Tag Archives: Books of 2010

Re: Packing For Mars

From poop jokes to warnings of bone loss, in Packing For Mars: The Curious Science of Life in the Void, Mary Roach does an amusing job of showing just how ridiculous it is to send living organisms into lifeless space. The shower never worked, the toilet barely works, and space food in the 60s was so awful, the astronauts wanted a food pill. Part of the problem was that the food engineers came from vetinary medicine, formulating monkey chow into astronaut chow. Some of the foods astronauts refused to eat them became commercial foodlike products, such as meal replacing shakes and granola bars.

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Re: The Grand Design

Despite the marquee name of Stephen Hawking (and Leonard Mlodinow) on the cover, The Grand Design reads at best like a sketchy version of a cosmology book. The lack of bibliography should have been a warning. It begins with quite a salvo: On the first page, it declares that philosophy is dead as a means to answer the deep questions. Then it asks deep philosophical questions about the nature of the laws of physics.

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Re: The World in 2050

Maybe by 2050 all this snow and ice will melt. And, after reading Laurence C. Smith’s The World in 2050: Four Forces Shaping Civilization’s Northern Future, you get the impression that you might want to be in Canada when it happens.

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Re: Medium Raw

I like Anthony Bourdain, but for about a week, it seemed like he was turning up on just about every show I listen to for an interview about his latest book, Medium Raw: A Bloody Valentine to the World of Food and the People Who Cook. His rant about the wisdom (or lack thereof) of becoming a chef got featured every time.  Mainly he says he is the perfect example of what not to do if you want to be a great chef. What he doesn’t need to say is that he’s the perfect example of a great ranter.

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Re: Shades of Milk and Honey

I scarfed Shades of Milk and Honey, by Mary Robinette Kowal in one night. It was nice to just sit down and read a book, so nice, it’s hard to resist the urge to call it “sweet”. How about amiable? It probably helps that I never cared for Jane Austen, but I have enjoyed books and stories inspired (at least in part) by her, like Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell, or “Pride and Prometheus“. It helps that I’ve enjoyed other stories by Kowal. And it really helps that I love the form of magic in this book.  “Glamour” is a way of working with illusions of light and sound, a small magic that’s largely used as a domestic art by well-born, educated young ladies. Except that professionals are men.

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Re: The Other Brain

Just when you thought the brain was complicated enough as it is, it turns out we barely even know what most of the brain cells is doing. In The Other Brain: From Dementia to Schizophrenia, How New Discoveries about the Brain Are Revolutionizing Medicine and Science, by R. Douglas Fields, the “other brain” refers to the 85% of the brain cells that aren’t neurons: the glial cells.

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Re: Sixty-One Nails

One of these days I’m going to learn that just because a book has a cool idea or an awesome premise doesn’t mean I’m going to like it. In his feature in The Big Idea, Mike Shevdon has some very cool things to say about other worlds and the true meaning of ancient ceremonies. But after reading the first chapters of Sixty-One Nails, I couldn’t remember why I was so excited by the prospect of reading it.

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Re: Zoo Story

Zoo Story: Life in the Garden of Captives, Thomas French is filled with wonderful stories about the lifes and deaths of animals in the Lowry Park Zoo in Tampa.  We get a little time with the herpetologists and the snakes, and the vanishing Panamanian Golden Frog, but mostly the mammals hold our attention. We get stories of hope about manatees and elephants, but the memorable stories are about downfalls.

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Reading list updates

Now that my Hugo reading is long past done and over, it’s time to admit that I have quite a list on request at the library. So this is what the Current Books section of my To Be Read stack looks like:

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Re: Game Change

Game Change: Obama and the Clintons, McCain and Palin, and the Race of a Lifetime, by John Heilemann & Mark Halperin is such a fast, trashy read, it almost takes longer to say the title than to read the book. The anecdotes are interesting, but the writing is pedestrian. It’s more entertaining to hear the authors in interview, when they can just tell the best stories in the book.

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