Books From Mid-July Through Late August

Not sure I’ve ever written a lamer title for a post. But yeah, here they are:

Stumbling on Happiness, Daniel Gilbert

I’m not sure if it’s because of all the positive reviews and quotes about how funny he is—and thus my expectations not matching the actual result—but I really had to push through this one. I did enjoy some parts of it and there are some wonderful insights on how we remember things, imagine the future and analyze both. That’s the whole premise of the book, how our brains patch up our memories to make us think we remember things perfectly and then use our memory to construct what we imagine, including what might make us happy. Because of all the patching, our creations are unreliable and we aren’t good at predicting happiness. The problem is that in that type of science it’s a lot of sometimes unrelated experiments from which conclusions are deduced. The author uses a lot of examples to prove each point and it gets boring to read test after test. Most “pop science” books do that but with subjects that require fewer examples, resulting in better flowing reads.

Le Hussard, Arturo Perez-Reverte

Un des ses plus anciens romans (1983), Perez-Reverte a racheté les droits et trouvé un nouvel éditeur pour une seconde publication, on n’y retrouve donc aucun de ses personages connus et c’est un roman plus court et au rythme plus lent que ceux qui suivent. Tout le roman est simplement la préparation à une bataille d’un régiment de hussards de Napoléon suivi de la bataille elle-même, avec quelques flashback intercallés. Pour ceux qui aiment les histoires d’honneur et d’homme au combat, s’en est un bel exemple.

The White Castle, Orhan Pamuk

The first book I’ve read from Nobel prize winner Pamuk, I picked this one up from a display of his work, the jacket cover description seemed interesting. I think this is an example of a book I would have enjoyed more had I read it on vacation in one or two sittings. I think the characters would have benefited from longer exposure, as opposed to the 15-20 minutes I was able to give them at a time. I quite enjoyed the world Pamuk describes, the characters and the years of their history we follow but I kept having the nagging feeling that he was setting me up for some kind of philosophical conclusion. It didn’t come and I don’t like those anyway but that feeling of “here, I’m teaching you something” never left me and made the book feel longer. Had to push through that one a bit too.

Spin, Robert Charles Wilson

This one was on my wishlist for a while but I never seemed to pick it up, last time I ordered from Amazon I finally did and wow. It won the Hugo Award and I can see why. Fantastic idea and a flawless execution. Earth is wrapped in a barrier that slows down the passage of time so that the 30 odd years covered in the book are surrounded by a space where billions of years go by. How the population copes with a black night sky, the knowledge of some alien intelligence and the eventual end of civilization is used as backdrop but also as the motivation behind the interesting ways they find to learn more and potentially get out of the barrier. That’s where the whole interest of the book lies, with evolution, terra forming, nano technology, the Oort cloud and many other tasty bits are thrown in. A great great read, highly recommended.