What Book Are You Reading?

Discussion in 'Community Discussion' started by Huntn, Jan 14, 2011.

  1. AngerDanger macrumors 601

    AngerDanger

    Joined:
    Dec 9, 2008
    #6776
    Lotta great stuff in your OP, but I quoted what resonated with me most. I don't know why it is that we think somebody's proficiency in a given field makes them the most proficient educator about their… proficiency. It's entirely possible that one's sporadic creativity that earned them their fame also makes for inconsistent and unhelpful self-examination.

    In addition to the observer effect, I also wonder if a bit of survivor bias plays into the low quality of some bios; often the famous falsely attribute their success to things that many unsuccessful people have tried time and time again. I don't know whether it's because of a desperate desire to come up with an ad-hoc justification for their success or not; maybe people need to feel as though they deserve to have won their circumstantial lottery.

    Sometimes I feel as though asking smart/creative/charismatic people about their intelligence/creativity/charisma is as futile as asking a model how they have such good bone structure. "At what point in your career did you decide to have such striking cheekbones?" I think that if most autobiographies were honest, they'd be much shorter and more similar. Something like, "I was born, lived, and eventually made things that people really liked for some reason. When examined through the lens of certain academic theories, my work has been found to have merit, which is really cool because I wasn't even thinking about that stuff when I made my stuff. I also wrote this book. :) The end."

    My favorite biographies have been ones that integrate an element of narrative structure. I really liked Alison Bechdel's graphic memoirs Fun Home and Are You My Mother?. They were self aware, poignant, and explored aspects of her life through things like psychological and feminist theory—while acknowledging how goofy it is to do so. Despite that self-awareness, at the end of each memoir, I felt as though I had a much better idea of why she is who she is. I also liked Aaron Sorkin's Steve Jobs biopic. Distilling Jobs' life into a three act exploration of the relationship between him and his daughter revealed more about him than most biographers manage with hundreds of pages.

    Three last odd thoughts: reading bios reminds me of reading the "self-summaries" on dating sites. Dunno if you've ever done this, but I find that most say something like, "I'm bad at describing myself," and any other detail they add applies to most people, like, "I'm shy at first but talkative once I've warmed up to you. I like to eat food, to sleep, and to travel." It's as though our biggest, most deeply felt traits are universally shared. If you drew a Venn diagram perfectly illustrating every person's attributes, you'd probably notice the overlapping section in the center would overwhelm every little difference. Nice for a sense of unity, terrible for interesting insightful biographies.

    I also hate it when people take note of a famous person's few unique attributes and assume that adopting those traits will ensure their success follows. If you want to be successful like Steve Jobs or, say, John Lennon, you can be sure as hell that wearing round glasses, neglecting your children, and being seen as a nice hippy despite having a volatile personality aren't going to instill in you their technological or artistic visions. I imagine the truth is too boring to sell; people are successful because of equal parts luck and rigor.

    We might not all be naturally gifted (lucky) like Nikola Tesla, but if we aspire to greatness, we're more likely to get there through Edison-ian iteration and rigor. If tiny iteration and unrelenting trials were good enough to evolve apes into interplanetary-traveling destroyers of worlds who communicate with devices made outta electrified sand, it should be good enough to help in our crafts.

    But whaddo I know? :rolleyes:
     
  2. LizKat macrumors 601

    LizKat

    Joined:
    Aug 5, 2004
    Location:
    Catskill Mountains
    #6777
    Yep... moving it away from just bio-writing, I think there's a similarly problematic assumption operating in the workplace sometimes. A managerial attempt to analyze what it is about a particularly successful team member's "ways" ... followed by an attempt to summarize and communicate those as model for the rest of the team to emulate. Figuring if a mere tablespoon of ingredient X was excellent, then a full cup or so would be superb. The problem is, the manager doesn't know what has made that guy a dream team participant to begin with, really. He likes the results, that's all.

    Maybe he asks how this guy Luke organizes his day or his approach to a task.. and maybe as you say, the guy doesn't even know, it's just become something he's synthesized somehow from his previous experience, or maybe he just wings it most of the time, works great under pressure and so far manages to pull it off, no clue how it happens, it's all about adrenalin...

    But the project manager decides to distill the essence of what he understands of Luke and to pitch that as desirable behavior. Then [crickets] are heard as the project manager tries to sell this in to the team. Then a predictable combination of awkwardness and self-conscious behavior ensues, as the next project promptly goes down the tubes while everyone gazes at his or her own navel wondering if they're enough like ol' superman Luke yet.

    It's probably how my friend Manny ended up at dinner one night confiding in his grandma that he wasn't sure he was going to last at his job because he was starting to feel like an impostor, not an ace programmer. His grandma probably hastened his departure from that job by then starting to ask him every night at dinner "if they found out yet" -- putting into words his own worst fears. :rolleyes:
     
  3. ucfgrad93 macrumors P6

    ucfgrad93

    Joined:
    Aug 17, 2007
    Location:
    Colorado
    #6778
    I read the sample of this and have to say I was impressed. I really enjoyed it and will buy the whole book soon. I also downloaded samples of North Reich and Himmler's War also by Conroy. Have you read them?
     
  4. RootBeerMan macrumors 65816

    RootBeerMan

    Joined:
    Jan 3, 2016
    #6779
    I thought I had read "Himmler's War", but on checking my order history at Amazon, I see that I haven't. It is now on my to be ordered list. "North Reich" is one I have not read, either, but it's only available as a Kindle book and I don't do digital books. I much prefer a real, old, dead tree version. I'm really enjoying "Rising Sun", but haven't had a lot of time to devote to reading the last week or two. And I just got another order of books in that I will be tackling in a bit. I've really enjoyed Conroy's books over the years. He writes in a genre that is among my favourites. Harry Turtledove also writes fantastic Alt Histories that make for truly compelling reading. Hard to find time to read as many of them as I'd like.
     
  5. yaxomoxay, May 6, 2019
    Last edited: May 6, 2019

    yaxomoxay macrumors 68040

    yaxomoxay

    Joined:
    Mar 3, 2010
    Location:
    Texas
    #6780
    The purpose of bios, in my opinion, is just to get a perspective. If it's an autobio, it's to get the perspective of the subject himself on whatever he wants us to know.
    I am (slowly) reading Manchester's II tome on Churchill, and I wouldn't even dare to think that the book would teach me on how to work in my field (government) (*). However, the biography not only helps me to understand history, but to get to know some events that prompt questions. Would've I done that? How could he survive this and that? How did he approach this problem? How come that he was so grumpy and rude and yet everyone loved him anyways?
    The beauty of history books is not to read them as handbooks on dilemmas (something that my avatar once complained about during an interview. Everyone was asking him about "how do you solve the Arab-Israeli dilemma? how do you solve the China-Taiwan dilemma?" and so on, as if he had an answer to every dilemma in humanity). That's one of the problems with reading about great/famous people. Gary Vee complained once that once Steve Jobs became popular again, all startup CEOs began being total jerks to their employees because they read articles/books on how much of a jerk he was. Reading about Steve Jobs is not about becoming Steve Jobs; it's to get a perspective that we wouldn't otherwise have (since without external info the only perspective we can have is ours). Lynch's biography is not different. You get his perspective, some events of his life, and so on, but ultimately it will remain an imperfect view of the life of an individual. With Lynch's bio I felt that I learned a lot about networking in Hollywood, on what a great professional looks like (Mel Brooks really comes out strong; I didn't know how passionate and kind he is, and even how humble - at least in hollywoodian terms - he is up to the point of removing his name from The Elephant Man). I had some glimpse of Lynch's creativity, but ultimately I can read and know everything about him but I will never become him (not that I would even want to).

    (*) of course there are some exceptions. Just yesterday I read on the tome that Churchill used to bound paper using treasury tags. I had no idea what the term meant, so I googled the term. Lo and behold, I ordered them. I am always on the look for ways to organize the mountain of paper I work with (sometimes I use butcher string to hold inexpensive index cards etc) and my work environment in general.
     
  6. Scepticalscribe macrumors Westmere

    Scepticalscribe

    Joined:
    Jul 29, 2008
    Location:
    The Far Horizon
    #6781
    Took delivery of "A Brightness Long Ago" by Guy Gavriel Kay today - as the bookshop where I had placed the order last week phoned me this morning (and, when and where possible, I do prefer placing orders with bricks and mortar stores) and informed me that it had arrived.
     
  7. BeefCake 15 macrumors 65816

    BeefCake 15

    Joined:
    May 15, 2015
    Location:
    near Boston, MA
  8. Scepticalscribe macrumors Westmere

    Scepticalscribe

    Joined:
    Jul 29, 2008
    Location:
    The Far Horizon
    #6783
    Re-reading The Mistborn Trilogy by Brandon Sanderson.
     
  9. Dave Meadows macrumors 68040

    Dave Meadows

    Joined:
    Nov 10, 2010
    #6784
    I read the first one and thought it was ok but was put off the other two as heard they weren’t as good.
     
  10. Scepticalscribe macrumors Westmere

    Scepticalscribe

    Joined:
    Jul 29, 2008
    Location:
    The Far Horizon
    #6785
    Since my mum passed away last Christmas, I have found myself reaching for the literary equivalent of a 'comfort blanket" - a few fantasy series that I really liked - so that I could lose myself in them when re-reading them.

    And Mistborn meets that criteria.

    The first one is superb; on a first reading the two sequels aren't as good, but they repay (amply) a re-read, where you "get" what is happening (on several levels) a lot better, and thus, enjoy them a lot more.
     
  11. Dave Meadows macrumors 68040

    Dave Meadows

    Joined:
    Nov 10, 2010
    #6786
    Sorry to hear about your mum. It must of been (and continues to be) a difficult time for you.

    My dad had a stroke yesterday and is in hospital. He looks fine but has lost control of his left arm.
     
  12. Scepticalscribe macrumors Westmere

    Scepticalscribe

    Joined:
    Jul 29, 2008
    Location:
    The Far Horizon
    #6787
    Yes, to be honest, it is.

    Commiserations on your dad's condition - a worrying and stressful time for you all and probably a very frightening and unsettling time for him.
     
  13. Dave Meadows macrumors 68040

    Dave Meadows

    Joined:
    Nov 10, 2010
    #6788
    It’s worrying as although he’s 77 he’s supper fit (much more than I am!). Has a healthy diet, drinks in moderation and has never smoked.

    The good news (if that’s the correct phrase) is that his face and speech has not been affected. Hopefully he’ll make a full recovery.
     
  14. yaxomoxay macrumors 68040

    yaxomoxay

    Joined:
    Mar 3, 2010
    Location:
    Texas
    #6789
    Read it and finished it (again) today.
    Wife liked it too.
     
  15. scubachap macrumors regular

    Joined:
    Aug 30, 2016
    Location:
    UK
    #6790
    Just finished

    [​IMG]

    Strange little book - well worth reading and one of those ones that you'll remember. A vague interest in ancient history might help, but would perhaps have been punchier as a short story.
     
  16. LizKat macrumors 601

    LizKat

    Joined:
    Aug 5, 2004
    Location:
    Catskill Mountains
    #6791
    Too much going on to get lost in actual books at this point of spring. I have the attention span of a gnat in between rainstorms, I think. Anyway I fired up an online subscription to the Ploughshares archive, fun going back as far as when I had print subscription and eagerly awaited quarterly issues of poetry or fiction in my snail mail box. My eyes are a little bleary but I'm up to around 1987 now... :D
     
  17. RootBeerMan macrumors 65816

    RootBeerMan

    Joined:
    Jan 3, 2016
    #6792
    Just started Gregory Benford's "Timescape". I've liked his other works, so I thought I'd better give this one a try before reading the sort of sequel.

    timescape.jpg
     
  18. LizKat macrumors 601

    LizKat

    Joined:
    Aug 5, 2004
    Location:
    Catskill Mountains
    #6793
    My annual re-read of a fun book about a gardener's ancient and crafty frenemies: weeds. There's even a whole chapter about that pesky plant the burdock.... how it has appealed to artists over the centuries and also ended up inspiring the invention of Velcro in the 1950s.


    Richard Mabey - Weeds - cover art.jpg

    Excerpt:

    The hook-and-loop fastener is a classic biological solution to a problem. It has little in common with the precision of ‘hard’ engineering. It is, science writer Peter Forbes suggests, ‘the first example of fuzzy logic . . . The hook-and-loop fastener doesn’t have to be lined up accurately . . . Whether an individual hook goes through a specific eye is irrelevant: every time you use it, enough hooks will find an eye to achieve a bond.’

    Burdock burrs are a maze of thin spines with flexible hooks at the tip; the ‘loops’ are the tangle of animal hair they have evolved to snag. The story of how they generated a new material, entirely synthetic but incorporating ‘soft’ biological technology, revolves around George de Mestral, a Swiss inventor who had a fascination with fasteners. In the 1940s he was in the habit of taking his dog on hunting expeditions in the Jura mountains. When he got home from one walk his dog was covered in burrs, and instead of simply removing them, he began to reflect on their tenacity. (The apocryphal story is that he was frustrated by the difficulties of linking the large hooks and eyes on his wife’s dress when they were going out in the evening.) The burr is spherical because it has evolved to maximise the number of angles by which it might stick to passing animals. But de Mestral realised that if it were flat, it might stick to a rough surface at whatever angle they met.”

    Excerpt From: Richard Mabey. “Weeds.” Apple Books. https://books.apple.com/us/book/weeds/id413114555
     
  19. JBGoode macrumors 6502

    JBGoode

    Joined:
    Jun 16, 2018
    #6794
    Funny I recently read the sort of sequel but did not read this. "Rewrite:Loops in the Timescape" will seem familiar if you've read 'Replay' by Ken Grimwood. I believe Grimwood is even mentioned in this novel. It started out well but fell apart (for me)as it went on.
    Benford injects himself as a character into this novel and I found that rather cheesy
     
  20. jagolden macrumors 6502a

    jagolden

    Joined:
    Feb 11, 2002
    #6795
    02DB12E2-E422-487B-8483-C676C5C824F5.jpeg
    Just started "Spearhead". It’s the story/history of one tank crew from Normandy to Germany in WWII.
    I read extensively on the WWII European Theater of Operations, most books from Stackpole publishers.
     
  21. rhett7660 macrumors G5

    rhett7660

    Joined:
    Jan 9, 2008
    Location:
    Sunny, Southern California
    #6796
    I finished "Dune". It was not what I was expecting and about a three quarters of the way through, it did get a little tough to read. I did finish it though and I don't know if I like his writing style or the content. It wasn't bad, but it wasn't one of my favorites either.

    I have a few books on my reading list, so I figure I will start one in the next few days. Just don't know which one yet.
     
  22. MacDawg macrumors Core

    MacDawg

    Joined:
    Mar 20, 2004
    Location:
    "Between the Hedges"
    #6797
    Dune was tough in places for me too, but I finished it and most of the sequels, but not all
    It was different, that's for sure, and some of the plot/story choices were a little puzzling to me, like they were designed just to keep the series going
     
  23. Scepticalscribe macrumors Westmere

    Scepticalscribe

    Joined:
    Jul 29, 2008
    Location:
    The Far Horizon
    #6798
    Agreed.

    I never really warmed to the Dune series the way I have really liked other fantasy or SF works.

    This week has been Mistborn (Brandon Sanderson) - a re-read and a few books (Tara Road, Quentins) by Maeve Binchy,
     
  24. Scepticalscribe macrumors Westmere

    Scepticalscribe

    Joined:
    Jul 29, 2008
    Location:
    The Far Horizon
    #6799
    Around a month or so ago, when asking in a bricks-and-mortar bookstore about possible publication dates for forthcoming titles (my interests included - but were not confined to), the next instalment of Philip Pullman's The Book of Dust trilogy (September this year, I believe), Scott Lynch (The Gentleman Bastard series - no word), and the final work in the trilogy on the life and times of Thomas Cromwell (Wolf Hall, Bring Up the Bodies, and The Mirror and the Light) by Hilary Mantel, it was discreetly implied that in the publishing world, there were whispers - unconfirmed, but credible - about the last of these - the final book in the Thomas Cromwell trilogy - that took the form of rumours that it might be published around December 2018.

    In fact, this week (yesterday, to be precise), Hilary Mantel (well, her publishers) announced that the third book in the series, entitled The Mirror and the Light, will be published in March 2020.

    This is a book I am really looking forward to laying hands on and reading.
     
  25. scubachap macrumors regular

    Joined:
    Aug 30, 2016
    Location:
    UK
    #6800
    Yesterday I had an email from Waterstones - announcing pre-orders for it. Great, I think, it's finally all done and dusted and I'm sticking in a pre-order for that if it's imminent - then I saw the date!

    It's still nearly a year away! They're probably all still currently arguing over cover finishes and which author pic should be used on the inside back flap!
     

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