Saturday, June 9, 2018

The Perfectionists: How Precision Engineers Created the Modern World

Measurement. I never expected to be mesmerized by a book about precision. In his book titled, The Perfectionists: How Precision Engineers Created the Modern World, Simon Winchester describes the improvements in technology as a result of doing a better job at measurement. In addition to this being a story about technology, Winchester does a great job in making this a story about people and their obsessions. Those readers who are not engineers or scientists will find this book interesting and readable. Scientists are likely to fine a few ways in which Winchester could have been more precise. Rating: Four-star (I like it) Click here to purchase The Perfectionists from amazon.com.

Pops: Fatherhood in Pieces

Minder. There’s not a lot to read in a brief collection of seven essays by Michael Chabon titled, Pops: Fatherhood in Pieces, but each essay is finely written. If there is a father in your life who doesn’t read a lot, this book would make an ideal gift. For any father, mother or child, there is thoughtfulness behind each essay, and a grounding in affection and love. I loved the essay about taking his thirteen-year-old son to Paris and having the insight to understand that his role was not necessarily that of “father,” but of “minder,” as his son found other people with whom he connected. Chabon’s closing essay about his own father was loving and moving. I have always enjoyed Chabon’s writing, especially for his skill at choosing the perfect word to add to his finely crafted sentences. Rating: Five-star (I love it) Click here to purchase Pops from amazon.com.

How to Change Your Mind: What the New Science of Psychedelics Teaches Us About Consciousness, Dying, Addiction, Depression, and Transcendence

Psychedelic. I thought I knew a thing or two about psychedelics, but was disabused of that notion after reading Michael Pollan’s book titled, How to Change Your Mind: What the New Science of Psychedelics Teaches Us About Consciousness, Dying, Addiction, Depression, and Transcendence. Lots of research into psychedelics has been going on for decades, and there are promising findings about the effectiveness of some substances for treating different conditions. Fans of Pollan’s writing about food will find a similar style in his writing about the mind, and about his own experiences with psychedelics. Rating: Four-star (I like it) Click here to purchase How to Change Your Mind from amazon.com.

In the Distance

Journey. I added Hernan Diaz’ debut novel titled, In the Distance, to my reading queue after it was nominated as a finalist for the 2018 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. While emigrating from Sweden to the United States with his older brother, protagonist Håkan becomes separated and throughout the novel tries to reunite with that brother. Instead of landing in New York, Håkan debarks in San Francisco, and begins a meandering journey mostly east to try to find his brother. Diaz presents terrific character development in Håkan, and delves deeply into grief, loss and loneliness as he takes readers on this fascinating journey with a great character. The prose is finely written, and most readers who enjoy literary fiction will appreciate this novel. Rating: Five-star (I love it) Click here to purchase In the Distance from amazon.com.

Principles: Life and Work

Discipline. Living and working in a disciplined and methodical way has worked for Bridgewater founder Ray Dalio, so he is giving back by writing a book titled, Principles: Life and Work, about how he’s done it. Dalio starts by telling us his life story, continues by describing the principles by which he led Bridgewater, and wraps up with tools that a reader can use to develop one’s own principles and practices. I thought I was pretty organized and disciplined until I read this book. I even remember developing a list of principles during a time when I was managing lots of people. Dalio is a black belt especially when it comes to leading an idea meritocracy. Radical transparency has lots of consequences, and somehow or other, Dalio became comfortable with that and attracted others who thrived in that environment. Rating: Four-star (I like it) Click here to purchase Principles from amazon.com.

The Outsider

Satisfaction. I’m writing this review of Stephen King’s novel, The Outsider, three days after completing it, and the smile of satisfaction remains on my face. As fans have come to expect, King tells a captivating story that will engage readers from beginning to end. He presents interesting characters, some of them just like us, and others very, very different. There’s an otherworldly component here and the return of a beloved character from earlier novels. Reading this novel was a very satisfying start to summer. Rating: Five-star (I love it) Click here to purchase The Outsider from amazon.com.

Theory of Bastards

Impermanence. Audrey Schulman accomplishes so much in her novel titled, Theory of Bastards, that I loved every page. Protagonist Francine Burk (Frankie) is a well-developed, complex character, who resonates differently at the beginning and the end of the novel. Each human and bonobo character comes to life in the novel. Frankie’s observations of bonobos lead her to the theory referenced in the title. The community Schulman describes struggles with limited resources and the effects of climate change. When technology fails, the impermanence of all that is familiar requires dramatic change. There’s a roller coaster of healing, hurting and hope in this novel that will appeal in a special way to those readers who enjoy literary fiction that leads one toward deeper thoughts about life. Rating: Five-star (I love it) Click here to purchase Theory of Bastards from amazon.com.