arctic Incident [permalink]
Language English
Author Eoin Colfer (author)
Publisher Penguin Books
Categories Fantasy and novel
Series Artemis Fowl (2/7)
Publication year 2006
Original publication year 2002
ISBN 978-0-14-132132-5 [Amazon, B&N, Abe, Powell's]
Pages 288
Images Back of Artemis Fowl and the Arctic Incident.Spine of Artemis Fowl and the Arctic Incident.Front of Artemis Fowl and the Arctic Incident.
Structure [Toggle visibility]
  • Artemis Fowl: A Psychological Assessment
  • Prologue
  • Chapter 1: Family Ties
  • Chapter 2: Cruisin' for Chix
  • Chapter 3: Going Underground
  • Chapter 4: Fowl Is Fair
  • Chapter 5: Daddy's Girl
  • Chapter 6: Photo Opportunity
  • Chapter 7: Joining the Dots
  • Chapter 8: To Russia with Gloves
  • Chapter 9: No Safe Haven
  • Chapter 10: Trouble and Strife
  • Chapter 11: Mulch Ado About Nothing
  • Chapter 12: The Boys Are Back
  • Chapter 13: Into the Breach
  • Chapter 14: Father's Day
  • An Epilogue or Two
Full title Artemis Fowl and the Eternity Code [permalink]
Language English
Author Eoin Colfer (author)
Publisher Penguin Books
Categories Fantasy and novel
Series Artemis Fowl (3/7)
Publication year 2006
Original publication year 2003
ISBN 978-0-14-132131-8 [Amazon, B&N, Abe, Powell's]
Pages 329
Images Back of Artemis Fowl and the Eternity Code.Spine of Artemis Fowl and the Eternity Code.Front of Artemis Fowl and the Eternity Code.
Structure [Toggle visibility]
  • Prologue
  • PART ONE: ATTACK
  • Chapter 1: The Cube
  • Chapter 2: Lockdown
  • Chapter 3: On Ice
  • Chapter 4: Running in the Family
  • Chapter 5: The Metal Man and the Monkey
  • Chapter 6: Assault on Fowl Manor
  • Chapter 7: Best-laid Plans
  • PART TWO: COUNTERATTACK
  • Chapter 8: Hooks, Lines, and Sinkers
  • Chapter 9: Ghosts in the Machine
  • Chapter 10: Fingers and Thumbs
  • Chapter 11: The Invisible Man
  • Chapter 12: Mind Wipe
  • Epilogue
Full title Artemis Fowl and the Opal Deception [permalink]
Language English
Author Eoin Colfer (author)
Publisher Penguin Books
Categories Fantasy and novel
Series Artemis Fowl (4/7)
Publication year 2006
Original publication year 2005
ISBN 0-141-31549-0 [Amazon, B&N, Abe, Powell's]
Pages 343
Images Back of Artemis Fowl and the Opal Deception.Spine of Artemis Fowl and the Opal Deception.Front of Artemis Fowl and the Opal Deception.
Structure [Toggle visibility]
  • Prologue
  • Chapter 1: Totally Obsessed
  • Chapter 2: The Fairy Thief
  • Chapter 3: Nearly Departed
  • Chapter 4: Narrow Escapes
  • Chapter 5: Meet the Neighbours
  • Chapter 6: Troll Nasty
  • Chapter 7: The Temple of Artemis
  • Chapter 8: Some Intelligent Conversation
  • Chapter 9: Daddy's Girl
  • Chapter 10: Horse Sense
  • Chapter 11: A Last Goodbye
  • Epilogue

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