Saturday, February 21, 2009

The Pluto Files by Neil DeGrasse Tyson

Tyson is always a favorite guest on The Daily Show and this book was discussed on his last interview with Jon Stewart. Library to the rescue!

There are 9 chapters to this fairly short book, all done with wit and an obvious love of science. Tyson goes over Pluto's history, how Pluto was received in our culture, and the descent of how Pluto lost his status as our 9th planet.

Apparently Americans really love Pluto, not only because of it's association with Disney's dog, but because an American discovered Pluto back in 1930 by New Mexican Clyde Tombaugh, a 24 year old farmboy. Tombaugh lived to his 90s to see how Pluto was about to be reclassified and fought it tooth and nail. Ergo, America discovered a planet and it shouldn't be taken away.

The trouble with planets is...a definition for planets was never ever set in stone. In the '00s, the International Astronomical Union began devising a concrete definition for a planet. In 2006, it was determined that Pluto did not meet the new definition - mostly because it didn't clear its own orbit of debris.

This is an excellent book that makes science a lot easier to understand and offsets the jargon with comical letters from outraged children. Tyson has an opinion at the end that suggests a new way of teaching kids about the solar system so that its not only planets that get their day in the to speak.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

A Year in the Merde by Stephen Clarke

This is a fictional story about an Englishman brought to Paris by the VD company to open up some English tea rooms. This is pretty much a typical fish out of water story, with the English guy, Paul, trying to figure out how to get along with Parisians and learn the language and get laid. The latter being his main goal.

There were some laugh out loud moments and this was a pretty quick read. The plot was okay, somewhat disappearing with Paul's quest for French woman.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

new additions!

Through the library book fair I've added to my library! And only for $9
930 books total now. I just need time to read them all.

New additions:

The Brooklyn Follies: A Novel by Paul Auster

Mandala: A Novel of India by Pearl S. Buck

Resurrection Men: An Inspector Rebus Novel by Ian Rankin

The House of the Spirits by Isabel Allende

The Sinister Pig by Tony Hillerman

A Quiver Full of Arrows by Jeffrey Archer

Main Street by Sinclair Lewis by Sinclair Lewis

From Rags to Bitches: An Autobiography by Mr. Blackwell

Friday, February 6, 2009

Just After Sunset by Stephen King

Stephen has been on my shitlist recently. Finally though, a book of short stories, exactly what I was craving from him. Luckily, this didn't disappoint.

King has a distinct knack for short stories, drawing you in and scaring the bejeebus out of you that he just didn't do in his later novels. In short stories, you have such a limited space to tell your story so you have to be a bit more adept with words. My favorite stories are the ones that plop you right in the middle of a situation and then pulls you right back out again. Haruki Murakami is excellent at this.

King manages to creep the reader (ME!) out by merely suggesting a situation. For example, the story N. gave me creepies that disturbed my sleep simply by telling a story of a guy going to a shrink. The story was told by the shrink's notes and depicted a patient who had severe OCD and firmly believed that a field he had went to was possessed. That's the story, big deal, right? No, the suggestion of what the character believed was happening was enough to put the thought into the readers head. If you look at the story, it's just what a patient tells his shrink - with some dire outcomes. But still, NOTHING really happens. But I was still creeped out.

I really liked Willa although King admitted in his notes it wasn't the best (it wasn't) and The New York Times at Special Bargain Rates was on par with Willa. What happens after death is a special playground for writers with vivid imaginations.

The Cat From Hell reinforced my sincere dislike of the feline variety.

The Things They Left Behind would have pushed me over the edge, had it actually happened to me.

And lastly, of my favorites, The Gingerbread Girl actually made me hold my breath.

Good show, old man. This was a really good collection of what you do best.