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Monday, January 10, 2011

Books books books...

I'm not very good at making New Year's resolutions. I mean, I guess some years I half-heartedly make a list, and then completely ignore it. This year, however, inspired by an ever-growing pile of books to read, whose prosperity has certainly been helped along by a large number of books received as X-mas presents from the parents and the boyfriend, I've resolved to spend a lot more time reading for pleasure.

Since I started grad school, I've read innumerable scientific papers, but I've hardly read any novels at all. Like maybe 2 whole books in the last 2 and a half years. Pretty pathetic. Well, that's not strictly true. I have been downloading audiobooks from Librivox, and I got through 5 or 6 books that way, and I have been reading a bit on my Kindle. However, I wouldn't say that either of those media really count as true books, since I'm either being read to or don't have to lug a real book around.

Anyway, to show I mean business here, in no particular order, is my reading list for 2011:

I'm in the process of reading the second book in Robertson Davies' Cornish Trilogy, entitled What's Bred in the Bone. I received these books as a birthday present, I think, at least 2 years ago, and have only read the first book, which took me about a year. It's actually a pretty interesting story, mostly taking place in Toronto, centered around the life of Francis Cornish, an eccentric art collector.

Next, I'd like to read The Earthsea Quartet by Ursula Leguin. This is a classic of fantasy literature, considered by some to be on a par with Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings. Interestingly enough, I first heard about it from an audio recording of a lecture entitled "TMS Rings, Swords, and Monsters: Exploring Fantasy Literature" by Prof. Michael D.C. Drout which was given to me by Stevie ages ago. I then borrowed the books from my mom last winter break, and they've been sitting on my shelf collecting dust ever since.

The Greatest Show on Earth: The Evidence for Evolution by Richard Dawkins should be a good read. I got this as an X-mas present from my dad last year. The boyfriend has read it, and he rather liked it, so I probably will too. It essentially debunks Creationism, etc. by listing all the evidence that has been found for evolution. If you read my post about the Creationist publication of Darwin's Origin of Species, then you already know how I feel about that subject. I also really enjoy Dawkins' style of writing. He's a very angry person, it seems, but he has very well-structured arguments. I listened to an audiobook version of The God Delusion, and I enjoyed it a lot.

The boyfriend got me this book, The Grand Design by Stephen Hawking and Leonard Mlodinow, for X-mas this year. It's Hawking's first book in over 10 years, and covers all the really big questions about the origin of the universe and so on. I really enjoyed A Brief History of Time and Black Holes and Baby Universes, so hopefully this'll be good too!

I hope I don't get sick of popular science books at this point because The Universe and the Teacup by K.C. Cole looks like an interesting one. I got this from my dad for X-mas this year. From what I can tell, it's about how mathematics enable us to create patterns out of natural phenomena and thus explain them. Sounds like it's right up my alley.

The boyfriend also gave me for X-mas The Drunkard's Walk by Leonard Mlodinow, who also co-authored Stephen Hawking's most recent book. Apparently it's about randomness and how people are unable to account for this in their everyday lives. I'm a huge fan of chaos theory and randomness (Chaos by James Gleick was awesome), so this should be a good read.

Finally, for X-mas last year, I think, my dad gave me Daniel Levitin's This Is Your Brain On Music. It explains how all humans are experts in music, even if they don't know it, that is, the human brain is naturally programmed to understand musical concepts intuitively.

So that's my list... hopefully I'll be able to finish all these books by the end of the year, but I won't hold my breath. Still, a worthy challenge!