Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Fiction, Non-fiction, Economics (no-o-o-o-o) and more

Yes, I'm a mathematician. No, I don't like statistics, probability or economics. So I'm quite glad the book we read for our book group this month didn't betray its meaning in its title. Daniel Kahneman's Thinking Fast and Slow is clearly a book whose title and cover were designed to sell, and they succeeded; it's an international bestseller. But it's also a thoroughly good read, with some great things to say not just about the psychology of thought and decision making, but also about how logical illusions are as powerful as optical ones, and about, yes, I confess, economics too. Highly recommended, this is one to read with some well-balanced smooth coffee--enough to keep your brain in gear.

And yes, I'm an avid reader, but I don't usually like non-fiction books. However, this week I read two and, oddly enough, the second one also included some references to economics.  Deirdre McClosky's memoir, Crossing, tells the personal story of someone rich enough to afford the operations involved in changing from Donald to Deirdre, determined enough to face the prejudice and emotional pain of family disapproval, and intelligent enough to be an accomplished economics professor--which makes her a wise observer of her own situation, and leads to some truly fascinating insights into the way men and women express and value relationships. It's a fairly intense read, so enjoy a dark, intense 5-star coffee with it.

I'm not wild about history and politics either, but  Joanna Higgins' The Anarchist is a surprisingly enthralling and informative read, set around the time of the murder of President McKinley. Each chapter takes the form of a convincing first-person essay from one of the major characters, from president to pauper, and the insights into politics and the human condition are timeless and powerful relevant. The story's bleak and dark, so drink some 5-star bold dark coffee as you read.

Another classically told and historically informative novel is Old Filth by Jane Gardam. This one really drew me in with its depiction of a "Raj orphan" sent back from the colonies to grow up in England, and eventually becoming a judge in Hong Kong (Failed In London Try Hongkong, as the acronym goes). But now he's home, alone, and rapidly becoming more invisible as he tries to gather his fractured selves back into one. Beautifully evocative, the novel takes readers to Malaysia, the Fall of Singapore, the land of bombed out houses, and even the homes of royalty. Enjoy with a rich, elegant and complex cup of 4-star coffee.

In a lighter vein, set just after America's Civil War, The Quilted Heart, by Mona Hodgson, offers three romantic novellas in one, where women from different strata of society pray and quilt together, and American eyes turn West. The stories are short, the history's intriguing, and the insight into immigrant American communities are particularly interesting to me, as a rather newer immigrant. Enjoy these quick tales with some bright lively 2-star cups of coffee.

A much shorter Christian read was the Action Bible Easter Story, perfect for sharing with reluctant readers this Lent and Easter. The familiar tale is told in action-hero, comic-book style, but sticks very well to events as told in the Bible. Bright colors, good comic-book art, and nicely updated dialog, it's a good one wot enjoy with some lively easy-drinking coffee as the children look on.

And now for something completely different...

RIP, by Bob Kat, is a teen time-travel adventure with convincing well-researched history, very relatable, ordinary teens, and a fascinating premise involving Spirit Radio and a cell phone time travel app. It's the fourth in a series, and you should probably start at the beginning, but there's plenty of background information to bring you up to speed. Enjoy with some bright, lively, easy-drinking 2-star coffee---it's fun.

And finally, another sci fi adventure with magic, epic battles in fantasy lands, American generals seeking the ultimate weapon, and more, Reprisal, by Thomas A. Knight, completes the author's trilogy, the Time Weaver Chronicles, in very satisfying style. Enjoy some bold dark 5-star coffee as the battles rage.


Oh, there is one more. My review of Only if You Dare, by Margot Hoornstra, should appear on Nights and Weekends on Thursday. It's an enjoyable lunch-break romance with middle-aged protagonists and an enjoyable mix of serious issues with humor and heart. A mild, crisp 1-star coffee would go well with lunch and this book.


CA Heaven said...

I certainly agree regarding economics, but mathematical statistics is cool; Bayes Rule and Markov chains and stuff like that >:)

Cold As Heaven

Sheila Deeth said...

I do wish I'd learned more stats. My sons made it sound much cooler than it seemed when I was doing it.