Archive for the ‘Books’ Category

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Two books on the constitution

July 3, 2011

James MacGregor Burns as written a very important book on the U.S. Constitution by using the issue of court packing as his theme. It makes some vitally important historical points about the role of the Supreme Court over time.
Packing the Court: The Rise of Judicial Power and the Coming Crisis of the Supreme Court

The book I will be reading this holiday weekend is Akhil Reed Amar’s biography of the constitution.
America’s Constitution: A Biography

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Notes on a few books

October 27, 2006

Should of course write this more often, but the “untimely” part of the name is part of my inherent nature.
Recent reads:
Henning Mankell,
One Step Behind

Swedish detective series about Inspector Kurt Wallander. Mankell brings to his novels the starkness and reality so well known to anyone who has seen a Ingmar Bergman movie, or read the delightful novels of Maj Sjowall and Per Wahloo. This books lives up to the series and says much more about people than it does about this particular murderer.

Steve Wozniak and Gina Smith,
iWoz: Computer Geek to Cult Icon: How I Invented the Personal Computer, Co-Founded Apple, and Had Fun Doing It

Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak’s autobiography. Woz’s stories have always been a source of entertainment and inspiration. He lives up to his extraordinary image in this wonderful retelling of his life. If you have ever used an Apple, read this book. If not, read this book and then go buy one (you can have both a windows and mac!).

James Lee Burke,
Pegasus Descending: A Dave Robicheaux Novel

Burke’s latest installment in the Dave Robicheaux detective series. Burke is a very good writer and this is an apt example. Dave Robicheaux and Clete Purcell are vivid characters who live in the zone between law and disorder in New Iberia, Louisiana. There is a bit of hurricane in these guys.

Laurie R. King,
The Art of Detection

King is the author of two distinct detective series: San Francisco’s Kate Martinelli and London’s Sherlock and Mary Holmes. Here she somewhat combines the two as Martinelli investigates the death of an obsessed Holmes fan. It is always fun to read how she weaves the historical fictional Holmes with the current fictional one. We miss Mary, but not so much that it prevents enjoying the story.

The Arbinger Institute,
The Anatomy of Peace: Resolving the Heart of Conflict

The follow-up to Leadership and Self-Deception steps back in time to explain where fictional leader Lou Herbert found the basic principles of that first book. This is simply a great book. The issues discussed here, whether cast as family crisis (second) or business management style (first), are fundamental to humanity. These books should be read widely. One can only hope they would be understood widely.

Les Claypool,
South of the Pumphouse

Bass player and Primus leader Claypool has long had an interest in fishing and other, stranger, things. Here he combines some of both in his first novel. It may not win a book award, but it is damn funny. I have long enjoyed his music and look forward to reading his next book.

Andrew Vaschss,
Mask Market (Vintage Crime/Black Lizard)

The latest installment in Vaschss’ Burke series. We visit familiar landscapes and people, but are never disappointed in either. If you have never read one of these books, you owe it to yourself to jump in. While I recommend starting at the beginning and reading them all, I have always been impressed by the fact that you could read any of them and not miss a beat. I have never figured out how he can set the scene each time so completely without boring his regular readers—we are never bored here! Burke is a criminal as well as a hero, and we accept and delight in both.

Michael Connelly,
Echo Park (Harry Bosch)

By now you may have noticed that I tend to read both many mystery novels and the latest ones by a large group of authors. Add Connelly to that list. The detective here is
Harry Bosch of Los Angeles. In the last two installments Bosch has been back with the LAPD working on what television calls “Cold Cases” and in what the LAPD calls the Open-Unsolved Unit. Either way it is just plain good stuff. As a bonus we are reminded in the book about the release of recently discovered recording of Thelonious Monk Quartet with John Coltrane at Carnegie Hall. If I was to say it was maybe better than Connelly’s book, I think he would understand and forgive me. It is still a very good book.

Dick Francis,
Under Orders

This is the first book Francis has written since the death of his wife some six years ago. Thankfully his family encouraged him to write again. The return of Sid Halley, familiar to all Francis fans, is worth the wait. The world of horse racing in England probably cannot live up to the tales Francis has spun, but this book lives up to them. Halley has had the honor or repeat manifestations and the latest if not the greatest stands tall as a tribute to its author’s life and imagination. Thank you Mr. Francis.

Gordon S. Wood,
The Americanization of Benjamin Franklin

I actually listened to this book. Wood wrote the book on the American Revolution in 1969. I read it in pursuit of my degree. Here we get a wonderful explication of a very complex man. Wood explains how and why a man born in Massachusetts needed to “become” and American. It is a very interesting story and book.

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Numbers

July 31, 2006

I recently finished reading Zero: The Biography of a Dangerous Idea by Charles Seife. Very nice book. It reminded me that mathematics is indeed a language, and as such must be seen not as the truth—but “a lie we agree to recite to each other.” One would never say that English or French were “true,” but we make this mistake with math. There are proofs after all! Well I am no more impressed with them than I was in high school when I first learned them. This probably was not what Seife intended, but such is the lot of the author. It is a book well worth reading, and probably you will not come to my conclusions after reading it. By the way, it also struck me that the most “real” numbers are the irrational ones: pi, the golden ratio, etc.: numbers that don’t really every end!

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The Long Tail

July 9, 2006

The Long Tail began as a blog and is now a book. Chris Anderson has delivered the goods. Everyone involved in retail should read this book, and not just for its insight on how the internet changes the landscape of selling. He presents a clear and convincing story of the nature and history of selling. Like The Cluetrain Manifesto, this book explores how we need to change our assumptions as technology democratizes access and opportunity to production, selling and buying.

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Patterns and History

July 8, 2006

History is all about patterns and as such reflects the human mind—as does mathematics etc. The usefulness of the patterns is almost more important than their truth. Validity and usefulness are branches of the same limb: validity being the shorter limb. Actually, it might be more accurate to say that they are types of branches (with validity still being a shorter type of branch). We can then add one of my favorite ideas: Staughton Lynd’s view that history is the search for forgotten alternatives (in this case forgotten branches). The branch analogy is further served by its connection with the iterative properties of chaos. Here we have both branches and patterns within the context of non-linear reality, both very good things from my viewpoint. (originally published on untimelymeditations.zenosox.com 6/3/06 1:06pm)

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Memory and History

July 8, 2006

Have been reading Eric Kandel’s wonderful book, In Search of Memory. I have often wondered why historians seem to have very little interest in memory. They rely heavily on it as source material, but don’t seem interested in understanding how it works. Very short sighted and possibly a sign that they are actually afraid of knowing the answers.

Kandel writes a wonderful combination of history of science, personal reflections and just plain science. I wish more authors would follow this example, though it probably helps if you are as interesting as Kandel. There is indeed an important place for this knowledge in historical writing. We must understand the fundamental science of memory before we accept memories as evidence. (originally published on untimelymeditations.zenosox.com 5/29/06 9:15pm)

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The Long Tail

July 8, 2006

Chris Anderson’s The Long Tail began as a blog and now is finally a book. It is simply wonderful. Everyone involved in business should read it as soon as possible. Many will not understand it but they all should try.