25.7.09

The Memory Keeper's Daughter by Kim Edwards

Being a book about secrets, marriage and handicapped children, this book sat on my shelf for years because I assumed it would be too sentimental. It actually presents a balance between objectivity and sympathy that is the kind of exploration of human nature that the best novels can present. The book is gripping, except for the last 100 pages or so, which don't have enough tension to sustain the characters. Otherwise, definitely thought provoking.

Enigma by Robert Harris

I've become quite a Harris fan for basic but intelligent thrillers, and this is one of the better I've read. Tom Jericho is a code breaker for the British during the war, and besides breaking the German U-boat codes, he has another mystery to solve. The history is interesting and he just avoids cliche, although sometimes only just. Good fun.

The Adventure of English by Melvyn Bragg

An interesting, readable history of the language. Apparently the companion to a TV series. Bragg is an enthusiast rather than a scholar, and the book reflects that. Some repetition as if the chapters were meant to be self-sustaining, and the lists of words are skimmable. I might buy a copy for reference.

19.7.09

Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell



A fascinating book, with all kinds of implications. The idea is that we don't get too impressed with success. Environment matters, and so does hard work. Sometimes too simplistic, but generally excellent.

Wild Sheep Chase by Haruki Murakami



Generally a fun book, kind of rollicking absurdity. I'm not a huge fan of postmodern fiction ... I find the alienation too alienating ... and I skimmed the philosophical nonsense. But satisfying in other ways.

8.7.09

The Secrets Behind Your Favorite Toys

play-doh.jpg

from mental_floss:
Back before it was Play-Doh, everyone’s favorite squishy clay was actually a wallpaper cleaner used to clean soot off of walls.

And much more!

7.7.09

about Neil Armstrong

From BBC:

Neil Armstrong inside the Lunar Module
"To my knowledge he has done two television interviews in the last 40 years - and he says nothing about what he felt about anything. He will talk about matters of fact and that's it," says Smith. The author has been repeatedly refused an interview with Armstrong despite many requests, although the pair have had e-mail correspondence.

"And he didn't want to profit from it financially - even though a lot of the other Moon walkers have done - and amazingly he's stood by that. An auction house told me that if Armstrong spent just one afternoon signing autographs he could make a million dollars, but he's always refused."

"The music he took on the mission to the Moon was deeply eccentric," says Smith. "Most astronauts took one classical piece, and one country and western.

"Armstrong took Dvorak's New World Symphony. But the other was theremin music - that eerie, wavy sound associated with sci-fi movies that goes 'woo woo'. On one hand it was the most perfect thing he could take, on the other it is massively eccentric - and that's kind of him."