Tuesday, July 30, 2013

July Books

Stephen Jay Gould - 1996 - Psychology

When published in 1981, The Mismeasure of Man was immediately hailed as a masterwork, the ringing answer to those who would classify people, rank them according to their supposed genetic gifts and limits.

Yet the idea of biology as destiny dies hard, as witness the attention devoted to The Bell Curve, whose arguments are here so effectively anticipated and thoroughly undermined. In this edition, Stephen Jay Gould has written a substantial new introduction telling how and why he wrote the book and tracing the subsequent history of the controversy on innateness right through The Bell Curve. Further, he has added five essays on questions of The Bell Curve in particular and on race, racism, and biological determinism in general. These additions strengthen the book's claim to be, as Leo J. Kamin of Princeton University has said, "a major contribution toward deflating pseudo-biological 'explanations' of our present social woes."

NoteGenerally interesting, rather polemic look at attempts to measure intelligence and the dangers of confirmation bias. A little mathy at times, and overlong as well. Did not enjoy this nearly as much as I had expected, especially given my experience with other works by the same author.

Richard P. Feynman - 2010 - Biography & Autobiography - 

The outrageous exploits of one of this century's greatest scientific minds and a legendary American original.

In this phenomenal national bestseller, the Nobel Prize-winning physicist Richard P. Feynman recounts in his inimitable voice his adventures trading ideas on atomic physics with Einstein and Bohr and ideas on gambling with Nick the Greek, painting a naked female toreador, accompanying a ballet on his bongo drums and much else of an eyebrow-raising and hilarious nature.

Note: Enjoyable, if a little self-congratulatory stories from one of the twentieth century's most interesting people. Brainstormed with Einstein, mixed with showgirls. Lots of humblebragging as well, before the term had even been invented.

The Man In The Iron Mask‎

Alexandre Dumas - 

Who was the man in the iron mask? Why did he wear a mask? Why was he imprisoned and who imprisoned him? Nobody knows. His identity was a mystery when he lived and more than two and a half centuries later, he is still shrouded in mystery.  

Note: Swashbuckling 16th century adventure that moves right along, although it goes in unexpected directions that seem to defy logic at times. Less of the eponymous character than I expected.

Ready For a Brand New Beat: How "Dancing in the Street" Became the Anthem ...

Mark Kurlansky - 2013 – 

Can a song change a nation? In 1964, Marvin Gaye, record producer William “Mickey” Stevenson, and Motown songwriter Ivy Jo Hunter wrote “Dancing in the Street.” The song was recorded at Motown’s Hitsville USA Studio by Martha and the Vandellas, with lead singer Martha Reeves arranging her own vocals. Released on July 31, the song was supposed to be an upbeat dance recording—a precursor to disco, and a song about the joyousness of dance. But events overtook it, and the song became one of the icons of American pop culture.

The Beatles had landed in the U.S. in early 1964. By the summer, the sixties were in full swing. The summer of 1964 was the Mississippi Freedom Summer, the Berkeley Free Speech Movement, the beginning of the Vietnam War, the passage of the Civil Rights Act, and the lead-up to a dramatic election. As the country grew more radicalized in those few months, “Dancing in the Street” gained currency as an activist anthem. The song took on new meanings, multiple meanings, for many different groups that were all changing as the country changed.

Told by the writer who is legendary for finding the big story in unlikely places, Ready for a Brand New Beat chronicles that extraordinary summer of 1964 and showcases the momentous role that a simple song about dancing played in history.

Note: Attempt to connect a song to a protest movement seems a little stretched. But it's Motown, so I'll let it slide.

A Heartbreaking Work Of Staggering Genius: A Memoir Based on a True Story‎

Dave Eggers - 2013 - A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius is the moving memoir of a college senior who, in the space of five weeks, loses both of his parents to cancer and inherits his eight-year-old brother. Here is an exhilarating debut that manages to be simultaneously hilarious and wildly inventive as well as a deeply heartfelt story of the love that holds a family together.

Note: Sad, funny, beautifully written story. A little self-indulgent at times, but what would you expect from someone who auditioned ironically for the Real World, San Francisco in the early nineties, and was sad when he wasn’t selected. Not what it seems to be. More Generation X than family memoir.

A Guide to the Serbian Mentality‎

Momo Kapor - 2011 -  

Note: Charming series of short essays about the Serbian character and life in Belgrade. Especially funny if you live here, recommended nonetheless

The 5 Elements of Effective Thinking

Edward B. BurgerMichael Starbird - 2012 - 

The 5 Elements of Effective Thinking presents practical, lively, and inspiring ways for you to become more successful through better thinking. The idea is simple: You can learn how to think far better by adopting specific strategies. Brilliant people aren't a special breed--they just use their minds differently. By using the straightforward and thought-provoking techniques in The 5 Elements of Effective Thinking, you will regularly find imaginative solutions to difficult challenges, and you will discover new ways of looking at your world and yourself--revealing previously hidden opportunities.
The book offers real-life stories, explicit action items, and concrete methods that allow you to attain a deeper understanding of any issue, exploit the power of failure as a step toward success, develop a habit of creating probing questions, see the world of ideas as an ever-flowing stream of thought, and embrace the uplifting reality that we are all capable of change. No matter who you are, the practical mind-sets introduced in the book will empower you to realize any goal in a more creative, intelligent, and effective manner. Filled with engaging examples that unlock truths about thinking in every walk of life, The 5 Elements of Effective Thinking is written for all who want to reach their fullest potential--including students, parents, teachers, businesspeople, professionals, athletes, artists, leaders, and lifelong learners.
Whenever you are stuck, need a new idea, or want to learn and grow, The 5 Elements of Effective Thinking will inspire and guide you on your way.


 Note: Understand simple things deeply, fail, ask questions, have ideas, embrace change. ^shrug^

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