Monday, October 18, 2010


I've been reading many non-fiction books lately. I find the Fiction/Novel output to be seriously lacking these days. Perhaps it's just my age, or dashed expectations, but I find novels written today on the whole to be disingenuous, predictable, or just plan bad. However, non-fiction seems to have leapt to soaring heights. And that's good---for me. Sometimes, the real, true story is often more amazing than what is made up. It all depends of course on the author: his/her writing style, the subject being explained and discussed, the approach the author takes with this subject, and always the truth---or near-truth--- of the reporting. Non-fiction writers are never afraid to say that they or anyone else does not know for certain, and that's fine.

So the books I've read over the past three months are: 13 THINGS THAT DON'T MAKE SENSE (THE MOST BAFFLING SCIENTIFIC MYSTERIES OF OUR TIME)by Michael Brooks. this is a delightful little book exploring the many anomalies in science as well as in life itself. What is amazing about this life and with science that tries to explain it, is that whenever anything is almost totally covered and understood there is always some part that is still a puzzlement. And that goes along with just about everything. How many times have you heard doctors or scientists say that something works but they really don't understand why? Or something happens, they can predict it, but they're not sure why it happens. These are the kinds of things Brooks takes on. His writing is quite natural, easy to follow, and personable. It's a good book, quite amazing really. An example: Did you know that life itself is an anomaly? They can break down life to all its components from atoms, molecules, and chemicals, but they don't understand what it is that animates it all into a breathing, thinking being. Interesting.

WAR by Sebastian Junger. Junger is the author of THE PERFECT STORM, a wonderful book made into an excellent movie a few years ago. In WAR Junger follows a single platoon based at a remote outpost in eastern Afghanistan. It's a disturbing book chronicling the lives of very young men in a hellish place. He tells how they wake up from a disturbed sleep, have coffee, grab their rifles and return fire at the hills where fighters are practising their skills shooting at the Americans. Unbelievable. These are just young men on both sides fighting a senseless and stupid war. It's a very powerful book.

THE TIGER by John Vaillant. John Vaillant also wrote THE GOLDEN SPRUCE which won the Governor General's Award for Non-Fiction---a great book. In this book he takes on the Siberian Tiger in north east Russia. It's an amazing book about a region---the Primorye---in eastern Russia where not many people from the West know about, and the rapid decline of the Siberian tiger in that region. The tiger is being killed by poachers in staggering numbers. But it also is a story of a hunt for one particular tiger who has targeted humans, and who shows such cunning and obsession that the scientists had to revisit this species to see if it is as intelligent as it appears to be. Vaillant's writing is smooth and enjoyable although he tends to over-dramatize certain situations, and drag impending climaxes out for effect. It's sometimes annoying.

THE WAVE, by Susan Casey. I'm reading this now, and have reached to halfway point. I'm enjoying the realizations of the mysteries of the ocean, and the waves. Again, scientists are unsure why there is certain Rogue Waves or Freak Waves going on in the ocean, but they are there and many ships every year are going to the bottom because of them. Interesting. The only thing I really don't like about this book is the amount of time she spends on Surfing and surfers. I don't think that this is necessary, for me anyway. Also her writing is very plain, and sometimes awkward. But it is a very interesting and well researched book.

HITCH 22 by Christopher Hitchens. I'm not into biographies, autobiographies, or memoirs. I'm really not interested in other people's lives, I'm barely interested in my own. So, even though it is so well written, and thought provoking, I found myself dreading to get back to it. I do like Hitchens though. I'll get back to him in a later post.

My wife is reading THE GIRL WHO KICKED THE HORNET'S NEST, by Stieg Larsson. She won't tell me anything about it, even though she knows I liked the movie so much and am now interested. We are going to watch the second movie next weekend. Cool.

I'll be back soon. Busy weeks ahead. Keep reading.