Here are short summaries of several books I have read in the past year:
- “Do you Believe in Magic? Sense and Nonsense in Alternative Medicine” (Paul A. Offit). Interesting book on the nonsense we find in medicine. The item that got to read this book was a story about Linus Pauling and vitamin C, as it shows that even a brilliant scientist can go off the rails. Pauling’s claims on how high doses of vitamin C cure everything proved to be mostly quackery. The book covers Pauling as well as bunch of other questionable trends of the past few decades.
- “Goodbye Columbus” (Philip Roth). Philip Roth has been recommended to me by number of people, so I decided to give him a try. This was one of his early books, a collection of short stories. The stories are very well written, some are pretty funny and all have a tendency to draw you in the first few paragraphs. Perhaps I will read more of Philip Roth in the future.
- “Speaker For The Dead” (Orson Scott Card). Since I saw the movie “Ender’s Game”, I went back and re-read this book, which is next in the Ender Wiggins sequence. It still is my favorite book of the Ender saga, although reading it this time I found it bit melodramatic. Turned out that the introduction was very interesting, as the author talked about the genesis of the Ender books. He wanted to write “Speaker for the Dead” and he decided to use Ender Wiggin as the main character. But then when he began to introduce the story he wrote too much material that was irrelevant to “Speaker for the Dead”. All that back story became another book – “Ender’s Game”.
- “Surfaces and Essences” (Douglas Hofstadter and Emanuel Sander). This is a new book by Douglas Hofstadter on the nature of thought. The subtitle is “Analogy as the Fuel and Fire of Thinking”. In the book the authors present a very compelling argument that analogies – seeing one thing like another – is the basic process of human thinking. Rather than me trying to explain this, you can see a lecture by Hoftstadter outlining the main ideas of the book. Although enjoyable, at times this book takes too long to get to the point and wastes time with hundreds of examples. I’ve only read about half the book. I hope to finish this book in the future, as the ideas are fascinating.
- “Doorknob Five Two” (Fredrick Arnold). This book is a fictionalized account of Fredrick Arnold’s experiences as a P-38 fighter pilot in the Mediterranean during World War. It is clear, that although the author was an superb pilot and an ace, he was a reluctant warrior. He understood too well, that shooting down other aircraft included killing other people. In fact, he kept the fact that he was a combat pilot from his parents, especially his father. His parents only understood his role in the war when he returned home with a uniform marked with ribbons. “Doorknob Fifty Two” is really well written and was a great read.