Sunday, February 3, 2013

A couple of good reads

I recently read and enjoyed three excellent books:

  • George Saunders' The tenth of December - The best fiction I have read in a long time. I was drawn to this book by a wonderful article in the NY Times article (George Saunders has written the best book you'll read this year). The book completely lives up to the hype. I couldn't put it down. I am currently reading another of his books (CivilWarLand in bad decline). Check out two of his excerpted short stories from tenth of December and you'll see what I mean (1 and 2).
  • Jim Holt Why does the world exist?: an existential detective story - A wonderful read on why there is something and not nothing. This book goes well with two others I've read in recent years (Brian Greene The hidden reality and Lawrence Krauss A universe from nothing). Holt's approach is more philosophical, and he does a wonderful job framing the problem from this perspective. I was surprised that he even provides his own ontological justification for why there is something rather than nothing and why we could rationally expect that something to be utterly mediocre.
  • Julian Barnes The sense of an ending - Barnes' engaging (meta-)commentary on the narrative impulse. The book's self-referential title says it all. We need crave the sense of an ending just as we crave the sense of a reason in an unreasonable world. This is all succinctly put by Barnes when he has a character quote: "History is that certainty produced at the point where the imperfections of memory meet the inadequacies of documentation."

 Currently reading

  • Oliver Sacks Hallucinations - excellent book that resonates with two questions that I can't shake: what is the physical basis of the subjective (first-person) experience and how different can it become. If you haven't read Sacks' Altered States in the New Yorker you really must.