31 July, 2008

Summer Reading

...in a perfect world where everyone was equal/ I'd still own the film rights and be working on the sequel...


The World Without Us, by Alan Weisman. The premise of this book is "What would happen to the things we've built if humans stopped existing on the planet?" It's anthropological, biological, ecological, and just fascinating reading. I've already promised it to someone, and I'm only to page 60.

Why Things Bite Back, technology and the revenge of unintended consequences, by Edward Tenner. I have a feeling this is going to be a sort of sociological examination of consumerism, and will be as much about attitudes and expectations as mechanics. It was this very combination that made me love Why We Buy, the science of shopping, by Paco Underhill. I think of 'unintended consequences' in relation to the drug industry, except lately I've begun to suspect that drug companies are inventing ailments in order to sell useless drugs that cause side effects, requiring other drugs. I'll admit to being paranoid; this doesn't mean my theory's wrong. Eric Schlosser's Fast Food Nation: the dark side of the all-American meal, also an examination of consumerism, was engaging and moved along, but didn't precisely have a plot, so I'm not sure how it could be made into a movie. Despite the presence of Patricia Arquette, I haven't seen it; anybody? Worth renting?

The Third Domain, the untold story of archaea and the future of biotechnology, by Tim Friend. This begins with the author underwater, in a particularly filthy puddle in New York City's Central Park. It's a scientific exploration of microbes, and it reads like a Michael Crichton novel. By the way, his (Crichton's) novel, Next, (not well reviewed) was not that bad. Okay, not Jurassic Park, but not bad. It raised interesting questions, coined a couple of terms I expect to hear in common use fairly soon, and had some wry funny bits. And a monkey.


The Mind And The Brain, neuroplasticity and the power of mental force, by Jeffrey M. Schwartz, M.D. and Sharon Begley. It's about the way our brains can and will remap themselves based on how we use them. There are some uncomfortably vivid descriptions of certain experiments that were crucial parts of the phenomena under discussion, which were tough to get through, but the writing is engaging and accessible without being simplistic or condescending. This is now one of the three books I give away regularly.

Still on tap:

You Suck, by Christopher Moore. It's a novel. I'm saving it. Chris Moore doesn't write fast enough to suit me.

(Everyday I Write The Book; Elvis Costello)

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