I’ve been on a bit of a popular science kick lately. Or rather, whoever at the NC Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped selects books from my request list to send me has been on a popular science kick. The last three titles I’ve received have all been popular science.
Now, these *are* books I’ve requested, books I wanted to read, and I was delighted to find out they were available to be requested. At the same time, I wish the librarians would break it up a little, because I’d like a little variety, and sciency books are a little more challenging to listen to than novels or short story collections.
Unlike the computer, the audiobook player doesn’t let me break a phrase down into its component words, or spell a word such as a name or a technical term.
That doesn’t matter so much for novels, though I still prefer to read them in an electronic text medium, but it makes me feel as though I’m gaining a superficial knowledge of the topic rather than a deeper understanding.
Still and all, the books have been interesting.
I’ve already finished Evil Genes: Why Rome Fell, Hitler Rose, Enron Failed, and My Sister Stole My Mother’s Boyfriend, by Barbara Oakley.
Oakley uses a number of examples, including her experiences with her troubled older sister, Carolyn, to discuss Borderline Personality Disorder, psychopathy, and Machievellian behavior. She discusses the characteristics of each, how they overlap and where they differ, and–most fascinatingly–the brain chemistry, genetic factors, and other influences which may cause or shape them.
Oakley’s style was humorous and engaging, and I felt her personal experiences and search for understanding of her sister really enhanced the book. I felt I learned a lot, but I wish I’d been able to flip through the book, glancing at illustrations and confirming what I remembered from a few pages or chapters earlier.
I enjoyed the book, and if you run across it, I’d say it’s worth a read.
My current read is by New York Times science columnist and author Karl Zimmer: _Microcosm: “E. Coli” and the New Science of Life.
I first encountered Zimmer when I stumbled across a different book, Parasite Rex, at the regular library. I enjoyed it so much, I bought a copy, thinking perhaps our then-teenage sons would enjoy it as well.
In Microcosm, Zimmer discusses E. coli–its scientific history, it’s properties, its genetics and tendency to steal, swap, and otherwise transfer genetic material.
I feel as though I’ve learned a lot about everything from human genetics to cell mechanics, but the information is all scattered and disorganized and I’d have a hard time relating it to someone else. I enjoyed Zimmer’s style, but again, I wish I could page through the book, reinforcing my new-found knowledge.
I recommend the book, and Parasite Rex, as well.
Next up: Proust and the Squid: The Science and Story of the Reading Brain by Maryanne Wolf.
I believe this one was mentioned by someone years ago on the BookCrossing.com forums, and it sounded good enough at the time that I put it on my reading list. I don’t really know much about it, besides the title and that at least one reader was enjoying it, but I’m looking forward to finding out.
After this, though, I hope the NCLBPH returns me to my regularly scheduled fiction, so that the fascinating science has a chance to settle a bit before I try to stuff in more.
What about you? Have you read any of these books, or even heard of them? Are you a non-fiction fan, or strictly a fiction junkie? Read (or heard) any good books lately?