Tuesday, December 20, 2011

The Structure of Scientific Revolutions by Thomas Kuhn

I read this book for my philosophy of history class, and while it was not exactly a pleasurable experience, it has drastically affected the way that I think about science. I have always pictured science as this monolith that moves forward in a constant state of progress. Kuhn introduced me to the idea that science is governed by paradigm shifts that fundamentally change the way scientists understand their discipline. Science changes as anomalies are discovered which the old way of doing science cannot account for. Scientists then switch to new a new paradigm that can account for the anomaly. Since science develops in this manner, it is not necessarily linearly progressing. This explanation is overly-simplified, but it shows the wide difference between what I use to believe and how I think about this topic now.

Evolution and natural selection are two examples of paradigm shifts that have radically altered the way science is done.

Monday, December 12, 2011

An Arsonist's Guide to Writers' Homes in New England by Brock Clarke

This might be one of the best book titles ever. Based on that and all the reviews on the cover that said it was "witty" and "absurdly hilarious," I was expecting that it would make me laugh. It didn't, not even once. It makes me wonder if all those literary critics decided that it would be a fun idea to try to collectively trick people into getting a book. Or if they just did not bother to read it and wrote reviews off of what they thought the book would be like. Or, much more likely, I just didn't get it. It's not like it would be the first time that happened. Regardless, it is still a great title.

Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress by Dai Sijie

Sijie writes a fictionalized account of two boys sent to the country to be "reeducated" during China's Cultural Revolution. They end up in possession of several illegal foreign novels, which become crucial to their mission to educate the Little Seamstress. It's a good read, and I'd rather not give any more of the plot away.

Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America by Barbara Ehrenreich

I wrote this post at the end of April, but I never got around to taking this admittedly simple picture.

Since I am going to be moving soon, I am slowly going through my books and trying to read the ones that ended up stacked in the back of the closet so I can decide whether to keep or donate them. I remember finding this book while attempting to organize the massive mess in my sorority's un-air conditioned storage room a few summers ago (mistake on multiple levels). I promptly stuck it on my bookcase and then packed it into boxes on more than one occasion during my CBU time.

The book was ok. Ehrenreich raises some good issues, but she also tends toward hyperbole at some points. It was interesting, and a nice break from Civil War ladies.

Final decision: donating it to the Goodwill Bookstore.

Chomsky for Beginners by David Cogswell

I wrote a paper about Noam Chomsky for my philosophy of history class. I had no idea where to start so I thought back to the friendly introduction to Derrida that I received last fall and decided to look for a comic book. I really love these writers and illustrators for giving the philosophically disinclined an easy entrance into some really deep topics.

Brida: A Novel by Paulo Coelho

""Magic is a bridge," he said at last, "a bridge that allows you to walk from the visible world over into the invisible world, and to learn the lessons of both those worlds."
"And how do I learn to cross that bridge?"
"By discovering your own way of crossing it. Everyone has their own way.""

My way is going into lovely and deep woods and making myself feel small in the best possible way.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Cloudsplitter: A Novel by Russell Banks

I read this book last June so the details are getting a little fuzzy, but I will say that it was one of the best historical fiction books I have read. The author does a remarkable job of giving you a sense of what it might have been like to be living in the antebellum Adirondacks and Kansas. It's roughly the size of a dictionary, but I would recommend it nonetheless.