Sunday, February 24, 2013

Jack Reacher Audiobooks

by Lee Child

I should have lived in the era when reading books aloud was an after-dinner pasttime; I love listening to literature. Certain books doubtless are more engaging out loud than they would be to read, particularly if the narrator is skillful.

I'm not sure what I'd think of the Jack Reacher books in print, but thanks to clever (if somewhat outlandish) plotting and a great reader, every one I've tried save the latest ("A Wanted Man") is most enjoyable.  Reacher, a 6'5", 250 pound ex-military policeman, wanders the country with only a toothbrush in his pocket and the clothes on his back, preferring to buy a new outfit when the current one gets dirty rather than bother with luggage.

A word, however, on "A Wanted Man."  This one starts out promising with the one little glitch that Reacher has a broken nose, and Dick Hill, on average the perfect auditory Reacher, delivers the injured hero in a stuffy, nasal voice...14 clogged hours of it that drove this listener to distraction. When the story goes rogue with ridiculous twists and incomprehensible spy vs spy nonsense, the experience is intolerable by disc 9 of 12. 

I fear Lee Child is following action author colleagues Grisham, Patterson, Connelly, Ludlum, and Clancy, churning out books after creativity has run dry.  If this wasn't written in collusion with a ghost-writer, perhaps he should hire one. It couldn't get any worse.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Phi: A Voyage From the Brain to the Soul

by Giulio Tonio, MD
I first read about Giulio Tonio in an article about anesthesia, specifically about the horror of waking up from anesthesia while the operation is still in progress. He is working on a method whereby anesthesiologists can accurately assess the level of awareness in their patients. Dr. Tonio, a psychiatrist and sleep specialist, is the Distinguished Chair in Consciousness Studies at the University of Wisconsin. He has a keen interest in mind and how it is generated from the matter of brain.
His book “Phi: A Voyage From the Brain to the Soul”, is a beautifully annotated exploration of that which does and does not constitute consciousness. Definitely not a bedtime read; you’ll need all your wits about you to follow along with a fictional Galileo as he wanders through time and space in search of the soul while in the company of various illustrious guides including Francis Crick, Marcel Proust, and the explorer Ernest Shackleton. 

I borrowed it from the library; I recommend you do the same.  If life was long enough to revisit books again and again, I’d buy a copy and revisit it once a year.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

The Paleo Solution: The Original Human Diet

by Robb Wolf, submitted by NW

This book has a lot of interesting physiological information in the book. For me, as a geologist, a particularly interesting thing about the book is that it takes a paleohistorical approach and speculates on the sort of diet that humans ate through 99% of their evolutionary history, i.e., before the start of agriculture ~ 9000 years ago. He makes grains and legumes bad guys, but I haven't read far enough yet to see if Wolf was aware that pre-agricultural societies ground and ate many type of seeds mesquite beans. Metates* attest to that. The ancients just didn't overindulge in those commodities on a regular basis.

Editor's note:  I had to look up Metates which, per Wikipedia, is a mortar, a ground stone tool used for processing grain and seeds. Per NW: "I found a beautiful metate and a mano (the stone held in your hand) in a mesquite grove in West Texas about 30 years ago when I was doing uranium exploration. I had found others, but in plowed fields they were all broken. Apparently this was one grove of mesquite that was there since pre-agricultural times in Texas. It had been used for so long, that a hole had been worn through the bottom - and consequently was abandoned there."

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

The Lifeboat

by Charlotte Rogan

I thoroughly enjoyed The Lifeboat, a first novel by Charlotte Rogan. Astute and “self-loyal” Grace Winter, age 22, a newlywed in the summer of 1914, narrates this novel.
Following an explosion on a luxury Atlantic Ocean liner, Grace survives three weeks on an overcrowded lifeboat without her husband Henry. Grace subsequently finds herself on trial for murder. Shipwreck, survival, power struggles and moral dilemmas provide dramatic metaphors for many problems faced by ordinary people. One reviewer dubbed this book “Lord of the Flies with Edwardian ladies”.
Rogan is interested in philosophy (Hobbs) and the idea that people create society out of a given state of nature, making up rules and giving up certain freedoms for security. This book is a page-turner and a fascinating psychological study of several complex characters, especially Grace Winters.
Submitted by HKw

Friday, February 8, 2013

The Godfather's Daughter

by Rita Gigante

What an intriguing title about a life as far from mine as can be imagined. And yet...the result is just okay, blandly fascinating, ranging from moving to outlandish to downright boring, the equivalent of a well-written, self-published autobiography that a friend might give to you.

Not to give it all away, but I will.  The Mafioso's girl becomes a New-Age healer who pairs with her deceased Don of a dad to deliver care. 

The Ringtone and the Drum

by Mark Watson

Traveler's advisories or not, there is no way I will ever travel through West Africa. My idea of a breathtaking adventure is to negotiate an international airport without a phone or facility with the local language. Lucky for me then that Mark Weston and his tireless wife Ebrun have undertaken the journey.

Mr. Weston's book is West Africa 101. He sheds light on that which seems dark and overwhelming in its complexity and foreignness. He's eyes on the ground in places I can't imagine much less hope to understand. With computer at hand as I read, I got visuals on the dusty villages and the people therein as the author chronicles conversations over endless coffee at yet another dusty streetstand.

Best of all, Weston segues easily from the personal to the historical and the geopolitical, a skill not necessarily demonstrated in such travelogues as his. I hope he continues his writing career--I'd go virtually anywhere with him.