Book 46: The Mistress of Spices by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni

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The Mistress of Spices by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni

Finished reading May 30, 2013

Rating 6/10

This book took me a few weeks to finish, because I mostly read it while cooking and since I almost never do that, then it took ages. Actually I was using this book as a timer, since I knew how long it takes to finish reading one page I didn’t need any other timer. ūüôā

The book is about¬† the mistress of spices, a mysterious Indian woman who has a spice shop in Oakland, California. She has a magical power over spices so she can give the people who visit her shop exactly what they need just by giving them the right spices. That power however didn’t come for nothing – she isn’t allowed to leave her shop.

Things get complicated for her, when a handsome American appears, who doesn’t look at the mistress as all the other customers do, as if he’d know that there’s something behind that old woman appearance.

The book is okay, I would even have said good and given it a higher rating, but it made me miss my boyfriend, otherwise it would have gotten 7.

There’s a movie based on the book. The trailer is awesome. I’ll be definitely watching it.

Book 45: The Lemon Tree by Sandy Tolan

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The  Lemon Tree by Sandy Tolan

Finished reading May 27, 2013

It is easy to show the history through the eyes of the victors, it’s a lot more difficult to give all parties in a violent conflict equal voices.

“The Lemon Tree” Is about the conflict between Jews living in Israel and Palestinian Arabs who were driven out of their homes. The story starts¬† with two families in focus – one Jewish family living in Bulgaria and an Arab family in the village of Al-Ramla.

In 1948 there was a new state born – State of Israel. One day after it’s declaration of independence it was attacked by Arab forces. More than half a century of wars and peace-treaties and terrorism ensued.

Israel invited all the Jews from around the world, to come there, while driving out the Arabs who had lived on that land for generations. The Jews ended up taking the Arab houses and Arabs living in camps in exile.

Tolan’s book gives an overview of some of the events in and around Israel mostly through the eyes of Dalia, who had arrived in Israel with her family as a child and moved to a house that had a lemon tree in the yard. The house had belonged to a family by the name of Khairi, whose part is mostly constricted to a man named Bashir.

Dalia is trying to understand what the former inhabitants of the house were like and why did they escape, only to learn later that the Khairis were forced out. About two decades after the Kairis left, Bashir comes to see the house and meets Dalia. The narrative continues with arguments between those two, and historical events between the Jews and the Arabs. No-one seems to be on the right side by the end – Israel has occupied Palestine, forced the Palestinian Arabs to live in refugee camps on the West Bank not letting them return to their homes. For some of the Palestinians the way forward is through to terrorism.

It’s a really complicated book about an even more complicated conflict, it sheds some light to what’s happening between Israel and Palestine by going to the beginning of the struggle.

It’s rather educational and worth a read or two.

Book 44: The Strangest Man by Graham Farmelo

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The Strangest Man by Graham Farmelo

Finished reading May 25, 2013

Rating 9/10

It seems as if I’ve had this book for ages and only now I’ve managed to read it. I got it at the height of my interest in 20th century physicists. For some reason I only got as far as about 100 pages on my first try and after that it was trapped next to one of my biggest fears in my bookcase – “American Prometheus” by K. Bird and M.J. Sherwin. It is literally the biggest with ca 600 pages about Robert J. Oppenheimer and ca 100 more with notes etc…

Back to the book at hand.

The Strangest Man probably got it’s title from something that the famous physicist Niels Bohr once said about Paul Dirac, whose biography this book is, namely that Dirac was the strangest man he knew.

Probably to most people the name Paul Dirac says very little. Not so with physicists – the Dirac equation is one of the things already undergraduate physics students have to wrestle with. In this book there’s all the background for it, and even more – it almost seems to chronicle the beginning of quantum mechanics, it’s not just about Dirac, you also get a glimpse into the lives of the other famous quantum physicists – Wolfgang Pauli, Werner Heisenberg, Erwin Schr√∂dinger, etc.

If the former wasn’t successful in scaring you away from reading that book, then good! Because it does have some physics, but no equations, and you can follow mostly everything without knowing anything about quantum physics beforehand, it’s more history of one man behind it.

But now to the exciting part – why would the Nobel laureate Bohr think Dirac so strange? Well there were many great examples for what might make Dirac seem strange: he was very quiet and shy (but that’s usual), very literally minded, wanted to refuse his Nobel prize in physics because he didn’t like publicity and attention, but was persuaded that his refusal would get him even more attention. And if you’re ever asked do you know of a physicist who bought a baby alligator and sent it to his colleague, then it was Dirac, who sent it to George Gamow (Gamow’s wife opened the package and got bitten).

Book 43: The Physics of Star Trek by Lawrence M. Krauss

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The Physics of Star Trek By Lawrence M. Krauss

Finished (and started) reading May 16, 2013

Rating 8/10

As the title says, the book is about physics – what is possible, what could be possible and what is improbable in Star Trek, there are also some plain mistakes in portraying physics in the series and the films which are mentioned in this book.

In essence though you’d be reading about teleportation, interstellar travel, holography, antimatter, search for extraterrestrial life and basically modern physics and technology.

Even if you’ve never heard of Kirk or Picard or haven’t come in contact with any part of the series or movies, then this book would still be fun to read. At some point I actually forgot that it had anything to do with Star Trek.

Although it’s physics, it’s really easy to read and understand and one could possibly read it in one go over a few hours¬†because¬†it’s just so good.

Warning: If you’re “allergic” to physics or despise science fiction keep a safe distance from the book!

 

Book 42: Quirky Sides of Scientists by David R. Topper

 

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Quirky Sides of Scientists by David R. Topper

Finished reading May 15, 2013

Rating 8/10

This book captured my attention because of its title. It was slightly different than I expected, but all in a good way.

It’s about the science and history of science in a different way than you’d read in a usual history book or science textbook. All because it’s showing a different side of it. Mostly you only get the successes in an orderly fashion and usually not even in the original form but some kind of concentrate by some other scientist.

This book however let’s you see that scientists are actually quite normal people, they work hard to get somewhere and they don’t always reach where they intended to go.

There are several short essays describing one or other theory or discovery in physics or astronomy – for example how Isaac Newton came up with the seven colours of the rainbow – that was really interesting.

To put it simply – if¬†you’ve¬†ever come across some physics textbook that happens to have these extra reading parts about the history of some experiment or it’s background, then this whole book is like that extra reading – a bit more challenging, but awesome!

 

Book 41: How To Destroy The Universe by Paul Parsons

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How To Destroy The Universe by Paul Parsons

Finished reading on May 9th, 2013

Rating 7/10

This book I got solely because of the title.¬† The book contains 35 chapters that have titles all starting with “How To”, for example contact aliens, stop a hurricane, turn lead into gold etc.¬† It covers a rather wide area of physics, so it’s interesting enough without being too difficult (although I wouldn’t go as far as to say that anyone can understand the concepts the way they’re presented in the book – some chapters require more thought than others.)

All in all it’s fun if you happen to be interested in science, if not – even the title won’t save you, because the chapter that’s titled “How to destroy the universe” only gives you ways how the universe might come to an end – the heat death, the big rip etc, not however practical ways of going about doing that, if you’d ever have the wish to do so.

It’s entertainment, but not on the same level as cartoons or comicbooks – more like opera or classical music…