Book 204: The Sagas of Icelanders

PIMG_1063

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.

 

 

Advertisements

Book 197: First Magnitude by James B. Kaler

16193138
“First Magnitude: A Book of the Bright Sky” by James B. Kaler
First published in 2012  by World Scientific Publishing Company

Finished reading on January 22, 2016
Rating: 7/10

I first spent a Sunday at work reading this book and getting through the parts about planets and getting into the brightest stars, but then it took me two weeks to get back to it and finish reading the book in a total of two sittings.

The book covers all the brightest phenomena you might chance across in the night (and sometimes day) sky starting with the obvious planets, stars etc and also giving the reader an idea about what magnitude in brightness in case of stars and planets actually means and when is a star first magnitude and when second and so forth.

In case of the objects mentioned in the book, you get a bit of information about it’s nature, position in the sky when applicable and when it’s best to observe.

It’s quite a straightforward book without detours to obscure topics and sticks to the title. By the end of the book you’ll be left wondering when you’ll get to see a bright comet, nova or supernova yourself.

I found it quite enjoyable read, I wasn’t surprised by it and didn’t get too much new information, but it’s good as a reminder of what you should know about brightest objects if you’re into observing the sky.

Book 193: Telescopes: Through the Looking Glass

Telescopes: Through the Looking Glass by Marvin Bolt

PIMG_8274

Finished reading on December 12th, 2015

Rating: for a telescope enthusiast: 9/10,  for a general reader: 7/10

I have decided to try and get my hands on as many books about the history of telescopes and historic telescopes and their makers as possible, and this book is going to be one in a series of books.

This book was published when an exhibition of the same name was opened at Adler Planetarium & Astronomy Museum. You can certainly tell from the descriptions of the objects – they give the basic gist of the object and/or it’s maker without going into long tales about it – although I would have liked that about equally as much as I like shorter descriptions (bite sized pieces of information on very beautiful scientific instruments).

I found this book quite enjoyable – but historical telescopes are part of my job, so I can see how it might not appeal to everyone as it functions as an exhibition catalog. In case of museums the objects I enjoy looking at the most are telescopes, so it was very interesting. The info about reproductions of some images from astronomer’s works was also quite interesting, but rather general.

Most of the telescopes in the book are very elaborate with draw-tube telescopes,that even use  ivory and even platinum on the grip and most were probably never used for science – I think that shows an interesting side to this invention – it can be a professional science instrument but also a luxury item.

I had never read about trumpet-shaped telescopes before, so that was something new, and also the fact that some quite small telescopes had several integrated eyepieces that you could switch between very easily and some even enabled observing the Sun through a special filter, was fascinating.

Book 192: 2 States by Chetan Bhagat

PIMG_7988

2 States by Chetan Bhagat

Finished reading on November 9th, 2015
Rating:for good intentions 7/10, for the execution 5/10

I read this book so I could finally watch the movie without thinking that I should have read the book first, now I can.
I feel though that maybe I’m a slightly wrong person to read this book – I know little about both South and North Indian culture. Anyway it was quite an odd, although fast read.

We have the main characters- Krish, a Punjabi from Delhi and a Tamil girl Ananya, who meet during their graduate studies, who after graduating want to get married. Knowing that their families would disapprove because first the marriage is supposed to be arrange and the boy and girl are not supposed to find a partner, but that’s rather something that the parents or matchmaker does, and also the problem of them being from two states.

As a general idea for the plot, I find it quite interesting, but how it was solved seems a bit strange to me, a little bit unbelievable, and everything was a bit too melodramatic.

There was one part that was very believable though – Krish’s depression, at every other time the focus is always on Krish and Ananya wanting to get married, convincing their parents, etc, so you don’t know the characters separately at all, sure you know where they work and who their parents are, but that rarely defines a person. The part where Krish is lying in bed awake not being able to get to sleep because of the thoughts in his head, seemed like a genuine moment. Can’t wait to see the movie to find out whether that’s in or not.

The book left me a bit confused – everything happens in a linear fashion – one success or failure after another, nothing happening at the same time.

I appreciate the idea and the cultural differences portrayed, but in the end it feels more like you’ve read an article in a magazine about a couple rather than a novel.

If you’ve read this book, what did you think of it?

Also you can find my thoughts on two other books by Chetan Bhagat here:

The 3 Mistakes of My Life

One Night @ the Call Center

Book 187: The Big Bang Theory and Philosophy

Finished on August 26th, 2015

Rating: 7/10 (Narration was great, characters excellent, but the viewpoint is dismal)

I’m a big fan of “The Big Bang Theory” and although a few years back I did show up some interest in philosophy I can’t really say that I would be too much into thinking hard about thinking etc… However I thought that this might be a good first book to listen to as an audio book – I know all the characters and I’ve seen most of the TV series episode at least three times, with earlier seasons possibly up to ten times.

The narration was nice and so was the whole book, although I’m quite certain that had it been just the philosophy part I would have given up on even just listening to this book quite early on in the experience.

The book for example delves into such topics as friendship and families,religious beliefs, lying etc, usual stereotypes such as someone who is very pretty isn’t very smart, and someone who’s very smart usually isn’t too smart in everyday things.

I think if you want a good first book to read/listen to about philosophy, then this one is a nice start (although does there have to be anything further is a different question).

As such I

Book 138: Digital SLR Astrophotography by Michael A. Covington

PIMG_1258

Digital SLR Astrophotography by Michael A. Covington

Finished reading on May 7th, 2014

Rating: 8/10

If you’re just getting interested in astrophotography and you have a DSLR camera, then this book is an excellent starting point. It introduces the necessary equipment for starting out, but it also introduces the reader to some of the parts of the camera.

In addition to equipment this book also teaches image processing – how to edit them – what to do with flat frames, dark frames and bias frames and how to take them. Also how to stack images and what are some of the most needed functions in Photoshop (although their  almost the same in GIMP).

In general I found it interesting although I’ve been using my DSLR for astrophotography for a couple of years now, I still got some new information that I didn’t know before.

It focuses mostly on the technical side of astrophotography – what and how to use and why.

 

Book 132: Going Commando by Mark Time

 

Going Commando by Mark Time

Finished reading on April 14th, 2014

Rating: 7/10

A sixteen-year-old Mark has had two ideas for what he’d want to become – a geologist or a Royal Marines Commando. This book is about how he undergoes the rigorous training trying to earn his green beret.

This book is entertaining to a certain type of person – one who has undergone infantry training themselves, or someone who’s intrigued by the (occasionally almost silly) discipline that the trainees have to follow. I fall into the second category and as such I found it an interesting read, but also illuminating, since I’ve read a book dealing with infantry training in my country, which isn’t voluntary for most of the young men going through it.

There was some rude language involved, but that was understandable given the situation… Otherwise the writing was good, and funny, if you find other people’s misfortune entertaining…

“So, why do you want to join the Royal Marines?” It was as if he had asked me to explain Einstein’s theory of relativity, only with commandos as elementary particles.

What I liked the most were parts where Time describes having to have the equipment in excellent order and polishing boots to a near mirror-like shine, and what happens when they fail to meet the cleanliness standards.

I got access to this book via Netgalley.com.

Book 106: To Sir, With Love by E. R. Braithwaite

To Sir, With Love by E. R. Braithwaite

Finished reading on February 8, 2014

Rating: 10/10

“To Sir, With Love” is the story of an extraordinary teacher who is trying to teach his students  (among other things…) to see the world and humans in it for more than just their skin colour.

In this book we meet Mr. Ricardo Braithwaite, a former Royal Air Force member, who is assigned to be a teacher at a school called Greenslade that has somewhat peculiar philosophy for the time, as there’s no corporal punishment and little discipline.

It is quite interesting to follow Mr. Braithwaite’s first steps to getting through to the class of the oldest students in the school, and to actually teach them something. In a way it is something that anyone who’s been in a teaching situation has gone through – trying as hard as you can to make it interesting and relevant, but for some reason not succeeding. Fortunately Braithwaite does find a way to reach the students – he treats them as adults and expects them to behave as such.

One part of the story is in a way a coming-of-age story of the whole class taught by Mr. Braithwaite. In another way it depicts the somewhat cruel reality of a coloured person in the United Kingdom in the 1950s – not getting a job he’s actually well qualified for because of his skin colour, being treated rudely at a fancy restaurant or not getting to rent a room simply because of not being white.

Another issue rises when Braithwaite starts going out with a colleague, Gillian, who gets upset the first time she sees how he is treated and doesn’t seem to do anything about it. Although Gillian overreacts in the beginning, then throughout the book it can be seen that her parents, who can happily enough talk to their daughter’s Negro friend, don’t really approve of it and see more problems coming up in the future – in Gillian’s father’s words, children from mixed marriages wouldn’t be wanted anywhere or by anyone. Mr. Braithwaite’s answer to that claim should be looked upon as a good example and he as a role model, and even just for that scene this book deserves to be read and thought about.

The book was first published in 1959, more than fifty years ago, surely things have changed?

No, is the obvious and simple answer, as racial discrimination might not be a problem in places where it was seen as one fifty or a hundred years ago, but countries that for one or other reason haven’t been too welcoming for people of different religions or races in the previous century (such as former countries of the Soviet Union for example) appear to be facing same problems now – it seems this phase of xenophobia just has to be survived…

I liked this book quite a lot more than I liked the movie when I saw it some years ago, although I have to say that I didn’t realize there were racial issues presented there. Although, as I must have been around fifteen at the time, it’s no surprise I overlooked that part, and thought the student-teacher interactions more important.

I received this book for review purposes via NetGalley.

Book 105: Marketing the Moon by David M. Scott and Richard Jurek

cover38256-medium  “Marketing the Moon” by David M. Scott and Richard Jurek

Finished reading on February 3rd, 2014

Rating: 9/10

How would you like it if you’d have a great idea that could change the whole world, the way every human being thinks, and as you let people know about it they’re enthusiastic, amazed, they support you 100%, but as more and more people get to know it in just a short while the excitement is gone and your ideas dies as quickly as it rose  to attention?

The Apollo Lunar program took men to the furthest place they’ve gone to until the present time. A great achievement in such a short time that has had a lasting legacy in some ways.

The space race between the Soviet Union and the United States was the main reason why Apollo program started when it did, and it’s important to remember that it was during the Cold War era, that such activities were undertaken.

Apollo 11, that took the first men to the surface of the moon was televised live, it generated a lot of interest in media, and more than 3000 journalists covered the story, space walks were on TV live on prime time – the race had been won.

Interestingly enough there had been several astronaut’s who had opposed the idea of having TV cameras onboard the spacecraft that would stream the live image, as it would take up too much of mission time.

These cameras lead the way to a story with a somewhat sad ending, as right after the Apollo 11, on Apollo 12 the live broadcast lasted only for an hour because of technical reasons, although the previous one had hours on air.

This book is a very interesting read, as you can feel how the public loses interest in the lunar missions, and it’s ultimately sad. The book almost made me cry and made me feel somewhat like I did when I was a teenager reading about the great expeditions to Antarctica – the whole world had been mapped, and something seemed to have ended. With the Moon however it seems to have ended before it even got to begin, just because it was ahead of its time.

The story is interesting, as you can find out about how some journalists had to deal with economic difficulties but still were able to cover the Apollo missions, or how some of the astronauts were caught trying to earn money from tax-payer funded missions, about how the Columbia command module travelled around the US and why did the world Expo in Japan get so many visitors especially in the American expo. Also find out about where did many of the lunar rocks end up.

I received this book for review purposes via NetGalley.

Book 98: Time One by Colin Gillespie

cover29970-medium

“Time One” by Colin Gillespie

Finished reading on January 6th, 2014

Rating: 5/10

“Time One” is a book with a great task – it’s trying to bring to the reader the real beginning of the Universe mixing in it together modern physics, history of philosophy and a detective story that is the foreground.

The physics part is well and good, although whenever you’ve got so many scientific concepts in one place, it’s good to have some schematics….

However for me the book was confusing, because there are fictional characters who are doing the research and talking about it, but there isn’t really anything interesting going on, yes, so if the fiction part would have been left out, it would have made a better book in my opinion. There was just something missing.

I received this book for review purposes via NetGalley.