Thursday, March 28, 2013

March Books

We're off on vacation tomorrow, so I wanted to get this month's book list up before we left for a circuit featuring the World of Coke and Stax records.




W. W. Norton & Company, Jan 7, 2013 - Mathematics - 302 pages

The best-selling author of Naked Economics defies the odds with a book about statistics that you’ll welcome and enjoy.
Once considered tedious, the field of statistics is rapidly evolving into a discipline Hal Varian, chief economist at Google, has actually called “sexy.” From batting averages and political polls to game shows and medical research, the real-world application of statistics continues to grow by leaps and bounds. How can we catch schools that cheat on standardized tests? How does Netflix know which movies you’ll like? What is causing the rising incidence of autism? As best-selling author Charles Wheelan shows us in Naked Statistics, the right data and a few well-chosen statistical tools can help us answer these questions and more.
For those who slept through Stats 101, this book is a lifesaver. Wheelan strips away the arcane and technical details and focuses on the underlying intuition that drives statistical analysis. He clarifies key concepts such as inference, correlation, and regression analysis, reveals how biased or careless parties can manipulate or misrepresent data, and shows us how brilliant and creative researchers are exploiting the valuable data from natural experiments to tackle thorny questions.
And in Wheelan’s trademark style, there’s not a dull page in sight. You’ll encounter clever Schlitz Beer marketers leveraging basic probability, an International Sausage Festival illuminating the tenets of the central limit theorem, and a head-scratching choice from the famous game show Let’s Make a Deal—and you’ll come away with insights each time. With the wit, accessibility, and sheer fun that turned Naked Economics into a bestseller, Wheelan defies the odds yet again by bringing another essential, formerly unglamorous discipline to life.
Notes
Very readable look at the use and capabilities of statistics—with the formulas in the appendices. Recommended.


Fiction - 356 pages
Sitting at his desk, Bernardo Soares imagined himself free forever of Rua dos Douradores, of his boss Vasques, of Moreira the book-keeper, of all the other employees, the errand boy, the post boy, even the cat. But if he left them all tomorrow and discarded the suit of clothes he wears, what else would he do? Because he would have to do something. And what suit would he wear? Because he would have to wear another suit. A self-deprecating reflection on the sheer distance between the loftiness of his feelings and the humdrum reality of his life, The Book of Disquiet is a classic of existentialist literature.

Notes
Like nothing I’ve ever read before. Dreamy and at the same time precisely insightful into the beauty and emptiness of everyday life.

20 Acclaimed Authors on How and Why They Do What They Do

Meredith Maran
Penguin, Jan 29, 2013 - Reference - 256 pages
Twenty of America's bestselling authors share tricks, tips, and secrets of the successful writing life.

Anyone who's ever sat down to write a novel or even a story knows how exhilarating and heartbreaking writing can be. So what makes writers stick with it? In
 Why We Write, twenty well-known authors candidly share what keeps them going and what they love most—and least—about their vocation.

Notes
Very enjoyable, if a little thin. Apparently writers—even the successful ones—don’t make money. But that’s not what drives them anyway.


Cambridge University Press, Mar 7, 2011 - Sports & Recreation - 313 pages
For almost a century, big-time college sports has been a wildly popular but consistently problematic part of American higher education. The challenges it poses to traditional academic values have been recognized from the start, but they have grown more ominous in recent decades, as cable television has become ubiquitous, commercial opportunities have proliferated, and athletic budgets have ballooned. Drawing on new research findings, this book takes a fresh look at the role of commercial sports in American universities. It shows that, rather than being the inconsequential student activity that universities often imply that it is, big-time sports has become a core function of the universities that engage in it. For this reason, the book takes this function seriously and presents evidence necessary for a constructive perspective about its value. Although big-time sports surely creates worrying conflicts in values, it also brings with it some surprising positive consequences.

Notes
The whole thing doesn’t make a lot of sense, but it’s not going anywhere anytime soon. Hard to quantify, but most universities don’t make any money from athletics.


Canongate Books, Oct 25, 2012 - Fiction - 160 pages
I am a sick person. I am a spiteful person. An unattractive person, too . . . In the depths of a cellar in St. Petersburg, a civil servant spews forth a passionate and furious note on the ills of society. The underground man's manifesto reveals his erratic, self-contradictory and even sadistic nature. Yet in Dostoyevsky's most radical and disturbing character, there is the uncomfortable flicker of recognition of the human condition. When the narrator ventures above ground, he attends a dinner with a group of old school friends. It is here, paralysed by his own social awkwardness, that he carries out extraordinary acts and cements his status as a true and original outsider.

Notes
Picked this up because I remembered it as similar to the Book of Disquiet. It wasn’t. Passionate as only the Russians can be. Simultaneously poignant and ridiculous.

The Enchanting Prelude to The Lord of the Rings

Random House Digital, Inc., 1982 - Fiction - 304 pages
The adventures of the well-to-do hobbit, Bilbo Baggins, who lived happily in his comfortable home until a wandering wizard granted his wish. A new edition to Tolkien's classic, the prelude to the Lord of the Rings saga, is available just in time for "The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, " set for release in theaters in December 2002. Illustrations. In this fantasy, a prelude to The Lord of the Rings, the reader meets Bilbo Baggins, a hobbit, in a land filled with dwarfs, elves, goblins, and dragons. The Greatest Fantasy Epic of our Time, Bilbo Baggins was a hobbit who wanted to be left alone in quiet comfort. But the wizard Gandalf came along with a band of homeless dwarves. Soon Bilbo was drawn into their quest, facing evil orcs, savage wolves, giant spiders, and worse unknown dangers. Finally, it was Bilbo-alone and unaided-who had to confront the great dragon Smaug, the terror of an entire countryside . . . This stirring adventure fantasy begins the tale of the hobbits that was continued by J.R.R. Tolkien in his bestselling epic The Lord of the Rings. Tolkien are the movie tie-in editions to The Fellowship of the Ring, the first of the three New Line Films based on the classic epic fantasy, which opens December 19, 2001. A saga of dwarfs and elves, goblins and trolls in a far-off, long ago land. 

Notes
Second reading (with the BG’s group). Didn’t wow me the way it did 35 years ago; the plot was much thinner than I remembered. Eagles swooping down to the rescue. How convenient!

prizes, awards, and the circulation of cultural value (Google eBook)

Harvard University Press, Jun 30, 2009 - Art - 409 pages
This is a book about one of the great untold stories of modern cultural life: the remarkable ascendancy of prizes in literature and the arts. James F. English documents the dramatic rise of the awards industry and its complex role within what he describes as an economy of cultural prestige.

Notes
Awards are a business unto themselves, and often tainted by politics. Not sure you need 400 pages to make that point.

3 comments:

  1. I put Naked Statistics on the list to buy. Don't know if you saw this, but here is a NY Times review.

    http://www.nytimes.com/2013/01/29/science/naked-statistics-by-charles-wheelan-review.html

    ReplyDelete
  2. I put Naked Statistics on the list to buy. Don't know if you saw this, but here is a NY Times review.

    http://www.nytimes.com/2013/01/29/science/naked-statistics-by-charles-wheelan-review.html

    ReplyDelete
  3. That was what led me to buy it, They have his earlier book, Naked Economics, in the library, and I may try that as well.

    ReplyDelete