Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Dr. Tatiana's Sex Advice to All Creation

By Olivia Judson

A great review of reproductive strategies in mostly animals, but also plants, fungi, and some obscure creatures. Very interesting, and could be used as a starting point for activities in the classroom, as well as provide lots of anecdotes. Need to get the book! [297 pp. (235 on are notes and literature)]

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Saturday, December 24, 2011


By Paul Auster

I read it before, many years ago, in Hebrew. It's one of those books that pass well both in Hebrew and English. I guess it's because the Hebrew translation was done well. (Other times, when the book isn't very good in English it's because it was poorly translated from some other language.) Anyway, not much to say - I like Paul Auster, and I wasn't disappointed. [274 pp.]

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Sunday, November 27, 2011

She'erit Hahaim (What Remains of Life) [Hebrew]

By Zeruya Shalev

This book started out very depressing - the three main characters are totally depressed and constantly mourn their life choices. You feel like telling them - come on! do something! Finally, in the end they do decide to do something about it and the book ends very brightly. It ended up being quite a moving book. [334 pp.]

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Thursday, November 10, 2011

On Second Thought

Outsmarting Your Mind's Hard-Wired Habits

By Wray Herbert

A book about heuristics. It's good to know what they are so you can be aware of them and think again before you make a rush decision because of them. According to this book, it's pretty obvious that psychology researchers like to jump to conclusions. They find tendencies in some people to do something, and immediately exclaim: "they do it because of the fear of height hueristic!" For example, the author himself identifies himself as someone with moderate fear of height. He "proves" it by overestimating the height of the porch he's standing on by a couple of inches! Then he goes on to say that all people overestimate it by a couple of inches, even those who do not think they are fearful of heights. There are many examples that don't make much sense, but I don't remember them. You will just have to read it and find out for yourselves. Because despite the rush conclusions, there seems to be some truth to all of it after all, and it is useful to be aware of all of these things that we act upon because of our ancestor's heritage. One important lesson I will take away from this book: when you put your house for sale, don't ask for an exact number!

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By Jeffrey Eugenides

I enjoyed reading the book. It is very detailed in history, anatomy, and emotions, and I appreciate them all. The only thing that bothered me was that I didn't know why the narrator's brother has such a weird name. I am not familiar with the names of US laws. But now that I know where it came from, I find it hilarious. Also hilarious: the facial hair belt (I think I'm paraphrasing it). Anyway, it was very good. [529 pp.]

Book link

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

I Am Not Sidney Poitier

By Percival Everett

A very funny, yet sometime quite intense, book about a person whose mother names him Not Sidney, while his last name is the same as that of the famous actor. His mother also seems to not have known that he will grow to show quite a resemblance to his not namesake. This brings a lot of mishaps to the young boy, which are sometimes compensated for by the immense amounts of money left to him when his mother dies. The problems get even worse in the deep South, where the color of his skin causes him even more troubles than his name does. The author also pokes fun at black people who try to unblack themselves. [234 pp.]

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Sunday, August 28, 2011


By Michael A. Thomas

The third in the books-with-animals-on-their-cover series, this was by far the funniest and the happiest. The story of a family gathering to celebrate the 72nd birthday of the father. A gathering that starts on an awful note (and smell) but ends up solving all of the problems the family members and their friends had. [278 pages]

Book link

Saturday, August 6, 2011


By J. M. Ledgard

[Finished a week ago] The true story of the largest herd of giraffes held in captivity - from the minute they were captured in Africa, till the tragic end - told from the point of view of various involved characters, including one of the giraffes. Very interesting look at Czechoslovakia during the 1970's under communist rule. [295 pp.]

Book link

Friday, July 8, 2011

The White Bone

By Barbara Gowdy

What a marvelous book! It's been a long time since I felt this way about a book. Something I did not expect when I glanced at the picture of the author on the book sleeve's back flip. (She looks too young and groomed - how could she possibly write a good book??)
Such an amazing dive into the life of elephants and Africa. Unfortunately I ended up reading one of the saddest parts while at the Greyhound terminal in El Paso. I couldn't help shedding some tears.
The book is so touching, learned (during the time I was reading it, I came across an article about the cognitive abilities of non-primate animals, and a lot of the things they said about elephants I recognized in the book), and well-written. I can't recommend it enough. One of my very favorites for sure. [336 pp.]

Book link

Sunday, June 12, 2011

White Ghost Girls

By Alice Greenway

The story of two sisters whose father is sent to photograph the war in Vietnam, so they live with their mother in Hong Kong, a relatively safe place. But then things get hotter in Hong Kong, and the girls get in trouble until the inevitable tragic end.
I found the book very slow at first. It was difficult for me to get into it. And then, all of a sudden, something really horrible happens. It really seemed like it was very sudden, even though I'm sure there were hints all along, it was just too boring for me to notice them. After that the book stopped being boring, but it was still somewhat annoying. I don't know exactly why. Maybe because it was overly dramatic. [168 pp.]

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Sunday, June 5, 2011


By Jorge Luis Borges

I've been reading this book since I finished Working in the Shadows... It was very slow. Some of the stories I didn't even get, I'm afraid. It was a fairly difficult read. No wonder it took me so long... I finished it last week. [256 pp.]

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Saturday, May 7, 2011

Godless Morality: Keeping Religion Out of Ethics

By Richard Holloway

Actually I finished this book two or three weeks ago, and I forgot most of what I wanted to write about it. All I remember is this: I looked at the back cover after I started reading the book, and was very surprised to learn that the author is a bishop. His views are so similar to mine in almost all aspects discussed in the book, that it gives me hope (although I'm sure he's in the minority). [163 pp.]

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Saturday, April 2, 2011

Working in the Shadows

- A year of doing the jobs [most] Americans won't do -

By Gabriel Thompson

The author spent 2008 working 3 different jobs (2 months each): picking lettuce (which actually involves a lot of cutting!) in Yuma, AZ; dumping heavy tubs of chicken parts in Russellvile, AL; and delivering for a restaurant in New York City. All jobs were very hard and not well paid, but to me it seemed the one in the chicken plant was probably the hardest, though the most physically demanding was cutting lettuce. He also spent a couple of days working at a flower shop with crazy owners, who ended up firing him because he smiled too much. Although everybody probably knows that these jobs are hard and not well paid, it's hard to understand how hard they really are without experiencing it yourself. And through Thompson, it's easy to see that what I consider hard work is nothing compared to what people who have to do these jobs all the time have to go through.
The books seems fairly balanced and objective - there's no slamming on the companies or obvious exaggerations of injustices - and does a good job and detailing many aspects of the life of the workers. And even though he starts out intending to focus on illegal immigrants, he concludes that they are by no means the only ones suffering in the system as it is.
There were a couple of inconsistencies that had me go back and look at details in the book (like the time lag between the Yuma and Russellville jobs - it seemed from the narration that he was still recovering physically from picking lettuce when he started the chicken job, but in fact it was about 3 months; and the 3rd day of his work at the restaurant, where he said he was still in training - but according to what the lady told him when he just started, training was supposed to last 2 days).
However, all-in-all the book is well written and very interesting. So if you want to know more about where your food comes from and what involves in getting it to your supermarket (or doorstep), this book may answer more questions than you think you have. [312 pp.]

Book link

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

The Idiot

By Fyodor Dostoyevsky

Finally finished, after many months. I liked the beginning, with some interesting ideas and unusual settings, but then it started to become tedious. Like a 30-page monologue by an insignificant and annoying character. Quite a few of the characters were annoying, actually. That was probably on purpose, but it still made the read less inviting.
All in all, I was quite disappointed. I really liked Crime and Punishment, and expected The Idiot to be as good. [688 pp.]

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