How Democracies Die: What History Reveals About Our Future
by Steven Levitsky (2018)
This is one of the scariest and most interesting books I read in a while. How Democracies Die analyzes the path taken by countries that narrowly avoided falling into authoritarianism, and countries that did not manage to avoid the descent into full dictatorship. This analysis is used to explain how easy is for democracy to be eroded and die, and it provides useful insight on USA recent history and the current challenges faced by our nation.
The recent political escalations, the erosions of Democratic norms had made many of us wondering: is our democracy in danger? Harvard professors Steven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt have spent more than twenty years studying the breakdown of democracies in Europe and Latin America, and they believe the answer is yes. Democracy no longer ends with a bang, in a revolution or military coup, but with a whimper: the slow, steady weakening of critical institutions, such as the judiciary and the press, and the gradual erosion of long-standing political norms. The good news is that there are several exit ramps on the road to authoritarianism. The bad news is that, we have already passed many of them. Drawing on decades of research and a wide range of historical and global examples, from 1930s Europe to contemporary Hungary, Turkey, and Venezuela, to the American South during Jim Crow, Levitsky and Ziblatt show how democracies die, and how ours can be saved.
The book is three years old by now, I would love to read an updated and extended edition covering recent events, including attempts by the outgoing administration to overturns the election results. I would love to hear the authors' take on this. Is it too late? What can be done, by both party, to re-establish respect and democratic norms?
Started: Dec 24 2020 Finished: Jan 04 2021
Minor Feelings: An Asian American Reckoning
by Cathy Park Hong (2020)
Minor Feelings: An Asian American Reckoning is a ruthlessly honest, emotionally charged exploration of the psychological condition of being Asian American. How do we speak honestly about the Asian American condition, if such a thing exists? Poet and essayist Cathy Park Hong fearlessly and provocatively confronts this thorny subject, blending memoir, cultural criticism, and history to expose the truth of racialized consciousness in America. Binding these essays together is Hong's theory of "minor feelings". As the daughter of Korean immigrants, Cathy Park Hong grew up steeped in shame, suspicion, and melancholy. She would later understand that these "minor feelings" occur when American optimism contradicts your own reality, when you believe the lies you're told about your own racial identity. With sly humor and a poet's searching mind, Hong uses her own story as a portal into a deeper examination of racial consciousness in America today. This intimate and devastating book traces her relationship to the English language, to shame and depression, to poetry and artmaking, and to family and female friendship. A radically honest work of art, Minor Feelings forms a portrait of one Asian American psyche, and of a writer's search to both uncover and speak the truth.
I found the book quite eye opening and interesting. Weirdly enough, it even helped me better understand my immigrant experience. A great book and recommended reading for everyone.
Started: Oct 05 2020 Finished: Oct 18 2020
Beyond Magenta: Transgender Teens Speak Out
by Susan Kuklin (2014)
I read this book as part of Banned Books Week is an annual event celebrating the freedom to read. Typically held during the last week of September, it spotlights current and historical attempts to censor books in libraries and schools. It brings together the entire book community (librarians, booksellers, publishers, journalists, teachers, and readers of all types) in shared support of the freedom to seek and to express ideas, even those some consider unorthodox or unpopular. The books featured during Banned Books Week have all been targeted for removal or restriction in libraries and schools. By focusing on efforts across the country to remove or restrict access to books, Banned Books Week draws national attention to the harms of censorship.
For the past few years I have been participating to the event reading some of the most challenged books in the previous year.
The book won the 2015 Stonewall Book Award, and it is a honest look at the life, love, and struggles of a diverse set of six transgender and gender neutral teens. Portraits, family photographs, and candid images grace the pages, augmenting the emotional and physical journey each youth has taken. Each honest discussion and disclosure, whether joyful or heartbreaking, is completely different from the other because of family dynamics, living situations, gender, and the transition these teens make in recognition of their true selves.
A really beautiful read, a great resource to better understand our non-cis siblings, and to be inspired.
Started: Sep 22 2020 Finished: Sep 26 2020
Born a Crime: Stories From a South African Childhood
by Trevor Noah (2016)
I read this book for a book club, and I was looking forward reading it after my (amazing) colleague Nishkala strongly recommended it. I was expecting a book full of humor that also offered insight on the horrors of apartheid, but the book is more an autobiography of sort, shining light on horrors of xenophobia, apartheid, domestic abuse, and violence. The horrors are mitigated by the cheerful disposition of the author and, at times, by some humor.
Born a Crime is a memoir of one man's coming of age, set during the twilight of apartheid and the tumultuous days of freedom that followed. Trevor Noah's unlikely path from apartheid South Africa to the desk of The Daily Show began with a criminal act: his birth. Trevor was born to a white Swiss father and a black Xhosa mother at a time when such a union was punishable by five years in prison. Living proof of his parents' indiscretion, Trevor was kept mostly indoors for the earliest years of his life, bound by the extreme and often absurd measures his mother took to hide him from a government that could, at any moment, steal him away. Finally liberated by the end of South Africa's tyrannical white rule, Trevor and his mother set forth on a grand adventure, living openly and freely and embracing the opportunities won by a centuries long struggle. Born a Crime is the story of a mischievous young boy who grows into a restless young man as he struggles to find himself in a world where he was never supposed to exist. It is also the story of that young man's relationship with his fearless, rebellious, and fervently religious mother... his teammate, a woman determined to save her son from the cycle of poverty, violence, and abuse that would ultimately threaten her own life.
Also interesting are the parallels between South Africa and the United States, of the challenges of an oppressed minority to rise up and get a sit at the table.
This is a great book, I am glad I got to read it. I am looking forward discussing it at the book club.
Started: Aug 29 2020 Finished: Sep 07 2020
The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness (10th Anniversary Edition)
by Michelle Alexander
It's rare for me to like a non-fiction book as much as this one. It's extremely eye opening and informative. I heard about it before of course, seldom does a book have the impact of this one. Since it was first published in 2010, it has been cited in judicial decisions and has been adopted in campus-wide and community-wide reads; it helped inspire the creation of the Marshall Project and the new $100 million Art for Justice Fund; it has been the winner of numerous prizes, including the prestigious NAACP Image Award; and it has spent nearly 250 weeks on the New York Times bestseller list. Yet, I assumed I knew already about the subject, about the dire injustice in the law enforcement and justice systems. I decided to pick it up, and how wrong I was, how little I knew! I strongly recommend this book to everyone, it should be a required reading in school. It helps understanding the history of this country, and the current events. I strongly suggest picking up the 10th anniversary edition. It has a (many chapter long) new introduction by Michelle Alexander that discusses the impact the book has had and the state of the criminal justice reform movement today.
Started: Jul 04 2020 Finished: Aug 23 2020
by Michelle Obama (2018)
I have never been attracted by autobiographies. This is why I had not picked this book up before despite the raving reviews. Eventually a friend convinced me to give it a try... and I am glad I did. I knew relatively little of the former First lady. I knew and admired her for being an embodiment of the American dream, as a somebody that worked hard and despite her relatively humble origins got a Harvard degree and an impressive career. I knew she was smart and down to Earth. This book really provided a more rounded picture. I loved it.
In a life filled with meaning and accomplishment, Michelle Obama has emerged as one of the most iconic and compelling women of our era. As First Lady of the United States of America, the first African American to serve in that role, she helped create the most welcoming and inclusive White House in history, while also establishing herself as a powerful advocate for women and girls in the U.S. and around the world, dramatically changing the ways that families pursue healthier and more active lives, and standing with her husband as he led America through some of its most harrowing moments. Along the way, she showed us a few dance moves, crushed Carpool Karaoke, and raised two down-to-earth daughters under an unforgiving media glare. In her memoir, a work of deep reflection and mesmerizing storytelling, Michelle Obama invites readers into her world, chronicling the experiences that have shaped her, from her childhood on the South Side of Chicago to her years as an executive balancing the demands of motherhood and work, to her time spent at the world's most famous address. With unerring honesty and lively wit, she describes her triumphs and her disappointments, both public and private, telling her full story as she has lived it, in her own words and on her own terms. Becoming is the deeply personal reckoning of a woman of soul and substance who has steadily defied expectations, and whose story inspires us to do the same.
Started: Jun 07 2020 Finished: Jul 04 2020
The Code Book: The Science of Secrecy from Ancient Egypt to Quantum Cryptography
by Simon Singh (2000)
I am apparently one of the few computer scientist / math and science enthusiast that had not heard of this book before. My book club was reading it, and I was expecting a quite boring treatise on cryptography. Cryptography is a field that I enjoyed as a kid and then as a formal field of study in college, but I expected a quite heavy textbook like tome... how I was wrong! This is a (surprisingly) very entertaining and hard to put down book, explaining the role of cryptography in history and explaining the most complex and convoluted ciphers in a easy to understand way. I am glad to have read it, and I am considering looking into the other books by this author.
In this book Simon Singh offers the first sweeping history of encryption, tracing its evolution and revealing the dramatic effects codes have had on wars, nations, and individual lives. From Mary, Queen of Scots, trapped by her own code, to the Navajo Code Talkers who helped the Allies win World War II, to the incredible (and incredibly simple) logistical breakthrough that made Internet commerce secure, The Code Book tells the story of the most powerful intellectual weapon ever known: secrecy. Throughout the text are clear technical and mathematical explanations, and portraits of the remarkable personalities who wrote and broke the world’s most difficult codes. Accessible, compelling, and remarkably far-reaching, this book will forever alter your view of history and what drives it.
Started: Jan 14 2020 Finished: Jan 30 2020
The Case Against Education: Why the Education System Is a Waste of Time and Money
by Bryan Caplan (2018)
Dr Caplan, Professor of Economics at George Mason University, takes a hard look at Education. He claims that Education, despite being immensely popular, it is also grossly overrated. He argues that the primary function of education is not to enhance students' skill but to certify their intelligence, work ethic, and conformity, in other words, to signal the qualities of a good employee. He claims that the labor market values grades over knowledge, and that the more education your rivals have, the more you need to impress employers. He argues that graduation is our society's top conformity signal, and that even the most useless degrees can certify employability. He advocates two major policy responses: educational austerity, and more vocational education.
The author painstakingly bases his arguments on ton of studies and quotations (the reference section takes a good half of the book), and the book reads more like a textbook than a text intended for the mass market, making it a time a little slow going.
The Case Against Education is definitely though provoking, and it makes some quite interesting and credible points. I am glad to have read it. At the same time, the book reads like a click-bait, taking very extreme position to get talked about and sell. It obviously worked.
Started: Aug 17 2019 Finished: Sep 07 2019
Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup
by John Carreyrou
I am usually not into non-fiction books that focus and explore real world crimes, but this book was a big exception. It was extremely fascinating, and imporrible to put down. I read the bulk of it in 2 days.
Bad Blood is the full inside story of the breathtaking rise and shocking collapse of Theranos, the multibillion-dollar biotech startup, by the prize-winning journalist who first broke the story and pursued it to the end, despite pressure from its charismatic CEO and threats by her lawyers.
In 2014, Theranos founder and CEO Elizabeth Holmes was widely seen as the female Steve Jobs: a brilliant Stanford dropout whose startup "unicorn" promised to revolutionize the medical industry with a machine that would make blood testing significantly faster and easier. Backed by investors such as Larry Ellison and Tim Draper, Theranos sold shares in a fundraising round that valued the company at more than $9 billion, putting Holmes's worth at an estimated $4.7 billion. There was just one problem: the technology didn't work.
In Bad Blood, John Carreyrou tells the riveting story of the biggest corporate fraud since Enron, a tale of ambition and hubris set amid the bold promises of Silicon Valley.
Started: Feb 05 2019 Finished: Feb 12 2019
21 Lessons for the 21st Century
by Yuval Noah Harari (2018)
I loved the previous two books by this author because they shattered the myths I was taking for granted, and forced me to see things in a different way. While in "Sapiens: a brief history of humankind" he spoke about our past, and in "Home Deus" about our future, in "
21 Lessons for the 21st Century" he focuses on the present to make sense of today's most pressing issues.
How do computers and robots change the meaning of being human? How do we deal with the epidemic of fake news? Are nations and religions still relevant? What should we teach our children?
As technology advances faster than our understanding of it, hacking becomes a tactic of war, and the world feels more polarized than ever, Harari addresses the challenge of navigating life in the face of constant and disorienting change and raises the important questions we need to ask ourselves in order to survive.
In twenty-one chapters that are both provocative and profound, Harari builds on the ideas explored in his previous books, untangling political, technological, social, and existential issues and offering advice on how to prepare for a very different future from the world we now live in: how can we retain freedom of choice when Big Data is watching us? What will the future workforce look like, and how should we ready ourselves for it? How should we deal with the threat of terrorism? Why is liberal democracy in crisis?
I loved this book almost as much as his previous two. While it feels a little less polished, more a collection of 21 essays than a book, it is nevertheless as eye opening and recommendable as Sapiens and Home Deus.
Started: Nov 03 2018 Finished: Nov 18 2018
Voter Information Pamphlet & Sample Ballot: November 2018
by City and County of San Francisco (2018)
There is no greater right than the right to vote. America's democracy thrives when every eligible voter participates and does her/his due diligence to come prepared. The San Francisco Department of Elections prepares a Voter Information Pamphlet before each election, which is sent to all registered voters. This guide includes a sample ballot, information about voting in San Francisco, and information about local candidates and ballot measures for the November 2018 elections.
Started: Oct 20 2018 Finished: Oct 20 2018
Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies
by Jared Diamond (2005)
A very interesting book that I strongly recommend for everyone. It is the global account of the rise of civilization that is also a stunning refutation of ideas of human development based on race.
The author convincingly argues that geographical and environmental factors shaped the modern world. Societies that had a head start in food production advanced beyond the hunter-gatherer stage, and then developed writing, technology, government, and organized religion, as well as nasty germs and potent weapons of war, and adventured on sea and land to conquer and decimate preliterate cultures. A major advance in our understanding of human societies, Guns, Germs, and Steel chronicles the way that the modern world came to be and stunningly dismantles racially based theories of human history.
Started: Jul 27 2018 Finished: Aug 29 2018
The Terrorist's Son: A Story of Choice
by Zak Ebrahim (2014)
Despite the fact that parts of the book may have been "ghostwritten" by the co-author, despite the fact that, at times, I felt like a narrative was being pushed a little bit too hard on the real event, I am grateful to have read this story. It does offer some insight on what turns ordinary devoted men into terrorists, and what happens to their innocent families.
This book is a behind the scenes life of an American boy raised by his terrorist father, the man who planned the 1993 World Trade Center bombing. Zak Ebrahim was only seven years old when, on November 5th, 1990, his father El-Sayyid Nosair shot and killed the leader of the Jewish Defense League. While in prison, Nosair helped plan the bombing of the World Trade Center in 1993. In one of his infamous video messages, Osama Bin Laden urged the world to "Remember El-Sayyid Nosair".
For Zak Ebrahim, a childhood amongst terrorism was all he knew. After his father's incarceration, his family moved often, and as the perpetual new kid in class, he faced constant teasing and bullying. Yet, though his radicalized father and uncles modeled fanatical beliefs, he did not succumb to that.
In this book, Ebrahim dispels the myth that terrorism is a foregone conclusion for people trained to hate. Based on his own remarkable journey, he shows that hate is always a choice, but so is tolerance. Though Ebrahim was subjected to a violent, intolerant ideology throughout his childhood, he did not become radicalized. Ebrahim argues that people conditioned to be terrorists are actually well positioned to combat terrorism, because of their ability to bring seemingly incompatible ideologies together in conversation and advocate in the fight for peace. Ebrahim argues that everyone, regardless of their upbringing or circumstances, can learn to tap into their inherent empathy and embrace tolerance over hatred.
Started: Jul 12 2018 Finished: Jul 13 2018
Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow
by Yuval Noah Harari (2017)
This is the second book by Yuval Noah Harari
I read. Both book managed to deeply challenge and change the way I thought about humans and the world.Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow
examines what might happen to the world when old myths are coupled with new godlike technologies, such as artificial intelligence and genetic engineering. Humans conquered the world thanks to their unique ability to believe in collective myths about gods, money, equality and freedom, as the author explained in Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind
. In Homo Deus
, Prof. Harari looks to the future and explores how global power might shift, as the principal force of evolution, natural selection, is replaced by intelligent design.
What will happen to democracy when Google and Facebook come to know our likes and our political preferences better than we know them ourselves? What will happen to the welfare state when computers push humans out of the job market and create a massive new "useless class"? How might Islam handle genetic engineering? Will Silicon Valley end up producing new religions, rather than just novel gadgets?
As Homo Sapiens becomes Homo Deus, what new destinies will we set for ourselves? As the self-made gods of planet earth, which projects should we undertake, and how will we protect this fragile planet and humankind itself from our own destructive powers? This book gives us a glimpse of the dreams and nightmares that will shape our future.
: Apr 13 2018 Finished:
Jun 08 2018
Voter Information Pamphlet & Sample Ballot: June 2018
by City and County of San Francisco (2018)
There is no greater right than the right to vote. America's democracy thrives when every eligible voter participates and does her/his due diligence to come prepared. The San Francisco Department of Elections prepares a Voter Information Pamphlet before each election, which is sent to all registered voters. This guide includes a sample ballot, information about voting in San Francisco, and information about local candidates and ballot measures.
Started: Jun 03 2018 Finished: Jun 03 2018
Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End
by Atul Gawande (2014)
In Being Mortal, Atul Gawande tackles the hardest challenge of his profession: how medicine should not only improve life but also the process of its ending. Medicine has triumphed in modern times, transforming birth, injury, and infectious disease from harrowing to manageable. But in the inevitable condition of aging and death, the goals of medicine seem too frequently to run counter to the interest of the human spirit. Nursing homes, preoccupied with safety, pin patients into railed beds and wheelchairs. Hospitals isolate the dying, checking for vital signs long after the goals of cure have become moot. Doctors, committed to extending life, continue to carry out devastating procedures that in the end extends suffering. Gawande, a practicing surgeon, addresses his profession's ultimate limitation, arguing that quality of life is the desired goal for patients and families. Gawande offers examples of freer, more socially fulfilling models for assisting the infirm and dependent elderly, and he explores the varieties of hospice care to demonstrate that a person's last weeks or months may be rich and dignified. Full of eye-opening research and riveting storytelling, Being Mortal asserts that medicine can comfort and enhance our experience even to the end, providing not only a good life but also a good end.
I confess I would have not picked it up if it was not chosen by my book club. The topic is not one people like to think about, or discuss. This is the exact reason why I am glad I read this book. It did change my perspective on the topic, and I now feel much more prepared to deal with the aging of my loved ones, and mine.
Started: May 04 2018 Finished: May 18 2018
We Should All Be Feminists
by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (2014)
I discovered this lovely short book at my local library, where it was a highly recommended short-read. The title sounded appealing, so I decided to give it a try, and I am glad I did. We should all be feminists is a reflection of what "feminism" mean today, it is a a personal, eloquently argued essay, adapted from the author much viewed TEDx talk of the same name. With humor and levity, Adichie offers readers a unique definition of feminism for the twenty-first century, one rooted in inclusion and awareness. She shines a light not only on blatant discrimination, but also the more insidious, institutional behaviors that marginalize women around the world, in order to help readers of all walks of life better understand the often masked realities of sexual politics. Throughout, she draws extensively on her own experiences, in the U.S., in her native Nigeria, and abroad, offering an artfully nuanced explanation of why the gender divide is harmful for women and men, alike. Argued in an observant, witty and clever prose, this is one remarkable author's exploration of what it means to be a woman today, and an of-the-moment rallying cry for why we should all be feminists.
Started: Apr 14 2018 Finished: Apr 14 2018
Between the World and Me
by Ta-Nehisi Coates (2015)
One of the more interesting books I have ever read, definitely something that should be a required read in every school in the United States of America (and abroad).
In a profound work that pivots from the biggest questions about American history and ideals to the most intimate concerns of a father for his son, Ta-Nehisi Coates offers a powerful new framework for understanding our nation’s history and current crisis. Americans have built an empire on the idea of "race", a falsehood that damages us all but falls most heavily on the bodies of black women and men, bodies exploited through slavery and segregation, and, today, threatened, locked up, and murdered out of all proportion. What is it like to inhabit a black body and find a way to live within it? And how can we all honestly reckon with this fraught history and free ourselves from its burden? Between the World and Me is Ta-Nehisi Coates's attempt to answer these questions in a letter to his adolescent son. Coates shares with his son and readers the story of his awakening to the truth about his place in the world through a series of revelatory experiences, from Howard University to Civil War battlefields, from the South Side of Chicago to Paris, from his childhood home to the living rooms of mothers whose children's lives were taken as American plunder. Beautifully woven from personal narrative, reimagined history, and fresh, emotionally charged reportage, Between the World and Me clearly illuminates the past, bracingly confronts our present, and offers a transcendent vision for a way forward.
Started: Mar 09 2018 Finished: Mar 14 2018
The Universe in a Nutshell
by Stephen Hawking (2001)
I really enjoyed A Brief History of Time
, and I decided to read more by the same author. The Universe in a Nutshell
was hailed as a major publishing event, a sequel that unravels the mysteries of the major breakthroughs that have occurred in the years since the release of his acclaimed first book. The books touches topics as Quantum mechanics, M-theory, General relativity, 11 dimensional supergravity, 10 dimensional membranes, Superstrings, P-branes, and Black holes.
As in the previous book, Hawking takes us to the cutting edge of theoretical physics, where truth is often stranger than fiction, to explain in laymen's terms the principles that control our universe. He takes us to the wild frontiers of science, where superstring theory and p-branes may hold the final clue to the puzzle. And he lets us behind the scenes of one of his most exciting intellectual adventures as he seeks "to combine Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity and Richard Feynman's idea of multiple histories into one complete unified theory that will describe everything that happens in the universe".
I am told that the book is richly and gorgeously illustrated. Unfortunately I had the bad idea to listed to the audiobook. That was a big mistake, because the text continuously reference the images and it relies on them to illustrate the most difficult points. As a result I was unable to grasp some of the most interesting parts.
: Mar 01 2018 Finished:
Mar 06 2018
Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind
by Yuval Noah Harari (2014)
I have read many books in my life, but none has impacted me so deeply, and make me think and reconsider my assumptions and way of thinking. It now sits on top of the list of books I recommend to others.
The books tells the story of Homo Sapiens from 100,000 years ago, when at least six human species inhabited the earth. Today there is just one. Us. Homo sapiens. How did our species succeed in the battle for dominance? Why did our foraging ancestors come together to create cities and kingdoms? How did we come to believe in gods, nations and human rights; to trust money, books and laws; and to be enslaved by bureaucracy, timetables and consumerism? And what will our world be like in the millennia to come?
In Sapiens, Dr Yuval Noah Harari spans the whole of human history, from the very first humans to walk the earth to the radical, and sometimes devastating, breakthroughs of the Cognitive, Agricultural and Scientific Revolutions. Drawing on insights from biology, anthropology, palaeontology and economics, he explores how the currents of history have shaped our human societies, the animals and plants around us, and even our personalities. Have we become happier as history has unfolded? Can we ever free our behaviour from the heritage of our ancestors? And what, if anything, can we do to influence the course of the centuries to come?
Bold, wide-ranging and provocative, Sapiens challenges everything we thought we knew about being human: our thoughts, our actions, our power ... and our future.
Started: Feb 16 2018 Finished: Feb 28 2018
Learn about the United States: Quick Civics Lessons
by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (2016)
I spent the end of the year working, and study like crazy for the US naturalization interview. The study book that I was given turned out to be surprisingly interesting, and while many topics are covered very superficially, it still provide some interesting insight to the political structure of the United States of America. It did make me want to learn more about its history, and I am currently looking for good books on the topic. Any suggestion?
Started: Dec 03 2017 Finished: Dec 04 2017
The truth has got its boots on: what the evidence says about Mr. Damore’s Google memo
by Erin Giglio (2017)
A well-researched and well-exposed rebuttal to the infamous Damore's memo. What I particularly liked and what I found particularly intriguing is the introduction to a lot of the research in the field of behavioral ecology, and what science has to say (and what it does not say) about gender and its relation to personality traits. It also come with a long list of references and suggestions for further readings.
Started: Aug 22 2017 Finished: Aug 23 2017
A Brief History of Time
by Stephen Hawking (1998)
I had been wanting to read this book for a long time, and when I saw that a new and updated version was released, I decided it was finally the time to read it. The book is extremely enjoyable, I devoured half of it in a day, and I end up staying up late reading few nights in a row.
The book is very accessible to anyone, you do not need any scientific background to enjoy this book. A good half of the book covers high school physics, at a very high level. The other half, the most interesting one, goes beyond the standard curricula, and covers more recent developments in terms of quantum physics, time, and black holes. I found remarkably enlightening Dr. Hawking's proof that the thermodynamic time arrow, and the psychological time arrow must have the same direction.
While I loved the book (I really did!), I wish that the various topics were covered in more detail, even if that would require some math to be thrown in.
Started: Mar 26 2017 Finished: Mar 29 2017
Zion National Park: Sanctuary in the Desert
by Nicky Leach (2001)
There are many guides and books for each national park, and many can be quite dull. This is a welcome exception. The book is packed with stunning photos, and contains useful information regarding the geology, the history, the wildlife, and the trails in the park. It provided me with many ideas of which park sites to hike to, when I will manage to go to the park again.
The book is a little dated (the author mention some of the upcoming bug services to be started in winter 2002), but I would still recommend it (sites and trails have not changed since when it was written).
Started: Nov 19 2015 Finished: Dec 10 2015
Sei la mia vita
by Ferzan Özpetek
Ti alzi alle 4 di mattina perché ti sei dimenticato di spegnere il cellulare prima di corricarti. Afferri il libro sul comodino, quello che ti ha tenuto su fino a tardi ieri sera, e che anche dopo aver spento le luci non ti lasciava scivolare nel sonno. Cammini pian pianino fuori dalla stanza per non svegliare il tuo compagno, attraverso i corridoi ancora bui della casa addormentata. Ti immergi in quelle pagine mentre la città davanti a te lentamente si illumina e si risveglia. E mentre fuori tutto tace, e mentre pian piano tutto comincia a bisbigliare i suoni del nuovo giorno, dentro di te c'è una tempesta destata da quelle incredibili parole così piene di amore.
Started: Aug 22 2015 Finished: Aug 26 2015
Rocky Mountain National Park - A Year in Pictures
by David Dahms
This short book collects many breathtaking photos captured at the Rocky Mountains National park through the various seasons by David Dahms. A brief intro provides some insight into the park wildlife.
Started: Aug 12 2015 Finished: Aug 18 2015
Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Parks: A Place Where Giants Dwell
by George B. Robinson
Beautiful photos, but there is very little information in this book. The most interesting information comes at the end, in the form of a two pager guide to the wildlife in the park.
This said, reading this book and looking at the incredible photos made me want to go back to those two parks.
Started: Jul 05 2015 Finished: Aug 09 2015
by Stephen King (2000)
The true story of a close encounter with Death during a simple daily walk, by one of the most read contemporary authors of the 21st century. Remarkably human and interesting.
Started: Jun 07 2015 Finished: Jun 07 2015
Redwood: A Guide to Redwood National and State Parks, California: A Guide to Redwood National and State Parks, California
by National Park Service (U.S.), Division of Publications (1998)
When I visit a National Park, I always like to purchase a book that provides an introduction to its history and natural wonders. Unfortunately many of these books are not the greatest, providing very scant information. I would strongly recommend this one. It provides an introduction to the parks and the movement to preserve redwoods, the world's tallest trees. It explores redwood natural history, the work of restoring the previously heavily logged lands, and North Coast Indian culture. It also includes a travel guide and reference materials for touring the parks.
Started: May 24 2015 Finished: May 25 2015
in pictures Hawaii Volcanoes: The Continuing Story
by Richard A. Rasp (1992)
Publisher review: The very best in brilliant full-color photography in a large format book, with accurate, readable, interpretive text on the natural scene and the human history of national parks and monuments throughout the country. Each
My rating: ★★★★
Started: Aug 07 2014 Finished: Aug 07 2014
Lassen Volcano: The Story Behind the Scenery
by Ellis Richard (1998)
Publisher review: The very best in brilliant full-color photography in a large format book, with accurate, readable, interpretive text on the natural scene and the human history of national parks and monuments throughout the country. Each
My rating: ★★★★
Started: Jul 04 2014 Finished: Jul 05 2014
Twelve Years a Slave
by Solomon Northup (2013)
Slavery is a horrible stain in our history, but there is something worst: forgetting about it. This book made me realize that even if we are still facing the consequences of that immoral practice, even if "race" is one of the most discussed topics on TV, blogs, and newspapers, despite all that I still know so little about it. Solomon Northup was a quite talented free man in New York that happened to not be "white". He was kidnapped and sold as a slave in the South. Solomon was not the only one to have this fate. He was separated from his wife and from his sons, beaten and exploited, broken down physically and emotionally. He was deprived of the title and the dignity of being a man. After 12 years, thanks to extreme luck and exceptional circumstances, he was freed and returned to his family. While there are many reports of kidnapped free men believed to be sold as slaves in the South, Mr. Northup is the only one that made it back alive. Once back, any attempt to legally prosecute the kidnappers failed, as the historical legal records demonstrate, thanks to the fact that, as a "non-white", he could not be accepted as a witness against a "white" man. He actually barely escaped prison for having dared to accuse his kidnapper. He spent the rest of his life to end the horror of slavery and to help slaves escape to Canada. He also wrote down his story, published here along the legal court documents concerning his case. The result is one of the most incredible books I have ever read. Mr. Northup was a remarkable man, and was an incredibly good writer. Despite being written almost a century and an half ago, despite some of the horrors being described, it is a pleasure to read. On top of it, the book is of such historical significance that should be read by everybody.
I will never be able to understand and relate to the enormity of the horrors he had to endure, but I strongly believe I must try. The only way to atone for the horrors of the past, is to never forget them.
Started: Feb 03 2014 Finished: Feb 08 2014
In Search of Our Mothers' Gardens: Prose
by Alice Walker (2011)
Publisher review: In this, her first collection of nonfiction, Alice Walker speaks out as a black woman, writer, mother, and feminist in thirty-six pieces ranging from the personal to the political. Walker explores the theories and practices of feminism, incorporating what she calls the “womanist” tradition of African American women. Among the contents are essays about other writers, accounts of the civil rights movement of the 1960s and the antinuclear movement of the 1980s, and a vivid memoir of a scarring childhood injury and her daughter’s healing words.
My rating: ★★★
Started: Nov 15 2013 Finished: Nov 30 2013
Why We Can't Wait
by Martin Luther King Jr. (2000)
I decided to celebrate Martin Luther King Day reading one of his most famous books. The book has an incredible historical significance, it details the progress made by the civil rights movement during the 60s. It's incredible to see how things finally suddenly started changing, never fast enough, for the better. It is so insightful to read about the struggles, the dreams and the vision of one of the fathers of the movement. Some of the topics touched in the book are still incredibly relevant today: for example the role of affirmative action and social incentives as a way to level the field, to enable every American to have the same opportunities to achieve his/her dreams.
It was heart warming to read this book while listening to President Obama inaugural speech: even if we still have a long way ahead of us, even if we are dragging our feet and progress is slow, the speech gave me hope that a more just world is possible and a little bit closer each day.
Started: Jan 21 2013 Finished: Jan 25 2013
Maphead: Charting the Wide, Weird World of Geography Wonks
by Ken Jennings (2011)
I was given this book as a present, and I started reading it on a plane, with very little expectations. I was quite pleased to discover that the book was quite entertaining and full of interesting trivia, a perfect book to read while on a plane. Maphead is about geography, maps, and map wonks. It starts describing the history and role of maps in the ancient world, but soon it focuses on the lust for discovery and exploration of the unknown. It finishes speaking about today's explorers, stuck in an already charted world, trying to re-create the joy of discovery hiding artificial geo-caches or looking for arbitrary points in the map.
Finished: Jan 03 2012
You and Your Aquarium
by Dick Mills (1986)
As soon as I will be able to do it, I am going to buy an aquarium. This is a simple guide to collecting and keeping aquarium fishes. Interesting. I was unable to finish it right away, because Matteo toke it back to Italy.
Started: Jan 01 2001 Finished: May 01 2001
by Zhang Xianliang (1996)
Publisher review: Nel 1960 ZHang XianLiang era un poeta di 24 anni. Da due anni si trovava in un "campo di rieducazione attraverso il lavoro" nella Cina Nord occidentale per il fatto di essere un letterato, un intellettuale, un "nemico del popolo. Zhang usò la penna per sopravvivere scrivendo un diario.
My rating: ★★★★
Finished: Nov 14 1998
La vendetta di Archimede: gioie e insidie della matematica
by Paul Hoffman (1990)
Publisher review: Le gioie e le insidie della matematica vengono abilmente illustrate nel saggio di Hoffman, che si propone non solo di combattere la visione negativa della matematica, ma anche di illustrarne alcune delle più affascinanti applicazioni moderne.
L'interpretazione dei sogni
by Sigmund Freud (1970)
Publisher review: No ISBN L'interpretazione dei sogni è l'opera fondamentale della Psicoanalisi. Il sogno, considerato fino ad allora un fenomeno privo di interesse scientifico recupera in queste pagine tutto il suo significato profondo, scoprendo con il proprio processo di formazione una zona nascosta e quasi irraggiungibile della psiche: l'inconscio.
The Pink Triangle: The Nazi War Against Homosexuals
by Richard Plant (1988)
Publisher review: This is the first comprehensive book in English on the fate of the homosexuals in Nazi Germany. The author, a German refugee, examines the climate and conditions that gave rise to a vicious campaign against Germany's gays, as directed by Himmler and his SS--persecution that resulted in tens of thousands of arrests and thousands of deaths. In this Nazi crusade, homosexual prisoners were confined to death camps where, forced to wear pink triangles, they constituted the lowest rung in the camp hierarchy. The horror of camp life is described through diaries, previously untranslated documents, and interviews with and letters from survivors, revealing how the anti-homosexual campaign was conducted, the crackpot homophobic fantasies that fueled it, the men who made it possible, and those who were its victims, this chilling book sheds light on a corner of twentieth-century history that has been hidden in the shadows much too long.