Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Book Notes

I don’t usually participate in these blog thingies, but this one was passed on to me by Margaret from Our House and she is the one person in the blogosphere that I fear (sorry St. Kate).

Total number of books owned, ever: Too many to count, and I’m buying them faster than I can read them.

Last book(s) I bought: My latest buying spree added to my library some favorites that I had already read, but did not own: Free to Choose and Capitalism and Freedom by Milton Friedman, The Road to Serfdom by F.A. Hayek, and One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn.

I am now re-reading the Solzhenitsyn to get a better feel for what those poor terrorists are going through at Guantanamo.

Last book I read: So Far from God: The U. S. War with Mexico, 1846-1848 by John S. D. Eisenhower. It is not the best written book in the world but it is a thorough and interesting account of America’s only purely imperialistic war. The war, which resulted in the addition of New Mexico, Arizona, and California to the U.S., began over Mexico’s refusal to recognize the annexation of Texas. It was a spectacular military success for the United States, with the Americans winning every important battle despite being badly outnumbered in many of them. The war was strongly opposed by many in the north (especially Abraham Lincoln) who saw it as an attempt to add more slave territory to the United States.

The war provided excellent training for many of the Union and Confederate Civil War leaders. Captain Robert E. Lee and Lieutenant Ulysses S. Grant both distinguished themselves. Two of the wars generals went on to be elected President: Zachary Taylor and Franklin Pierce.

Five books that mean a lot to me:
The Feynman Lectures on Physics by Richard Feynman
Richard Feynman was perhaps the greatest physicist of the post World War II era. In this set of lectures he shows that not only could he do physics, but he could teach it as well. Although the lectures begin by covering introductory physics, they are not really for the beginning student (even Cal Tech found them too difficult for first year students). However, they are indispensable for advanced undergraduates and graduate students. I found the book invaluable when I wanted to look at a subject from a unique perspective, or read about topics insufficiently covered in other books such as the physics of thunderstorms or the principle of least action.

Surely You’re Joking Mr. Feynman by Richard Feynman
Unlike his lectures, Surely You’re Joking Mr. Feynman doesn’t require any knowledge or even interest in physics to entertain. The book is a collection of amusing anecdotes that provide an interesting insight into the mind of a genius. Especially entertaining is his account of Los Alamos during the Manhattan Project.

The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin
I once read a claim in a history book that Benjamin Franklin’s scientific contributions were often exaggerated because of his contributions as a founding father. Shortly thereafter, I read in a science book that Franklin’s political contributions were often overstated because of his impressive scientific contributions. I think this illustrates why Franklin is not always given his due – his accomplishments were so great across so many fields that people had trouble believing them.

Benjamin Franklin’s autobiography leaves no doubt that a clear prose style and a sharp wit were among his talents. Like the Feynman book, Franklin’s autobiography gives us insight into the mind of a genius.

Mere Christianity by C. S. Lewis
This book is derived from a series of BBC lectures given by Lewis during World War II on the aspects of Christianity that are common across most denominations. Lewis’ intellectual approach to the subject definitely resonated with me, and led me to add his other books on theology to my reading list.

David Letterman’s Book of Top 10 Lists
An excellent concept, although the lists seem a little short.

5 More People to Pass This on to:
Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn
Dick Durbin
Jacques Chirac
Paris Hilton
Jimmy Carter


Blogger Douglas said...

Residual Forces tagged me after having a chat with me at Keegan's. The MOB seems to be dripping with this meme.

6:06 AM  
Blogger LearnedFoot said...

Thank you for killing this meme before it got to me.


7:57 AM  
Blogger Margaret said...

It isn't dead yet. There are plenty of people left who will be tagging.

8:03 AM  
Blogger TFB said...

Paris Hilton?
You are only allowed to tag those that can read.

9:58 AM  
Blogger Sisyphus said...

True TFB, but there must be some picture books that are especially meaningful to Paris.

8:26 PM  

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