Book 205: Antarctica by Gabrielle Walker

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Antarctica by Gabrielle Walker

Finished reading on February 27th, 2016
Rating: 9/10

I had an idea of what the book will be like, but that turned out to be wrong.

This book would be a great start if you’ve never read anything about Antarctica and want to get a good all-around book without it being a travel-guide.

I enjoyed reading this book because of two things – first because it’s about Antarctica and second because it goes into details on different aspects of some of the narrower topics.
In the book you can find out about what kind of research is being done in Antarctica in the different stations and bases and what kind of people would want to spend months on that freezing continent.

I found it really interesting, because you get more of a wider idea of everything there, about the research on penguins and why there are telescopes there and why it’s a good place for seismology and about the meteorites etc.

It’s written in a really simple and enjoyable way, so I got through it relatively fast.

There’s also a little bit about some of the famous polar expeditions . Definitely not about all of them and not in great length, but enough for first reading.

Book 204: The Sagas of Icelanders

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The Sagas of Icelanders

Finished reading on February 21st, 2016

Rating: 8/10

Whilst I was visiting Reykjavik last autumn I chanced across this book in several places, but deemed it just slightly to big and heavy to buy it then and there, the book is also very pretty, so wouldn’t have wanted to have it in my luggage and chance having it’s cover ruined.

It’s a collection of Icelandic sagas that take place from about 11th to maybe fifteenth century starting from Norway, then also Iceland, Green land and a tiny bit in North America.

The sagas are fascinating in many ways, to me one of the interesting things was that they read pretty much the same as George R. R. Martin’s “Song of Ice and Fire” books – lots of killings, lots of kings, many clashes between different families, and the biggest similarity of all – so many bloody ways for payback . I felt like hundred of people get killed in these sagas with quite graphic descriptions in some parts.

The sagas did make me more interested in reading about the history of Scandinavian peoples.

What I found interesting was that it takes quite a long time to get used to the common names in the sagas – I begun with not really differentiating between many of them and also of-course couldn’t tell who’s male and who’s female, but by the time I reached the short tales I could appreciate the names and remember who’s who better and not just think ‘the guy with the strange name number one’ and ‘the guy with the funny female sounding name’.

My favourite was the saga of Ref the Sly, as Ref has great grasp of craftsmanship building a stronghold where if you’d try to burn it down, you can easily douse the fire whether the flames start from the bottom, the middle or the top because of the hollow planks that were used for building it- very fancy.

I’m certainly in the mood to read more sagas and read more books out of my comfort zone that seems to be bordered by 19th century up to 1950 or so in case of fiction and 1990 to present for any non-fiction.

It did take a long while to get through the sagas, but I’m glad I did.

 

 

Book 203: The Mathematician’s Shiva by Stuart Rojstaczer

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The Mathematician’s Shiva by Stuart Rojstaczer

Finished reading on February 18th , 2016

Rating: 10/10

I picked out this book solely on the basis of the description on the back of the book because it mentions ‘the greatest female mathematician’ and ‘notoriously eccentric’. I had to read it even though I’d never heard of the book or the author before.

It was a great read – the plot is fascinating (but reminded me a bit of The Proof by David Auburn, but only because there’s a mathematician that has died) , the characters are curious and well put together and the ending is very surprising – I didn’t even consider that something like that would happen.

One of the main characters in the book is Sasha Karnokovitch whose mother, the great female mathematician Rachela has died. Whilst Sasha wants to deal with her death as fast as possible, Rachelas colleagues from everywhere want to spend seven days sitting shiva (not the Hindu god Shiva that I thought when first coming across the book) after the burial.

That’s when things get crazy with eccentric mathematicians flooding Sasha’s child-hood home trying to work out a proof to the Navier-Stokes problem, the solution for which, rumour has it, Rachela had come up with but had kept secret.

While there’s that going on there are several flashbacks to Rachela’s childhood- leaving Poland for Siberia and defecting the Soviet Union and arriving at United States.

I enjoyed the book a lot. It is funny in many places in just the right way.

” We’ll get you a scarf. That will help. You’ve never been skiing at all, not even downhill?”

“Never.”

“It’s like walking in the mud. You lift up your feet to get out of the mud and then you press down and get stuck again.”

From The Mathematician’s Shiva by Stuart Rojstaczer

Book 202: The Accidental Species by Henry Gee

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The Accidental Species: Misunderstandings of Human Evolution by Henry Gee

Finished reading on February 9th, 2016

Rating: 10/10

If you’ve ever marveled about the strange and wonderful creatures that are humans, this book might be of interest to you.
In this book Henry Gee talks about some of the most common things that people believe about evolution of the human species and also separately of evolution and of humans themselves.
It was a great book where you certainly get a better idea of human evolution than you might in a high school level biology (that’s where you’d be taught about evolution, right?) class – not in a textbook style at all but as a narrative.
The book deals with such problems as the small amount of fossil finds of hominins and the in general incomplete fossil record of anything really. You get an idea of how much we still don’t know about how humans came about to evolve in the way they did and end up such strange big-brained bipedal creatures with little hair and no tail who resemble birds in several ways in their social behavior rather than great apes.

I very much enjoyed reading this book – you get a little bit of background on the fossil finds and the main point – that humans are not special compared to any other species of animal or plant in any other way except for the fact that (probably)we happen to represent the species.

The book was fun, very informative and was over way too quickly.

I’d highly recommend reading this book to anyone who feels that they also represent the same unfortunate species.