April 29, 2016

Are you a vulnerable feeler or a thinking doer?

How do you know that your friends and family aren't mindless zombies? Does your cat love you like you love it? Does God ever get hungry?

This book won't answer those questions but it will make you think outside of the box and ask even more questions which in my opinion is awesome. The Mind Club: Who Thinks, What Feels, and Why It Matters by Daniel M. Wegner and Kurt Gray was a fun ride. These two psychologists look at what makes up a 'mind' and who should be entered into the mind club (e.g. plants wouldn't be included). In the opening chapter, there was a little chart which represented how mind is measured by agency (mental abilities such as self-control, morality, communication, etc) and experience (capacity to feel hunger, pain, desire, pride, etc). I had never looked at the world in this kind of framework before and it was fascinating to see that God has a lot of agency (He is seen as all powerful and knowing) but no experience (God doesn't crave a cheeseburger or a nap). This had never occurred to me before but now it seems obvious that humans consider God to be a member of the mind club but he is not a full member like we are because he has no experience.

Here's the chart in question:

From page 12 

Each chapter investigates a different mind to see if they warrant entry into the mind club. The chapteres cover such topics as animals, the silent (those in vegetative states or locked-in), the dead (yes, dead people), robots (THE SINGULARITY IS NIGH), and at the very end of the book the self (that's us). The book was chock full of data from studies conducted by those that the authors worked with as well as from other academic sources. I liked this because it shows that they weren't just theorizing without anything to back them up. However, if you're going into this looking for concrete answers about what makes up the 'mind' then you're barking up the wrong book. Much like philosophy, the book reads like a thought experiment where many things are posed but nothing has a definitive answer. And that's fine! The book was fun and fascinating. I'm definitely going to comb through the Notes to get some more book recommendations (my one complaint was that the Notes weren't more expansive...it's just a standard bibliography where I'm accustomed to annotations). If you like thought experiments and/or you're interested in the psychology of the mind then this book is right up your alley. XD

Also, the authors are hilarious. Check out this passage:

From page 240


**If you're interested in buying this book or any books really, you can click here or here. The first will re-direct you to AbeBooks and the second will re-direct you to The Book Depository. These are great websites for purchasing books (AbeBooks carries inexpensive used and out-of-print books and The Book Depository ships free everywhere in the world). Full disclosure: I will receive a commission on all sales made by following either of these links. I wouldn't recommend a site that I didn't use and you are under no obligation to purchase anything. :-) **








April 26, 2016

Like those nesting dolls but with stories

Some books are so amazing that you feel like you're racing to the finish line because you just can't bear to wait one more moment to find out how it's going to end. Then there are others that must be savored. You need to take your time with these books. In fact, you might even set them to the side for days on end because you want to stretch out your time with the characters. Arcadia by Iain Pears is one of those books. It's truly a story within a story within a story within a story. (I hope I didn't leave any of them out.) It's about time, cause and effect, and above all storytelling. Henry Lytten is a professor, part-time member of the British Intelligence, a wannabe fantasy author, and the owner of a cantankerous fat cat named Mr. Jenkins. (That right there should be the tagline.) It's also about Anterwold and the student Jay who is just trying to understand where the Story began and how he fits into it. Not to mention John More and his quest to find a document buried for hundreds of years which may or may not hold great significance to the human race. Of course, it's also about Angela Meerson and her invention which is most certainly going to change the course of history the future all of time. Do you see what I mean about nesting dolls? In the same way that it's obvious how the nesting dolls have a relation to one another, Arcadia is laid out bit by bit so the reader can discover how each of these seemingly disparate stories and characters are related to one another in a seamless narrative that is mindboggling in its intricacies. What I'm trying to say is that this is a must read for 2016. GO, GO, GO!


Source: amazon.com


**If you're interested in buying this book or any books really, you can click here or here. The first will re-direct you to AbeBooks and the second will re-direct you to The Book Depository. These are great websites for purchasing books (AbeBooks carries inexpensive used and out-of-print books and The Book Depository ships free everywhere in the world). Full disclosure: I will receive a commission on all sales made by following either of these links. I wouldn't recommend a site that I didn't use and you are under no obligation to purchase anything. :-) **

April 22, 2016

Greece or bust!

I absolutely LOVE it when I read a book and immediately want to find everything that author has ever written and binge read the heck out of their work. I saw a commercial for a new ITV program called The Durrells which intrigued me...especially when I learned it was adapted from a book. I threw it on my library list and delved in hoping for a fun read and WHOA guys. My Family and Other Animals by Gerald Durrell is nothing short of delightful. Full of family antics, animals gone wild, and ALL THE NATURE it was exactly what I needed to read right now. It turns out that he's written loads of other books and this book was actually the beginning of a trilogy of his adventures with his family while they were living on Corfu. (I wish I could have lived with them because they're all distinctly eccentric and hilarious.) Even better, I started watching the series and it's a delight! If you enjoy humorous memoirs and/or learning about the flora and fauna of a place then you won't be disappointed with My Family and Other Animals. Now pardon me while I put the other two books on my wish list...

So I was looking for a photo of the cover to add here when I discovered that this newest iteration, The Durrells, is just one of many adaptations of Durrell's books. O_O And anyway I still have the copy from the library so I'll just take the photo myself.

I was going to add a version with my thumb but decided on this one instead.

April 19, 2016

Watch out for the scientific geniuses in your life

When you read the title The Reproductive System: A science fiction novel what immediately springs to mind? If it's machines that can self-replicate then you're spot on. John Sladek has somehow managed to hit on almost every single sci-fi cliché in this one slim book and create a delicious parody that had me shaking my head at the ridiculousness of it all. The basic premise is that a scientist has discovered how to create machines that can reproduce. However, it's pretty clear that he plans to put them to a nefarious purpose (also the name of my rap group). Characters are introduced almost at random with the most insane backstories and names (Wompler? Sounds like something from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.). In true sci-fi fashion, all the individual storylines merge together at the end to create something completely over the top and scientific ++.  I thought it was a really fun read and if you're a fan of the more 'classic' science fiction novels then you'll most definitely enjoy this. It's satirical and sarcastic without being preachy. In short, it's hilarious.

Sorry this one's a bit short but the book itself wasn't that lengthy and I can't say much without revealing the ludicrous plot. :-P

Trippy cover courtesy of pinterest.com


**If you're interested in buying this book or any books really, you can click here or here. The first will re-direct you to AbeBooks and the second will re-direct you to The Book Depository. These are great websites for purchasing books (AbeBooks carries inexpensive used and out-of-print books and The Book Depository ships free everywhere in the world). Full disclosure: I will receive a commission on all sales made by following either of these links. I wouldn't recommend a site that I didn't use and you are under no obligation to purchase anything. :-) **

April 15, 2016

Did you know that monks are different from friars?

The lovely people at Pegasus Books sent me the book that I'll be reviewing in today's post. It will be available on May 3, 2016 but you can pre-order it now. ☺

Philip Kazan's The Painter of Souls is the fictionalized story of a real artist from the 15th century by the name of Fra' (as in Friar) Filippo Lippi. What is known about the friar is that he wasn't a particularly good friar but he was an excellent painter. Despite taking orders, he remained a street urchin at heart and therefore his priorities weren't always aligned with the church. A work of historical fiction should make the reader want to go out and learn more about the topic/person/time period. This book does that and so much more. Kazan took what little was known of the man and spun out a tale of someone who straddled the line between man of God and man of sensuality. The Painter of Souls is set in Florence, Italy and the majority of the narrative takes place inside the Carmelite convent or the streets among the destitute and lawless. I always enjoy books that transport me to places that I might not have much knowledge about (if any at all). After finishing this, I looked up some of the artwork of Lippi because it was that which inspired Kazan to dedicate a series (yes, this is a series) to the man. If you're an art lover or would like to learn more about what it was like to live in Italy during the 15th century then this book can fulfill all of your wishes. Also, if you're curious to know about what it was like to poop in 15th century Italy I highly recommend this book. 💩 LEARNING IS GREAT.

Source: mundabor.wordpress.com

**If you're interested in buying this book or any books really, you can click here or here. The first will re-direct you to AbeBooks and the second will re-direct you to The Book Depository. These are great websites for purchasing books (AbeBooks carries inexpensive used and out-of-print books and The Book Depository ships free everywhere in the world). Full disclosure: I will receive a commission on all sales made by following either of these links. I wouldn't recommend a site that I didn't use and you are under no obligation to purchase anything. :-) **

April 12, 2016

Sometimes you need a list of bullet points

All About Love: New Visions by bell hooks (pseudonym of Gloria Jean Watkins) was the March book from the feminist book club on Goodreads called Our Shared Shelf started by Emma Watson. The title is exactly what this book is about i.e. the study of love in a new light. Each chapter is about a different aspect of love like romantic, community, spiritual, etc. She's definitely a liberal feminist (which makes sense with the book club) so her insight is skewed in that direction (if that is an issue for you). There is a religious bent to this book so if that's not your cup of tea...  Sociology, yes...at least I thought so until now. I don't know if it was the subject matter or the writing style but I found this book to be a bit of a bore and a chore. There were certain moments where I was like "ah yes this is good" but they were far outweighed by the feeling of "how many more pages til the end?" unfortunately.

Thoughts I had while reading this book:
  • This could have been an article or an essay.
  • I would have preferred this to have been approached in a more scientific (specifically hard sciences) way.
  • A lot of this is common sense.
In conclusion, I wasn't a huge fan of this. I didn't hate it but I don't think I'll be seeking this author out for any more of her books in the future. You win some, you lose some. *shrugs*



Source: science-all.com


**If you're interested in buying this book or any books really, you can click here or here. The first will re-direct you to AbeBooks and the second will re-direct you to The Book Depository. These are great websites for purchasing books (AbeBooks carries inexpensive used and out-of-print books and The Book Depository ships free everywhere in the world). Full disclosure: I will receive a commission on all sales made by following either of these links. I wouldn't recommend a site that I didn't use and you are under no obligation to purchase anything. :-) **



April 8, 2016

Isaac Asimov has done it again

I have to be completely honest about how this particular book came to my notice. I was watching Star Trek: The Next Generation and I got to an episode about a planet where the inhabitants were not allowed to live past a certain age due to resource control (the old people were a drag on the society). I looked at the trivia for this episode (Season 4, Episode 22 "Half a Life" if you're curious) and discovered that the story was inspired by Isaac Asimov's Pebble in the Sky. Naturally, I needed to read this book. Some of you might recall that I reviewed I, Robot two years ago and loved it. I'm sad it's taken me this long to get to reading another book by him honestly... Now without further ado, the review!  I LOVED IT, YA'LL. This book has it all: time travel, space-y drama, and RADIOACTIVITY. Seriously, radioactivity is a major plot device. The time period which this book was written definitely plays a role in the tenor of this book (I'm looking at you, atomic bomb). Asimov blends reality with scientific innovation to create a world where Earth is but one of thousands of planets which comprise the Galactic Empire. (Actually I fell into a trap here because it turns out that Pebble in the Sky is a part of Asimov's Galactic Empire series so...) There's Joseph Schwartz who finds himself taking a giant leap into the future. (This is only funny once you've read the book.) Bel Arvardan is your typical Galactic citizen and archaeologist who wants to uncover the mystery of humanity's beginning...on Earth of all places. Who would have thought that a backwards Earthman like Dr. Shekt could invent a device that could help to thwart a revolt and simultaneously give one man unimaginable powers? In a world where the Earth is seen as 'other' and the Earthman is treated as inferior there is intrigue, burgeoning love, and institutionalized racism. The reader follows multiple storylines that weave together to form a narrative that is compelling, thought provoking, and imaginative. If you haven't ready any of Isaac Asimov's writing and you want to read truly excellent sci-fi then you should start here. 10/10 highly recommend


Let's talk about this iconic cover for a second:


Source: www.idoc.co

And if you're confused about the order of Isaac Asimov's books...you're not alone.


Source: magnificentnose.com


**If you're interested in buying this book or any books really, you can click here or here. The first will re-direct you to AbeBooks and the second will re-direct you to The Book Depository. These are great websites for purchasing books (AbeBooks carries inexpensive used and out-of-print books and The Book Depository ships free everywhere in the world). Full disclosure: I will receive a commission on all sales made by following either of these links. I wouldn't recommend a site that I didn't use and you are under no obligation to purchase anything. :-) **