08 October 2009

Food for the brain

Last month I got some extra money to spend on fun things -- so I've been spending it. An inventory of recent acquisitions:

Bram Stoker, Dracula -- incredible that I've gone all these years without ever reading the classic! I had worried that it might be one of those slow, turgid Victorian novels -- it was published in 1897, after all -- but it's far from that. The story really crackles along; it's a riveting read.

Edward Humes, Monkey Girl (what I'm currently reading) -- a history of the 2004-2005 legal battle in Dover, Pennsylvania, over local fundies' efforts to insert creationism (in its "intelligent design" guise) into the school science curriculum. Humes tries hard to treat both sides fairly, but can't avoid repeatedly revealing that the pro-ID side was utterly clueless about science.

Mary Renault, The Persian Boy -- historical novel of Alexander the Great, told from the viewpoint of a slave owned by Darius (the Persian king whom Alexander defeated) and later by Alexander himself. I remember reading this decades ago, and couldn't resist picking it up when I spotted it in the store.

Richard Dawkins, The Greatest Show on Earth -- the evidence for evolution and why we are certain it really happened.

H.P. Lovecraft, Tales of H.P. Lovecraft -- ten of his classic stories.

Stephen Hawking, A Brief History of Time -- modern physics for the layman. It may be a challenge to read, but must have been far more so to write.

Christopher Hitchens (editor), The Portable Atheist -- a collection of atheist writings through history, from Lucretius to Ayaan Hirsi Ali.

Victor J. Stenger, God: The Failed Hypothesis -- "How science shows that God does not exist", rather than being merely neutral on the subject.

A work I especially wanted was Frank Schaeffer's Crazy for God, a history of the Christian Right political movement written by the son (now de-fanaticized and firmly allied with the left) of one of its founders. This book was out of stock everywhere. I have one more store to try, then I'm going to order it online.

We've been hearing for years that books will become passé soon, but I don't believe it. Words on a screen are still nothing like as easy and relaxing to read as print on actual paper.


Blogger mendip said...

Excellent choices, am glad you're enjoying Dracula (one of my faves). I envy your proxity to Powell's!

08 October, 2009 07:30  
Blogger Sue said...

and I envy your free time to actually read a book! LOL. I'm not a novel reader, I hope that doesn't make me seem uninformed and stupid! :-))

08 October, 2009 09:28  
Blogger Infidel753 said...

Mendip -- It well deserves its reputation. I can believe none of the movies come close.

Sue -- I'm not in a position to judge the constraints on other people's time. I do think it's terribly unfortunate for our culture that so many people no longer read novels, though. Some of them are real jewels.

08 October, 2009 10:07  
Blogger Ranch Chimp said...

Thanx for the tip's ... I have just got "The Greatest Show on Earth". What really caught my attention and curiosity out of those you listed was "A brief History of Time" ... I think I will want to check that out.

Take Care Guy.........

08 October, 2009 10:51  
Blogger Zardoz said...

"The Portable Atheist" sounds interesting, I'll have to have a look at that one.

I agree that it is unfortunate that people don't read novels or anything else these days. Maybe if they were to take all of the hours that they spend watching reruns on TV and spend them reading instead, we'd all be better off.

08 October, 2009 12:08  
Blogger TomCat said...

I've read seven of the books on your list, and enjoyed all, even the ones I disagree with.

08 October, 2009 13:54  
Anonymous phuckpolitics said...

@Infidel753 - You should order Crazy for God at Amazon. That's what I did and I should have it sometime next week.

09 October, 2009 09:31  
Blogger Infidel753 said...

Thanks PP -- Actually I found it at that one last store I was going to check (along with some other choice items).

TC -- That's an impressive number of the same books tohave read. I'm curious which ones they were.

Zardoz -- I suspect mental exhaustion due to the hours people work. I have a full-time job myself, though. I quit watching TV about 15 years ago -- simply got out of the habit. Nowadays, when I'm in someone else's house and the TV is on, it registers to me as something bizarre -- it's not "normal" to me any more.

RC -- I'll be interested to know what you think of "Greatest Show". I haven't started Hawking's book yet, but I've glanced through it and it looks fascinating, though perhaps difficult if one doesn't know a little basic physics.

09 October, 2009 15:59  
Anonymous CountingCats said...

Dracula is one of my all time favourites, even if the prose does get a little purple at times.

And don't worry about a brief history of time, if anything I found it a bit too basic.

10 October, 2009 16:00  
Blogger Infidel753 said...

Hey, I like purple prose in its place -- remember, my main vampire man is Lumley.

Good to know about Hawking. It was meant as a popularization, so I assume he pitched it to the broadest part of the prospective audience.

10 October, 2009 16:04  
Blogger Zardoz said...

I can understand people being tired after work, but I really think TV is the culprit. Like you, I gave up on TV (just over two years ago). I was recently over at my neighbours and they had the TV on so loud that we couldn't even hold a conversation! Television insults your intelligence and it assaults your senses; I was nursing a serious headache when I left my neighbours.

If I'm tired after work, I'd much rather read a short story or a few chapters out of a novel. I find reading much less tiring and much more relaxing than watching TV.

12 October, 2009 12:49  
Blogger Infidel753 said...

I'd much rather read a short story or a few chapters out of a novel. I find reading much less tiring and much more relaxing than watching TV.

I'm with you on that. I almost always read for a bit before going to sleep.

Not all TV is sitcoms and reality shows, of course. There is some decent scientific and educational programming. But that's not what most people are watching. And personally I still get more out of a book.

12 October, 2009 14:47  

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