Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Pygmalion by George Bernard Shaw

PygmalionPygmalion by George Bernard Shaw
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Even though Professor Henry Higgins is a total jerk, I'd be into him in real life I bet. He's just so smart and witty. Funny even. It's my weakness. Great play.

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Friday, September 22, 2017

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot

The Immortal Life of Henrietta LacksThe Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

As other readers have mentioned this book is more like two books. The popular science fiction portion of the book deals with the study of the HeLa cell lines named for the woman whom they were taken from, Henrietta Lacks. The other portion of the book is the story of Henrietta Lacks and her family which really highlights many of the injustices towards black Americans particularly in the realm of science and medicine. Both stories also lead into conversations about the evolving law regarding consent and control over one's genetic information and material.

The first story about the scientific research on HeLa is bazonkers (doesn't matter that bazonkers is not a word, something like that is needed for emphasis). I'm usually pretty up-to-date on what's going on in Science but I definitely missed some of the stranger HeLa cell research.

The second story about the family is touching, upsetting, and angering. Although at times this part feels a bit meandering with an examination of a large family. I was mostly interested in the story of her daughter Deborah probably because she's the person Skloot got to know the best.

The status of our rights regarding our genetic material is both frightening and frustrating.

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Thursday, September 21, 2017

Billy Budd, Sailor by Herman Melville

Billy Budd, SailorBilly Budd, Sailor by Herman Melville
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This is actually pretty good because Melville is a deep soul. But I struggled with the beginning, and for such a short book it really took me a long time to force my way through it.

Here's my favorite quote from the book: "Is Envy then such a monster? Well, though many an arraigned mortal has in hopes of mitigated penalty pleaded guilty to horrible actions, did ever anybody seriously confess to envy? Something there is in it universally felt to be more shameful than even felonious crime. And not only does everybody disown it, but the better sort are inclined to incredulity when it is in earnest imputed to an intelligent man. But since its lodgement is in the heart not the brain, no degree of intellect supplies a guarantee against it." - Chapter 13

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Tuesday, September 19, 2017

The Art of War by Sun Tzu

The Art of WarThe Art of War by Sun Tzu
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I'm reading some of the commentaries now, but on its own, it doesn't make a huge impression on me. It has some good points. The focus on the compassion of the ruler and "the way" was particularly interesting. (Now I also want to read The I Ching / Book of Changes which discussed "the way." I read the Tao Te Ching.) Overall, though it doesn't give a lot of context inside the text, or have much that will make an impression in my memory.


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Monday, September 18, 2017

Sunday, September 17, 2017

The Tombs of Atuan by Ursula K. Le Guin

The Tombs of Atuan (Earthsea Cycle, #2)The Tombs of Atuan by Ursula K. Le Guin
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I liked this one much better than the first. I liked the focus on the development of Arha as she learned more about the world around her. And the Tombs are magical.

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Friday, September 15, 2017

You Can't Touch My Hair by Phoebe Robinson

You Can't Touch My Hair: And Other Things I Still Have to ExplainYou Can't Touch My Hair: And Other Things I Still Have to Explain by Phoebe Robinson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This was good. Funny and educational. She's an amazing wordsmith (and is in the very modern comedy family of Aziz Ansari) so it might be tough for older audiences (or foreign audiences) to follow her amazing turns of phrases and pop culture references. I basically didn't put the book down until I finished it, unless you count the 1 million times my daughter needed things today. At least she goes to school tomorrow.

And yes, that mostly true about Karens.

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Thursday, September 14, 2017

Based on a True Story by Norm Macdonald

Based on a True StoryBased on a True Story by Norm Macdonald
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I picked this one up because I saw Norm MacDonald's Netflix standup special. The special got some mixed reviews, including from MacDonald. I've been going through a tough time because my mother is progressively getting worse from terminal kidney cancer and MacDonald's dark humor about life really struck a chord with me.

So this week, my mother switched to hospice care, and I turned to MacDonald's book to get away from all the heavy stuff I've been reading but also to get some dark laughs in. Gotta laugh or go crazy right?

My dad died from the same kind of cancer in 2010, which is what originally kicked off my reading extravaganza as I attempted to read all the books he left behind (still in progress).

Okay back to MacDonald's book. It's one of these comedian memoirs that are so popular now but MacDonald invents a new genre. It's like nonfiction-fiction comedy-noir autobiography. It's probably not everyone's taste but it helped me pass some time pleasantly in a bad time.

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Tuesday, September 5, 2017

The Door Into Summer by Robert A. Heinlein

The Door Into SummerThe Door Into Summer by Robert A. Heinlein
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Very fun and short. It's almost a puzzle to solve with fictional futuristic tools. Two funny or irritating things (I can't decide which) are 1) the big plot hole in the resolution, and 2) Heinlein's creepy sexism and hilarious projection of sexism into the future.

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Sunday, September 3, 2017

Holy Bible: New International Version

Holy Bible: New International VersionHoly Bible: New International Version by Anonymous


I started at the beginning of the year and it took about an hour a day for 8 months. Sometimes I'd skip a few days, but then sometimes I would do 2 hours to make up for falling behind. The Old Testament is much longer obviously and I think I made it feel even longer by reading The New Testament's Gospels, The Old Testament, and then the rest of the New Testament. I spent 6 of the 8 months on the Old Testament and only 2 months on the New Testament.

A few thoughts on the Old Testament, it's very long, and I think there's a lot of merit in the Jewish tradition of focusing on the first five books (the Torah). Genesis and Exodus are particularly interesting. [Repeat from my Tanakh review:] Much of the rest of the Old Testament is wars and God getting angry for his worshippers breaking rules, especially marrying those of other religions. A few notable exceptions: Song of Songs is very romantic, Jonah is the stuff of great adventure books, and the locusts are as scary as a Steven King novel.

As for the New Testament, the Gospels are really interesting, in particular, the Gospel of Matthew. Not to be outdone by the locusts in the Old Testament, Revelation is some scary stuff.

Since I finished the Bible in less than a year, I'm going to try to read nonfiction books about the Bible for the rest of the year.


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Saturday, September 2, 2017

Moby-Dick by Herman Melville

Moby-DickMoby-Dick by Herman Melville
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I have so many thoughts. One is that Moby Dick is an amazing work of literary fiction. It's also an amazing nonfiction book detailing nearly everything that was known at the time about sperm whales. I'm not sure it was a great idea to make these two amazing books into one. It certainly seems to throw a lot of people off- including me. This was my third attempt at reading Moby Dick and my first successful one. My first attempt was in high school, which I guess technically shouldn't count. It's probably useful to have some real grief or heartbreak in your life to understand some of the best sentences.

Another issue is that the foreshadowing is so out of control. Okay, I get it! This is a terrible idea!

The last three chapters pack an action-adventure punch and I was mystified by how Melville made the scenes come to life. There was a very cinematic feeling throughout.

Chapters 83, 93, and 110 were my favorite. They're so good that I don't need to justify 5 stars any further than those three chapters, but I'll add that my Kindle tells me I made 392 highlights.


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Thursday, August 31, 2017

At Home by Bill Bryson

At Home: A Short History of Private LifeAt Home: A Short History of Private Life by Bill Bryson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book was interesting and entertaining but wanders way off topic in every chapter. It's supposed to be an explanation of the wheres and whys of domestic things say, a room just for sleeping, or a dining table. The bulk of each chapter is just interesting history and sometimes really only trivia of the era. Towards the end, he doesn't even make a pretense at explaining domestic things anymore and simply titles a chapter on Darwin's revelation of evolution "The Attic." I couldn't find any connection.

Also, it wouldn't let me flee my other current read Moby Dick, as the lighting section of the book spent a fair bit of time describing spermaceti and a later chapter explained how the novel Moby Dick itself was a product of the scientifically descriptive era in which it was written.

There are so many interesting gems though. Here's a favorite quote:
“Over the course of his life, Harvard had acquired books at the rate of about twelve a year. Jefferson, over the course of his life, bought books at the rate of about twelve a month, accumulating a thousand every decade on average. Without his books, Thomas Jefferson could not have been Thomas Jefferson. For someone like him living on a frontier, remote from actual experience, books were vital guides to how life might be lived…”

Another gem [[[spoiler alert!!!]]] is that the buttons on the back of the sleeve of a jacket are useless and always have been!



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Wednesday, August 30, 2017

How to Fall in Love with Anyone by Mandy Len Catron

How to Fall in Love with Anyone: A Memoir in EssaysHow to Fall in Love with Anyone: A Memoir in Essays by Mandy Len Catron
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is a quick enjoyable read. It's a mix of essays, memoir, and science research about love. Due to the memoir-like focus, it suffers from a feeling of incompleteness. I would have especially liked to have read more about the personal experiences of married couples, both in love and out of love, with the same kind of candor that Len Catron discussed her two significant relationships. Also, the book suffered from a little repetition in the essays. But overall, entertaining and thought-provoking.

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Monday, August 28, 2017

Astrophysics for People in a Hurry by Neil deGrasse Tyson

Astrophysics for People in a HurryAstrophysics for People in a Hurry by Neil deGrasse Tyson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This was cute though a bit uneven. There were some difficult to understand concepts crammed in the beginning and then just softballs throughout the second half.

For a good physics introduction (which I think was the goal here) I'd recommend Brian Greene's The Fabric of the Cosmos instead. It's a little old now, but you can follow it up with The Hidden Reality if you need all the up-to-date physics as well.

Nonetheless, I can't dislike a short physics book, and this one definitely still taught me some new things. It got a little philosophical at the end which I also enjoyed. Plus I'm a fan of the author as a personality and science advocate.

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Saturday, August 26, 2017

Meditations by Marcus Aurelius

MeditationsMeditations by Marcus Aurelius
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

There's a lot of Stoicism, which I enjoyed because it strangely resembles Buddhism- and I like both. There were some great thoughts about coping with the idea of death, which he revisited throughout the book. There's also a lot of Marcus Aurelius's Hellenic religion, which I thought was really interesting because his relationship to paganism is so similar to the relationship a lot of Christians have with Christianity.

There was a lot of repetition which I enjoyed less, and at certain point, I started to lose some interest in his aphorisms. This might be my fault for reading this over five days, instead of just reading a few meditations a day for a longer period of time (as my husband suggested).

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Wednesday, August 23, 2017

The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes

The Adventures of Sherlock HolmesThe Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

My version had all 12 stories from the original The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, which is the third volume in the Sherlock Holmes series. The stories are all easy and fun and provide enough information that you can sometimes guess the conclusion, which makes them especially satisfying. You can fancy yourself as clever and crafty as Holmes himself. And yes, I just used the British expression "fancy" because of all this reading.
  1. "A Scandal in Bohemia" A surprise! And a bit feminist.
  2. "The Red-Headed League" - Somewhat obvious but fun.
  3. "A Case of Identity" - So sad, and feels unresolved in a way.
  4. "The Boscombe Valley Mystery" The mystery revolves around whether a son murdered his father. Interesting.
  5. "The Five Orange Pips" - Anti-racism! 
  6. "The Man with the Twisted Lip" - Kind of funny, but not a great story about poverty
  7. "The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle" - Not my favorite.
  8. "The Adventure of the Speckled Band" - Creepy story about the death of a sister.
  9. "The Adventure of the Engineer's Thumb" - Woah, intense! A little scary.
  10. "The Adventure of the Noble Bachelor" Bride disappears! Okay story.
  11. "The Adventure of the Beryl Coronet" - Good one about son accused of stealing a coronet.
  12. "The Adventure of the Copper Beeches" Great but somewhat predictable story. I love how Watson concludes this one.
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Tuesday, August 22, 2017

The Willpower Instinct by Kelly McGonigal

The Willpower Instinct: How Self-Control Works, Why It Matters, and What You Can Do to Get More of ItThe Willpower Instinct: How Self-Control Works, Why It Matters, and What You Can Do to Get More of It by Kelly McGonigal
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A strong compilation of the science of willpower but the author didn't explore societal consequences very deeply, so it felt like a more surface-level self-help book. Also, author refused to write a conclusion so the book felt unfinished. Even a simple summary of the information would have been better than just suddenly cutting off the book after her last topic.

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Sunday, August 20, 2017

John Adams by David McCullough

John AdamsJohn Adams by David McCullough
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I love this book, the author, and the subjects John Adams and his wife Abigail. It might have benefited from a little editing for greater brevity but otherwise a perfect book. My favorite parts were all the beautiful quotes about morality from Adam's personal journals.

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Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Friday by Robert A. Heinlein

FridayFriday by Robert A. Heinlein
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Okay, sometimes I display bad taste. This is a good example. This book is bad because the main character is a woman and she displays a very cavalier attitude about gang rape. This can be attributed to any number of causes: 1) perhaps Heinlein just doesn't understand female anatomy and women's emotional lives, 2) perhaps Heinlein wanted to display what a superhuman badass spy the main character is, 3) just trashy writing so as to kick up some publicity bad or otherwise to sell books? And I tried to forget this initial disaster except the main character goes on to completely forgive one of the rapists. Ugh, too much.

But let's say you just ignore that whole thing, which is tough, but let's say you do-- what a fun meandering sci fi book! It's fun to see what Heinlein predicted right or wrong, though he still has the opportunity to be proven right. The difficult-to-obtain futuristic library technology described by Heinlein is completely ours these days. In Heinlein's future it's easy to travel the galaxies, but expensive, whereas in real life we're not even close. IVF and even 3-parent IVF is already real, though specific genetic modifications to the embryos are still just on the horizon. (Crispr/Cas9)

And I like Friday/ Marge/ whatever her current identity is. I like how she's an unstoppable badass and a needy emotional mess at the same time. (Except when it comes to rape?)

Anyway, worth reading if you can compartmentalize feelings about fiction and enjoy trashy fun.

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Saturday, August 12, 2017

The Art of Memoir by Mary Karr

The Art of MemoirThe Art of Memoir by Mary Karr
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I haven't read Karr's memoirs yet, but this instructional book was more satisfying because I had recently read or reread many of the memoirs she mentioned. I feel an urgent need to read more of the ones she uses as examples.

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Friday, August 11, 2017

An American Sickness by Elisabeth Rosenthal

An American Sickness: How Healthcare Became Big Business and How You Can Take It BackAn American Sickness: How Healthcare Became Big Business and How You Can Take It Back by Elisabeth Rosenthal
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Everyone read this book!! It's about the medical and pharmaceutical industries, and it was written by a doctor. It's not a liberal or conservative book. It's the most educational and relevant book I've read all year.

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Thursday, August 10, 2017

The Oregon Trail by Francis Parkman

The Oregon TrailThe Oregon Trail by Francis Parkman
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I don't care that he didn't finish the Oregon Trail because I was sufficiently bored that I was glad he just called it quits and went home already. My interest in this book was of the silly childhood variety from playing the computer game of the same name. For that reason, my favorite parts were the parts where they pursued and killed buffalo. I know! I'm ridiculous. The various different Native American (First Nations?) tribes were in themselves super interesting and I think Parkman did try to differentiate between their traditions and culture, but I think he was significantly handicapped in this by his old-timey bias.

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Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Why Read Moby-Dick? by Nathaniel Philbrick

Why Read Moby-Dick?Why Read Moby-Dick? by Nathaniel Philbrick
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I saw this book on a recent (first) trip to Nantucket. This certainly makes me want to read Moby Dick and after previous attempts, I thought nothing could make me want to read it. I will give it one more try...


Dubious.

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Tuesday, August 8, 2017

The Tanakh

JPS Tanakh (student edition)Tanakh by Anonymous


Technically, I read the Old Testament, not The Tanakh, but it's the same books in a different order. It took me 6 months to finish.

As a rule, I don't rate or review Holy Books but I'll mention a few things that stood out to me. The Torah/Pentateuch is pretty tightly organized compared to the rest. The rules in Leviticus particularly grabbed my attention, which I wrote more specifically about in my Torah "review."

Much of the rest of the Old Testament is wars and God getting angry for his worshippers breaking rules, especially marrying those of other religions. A few notable exceptions: Song of Songs is very romantic, Jonah is the stuff of great adventure books, and the locusts are as scary as a Steven King novel.

The Christian order leaves a bit to be desired by ending on Malachi. The order of the final Jewish book is either uncertain or was not precisely set but ending on Chronicles is maybe a little better with the rebuilding of Jerusalem.

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Sunday, August 6, 2017

Dispatches by Michael Herr

DispatchesDispatches by Michael Herr
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Really powerful nonfiction account of the Vietnam War. Intense.

Though by no means the central point or theme of this book (which was something like war is hell) the problems of the free press struggling against direction from business, government leadership, and the military is notable particularly because of our current political problems.

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Saturday, August 5, 2017

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Beyond the Sling by Mayim Bialik

Beyond the Sling: A Real-Life Guide to Raising Confident, Loving Children the Attachment Parenting WayBeyond the Sling: A Real-Life Guide to Raising Confident, Loving Children the Attachment Parenting Way by Mayim Bialik
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I like Mayim Bialik so I really wanted to like this book. I believe in some of the attachment principals, though my kids sleep in their own beds in their own rooms, they seem mostly content with it. When my kids were babies, I did pretty much take the approach that "their wants are their needs" and they're developing well now.

But there were some serious problems with this book. Most notably, she casually mentioned she decided not to vaccinate her children. This is a problem. Unlike most other parenting decisions vaccination is not a decision that affects just you and your family, it's a societal issue because many vaccines work through herd immunity, especially for the immune-compromised children. So for example, her unvaccinated children could infect a child with cancer that isn't able to get the vaccines while fighting cancer. Also, she is a scientist, so we have to assume she based this on some relevant information the rest of us somehow missed? Way to implant doubt without actually providing something to back it up. As it happens, I looked into an entire class about vaccines when I had kids, with a lot of the relevant research and studies provided. It made clear to me the need for vaccinating and vaccinating according to the doctor-specified schedule.

Also, elimination communication sounds totally unnecessary. Potty training is not a huge deal that you need to suffer for years over it.

Finally, we see a little bit of how she viewed her marriage at the time the book was written and it did seem reasonable healthy based on her description, but then they got divorced the same year this book came out. Obviously, a lot of people treat divorce as private, but when you're writing a parenting book/ memoir it does seem especially relevant. Were there other things going on that she didn't share? Or did the marriage end specifically because of differences or problems arising from attachment parenting?



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Wednesday, August 2, 2017

The End of Poverty by Jeffrey D. Sachs

The End of PovertyThe End of Poverty by Jeffrey D. Sachs
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is a good book and it shares with us Sach's wealth of experience in international economics. The problem for me is that I read Poor Economics: A Radical Rethinking of the Way to Fight Global Poverty first, and that book changed the whole way I look at politics and international development- it was mind-blowing. Sachs suffers from the comparison with kind of run-of-the-mill recommendations.

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Tuesday, August 1, 2017

The Sign of Four by Arthur Conan Doyle

The Sign of FourThe Sign of Four by Arthur Conan Doyle
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The book makes no mystery of the fact that there will be four co-conspirators. The mystery isn't as interesting as in the first one, and the criminal's back story isn't either. This one is more of romance if anything.

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Monday, July 31, 2017

Planet of Exile by Ursula K. Le Guin

Planet of ExilePlanet of Exile by Ursula K. Le Guin
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I enjoyed this one. It was short and focused on the dynamics between alien people at different places in their scientific development.

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Sunday, July 30, 2017

Time's a Thief by B.G. Firmani

Time's a Thief: A NovelTime's a Thief: A Novel by B.G. Firmani
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The writer is very smart. That's mostly what this book is about. It's also about the main character's obsession with an awful rich family in New York City. The part I could most relate to is the heaviness of life's reality not matching youthful expectations. Now I sound a million years old.

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Saturday, July 29, 2017

The Lightness of Being by Frank Wilczek

The Lightness of Being: Mass, Ether, and the Unification of ForcesThe Lightness of Being: Mass, Ether, and the Unification of Forces by Frank Wilczek
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book is from 2008 but it focuses on different aspects of particle physics than books that I've read so far. A few things I learned/ reviewed include:

1) energy is not conserved- as proved at CERN by creating more mass from smashing protons and neutrons together (Ch 3),

2) the interiors of protons and neutrons are made of quarks and gluons which we can't see directly (categorized by flavors/colors) (Ch 7),

3) a different description of the uncertainty principle than I've heard (Ch 7),

4) quantum chromodynamics (QCD) is the theory of strong interactions, a fundamental force describing the interactions between quarks and gluons, which make up hadrons such as the proton, neutron, and pion,

5) Hadrons are in two groups: baryons made of three quarks, and mesons made of one quark and one antiquark. (Protons and neutrons are baryons; pions are mesons),

6) "symmetry" is how physicists figured out/ explain the rules of quarks and gluons (Ch 7),

7) quarks that are close have almost no force attracting them, but there's a strong force that grows when they separate (?) (Ch 7),

8) the universe is made up of matter (4%), dark matter, and dark energy (Ch 8),

9) the "empty" part of space is not empty but an electromagnetic field/ time-space made up of hadrons which Wilczek calls "the grid" which is how gravity operates on a big scale (Ch 8.),

10) quantum electrodynamics (QED) is the relativistic quantum field theory of electrodynamics. It describes how light and matter interact (light gets heavy inside the 'grid") and is the first theory where there is agreement between quantum mechanics and special relativity

11) Quarks and gluons don't have mass? But they create the mass of the protons and neutrons with their energy?

I read the first half the book twice in a row. He lost me more and more in later chapters as he tried to point towards a possible future unified theory. I did not read the second half twice because I was mentally exhausted but I might have to just reread the second half of the book sometime to have it sink in.

Update: Now that I've let my brain rest awhile, I guess the issue here is that this was the physics landscape before superstring theory gained so much traction? I'm not sure which parts are no longer relevant- assuming superstring is even true- but it's still interesting to read such a different attempt at nearing a unified theory.

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Thursday, July 27, 2017

Everything Belongs to Us by Yoojin Grace Wuertz

Everything Belongs to UsEverything Belongs to Us by Yoojin Grace Wuertz
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

At the beginning, I didn't think I'd like this book, but as the complications piled on, I appreciated how much like real life this book was. That's not something I encounter that much in literature, possibly because even when an author is trying to do it- which is not most of the time- it's probably very difficult to achieve.

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Wednesday, July 26, 2017

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

The Hate U GiveThe Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book has great characters you can love. Despite the main character being a teen and struggling with how she is viewed by the outside world, the book itself still manages to handle the very important and sadly all too frequent topic of police shootings with great maturity. This novel is a clear young adult winner.

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Monday, July 24, 2017

The Answers by Catherine Lacey

The AnswersThe Answers by Catherine Lacey
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Great and interesting writing. Super weird plot, that seems to be basically a vehicle for all the wonderful sentences and deep thoughts.

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Sunday, July 23, 2017

Surprise, Security, and the American Experience by John Lewis Gaddis

Surprise, Security, and the American ExperienceSurprise, Security, and the American Experience by John Lewis Gaddis
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Gaddis explains the national security philosophies of either isolation or engagement. He uses as the main examples and basis for his arguments the time periods around the British burning of the Capitol in 1814, the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, post-WWII security concerns that led to the Cold War, and terrorist 9/11. The good thing is that the book is very short. The downside is that it's not very developed, interesting, or compelling. Seems like 118 pages is at least long enough to pack a punch... but no.

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Friday, July 21, 2017

The Magic of Reality by Richard Dawkins

The Magic of Reality: How We Know What's Really TrueThe Magic of Reality: How We Know What's Really True by Richard Dawkins
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I read this book because it was on a reading list recommended by Bill Gates in 2015. A simple overview of science for kids. I don't know why I keep reading Dawkins books when I always get annoyed about how he speaks about religion. Why don't you just talk about the science and let people apply it to their view of religion for themselves? It's really condescending. That said, I might at some point recommend to my kids that they read this book.

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Spoils by Brian Van Reet

SpoilsSpoils by Brian Van Reet
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Good writing, very well-constructed characters, interesting story... so painful to read.

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Thursday, July 20, 2017

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden

Memoirs of a GeishaMemoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Really entertaining, but left me kind of cold. The voice really sounds like that of a woman, and the time, place, and circumstances of the main character's life are really interesting. But there's a lack of depth to the story generally and also in the characters.

(Little bit of a spoiler ahead:) I thought it would at least head in a Pride and Prejudice direction which I can enjoy even if it's repeated, but it didn't work out that well.

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Sunday, July 16, 2017

Dance Dance Dance by Haruki Murakami

Dance Dance Dance (The Rat, #4)Dance Dance Dance by Haruki Murakami
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This is the 4th book in Murakami's Rat series and I read them all in order: Hear the Wind Sing, Pinball, A Wild Sheep Chase, and this one Dance Dance Dance. This is the best one of the series in terms of the plot making some sense, but Wind/Pinball is the best in terms of deep thoughts in the book. A Wild Sheep Chase was especially clumsy with the magical realism and Dance, Dance, Dance improves on this aspect, but it doesn't feel like it's enough to rescue the series. Overall, I wouldn't say it's a great series.

Didn't buy the whole Yumioshi "love" story in this either. (Not related to my review but the title has almost nothing to do with the book either which is a disappointment.)

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The Lonely American by Jacqueline Olds, Richard S. Schwartz

The Lonely American: Drifting Apart in the Twenty-first CenturyThe Lonely American: Drifting Apart in the Twenty-first Century by Jacqueline Olds, Richard S. Schwartz
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Being too busy is bad, but even worse is checking out of social life. When this happens people get depressed, then use alcohol, drugs, or pharmaceuticals to deal with their depression. Therapy is better but still unideal. The authors admit this is a societal problem - both being too busy and being isolated- but then sort of vaguely suggest we just force ourselves to socialize.

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Friday, July 14, 2017

Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay

Bad FeministBad Feminist by Roxane Gay
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Starts out a little slowly with some personal essays about Gay's work life and personal life. However, her later essays on privacy, autonomy, sexism, and racism are powerful. I particularly noticed when I didn't necessarily agree with her that her arguments were sufficiently persuasive that they made me reconsider. This is one of the top things I look for in nonfiction and essays in particular. I'm not looking for information that merely champions what I already believe but writing that challenges the way I think and see the world and changes or broadens my perspective.

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Thursday, July 13, 2017

Marlena by Julie Buntin

MarlenaMarlena by Julie Buntin
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A beautiful exploration of young friendship, its betrayals, and its lasting love and effects.

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All Your Worth by Elizabeth Warren, Amelia Warren Tyagi

All Your Worth: The Ultimate Lifetime Money PlanAll Your Worth: The Ultimate Lifetime Money Plan by Elizabeth Warren
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is basically Dave Ramsey's plan which I think already existed when this book was written. (Dave published Financial Peace in the 1990s.)

Similarities to Dave: This book is mostly about the evils of credit cards and debt in general. While they don't recommend paying the smallest debt first (classic Dave Ramsey) but neither do they insist you pay the highest interest rate debt first.

Bad differences from Dave: The authors suggest doing a bunch of worksheets that I have no interest in whatsoever.

Good differences from or additions to Dave: One new idea is dividing your needs (50% of income), savings (20%), and fun (30%). The authors discuss how to make sure your fun spending is actually fun and not guilt or emotional-hole spending. Asking for medical discounts and free samples of drugs. Getting drugs from Canada. Good marriage advice. Good warnings about how everyone in the system is trying to rip you off. Warnings about owning a home may or may not be a good deal (including a discussion of closing costs, fees, shady mortgage practices).

One particularly interesting thing is that the authors' concerns about job loss, shady mortgages, and foreclosure seem prescient given that this book predates the 2007-2008 financial crisis.

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Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Love Your Life, Not Theirs by Rachel Cruze

Love Your Life, Not Theirs: 7 Money Habits for Living the Life You WantLove Your Life, Not Theirs: 7 Money Habits for Living the Life You Want by Rachel Cruze
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Similar to, but better written than Dave Ramsey's books. Most likely to interest you if you're already interested in Dave Ramsey. A little bit of new information, and directed more to younger people, but mostly similar to Dave. Nonetheless, I own this one in lieu of owning a Dave book.

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