Thursday, December 9, 2010

Noble Brute (Pere Atzil; Hebrew)

By Dudu Bussi*

I decided to take this book with me on my trip to NC and back, because I didn't want to take a delicate library book on the bus (if I lose or damage it, I'll have to pay a $165 fine!). I already read it a while back (sometime in 2003-2004). I didn't realize it was that long ago. Indeed, I was amazed I didn't really remember many of the details, as much as I liked the story. Nothing seemed too familiar when I read it the second time around. I'm especially surprised that I didn't remember how tragic the story is. Anyway, the important thing is that I liked it again, and if you haven't read it yet - go ahead and do so. [

* He spells it as Busi on Facebook

Book link

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Who Are You People?

A Personal Journey into the Heart of Fanatical Passion in America

By Shari Caudron

A story about a person who has no life-long fanatical passion, but is passionate about learning about passion and what makes people passionate. So she goes cross-country to meet with people who are passionate about Barbie, Lego, board-games, ice-fishing, Josh Groban, furries, pigeon racing, etc., till she finds something about herself.

Didn't care too much for the first few chapters - the writing kind of annoyed me at first, but as I kept going, the book and the writing grew on me. It was pretty interesting. [285 pp.]

Book link

Saturday, November 20, 2010

What the Best College Teachers Do

By Ken Bain

I will start teaching my first college course in a couple of month, and besides preparing the lectures, observing lectures, and participating in a discussion group about teaching, I thought I should read this book to see what makes the best college teachers so good. It was very helpful in setting me in the right state of mind of teaching - getting me to think about things I can do to make learning more effective for the students and so on - but not very helpful in giving practical examples. But I guess that was the point of the book - the best college teachers think about these things themselves... [207 pp.]

Book link

Monday, October 25, 2010

From A Native Daughter

Colonialism and Sovereignty in Hawai'i
By Huanani Kay Trask

Alice walker wrote about the first edition of the book that it changes the way you think about Hawai'i and "all the lands seized by force forever". This was definitely true for me after reading the second edition. It definitely made me less ignorant about the history of Hawai'i, about its culture, and about the effects of the US takeover, and extensive tourism, on this culture. This book is a must read to anyone who considers going to Hawai'i. [272 pp.]

Book link

Saturday, October 9, 2010

The Czar's Madman

By Jaan Kross

I needed to take a book to Costa Rica, and I didn't want to take a library book, so I took this one, since I own it, read it a while ago, and remembered it was good.
I didn't have much time to read while in Costa Rica, and it took me a while to finish it (though I did finish it a week ago!), but the more I got into it, the more interesting it became. The book has "a novel" as a subtitle on the cover, yet it's written as if the author just displays a journal written by someone else. To confuse you even more, there's a whole section on evidence that the author found for the authenticity of the journal. [368 pp.]

Book link

Sunday, August 22, 2010

The Essential Homer: Selections from the Illiad and the Odyssey

Translated and edited by Stanley Lombardo

I did finish this book 2 weeks ago, just before leaving to Costa Rica, but it did take me a long time to finish it. It was not the kind of book I was looking forward to read on the couch when I got home from work. For that I had the Spanish learning book "Spanish the Easy Way" (highly recommended!!). Instead, I only read it before going to sleep, and indeed it put me to sleep fairly quickly.
Okay, parts of it were interesting, especially the parts that showed how people used to think back then. Then there were the horrible parts, of people killing other people in the most horrific ways, for absolutely no reason. And, of course, there's the gods. How nice to be able to blame everything on the gods! "The gods cast sleep on me, so I couldn't see that my men are misbehaving and upsetting some other god" (very loose transcription). Serves them right for being so petty.
I was happy to finally finish it. It took me 2 months exactly. Finally I can read something that makes more sense.

The translation, by the way, is very nice, as far as I can tell. But, of course, I've never read it in ancient Greek. [510 pp.]

Book link

Monday, July 12, 2010

Predictably Irrational

By Dan Arieli

Apparently we are very reliable at making stupid decisions. Through sets of experiments the author shows what kind of non-wise decisions we make, and tries to find the underlying factors affecting our behavior. This is to make us aware of our tendency to make these mistakes. Awareness which in turn will help us avoid making them in the first place.
I found the writing a bit repetitive, but on the whole it was quite interesting.[368 pp.]

Book link

Saturday, May 29, 2010

The Periodic Table

By Primo Levi

He is one of my favorite writers. Though I'm amazed at the diversity of writing quality I find in his books. I don't remember seeing that when I was reading him in Hebrew, so it leads me to assume that the English translations vary in quality. That is not to say that they are by any means bad, it's just that they don't always flow as well sometimes.
In this case, it definitely took me longer to read this book in English than it did in Hebrew, and it's not only because English is not my mother tongue. However, I still liked most of the stories, and the last one - the story of the a carbon atom - will possibly play some role in the Biology class I will be teaching next semester. We shall see. [240 pp.]

Book link

Sunday, May 2, 2010


By Joel Waldfogel

I know it sounds like "screw genomics", but it's actually an economics book that describes how gift giving, especially to people that are not close to you, can destroy a lot of value. The solution - improved retailer gift cards and charity gift cards. Read it if you are worried about what gifts to buy to all those people you have to buy gifts on Christmas! [173 pp.]

Book link

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Just Add Hormones

By Matt Kaily

A first person account on the process of transformation from female to male. He talks about the changes and about society's acceptance (or lack of acceptance). He also talks about the restricting nature of gender categories society forces everybody into. Although somewhat repetitive, and the jokes are sometimes too silly, it is a very interesting and enlightening book. It seems like it is mostly addressed to other transpeople or people who know a transperson, but I think everybody should read it, because it's mostly about being open-minded and tolerant, aware of diversity, and embrace it.

Without diversity the world would be way too boring. [184 pp.]

Book link

Sunday, April 18, 2010

The Creation

By E. O. Wilson

This is a book written as a long letter addressed to a typical Southern pastor, arguing that the author and religious leaders, despite some disagreement do have something in common - they care about the creation. In order to save the planet the should overcome their disagreements and focus on the common.
I don't usually do it, but here's a couple of excerpts from the book that I really liked and would like to have on hand:

"There are still thinkers around the world, some in commanding political and religious positions, who wish to base moral law on the sacred scripture of Iron Age desert kingdoms while using high technology to conduct tribal wars - of course with the presumed blessings of their respective tribal gods" (p. 28).

"Scientists seldom make leaps of the imagination. Most, in fact, never have a truly original idea. Instead, they snuffle their way through masses of data and hypotheses (the latter are educated guesses to be tested), sometimes excited but most of the time tranquil and easily distracted by corridor gossip and other entertainments" (pp. 103-104).

Book link

Saturday, April 10, 2010

When Men Become Gods

Mormon Polygamist Warren Jeffs, His Cult of Fear, And the Women Who Fought Back

By Stephen Singular

The subtitle pretty much says it all. It's a pretty fascinating and informative account on the rise and fall of the Prophet Warren Jeffs. The people who fought back actually also include a few men from outside the church. [294 pp.]

Book link

Friday, March 19, 2010


By Sam Savage

The design of the book made me pick it up at the library, but also, later, made me think that this book can not be good. It is a book about a rat who voraciously consumes - in both meanings of the word - books. There's an illustration of a very cute rat on the cover, and the side of the book looks like it's chewed up. A bit tacky, he? But don't let it discourage you from reading this heart-warming-yet-realistically-depressing book. It tells the interesting story of a rundown neighborhood in Boston, through the eyes of a rat who lives in the basement of a bookstore in that neighborhood. He is a very special rat - an intellectual, piano player, and a porn-movie watcher. Wonderful. [165 pp.]

[Beautiful illustrations by Fernando Krahn adorn the pages of the book]

Book link

Saturday, March 6, 2010

The World Without US

by Alan Weisman

Oh my goodness, what an interesting book! It made my breakfasts way longer than they should last, it just was so hard to put it down. The author does a great job pulling you in while feeding you a lot of information. Incredible. I learned so much from reading it, I felt like I had something interesting to say on a variety of topics, ranging from ant nest casts to suicides.
It also made me not want to get anything that has plastic or rubber in it, because those things will last forever (or until some microbe would evolve to use it for its energy). But that is simply impossible. We are so reliant on plastics now, there is absolutely no way of being part of civilization and not have contact with it.
I really liked the solution to the problem, and I wish people will start applying it. Basically, only have one kid per woman. In this way, the population will reduce dramatically over the next couple of decades, and with it the pollution and garbage accumulation. Sharks will reign the oceans again, and all will be well.

The Scarlet Letter

By Nathaniel Hawthorne

(Finished reading last weekend)

It's amazing how an author who can write the story so interestingly, is also capable of writing such a boring introduction, which is basically his own life story. Shouldn't that be even more interesting than the fiction? Anyway, I barely made it through the 45 page intro, and couldn't really appreciate everything that was told in it, but I do remember one part that has some connection to the actual story. I later regretted not reading the intro more carefully and intently.
Anyway, as I said, the story itself is readable and interesting, though there are a few points that I find missing, and their absence makes the story less credible.
Mostly, the story fails to tell us what led the heroine to her current situation -- i.e., the bearing of the scarlet letter. How did she get pregnant? I guess one could imagine the guy involved would be some careless, rash, young man who didn't stop to think about the consequences, and poor Hester was so madly in love with him she just couldn't help herself. However, it turns out that, not only is Hester a very considerate, thoughtful, and generous woman, she is also very responsible. And the man [**SPOILER ALERT**] is no other than the most pious, wise, and conscientious person around. So how could it have happened? I have no idea. Just doesn't make sense.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

The Cockroach Papers

By Richard Schweid

What a delightful little book! And it's not only because I'm biased towards the subject of the book. The book includes stories from the author's life and experiences as they pertain to roaches, as well as some scientific facts about the critters. They were mostly accurate, considering the time it was published (1999) and the knowledge acquired since. The chapter before last was a bit tiresome, but other than that it was such a flowing read. Highly recommended!

There's also a neat little flip book animation of the German cockroach courtship and mating ritual! Awesome!