Posted 30 December 2009 - 11:21 AM
Wanted to start a thread here for everybody to recommend and/or receive recommendations about books we've been impressed with lately. Enip. turned me on to quite a few that I really enjoyed and the member base here is teh-shite when it comes to community so, please, hook a bro up with some recs. on some reads!
I can heartily recommend a couple books that were my X-mas gifts from my brother: The Outliers: The Story of Success by Malcom Gladwell and Where Men Win Glory; the odyssey of Pat Tillman by Jon Krakauer. Both of these are non-fiction and are almost journalistic.
The Outliers: The Story of Success is not a self-help book or anything even close. The author's thrust is thus: "The Outliers," the most successful of the successful in any discipline, whether it be business or sports or mathematics or computers or whatever, require innate talent, passion, hard work, and dedication but, even more importantly, require a community that offers the chance at being successful, the timing to be just right, and, in some cases, that the month of their birth works in their favor. Sounds crazy, right? Birth month? WTF could astrology have to do with anything? (<---that was my first thought in reading the first example.)
Well, as it turns out, astrology has nothing to do with it. Unless you want to play Professional hockey. In a non-astrology-related way, lol. The author shows some programs of the rosters of the CJHL, the Canadian Junior Hockey League. These are the 17, 18, 19 year-old Professional hockey players from which the NHL gets most of their stars. (As a Red Wings fan, I'm well aware that Russians, Finns, Swedes, and Czechs pwn I but don't have the same info as I got from the book about the Canadians. And, in North America, at least, Pro Hockey, the NHL, is largely made up of Canadian players.)
The rosters of these teams are made up of players from everywhere in Canada, from big cities to the most remote outposts. The players vary in size and weight by position and while some come from wealthy families, others ate dirt for breakfast. But one thing is universal----at least 75% of the players have a birthday in January, February, or March. 84% were born in Jan., Feb., March or April. The author's conclusion from this? In Canada, like many countries, Jan. 1st is the cutoff day for a kid to start school. And it is in school that the vast majority of kids start playing sports. In Canada's case, most play hockey. So, a 13 year-old kid playing hockey in school could be playing with other 13 year-olds that are, almost literally, a year younger in growth, maturity, strength, etc. The travel teams of hockey, kind of like the first step towards going pro, naturally select the players that have the most success at the early age level and kids that are almost a year ahead in human growth usually outperform their younger teammates. Then, said player is no longer trained or coached like in a school, he/she gets the coaching/training of a travel team. Those travel teams have age cut-offs like in schools so, rinse and repeat, the kids in the same age-bracket on travel teams that are biologically closer to adulthood tend to out-perform their younger counter-parts, get picked for the next level where they get even better coaching/training and, BAM, most Pro hockey players are born within the first 4 months of the year. Crazy, eh?
Examples like this are throughout the book and some can make a person a bit uncomfortable because of cultural stereotypes and generalizations. I kinda bristled at a chapter that explored why "Chinese Youths Excel At Math." Sounds like a ridiculous premise based on ethnic stereotyping, right? Really? In this day and age? Stereotyping at it's worst. Until....
I never knew this but most words for numbers based on the Romance and Germanic languages are similar and, quite frankly, aren't conducive to math. In English, we say one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten, and....well, after that we lose our minds. Eleven, Twelve, Thirteen, etc... Spanish is uno, dos, tres, quatro, cinco, seis, siete, ocho, nueve, diez. Then Spanish loses its mind with 'once, doce, trece,' etc. And the Germanic? eins, zwel, drel, vler, funf, sechs, sieben, acht, neun, zehn, elf, zwolf, dreizehn, vierzehn, etc. Notice the pattern? Somewhere after ten, Western languages go off the rails with regard to how we assign words to numbers. Well, Cantonese and Mandarin don't work like that. The words for numbers in those languages are much more precise---eleven is translated as "1 ten plus 1." 55 is translated as "5 tens plus 5"
See where this is going? If you speak English, for example, look at this math question---"46+22=?" Whether we speak it aloud or our brain tells us to read those numbers and then figure out the sum, we think "What is 'Forty-six added to Twenty-two?' In Cantonese, they would read that same problem as "What is 4 tens plus 6 added to 2 tens plus 2?" The very asking of the question provides the construct for the answer because of the way the language asked it. The author of the book then posits, "is it any wonder that where you are born and the language you speak can influence your childhood mathematic aptitude? What 7 year old child, born in any country in the world, whose native tongue could be any on the face of the planet---which mathematical construct via language will that child deem most logical? 'Sixty-two plus thirteen' or '6 tens plus 2 added to 1 ten plus 3'?"
The book deals with lots of things like this----Bill Gates and Steve Jobs and Larry Ellison are interviewed and figure prominently into the premise. They talk about how many, many people had a passion for programming after the first time-shares came out and lots of others worked their asses off in the field---but the most important aspect of their success was "being born within the 'perfect years' of 1953-1957." The reason? Born before 1953, and with college educations in the computer field, they probably would've gone to work for IBM or the like, started families, and been fearful of jeopardizing all that when Popular Electronics' famous cover story on the Altair came out. Instead, they all had the programming practice but were young and unburdened enough to foolishly work on the idea of the Personal Computer. Timing.
The same goes for Rockefeller with steel just prior to the Industrial Revolution. Timing.
Many other examples of the uber-successful are explored and, even though the evidence provided by the author doesn't always satisfy the Method, he at least presents a treatise that is hard to disdain, let alone dismiss. A very interesting book. I guess it could be deigned more thoughtful or philosophical than realistic but, imho, that's not a sleight.
"Where Men Win Glory: the Odyssey of Pat Tillman" is probably going to be the closest account of Tillman's life compared to truth we'll ever get. For the uninitiated, Pat Tillman was a Professional Football player (American Football) for the Arizona Cardinals. He was not a superstar but was arguably in the top 5 of his position at Strong Safety out of 32 teams by his 3rd year in pro football. He played a full season (~ September to December) for his team after the September 11 attacks and then quit football to join the U.S. Army. In a nutshell, he believed that the U.S. war in Afghanistan was just and he enlisted in the armed forces.
The author, Jon Krakauer, isn't really a novelist. He's a guy that made his name as a rock-climber or mountain climber. Through a series of events that Gladwell would happily acknowledge, Krakauer became a writer for a U.S. magazine called 'Outside' after he was part of a disastrous Everest climb which took the lives of several people. He turned his journal about that climb into an article for Outside, then into a book, and then a movie, all of which were titled "Into Thin Air." A few years later, he read a small press-clipping about some kid that was found dead in a bus in Alaska and wrote the book "Into the Wild" which was eventually made into a movie by Sean Penn.
None of which should matter, but for Pat Tillman and his family, truth is everything. And Krakauer doesn't lie or invent narratives to fit some pre-determined story.
Despite the urging of the NFL and the U.S. State department, the latter of which desperately wanted a public face to attach to Bush's War on Terror and their recruitment goals, Tillman never granted a media interview after he and his brother enlisted.
In 2002, he's in Ft. Hood or Ft. Benning, Georgia, U.S., can't remember which, waiting and training to go to Afghanistan, when he hears that the U.S. is planning an invasion of Iraq. Tillman is livid. He writes in his journals that he felt invading Iraq would be "illegal as hell," the U.S. would be "acting imperially" and that the fight should go to Afghanistan. But, he writes, even "in a bullshit war that I will never agree with, my brother will likely be targeted and I'll follow orders and fight like no man to make sure he's safe."
In fact, the Tillman brothers are kept in the same group and go to Iraq but never were in combat there. But, while there, the propaganda of the Jessica Lynch story gets played and it plays very well. The American public are told that Private Lynch stormed an outpost, saved countless lives, and was taken hostage by the Iraqi insurgents. None of which, of course, was true. She was in a convoy that took a wrong turn, said convoy was attacked, and she was pulled to safety and treated in a hospital where her Iraqi "kidnappers" consisted of 4 doctors, a dozen nurses (5 of which gave her blood), and 1 armed guard that was there to prevent her room from being attacked. None of which matters, really, as anyone in America can tell you that "Private Lynch" was Rambo as far as we can remember.
Pat Tillman never saw action in Iraq and was given leave just prior to being assigned to a FOB in Afghanistan. While there, he was killed by friendly-fire. A dozen soldiers witnessed it but were ordered not to say a word. Neither in public nor to Pat's brother, a member of that platoon who was there when it happened; especially not to Pat's family.
A narrative was played out to Americans. The football star that gave up millions of dollars who died in Afghanistan storming an outpost that saved countless lives. None of which, of course, was true.
Even though the Tillman family is intensely private and has yet to speak with most media or grant interviews about what happened in Afghanistan, Pat Tillman's widow and several friends agreed to interviews with Krakauer because of the respect he showed to the McCandless family while writing "Into The Wild." The result is a book that is heartbreaking, inspirational, maddening, informative, historical, prescient, and, in the end, a fine meditation on the fallacy of assigning little tiny boxes to great big souls.
Author interview on The Daily Show----Here
Eniparadoxgma recommended the 2 Imajica books by Clive Barker and "The Glass Bead Game" by H. Hesse, all three of which I really enjoyed. I'd love some more from my friends here. For better or for worse, I get tons of free time to read at my job and would appreciate some book recs! TIA for the time. Happy New Year all!
Posted 31 December 2009 - 02:08 AM
The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy
The Norton Book of Nature Writing (College Edition) - excellent excellent read, full of WIN
(I'll think of more...much more...later)
Posted 31 December 2009 - 06:14 AM
That's one that I've heard is great but never got a chance to read. Thx for the reminder, Christo, will pick it up this weekend.
Posted 01 January 2010 - 10:35 PM
The other thing I want to recommend is the Hyperion/Endymion tetralogy by Dan Simmons. It consists of Hyperion, The Fall of Hyperion, Endymion, and The Rise of Endymion. I won't go into details, but suffice to say that it is epic in both scope and execution and something I also plan on rereading...again.
So those two things together equate to about 9 books or so. That should keep ya busy for a little bit.
Also worth checking out if you haven't: Notes from the Underground - Dostoevsky, Siddhartha and Narcissus Und Goldmund both by Hesse, Thus Spoke Zarathustra - Nietzsche, and No Exit and The Flies by Sartre (both plays).
Just throwin some things out there.
Posted 04 January 2010 - 11:35 PM
David Eddings (wow, he died last year)
Weis & Hickman (old school D&D fantasy)
Orson Scott Card
Oh, and if you like the fantasy genre like I do (and humor) check out Terry Pratchett (I read Thud! last year and loved it)
I think of more later.
Posted 06 January 2010 - 02:41 PM
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