Tuesday, April 28, 2009

The white tiger
(Aravind Adiga, 8:07)
This is the first Booker Prize Winner that I've been able to finish in several years (and surely the Life of Pi was the nadir for that award). A very stimulating novel of a low-caste man who strives, and ultimately succeeds, in becoming the much vanted "entrepreneur." Structured as a sequence of letters to a visiting Chinese emissary, the novel at times could have used a slightly lighter touch on political matters, but the voice of the main character deserved to be heard.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Cuisines of the world : Japan
(Kiyoshi Hayamizu, Yuhei Hoshino; 144pp)
Lovely guide to understanding what goes into Japanese food. As a bonus, I left this around the house, and my wife picked three dishes labeled "easy" and made a great dinner Saturday night from the recipes.

Friday, April 24, 2009

The art of tile : designing with time-honored and new tiles
(Jennifer Renzi, 318pp)
Beautiful, interesting, thought-provoking, and probably expensive to pursue, but based on some of the beautiful things done with tiling here, well worth the effort. The one thing I wished had been mentioned is the generalized topic of "tiling" which I trace to Roger Penrose (by way of being discussed by Martin Gardner).

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Redwood City
(Reg McGovern et al; 127 pp)
I'm a sucker for local history, and even though my connections to RWC are just a notch above tenuous, I enjoyed looking through this collection of photos. The publisher, Arcadia, apparently specializes in local history, which involves only a little more than finding a source of old photos, and people from the town who must be eager to caption the photos.
Architecture now! / Architektur heute / L'architecture d'aujourd'hui
(Philip Jodidio, 576pp)
This is a score from Amazon's reader suggestions, since I'd checked out this massive Phaidon resource in Feb, it was too repetitive in showcasing sterile geometric structures. An Amazon reviewer mentioned this book as a compressed set of highlights. It delivers some interesting buildings, as well as some grim "austere" turds. One funny editorial comment was about a very dark, prison like school that seemed to scant "perhaps overmuch" the light and joy that is asssociated with school environments.

Monday, April 20, 2009

The Post-American World
(Fareed Zakaria, 8:29)
An interesting and well researched book on how America's going to have to share the planet with China, India, and the Rest. The historical discussion of what kept China backwards is noteworthy. One significant factor that I don't recall reading about before: The plains of Asia enabled one power base to rule from end to end, whereas Europe was broken up into 100s of principalities that encouraged competition and prevented policies from halting progress.) Barack Obama was seen reading this book during his campaign, and it's thesis is well worth thinking about.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Down and Out in Paris and London
(George Orwell, 6:28)
When I read this as a high school freshman (loaned by my favorite English teacher), I found it rather dreary, and never really could figure out what a plongeur did for his grubby wages. Rereading this decades later, it was fresh and interesting, an experiment in poverty that is all the more relevant as we approach our own little econ-apocalypse. Some of the economic thinking seems half-boiled (is it really true that restaurants cause needless drudgery and should not be encouraged?), but the vision of encouraging tramps to stick around and do a little farming sounded positively 21st cent.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Drunkard's Walk
(Leonard Mlodinow, 9:21)
Excellent review of probability and statistics, with exciting discussions of topics as thrilling as chi square and the law of large numbers. I don't particularly share Mlodinow's sense of humor, so when he wasn't writing about math, it wasn't that fun. He also betrays a southern Californian fixation on movie box office yields. While surely that process has a large random component, it wasn't the most interesting domain for me in which to ground his discussions. He frequently referred to movies and stars about whom I knew nothing. Still, as a popular treatment of randomness, this is quite good.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

More games to play with toddlers
(Jackie Silberg, 271pp)
Pretty lame, not very useful. Most of the games are very uninspired.