What I’m Reading This Week

Happy Spring! There is still way too much snow on the ground, but happily it’s melting with our warmer, springier temperatures. This really has been a long winter, and I can’t wait to resume nature walks, wear short sleeves, and sleep with the windows open soon.

This week was a meh book week, in that the girls all had some random illness which spread to me. I haven’t really felt like reading just from being so sick. But I appear to be much healthier now, and only one kid has a random fever (but normal behavior, so I don’t even know what that’s about), so here’s to getting back into this stack of books.

The Restaurant at the End of the Universe by Douglas Adams – I am entirely thrilled that book two of the five-book Hitchhiker’s ‘trilogy’ is exactly like book one. I really enjoyed book one (probably a little too much) and therefore was a little nervous about book two not being as good as the first. This book is definitely my “escape from reality” book, which is always appreciated at the end of a long day when I all I want to do is zone out.

Tesla: Man Out of Time by Margaret Cheney – I picked this book up after finishing the Einstein biography. I figured I would stay on the “scientists and inventors” rabbit hole and went with Tesla next.

Tesla is pretty much one of the most eccentric people I’ve learned about lately, and I’m entirely impressed by him. I’m finding him so different from Einstein, who wasn’t all into publicity and just wanted to work on his theories; whereas Tesla was definitely more comfortable with “being seen”. He also was devoted to research but he seemed to be more out and about than Einstein. Einstein married twice and had kids, Tesla never did (although he had plenty of ladies who wouldn’t have minded being Mrs. Tesla).

One thing about this biography that grinds my gears though is that the author weaves in strands of “woo” occasionally. Tesla had premonitions that the author hints at being ESP, there’s some acupuncture talk thrown in (trying to suggest that acupuncture works on electrical fields in the human body??) and I just can’t wrap my mind around that kind of stuff. In my opinion it doesn’t really add anything to Tesla’s life and could be removed without being detrimental. Additionally, the book doesn’t move chronologically through Tesla’s life but seems to be more focused on his discoveries and inventions, so sometimes we’re in 1897 and then in the next chapter we’re in 1893. Somewhat annoying.

The information about Tesla is interesting but overall the writing is pretty lackluster. There are some footnotes, although some things are left un-cited that I wish were cited (such as talking about how Edison had neighborhood pets stolen so he could electrocute them as a scare campaign against Tesla’s AC discovery). Overall, this biography is pretty “meh”. Don’t pick this biography if you’re just trying to get into biographies.

I do have a copy of Tesla’s autobiography, which is what I’ll be reading next (and honestly that’s where I should have started from).

Annals of the Former World by John McPhee – I started this book yesterday morning so I don’t have much to write about regarding it yet. One thing that struck me is that in addition to a standard table of contents; it has a narrative table of contents. Things are discussed and mentioned in such a poetic way that it makes me excited to read the entire set of books (my copy is all five books in one giant book, so this one will be sticking around for a while). It’s a geology book, written about American geology; so I’m really excited to get into it and see how it is.

Superintelligence by Nick Bostrom – oh, this book. It still reigns as the undisputed “most complicated book of 2018” for me but is endlessly fascinating. I read a lot about AI when I was in college, so it’s fun to get back thinking about all that. I’m still clocking in at around half a chapter a week, including time to write things in my “things I’m learning” notebook, looking up things that are unclear and just generally thinking about what Bostrom is writing about.

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