Read Any Good Books Lately?

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?

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4 thoughts on “Read Any Good Books Lately?

  1. In years past, I read only science orientated subject matter, but sadly I became hooked on fantasy and romances the past several years. The science in some of the books was very questionable, but the romance portrayed in most of the books I am reading now is even more questionable. So I am reading the web (blogs, educational institutions, author pages), where I can easily look up details and verify “facts”. Your titles mentioned here sound interesting, especially Parasite Rex.
    In the last month I have read several books by Patricia Briggs (fantasy romance with werewolves and such), a free kindle release on accounting and business, a free crochet guide, several books about the suffering wizard Dresden by Jim Butcher, alternate reality by Ilona Andrews (a married couple team of writers). I tried reading some historical romances that came free with my Prime membership, but most are not very accurate. One of them was even incorrect on the titles used in Britain in the 1700-1800’s, freely mixing them with those of other European countries. Something so easy to check or explain away seems ridiculous not to get correct, especially if you are using it in your book titles.
    Your list sounds more promising.

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    1. My husband likes the Harry Dresden series, but it never really clicked for me. I may have to give it another try.

      Oh, it’s so frustrating when authors get details wrong, especially details that are easy to check! I can understand missing some obscure point on a fairly complicated topic, but not stuff that’s that easy to check. Of course, I make flubs of my own, so I try to be forgiving…

      I stopped reading Romance as a genre because, while I enjoy a good love story, the genre had some conventions that really set my teeth on edge. I understand it’s changed a lot–maybe I should give it another try!

      Thanks for reading, and for leaving a comment!

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  2. Actually, I do not recommend romances. I am reading them because they are free to me and reading calms me. When I was young I actually read a set of encyclopedias my parents had bought at great cost for us. Lately, I just read how-tos or the like. Some historical romances are interesting, but most of the ones being offered on my prime list are not very good. Poor working stiff meets rich working stiff and becomes wealthy. Chaste, hard working, put upon person becomes powerful super natural and goes around righting wrongs as best she can, with fellow super at her side. Forgiving all insults, super herione even overcomes being raped, to right wrongs while relatives give her nothing but grief. Most romances can be summed up in two or less sentences. Not very indepth treading.
    I do not believe most romances help lift your spirits or inspire you. Although, there are some where the lady invents the first flying machine, but does not publish the fact due to intrigue. That one teaches you that if you do not share your knowledge, it fades into nothing.
    Reading is part of who I am, but I think I need to go back to encyclopedias, lol.

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  3. I never could get into the Dresden ones either. Tried 3 of the audio books and lost interest. Right now, I am listening to who-done-its with a tinge of the supernatural and romance…pretty much every book of the Krewe of Hunters series by Heather Graham, lol. I prefer fiction – suspense, mysteries, and anything with paranormal or supernatural stuff and great characters.

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