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What are you eating lately in non-fiction?

VALIS

Member
Gimme some recommendations. Obviously nothing overly specific like Java Programming for Dummies or some such junk. Broader topics. Science, history, philosophy, culture, arts, whatever.

I was just browsing a bunch of cosmology books on Amazon, and while the field fascinates me like no other, I dunno, with no physics background I doubt I'd get all that far into a book on String Theory before my eyes glaze over.

Here are a few that caught my eye:


Cosmologists ask many difficult questions and often come up with strange answers. In this engagingly written but difficult book, Vilenkin, a Tufts University physicist, does exactly this, discussing the creation of the universe, its likely demise and the growing belief among cosmologists that there are an infinite number of universes. Vilenkin does an impressive job of presenting the background information necessary for lay readers to understand the ideas behind the big bang and related phenomena. Having set the stage, the author then delves into cutting-edge ideas, many of his own devising. He argues persuasively that, thanks to repulsive gravity, the universe is likely to expand forever. He goes on to posit that our universe is but one of an infinite series, many of them populated by our "clones." Vilenkin is well aware of the implications of this assertion: "countless identical civilizations [to ours] are scattered in the infinite expanse of the cosmos. With humankind reduced to absolute cosmic insignificance, our descent from the center of the world is now complete." Drawing on the work of Stephen Hawking and recent advances in string theory, Vilenkin gives us a great deal to ponder.


There are lots of anthologies of the work of the past century's famous cartoonists, but Nadel has done a real service in putting together this collection of 29 marvelous nearly unknown comic strip and comic book artists. Many are reprinted from yellowing newsprint—in a few cases, like Walter Quermann's late-'30s newspaper strip Hickory Hollow Folks, from the only copies of their work still extant. Only a few, like Ogden Whitney's poker-faced '60s comic book Herbie, have ever been reprinted before. Nadel's five categories, "Exercises in Exploration," "Slapstick," "Acts of Drawing," "Words in Pictures" and "Form and Style," sometimes seem arbitrary; the biographical notes at the back are informative but all too brief. Still, it's hard to argue with the comics themselves. Charles Forbell's 1913 newspaper strip Naughty Pete looks like it had a huge influence on Chris Ware; Gustave Verbeek's bonkers formal experiment The Upside-Downs of Little Lady Lovekins and Old Man Muffaroo, from 1904, is still hilarious and sui generis; Rory Hayes's crude but meticulous horror stories from 1969's Bogeyman Comics, the most recent pieces here, were decades ahead of their time. Contemporary cartoonists—and their fans—have a lot to learn from the freewheeling, witty, try-anything-twice artistic attitude of the pieces Nadel's assembled.


Henry Darger spent his life working as a janitor in Catholic hospitals, living alone in a rented room on Chicago's north side, attending Mass up to five times a day, and writing a picaresque tale in 15 massive volumes, composed of 145 handwritten pages and 5,084 single-spaced typed pages, and titled The Story of the Vivian Girls, in what is Known as the Realms of the Unreal, of the Glandeco-Angelinian War Storm, Caused by the Child Slave Rebellion. To accompany this enormous literary production, Darger also created several hundred large-scale illustrations--pencil on paper drawings painted over with watercolor and occasional additions of collage--that relate the story: On an unnamed planet, of which Earth is a moon, the good Christian nation of Anniennia wars with the Glandelinians, who practice child enslavement. The heroines are the seven Vivian sisters, Abbiennian princesses, who, after many battles, fires, tempests, and lurid torture, succeed in forcing the Glandelinians to give up their barbarous ways.~The Disasters of War offers an affordable introduction to Darger's astonishing outsider oeuvre. It explains the technique, diligence, and creativity of the works, illustrates details, and features a conversation between the Darger estate holder and the Kunstwerke's curator. A selection of 12 previously unpublished excerpts from The Realms of the Unreal and from Darger's diary explore the artist's favorite topics: thunderstorms and atrocities. With a biography and exhibition history.
 

beelzebozo

Jealous Bastard
hey, i'm reading some astrophysics stuff myself.



written with the layman (read: me) in mind, tyson does a great job of discussing why the universe is the way it is and where it's headed in the next thousand years without resorting to too much specialized jargon. i think you'd dig it.
 

Eric P

Member
i really enjoyed art out of time.

i'm currently starting



From Publishers Weekly
In this engaging if unbalanced survey, the author of the acclaimed Six Days of War finds continuity in U.S. relations with the Middle East from the early 19th-century war against the Barbary pirates to today's Iraq war. As America's power grew, he contends, strategic considerations became complicatedby the region's religious significance, especially to the Protestant missionaries whose interests drove U.S. policyin the 19th century and who championed a Jewish state in Palestine long before the Zionist movement took up that cause. Meanwhile, Oren notes, Americans' romantic fantasies about the Muslim world (as expressed in Mideast-themed movies) have repeatedly run aground on stubborn, squalid realities, most recently in the Iraq fiasco. Oren dwells on the pre-WWII era, when U.S.-Mideast relations were of little significance. The postwar period, when these relations were central to world affairs, gets shoehorned into 127 hasty pages, and the emphasis on continuity gives short shrift to the new and crucial role of oil in U.S. policy making. Oren's treatment views this history almost entirely through American eyes; the U.S. comes off as usually well intentioned and idealistic, if often confused and confounded by regional complexities. Oren's is a fluent, comprehensive narrative of two centuries of entanglement, but it's analytically disappointing. Photos. (Jan. 15)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
 
Recently finished and reviewd for my blog this:




Currently working my way through this, also for a review:




Free books for blogging rocks! :D
 

thomaser

Member
A Brief History of Time by Stephen Hawking. My first astrophysics-book, and not my last: his The Universe in a Nutshell is also in the queue.
 

ronito

Member
I just finished Into thin air.

I know everyone's already read it, but it was my first time. I thoroughly enjoyed it.
 

7Th

Member
Is philosophy counted in non-fiction? I guess it does, so I'm reading Kant's Critique of Pure Reason. The Spanish translation for simplification purposes, though.
 

demon

I don't mean to alarm you but you have dogs on your face



I also just finished (*ahem*) Neil Strauss' The Game. I suppose for the first half of the book it's an interesting story about a guy making an unlikely transformation from barely-nonvirgin to super pimp, but the second half of the book (when they form Project Hollywood) plays out like a a season of The Real World. Not the most well written book, but a fairly quick/easy read for 450 pages.
 

Musashi Wins!

FLAWLESS VICTOLY!
Henry Darger is in my Amazon wish list!

I 2nd Omnivore's Dilemma, the book is excellent and readable. At the very least, check out his recent article in the NYT online, it summarizes many of his points very well.

Rubicon: The Last Years of the Roman Republic is very good. Well written and I ate it up because I love the HBO show.

I also just read a new bio of William James, who is sort of the penultimate American Philosopher in some ways. He has a lot of connections with our nations history and is a very entertaining thinker. The new biography is by Robert Richardson.
 

Troidal

Member
It's sort of a photo book but also has interviews of the dwellers inside the Walled City. Amazing stuff...wish I traveled to Hong Kong pre-1997.

 

Dan

No longer boycotting the Wolfenstein franchise


Not sure when I'll actually get the chance, but I'd like this to be my next foray.
 
Brief History of Time by Stephen Hawking, interesting book.

Also, History of the Pyrates by Captain Johnson/Daniel dafoe - History of Pirates, very interesting read.

Discovering the Amazon - general info, a section by Benedict Arnold from Mad White Giant (good read)

Almost like a Whale, Steven Jones - An uptodate account of evolution by the snail expert and darwin fanboy

Pirate King - Coxinga and the fall of the Ming Dynasty : Interesting account of Coxinga, the final upholder of the Ming dysnasty against the Manchu Qing. Alot of chinese history is very harsh.

peace
 

ToxicAdam

Member



I am rereading this book again. It's a fascinating story about a Wall Street Journal writer that leaves his job for 2 years to become immersed into the professional Scrabble world. He gets very close to some of the top players in America and you begin to see what drives these people and how their obsession effects their lives.

Even if you are not a fan of the game, it's an amazing look into human beings who become dedicated to one aspect of pop culture. It even has a few chapters on the contrasts of world cultures and how it effects the way they play this game. It's interesting that Scrabble is more of a collaborative effort ( players help each other score high) in most parts of the world, instead of the competitive game we play in America.
 
Just re-read Fast Food Nation but if you're into physics and want a book thats a good read try In Search of Shroedinger's Cat by John Gribbin or any other Gribbin book.
 

KingGondo

Banned
ToxicAdam said:
I am rereading this book again. It's a fascinating story about a Wall Street Journal writer that leaves his job for 2 years to become immersed into the professional Scrabble world. He gets very close to some of the top players in America and you begin to see what drives these people and how their obsession effects their lives.

Even if you are not a fan of the game, it's an amazing look into human beings who become dedicated to one aspect of pop culture. It even has a few chapters on the contrasts of world cultures and how it effects the way they play this game. It's interesting that Scrabble is more of a collaborative effort ( players help each other score high) in most parts of the world, instead of the competitive game we play in America.

I'm gonna have to read that... My phone wallpaper is a Scrabble board from over the weekend, which was filled with words like ZIP, ZAP, and HE (but they weren't my words, of course). I've heard Fatsis before on NPR, too--he seems like a sharp reporter.
 

GilloD

Banned
The United States of Arugula is a pretty reasonable primer on America's gourmet history. It covers the stars (Beard, Child, Clairborne) and the revolutionaries (Keller, Waters et al.). It's not especially in depth, but it makes use of a lot of primary sources, quotations and gossip and the like. It's nice start.
 
beelzebozo said:
hey, i'm reading some astrophysics stuff myself.



written with the layman (read: me) in mind, tyson does a great job of discussing why the universe is the way it is and where it's headed in the next thousand years without resorting to too much specialized jargon. i think you'd dig it.

Yeah, I'm having fun reading this one too. Tyson's a pretty funny guy.
It's a nice break from Michio Kaku and Brian Greene.

I also highly recommend Bill Bryson if you like "layman science" books - funny and fascinating:

 

jet1911

Member


Jesus Washes Whiter Or How the Catholic Church Invented Marketing.

I guess that what's the title would be in english anyway. It's interesting and I love the cover. :D
 

GilloD

Banned
distantmantra said:
I'm reading Dave Eggers' "What is the What?"


I didn't love this. It drags it's feet and while Eggers does a great job of inhabitaing a deeply foreign character, the thing still feels a little bit...stage-y, with a touch of white guilt. I think he should stick to bummed out 20-somethings.
 
GilloD said:
I didn't love this. It drags it's feet and while Eggers does a great job of inhabitaing a deeply foreign character, the thing still feels a little bit...stage-y, with a touch of white guilt. I think he should stick to bummed out 20-somethings.

I literally just started the book last night while laying in bed. My wife got it for Christmas, and we're both big fans of Eggers, so it should be interesting.
 
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