Monday, October 31, 2016

Book review: A Mathematician's Lament by Paul Lockhart

Summary of review of A Mathematician's Lament by Paul Lockhart

If you teach math, if you like math, if you know a kid who gets  subjected to what the schools call math, if you write books about math,  if you plan math curricula - in short, if you are in ANY way connected  to both kids and math, GO GET THIS BOOK. It is absolutely fantastic.


Summary of A Mathematician's Lament

This is an impassioned plea for the rescue of mathematics education.  More precisely, it is a plea for the creation of math education,  because, at present, we aren't doing any - at least, not in grade school  or high school, in the vast majority of schools in the USA.

The author of A Mathematician's Lament

Paul Lockhart has a PhD in mathematics, and was a professor of  mathematics at Brown University and UC Santa Cruz. In 2000, he gave that  up, to teach math to K-12 students at St. Ann's school in NYC.

Contents of A Mathematician's Lament

This is a short book - only 140 pages, and they aren't very big  pages, or small type. It's in two parts: Lamentation and Exultation.  Lamentation describes what we currently do to kids in what we call math  class. Exultation delights in describing what math really is.
Lamentation has 4 chapters:
1. Mathematics and culture
2. Mathematics in school
3. The mathematics curriculum
4. High school geometry: Instrument of the devil

Exultation is one chapter

Review of A Mathematician's Lament

Let me ask you some questions. They are very easy.

  • If a woman had never read a novel or written anything since college, would she be a good English teacher?
  • If a man had never gone to a concert, played an instrument, or sang, would he be a good music teacher?
  • If a woman had never gone to a museum, painted a picture, played with clay, or drawn, would she be be a good art teacher?


I told you they were easy!

Here are some more:

  • If you were forced to take 12 years of music theory before you were permitted to pick up an instrument, would you do so?
  • If you were not allowed to paint until you could name 100 types of brushes and distinguish 200 pigments, would you paint?
  • If you had to learn all about iambic pentameter before you were permitted to write a poem, would you write one?

OF COURSE NOT!

But this is precisely what we are doing with math. I've been saying  this for years, but, in a A Mathematician's Lament, Paul Lockhart says  it more eloquently, with greater authority, and at slightly greater  length than I have.

Math is not about rules, it's not about arithmetic, it's not about  notation. Math is about the search for beauty. Here are some quotes from  the book:

Mathematics is an art, and it should be taught by working artists,  or if not, at least by people who appreciate the art form and can  recognize it when they see it
Mathematics is not a language, it's an adventure

A proof should be an epiphany from the gods, not a coded message from the Pentagon

 In A Mathematician's Lament,  Paul Lockhart shows that he actually IS  a mathematician; he's got the chops. We know this not only because of  his formal credentials, but because of the way he talks. Good math is  "elegant", "beautiful", "charming". And he's right. And if you can't see  that he's right, it's because you have never had a mathematics  education - you've been to school, instead.

Book review: Far from the Tree: Parents, Children and the Search for Identity by Andrew Solomon

Far from the Tree is a book by Andrew Solomon. It is subtitled "parents, children and the search for identity" and it will change the way you think about people, particularly people who are different.

The title comes from the phrase "the apple doesn't fall far from the tree", referring to the idea that children are not that dissimilar from their parents. But some children are quite dissimilar from their parents and this book is about some of them. Far from the Tree got amazing reviews and it grabbed me from the opening:

There is no such thing as reproduction. When two people decide to have a baby, they engage in an act of production, and the widespread use of the word reproduction for this activity, with its implication that two people are but braiding themselves together, is at best a euphemism to comfort prospective parents before they get in over their heads

The first chapter is titled "Son" and the last is "Father". Each of the others is about a particular kind of difference:
  • Deaf
  • Dwarfs
  • Down Syndrome
  • Autism
  • Schizophrenia
  • Disability
  • Prodigies
  • Rape (which is about children whose mothers were raped)
  • Crime
  • Transgender
Each chapter mixes personal stories of parents and children that fit the chapter's title with more general information about the condition and, in most cases, communities that have sprung up around each condition. The only thing that all these conditions have in common is that the child is, in some way, far from the tree (at least in most cases - some of these conditions do have a genetic component).

I don't agree with all that Solomon says; you probably won't either. But that is not the point. This is not a polemic designed to change your opinion in a certain direction, rather, it is a book to open your eyes to things you might not have seen before. It is a book about the nature of humanity. Far from the Tree changed the way I think about people and I daresay it will change the way you think, as well.

Andrew Solomon is a writer and lecturer on psychology, politics and the arts. He is a winner of the National Book Award and an activist for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) rights. He is also the author of The Noonday Demon which is about depression.

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Great quotations: Terry Pratchett on evil

The quotation
 Evil begins when you begin to treat people as things
Who said it

Terry Pratchett, the author of the Discworld series of comic fantasy novels.

Source

I Shall Wear Midnight 

Thoughts on the quote 

Is there a universal morality?  Many people think not.  I think there is.  For example, the Golden Rule and the Silver Rule have been around for 2,000 years, and there are variations in most other religions and philosophies.

In I Shall Wear Midnight (one of the great Tiffany Aching novels), Pratchett gives a definition of evil that could also be universal; it's another variation on the same theme as the two rules. But it is, in some ways, more explicit because it avoids the problems that different people like to be treated (or not treated) differently.  But no one should be treated as a thing.

Treating people as things is also what a lot of evil people get fundamentally wrong.  All people are people, all people deserve respect.  No one should be treated as an object.

In addition, learning that other people are people like you is one of the landmarks in growing up.

Saturday, October 29, 2016

What are you reading, Oct 29, 2016

What are you reading? Oct 22, 2016

Here is what I am reading this week.  Use the comments to tell us what you are reading.

Books 

  • The Year's Best Science Fiction edited by Gardner Dozois.  A good annual "best of" book. On p.163  (76 pages read).
  • Tips on Cardplay by Mike Lawrence.  Lawrence is one of the best bridge writers alive.  Play is the worst part of my game.  This book also includes some tips on defense. p. 138 (3 pages read this week).
  • Anathem by Neal Stephenson. My review from my first read is here.  I am now 84% through (no page numbers on Kindle, 18% read this week).
  • Watson's Play of the Hand at Bridge, the classic book on play. On p. 98 (30 pages read this week).
  • A Beautiful Question by Frank Wilczek, it's a combination of physics, philosophy and art. The question is whether the world can be regarded as a work of art. On p. 32 (24 pages read this week).
  • How to Reassess your Chess by Jeremy Silman.  A really good chess book. p 32 (no pages read).
  • How to Reassess your Chess Workbook also by Silman and the companion to the above. On p. 43 (3 pages read). 
  • The Dream of Reason by Anthony Gottlieb.  A history of philosophy from its Thales to the Renaissance.  This is a really good survey, I think. Gottlieb writes very clearly and uses analogy and humor to help. page 273 (14 pages read this week).
  • John Quincy Adams by James Traub.  A bio of our 6th president, an unjustly neglected figure. On page 159 (71 pages read). 

Periodicals

Your turn

Use the comments to tell me what you are reading and what you think of it.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Great quotations: Thomas Jefferson on freedom of (and from) religion

Tbe quotation:

It does me no harm for my neighbor to believe in many Gods or no God. It neither robs my pocket nor breaks my leg.



Who said it:  Thomas Jefferson, the third president of the United States and principal author of the Declaration of Independence

Source:

Jefferson wrote this in Notes on the State of Virginia

Thoughts on the quote:
 
Many people, these days, accept religious freedom as the freedom to believe or not. But some do not accept it. This lack of acceptance comes from people of all faiths and no faith. To those of us who believe in freedom of religion, this belief may come naturally. If we are drawn into argument with those who do not agree, we need a reason for our belief in religious freedom. This quote from Thomas Jefferson supplies it.

In addition, it shows the limit of this acceptance: Harm. Physical or economic limits this acceptance. So, if fanatics have beliefs which require them to harm you (examples abound, from the Inquisition to 9/11) then you do have a right to limit those beliefs, but only to the extent that they actually harm you.

This Thomas Jefferson quote reminds me of a story my rabbi, S. Michael Gelber used to tell. It seems a guy was walking down the street, swinging his arms. Hie hits another fellow in the nose. The injured man says "What are you doing? You hit me in the nose!" The arm-swinger replies "It's a free country! I can swing my arms if I want!" To which the injured man replies: "Yes, but your freedom stops where my nose begins."

The Thomas Jefferson quote may then be thought of as a way of judging the lengths of people's noses (metaphorically speaking). Your "nose" includes physical and economic harm. Of course, this is not a full set of criteria, because it can sometimes be hard to judge what economic and physical harm are, and what causes them. But it is a good start.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

What are you reading? Oct 22, 2016

Here is what I am reading this week.  Use the comments to tell us what you are reading.

Books 

  • The Year's Best Science Fiction edited by Gardner Dozois.  A good annual "best of" book. On p.79 (but only about 10 pages read this week, I skipped some stories).
  • Tips on Cardplay by Mike Lawrence.  Lawrence is one of the best bridge writers alive.  Play is the worst part of my game.  This book also includes some tips on defense. p. 135 (4 pages read this week).
  • Anathem by Neal Stephenson. My review from my first read is here.  I am now 66% through (no page numbers on Kindle, 24% read this week).
  • Watson's Play of the Hand at Bridge, the classic book on play. On p. 68 (4 pages read this week).
  • A Beautiful Question by Frank Wilczek, it's a combination of physics, philosophy and art. The question is whether the world can be regarded as a work of art. On p. 8 (4 pages read this week).
  • How to Reassess your Chess by Jeremy Silman.  A really good chess book. p 32 (no pages read).
  • How to Reassess your Chess Workbook also by Silman and the companion to the above. On p. 32 (8 pages read). 
  • The Dream of Reason by Anthony Gottlieb.  A history of philosophy from its Thales to the Renaissance.  This is a really good survey, I think. Gottlieb writes very clearly and uses analogy and humor to help. page 259 (37 pages read this week).
  • John Quincy Adams by James Traub.  A bio of our 6th president, an unjustly neglected figure. On page 88 (38 pages read). 

Periodicals

Your turn

Use the comments to tell me what you are reading and what you think of it.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Book review: Cryptonomicon by Neal Stephenson

What Cryptonomicon is:
  • Big - Cryptonomicon is 1100 pages long
  • Complicated - Cryptonomicon has 3 plot lines, set in two different time periods (late 20th century and World War II). It has a dozen major characters and scores of minor characters (including some historical people. There's a brief but hysterical cameo appearance by a very young Ronald Reagan; a not at all funny cameo by Herman Goering and several mentions of Winston Churchill and Admiral Yamamoto. But the main historical person in Cryptonomicon is Alan Turing
  • Funny - there are a lot of humorous bits in Cryptonomicon. Stephenson includes, for example, a long passage on the correct way to eat Captain Crunch cereal (including where the milk should be stored in the refrigerator and what size spoon should be used). Stephenson's portrayal of certain aspects of modernist academic thought is also hysterical.
  • Geeky - One of the main foci of Cryptonomicon is codes. Another is the early development of computers These are geeky subjects. Many of the main characters are brilliant mathematicians or computer programmers.
  • Deep - Stephenson has thoughts on some big subjects, and they are laced throughout Cryptonomicon. Subjects such as the Holocaust (and how to prevent genocide), the nature of love, war, peace, secrecy, how families work and the relationship of individual values to different cultures.

 What Cryptonomicon is not
  • Boring - Neal Stephenson manages to keep Cryptonomicon zipping right along. Reading it is like being on three express trains at once, all headed to the same station.
  • Easy - OK, you probably got that already. Cryptonomicon is not an easy novel. It requires some attention.
  • Science fiction - Although Cryptonomicon is usually shelved with science fiction novels, it really isn't one. Part of it is set in the present day and part in the past; none in the future. None of it involves aliens. And, although science and (especially) technology is certainly a big part of Cryptonomicon it doesn't dominate the book.
Why Cryptonomiconis my favorite novel (or one of them, anyway):
  • I like all the subjects that Cryptonomicon focuses on.
  • I like the way Neal Stephenson keeps things going with the three plotlines.
  • I like the asides and digressions - these may bother some readers of Cryptonomicon, but I think it's just Stephenson having fun. He's incredibly erudite, and it shows, but it never seems like showing off. I think he captures a lot of the nature of his geeky characters,
  • I really like how many of the characters are complex. There are a few truly irredeemable people in Cryptonomicon, and properly so. But most of the characters are complicated - with good points and bad. Like real people.
 

Saturday, October 15, 2016

What are you reading? Oct 15, 2016

Here is what I am reading this week.  Use the comments to tell us what you are reading.

Books 

  • I started The Year's Best Science Fiction edited by Gardner Dozois.  A good annual "best of" book. On p. 37
  • I finished Frederick the Great: King of Prussia by Tim Blanning; my review.
  • Tips on Cardplay by Mike Lawrence.  Lawrence is one of the best bridge writers alive.  Play is the worst part of my game.  This book also includes some tips on defense. p. 131 (22 pages read this week, but some skipping).
  • Anathem by Neal Stephenson. My review from my first read is here.  I am now 42% through (no page numbers on Kindle, 25% read this week).
  • I started Watson's Play of the Hand at Bridge, the classic book on play. On p. 64.
  • I started A Beautiful Question by Frank Wilczek, it's a combination of physics, philosophy and art. The question is whether the world can be regarded as a work of art. On p. 4.
  • How to Reassess your Chess by Jeremy Silman.  A really good chess book. p 32 (no pages read).
  • I started the How to Reassess your Chess Workbook also by Silman and the companion to the above. On p. 24. 
  • The Dream of Reason by Anthony Gottlieb.  A history of philosophy from its Thales to the Renaissance.  This is a really good survey, I think. Gottlieb writes very clearly and uses analogy and humor to help. page 222 (67 pages read this week).
  • And I started John Quincy Adams by James Traub.  A bio of our 6th president, an unjustly neglected figure. On page 46. 

Periodicals

Your turn

Use the comments to tell me what you are reading and what you think of it.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Book review: Frederick the Great by Tim Blanning

Publication date: 2016
Date I finished reading: October 13, 2016
Genre: Biography
Rating: A
Review: This is the biography to get if you want a balanced view of the remarkable Frederick the Great, King of Prussia.  He was a remarkable man.  Born in 1701, he was abused by his tyrannical father who tried to make him into a sort of clone.  Instead, he rebelled.  Certainly an atheist, probably gay, he came to power in 1740 when Prussia was a 3rd rate power and left it a 1st rate one.

He had many good qualities - military brilliance, a reformer (to a degree), a devotee of the arts - and many negative ones - he was a bully, a misogynist and left no clear message for his successors.  He was also a micromanager to an incredible degree.

This is a great biography.

Tim Blanning is a retired professor of history. In addition to writing many books, he also won a prize for teaching at Cambridge.

Interesting words: Zetetic

Definition: Zetetic as an adjective means "proceeding by inquiry"; as a noun, it means "skeptic".
Pronunciation: Zeh, teh, tick
Origin: Zetetic comes from Greek zeeteetikos (ζητητικός ) meaning "seeking".

Why use it? The adjectival sense of zetetic is a one word synonym for a three word phrase. One can use it to contrast, say, dogmatic religions and other things: "Fundamentalism usually is accepted on faith, but science and philosophy are both zetetic".

Examples:  I read this word in Modernity and its Discontents
 

Monday, October 10, 2016

Book review: Widows' Walk by Robert Parker

Year published: 2002
Date I finished reading: Oct 10, 2016
Genre: Mystery
Rating: B-

Review: Widows' Walk is the 29th book in the Spenser series.  When Nathan Smith is shot to death, his widow, Mary, is suspect number 1.  They were alone in the house together. They fought earlier in the day. He's insured for $10,000,000.  But .... Spenser is hired by her lawyer to investigate.  And, very quickly, things get very complicated and very violent.Too complicated for me.  I got lost.

Widows' Walk  is among my least favorite in the series. Not only is the plot too complex, but there are uncomfortable scenes of Spenser and others not quite disapproving of police brutality and there are some unfortunate confusions about the nature of homosexuality.  I expect better of Mr. Parker and, ususally, I get it.


Sunday, October 9, 2016

Annoying words and phrases: "Free gift"

Some words and phrases are interesting.  Some are annoying.  One phrase I find annoying is "free gift".  A gift is free.  That's what "gift" means.  Here's the dictionary definition for "gift":

a thing given willingly to someone without payment; a present.
So, "free gift" is like "wet water".

But even worse is "free gift with purchase".  No. Sorry.  If you have to buy something then anything else you  get is not free because you paid!  This manages to be redundant and contradictory at the same time.

Yet, "free gift" is used quite a lot. Google ngram viewer lets us track its use in books and, after a long decline, it seems to be making a comeback.  But "free gift" is mostly not used in books.  Simply Googling "free gift" (on October 9, 2016 at 9:30 Eastern) came up with 29,700,000 hits! Some of them were not really uses of the phrase (e.g. "free gift cards").  And "free gift with purchase" came up with 1,480,000 hits!

What words and phrases annoy you?

Saturday, October 8, 2016

My favorite Discworld books


What is Discworld?
  It's a series of comic fantasy books by Terry Pratchett, who has said that
  Writing is the most fun you can have with your clothes on
If you write the way he did, maybe so! But for the 99.9999% of us who don't write that way, reading him is almost as good!


Discworld is a world, shaped like a disc (duh) that rides on the back of four elephants, who stand on the shell of A'Tuin, the great sky turtle.

Discworld is a publishing phenomenon, with about 50 million books in print. And it's terrific. 

My favorite Discworld books:

Small Gods - Brutha just wants to tend his melon patch. But then a god appears to him. A small god, desperate for believers, so he doesn't disappear altogether. A god in the shape of a turtle. Marvelous. One of my favorite Discworld novels, and, I think, the first of the series that shows that Pratchett is more than a good and very funny writer, but that he has profound things to say. Spoofs religion and belief and the inquisition and mysticism.


Monstrous Regiment - War has come to Discworld, and it centers on the fundamentalist nation of Borogravia. Polly Perks' brother has enlisted, and she is determined to look for him. So she cuts off her hair and enlists. Spoofs war, fundamentalism and sex roles, while celebrating the power of love and faith.

Going Postal - Moist von Lipwig is a confidence man who has been caught. He's 'rescued' by Lord Vetinari and made Postmaster of Ankh Morpork. Spoofs government service, hacker culture, greed, technology.

Thud - Long ago, the trolls fought the dwarfs in Koom Valley. Now, trouble is brewing again, and it's up to Sam Vimes to fix it, and still get home in time to read "Where's my Cow?" to Sam Jr.


Hogfather - It's Hogswatchnight, the eve of the most joyous holiday of the year, and the Hogfather is missing. It's up to Susan, Death's granddaughter, to sort out the problem, while taking care of her young charges (she's a nanny).


The Truth - The free press is coming to Ankh Morpork, and it's hungry. Spoofs the media, newspapers, photographers (in this one, the photographer is a vampire who crumbles to dust with each flash).

Night Watch - Sam Vimes gets sent back in time to the eve of a street rebellion in Ankh Morpork. Now, the older and wiser Vimes can do some things he couldn't do then, but that might change his own future, or eliminate it.

Guards! Guards! - All the dragons in Ankh-Morpork have been locked away. But there's a key. And someone's opening the door.... Sam Vimes has to get help from his wonderful wife who is an expert on dragons. 
 Men at Arms - Corporal Carrot Ironfoundperson has been promoted. Now, he's got to deal with some mysterious deaths that have something to do with a new weapon called a 'gonne', and a pack of wild dogs is on the loose (led by Big Fido, a mad poodle); at the same time, Edeward d'Eath discovers that Carrot may be the descendant of the last king. Luckily, Carrot has the Ankh Morpork's other watchmen to help him


 Pratchett also wrote the Tiffany Aching novels, also set on Discworld, but sort of separate.  They are "young adult" novels but mostly, I think, young means "not dead yet".  I loved them. 

  1. The Wee Free Men
  2. A Hat Full of Sky
  3. Wintersmith
  4. I Shall Wear Midnight
  5. The Shepherd's Crown

All tell the story of Tiffany Aching. She goes from girlhood to womanhood with many adventures along the way.  Tiffany is a heroine for the ages and for all ages. In the first book, she wants to become a witch because an old woman who lived nearby was killed for being one.  Tiffany is sure that was wrong and wants to stop things like that from happening.

Friday, October 7, 2016

Book review: Clash of Eagles by Alan Smale

Year published: 2015
Date I finished reading: Jan 15, 2016
Genre: Science fiction
Rating:  A
Review: What if Rome never fell?  And what if Rome "discovered" the new world? Those are the premises behind Clash of Eagles by Alan Smale.

It's about the year 1200 in the calendar of the "Christ risen" (one of several calendars in use in Imperial Rome) and the Romans have sent a legion across the great ocean to Nova Hesperia. to explore and, most of all to find gold. They meet (and fight) with several tribes, and their leader becomes part of the Cahokia, who live in the middle ranges of the Mizipi river.




I don't usually like alternative history that much, but this was intriguing and enthralling from the first page. Great stuff.

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Book review: Children of God by Mary Doria Russell



Year Published: 1998
Genre: Science fiction
Rating: A+  

Review: Yesterday I reviewed The Sparrow Children of God is the sequel, and it's just as good, but you should definitely read the earlier book first.
 
Children of God starts off with Emilio Sandoz back on Earth, broken in both body and spirit; it follows him back to Rakhat and then back to Earth, and back to spiritual and physical health. Along the way there are plenty of plot twists to keep the story moving, but what is most remarkable about both The Sparrow and Children of God is not so much the plot, as the character development and the way Mary Doria Russell manages to incorporate a great deal of spiritual wisdom without either sounding "preachy" or slowing the plot down.
 
Even the alien characters (of both alien species) are sympathetic, even when they do utterly alien things.

And the human characters are each fully drawn; they jump from the page into your heart and mind. These are real people, with warts, but also with numerous redeeming qualities. It is relatively easy for an author to make us feel sympathy for people who are similar to us - Mary Doria Russell pulls off the much harder feat of making us sympathetic to people(and aliens) who are very different from us.
 
In terms of spiritual wisdom, perhaps Russell is able to do this because of her own history:  She was raised Catholic, became an atheist, and then converted to Judaism.  She certainly shows sympathy for people in all three groups. Many of the characters are Jesuits;  Sandoz himself goes from being a Jesuit (in The Sparrow to atheism, and back to faith.


Another main character (Sofia Mendez) is Jewish.The aliens have their own religions, as well.
 
Highly recommended.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Book review: The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell

Year published: 1996
Genre: Science fiction
Rating: A+
Review: 

The Sparrow, by Mary Doria Russell, is a science fiction novel, of the "first contact" genre - that is, it tells what happens when we meet aliens for the first time.

This is a fairly common theme in SF, but usually the aliens are poorly drawn; even when well drawn, they tend to be either vastly superior to us (see e.g. Arthur C. Clarke's Childhood's End) or else either so totally alien that they are incomprehensible, or stereotyped versions of us (e.g. in Larry Niven's excellent novels, the Kzinti are like humans, but much much more aggressive, and the Puppeteers like humans, only much more timid).

In The Sparrow, the aliens are at approximately the same level as we humans, but are different in some very interesting ways; since discovering those ways is a large part of the novel, I will not go further here.In addition, the novel is about the nature of faith, the nature of love, and what it means to be civilized.

One caveat - do not read the last 50 pages while eating.

In all, strongly recommended.
 

Monday, October 3, 2016

Interesting words: Exoteric

Definition:  Exoteric means "Intended to be understood by the general public"; it is more or less the antonym of the much more common word esoteric.  Ironically, exoteric itself is not very exoteric, since few people know what it means!

Origin: Exoteric comes from the Latin exotericus meaning "external, belonging to the outside world" which in turn comes from Greek exoterikus with the same meaning.

Pronunciation: Ex oh tehr eh kus

Why use it? It's a good descriptive word for popularized science and other technical fields.  Exoteric can also be used sarcastically.

Examples: "Neil deGrasse Tyson is well known for his exoteric talks on astronomy and other subjects".

"Although she intended her talk to be exoteric, in reality, almost no one understood her".

"Shakespeare's plays were originally exoteric, but changes in the language have rendered them less so over time".

Sunday, October 2, 2016

What are you reading? Oct 2, 2016

Here is what I am reading this week.  Use the comments to tell us what you are reading.

Books 

  • Volume 10 of A History of Western Philosophy: The Twentieth Century to Wittgenstein and Sartre by W. T. Jones.  I haven't read the first 9 volumes; I found this one in a used book store.  But I like Jones approach and he makes things reasonably clear, although it's hard to write clearly about philosophy.  I may pick up the other volumes when I can.  Now on page 58. (2 pages read this week).
  • Frederick the Great: King of Prussia by Tim Blanning.  A very good bio of a remarkable ruler, but I wish there were more maps (I often wish this!) and the descriptions of battles could be more detailed.  p. 364 (18 pages read this week).
  • Tips on Cardplay by Mike Lawrence.  Lawrence is one of the best bridge writers alive.  Play is the worst part of my game.  This book also includes some tips on defense. p. 109 (2 pages read this week).
  • I started a reread of Anathem by Neal Stephenson. My review from my first read is here.  I am now 15% through (no page numbers on Kindle).
  • Perdido Street Station  by China Mievelle.  High level science fiction. This one is a bit on hold.  Page 22.
  • Overcoming Anxiety and Depression on the Autism Spectrum by Lee Wilkinson.  Takes a cognitive behavioral approach.  Not my favorite approach, but it summarizes the method well.  16% through (no page numbers on my Kindle). 
  • How to Reassess your Chess by Jeremy Silman.  A really good chess book. p 32 (no pages read).
  • The Dream of Reason by Anthony Gottlieb.  A history of philosophy from its Thales to the Renaissance.  This is a really good survey, I think. Gottlieb writes very clearly and uses analogy and humor to help. page 155 (70 pages read this week).
  • I finished Powder Burn by Carl Hiaasen. Drugs and crime in Florida, with lots of humor as usual with Hiaasen, but this, his first novel, isn't as good as his later ones.  Full review

Periodicals

Your turn

Use the comments to tell me what you are reading and what you think of it.

Book review: Powder Burn by Carl Hiaasen

Year published: 1981
Date finished: Sept. 29, 2016
Genre: Mystery, humor
Rating: B
Review:  Chris Matthews is living a good life in Miami where he is a successful architect.  But then he sees a former girlfriend and her daughter killed in a hit and run accident. As if that isn't bad enough, the driver is a cocaine dealer and he has seen Chris. 

Now Chris' life becomes a series of comic misadventures full of the sort of southern Florida zaniness that Hiaasen is famous for; but this novel, his first, has too much . darkness to allow the full insanity to reign.