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Eleventy-eleven... bfertig

The 11 in 11 Category Challenge

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1bfertig
Nov 19, 2010, 3:07am Top

Eleventyeleven hmm?

Well, I'm fairly certain I will not be able to read 11 books in 11 categories.

And even a stepwise challenge (1-11 books in 11 categories for a total of 66 books) would be nigh impossible for me given past performance.

So I plan to read either 11 OR 1 book in 11 categories, with no discernible rhyme or reason as to which will be which.

I will consider my personal challenge complete as long as by the end of 2011 I have read at least 1 book in 10 of the categories and 11 books in at least 1 category.

2bfertig
Edited: Dec 1, 2011, 11:11am Top

1. Books with magical timing


It's a 'Just In Time' watch

These are books that somehow just have the right timing to be placed in front of me just when I have finished the last and are just so interesting or compelling that I have to read them right then even though there are others that have been patiently waiting in queue, perhaps for quite some time.

1. Simon Weisenthal: Life and Legends by Tom Segev FINISHED Jan 2, 2011

2. The Big Year: a tale of man, nature, and fowl obsession

FINISHED??

Crossovers:
  • The worthing saga - it was lying around somewhere in the room I grew up in when I went to visit my parents... picked it up and brought it back with me...
  • Year's Best science fiction - ditto to #3, but different trip.
  • Go the F**k to sleep -- someone told me about this, had to check it out. Mother in law got this as a present for the new parents (me and E).
  • Days of obligation - no idea how this one wound up in my audio collection.
  • How to write a lot - my wife bought this and I stole it to read it before she did.
  • The breakthrough: politics and race in the age of obama - came in the mail from bookmooch, and had to read it before it got (more) stale.. since it was sorta about the 08 election.
  • West with the night
  • Impact of science on society - given as birthday present
  • Misquoting Jesus - listened to immediately after download from audible
  • 3bfertig
    Edited: Sep 1, 2011, 11:35pm Top

    2. Bedtime books for baby



    This is somewhat of a cop out category because those books are so short. So I will only consider them to be counted when I have read them for bedtime as many times as the number of pages they have.

    1. The going to bed book
    2. But not the hippopotamus
    3. Horns to toes
    4. Opposites
    5. Goodnight Moon
    6. Hippos go berserk
    7. Jamberry
    8. Is your mama a llama
    9. Sheep in a jeep
    10. Sheep out to eat
    11. Runaway bunny

    11 for sure and 1 for good luck!... 109% FINISHED!!

    Crossovers
  • Go the F to sleep
  • 4bfertig
    Edited: Dec 1, 2011, 11:13am Top

    3. Books I meant to read for previous/ other challenges



    Current challenges/Group Reading
    All Africa "Safari"
    US Presidents Challenge
    Dewey Decimal Challenge
    Library of Congress Classification Challenge
    50 book challenge
    1010 challenge
    Go Review That Book!
    Horn Point Lab Fast and Loose Book Club (face to face - what a concept!)

    Likely I didn't get to them either because of a) Category 1 or b) Life (see Category 2). But that doesn't mean I don't want to read them!


    1. Boy who harnessed the wind -- Dewey Decimal challenge (621, Applied physics), All Africa Challenge (Malawi), 1010 challenge (as seen on Stewart/Colbert)
    2. Breakthrough - US Presidents challenge (#44, Barack Obama)
    3. At the center of the Storm - (1010 challenge, Oh The Places you'll go!)
    4. Oryx and Crake (1010 challenge, Whats in a Name?)


    Crossovers
  • Cro-Magnon - Dewey Decimal Challenge (569, Fossil Mammalia)
  • Go the F**k to sleep - Dewey Decimal Challenge (817, Satire & humor)
  • How to lie with statistics - Dewey Decimal Challenge (311, formerly Statistics Theory and methods)
  • Unfamiliar Fishes
  • On the origin of the species (1010 challenge, I think therefore I am)
  • The new kid on the block (1010 challenge, Oh the places you'll go!)
  • West with the night
  • Impact of Science on Society
  • Misquoting Jesus
  • The Swamp
  • Shame of the Nation
  • 5bfertig
    Edited: Dec 1, 2011, 11:16am Top

    4. Special Places



    This will probably be filled with environmental books about different ecosystems or environments, but is somewhat flexible.


    1. Arresting God in Kathmandu
    2. The Swamp: The everglades, Florida, and the politics of paradise


    Crossovers
  • West with the night
  • Enchantress of Florence
  • 6bfertig
    Edited: Dec 1, 2011, 11:35am Top

    5. Sciency books



    Because I'm a card carrying nerd.


    1. The Unnatural History of the Sea -- this was for my 1010 challenge, under the "Diamonds are Forever" category about money, economics, commodity histories, etc. I figure this counts because the book was about fisheries. I've put a review up on the book page as well as below.
    2. how to write a lot -- this is basically an advice book on how to write a lot of scientific articles over the course of a career. not necessarily *good* ones... just a lot of them.
    3. am I making myself clear? -- this is written as a guide with scientists in mind on how to communicate messages to a wide audience by messaging through journalists. though it is still a relatively recent book, I'm not sure how useful it will remain as newspapers, print media, and even edited journalism goes down the tubes with the advent of the series of tubes (internet), youtube, and the myriad of bloggers out there. attention is a premium commodity -- science can often hardly marshall attention sufficient to digest complex concepts, let alone explain them properly, consistently, and broadly.
    4. Unscientific America - essentially an essay on how/why America is not scientifically literate. By science literacy, the authors don't mean able to recall various facts, explain various theories, or get caught up with pseudoscience and skepticism of well-established paradigms (think evolution, climate change). The authors are really focused on the more important issue of "citizens' awareness of the importance of science to politics, policy, and our collective future." Yes, the book describes the failings of education, politics/policies, science institutions, etc, and how science reasoning is in many ways a separate culture from politics, religion, Hollywood, and mainstreamism. But really, the heart and soul of this book is a cry out to American scientists to come down out of the ivory tower, learn to engage, communicate, and relate to their fellow Americans to bridge these divides, re-energize and re-focus the country to support today's demands for innovation and global competition.
    5. Cro-Magnon: How the ice age gave birth to the first modern humans - this is a laypersons narrative of the prehistory of neaderthals and their successors in Europe, the Cro-Magnons which were the anatomically modern humans that evolved later.
    6. The third chimpanzee - covers material found in much of his other, bigger, better well known books - Guns Germs and Steel and Collapse. OK, but read those instead.
    7. On the origin of species
    8. How to lie with statistics
    9. The impact of science on society


    Crossovers
  • The Big Year
  • The boy who harnessed the wind

  • 7bfertig
    Edited: Dec 1, 2011, 11:19am Top

    6. American History



    Also because I'm a nerd.


    1. What hath god wrought: the transformation of America, 1815-1848
    2. Unfamiliar Fishes



    Crossovers
  • The breakthrough
  • At the center of the storm
  • A mercy --- historical fiction, but well researched character study
  • The Swamp
  • 8bfertig
    Edited: Dec 1, 2011, 11:19am Top

    7. Books I listen to



    Just because I have ears doesn't mean I have to use them. But occasionally it's nice to do.


    1. Days of obligation
    2. Go the F**k to sleep


    Crossovers
  • Bossypants
  • Midnight's children
  • on the origin of the species
  • Unfamiliar Fishes
  • What hath god wrought: the transformation of America, 1815-1848
  • At the center of the storm
  • West with the night
  • Enchantress of Florence
  • A mercy
  • Misquoting Jesus
  • Gifts
  • 9bfertig
    Edited: Dec 1, 2011, 11:20am Top

    8. Read this book now that I have!!



    I enjoyed and recommend these! Books new to me which I think are really worthwhile, well written, and which I think others might get something out of as well. I suspect I'll find at least ONE in 2011. At least I hope!


    1. bossypants
    2. West with the night


    Crossovers
  • Midnight's Children
  • The Blind Assassin
  • The Big Year
  • Oryx and Crake
  • how to lie with statistics
  • On the Origin of the Species - love it or not, it's still worth reading in its original. still stands up, and is surprisingly clear and well written and downright fascinating.
  • What hath god wrought: the transformation of America, 1815-1848 -- really fantastic, highly recommended!
  • arresting god in kathmandu
  • Enchantress of Florence
  • Misquoting Jesus
  • 10bfertig
    Edited: Sep 6, 2011, 4:12pm Top

    9. But stay away from these.



    The stinkers from '11. Oh well. It happens. I generally like what I read on the whole, but for whatever reason, this one or these missed the mark with me.


    1. The worthing saga -- Normally I really like OSC's writing but this but fell flat. More below.
    2. Year's Best #14



    Crossovers
  • Days of obligation
  • 11bfertig
    Edited: Dec 1, 2011, 11:23am Top

    10. New topics



    Something I didn't know much about before.


    1. The new kid on the block -- Poetry!
    2. Misquoting Jesus -- Textual Criticism
    3. Shame of the Nation -- Apartheid Education in America


    Crossovers
  • cro-magnon: how the ice age gave birth to the first modern humans -- Paleontology!
  • arresting god in kathmandu -- Short Stories!
  • Enchantress of Florence -- Historical Fiction
  • Impact of science on society -- Philosophy
  • The Swamp -- Florida history

  • 12bfertig
    Edited: Dec 1, 2011, 11:25am Top

    11. It's all a pack of lies.



    Fiction and literature. I haven't read much of it in the past, but would like to read more.


    1. Year of the Flood FINISHED Jan 14
    2. The blind assassin FINISHED March 11
    3. Midnight's Children
    4. Enchantress of Florence
    5. Gifts


    Crossovers
  • Oryx and Crake FINISHED Jan 5
  • How to lie with statistics (:-P) Finished Aug 7
  • Arresting god in kathmandu
  • Go the F to sleep
  • The worthing saga
  • Years Best #14
  • New Kid on the Block
  • A mercy
  • 13pammab
    Nov 19, 2010, 8:30am Top

    You expect you'll read 11 terrible books this year? That's so sad! :( I hope you have fewer.

    I do want to say I am very amused by the Bedtime books for baby category -- counting them only when you've read them the same number of pages as they have is a great twist! I suspect you'll still fill that category pretty quickly, though....

    14bfertig
    Nov 19, 2010, 9:29am Top

    I'm hoping that I'll only fill that category with one book pammab. I like this option of going for either 1 or 11.

    15pammab
    Nov 19, 2010, 9:34am Top

    Ha ha ha, well, that's a MUCH better plan! (But what if there are two clunkers? Will you automatically pop up to the 11 challenge, or just leave one out?)

    16paruline
    Nov 19, 2010, 9:34am Top

    Love your categories!

    17bfertig
    Edited: Nov 19, 2010, 10:11am Top

    I'll be posting books in these categories as I go along. So basically as soon as I populate a category it will be completed. Some categories may have 2 or more books posted. But I will have completed my personal challenge as soon as the first category is filled with 11 (as long as all others have at least 1 book completed).

    If a second or even more categories are filled with 11 then all the better. In principle, I could get to either a stepwise challenge (ie 1 category with 11, 1 category with 10, 1 category with 9...etc) or even the complete challenge (11 books in 11 categories), but given where life is at these days - I think either of those is very unlikely.

    So I will be sticking with a fairly simple challenge this year with a high chance for actually finishing it.

    18pammab
    Nov 19, 2010, 11:50am Top

    I think this is the first I've heard of a scheme like that. I really like the approach.

    19SqueakyChu
    Nov 19, 2010, 1:06pm Top

    Love your 11 in 11 scheme! I was also trying to outwit that huge number and did mine a little differently, but your scheme is most original, I think.

    P.S. Drop me a PM and tell me how your CSA season went. Hope it was fun. I'm so sad it's our last week. :'(

    20sally906
    Nov 20, 2010, 5:55pm Top

    I like your 11 books in 11 - I went for 22 books in 11 - setting our own levels is more doable :)

    21bfertig
    Edited: Jan 17, 2011, 5:33pm Top

    1. Books with magical timing

    Simon Weisenthal: The Life and Legends by Tom Segev READING - Just given this for my birthday over Thanksgiving weekend, it looked really interesting, and is turning out to be so.

    22bfertig
    Edited: Feb 24, 2011, 7:31pm Top

    2. Bedtime books for baby

    I'll list books here so I can keep track of the number of times I read each with an 'x' and list the number of pages. When I've 'completed' a book I'll list it above.

    My favorites from when I was a wee lad
    Mike mulligan and his steam shovel - 44 pages: xxxxxxx
    the little house - 46 pages: xx
    Make Way for Ducklings - 62 pages: xxxxxxx
    Annie and the wild animals- ?? pages: xx
    The story about ping - ?? pages: xxx
    ox-cart man - ?? pages: xxxx
    the snow day - ?? pages: xx
    caps for sale - ?? pages: xxxx

    Sandra Boynton and other board books
    opposites - 13 pages: xxxx
    but not the hippopotomus - 13 pages: xxxx
    horns to toes and in between - 13 pages: xxxxx
    the going to bed book - 13 pages: xxxxxxxxxxxxx
    Doggies - 13 pages: xx
    Blue hat, Green hat - 13 pages: xxx
    Sheep out to eat - 25 pages: xxxxxxxxxxxx
    Sheep in a jeep - ?? pages: xx
    Hippos go beserk - ?? pages: xx
    Hug - ?? pages: x
    Is your mama a llama? - 13 pages: xxxxxxxxxxxxx
    Jamberry- 15 pages: xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
    runaway bunny- ?? pages: xxxxxx
    Hop on Pop- ?? pages: xxxx

    Others
    Katie and the big snow - ?? pages: xxx
    Maybelle the cable car - ?? pages: xx
    382718::a house is a house for me - 44 pages: xxx
    534446::10 minutes to bedtime - ?? pages: x
    The first gift - ?? pages: x
    Lo raev v'lo ohev (Green Eggs & Ham, Hebrew version) - ?? pages: xx
    Puppies are like that - ?? pages: xxx
    It's shofar time - ?? pages: xx

    Library books
    1452763::Dimity duck - ?? pages: xxxxxx
    336282::Swamp angel - ?? pages: xxxx
    1341110::Roar of a snore - ?? pages: xxxx
    111182::Little cloud - ?? pages: xx
    wee willie winky - ?? pages: x
    7870164::Little Eagle - ?? pages: x

    23bfertig
    Dec 1, 2010, 11:12pm Top

    I just have to say - I had never heard of Sandra Boynton as a kid or growing up or whatever. But her books are fantastic. I love the art. I love the poetry. I love how silly it is while still having great fun and good messages. I love the rhymes and I love the absurdity and the animals and everything. I am very glad someone gave me a bunch of her books for my baby.

    If you have a baby or will or know someone who has or will, these are just really great gifts.

    Now I'm not sure which category these go under - 'Bedtime Books for Baby' or 'Read This Book Now That I have!'

    24xuesheng
    Dec 2, 2010, 12:05am Top

    I love Sandra Boynton's books. One of my favorites is Barnyard Dance. Unfortunately my kids have never taken to them as much as me. I have one book that includes several stories with a CD. I think I need to pull that out again and see if my son would warm up to them.

    25bfertig
    Dec 2, 2010, 10:34pm Top

    OO I don't have that one. I will have to check it out. Someone also gave us a songbook produced by Boynton called Philadelphia Chickens - its pretty amusing and she even got big names like Meryl Streep and Kevin Kline to partake. Pretty good stuff - show tune style, swing style, ballads, even a song similar to 'Modern Major General' (pirates of penzance)! -- all with her witty and silly and ridiculous lyrics and cartoons. Awesome.

    26bfertig
    Dec 2, 2010, 10:43pm Top

    Another night, added in more bedtime stories.
    My wife and I have TheGoingToBedBook memorized at this point and chant it to him as part of his bedtime sleep ritual. Works like a charm.

    27bfertig
    Dec 5, 2010, 10:21pm Top

    More bedtime reading. We've been given so many books and we like reading them all, so it may actually take a while to get enough repeats.

    28bfertig
    Dec 9, 2010, 8:50am Top

    Little kiddo's first library trip. Came away with
    Dimity duck
    swamp angel
    Roar of a snore
    Little cloud
    wee willie winky
    Little Eagle

    Like the first three.. Dimity duck has a nice rhythm and rhyme scheme and complements reading Make way for ducklings really well (which we did last night). Swamp angel and roar of a snore are both fun and pretty. Swamp angel has more of a tall tale/ Paul Bunyan feel which I like.

    the Little Cloud book is kinda off because it ends in a rainstorm.. wee willy winky is for those who don't remember the nursery rhyme words (like me) -- but the rhymes I do recall I remember differently - or at least longer, with more verses. Little Eagle is pretty and is in some ways archetypal Chinese-martial-arts-disciple story, but there's too little story for the amount of buildup.

    29bfertig
    Dec 28, 2010, 2:10pm Top

    Still reading the Simon Weisenthal book, but finished up the Unnatural history of the sea.

    With The Unnatural History of the Sea, Callum Roberts extensively documents the destructiveness and shortsightedness that fishing has generally had on the abundance, distribution, and diversity of marine life in many of the world’s oceans over centuries. The concerned tone is justified by the vast evidence synthesized throughout which provides a picture of how paltry today’s oceanic cornucopia is compared to historical plenty. After all, we’ve been fishing down the food web while shifting our baselines – and it’s just not a good combination for either the fish or ourselves.

    One of the main strengths of this book that I enjoyed was the juxtaposition of contemporary historical reports from ships logs and private journals with modern scientific understanding of fishery stocks, their changes over time, and the factors that influence them. For example, Roberts often relates observations by William Dampier. Dampier was an “extraordinary man. Born in the west country of England around 1650, he was in the course of his colorful career a planter, logwood cutter, pirate, navigator, hydrographer, sea captain, diplomat, explorer, naturalist, writer, and relentless traveler. By the age of sixty, three years before his death, he had circumnavigated the globe three times.”

    And there are tons of interesting people like that whose observations contribute to the briny riches that this book describes. Roberts also relates personal observations by himself and other scientists focused on coral reefs, marine parks, kelp forests, and other exotic ecosystems. This book roams across the seas, delving into the fates of cod, herring, swordfish, seals, whales, coral reefs, Chesapeake Bay striped bass and oysters, and the deep dark places which we still know little about.

    Despite the broad range of topics Roberts covers, at times the book felt cyclical and repetitive. Yet unlike books of poorer quality, recurrence is not due to poor writing but rather the depressingly destructive cycle with eerie repetitiveness across the ‘seven seas’ over time. As Roberts patently shows, historical abundance of near-shore fisheries dwindles as fishing intensity increases, followed by a switch of targeted species to previously less valuable ones and/or improvements to fishing technology until resources are depleted at which point fishing grounds move to deeper waters further offshore. Fish stock impoverishment is often masked by changes to practices (e.g. technological advancements or opening novel fishing areas) or reporting (e.g. lumping multiple species or fish of different ages together). Roberts further makes the connection that a mismatch of communication, interests, and timing often confound efforts of scientists, fishery managers, and politicians from fixing the problems or even getting a clear picture of the extent of the problem.

    While it’s a depressing taken as a whole of fishing history, the book does not end there. He envisions a future global fishery turned on its head and points out seven ways to get there. These are:
    1. Reduce present fishing capacity
    2. Eliminate risk-prone decision making
    3. Eliminate catch quotas and implement controls on the amount of fishing
    4. Require people to keep what they catch
    5. Require fishers to use gear modified to reduce bycatch
    6. Ban or restrict the most damaging catching methods
    7. Implement extensive networks of marine reserves off-limits to fishing

    I’ll let Roberts expound and explain these himself. You’ll just have to read the book.

    30bfertig
    Dec 29, 2010, 12:07pm Top

    On second thought I'm going to move the unnatural history of the world to 5. Sciency books

    31lalbro
    Dec 30, 2010, 10:10pm Top

    Starred for sure! I love your approach to make it an attainable challenge.

    Boynton is a genius, and even though my kids are now teens I can still recite Barnyard Dance by heart.

    Some other favorites of ours that you might enjoy are Chicka Chicka Boom Boom and Saturday Night at the Dinosaur Stomp....

    32RidgewayGirl
    Dec 30, 2010, 10:21pm Top

    The moon is up, it's getting late,
    Let's get ready to celebrate!
    It's...Pajamatime!

    33bfertig
    Jan 3, 2011, 11:05pm Top

    Thanks Lalbro and RidgewayGirl! It's been fun reading to him each night.

    The rhyming scheme in a lot of Boynton's stuff made me think that poetry in general might be good to read out loud to him too. I don't have much on hand, and don't read it much in the past but have started going through The complete poems of Emily Dickinson and The new kid on the block.

    The former my wife was given a million years ago and it's just now being cracked open for the first time. There's lots of daffodils and roses and springs and stuff. Lot of stuff about courtship and the naughty stuff is dressed up nice. Not bad if you like that sort of thing. I can't remember having to read much (if any) Dickinson in school. We'll see how far we actually get. It will prolly add a category to my Dewey Decimal challenge though and Little Dude seems to enjoy it.

    The latter I had when I was a kid and remember liking it more than I do now. The themes and content are more older kid stuff and it just doesn't seem all that clever to me. Oh well. I liked it in grade school and I guess tastes change.

    34bfertig
    Jan 4, 2011, 12:15am Top

    Finished the Simon Weisenthal biography on the 2nd. Overall, I liked it, but I think I would only recommend it for those already interested to some degree in either Holocaust/Jewish studies, Simon Weisenthal, WWII, etc.

    For those (like me) who may not recall off the top of their head, Simon Weisenthal survived the Holocaust and tracked down many Nazis - including Adolf Eichmann, the "architect of the Holocaust" - to bring them to trial for war crimes in the decades following 1945.

    Though there are explanations and context throughout, I think some familiarity with Simon Weisenthal is helpful to have before diving into this book. He's a complex man who many have argued had a liberal relationship with the truth. This biography points out instances, potential motivations, and - when the truth is not acertainable - multiple versions presented by Weisenthal himself. These elements coupled with the sometimes shadowy world Weisenthal exposed and make the book rich and deep and interesting.

    In some ways, for those (like me) unfamiliar with the history, part of the suspense of this book is following each campaign/effort to track down Nazis and to see whether the attempt was successful in a) finding the war criminal or b) bringing them to trial/justice. The shadowy nature of the efforts and the necessity of weighing the stories, documents, arguments/lawsuites and evidence to ascertain truth (or extent thereof) is also a dramatic aspect of looking at Weisenthal's life in retrospect.

    As documentation bringing to light apparently new and and more comprehensive information on Weisenthal, I think this biography succeeds. There are ~45 pages of notes and the author had access to records only recently unclassified and exclusive interviews as well as to the archives of Weisenthal's documentation center in Vienna. It does attempt to answer questions about his motivations for hunting down Nazi's, his writing (including The Sunflower), and some of his major confrontations (including with the first Jewish chancellor of Austria, Bruno Kreisky). I felt the balance largely focused on his career later in life and there was little about his personal life - his relationship with his wife or daughter Paulinka. Aside from stamp collecting, there's little mention of anything Weisenthal did aside from track down Nazis. So to some extent, it's still missing a bit of the humanistic perspective of Weisenthal even though it does get at why he made hunting Nazi's his life's work.

    35bfertig
    Edited: Jan 8, 2011, 7:05am Top

    Some runner up pictures I was thinking of including:

    Sciency books


    Sciency books

    36bfertig
    Edited: Jan 8, 2011, 7:05am Top

    Another alternate picture.. this time for It's all a pack of lies:

    37paruline
    Jan 8, 2011, 12:45pm Top

    I like the Pac-man one myself :-)

    38SqueakyChu
    Jan 10, 2011, 1:32pm Top

    LOL!! I love the photos that accompany your categories. My favorite is "books I listen to". So cute!

    39bfertig
    Jan 17, 2011, 1:23pm Top

    Finished The year of the flood for another Pack of Lies. Was ok but not as good as Oryx and Crake.. was fun to see the story from another side and knowing what was happening and who was who even if the characters didn't quite yet. was like being in on a secret that becomes revealed. it all came together though in the end and made it worth it.

    Thought the main character Jimmy was more well developed/ stylized than Either of the main characters Toby or Ren in Year of the Flood. Not so much about the backstory or motivation, just the voice. Jimmy's voice in O & C was much more distinct than either Toby or Ren.

    40bfertig
    Jan 29, 2011, 2:45pm Top

    So for some trips we've taken with Little Dude, we've brought a book of kids poetry by Jack Prelutzky rather than bringing a bunch of board books to read at night. Saves on space when packing and still get in some fun reading time with the tyke.

    41bfertig
    Feb 11, 2011, 8:59pm Top

    Still going through Midnight's Children. Am now 2/3 done. It is still a really interesting, really well told epic. The magical realism aspect, explained metaphor between the main character and India just lend added layers and depth. That the main character adds narration and every so often adds additional foreshadowing and rumination about what he's telling just adds to the mix. It's really great. Available time is the main reason it's going so slowly. This is a book I look forward to getting a chance to read and get back to the story each time I pick it up.

    42cammykitty
    Feb 11, 2011, 11:39pm Top

    I love your groucho marx dog! I yanked him for myself. (Yes, I'm greedy.)

    The Weisenthal biography sounds chilling. I'm debating about whether I'd like it whether I'd find it creepy. & I'll be interested in seeing what you have to say about Midnight's Children. I started a Rushdie novel once, & I think it was this one, and felt I needed to know a bit more about Bollywood and India before I'd really appreciate it.

    43SqueakyChu
    Feb 12, 2011, 8:17am Top

    Ben, your categories are hilarious! I can't wait to see which books place themselves in each of those catefories. :)

    44bfertig
    Feb 23, 2011, 1:04pm Top

    I have read each of the bedtime books waaay more than the 13-15 times that would be needed to count them but I haven't remember to log each time I read them. Same goes for the other books listed in the post below where I count. And others that I read but are not listed there. So I think I will reassess and limit which books I will actually pay attention to the number of times I read from now on. That way it's easier to keep track and I don't feel (mildly) guilty that I'm not logging everything I read to Little Dude.

    45bfertig
    Feb 24, 2011, 7:32pm Top

    fixed the link to one of the board books for Little Dude.

    46bfertig
    Feb 26, 2011, 5:38pm Top

    I am getting close to finishing several books at once... I am nearly done with The blind assassin (paperback), 2/3 done with Midnight's Children (ipod), was making headway into the girl with the dragon tatoo (Sony eReader - useful, but not a huge fan, could be a better interface). ive also dabbled into starting the decline and fall of the roman empire and excited because my copy of george washington's ascent arrived today. however most of my books are packed up because of an upcoming move (more or less local). kept a few books loose for when im ready: zeitoun and unscientific america. don't know how any of these will fit into the challenge quite yet, but im sure they will somehow.

    47bfertig
    Edited: Jul 8, 2011, 11:53pm Top

    OK, all moved in to the new place and books are already unpacked and on shelves, but are unorganized.

    Here's a recap for where I'm at so far with my challenge. Completed categories are in bold. The number afterwards indicates how many books read for that category. Again, for my personal wimpy challenge, only at least one book in each category is needed, and one category will need 11 books, for a total of 21 books.

    1. Books with magical timing: 1
    2. Bedtime books: 3
    3. Previous/other challenges: 1
    4. Special Places:
    5. Sciency Books: 3
    6. American History:
    7. Books listened to: 3
    8. Recommendations for:
    9. Recommendations against:
    10. New-to-me topics: 1
    11. Fiction: 3

    So, 5 categories completed, with a so-far-three-way-tie. Hard to say yet which will be the category with 11 completed books in it at the end of the year. Surprises Surprises.

    Still, several nearly completed books will probably be added to the lists as I finish them in the near future.

    48lalbro
    Mar 15, 2011, 6:28pm Top

    We love, love, love Jack Prelutzky, and my twelve-year-olds go back and reread him often. Hilarious and wonderful wordplay.

    49bfertig
    Edited: Jun 29, 2011, 10:04am Top



    The boy who harnessed the wind -- I meant to read this last year and count it towards my 1010 challenge, my Africa challenge, and my TBR goals. I'm glad I stuck with it. This is a really inspiring story of famine and energy, struggles and successes. William Kamkwamba is a Malawian who along with his family suffers under a famine - but is a natural tinkerer and becomes inspired to build a windmill to generate electricity and pump water for irrigation after reading some physics texts in a local village library when he is forced to drop out of school due to poverty. William successfully builds his windmill, becomes famous, and connects with other inventors as a TED Fellow. Really powerful stuff. Ghost written (William admits he doesn't know English well), but well told anyway. Recommended. I heard about this book on The Daily Show and am glad I got it and got around to reading it. Fast read - about half of it in a day or so.

    50cammykitty
    Mar 21, 2011, 11:09pm Top

    49> Wow! Sounds like quite a determined person.

    51bfertig
    Mar 22, 2011, 9:01am Top

    really determined... and curious... and just plain *interested*. one of the most moving parts, imho, was how he described his introduction to the internet and iPods, having never really seen a computer or anything. what fascinates me is how *quickly* he assimilated the technology, and he mentioned that within only a few months he was pulling apart ipods - rather than old radios. his first question was 'where is the battery?' i just thought that was so cool.

    the whole concept of intuitive technology fascinates me. what do we need to think about to build something to get it to work in a situation where it's placed in front of someone who's never seen anything like it before? what does that something look like? there's something wonderfully crazy (and maybe disconcerting for adults) about how instantly children just 'get' how to use technology. i put an iPad in front of my 6 month old, and he immediately started touching and feeling its texture (like he does everything else) but very quickly responded to the responsiveness of the touch screen. seeing him interact with that was just so cool.

    52bfertig
    Edited: Mar 22, 2011, 9:10am Top

    i guess what i'm getting at here is that what continually amazes me is that while getting from point A to point B the first time (i.e. the trials and failures of inventions and discoveries) takes so much effort and time up front, but once done someone else can come along and leapfrog to point B almost instantaneously, especially if someone points out the way. I guess that's what learning is all about in some broad sense.

    53cammykitty
    Mar 22, 2011, 4:04pm Top

    Yes, I understand. But William must also have that kind of mind, the kind that needs to know how everything works and can visualize how this goes with that. It sounds like he was a born engineer. Give me an ipod to tear apart, and I'm still not going to figure out how it works even though I've made batteries in science class and seen the inside of a radio too.

    54bfertig
    Mar 22, 2011, 6:55pm Top

    sure - there's a deep level of curiosity there that William clearly displayed over a long time. he mentions in the book thinking about - well, gee, how does a tractor engine work, why does it get the tractor to move forward? and asking everyone he knew and being surprised that most people were satisfied with the fact that it worked rather than *why/how* it worked.

    55bfertig
    Edited: Jun 29, 2011, 10:05am Top



    finished listening to Midnight's children which i loved. it was epic really epic. Rushdie ties the main character to the state of India by having him born at the stroke of midnight at the exact time of India's independence. the book is stuffed with so much rich symbolism, metaphor, allusion and foreshadowing that calling it anything but great literature must itself be an ironic twist. one thing that's fun about this book is that its told as autobiography of the main character, saleem senai, yet it takes about a third of the way through to even get to his birth -- he starts all the way back with his grandfather and tells the story of just about every character that interacts with his family in any way. like i said - epic. a healthy dose of magic with the powers embued to the children born on that midnight adds a complete other dimension. prophecy/fortune- telling adds to the unraveling of the story along the way as each piece comes into focus and is interpreted, reinterpreted and alluded to. there's just a ton of stuff in there about family, india, magic and history.

    recommended!

    56cammykitty
    Mar 29, 2011, 12:18am Top

    Great review of Midnight's Children.

    57bfertig
    Edited: Mar 29, 2011, 12:13pm Top

    thanks cammykitty!

    that was the first Rushdie book Ive read. looking forward to my next one!

    My wife at some point downloaded The ground beneath her feet so I suppose I could go for that one too. But I've had Days of Obligation: an argument with my Mexican father on my iPod and its only ~ 8 hrs so I went ahead and started that and got about an hour and a half in before I realized it.

    58cammykitty
    Mar 31, 2011, 1:18am Top

    It's good to read something else for awhile and go back to an author. It will give you a chance to digest Rushdie's work before you tackle it again. Besides, I want to read your review about Days of Obligation.

    59bfertig
    Edited: Jun 29, 2011, 10:06am Top



    The worthing saga --

    The Worthing Saga is in essence an examination of what might happen if some people could live their lives over the course of centuries by sleeping more years than waking - with the help of a drug called somec. The first ~half is a novella of Jason Worthing, who winds up using this technology to help kick start a colony planet after all but one of the colonists aside from himself have their memories destroyed accidentally while under somec sleep. Over the millenia a mythology develops and Jason becomes a god-like figure. Jason and Justice, one of his descendants, get another character to write down the history of the planet. The next ~third is a series of short stories that examine how somec altered human relationships and civilization on the planet Capitol - where somec was developed. And the final ~third are stories from that colony world that describe more fully some of the intervening years while Jason was somec sleeping.

    Yes - I know that half plus a third plus a third does not equal one. But cramming all these stories together doesn't make one complete novel either, so it all works out.

    Normally I really like OSC's writing but The Worthing Saga fell flat. Mainly because of the number of blatant contrivances used, some inconsistencies in the somec drug usage, the unrealistic character dynamics/relationships/dialogue, the poor writing that was all *tell* rather than *show*, and being hit over the head with answers to moral questions/scenarios that defy general reasonableness and my experience of human nature. Yet, it was the moral/philosophical situations that arose at various points through the book that were intriguing enough to keep at it and finish the book.

    The afterward in my edition was a short essay about how The Book of Mormon has influenced OSC's writing and The Worthing Saga specifically. It argues that this book can be seen as a series of parables with moral lessons etc. OK. I can see that might be what OSC was going for, but I don't know that I would go so far as to compare it to The Book of Mormon (even though I haven't read that yet).

    Several other reviews indicate that some folks have issues with the fact that this is not really one continuous story; that the time sequence is broken up; that characters appear and disappear; that some stories appear irrelevant or inconsequential to the plot or overall arc. Some folks quibble about whether the book - or at least some of the stories - are really science fiction or fantasy.

    I don't have a problem with any of those and don't care about its classification.

    My advice: Just take this book for what it is - a few novellas and several short stories that are connected only by their general setting and the theme of increasing the number of years of living though not the number of years of life. With a few strawman moral questions in there to keep things interesting enough.

    2 stars.

    60bfertig
    Edited: Jun 29, 2011, 10:08am Top



    Unscientific America - Essentially an essay on how/why America is not scientifically literate. By science literacy, the authors don't mean able to recall various facts, explain various theories, or get caught up with pseudoscience and skepticism of well-established paradigms (think evolution, climate change). The authors are really focused on the more important issue of "citizens' awareness of the importance of science to politics, policy, and our collective future." Yes, the book describes the failings of education, politics/policies, science institutions, etc, and how science reasoning is in many ways a separate culture from politics, religion, Hollywood, and mainstreamism. But really, the heart and soul of this book is a cry out to American scientists to come down out of the ivory tower, learn to engage, communicate, and relate to their fellow Americans to bridge these divides, re-energize and re-focus the country to support today's demands for innovation and global competition.

    Maybe it will be motivational or inspirational. Maybe it will be junk. But:

    Recommended. For thinking people of all professions ;-P 4 stars.

    61bfertig
    Apr 28, 2011, 1:28pm Top

    Though thinking about it a bit more, one of my problems with Unscientific America is that they point to efforts like ScienceDebate2008 as a way forward. But if you can't recall ScienceDebate2008 from the presidential election, there's a reason for it. And that doesn't bode well if that's the future.

    62cammykitty
    Apr 29, 2011, 5:12pm Top

    Hmmmm... It's interesting because I never do see science as a political force, but on the news today, just ten minutes of it, I already saw to science + congress issues - NASA & stem cell research. Perhaps we do need to think of it more as a nation.

    63bfertig
    May 2, 2011, 2:08pm Top

    It's interesting you say 'political force' -- I don't see it as such either - In fact i think a lot of scientists shy away from being or being seen as being political. After all scientists are after knowledge (e.g. there's a hurricane coming), which is a generally different pursuit than the values-based decisions made in political arenas (e.g. what should we do about the hurricane that's coming?)

    But there are a lot of issues that hinge on collective scientific understanding (or lack thereof), and/or relevant technology/applications ... (e.g. continuing the hurricane scenario, can we predict where/when it will make landfall, and therefore evacuate people or at least get them to move their cars?)..

    But sure - science issues really are pervasive throughout everyday political and economic life. In the Chesapeake region of USA (DC, MD, VA, DE, PA, and even parts of WV and NY) where I am, everything from fertilizers (for lawns and farms) to food (oyster fishing vs aquaculture) to feces (fees for upgrading wastewater treatment plants) all have both science and politics aspects to them and affect (probably) millions daily in some way.

    The media coverage of them, as they relate to science though is hardly what it could be though... as they say, 'if it bleeds, it leads'.

    64bfertig
    May 2, 2011, 2:13pm Top

    Also, wanted to add that the authors of Unscientific America are somewhat besotted with Carl Sagan. They hold him up as a paragon of a scientist who is able to communicate broadly.

    They include several quotes of his, one of which that I like is relevant here:

    "We've arranged a global civilization in which most crucial elements profoundly depend on science and technology. We have also arranged things so that almost no one understands science and technology. This is a prescription for disaster. We might get away with it for a while, but sooner or later this combustible mixture of ignorance and power is going to blow up in our faces."
    --Carl Sagan.

    65cammykitty
    May 3, 2011, 2:55pm Top

    Nice quote. & you're right. Science isn't usually news.

    66bfertig
    Edited: Jul 8, 2011, 11:54pm Top

    Here's a recap for where I'm at so far with my challenge. Completed categories are in bold. The number afterwards indicates how many books read for that category. Again, for my personal wimpy challenge, only at least one book in each category is needed, and one category will need 11 books, for a total of 21 books.

    1. Books with magical timing: 1
    2. Bedtime books: 3
    3. Previous/other challenges: 1
    4. Special Places:
    5. Sciency Books: 5
    6. American History:
    7. Books listened to: 3
    8. Recommendations for: 1
    9. Recommendations against: 1
    10. New-to-me topics: 1
    11. Fiction: 3

    So, 9 categories completed. Getting closer! Just have to read something exotic, something old and something good.

    Just to be able to figure out these (albeit broad) categories ahead of time and then stick to it is a fairly large achievement, based on my general reading habits.

    I would have predicted that the bedtime books would have been completed by now, but honestly I've been horrible about keeping track of which books I read to Little Dude at night. We usually read 1-3 books minimum each evening though - he loves it.

    At this point, I suppose science-y books and fiction are in the lead and one of those might be the category to make it to 11. I have science as a contact sport and on the origin of species on deck. And I'm looking forward to my next Atwood and Rushdie books - regardless of their public-life-outside-literature. And audiobooks might come in there as well.. I've found a routine that enables about an hour per day of listening. So who knows.

    67bfertig
    May 3, 2011, 5:47pm Top

    So the other thing about Midnight's Children is that I still don't feel like I have a good enough grasp of Indian history and culture - certainly aside from Ghandi - to get some of the references. There was a section in there about a nightmare with a witch claws and talons and green and black were repeated over and over. It was a really convoluted sequence that really made no sense to the reader at that point in the book - it appeared to come out of nowhere and be completely incomprehensible. Later on, of course, it was explained and the reference to Indira Ghandhi became clear and the narrator tells of how he and the other Children of Midnight had been castrated, their magical powers taken away, and many died. Obviously, at best this is metaphorical for *something* since the Children of Midnight are fictional. But I still have no idea what. This has been nagging me mildly. At the preface, Rushdie notes that in general Midnight's Children was a success and that while there was some amount of controversy, Indira Ghandi had only been ticked off about a small portion of it. It would be great to learn more... but where is the time?

    68cammykitty
    May 3, 2011, 9:19pm Top

    I tried reading Midnight's Children about ten years ago too and had the same reaction. I quit reading it, hoping to come back to it someday when I knew more about India. Hasn't happened yet though. :(

    69bfertig
    Edited: May 4, 2011, 12:04pm Top

    Given the news these days, I actually started listening to George Tenet's tellall At the center of the storm from after he retired from CIA due to the whole Iraq and WMD thing. I had picked it up at the time and never actually got around to it. Better late than never??

    About an hour into it and it is engrossing, yet somewhat mundane organizational leadership and reorganization... I'm sure it will become jucier.

    edited to note that ...NOT that going into Iraq was EVER related to OBL or 9/11.

    70bfertig
    May 4, 2011, 12:06pm Top

    ...also listening to On the origin of species in the car and am about an hour into that as well. Academic writing from the 1800s is so conversational and has so many great multi-phrased sentences! I love it.

    71bfertig
    May 10, 2011, 1:38pm Top

    listened to a bunch more of Darwin on the train yesterday. now about four hrs in. honestly, im not sure why there's so much fuss. its a great piece of writing. most still stands up today though there are some details that have been better explained through the discovery of DNA and genes and such and some minor corrections and modifications have occurred since he published it. no theory or explanation in science goes through time unmodified as our understanding becomes deeper and new evidence is presented.

    72cammykitty
    May 10, 2011, 8:35pm Top

    Love your comment on the what are you reading thread. Didn't want to start a flame war there, but I was pretty sure even when Bush was in office, that Bin Laden had gone to Afghanistan and crossed the border into Pakistan. If you just listened to the news, it wasn't that difficult to figure out. If I thought it, I'm sure someone in the Pentagon did too. The problem was more where exactly in Pakistan, and how to get him without causing an international incident. Yes, it will be interesting to read your review now that history has played out a bit more of the story.

    73bfertig
    May 15, 2011, 10:11pm Top

    Sometimes I tend to read a few books along a theme, or something in one book influences the next book I read, or some aspect lends intrigues me so I go off to read more.. The category challenge is a good way to list things like this but sometimes these connections last longer than a year and are based on either an overall gist or something specific and I think it might be fun to take a look at these.

    Also, it doesn't have to be a book, specifically... could be a LT thread or comment... or something else I/you may have read/heard - a news article or whatever...

    So let's see...this year so far I have a couple theme threads...

    Last year I read Don't be such a scientist in part because I've been thinking a lot about how scientists can be better about communicating science - both content and relevance. I cant remember now how exactly I heard about this book, but it also led me to think about about science in general and science communication and about how we do or don't make environmental policy decisions based on science (about which I had already read The honest broker and The art and politics of science back in 2009)... anyway, those led me to get and read a bunch more books on the topic. Someone at a conference I went to in November 2010 mentioned another book on science communication, Am I making myself clear?, so I went ahead and got that. That one was mainly a journalist's perspective on how scientists could improve their communication with media outlets like newspapers (and reporters covering science topics). Communicating often involves writing, so I read How to write a lot, which basically told me that in order to write a lot, I would need to write a lot, and then I would have a lot written -- and that to do this, allotting the time and making a schedule with achievable weekly goals would help - but only if those goals included writing a lot. For an example, read the previous sentence. Most recently I read Unscientific America which takes a look at how to more directly connect the relevance and importance of science to how we live our lives and make national policy decisions. Unscientific America brought up, like several other things I've been reading, how we deal with, talk about, and argue about some big (or at least well advertised) science issues like climate change and evolution (i.e. teaching of). So now I'm going through Darwin's On the Origin of Species, since I may as well go back to the source (which of course is a synthesis of decades of his own painstaking research and built upon evidence collected by lots of contemporary naturalists). Anyway, Darwin's work is making me think I should pick up Jared Diamond's The Third Chimpanzee or possibly Cro-Magnon (which I'm horribly late for an ER review) next. But I also have Science as a contact sport waiting in the wings which looks to be somewhat memoirish recounting of flighting the climate change battles as a scientist.

    The other thing I've been trying to do is read the books I was given for my birthday last November which included Oryx and Crake and The year of the flood and Simon Weisenthal: life and legends. And The boy who harnessed the wind from some other previous birthday. So birthday reads have been taken care of, which is good. But reading the two Margaret Atwood books made me want to read more of her stuff So I read The Blind Assassin. Still need to get a copy of Handmaiden's Tale. And reading a bunch of fiction made me want to read another author I'd been meaning to: Salmon Rushdie, and since I had an audiobook version of Midnight's Children I went ahead with that and loved it. So now I need to get to Satanic Verses or something.

    So that's most of this year's reading thus far.. I don't think I'm going to go backwards to last year at the moment.. maybe later.. and there's some of the connections for the future books. Will see when I can get to those...

    74bfertig
    May 15, 2011, 10:19pm Top

    This message has been deleted by its author.

    75bfertig
    Jun 15, 2011, 7:16am Top

    blah blah blah. I finished On the Origin of the Species. It was fantastic. Read it.

    76bfertig
    Edited: Jun 29, 2011, 10:13am Top



    On the origin of the species

    I'm super glad to read this book - it was really enjoyable!

    One of the things I was struck by Darwin's writing was that it was eminently readable and was basically constructed as an essay with a prodigious amount of evidence lined up to back up the arguments made. I am impressed by his clarity in articulation that make his communication and message conveyable despite requisite nuance.

    The heart of this particular book is that animals and plants vary - that they are mutable over time via human control (i.e. breeding) but also do so naturally, and that selection pressures are the mechanism, and that over time variability, heredity, and selection are the underlying principles of evolution.

    It was quite clear that he was conscious of possible detractors - on both scientific and creationist grounds. And he readily admits that readers who simply are not already convinced of things like the vast age of the earth etc. are just not going to agree because of things like the imperfection of the geological record (which is still true, though some gaps have since been filled). This is still true today even with the accumulated knowledge of paleontology and geology due to (willful?) ignorance and/or disbelief regarding how fossils and rocks are aged.

    Aside from the assembly, synthesis, and description of a vast array of fascinating facts and evidence, was the ability to put forth a complicated argument fairly succinctly and then address potential detractions head on. What surprised me was that some of the things that he addressed were *still* being used as arguments against evolution of species via natural selection! For example I heard arguments by some espousing Intelligent Design talking about how the eye was something too complicated to have arisen or be selected for -- but Darwin addressed this fairly well (I thought!), noting several species that either had intermediate forms or uses for eyes and light sensitivity. The point being that for all the recent hubabaloo, we appear to be going around the same merry-go-round back and forth regarding whether or not we buy into this explanation of the natural world, without making much progress over the course of a century and a half.

    If you feel at all invested in the argument over evolution one way or the other, my feeling is that it's at least worth reading Darwin's original works rather than getting into a lather about bullet points that are only a poor shadow of their context.

    77bfertig
    Edited: Jun 29, 2011, 10:14am Top



    Year's Best Science Fiction: Fourteenth Annual Collection

    1996 was a year that I was really into science fiction and fantasy and the Year in Review in the front by Gardner Dozois was quite nostalgic for me in that I had read, watched, or in other ways consumed - or at least recognized - most of the things out that year. Though I had not really ever been into the scifi magazines that much. Publishing-wise, 1996 was a terrible year for sf magazines with a lot of them losing subscriptions and dealing with then-nascent online publishing. So going back to this particular Years Best was much more disappointing than I expected. Most of the stories were fairly lousy - either not having much in the way of good science, good fiction, or both. Even 'big' names for the day were had submissions that were hohum and banal. Oh well; maybe I should have tried another nostalgic year.

    IMHO, there were a few bright spots though to keep me going through the anthology. I did enjoy The Dead by Michael Swanwick - with a twist on what the undead can do. I also liked A Dry Quiet War for being somewhat meta. Death Do Us Part was an interesting concept of relationships over longevity. The Land of Nod was probably my favorite and best written, but then I really liked his Kirinyaga stories, which this fit in with nicely.

    78bfertig
    Edited: Jun 29, 2011, 10:39am Top

    From the DDC thread...:



    Cro-Magnon: how the ice age gave birth to modern humans

    I am waffling about what to rate this one. It was interesting but probably could have been shortened a bit and I felt there were some flaws and some stylistic things I would have preferred otherwise.

    It was a fast read (for me) - about a week, with most of it going by on two airplanes. The content is fascinating, looking at the big picture was done well, and the story was well told in terms of bringing together the changes in climate/ice ages with the archaeology, anthropology, stone age technology and society.

    Its written for a general audience as a narrative of what we know and can surmise about Cro-Magnon evolution, migration/geography, contact with and domination over Neanderthals, and general way of life/culture/art etc. This book does a great job of not getting bogged down in minutiae, classifications, or jargon, all of which abound in the technical fields. It also does a great job of sticking to the big picture and broad sweeps of human pre-history. There's a lot we don't know and that's stated up front. There's a lot we can infer and that's stated up front. And there's a lot we can imagine things being like and that's stated up front.

    But there was also a lot that was stated that was overstated. There were a lot of "must have been"s when really it's "could have been". Climate changes and shifts in glaciers and temperatures would very likely have an impact on animal and human migration and settlement patterns, but I'm not yet convinced to make the leap that climate change would directly influence the human human evolution or the propensity for culture, religion, art, etc.

    I'm also fairly skeptical that life was quite as static over the millenia as is repeatedly stated -- while I can't think of a way to prove it, it just doesn't seem quite right that there weren't social changes that just may not be reflected in the archaeological artifacts. There were many comparisons made to current hunter/gatherer societies - but I have to imagine there were some pretty substantial differences there as well. Finally, throughout the book there were fluffy imaginary scenes meant to illustrate these peoples and make them 'real' which I felt were superfluous and made the book feel more like historical fiction. There were also many side bars that two 2-3 pages each that disrupted the flow of reading. Often figures didn't appear anywhere near where they were being discussed which resulted in a lot of page flipping. And there was a lot of poor quality foreshadowing that sounded sort of like "well this is a really cool topic, but we won't talk about it until Chapter 6".

    Overall, the book was really good at piquing my interest and at pointing out all the things that we really *don't* know about life for the first anatomically modern humans. There just isn't the evidence or archaeological record to say much at all with confidence. Ultimately, this remains a book that says much and means little in a generally interesting way.

    Cautiously recommended - go ahead if you're looking for something intriguing and big picture but take it with a grain of salt. 3.5 stars.

    79bfertig
    Edited: Jun 29, 2011, 11:50am Top

    I saw this on LauraBrook's thread and shamelessly stole it. :) Enjoy!

    Favorite childhood book? There are so many, but today I'll pick Tikki tikki tembo and Make Way for Ducklings for really little books and Where the red fern grows for kidhood.

    What are you reading right now? The third chimpanzee and Years Best science fiction: fourteenth annual collection in hard copy and listening to At the center of the storm.

    Bad book habit? Taking too long to read them…?

    Do you have an e-reader? My mother in law gave me a Sony eReader, but I only used it for a bit and didn't find it that useful and the interface was not that great. I think I might prefer a Kindle.

    Do you prefer to read one book at a time or several at once? Clearly, I'm a multiple-books-at-a-time person. Would like it to stay in the 2-3 books range. I like to have something going on the ipod at all times and have a backlog of those as well! Couple books on my nightstand for potential next reads.

    Have your reading habits changed since starting a blog? I don't blog but probably use LT as the equivalent. I've found that I've gotten more into planning my reading. Also more into keeping track of what I've read and trying to attain 50 books a year. I used to think it was impossible and only went through maybe a dozen but since keeping track found that I go through more like 30-40 so it may not be impossible after all.

    Least favorite book you read this year (so far)? The worthing saga was the least well written… though some of the stories in the Year's Best were pretty terrible as well - but some were good so its a mix. I really don't know what to make of Days of Obligation - it just felt like it was coming out of nowhere and was a series of meaningless essays.

    Favorite book you’ve read this year? I really really enjoyed every minute of Oryx and Crake. Midnight's Children was also fantabulous but wish Rushdie did more with the superpowers of the children. On the Origin of Species was also fantastic and really enjoyed reading that quite a lot - was a lot easier to digest than I anticipated.

    How often do you read out of your comfort zone? Somewhat rarely -- I read so slowly each book is a significant investment of my time. So I tend to be somewhat choosy. For instance I never read mysteries (they're all the same) or westerns (slow and boring) or romance (im a guy. 'nuff said.).

    What is your reading comfort zone? That said, I read pretty widely in non-fiction, and am branching out into some types of fiction. I like history and science and social science/studies. Those are probably the areas I've read most in.

    Can you read on the bus? I can read while on the bus. I can read and sing and cuss. I can read and eat some yams. I can read, oh yes I can.

    Favorite place to read? On airplanes. No distractions. Nothing else to do. Nowhere to go.

    What is your policy on book lending? I used to lend a lot and remember to who and when and what book. And get irritated if I didn't get the book back. Now I just give them away and don't get stressed -- LT *is* my library.

    Do you ever dog-ear books? No.

    Do you ever write in the margins of your books? Occasionally, and usually only for science books. In school I used to underline and comment or take notes on discussions.

    What is your favorite language to read in? English. I have delusions of grandeur that I will someday read books in Spanish.

    What makes you love a book? Well written for starters…

    What will inspire you to recommend a book? If I think other people will like it.

    Favorite genre? History.

    Genre you rarely read (but wish you did)? I'd like to read more classic fiction.

    Favorite biography? John Adams by David McCullough

    Have you ever read a self-help book? I'm a guy. I don't need help. Grunt grunt grunt.

    Most inspirational book you’ve read this year (fiction or non-fiction)? Don't know that this applies.

    Favorite reading snack? If I eat while reading I get distracted.

    How often do you agree with critics about a book? 100 percent of the time when they are right.

    How do you feel about giving bad/negative reviews? I used to feel worse than I do now. But in principle bad/negative reviews can be quite useful. And in the long-run, probably more helpful to figure out what goes into the dustbin of history and which are the diamonds in the ruff that get cherished as classics.

    If you could read in a foreign language, which language would you chose? Spanish is a beautiful and pragmatic language.

    Most intimidating book you’ve ever read? Biogeochemistry: an analysis of global change

    Most intimidating book you’re too nervous to begin? War and Peace. It's on my TBR pile… but I didn't really like Anna Karenina at all.. so it will have to wait some more.

    Favorite Poet? I don't know too many poets.

    Favorite fictional character? George the thief from the Lioness Rampant trilogy by Tamora Pierce

    Favorite fictional villain? Boris Badinov

    Books I’m most likely to bring on vacation? Something big and heavy.

    The longest I’ve gone without reading. Um.

    Name a book that you could/would not finish. The Amazing Adventures of the English language.

    What distracts you easily when you’re reading? Unfortunately just about everything.

    Favorite film adaptation of a novel? The namesake also The lord of the rings (all three).

    Most disappointing film adaptation? Most.

    The most money I’ve ever spent in the bookstore at one time? Probably somewhere in the $100 range.

    How often do you skim a book before reading it? Rarely.

    Do you like to keep your books organized? Yes - generally by topic, with some semblance of flow/connection between topics.

    Do you prefer to keep books or give them away once you’ve read them? Used to keep them but since joining LT find that I'm ok with just knowing what's in my library and don't need the hard copies as much anymore. Bookmooch also makes it easier to get rid of stuff and know that it's going to someone who nominally wants it.

    Are there any books you’ve been avoiding? I don't *think* so. But there are definitely books I know I won't read.

    Name a book that made you angry The case for democracy

    A book you didn’t expect to like but did? Watchmen - this was for a book club when the movie came out and I don't usually read comic books - never really did much as a kid either. Actually went and rented the movie too. One of the few times where the movie was both true and better than the comic.

    A book that you expected to like but didn’t? Not that I disliked it, but was expecting more out of The year of the flood - it just didn't live up to Oryx and Crake which was much better.

    Favorite guilt-free, pleasure reading? I don't feel guilty about reading. I read for fun and to learn something and to be entertained. I don't see a problem with that.

    80christina_reads
    Jun 29, 2011, 12:45pm Top

    I like your comment about agreeing with the critics, as well as the Boris Badinov reference!

    81bfertig
    Edited: Jul 4, 2011, 9:33pm Top



    Days of obligation: an argument with my mexican father

    Not really sure what to make of this book of personal essays. There's little noticeable progression through the course of the book, no real argument or coherent thesis.. rather it appears to be a collection of wide-ranging thoughts. From the title, I had hoped for some sort of explication or revelation of what it might be like to be Mexican-American... or that there might be some of the Old vs New or at least family struggles ... but that wasn't in there, at least not overtly. Looking back that seems rather naive to ask for and impossible to deliver since how can anyone disembody themself to be able to create such a comparison or description? So, I am not sure really what I was expecting or wanting to learn. But I still don't think I learned it, whatever it was I was supposed to or thinking I would learn.

    82cammykitty
    Jul 1, 2011, 1:11am Top

    Days of Obligation is certainly a loaded title. Would you recommend it to someone who didn't have the expectations you had? Would 7th & 8th grade Mexican-Americans find anything they would connect with in it? Just curious because I work with a lot of young Latinos.

    83bfertig
    Jul 4, 2011, 9:31pm Top

    honestly, im not sure Cammykitty. at best, excerpts of it - perhaps some bits of the family story, bits of comparison of Mexico vs America... but other parts of it don't appear to be necessarily for that age group.

    84bfertig
    Jul 4, 2011, 9:34pm Top

    there wasn't really anything much that really drew me back towards reading either another book or essay by Richard Rodriguez..

    85bfertig
    Edited: Jul 9, 2011, 1:06am Top



    Finished listening to George Tenet's retirement project At the center of the storm. Wow. OK. For background, George Tenet served as the director of the CIA under both Clinton and W. He served for 7 years, and was deputy director of CIA prior to that. He was in some ways maneuvered into falling on his sword for the W administration and wound up resigning after a debacle where an incorrect line about nuclear weapons from Niger to Iraq wound up in Bush's State of the Union Address and around that time that Valerie Plame Wilson was outed as a CIA agent.

    There's a lot in there, and though its been sanitized and censored as all things CIA must be, its not a book of cotton candy. Extremely well written, engrossing, fascinating look at behind the scenes CIA. From a writing and listening perspective, this was really interesting and I was really eager to make time to read it, the deeper I got. That being said, I gotta believe that it should be taken with a grain of salt. The book was written in part to explain and defend himself and CIA after falling on his sword during the Bush administration and CIA underwent a huge amount of scrutiny for screwing up about, you know, the whole WMD thing that Saddam Hussein never had.

    The first third of the book, Tenet starts out with some of the changes he made to the CIA as an organization in terms of organization and focus, with a major focus on terrorism. Though this doesn't really get into the meat yet, he is able to describe what its like to be head of a large and somewhat cumbersome entity and how he was able to turn around morale and improve efficiencies etc. I felt that even though the content was specific to CIA, this section could actually be somewhat relevant to anyone running an organization or someone who has to find ways to motivate and improve performance. Tenet's love of the intelligence community and CIA is quite evident. He also describes why his focus had been on terrorism and al Qaeda long before Sept 11. He also describes his fascinating involvement in the mid-east peace process under Clinton, and how the CIA was viewing the Middle East in general and Israel and the palestinians in particular at the time.

    The second third was really about not just why terrorism was the focus of the CIA but also what it was learning about al Qaeda, Osama bin Laden, and a whole host of other baddies whose names either I only vaguely recognize/recall from the news then or were completely new. It also covered Sept 11, 2001, the failure of the CIA to analyze and communicate actionable intelligence at the right time. Tenet does not flinch from saying outright that he and CIA failed. He also talks about the fear that terrorist groups like al Qaeda would be able to acquire weapons of mass destruction. But that at that time terrorist groups and WMD were not really linked. He makes it resoundingly clear that there was no intelligence information to suggest that Iraq controlled or coordinated or was linked with al Qaeda and Sept11 though there apparently had been a meeting or two that never really went anywhere.

    The third third of the book is about going to war in Iraq, what intelligence information there was at the time, that Tenet and did believe that Saddam Hussein had chemical and biological weapons of mass destruction, but that the links to al Qaeda and Sept11 were not there. That policy decisions about Iraq were essentially made either a priori or without regard to the intelligence, or that the intelligence information was cherrypicked for what would support the political arguments at the time. That Cheney and others were particularly focused on Iraq and looking for intelligence to support his agenda. How ill-planned the whole thing was and how poorly the government at large understood the situation on the ground. That while the CIA was wrong about WMD in Iraq, they were correct in predicting that staying there would quickly not go well but were not listened to. That democracy cannot be forced. There were also portions of this section that were more self-defensive. Things like trying to clear up what Tenet knew and when he knew it. Things like trying to deal with the term 'slamdunk' and about how that was bandied about by Bob Woodward etc (now I want to go back and read those books). And other things that were occurring towards the end of his tenure as director of CIA including the outing of Valerie Plame Wilson as an undercover CIA agent.

    One of the things that really struck me about the second and third portions of the book is that the CIA and the intelligence community at large is providing information -- but that this is distinct from what to do about this information, which is in the hands of the policy and decision makers. In many regards, this feels quite similar to how many scientists or science advisers view their roles. Not a connection I would have intuited, but in retrospect makes a lot of sense. First, many in the intelligence community probably *are* scientists of various sorts (techies, remote sensing, modelers, etc). Second - there is a sense of doing something important that is personally satisfying, intellectually stimulating, and highly technical and interpretive (that is, there is a need to understand the data correctly), but that to be effective, must be translated to others who are in a position to do something about it. Thirdly, there is never enough data to create a complete picture, so uncertainties must be acknowledged and accurately and effectively conveyed along with the information content - yet no matter how hard one works to do so, the message is only one of a million things that a policy maker takes into consideration and there may be other things at play that wind up being more influential in terms of what actually happens. And fourthly - when playing the game at a high stakes level (ie a director role) there is always the risk of error on the part of oneself or others, as well as active mischaracterization and playing politics.

    So - why read this book now? I got it a long time ago and its been patiently waiting in queue. I picked it up when Osama bin Laden was found, and felt that it was as good a time as any to take a look back. It's well written and engaging. Is it worth reading and dredging up all the pain in the ass divisive politics of the past decade? Well, I felt that I got a lot out of reading it and actually got a different perspective on the times, the people, and was able to compare it against my own political leanings, thoughts on these momentous and not-as-momentous issues of the day, etc. I don't know how much if any I changed my mind, but some perspective can be ok I suppose. The afterward is read by George Tenet himself, and is an interesting look forward (backward?) on the future of the intelligence community, in general, along with the restructuring to the Dept of Homeland Security and the intelligence community perspective on the FISA 'domestic wiretapping' issue. All of these are still being played out in one way or another, so this portion at least, is still timely several years post-publication. Ovearll, I'm glad I read this. Now's as good a time as any.

    86cammykitty
    Jul 16, 2011, 3:29pm Top

    Thanks for your thoughts on Days. Sounds like a book to pick up if it is in front of you, but perhaps not one to seek out. Too bad. It sounds like the type of book we could use more of.

    87bfertig
    Aug 2, 2011, 10:09pm Top



    The breakthrough: politics and race in the age of Obama

    Thoughtprovoking, I suppose. When it comes down to it, Ifill concludes that the election of Obama was ultimately about race, and she explores the 2008 election through that prism, as well as the rise and careers of other black politicians (male and female) at various levels of federal/state/local government. She terms the current generation of black politicians 'Breakthroughs' and characterizes them as keeping a respectful but arms-length distance from the previous civil rights generation.

    I like that she interviewed so many people in depth. I felt that the generational divide is often overlooked, but is probably as important, if not more, than some of the other divides she explores - race, gender, party. For instance contrasting Jesse Jackson Jr. to Jesse Jackson Sr. was really enlightening. I also thought it was interesting to learn about what situations it helped or hurt to focus campaigns on race/gender. Also, I was interested in the chapter on Deval Patrick as well, especially since my brother was an organizer for him. I also really liked the section on Corey Booker, recognizing him from an appearance on The Colbert Report. The ending though, with a series of vignettes about rising or minor political figures seemed fairly repetitive. The main message - that 'breakthroughs' are increasingly common, got lost in the shuffle.

    But its interesting reading this book now (2011) and reflecting back on how focused the nation was on race/gender in 08 and how since then the national discourse has moved on to other things, mainly economic.

    So, while I think some of the aspects covered are still relevant, especially since no magic wand has or will wave away racism/sexism and these will likely continue to be some factor in the political sphere into the future. But, because these issues are framed from the contemporaneous perspective of the 2008 election the book will have diminishing relevance and increasing nostalgia over time.

    Of course, as 30rocketjk commented on another thread, the change in relevance of this book would be the case for anything written on a contemporaneous topic, but could increase in relevancy for historians as primary source materials.

    Personally, I think what will be relevant as source material will more likely be what came out of the interviews rather than from Ifill herself. But, who knows. YMMV.

    I'm placing this under the magical timing category because it popped up out of nowhere off my bookmooch wishlist and then promptly showed up at my door and just had to take a look at it immediately. Quick read overall. 3.5 stars.

    88bfertig
    Aug 7, 2011, 4:13am Top

    How to lie with statistics -- this was really fun - and though, yes, it really is about statistics, and yes, it was written in the 50s, it is timeless in some ways - even though 131% more people use statistics and an average of 38.216% of those are made up.

    I put it under A Pack of Lies even though its nonfiction because of course, there are lies, damn lies, and statistics.

    89bfertig
    Aug 9, 2011, 12:00pm Top

    More than 3/4 done with What Hath God Wrought -- this is a superbly written history and will be rating it quite highly! Looking forward to the finishline of this thumper!

    90bfertig
    Aug 12, 2011, 3:13pm Top

    Halfway done with the last quarter of WHGW! It's still superb! Consider me to be singing its praises!

    91bfertig
    Aug 18, 2011, 8:56pm Top

    finished What hath god wrought: the transformation of America, 1815-1848

    92bfertig
    Aug 22, 2011, 5:41pm Top

    finished The Third Chimpanzee!
    finished Bossypants!
    finished Arresting God in Kathmandu!

    93bfertig
    Aug 23, 2011, 1:27pm Top

    I read Arresting God in Kathmandu very quickly. Its a short story collection. I'm sure I heard about it on LT somewhere, thought it looked interesting and it arrived via BookMooch. Definitely fits the category of Magical Timing.

    I liked the book. I don't read a lot of fiction, nor short stories, but this was a nice breath of fiction air after some denser and heavy non-fiction.

    Most of the stories in this collection look at the intertwining between spirituality/religiosity and passion/sex/adultery in the lives of the characters. All but one story involves a cheating spouse. Some of the imagery appeared exotic while looking at it, but upon reflection seems somewhat cliche - the smells of spices from a kitchen, chaos and noise from a market, generational strife in the face of modernity, etc. Nevertheless, the prose is well written and delightful, and the book overall was a fun, quick read despite maybe or maybe not reflecting actual life or religion in Kathmandu.

    Was reading reviews of the book elsewhere and found that while Americans (and occasionally other Westerners) generally liked the book, many self-identified Nepalis did not. Their complaints were varied but tended towards the 'Hey, that's not what my country's like!'. I think they were concerned about what sorts of perceptions of Nepal this book would create - given the propensity of the characters to adulterate and imagery that was somewhat indistinguishable (to my untrained American's eye) from that of India. Personally, neither marred my enjoyment of the book, but I am presuming that this is entirely a work of fiction and am not trying to gain a sense of what being in Kathmandu is exactly like from fiction works in any case.

    94cammykitty
    Aug 24, 2011, 1:33am Top

    Hmmm, with that title Arresting God in Kathmandu, I'd expect it to be a little more hard hitting. It sounds like the premise was interesting but it could've gone further. I think it's coming off my WL. It sounds like a book to read if it crosses your path, but not one to go hunting for. Yes?

    95bfertig
    Sep 1, 2011, 11:23pm Top

    finished Unfamiliar Fishes!
    finished The Big Year!

    96bfertig
    Sep 6, 2011, 4:40pm Top

    I've been changing around how I count these books a couple times. At first I changed it so that I could have unlimited crossovers between categories, to make sure that I would be able to finish the challenge this year.

    Then I realized that I actually had a decent chance of finishing this challenge by 11/11/11 anyway, given if each book read were to count I would only need 21 unique books to fit amongst the categories. I have already read 26 books this year according to my count on the 50 book challenge. I am still considering my challenge met if I read 11 books in one category and at least 1 book in the other 10 categories.

    A weird way to work it, but whatever. I wasn't sure how much reading I would be doing this year. Turns out a lot more than expected.

    So I have recounted my books, listing and numbering unique counts and then adding a separate unnumbered listing of other books read this year that could go under each category as a crossover.

    Challenge status:
    No crossovers + Unlimited crossovers
    1. Books with magical timing: 2 + 6
    2. Bedtime books: 11 + 1
    3. Previous/other challenges: 4 + 6
    4. Special Places: 1 + 0
    5. Sciency Books: 8 + 0
    6. American History: 2 + 2
    7. Books listened to: 2 + 6
    8. Recommendations for: 1 + 8
    9. Recommendations against: 2 + 1
    10. New-to-me topics: 1 + 2
    11. Fiction: 3 + 7

    So, it looks like I have completed the challenge that I had set out for myself at the beginning of the year.

    Yay!

    Bedtime books category was a bit of a copout, but whatever. I have 8 unique science books so if I read three more by 11/11 I will even be legitly legit.

    If including unlimited crossovers, only 3 more magically timed books, 1 book for a previous/other challenge (e.g. DDC or USPC), 3 science books, 3 audiobooks, 2 good books, or 1 fiction book would round out those categories as well.

    So what I really need to do is just listen to a really good fiction book about a US President turned mad scientist that comes to me out of the blue and I'm set. Anyone got one of those?!

    Who's got two thumbs and playing the justification game? This guy! (Pointing to self.)

    97cammykitty
    Sep 7, 2011, 5:04pm Top

    A biography of Ben Franklin might fit the bill. ;)

    98bfertig
    Edited: Sep 8, 2011, 9:38am Top

    unfortunately, good ol Ben was never president... but I like that you're thinking about it!

    99casvelyn
    Edited: Sep 8, 2011, 3:36pm Top

    Thomas Jefferson wasn't exactly a scientist, but he did like invention, exploration, and discovery. Unfortunately, I'm not sure there's much fiction about him.

    100bfertig
    Sep 8, 2011, 4:46pm Top

    Well, Hoover was an engineer, and Lincoln had a patent for a device to get steamboats off of shoals... but ....

    101cammykitty
    Sep 8, 2011, 8:46pm Top

    make it presidents and prime ministers and surely you'll find someone! Zaphoid Beeblebrox is a president, and completely mad, but you're out of luck on the scientist part.

    102bfertig
    Sep 8, 2011, 9:07pm Top

    There's this... Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter ... but not sure if there's a scientist part...

    103bfertig
    Edited: Sep 14, 2011, 11:47pm Top

    So I'm not sure if I'm entirely happy with my 121212 categories - the NPR theme. I like it, but kinda am thinking I might do something a bit more specified.

    Couple thoughts on this thread for potentially changing it on the other thread.

  • Continents - Especially Africa and the Americas
  • Road Trip - sequential reading about countries with touching borders
  • Time Traveler: A Century of Decades - 1800s, 1810s, 1820s... 1890s, + 2 for good measure, maybe 1790s and 1900s.
  • Frontiers - American, Space, Ocean Deep, Cutting edge science, etc.
  • Indigenous peoples - from the Americas, Africa, Australia, etc..
  • My better half - (lovingly stolen) from my wife
  • Dewey - one from each: 000, 100, 200, ... 900, noting which are new numbers
  • MtTBR challenge -
  • Maryland and New Jersey (since I live in the former and work in the latter)
  • Winners! (Nobel, Booker, Orange, etc.
  • Scientists
  • 104bfertig
    Sep 14, 2011, 10:09pm Top



    I just finished West with the night. Though this was originally written in 1942, it appears to have quite a lot of popularity recently -- many other LTers have reported reading it recently.

    In any case, Beryl Markham, the first person to fly across the Atlantic from east to west (against headwinds) led an amazing life, and her prose writing was fantastic. Even when writing about something that could be otherwise really dull - monotonous flying in the middle of the night where there was little that she could see to describe was somehow magically transformed into a beautifully elegant reverie on life in Africa in the early to mid 1900s. Her perspective was so radically different from so many other accounts for so many reasons made this book feel both exotic and travel-worn. This is very much a memoir of selected events and times, not a chronological autobiography. Beryl Markham's life was so varied - with encounters with large wild animals, horse training and breeding and racing, flying to serve as a mail courier or safari scout or daredevil - she challenged so many norms. Her successes and even failures are marvelous accounts of pushing the boundary when even contemporary modern comforts (or even survival, in the case of safaris) were not guaranteed.

    Challenge status:
    No crossovers + Unlimited crossovers
    1. Books with magical timing: 2 + 7
    2. Bedtime books: 11 + 1
    3. Previous/other challenges: 4 + 7
    4. Special Places: 1 + 1
    5. Sciency Books: 8 + 0
    6. American History: 2 + 2
    7. Books listened to: 2 + 7
    8. Recommendations for: 2 + 8
    9. Recommendations against: 2 + 1
    10. New-to-me topics: 1 + 2
    11. Fiction: 3 + 7

    105VictoriaPL
    Sep 15, 2011, 8:03am Top

    West with the Night sounds interesting. Thanks for the review!

    106bfertig
    Edited: Dec 1, 2011, 11:36am Top

    Updated with what I've read through November...

    Challenge status:
    No crossovers + Unlimited crossovers
    1. Books with magical timing: 2 + 9
    2. Bedtime books: 11 + 1
    3. Previous/other challenges: 4 + 11
    4. Special Places: 2 + 2
    5. Sciency Books: 9 + 2
    6. American History: 2 + 4
    7. Books listened to: 2 + 11
    8. Recommendations for: 2 + 10
    9. Recommendations against: 2 + 1
    10. New-to-me topics: 3 + 5
    11. Fiction: 5 + 8

    Group: The 11 in 11 Category Challenge

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