Posts Tagged ‘list’

You Can Read These Books with Strings

August 3, 2011 - 11:08 pm No Comments

It is no secret that I am a huge fan of physics, and for some reason that intimidates people.  I have a new nickname at work, which has been used in jest, in earnest, and in mockery all: Lil Miss Science, usually followed by “over there”.

But here’s the real secret:

You can be too.

If you’ve ever logged on to my Goodreads account, you’ll see a slew of books on the subject, especially regarding physics of a quantum nature (though recently I’ve been branching out into pure mathematics and even geometry, Euclidian and non- both, but that’s a blog for another time).  Most of them have five stars, few of them have three or less.  And I am about to tell you which ones you can read off the bat, knowing only the maths you learned in high school.  Don’t scoff.  I failed algebra.  Twice.

In the Beginning:

If you really want broad, sweeping strokes, only touching on hard physics to get you prepared, start with Bill Bryson’s A Short History of Nearly Everything.  Ah, I can see you being intimidated again, stop that.  I read this one over the course of a week while on vacation in North Carolina (because that’s what you do on vacation).  Not only will this book brush you up on your physics, the title is not really a lie – it’s got a little bit of everything in there, though it’s steered mostly toward the natural sciences.  And it’s clever.  And you’ll enjoy it.

For a more focused but still broad overview, try Simon Singh’s The Big Bang: The Origin of the Universe.  This was something I read in college while sitting alone in the cafeteria, busily not making friends.  Everything is explained clearly, and while it does get into a few technicalities, there are helpful pictures and charts, and if you don’t follow the math exactly (fuck, no one does) that’s perfectly okay, you’ll get more than the gist of it.

I Have the Science Channel and I Have Seen The Universe:

So you actually know what I’m going on about when I say quantum entanglement and dark matter.  Then you should read A Zeptospace Odyssey: A Journey into the Physics of the LHC by Gian Francesco Giudice.  Do not take it lightly when I say I have not been this impressed with a book – nonwithstanding a technical book – since I read House of Leaves.  And Maker above this is about nine trillion times easier to understand.  Giudice ties everything to easy-to-understand concepts and even popular culture, from Sherlock Holmes to the power output of the engine in a Ferrari Scuderia (he uses that last one for the mass to energy ratio, you’ll like it).  And you’ll get to learn fun facts like, if the LHC (Large Hadron Collider) was constructed entirely out of Swiss chocolate, it would have cost the same to build. This is what would happen if I was actually a physicist, binged on Top Gear, and then wrote a book.  Except you can actually understand A Zeptospace Odyssey. I laughed.  Out loud.  While reading this book.  To make it all the more impressive, this book was written by a native speaker of Italian.  In English.  You may commence feeling like a failure… now.

And if you haven’t already, read Stephen Hawking’s A Brief History of Time and The Universe in a Nutshell.  There are not difficult books.  I promise.  And if you get the fancy version, they have really nice pictures.  And Star Trek references!

I Have Made a Schrodinger’s Equation Cake:

No, really.  I have.

And if you’re like me, you’ll want to read Not Even Wrong: The Failure of String Theory and the Search for Unity in Physical Law.  You may begin to feel a little intimidated, and this time it’s justified.  I’ll admit, there were parts of this book that I skimmed, but it’s not hard to get what the author, Peter Woit, is saying at all.  Though the math is a bit weeooweeoo scary, the points are clearly and concisely covered, and with a tinge of dark humor as well.  It’s always good to understand the alternate theories in physics today, if you’re interested in any of them, and string theory, despite its myriad Nova Science Now specials, honestly does come up a bit short.  Should we entirely discount it?  I don’t know, read the book and decide for yourself.

I Breathe Math:

I don’t.  This one was beyond me but there was so much good stuff in it I plowed through until I simply felt like taking a bath with a hair dryer: Nothingness: The Science of Empty Space by Henning Genz starts off easy-peasy, but about halfway through I knew I’d gotten everything out of this book I possibly could.  It starts pretty much where all the others leave off: the details.  I believe particle spin is introduced in chapter 2 or 3 and while I have a (tentative) grasp on that, there’s a point where even I shake my head, sigh, and make a special, defeatist library trip.  That all said, what I did understand was definitely worth the trouble.  It’s fascinating to learn about all the weird things that happen in what we considered to be The Vacuum of Spaaaaaace.  If you’re into that, give it an honest effort.  I did.

So there you go.  Physics is phun.  I swear.  And hell, you might even learn something.

50 Book Challenge

January 6, 2011 - 3:41 pm No Comments

So, Angie (you’ll remember her from previous posts) challenged me – and herself – to read and review at least 50 books this year, and of course, I accepted.   I figure it’s a good way to get more active on the blog and be more social in the literary community, so keep an eye out for at least 50 more posts this year!

(Speaking of being more social, I’ve currently joined up on Goodreads, so if you want to friend me there to check out what I’m reading as it happens, find me as  – you guessed it – Paperclippe.  Let me know who you are and how you found me and I’ll happily friend you right back!)

Already this year I’ve finished 4 books and will probably be blogging about at least half of them.  They are (were)

  • Galactic North by Alastair Reynolds
  • The Hellbound Heart by Clive Barker
  • Skeleton Crew by Stephen King
  • Audition by Ryu Murakami

And I finished a good few during the holidays (thanks to my shiny new kindle oh my god it is more awesome than I ever could have imagined) but unfortunately those don’t count toward the 50 book challenge.  They may, however, get blogged about at some point.

All for now.  Keep an eye out, I don’t plan on being as big of a slacker as I’ve been lately (but how many times have I said that before).

Books and books and books.

May 5, 2010 - 11:44 am 3 Comments

As you may or may not have assumed by the title, I myself am a huge fan of reading. Thanks to the wonderfully magnificent Kristen at (be more awesome, curb the suckage), who I am constantly pleased to have as a friend, I’ve decided, since I can rarely otherwise decide on a blog-worthy topic lest I go on and on about what I had for lunch, I shall blog about the myriad books I rescue from the library.

The thing being.

I rarely have much to say about most books, unless they’re particularly good (or particularly bad). As such, I’ve devised a system. Each time a receive a book, be it from the library, as a gift, or actually having spent my hard-earned money, I’ll update a list. Books that are particularly good (or bad) will be blogged about on the whole; otherwise, I will simply update the list with the title, author, a brief summary, general thoughts, and whether or not you should give it a look-see.

I’ll split the list up into four categories: Currently Reading (self-explanatory), Finished (also pretty clear), Back to the Bin (books I wasn’t interested in enough to continue reading after 50 or so pages), or Waitlisted (books I’ve got with me but haven’t yet started). I’m including the Waitlisted category in case I pick up something good that you, yes you, reader, recognize and can leave a comment like “Make sure you get to (whatever book),” since a lot of the time Waitlisted books end up going back to the library if I can’t get to them quickly enough.  I typically take out way more books than I’ll ever have time to read; that way, if a disproportionate number of them are Back to the Bin or shorter than normal, I don’t have to sit around twiddling my thumbs should I actually run out of them.

I believe I’m also going to start doing the same thing with albums, but that’s another blog post for another day.

So, without further adieu, here is this installment’s list:

Currently Reading

  • *Omega Minor by Paul Verhaeghen: I’ll be honest, I’m eighty pages in and I’m not really sure what this book is about.  So far, we’ve covered Nazis, quantum physics, sex, behavioural psych, and lush descriptions of the German country side.  That being said, this book is almost 700 pages long with some of the tiniest print I’ve ever seen.  It’s huge, it’s elaborate, and it has a tendency to digress.  Of course, I love it.  If you’re into that sort of thing, give it a good, strong chance, but if you can’t abide by translations, pointless banter, or a hearty helping of the f-word, pass it up.
  • *Dagon and Other Macabre Tales by H.P. Lovecraft:  Look, it’s Lovecraft, do I really have to get into this?  Of course, this is a collection of his less-popular works, so I’m actually probably going to give it a good, solid review when I’m through with it.  Until that point, it’s Lovecraft.
  • *Halting State by Charless Stross:  I’m really enjoying this.  The plot involves the theft of the contents of a bank in a World of Warcraft-esque world called Avalon Four, and how, since these games are so invasive to such a wide and important market, this could drastically upset a real-world economy.  It’s set a bit in the future, has lots of UK slang, and is in the second person.  If nothing else, it’s a really strange read, with a lot of good, nerdy humour.


  • *Mister B. Gone by Clive Barker:  If the words “Clive Barker” didn’t get you, then the opening sentence should: “BURN THIS BOOK.”  A story told by the world’s most incompetent demon, who is the book.  That’s right.  Is the book.  If I say too much more, I’ll give something away, for sure, so all I can say is, if you have a free few hours (that’s all it took me, both because it’s not terribly long and also because I didn’t put it down for hour-long stretches), read it.  It’s worth it.  It’s funny as hell.  This may get a full review at a later date, if I can find a way to do it without spoiling the whole thing.
  • *The Neverending Story by Michael Ende: I had a deprived childhood.  I’d never seen the movie.  I’d never read the book.  This was sitting on the shelf, I nabbed it, and finished it quickly.  It’s a story (for those of you who were as deprived as me) about a world known as Fantastica and how humans influence this world, and vice-versa.  I will say this: the first half of the book, the story of Atreyu, was one of the most compelling pieces of YA fiction I have ever read.  The second half, the story of Bastian, I could have taken or left.  The kid is simply too trite and whiny, and in such a fashion that he makes you want to strangle him.  Avoiding as much of a spoiler as I can (once again, for the six people who’ve never seen the movie), I almost wanted him to fail.  I wanted someone or something to kill him just so I could say, “HAH! SEE? YOU’RE A FUCKING FAILURE OF A HUMAN BEING.”  Maybe the movie is different, I still haven’t seen it.  I say read it, but if you find yourself in the second part and completely unmoved to finish it, don’t bother.  You’re not missing much.

Back to the Bin

  • *Sorceress by Lisa Jackson: This was a smutty romance, so I wasn’t expecting much.  It’s not even that the story was particularly bad; on the contrary, it could have been a legitimate novel if the author’s style wasn’t so amateurish, the characters so flat and obvious (and for those of you who think all romance is that way, you’re sorely mistaken, I promise).  Actually made it a hundred pages in, then put it down one night before bed, and never cared to pick it up again.
  • *The One Marvelous Thing by Rikki Ducornet:  A collection of short-stories.  Not much bad to say, her style just didn’t tickle my fancy.  Too abridged.


  • *The Word of God by Thomas M. Disch: This man wrote The Brave Little Toaster.  I didn’t know there was a book.
  • *A Visible Darkness by Michael Gregorio
  • *Unfinished Tales (Of Numenor and Middle Earth) by J.R.R. Tolkien: Yes. I’m one of those people.
  • *The Endless Forest by Sara Donati
  • *Angel Time by Anne Rice: Her latest work.  Got a few pages in, but wasn’t in the mood.  It feels very like The Witching Hour, at least stylistically.  Will try again later, but it goes back to the library today.

All for now! More books (and music and movies, very possibly) later!

[EDIT: On a style note: apparently bullet points don't work in this theme, so the asterisks are there as place keepers so I don't have to edit this post should I change the theme.]