Sunday, June 16, 2013

Micro-Reviews of Books Read, May 2013

Reviews of books read last month: two novels and two non-fiction books.
For various reasons, these and future reviews will be much shorter than
usual. I hope you still find them useful.

1. "Antifragile" by Nassim Nicholas Taleb

Volatility, randomness, disorder and stressors are usually considered
undesirable. They cause problems for the "fragile", where fragility is
defined as the state of being vulnerable to any shocks or surprises.
One approach to these problems is to seek robustness, which mostly aims
for containment. Antifragility goes beyond robustness or resilience.
Drawing from many disciplines, including ancient philosophy, economics,
finance, statistics and history, the author describes how not only cope
with uncertainty, but how to use it to our advantage. An intriguing and
thought-provoking book.

RSA Keynote delivered by Taleb discussing the book:
A longer Authors@Google talk given by the author:

2. "The Pleasures of Reading in an Age of Distraction" by Alan Jacobs

In an age of short attention spans and constant distractions, it is
generally believed that "long-form" reading will inevitably decline.
The author challenges this conclusion, offering his thoughts on how
we can reconnect with books and enjoy reading. He discusses at and
critiques earlier guides to reading, offering his own suggestions on
deciding what to read. Reading should not be a chore, and we should
feel free to follow our whims. He covers ebook readers, "deep reading"
and re-reading. An entertaining and useful guide.

3. "The Year of the Hare: A Novel" by Arto Paasilinna

While driving back from an assignment in the forest, a journalist and
photographer hit a wild hare with their car. Fortunately, the hare
survives. But this event triggers a series of life-changing decisions
for the journalist. Taking the injured hare into his care, he turns his
back on his unloving marriage and his unsatisfying job, and sets out
on a year-long adventure in the country regions of Finland. He
experiences many aspects of human nature in this picaresque novel.

4. "The Time Machine" by H. G. Wells

Written in the late 19th century, this pioneering science fiction novel
speculates on the possibility of travelling through time (the fourth
dimension) as though it was one of the three spatial dimensions. The
author draws on the then-recent emergence of evolution theory, the
political rivalry between capitalism and socialism, and the class
system of the Victorian era. What does the future hold for the human
race? In this brief novel, the author demonstrates considerable
imagination. Both the story and the writing style have aged well.