N Armstrong, Karen – “A History of God” - Surveying the theological history of Judaism, Christianity and Islam in a single volume is an ambitious task, but Armstrong succeeds admirably well. She begins her account in Mesopotamia linking Marduk , the Canaanite Baal, Abraham’s El Shaddai (God of the Mountains) and Moses’ Yahweh. The accounts of God in the Pentateuch make it clear that monotheism emerged late in Jewish history and was securely established during the exile in Babylon. Armstrong argues that Judaism’s development shares common themes with Christianity and Islam. The breadth of theology encompassed within each tradition is astounding. At times, God has been viewed as an omniscient, but highly impersonal, logical and distant entity – a God of the Philosophers – while at there is a strong history of mysticism as well. While Armstrong recounts developments clearly and interestingly, she does not go into detailed explanations as to why views of God were changing. This weakness is particularly evident in the latter portions of the book discussing the enlightenment and subsequent secularization of philosophy and society. Armstrong’s contention that our views of God draw heavily on our internal conceptions of the world and are thereby a human construct, is well supported. While clearly valuing the divine, Armstrong is less willing to consider if the concepts shared across culture are in turn inspired by God. She believes we need to construct a new spirituality to replace the dying monotheistic faiths and the ineffectual atheism of the present secular age.
Bainton, R. - "Christianity" - An interesting, relatively unbiassed record of the history of the Christian Church. For a novice, such as myself, there were a number of interesting features to the book. The brief introduction to the history of the Jewish faith is fascinating, as is the early history of the Church under the Roman Empire. There are too many interesting ideas to mention, but here are a few to consider. Roman Emperors alternately attached and ignored the Church, but it is fair to say that conscientious emperors burnt more Christians. Without the credibility gained by these martyrs, it is difficult to imagine the Church spreading as rapidly or as far as it did. In Roman times, Christian morality was considered a distinct threat to the state and their ascetic, pacifist stance was not appreciated. It took a mere 500 years before the church would persecute heretics for holding almost identical positions. The Christian faith is so large, and diverse, that regrettably this text is forced to ignore many movements and sectors of history, but it does cover all the common events. Still, it would be nice to know a little more of the history of the Eastern Orthodox Church, or the nature of religion in the Americas. Despite this shortcoming, the text is interesting and informative. While corruption and vice are rife in the history of the church, honest and honourable men continued to think and care enough to vehemently disagree over the Scriptures and their meaning for our lives. Francis, Dominic, Benedict and Luther followed God in unique and conflicting ways, yet they may all have been right. And who would have known that Luther's marriage was mostly to keep his parents happy and to protect the fate of a former nun, or that he was confident his dog would go to heaven.
Barry, John M. – “Rising Tide” – An account of the great Mississippi flood of 1927, Barry also describes the culture of the Mississippi Delta and the development of the river before the flood. The most fascinating character in his story is Captain James Eads, who made his first fortune salvaging riverboat wrecks, built ironclad gunboats during the American Civil War, constructed the world’s longest (2km) and first steel bridge crossing the Mississippi at St Louis (1874) and opened the mouth of the Mississippi at South Pass with a system of jetties (1879). The last two of these projects brought him into conflict with Andrew Humphreys, Chief of the Army Corps of Engineers. However, one point both men agreed upon was that levees alone are not the best tool for controlling flooding. Despite this, in the following decades the US Army Corp adopted a “levees-only” approach and even blocked off natural river outlets so as to increase the “natural scouring action” of floodwaters. With increasing height of successive floods, levees were incrementally enlarged until many exceeding the height of 4 story buildings. During the record floods of 1927, catatstrophic failure of hundreds of these levees resulted in the flooding of almost the entire delta with the river achieving a width of 100km and depths up to 10m in low-lying regions. Although these breaches would have prevent widespread flooding near the mouth of the river, in New Orleans a group of bankers obtained permission to dynamite levees in neighboring St Bernard’s Parish so as to re-establish investor confidence. The consequences of the flood were immense. Although hundreds of thousands of people were driven from their homes, under pressure from landowners over 300,000 black sharecroppers were kept in “concentration camps” atop levees and forced to work as unpaid laborers. This was a powerful factor in driving the migration of African Americans from the Mississippi delta to northern US cities and profoundly altered the economy of the Mississippi Delta. The flood relief effort was directed by US Secretary of Commerce, Herbert Hoover, and played a substantial role in his subsequent election as president in 1928. Widespread anger within Louisiana over New Orleans’ actions also contributed to the election of Huey Long as state governor. Finally, the flood cemented US federal control over the Mississippi river.
Barth, Karl - "Prayer and Preaching" - Karl Barth was a major Protestant theologian of the first half of the 20th century and this short book is a very brief compilation of some seminars given by Profesor Barth. The book discusses the Reformers' approach to prayer, the Reformers' interpretation of the Lord's Prayer, a few notes on Preaching and some sermon outlines. The book is very readable, and quite interesting, although it doesn't have the length or inclination to pursue any question to great depth.
de Beauvoir, Simone – “The Second Sex” – A seminal contribution to feminist literature, “The Second Sex”does not advocate a political or social program, but rather sought to analyse the position of women. Much of it is just a little dated. Today it’s unlikely a book will have chapters outlining the view of “psychoanalysis” or “historical materialism”. Furthermore, the review of woman in history and literature in Book I now seems de rigour. In Book II, though, de Beauvoir examines French society of her day – how females are socialized into women, and the roles of women in society. Today her arguments about the inequality of these roles seem obvious but remain as prevalent today as in 1949. Interestingly, there is no chapter on “Woman in Work”. de Beauvoir concludes by presenting her vision for the future in which independence ensures more equal and fulfilling relationships.
Beethoven, L. - Violin Concerto in D Major - Joshua Bell's cadenza's for this were excellent.
Bernanos, Georges – “Diary of a Country Priest” – The protagonist of the diary is a young priest, fresh out of seminary. Having grown up in poverty, the priesthood is a true calling and he embraces his parish with open arms. The villagers see religion as just a part of life, rather than its focus, and are less than thrilled by his fervor. His sickly pallor is taken for alcoholism and even the children spread nasty rumors. Drawn into a complicated domestic situation involving the count, his daughter, her governess and the countess, the priest’s refusal to accept dishonesty or hypocrisy earns the enmity of all parties. Soon afterwards, his illness worsens and he dies from stomach cancer.
Berne, Eric - "The Games People Play" - Eric Berne was part of the psychological vanguard of transactional analysis, and probably one of the smartest authors in the bunch. The initial chapters of the book are captivating. Berne's central thesis is that for whatever reason, humans require organization of their time, and social contact. Their training and practice as children is in how to acquire these two commodities. He also puts forward the proposition that most people have three well developed types of ego state - Parent, Adult and Child. Happiness is achieved when all three are given full range, and also when sufficient feedback is received from social interaction. People attempt to fulfill their organizational and social needs through rituals, pastimes, games and intimacy. Rituals are the short exchanges which occur between people who are barely acquainted. By acknowledging each other's existence, psychological good results. Pastimes are played with acquaintances, and give us the chance to evaluate one another through rounds of "Ever Been" or "How do You" or "What happened with". From pastimes, people select friends to play games with, such as "Why don't you , yes but" and "Let's you and him fight". Game playing is usually negative, as the rules usually work so that in addition to the required feed-back, negative psychological tension is created. While Bern's analysis of games is sharp, his proposed solutions do not sound nearly as impressive in print, although they probably work with proper application. The hopeful message to be drawn from the book is that by a conscious effort, it is possible to detect ones motivations, and to devise strategies to improve.
Berne, Eric - "What do you say after you say hello" - An interesting sequel to "The Games People Play". Many social interactions that people engage in are driven by ulterior motives which contradict the apparent reason for the interaction. In this book, Berne attempts to describe the origin of those ulterior motives. The human species, he maintains, is unique in that we acquire so many skills after birth. While the ideal view is that we merely acquire skills ideas - can fractionate the Parent, Adult and Child. - gain a script for life from early observations of parents. - Scripts control marriage, work, illness, death, number of children and so on. - Basic scripts have Winner, Loser and non-Winner positions. - Scripts often promise release with a when, until etc. Like being good for Santa Claus - Early childhood determines how script is to be played, including the antiscript. - In later childhood casting takes place. Develop practice in games, acquiring trading stamps and build a useful persona. - Adolescence and later life permit the addition of a philosophy to match script. - Scripts can include ... - Mechanisms for script enactment include, the expressiveness of the human face, the ability to project through different ego states, imprinting, psychological pre and post tension of a script element, the general acquiescence of others to script elements, and finally, the internal dialogue which occurs in our heads. - The interesting feature of script transmission is how we decide on a script. Often, the means is given by the father and the script by the mother for a boy, and vice versa for girls.
Bernhard, Thomas – “Old Masters” - A monologue by Atzbacher describing the views of Reger, a music critic. Between the two of them, Atzbacher and Reger have strong views on art, literature, music, the Austrian state, the dirtyness of Austrians, bungling doctors, snobbery, the literary potential of Stifter, the irrelevance of Heidegger and much more. Reger’s opinions are highly entertaining, firmly asserted and self-contradictory.
Bernhard, Thomas – “Gargoyles” – Having returned home to spend a weekend with his widowed father, a doctor, and sister, a university student accompanies his father for the day as he visits a succession of patients. The daily rounds through forbidding, mountainous country brings them to a succession of “gargoyles” – the doctor’s patients. The last, a paranoid prince, delivers a hundred page monologue to conclude the novel.
Bertolini, G. and Coche, A. - "Semiconductor Devices" - One of the original books on semiconductor detectors for X-ray, Gamma-ray and other high energy physics applications. Heavily dated, but still Sol Gruner's preferred reference for this subject.
Bizot, Francois - "The Gate" - "Le Portail" - Bizot describes he experiences of the destruction of Cambodia by the Khmer Rouge. In 1971, while studying Buddhism in Cambodia, Francois Bizot and two Khmer colleagues were captured by the Khmer Rouge and sent to a prison camp at Anlong Veng. Suspecting Bizot worked for the CIA, senior Khmer leaders ordered his execution. However, the prison camp director, Ta Douch, came to believe Bizot's story and after three months, finally convinced his superiors of Bizot's innocence. Jumping to 1975, Bizot next describes his experiences during the fall of Phnom Penh. At the same time as they were driving all Khmer people out of the city, Khmer Rouge forces gathered all foreigners at the French Embassy. For the two weeks while the Khmer forces arranged a convoy of trucks to the Thai border, Bizot acted as translator and intercessory for the foreigners and was the only foreigner permitted to leave the embassy grounds. The expulsion was particularly heartbreaking because the Khmer Rouge would only permit people with foreign passports to leave. Finally, Bizot recounts his visit Cambodia in 2000 in which he was able to meet the very men who arrested him in 1971.
Bolles, Richard Nelson - "What Colour is your Parachute" - A brief, and very popular guide, to career hunting. Much of the advice is obvious, inapplicable or questionable, but the basic themes and ideas are very sound. In addition, the book is filled with useful references and suggestions for an enormous range of careers. Probably of greatest use to the person with no idea of what they want to do, it still has helpful suggestions for most people when they feel it is time to change their present occupation.
Bolt, Robert - "A Man For All Seasons" - A dramatization of the execution of Sir Thomas More by Henry VIII for More's refusal to endorse his divorce of Catherine of Aragon. More is portrayed as a man of principle unwilling to acquiesce to the king. More's rival, Thomas Cromwell, exploit Henry's displeasure to have More removed from his position as Lord Chancellor. The Duke of Norfolk encourages his friend to compromise, but More refuses to budge. Richard Rich, a former beneficiary of More's, turns to Thomas Cromwell to advance his career. When Cromwell charges More with treason the conviction hinges on Rich's false evidence.
Brenner, Charles - "An Elementary Textbook of Psychoanalysis" - What is the common man to make of psychology. Whatever the truth may be, Freud's ideas of the unconscious, repression, sexual drives and sphincters are a part of Western culture. Even Freud's opponents now rely upon many of the schema and methodologies he devised to explore the inner workings of the human mind. Written in 1955 by a confirmed Freudian, "An Elementary Textbook of Psychoanlysis" explains for the layman how sex, the Id and dreams all fit together. Freud's great triumph was the exploration of the unconscious. Conflict between Id, Ego and SuperEgo underlay much of Freud's mental world and he documented the use of repression, projection, denial and sublimation of desire. His examination of dreams, wit, slips and unearthing psychic conflict have entered popular culture. Judging Freud's models, though, is more problematic. Is everyone in the grip of the Oedipus complex? Must every rationalization hide a secret motive? Despite this, though, Brenner's book remains an interesting and concise outline of Freud's thinking and reveals much of the methodology used to assemble traditional psychoanalysis.
Brenner, Sydney - "My Life in Science" - Although far from a work of literature, Brenner does an excellent job describing his scientific career. While many scientists make their name in only a single field of study, Brenner has successfully addressed many of the scientific questions that intrigued him. His early work was in phage genetics. Working with Francis Crick and Jacques Monod he soon saw ways to apply them to understanding the mechanics of DNA. With phage he was able to show both the existence of messenger RNA and the triplet nature of the DNA code. Desiring new challenges, Brenner branched into developmental biology. After a lengthy search he settled on C. elegans as a model organism and fathered an entire field of scientific study. More recently, Brenner championed the sequencing of the Fugu genome which lacks the huge intron content of the human genome. He certainly has a unique perspective and talent for science.
Brenner, Sydney - "Loose Ends" - A collection of short essays on various aspects of science. Quite entertaining and rather cynical.
Buchan, John - "The Thirty-Nine Steps" - "The Thirty-Nine Steps" is an adventure story narrated by Richard Hannay, a mining engineer out in Rhodesia who has recently settled in London. Returning home one evening, Hannay is accosted by an American, Scudder, who asks to speak with him. Scudder claims to be pursued by spies plotting to assassinate the Greek premier in three weeks time. Intrigued, Hannay offers to let Scudder hide in his flat. Several days later Hannay finds Scudder's body when he returns to the flat. Worried the police will suspect he is the murderer, Hannay decides to track down the spies himself. He finds Scudder's notebook, slips out of his flat and catches the morning train to Scotland so as to elude both the spies and the police. Settling at an inn, Hannay deciphers Scudder's notes to learn that the spies actually intend to steal British naval secrets through a plan involving "thirty-nine steps", whatever that might mean. When two strange men arrive at the inn, Hannay flees in their car. Pursued by a monoplane, Hannay crashes while swerving to avoid an oncoming car. Sir Harry, a local politician, is the driver of the other car and he kindly takes Hannay to his home. After listening to Hannay's story, Sir Harry writes him a letter of introduction to the Permanent Secretary of the Foreign Office. Setting out the next morning, Hannay is soon spotted by the monoplane. While seeking a hiding place, Hannay comes across a drunk roadman, Turnbull, and offers to fill in for him while Turnbull sleeps off a hangover. The roadman's jacket and a thick Scottish accent are a sufficient disguise for Hannay when two spies stop to question him. The next day, though, local gameskeepers take up the search for the fugitive and Hannay must hide into a house. To his vast surprise, he has stumbled across the spies who locked in a storeroom. Injured during his escape from the storeroom, Hannay returns to Turnbull's cottage to reclaim his clothes and the old roadman cares for him while he recovers. Finally, Hannay is able to travel to the country retreat of the Permanent Secretary, Sir Walter, who asks Hannay to help Scotland Yard catch the spies. At an important meeting in London, Hannay recognizes a high-ranking English official is an imposter, and is actually one of his pursuers from Scotland. Believing the spies will try to sail to Germany to deliver their secrets in person, Hannay realizes the "thirty-nine steps" and "high tide at 10:17pm" refer to the chalk cliffs of Kent, where staircases run from each villa to the water. Accompanied by men from Scotland Yard, Hannay finds the house and the spies are arrested.
Bulgakov, Mikhail – “The Master and Margarita” – Written under Stalin’s censorship and not published until two decades after his death, Bulgakov’s “Master and Margarita” is a remarkable novel. The plot evades easy description. The devil visits Moscow in the guise of Woland, Professor of Black Magic, takes over an apartment, performs a magic show at “The Variety” and hosts a Satanic ball. Pandemonium ensues as the authorities battle with the supernatural chaos. Margarita, though, is thrilled by an approach from the devil’s emissary. She has despaired of life as her lover, the Master, vanished upon completing a novel about Pontius Pilate. Reunited by the Devil, the Master and Margarita depart the pains of this world for the peace of eternity. Bulgakov’s writing is superb with vivid characters and continuous stream of comic scenes whether it’s the poet and professor’s duel at the mental hospital, Nikanor Ivanovich’s dream of Foreign Currency Theatre or the bizarre happenings at Apartment No 50.
Burgess, Anthony - "The Doctor is Sick" - The author of "The Clockwork Orange" has produced a fun, and interesting novel. It commences as Edwin Spindrift, doctor of etymology is about to undergo neurosurgery on a benign tumour. His uncomfortable time in the ward, along with his unpleasant marriage lead him to seek escape. In a coma following the operation, he travels on a fantastic voyage that seems so real he is unaware that he really hasn't escaped from the hospital. During his adventures, he meets Bob the masochistic Kettle mobster, the fantastic Stone brothers and their illegal drinking club, Charlie the resourceful window-cleaner and even wins the "Bald Adonis of Greater London" competition. The extreme exuberance and energy of Burgess's writing carries you through Edwin's dream at a dizzy speed. Anyone who can write, "Edwin said a few words successively to Ezra, Habbakuk, Elijah, Jeremiah and Isaiah, then felt weak, hungry and tired" is a talented technician. At the novel's end, though, one must wonder what to make of Edwin's exciting fantasy. "The Doctor is Sick" is such an energetic tale, though, that it leaves indelible memories.
Campbell, Joseph – “The Hero with a Thousand Faces” – Written in 1949, “The Hero with a Thousand Faces” surveys world mythology to identify and illustrate the common themes and concerns common to all cultures. Part one focusses on the heroic adventures, and the narrative form and tools that are common to these tales. Heroes must be called to their adventure, aided to the point where the natural world ceases, initiated of blessed with special powers to assist them in their quest in the un-natural realm and then return to normal world, usually with a boon or gift. Encounters with father or mother figures abound and most interactions follow standard archetypes. The second section of the book addresses cosmology as expressed through myth, with the formation of world from void to the role of hero as redeemer of that world. Finally, Campbell speculates on the role of myth in past societies, and the need for myths in our own so may transcend the limitations of time and successfully navigate the inevitable crises of life. The book is fascinating to read and recounts myths from a myriad of cultures with striking similarities and differences. While the topic is far too broad to be successfully encompassed in a single book, Campbell has made an excellent introduction. The language of Freudian psychology has dated badly and at times he appears to be babbling, but the myths themselves give the book enduring worth.
Camus, Albert – “The Plague” - The narrator, Dr Bernard Rieux, describes a plague outbreak in the 1940s that closes the town of Oran, Algeria, for a period of ten months. Like ripples in a pond, the effects of the pandemic grow. Some perceive the plague as God’s will; others wish to flee. As the suffering spreads with no clear end in sight, the town slowly unifies against a shadowy foe. Losing his wife and close friends, Dr Rieux resolves to bear witness to the injustice.
Camus, Albert – “The Stranger” – “L’Etranger” – “The Stranger” is narrated by Meursault, a young man living in Algiers. Lonely and bored, Meursault has little ambition and just enough understanding of those around him to realize he is very much alone. In a confrontation on the beach Meursault impulsively shoots a man armed with a knife and is charged with murder. At the trial, the prosecutor and jury interpret Meursault’s impassiveness as a callous, remorseless nature and sentence him to death by decapitation. Awaiting execution, Meursault ponders what consequence life can have when death is inevitable. He vehemently rejects the proffered faith of the prison chaplain, preferring to accept the universe as benign but indifferent.
Cather, Willa - "Death Comes for the Archbishop" - An interesting, if dated, novelization of the establishment of the Catholic church in New Mexico as viewed through the eyes of Father Latour, the first Catholic Bishop of the area. With the help of his vicar, Father Vaillant, he spreads the gospel, performs mass, encounters friends, aids the poor, reforms corrupt churches, establishes local priests, builds his cathedral and humanizes the new American territories. The pace is well set and the story narrated in a fun and engaging tone, even if our Catholic heroes rarely, if ever, set a foot wrong.
Chekov, Anton – “The Lady with the Dog” - Recounts the love affair of Dmitri Gurov with Anna Sergeyevna. They meet on holiday at Yalta and have a brief affair. After returning to Moscow and his family, Gurov realizes how strongly he is attracted to her and seeks Anna out in her home town and they agree to meet regularly in Moscow. Checkov has a delicate touch for establishing scenes and emotions.
Chekov, Anton – “Uncle Vanya” – A situational drama, “Uncle Vanya” is set in a country house filled with unhappy relatives. Maria’s son, Vanya, and grand-daughter Sonya, run the estate. Proceeds from the estate have long supported the work of Maria’s son-in-law, Professor Serebryakov. He has recently retired to the estate with his second (,young) wife, Yelena, and imposes greatly upon the household. Indeed, everyone is unhappy. Vanya resents spending his life supporting the professor’s research. Sonya is in love with Dr Astrov, but he is only attracted by the beauty of Yelena. Yelena, sensing the hostility of the household and the attentions of Astrov, wishes to escape. Serebryakov, unconscious of the large debt he owes to the household, proposes to sell the estate to establish a small house in Finland. Vanya revolts, the professor relents and departs with his wife, leaving Astrov, Sonya and Vanya to resume their unfulfilling lives.
Chesterton, G.K. – “The Man Who Was Thursday – A Nightmare” – A captivating if unusual novel, “The Man Who Was Thursday” was a response to the anarchist movement of the late 19th century. The story begins at sunset in a park in London with two poets arguing. Mr Gabriel Syme infuriates Mr Lucian Gregory by suggesting that Gregory is not a sincere anarchist. Demanding Syme accompany him and keep anything he learns a secret, Gregory takes Syme to an anarchist assembly and boasts that he is soon to be elected to the seven person Central Anarchist Council. Syme, in turn, startles Gregory by divulging that he is a policeman and in a swift manoeuvre, derails the election of Gregory and is himself appointed to the Central Anarchist Council as “Thursday”. Syme meets his fellow conspirators the following morning, is terrified by council president, “Sunday”, and departs fearing that he will soon be uncovered by his fellow anarchists. In a series of comic adventures, Syme discovers his fellow councilors are also policeman. Together, the policemen confront Sunday only to be lead on a frenzied chase through London and into the countryside. Arriving at the estate of Sunday, they are welcomed and invited to a mystical feast. Shortly thereafter, Syme awakes from his dream.
Clavell, James - "Shogun" - A historical novel set in Japan at the dawn of the seventeenth century, just as the Tokugawa Shogunate was being established. John Blackthorne, pilot of a Dutch fleet that has sailed through the Magellan Straits using stolen Portugese rutters lands in Japan with only a handful of men. The story traces his adventures as he slowly becomes of immense use to Toranaga (Tokugawa) in his struggle for the Shogunate. The history contained in the novel is moderately accurate, the insight into Japanese society sound, and the story-telling solid, if not superb. Perhaps the greatest weakness of the story is the romance, but aside from this, it is an interesting tale, and certainly the best work of the author.
Coetzee, J. M. - "Waiting for the Barbarians" - The narrator, a magistrate of a frontier settlement, describes the consequences of a small raid by barbarians. An officer dispatched from the empire's capital, Colonel Joll, suspects the barbarian tribes may be preparing for war. Joll captures barbarians near the settlement and returns to torture them for information. After Joll departs, the magistrate releases the barbarians but an injured girl is left behind. During the winter the girl heals and in early spring the magistrate returns her to her people. In his absence, though, the army occupies the settlement and set out to fight the barbarians. Accused of consorting with the enemy, when the magistrate returns he is thrown in a cell. The barbarians avoid open battles, preferring to flood the fields of the settlement and pick off soldiers one by one. As winter closes in the soldiers abandon the settlement and the magistrate organizes the remaining townsfolk to prepare as best they can for a harsh winter.
Coll, Steve - Ghost Wars : The Secret History of the CIA, Afghanistan, and Bin Laden, from the Soviet Invasion to September 10, 2001 - Details US involvement in Afghanistan and Pakistan during the Russian occupation. During this time, Osama Bin Laden financed and organized mujahideen training camps in Pakistan before falling out with the Saudi Government during Saddam Hussein's occupation of Kuwait. Expelled from Saudi Arabia, Bin Laden shifted first to Sudan and subsequently to Afghanistan where the Taliban shielded him from the US.
Conrad, Joseph – “Under Russian Eyes” – Written in 1911, “Under Russian Eyes” describes the fate of Razumov, the illegitimate child of a Russian prince. A student in St Petersburg, Razumov feels lonely and isolated but hopes a career in the Russian Civil Service will ultimately prove fulfilling. Unfortunately, his peers mistake his quiet character and reluctance to enter public debate as a cover for secret revolutionary activism. When another student, Victor Haldin, assassinates the czar’s minister of state, he seeks Razumov’s help to escape to Geneva where Haldin’s mother and sister are living. Razumov is overwhelmed by the horrible predicament he faces. His career will be ruined if the authorities discover him helping Haldin escape, but even if Razumov immediately turns Haldin in, the authorities will still suspect him. Leaving Haldin to hide in his room, Razumov seeks out Haldin’s coachman, Ziemianitch, to arrange a rendezvous only to find Ziemianitch sleeping in a drunken stupor. In turmoil, Razumov informs the authorities about the rendezvous and returns home. At the university, Rasumov finds that the other students suspect his involvement in the assassination and is unable to simply resume his studies. Soon, favorable reports of Razumov reach as far as the Russian exiles and revolutionaries in Geneva and he is dispatched there by the Russian secret police. Razumov has no difficulty in fooling the Russian exiles, but he is greatly troubled by his meetings with Natalie Haldin. Although strongly attracted to her, he knows that he can only retain her admiration by lying about her brother. After a great internal struggle, Razumov tells both her and the revolutionaries of his betrayal. In revenge, the revolutionaries rupture Razumov’s eardrums and he is hit by a street-car as he staggers home. A frustrated revolutionary, Tekla, takes it upon herself to care for him and takes him back to Russia. Upon the death of her mother, Natalie Haldin also returns to Russia where she works to serve those in jail or need.
Crane, Stephen - "The Red Badge of Courage" - "The Red Badge of Courage" is a remarkable third person narrative of the adventures of Henry, a youth who joins the Union forces in the American Civil War. The narration style is distinctive, bearing some resemblence to Conrad or Hemingway in its structural simplicity and is said to resemble the French Realists of the turn of the 20th century. Crane focusses relentlessly on the feelings and thoughts of the protagonist, Henry. The reader is not told where Henry is fighting, who the generals are, what food they ate or any details which Crane regards as not immediately relevant. As with Conrad, time and again one is told of events or ideas without illustraion. The great weakness of this narrative style is that without detail, one must trust the author's conclusions exclusively. If the narrator's veracity is questioned, the tale's merit diminishes rapidly. Against this, Crane's tale is very interesting. Henry's struggle to embrace and understand martial conflict is fascinating, and Crane's description of Henry's thoughts brilliantly capture the feelings one might have on first exposure to the horrors of warfare. But, ultimately, "The Red Badge of Courage" is unsatisfying. Crane's ideas about conflict (imagined, rather than experienced) as so concise, and his descriptions so unambiguous that one is left with a simplistic and unsatisfying impression of war. Despite it's well-crafted drama, "The Red Badge of Courage" is not a satisfying story.
Creighton, Thomas E. - "Proteins - Structures and Molecular Properties" - An excellent introduction to the physical chemistry/ structural biology approach to proteins. Various chapters are devoted to polypeptides, protein synthesis, forces between residues, secondary structure, globular proteins, solution and membrane conditions, protein interactions and degradation. Creighton provides a comprehensive review of the concepts and basic methods underlying much of present theoretical structural biology.
Dante – “The Divine Comedy – Inferno” - By far Dante’s most famous work, the “Divine Comedy” is the Pilgrims account of his journey from Hell through Purgatory to Heaven. The pilgrim begins his journey in middle age when he awakes one evening to find himself in a dark and terrifying wood. Finding a hill bathed in sunlight, he tries to ascend it but is blocked by three fearsome beasts. Virgil, the Roman poet, comes to his aid and explains he has been directed to guide the Pilgrim through Hell to the entrance of Purgatory. Virgil proves to be a remarkably patient and knowledgeable guide as they traverse Hell in 34 cantos of verse. The translation into English obscures the brilliance of the poetry, and hell is mostly filled with figures of ancient myth or Italians of the 1300s, so Dante’s conception of Hell is the most easily admired aspect of the “Inferno”. Upper Hell is a series of descending concentric circles around the City of Dis where Lucifer resides. Each circle holds a certain type of sinner – The indecisive (Vestibule), Limbo (unbaptized and virtuous pagans), Lustful, Gluttonous, Hoarders and Spendthrifts and the Wrathful. Inside the city gates, Lower Hell is of similar design with rings for heretics and violence of all types and kinds. At it’s center lies Lucifer resting where he landed when cast from Heaven. Throughout Hell, physical suffering is ubiquitous but the sinners view of life varies greatly. Most are quite interested in the world they have left and are eager to speak with the Pilgrim.. “Inferno” concludes at Virgil and the Pilgrim ascend past Lucifer to the entrance of Purgatory.
Dante – “The Divine Comedy – Purgatory” – Dante continues his journey to Heaven under the guidance of Virgil. Starting from the Island of Purgatory, located at the South Pole. Around the foothills of the mountain the excommunicated, late repentant and unshriven wait until they are permitted to enter Purgatory. Dante is carried by an angel to the entrance where the porter marks the seven capital sins on his forehead (“Peccattum”) and permits he and Virgil to enter. Purgatory consists of seven cornices where penance is paid for one of the capital sins – pride, envy, wrath, sloth, avarice, gluttony and lust. Souls remain on a given cornice until the stain of that sin has been erased. An angel blesses them, removes that “P” from their forehead and they proceed up the mountain to the next cornice. Upon leaving purgatory, Dante enters the Sacred Wood, washes away memory of his sins in the river Lethe, sees a Masque depicting the history of the church and meets his beloved Beatrice.
Dawkins, Richard - "A Devil's Chaplain" - A collection of essays on evolution, science and pseudo-science and criticism of religion.
DeGennes, Pierre-Gilles – “Scaling Concepts in Polymer Physics” – Although somewhat dated, this work remains an accessible and direct introduction to the statistical mechanics of polymer systems. Part A examines equilibrium conformations of polymers including topics such as the effect of solvent, spatial confinement or boundaries, gelation and polymer-polymer interactions. In part B, deGennes summarizes early work on the dynamics of polymer before introducing the reptation model. Finally, in section C deGennes outlines the use of self-consistent field theory and renormalization to extract the “universal” characteristics of polymer behaviour. Throughout, deGennes illustrates concepts via simple order-of-magnitude and scaling analyses.
DeQuincey, Thomas – “Confessions of an English Opium Eater” - Today more of a curiosity than a work of literature, “Confessions of an English Opium Eater” is still an interesting book. Written in great haste and financial pressure upon the author, it begins with a narrative of the author’s life but soon plunges into his experiences of opium and the character of the dreams it produced, finishing, of course, with the terrible pains and toll opium took upon him. As the first literary account of opium dreams, the book made a tremendous impact in London from its first publication in 1822. The author lived to a ripe age in Edinburgh as a confirmed eccentric.
Dewey, John - "Experience and Education" - Written after many American school's switched to Dewey's model of "progressive education", "Experience and Education" is a defending experiential learning against critics of the evident failings of the implimentation. Generally a verbose author, this is one of Dewey's most concise formulations of his educational philosophy. Perhaps his fundamental purpose may be discerned best in the statement that, " The only freedom that is of enduring importance is freedom of intelligence, that is to say, freedom of observation adn of judgement exercised in behalf of purposes that are intrinsically worthwhile." (p.61). Dewey wants an educational system that continually exercises such freedom. He dislikes compulsion, as he shows with "Plato once defined a slave as a person who executes another's purpose"(p.67). Rather, he wants students to come to enjoy intellectual freedom, for he feels that, "There is nothing in the inherent nature of habit that prevents intelligent method from becoming itself habitual; and there is nothing in the nature of emotion to prevent the development of intense emotional allegiance to the method."(p.81). Dewey's belief in he educative power of a wide range of activities was valuable. Over time, American education broadened considerably to encompass a wide range of subjects, and teaching styles.
Diamond, J. – “Collapse” – In the first section of “Collapse”, Jared Diamond discusses the failure of several human societies including the Easter Islanders, the Anasazi, the Maya and the Vikings in Greenland. The general pattern was that the growing society over-taxed its fragile, natural resources, and the degradation of the environment proved fatal when combined with additional challenges, such as drought. In contrast, societies in Papua New Guinea, Tikopia and Japan during the Tokugawa Shogunate damaged their environment, but managed to change course in time so as to preserve their natural resources. The island of Hispaniola is a striking illustration of the significance of individual societies on the environment. On one side of the island the country of Haiti has been almost completely deforested in marked contrast to the Dominican Republic on the other side. In the latter portion of the book, Diamond discusses threats to current societies such as China and Australia from desertification, salinization, deforestation and over-fishing.
Dostoevsky, F. - "Crime and Punishment" - Dostoevsky lived an exceedingly interesting life. Early on, he was sentenced to death for treason, but had his sentence commuted to 4 years of labour in Siberia. After such a lucky break, he went on to become a prolific gambler and drinker, accumulating tremendous debts through both activities. "Crime and Punishment" was written concurrently with another novel that had been paid for in advance, with the penalty that if that novel was not completed then Dostoevsky would lose copyright to all his other works. "Crime and Punishment" itself was published monthly in a magazine before Dostoevsky had even finished. Russian literature always has a strange effect on me so it is difficult to describe. The plot centres on Raskolnikov, a young former student living in poverty in St Petersburg who has been unemployed for a number of months. Brooding in his little room, he develops a theory that great men are exempt from ordinary rules, and decides to test this by killing a worthless individual, Alena Ivanovna the Moneylender. However, in truth, he is feverish at the time of the crime and is not even sure himself why he carries through with the deed. After the crime, his fever worsens and he behaves strangely enough to worry both the police and his friends. The story is considerably broader than this, though, as Raskolnikov is involved in a variety of activities. His sister and mother come to St Petersburg for Dunya's wedding to a self-made businessman, Peter Petrovitch, and Rasknolikov is drawn into the affairs of the family of a drunken public servant who is run over. To be honest, these characters are the most interesting elements of the story, from the grief crazed Katerina Ivanova to shy Sofia or lecherous Svidrigaylov. In truth, "Crime and Punishment" has very little to do with crime, or punishment. Rather, like many good stories, it acts as a mirror of our own guilt, anxiety, irrationality and fears.
Duff, Alan – “Once Were Warriors” - A superb novel set in a Maori suburb. Beth Heke is the mother of 6 kids and wife of Jake, a violent and not particularly loving husband. Nig, the eldest son is looking to join the local gang, Boogie is being sent to a correctional youth facility and Grace, the next eldest, takes care of the younger three kids. Narrated through the eyes of each character in turn, Duff weaves a superb tale that captures the essence of being a Maori in suburban NZ. Grace’s suicide, Nig’s murder, Jake’s banishment and the other events of the story are brilliantly narrated and overwhelm the violence and unpleasantness of the events described. This is a superb novel.
Durrenmatt – “The Physicists” - A superb short play first produced in 1962. The play is set in the drawing room of an annex in sanitorium. Nurse Straub has just been strangled by Herr Ernesti, a physicist who believes he is Albert Einstein. The police inspector is particularly unimpressed as just three months prior, Newton (another physicist suffering from confusion), strangled Nurse Moser. Now only Nurse Stettler remains. Frauline Doctor, the director of the institution, is most concerned. Soon her gravest fears are confirmed. Herr Mobius, after driving his divorced wife and children away while possessed by the spirit of King Solomon, strangles her when she tells him of her plans to abscond from the sanitorium with him. Why do these deranged physicists keep falling in love before murdering their nurses? Are they mad? The denouement is a superb one that tackles the ethical responsibility scientists hold for the application of their discoveries. Witty and stylishly executed, “The Physicists” is a superb drama.
Ehrenreich, Barbara – “Nickel and Dimed” – Ehrenreich attempts to convey the lot of America’s working poor by describing her own experiences while working in a variety of minimum wage jobs. A professional journalist, she traveled to Florida, Maine and Minnesota where she sought both accommodation and work as a waitress, cleaner, dietary aide at a nursing home and sales associate at Walmart. Perhaps because she attempts to describe a world unfamiliar to much of her audience, she directs most of her energy to describing her experiences and reactions, rather than observing those around her. She feels exhausted, overwhelmed or offended, and so, ipso facto, must those around her. The villains of the piece are petty supervisors and managers who do not set wages or hours, but can make an extraordinarily unpleasant work environment. “Nickel and Dimed” is a useful and interesting piece or reportage, but it’s fundamental message, that minimum wage workers suffer unnecessarily, is self-evident, and she makes little to no study of why or how the present situation has arisen. It may serve as a good introduction to those who have not considered this question, but it barely begins to examine the questions raised by America’s present socio-economic system.
Elliot, George – “Adam Bede” – At the turn of the 19th century, Adam and Seth Bede are young carpenters living in the North England village of Hayslope. Seth is a strong but gentle soul who is attracted to a visiting female Methodist preacher, Dinah. Alas, she feels the call of God to preach prevents her from marrying. Adam is a powerful, driven and highly intelligent man who one day is sure to take charge of the Mr Burge’s woodyard and manage the forest. His heart is set upon Dinah’s cousin, the young, vain but absolutely ravishing Hetty. Hetty’s beauty attracts the squire’s grandson, Arthur Donnithorne. When Adam encounters them in the woods, he accuses Arthur of trifling with Hetty’s affections and the two men fight. Arthur loses, acknowledges his error and in a short letter to Hetty tells her that he cannot marry her, should not have trifled with her affections and shall leave Hayslope immediately to serve in the army. After her initial desolation, Hetty appears to recover and accepts Adam’s proposal to wed. Hetty, though, learns she is pregnant and flees Hayslope in search of Arthur. Unable to find him, she plunges into deep despair, smothers the newborn infant, is arrested for murder and then sentenced to death by hanging. Arthur almost learns too late of Hetty’s plight, but just succeeds in having her sentence commuted to transportation. Many months later Dinah returns to Hayslope, and Adam and she realize their respect and friendship has turned to love and they wed. Arthur also returns, although several years later, and is delighted to meet Adam’s family, although he regrets deeply that “there’s a sort of wrong that can never be made up for”.
Eliot, George – “Middlemarch” – A superb novel about the (respectable) families of Middlemarch and the romantic pairings of their younger members. The cast of characters is extensive. The local landowner, Mr Brooke, is the guardian of his two nieces, Dorothea and Celia, both of whom are of age to consider marriage. Two neighbouring land owners, young Sir James and the elderly and somewhat bookish reverend, Mr Casaubon, are both interested in marriage. Dorothea surprisingly elects to marry Mr Casaubon while Celia is thrilled to wed Sir James. Mr Casaubon’s health deteriorates rapidly after his honeymoon and soon leaves Dorothea widowed and subject to a strange clause in his will forbidding her to wed his cousin, Mr Will Ladislaw. Meanwhile, in town the Methodist banker, Mr Bulstrode, sees the new doctor, Lydgate, as a handy ally in establishing a new hospital run on religious lines. The daughter of the town’s mayor, Miss Rosamund Vincy, finds Lydgate’s high birth and superior manners rather charming, while the mayor’s son, Fred, has fixed his affections on his childhood playmate, Mary Garth. Can Rosamund adjust to living within the means of a young doctor, and can Dr Lydgate survive the scandal that erupts out of Mr Bulstrode’s checkered past? Will Fred inherit a fortune when his uncle, Mr Featherstone, passes on and if he does not, how can an idle young man earn an honest living and the respect of Mary Garth? And, most importantly, will Dorothea and Will Ladislaw find happiness despite the opposition of their family and friends? Answers to these questions, and other exciting adventures lie within the tale of “Middlemarch”. Eliot’s characterizations are superb and her comments are delightfully wry and witty making for a superb and engaging novel.
Ellison, Ralph – “The Invisible Man” – 1952 – Written with tremendous energy and ambition, “The Invisible Man” describes the protagonists struggle to succeed both within and against society. His progress through high school, college and work in New York City is thwarted by superiors exploiting his naïve trust. Unemployed and dejected, he makes an impromptu speech at an eviction that incites the crowd to violence. Communist party members soon recruit him as a speaker in Harlem, but he comes to see the same use and abuse of others even within the party. Although he resolves to use the system himself, his story ends farcically when he must flee into a coal cellar during a riot in Harlem. “The Invisible Man” is a jumbled and imperfect novel, but still one of remarkable skill and purpose. Many scenes are vivid with razor sharp dialogue and superb characterizations as Ellison illustrates hypocrisy in the south, north, whites, blacks, business leaders, philanthropists, black educators, unionists, communists and racialists. All, he claims, see others only as they can serve us. The narrator finally realizes he is “nobody but myself, but first I had to discover that I am invisible”.
Epand, Richard – “Lipid Polymorphism and Membrane Properties” – 1997 – Volume 44, Current Topics in Membranes – Excellent review of current ideas in lipid polymorphism.
Ermann, M. David and Lundman, Richard J. - "Corporate and Governmental Deviance" - A series of case-studies of serious crimes committed by corporations and governments. Some are downright conspiracies, such as the Heavy Electrical Industry price fixing ring in the US during the 1950s and 1960s. General Electric, Westinghouse and other corporate salesmen would agree on the pricing for competive bids to maintain approximately a 10% to 30% inflation of prices. In others, such as the fraudulent verification of a Goodrich aeroplane brake, the lengthy delays before the explosive Ford Pinto were recalled, and the actions of Proctor and Gamble on recalling "Rely" tampons when implicated with toxic shock syndrome, arose through a complex interplay of management directives clashing with the physically possible. The chapters on Nazi Germany, the My Lai massacre, the Challenger disaster and police brutality in the Rodney King case are all solid, but better accounts of them exist in other places. The chapter on "ten whistleblowers" is fascinating as it charts the negative, and occasionally positive results for whistleblowers in a variety of places. The book provides an excellent sampling of organizational deviance, and makes interesting reading for everyone involved with corporations, government or other large organizational structures.
Faulkner, William – “Mosquitoes” - Written in 1927, “Mosquitoes” is a parody of artistic types in New Orleans. Mrs Maurier, a wealthy widower, invites a group of artists for a yachting party - Gordon, the morose and quiet sculptor, Fairchild the novelist, Julius the writer and his sister, Mrs Wiseman, Mark the poet, Miss Jameson, a lonely painter, Major Ayers the scheming British businessman, Mr Talliaferro, Mrs Maurier’s nephew and niece and Jenny and Pete – brief acquaintances of the niece. The trip does not go smoothly – the yacht runs aground, Mrs Maurier’s niece briefly elopes with the steward, the men drink large quantities of whiskey, numerous attempts at sexual intimacy occur and worst of all, the conversation is not nearly refined enough for Mrs Maurier. Upon returning to land, the artists resume their normal lives with little more success than they had on the voyage. With erratic writing and aimless sections of the plot, “Mosquitoes” is far from Faulkner’s best work.
Feibelman, Peter J. - "A PhD is not Enough" - Feibelman is a theoretical solid state physicist at Sandia National Lab who has written this useful guide to help them realize the "Facts of Physics". His writing style is light and mildly entertaining, and he gives advice upon "Choosing a thesis advisor", "Giving Talks", "Writing Papers", "Getting Tenure", "Job Interviews", "Getting Funded" and "Establishing a Research Program". In truth, he doesn't have particularly new things to say on each topic, but it is a good gathering of useful advice. What would be interesting, is a more open and honest description of the nitty-gritty wheeling and dealing that goes on. However, the advice contained is certainly reasonable and useful and its difficult to ask for more from this unassuming book.
Flannery, Tim - "The Future Eaters" - A natural history of Australia, New Guinea, New Caledonia and New Zealand, "The Future Eaters" describes the changes brought about by humans in these lands. The development of unique flora and fauna before humans arrived is described in the first section. The effect of Austroloid and Austronesian settlers is described in the second section, while the final section discusses the impact of European colonization.
Ford Madox Ford – “The Good Soldier” - Dowell, an aging American, narrates this “saddest of stories” to “get the sight out of (his) head”. Recently his wife committed suicide from shame when he learnt of her affair with a young American, Jimmy. The marriage had been passionless, though, and Dowell swiftly recovered. Attracted to Nancy Rufford, the ward of his friends, Edward and Leonora Ashenbaum, Dowell visited them in England as soon as he settled affairs in America. Surprisingly, Leonora requested he delay a proposal until Nancy saw her father in India. Upon Nancy’s departure Edward committed suicide and this caused Nancy to suffer a nervous collapse. Leonora’s union with Edward had been a bitter one and she happily remarried a local land owner. Dowell remained at the Ashenbaum estate to care for Nancy, still in the grips of madness that proved to be all too permanent.
Dowell is justly disappointed by events. His deceitful wife worried him for years with a fictitious heart ailment while having a lengthy affair with Captain Ashenbaum. Edward ruined his marriage and much of his life by unfettered passion, but when attracted to his own ward stubbornly denied his desire and Nancy would willingly have married Dowell. Leonora, though, could not forgive her unfaithful husband, Edward, and used Nancy to exact as a great a revenge as possible. Edward was a just and caring landlord, excellent soldier and active citizen but trapped in an arranged and loveless marriage he could not control his passion. Each of his affairs cost Leonora and he greatly, and their determination to act “properly” prevented reconciliation between them, drove Edward to suicide and plunged Nancy into madness.
Forster, E.M. - "Two Cheers for Democracy" - Collection of short articles and observations on various topics. Some good work on England, the perception of Nazi Germany during WWII, the role of artists in society, various 19th century authors and a little on modern India. Similar in tone to George Orwell, but does not believe the world will be changed by supporting socialism.
Forster, E.M. – “Howard’s End” – Living a moral and whole life within the strictures of society is Forster’s preoccupation within this work. The Basts, Schlegels and Wilcoxes families represent the poor, independent and wealthy classes. characters – Margaret, Helen, Tibby Schlegel. Henry and Ruth Wilcox --> Charles, Paul, Emmie. Mrs Munt. Jacky and Leonard Bast.
Forsyth, Frederick - "The Odessa File" - Frederick Forsyth has only ever written one novel. The first few times he wrote it, though, it was very good and this is one of them. Peter Miller, the protagonist, is a freelance journalist (not unlike Forsyth) who chances one night to follow an ambulance on an emergency call. The accident proves to the suicide of Salomon Tauber, a Jew interned at Riga during WWII. Miller's friend, Karl Brandt, is the police officer in charge of the case, and reads Salomon's journal account of his years in Riga. Moved by the diary, he passes it to Miller. At the end of the diary, Tauber notes that he saw Roschmann, the commandant of Riga, only days ago, and that he has ended his life because Roschmann shall never be brought to justice. Miller is incensed by the diary, and sets off on arduous quest to find and arrest Roschmann. Along the way, he learns much the SS's history, and its present activities as the ODESSA, the organization to protect former SS men and destroy World Zionism. The research is impeccable and interesting, the characterizations sparse but sufficiently colourful and the pace of the story is never slow. By luck and hard work, Miller moves unstoppably towards his prey and is only thwarted by his one rage and indignation at the end. As with all Forsyth novels, women are regarded as unnecessary distractions and one really must feel that Sigi, Miller's girlfriend, is getting a poor deal when he finally proposes to her. "The Odessa File" is probably a poor way to learn about Germany's history, but it is a fun and interesting read, and proof that journalists occasionally write good books.
Fowles, John – “The French Lieutenant’s Woman” – Prolix tripe! The novel starts in Lyme, where Charles, an English gentleman, is spending time with his fiancée, Ernestina. Sarah, a companion for an acquaintance of Ernestina’s aunt arouses Charles’s sympathy with her mournful looks and the story of her (false) liason with a ship-wrecked French sailor. Charles seeks the advice of Dr Grogan and is counseled to avoid Sarah at all costs. Alas, Charles neglects this advice and more than his mere sympathy is aroused. He breaks his engagement and dispatches a request for marriage to Sarah. His duplicitous man-servant, Sam, destroys the correspondence and Charles loses contact with Sarah. Many months later Charles discovers Sarah living in an artist’s colony. She admits to seducing him but refuses to marry him. While the style of writing is excellent, there is little else to commend this novel.
Freeman, Michael and Helen Reece - "Science in the Court" - The 1997 colloquium on 'Law and Science' held at University College London resulted in two books of which this is the second. It contains 10 papers on - 'Law and Science: Science and Law (Michael Freedman)', 'A Just Measure for Science (David Nelkin', 'Code of Practice: Communicating between Science and Law (Christine Willmore)', 'Bayesianism and Proof (Mike Redmayne)', 'Expert Games in Silicone Gel Breast Implant Litigation (Sheila Jasanoff)', 'DNA Evidence in the Courtroom: A Social-Psychological Perspective (Jason Schklar)', 'The Social Production of Rape Trauma Syndrome as Science and Evidence (Shirley A. Dobbin and Sophia I. Gatowski)', 'The Application of Patent Law Principles to Scientific Developments: The Problem with Biotechnology (Margaret Llewelyn)', 'Using Law to Define Uncertain Scence in Environmental Policy (Lynda M. Warren)' and 'Some Challenges for Science in the Environmental Regulation of Inudstry (Patricia Park)'. All relatively useful but quite academic and narrow in focus.
Frank, Anne – “The Diary of a Young Girl” – In July of 1942, Anne Frank’s family went into hiding. Her father, Otto Frank, and his business partner, Hermann van Pells, had converted three small rooms at their company’s office where both families hoped to hide until the Netherlands was freed from German rule. Until their capture two years, Anne, her sister Margot, Peter van Pells, both sets of parents and family friend, Fritz Pfeffer, hid in those three rooms. The office staff downstairs ferried supplies to them while the residents of the secret annex did what work they could to help the company and help them pass their time. When captured, all eight where transported to Germany where only Otto Frank survived concentration camp. Anne’s diary, addressed to her imaginary friend “Kitty”, is a remarkable record of these times. Anne is vivacious, cheeky, observant, ever-so-slightly judgemental and a remarkably thoughtful correspondent - especially for a young teenager. She describes birthdays, Christmas celebrations, squabbles over toilets, potatoes and sundry other domestic matters, excitement and despair over news on the radio, the fear of hiding during the bombings Amsterdam, fights with her mother, her gratitude to the “helpers”, her desire to be a writer after the war, her love of music, her growing friendship with Peter and almost any other things that come into her head. At times it’s hard to believe she’s 14 or 15, but the occasional tirade about how no one understands her reassures one of her humanity. The book is especially poignant because Anne views her circumstances as normally as she can, given the extraordinary circumstances.
Frank, Steven A. – “Immunology and Evolution of Infectious Diseases” – Although quite thorough, this book was not captivating. The author outlines the essential elements of the human immune system and the primary mechanisms by which it recognizes and destroys infectious agents. Turning to the diseases, the author first examines interactions and variations of disease within an individual host and then turns to the disease dynamics within a population of hosts. Subsequent chapters explore the dynamics (termed evolution) of diseases responding to the environment posed by hosts. The subject is a fascinating one but so large the author rarely goes into detail and it is hard to find unifying themes.
Franks, Felix (ed.) - "Water (Volume 1)" - The canonical text on water, first published in 1972. Many researchers regard water as an old subject, in part because this six volume series was too successful. In truth, water remains a mysterious substance. The chapters in this volume cover the main physics of water. Chapter One - "Water, the Unique Chemical" gives a brief history of water. Chapter Two "The Water Molecule" gives a 1970's physical chemistry description of the water monomer and dimer. Chapter Three starts in on the interesting "Theory of Hydrogen Bonding in Water". Of course, were this really understood much of water research would be done but the problem is both analytically and computationally challenging. Chapter Four, "The Properties of Ice" highlights the consequences of water's unique bonding habits as shown by ice forms. The experimental chapters show their age more but cover "Raman and Infrared Spectral Investigations of Water Structure", "Nuclear Magnetic Resonance Studies on Water and Ice", "Liquid Water : Dielectric Properties", "Liquid Water : Scattering of X-rays", "The Scattering of Neutrons by Liquid Water", "Thermodynamic and Transport Properties of Fluid Water", "Application of Statistical Mechanics in the Study of Liquid Water", "Liquid Water: Acoustic Properties: Absorptin and Relaxation", "Water at High Temperatures and Pressures" and finally, "Structural Models" of water. In short, this book is excellent for an introduction to almost any physical characteristic of water.
Gogol, Nikolai – “Dead Souls” – A bitingly sharp satire, “Dead Souls” is an incomplete novel describing Russia of the early eighteenth century through the travels of Collegiate Councillor Pavel Ivanovich Chichikov. Chichikov arrives in the provincial capital of N. to visit the local land-owners to persuade each to give or sell him their “dead souls” – serfs who have died since the last census. Chichikov charms the lonely Manilov, bullies the old lady Korobochka, narrowly escapes the scoundrel Nozdrev, drives a hard bargain with Sobakievich, and cheers the skinflint Plyushkin in his dealings before returning to N to finalize the sales.. Initially enthusiastic, the town’s officials and unmarried ladies learn too much of Chichikov’s plans and he must leave in a hurry at the end of Part I. Chichikov, it seems, has always been corrupt and hopes to mortgage the “dead souls” to start his own estate. In the incomplete Part II, he visits more landowners who are even more extreme caricatures but the plot also advances rapidly as he acquires an estate by loan, apparently forges the will of a wealthy widow, is arrested and then …. Gogol’s criticisms of Russian society and customs are exceedingly funny, and the characters he creates are sufficiently universal archetypes. His ladies learn French, the piano and how to knit surprises. The gentlemen are not nearly so skilled, but even more entertaining, as they try to come ahead in the trade for dead souls. It’s a distinct shame the story is unfinished, but like Swift’s “Gulliver’s Travels” the individual scenes and personalities make the bulk of the story. If only every author had such a gift for comedy and satire.
Gogol, Nikolai – “The Overcoat” – A short story describing Akakii Akakiievich’s struggle to afford the purchase of a new overcoat. The coat is stolen, the magistrate ignore Akakii and he dies from the cold, only to return to return to haunt the magistrate.
Goncharov, Ivan – “Oblomov” – Oblomov dreams of his childhood on an estate in rural Russia. Life is slow, the samovar is always full and Oblomov’s family never changes.
Gould, James L. and Carol Grant - "Life at the Edge - Readings from Scientific American" - A short, fun if somewhat dated book about life at the extremes of the biosphere. The strategies of antarctic fish (including peptide-glycerol anti-freeze and reduced bone density) to prevent ice crystallization, shivering in some moths in low temperatures to maintain flight readiness, Carnivorous plants supplementing low local nitrogen concentrations with the odd meal and the remarkable physiology of koalas are all discussed. In most cases these animals have staked out territory that practically no other animal can compete for making survival purely a battle between them and the enviornment. Perhaps the most remarkable feature is how little must be changed to allow a plant or animal to survive in new, inhospitable conditions.
Graves, Robert - "I, Claudius" - Written in 1933, "I, Claudius" is a fascinating literary experiment. In addition to the usual challenges of writing an interesting fictional autobiography, Graves must tackle a mountain of historical evidence. He has succeeded admirably. Graves portrayal of Claudius as a remarkably wise, cautious and frightened observer of Augustus, Tiberius and Caligula's reigns is both fun and enthralling. Each character is enlivened by the recounting of small and inconsequential incidences in their lives so that 50 years of history seems to be more than a litany of open murders, wars, revolts, attacks and poisonings. By far the most interesting characters are the evil. Claudius's grandmother, Livia, is astoundingly astute at protecting herself while poisoning all potential rivals to her offspring. Tiberius's evil manipulations of his relatives against one another is exciting to read, and even if Grave's fails to make the madness of Caligula too inspiring, it is still fun to imagine. Against this, the story struggles at times to view history from anything other than the perspective of the early 20th century British upper-class. Despite this, "I, Claudius" is a fine novel. In what other context can you imagine Livy and Pollio arguing about the need for historical accuracy, or Sejanus and Tiberius battling by letters to retain control of the Roman Senate.
Gray, Alasdair - "Lanark" - Growing up in Glasgow after World War Two, Duncan Thaw troubles with girls and school leads to nervous bouts of asthma. He shows considerable talent during his studies at the Glasgow School of Art, but argues with his teachers and when another student, Marjory, rebuffs his romantic advances, Thaw suffers a nervous breakdown. In hospital a pastor recruits Thaw to paint a mural on the ceiling of the pastor's church, and caught up in finishing the mural, Thaw does not take his final exams. He is expelled from the School of Arts, suffers another nervous breakdown, and believing he has murdered a woman, Thaw commits suicide by walking into the sea. He awakes to find himself on a train, unable to remember who he is or where he came from. Adopting the name, Lanark, he arrives in the strange town of Unthank where the sun does not rise and people mysteriously disappear. He feels terribly lonely until he meets a girl, Rima, and makes love to her. Immediately afterwards, one of his arms grows a dense covering of hard flesh like a dragon's claw and Lanark flees to a cemetery where he is called into a pit by a strange voice. He awakes to find his body whole again, and a doctor explains to Lanark that he is at the "Institute", a hospital buried in a mountain and connected to the cities above it by mysterious tunnels. Most patients entering the hospital die from their strange maladies, but those who recover generally stay to work at the Institute, since one may only return to the cities with a partner. Lanark later learns the institute uses the dead patients to generate energy and provide food. To the great anger of his advisor, Professor Ozenfant, he interferes in the "treatment" of such a dying patient who he thinks might be Rima. Lanark saves Rima's life, and together they leave the Institute. Traveling back to Unthank, Lanark and Rima age rapidly and Rima gives birth to a boy, Alexander, soon after they arrive. Lanark gets caught up in politics and despite having no experience, he is dispatched to a general assembly to protest the actions of multinational companies in Unthank. Lanark meets the author at the assembly and learns he has been set-up. While he is absent from Unthank, the resources of the town have been sold off to multinational interests and his speech to the assembly has no effect. The return trip to Unthank causes Lanark to age rapidly, and he dies shortly after seeing his sone and Rima.
Greene, Graham - "The Power and the Glory" - A fascinating novel by one of the most thoughtful and entertaining writers of the 20th century. Set in Mexico prior to WWII, it describes the journey of a Catholic priest in a province in which Christianity has been banned. A mild alchoholic, and the father of a young illegitimate child, the priest frequently convinces himself that his presence does more harm than good, but time and again, God calls on him to give comfort and hope to those around him. Himself a knowing and not entirely repentant sinner, the priest's insight into the behavior of those around him is remarkable, yet he profits little by it. Pursuing him is a young idealistic lieutenant, angry with the hypocrisy and greed of the Catholic Church in his youth who honestly believes that by eliminating the Church he can free the poor from their suffering. For me, though, the more interesting characters are those the priest meets on his travels - the greedy half-caste who wants to earn the reward by betraying him, the righteous woman in jail who wasn't allowed to be a nun, the mother reading tales of saints to her children and Mr Tench, the dentist, who can scarcely believe his life in Mexico. The story finishes, appropriately, with the clandestine arrival of a new priest the day after the whiskey priest is executed. One sinner has made his contribution, and another shepherd has arrived. Perhaps the most impressive skill of Greene is to generate and maintain oscillating cycles of hope and despair throughout the whole piece.
Greene, Graham – “The Quiet American” - Set in Vietnam in 1952, “The Quiet American” is a restrained criticism of American intervention at that stage of the war. Fowler, an English correspondent, has been posted there to report on France’s efforts to retain control of Vietnam. Tired and cynical, Fowler draws far more comfort from company of Phuong than the virtues of his job. Pyle, an American attached to the US Economic Department, falls in love with Phuong instantly and decides she is fair game as Fowler cannot obtain a divorce from his English wife. Fowler is less than thrilled, but Pyle saves his life one night when they are trapped in a guard tower that comes under attack by the Viet Minh. Their relationship remains remarkably cordial, even when Phuong moves in with Pyle. But, Fowler is greatly concerned to learn about Pyle’s interference in local politics. The first bombing proves rather harmless, but a second kills. Not unlike Judas, Fowler meets with Pyle thereby allowing the local Vietnamese to “take care of him”. “Peace” is restored, Phuong returns to Fowler and all is right in the world, except for Fowler’s wish that “there existed someone to whom I could say I was sorry”. Greene’s done a solid job of describing Vietnam prior to the American invasion, but the numerous beautiful films are tough competition. His political insight, and smooth narration, though, are more than sufficient to make for an interesting story.
Greene, Graham - "The Third Man" - Rollo Martins arrives in occupied Vienna to discover his friend, Harry Lime, was killed in a car accident. A British MP, Calloway, is at the funeral and offers to take Martins for a drink. Martins is infuriated when Calloway tells him Lime was the subject of an investigation and vows to prove Lime's innocence. When Martins talks to an eyewitness of the car accident he describes a "third man" missing from the accounts of the other witnesses. Martins gathers more evidence that convinces him Lime was murdered. When Calloway shows him the evidence against Lime, he accepts that Lime has faked his death and is hiding in the Russian Sector. Reluctantly, he helps Calloway lure Lime into the British Sector but Lime escapes the trap and Calloway shoots him as he escapes.
Griboyedov, Aleksandr – “The Trouble with Reason” - Written in 1823, this social comedy describes the affairs of Famusov, his daughter Sofya, secretary Molchalin, son a family friend, Chatsky, and numerous guests at a ball thrown by Famusov. The wit is sharp and the satire cutting with lines such as Famusov’s complaint that “ the French forever with their fashions and their arts, who devastate our pockets and our hearts. May the Great Creator soon liberate us from their fancy hats and bonnets and pins and fops and all the book and pastry shops.” The behaviour of servants, princesses and revolutionaries are all mocked with a gentle touch.
Gibson, William: "Neuromancer" - Citing the work of William. S. Burroughs and Alfred Bester and the music of the Velvet Underground as his inspiration, Gibson reportedly wrote this, his first novel - which invented cyberspace, defined virtual reality and brought cyberpunk into mainstream science fiction - on a mechanical typewriter. The story features Case, a burnt out hacker crippled by a former client whom he'd double crossed, hired by an Artificial Intelligence to help it merge with its twin to win freedom from humanities control. Case, Molly (a hired gun with bioengineered razorblades in her fingertips and mirrors in place of her eyes) and Armitage (an insane former special forces officer) engage in a variety of criminal activity, meeting dealers, hackers, secret police, Yakuza, Rastafarians, Swiss bankers and orbital tax-havens as the AI manipulates its way to eventual godhood. Apart from its historical significance and vision (which impresses the ordinary critics) and the Hugo and Nebula awards (to impress the sci-fi ones), Neuromancer remains an exceptional read - an exciting and fast paced story, complex in plot and rich in detail but surprisingly and skilfully sparingly phrased. ST.
Goldsmith, Oliver – “The Vicar of Wakefield” - The irrepressible enthusiasm and humor of “The Vicar of Wakefield” frequently overcomes the distorted characters and ridiculous plot. The story begins as Dr Primrose and his family are about to celebrate the marriage of his son, George, to Arabella Wilmot, the daughter of a neighboring clergyman. The match fails, however, owing both to a dispute between Primrose and Wilmot over theology and the bankruptcy of Dr Primrose’s merchant in town. His fortune wrecked, Primose dispatches George to London to make his own fortune, while he resolving to take up a small Cure of 15 pounds to the north and supplement this income with a little farming. Although the family find happiness in the company of locals such as Mr Burchell, Dr Primrose’s wife and his daughters, Olivia and Sophia, retain hopes for a grander life. Over Dr Primrose’s firm objections, his wife encourages Squire Thornhill to visit hoping he may fall in love. Numerous schemes are hatched which lead only to embarrassment. When Olivia runs off with an unknown man, Primrose sets off in pursuit. By coincidence he meets his son George along the way and then by even greater chance finds Olivia at an inn. Although Olivia despairs that her elopement with Squire Thornhill has ruined the family name, further disasters lie near at hand. Upon their return the house burns down and when Primrose confronts Squire Thornhill he is thrown into jail for defaulting on rent. Shortly thereafter, Sophia has been abducted and George arrested for challenging Squire Thornhill to a duel. The first hint of a change of fortune is the news that Sophie has been rescued by Mr Burchill. Upon his arrival at the gaol, he proves to be none other than Sir William Thornhill, Squire Thornhill’s uncle, general do-gooder and part-time fairy godmother. He soon pardons George (his mother egged him on) and commands Squire Thornhill to come to the jail as he organized the abduction of Sophie. Upon learning this, Arabella Wilmot, who was betrothed to Squire Thornhill (strictly for her money), pledges her undying love to George. In a curious twist, Squire Thornhill’s henchmen reveal that he is in fact married to Olivia since the priest and marriage license were genuine. Finally, Sir William asks Sophie if she will marry him and she gracefully accepts. Buoyed that Olivia is married to a scoundrel, rather than just having been seduced by one, Dr Primrose happily weds George to Arabella and Sir William to Sophie, convinced that all his cares in this world are over. For all its improbable plotting, the mixture of pomp, humor and irrepressible Christian optimism of Dr Primrose gives unique charm to “The Vicar of Wakefield”.
Goldsmith, Oliver – “She Stoops to Conquer” - 1773 - The play begins in a country home as Mr Hardcastle tells his daughter, Kate, that the son of his friend, Sir Christopher Marlow, will come from town to court her. Confiding this to her cousin, Miss Neville, Kate learns that young Marlow is a singular character – terribly modest and boring amongst women of virtue and breeding, but quite forward away from formal surroundings. Miss Neville knows Marlow through his friend and companion, Hastings, whom she fell in love with in London. Unaware of this, Mrs Hardcastle hopes Miss Neville will marry her son, Tony, thereby keeping her fortune in the family. Stopping at a nearby inn for directions, Marlow and Hastings meet Tony Hardcastle, who impishly informs them they are badly lost and directs them to his home under the pretext that it is an inn where they may spend the night. Mr Hardcastle is amazed the two young men treat him like an inn-keeper, while poor Kate is dismayed at finding Marlow so shy he cannot even look at her. Recounting their wildly different accounts, Father and daughter decide to look closer. Hastings, meanwhile, learns of Tony’s joke when he meets Miss Neville, but keeps his discovery a secret from Marlow for fear it will upset his plans. With Tony’s help, he and Miss Neville engage in a comic effort to secure Miss Neville’s fortune in jewels and elope. Kate, meanwhile, learns of Marlow’s confusion and arouses his interest and passion by posing as a serving maid. Marlow discovers Tony’s joke when his father, Sir Christopher, arrives but is still unaware of Kate’s true identity. While both fathers hide, Marlow proclaims his love for Kate and her conquest is complete. At that very instant, Hastings and Miss Neville return to seek forgiveness and this is heartily given, if only by Tony and Mr Hardcastle.
Grout, Donald - "A History of Western Music" - Recommended by Nancy November as a broad history of western music, it provides broad but still interesting coverage of music from Ancient Greece to the start of the 20th century. The initial chapters illustrate the vast difference between classical music and folk music of non-Western cultures and antiquity. The whole idea of modes and forms, while incompatible with polyphony, nonetheless allows music that is hard to conceive of within the classical Western tradition. The development of polyphony during the Renaissance is well illustrated before the text plunges into it's main themes of early Baroque, later Baroque, classical and then romantic eras. The lives and works of Bach, Handel, Haydyn, Mozart, Beethoven and later composers are covered in sufficient detail to be interesting yet without dominanting the coverage of a particular era. Despite the reviewer's near-complete ignorance of musical history this text was enjoyable and understandable.
Hall, Douglas John – “Why Christian – For Those on the Edge of Faith” – Hall explores aspects of the Christian faith through an imaginary dialogue between a university teacher and student. In each session the student and professor talk, and afterwards, the professor cannot resist summarizing the question of that day and giving a lengthier discussion. The chapters of the book are those summaries and discussions of the questions - “Why Christian”, “Why Jesus”, “Saved from What – For What?”, “… But How”, “What’s the Difference”, “Why Church”, and “Is there Hope”? Hall writes very well and picks of the concerns of the agnostic, one by one. He does an excellent job of separating faith from “traditional religion” and this permits him to define the role he sees for Christian faith in a secular and diverse society.
Hamilton, R.J. an S. Hamilton - "Lipid Analysis" - Part of the highly popular "Practical Approach" series, this book covers the basics of the analytic lipidologist. It covers the classification of lipids, lipid extraction techniques, thin layer chromatography, gas chromatography, HPLC, using radiotracers, lipid NMR and mass spectroscopy of lipids. A very handy text for the amateur lipidologist.
Hamley, Ian W. “The Physics of Block Copolymers” - A thorough review of core information concerning block copolymers, the behavior in the melt and solution, structure formation within blocks and behavior of copolymer/homopolymer blends.
Hammett, Dashiell – “The Maltese Falcon” - Set in foggy San Francisco, “The Maltese Falcon” details the sordid dealings to obtain a peculiar bird. Sam Spade, private detective, first learns of the case when Brigid O’Shaughnessy enters his office and asks his partner, Miles, to tail a man back to her runaway sister. Before the night is out, Sam’s partner and the man he was tailing, Thursby, are both shot dead. Suspecting revenge, the police harass Sam who plays it cool with Brigid and the mysterious Mr Cairo as he tries to learn what the “Maltese Falcon” is and where it can be found. Will Sam succumb to Brigid’s womanly charms or the cunning plans of Cairo and Caspar Gutman. Read the book, or watch the movie. It’s all light and fun entertainment.
Hanff, Helene – “84, Charing Cross Road” - An exchange of letters between a struggling writer in New York City and staff at the Marks and Company bookshop in London. Beginning in 1949, the exchange of letters, books, hams (to England still under the ration system) and other items leads to a long friendship between Helene and Frank Doel, the principal correspondent at Marks and Co. Although many of the letters are entertainingly written they are also an interesting record of the pressing concerns of ordinary people after WWII.
Head, Bessie – “When Rain Clouds Gather” - Makhaya, a black South African, flees to Botswana. Safe but with no clear plan, he accepts the invitation of an old man, Dinorego, to go with him to his village. At Golema Mundi, the women and children remain in the village growing subsistence crops while the men roam with the cattle. Dinorego enthusiastically describes the work of an English agricultural engineer, Gilbert, who has started several farming schemes and has also been teaching English to Dinerogo’s daughter, Maria. Gilbert invites Makhaya to work with him teaching the women of the village. Starting with the influential Paulina Sebeso, a proud and strong widower, Makhaya successfully recruits women for a scheme to grow Turkish tobacco. Makhaya’s great charm has Paulina working hard to catch him, while poor Gilbert worries that Makhaya might fancy “his” Maria. These matters, of course, are resolved satisfactorily. Meanwhile, Botswana’s imminent transition to independence from England has left the country in a rather unsettled state. The village chief, Matenge, fears Gilbert, Makhaya and the women farmers are weakening his already shaky control of the village and looks for any opportunity to oppose them. During the drought, Paulina’s son dies from TB. Chief Matenge seizes this opportunity by calling a meeting of the village elders to charge Paulina with neglect and expel her (and Makhaya’s) from the village. He only realizes he has over-reached himself when every villager comes to the meeting and sit in silence, awaiting his arrival. In a panic, he hangs himself rather than face the crowd.
Healy, David – “Let them Eat Prozac – The Unhealthy Relationship between the Pharmaceutical Industry and Depression” – Today, the packaging of Prozac, Paxil and other Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors carry a warning label that under some circumstances the drug make cause suicidal behavior. In this book, David Healy describes how the pharmaceutical companies knew of these side-effects, but denied them in public by the manipulation of clinical trials, active marketing of depression as a dangerous disease and deceitful legal strategies. Healy’s testimony is especially powerful both because he is a respected historian of psycho-pharmacology and also because he continues to prescribe SSRI’s in the treatment of depression and anxiety. The book ranges widely to include a description of the ghost-writing of academic reports of clinical studies by marketing companies, the selective reporting of clinical studies, the cyclical history of over-proscription of new pharmaceuticals until side-effects can no longer be ignored, and the curious observation the diagnosis rate for depression in America increased a thousand-fold in the 1990’s.
Hindemith - "Mathis der Maler" - A fun, melodramatic symphony with a delighful interplay between the wind and string sections.
Hofstadter, Douglas R. - "Godel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid" - A scintillating book on language, thought, computation, origins of intelligence, self reference, the limits of logic and many other themes. "Godel, Escher, Bach" consists of interwoven dialogues and discussions of a huge range of themes from physics, biology, computer science, art and linguistics. The discussion of logical systems, self-referencing and Godel's incompleteness theorem is excellent, as are Hofstadter's thoughts on Artificial Intelligence. A fun book that you can open anywhere and enjoy.
Holt, John - "How Children Learn" - "How Children Fail" - Two excellent short books filled with anecdotes of children learning.
Hughes, Robert - "The Fatal Shore" - A superbly written history of all aspects of the convict system in Australia. Hughes recounts the voyage out, the early struggles at the new colony, conditions in England that drove the transportation system, the expansion and growth of the system, the horrors of Norfolk Island, Moreton Bay and Van Diemen's Land and much, much more.
Huxley, Aldous - "Brave New World" - A literary classic, "Brave New World" was written in 1932 when Huxley was in his thirties. In it, he brilliantly portrays his vision of a future in which individuality and freedom are exchanged for stability, productivity and happiness. People are bred and born in bottles, with mental and physical characteristics tailored to match society's needs. Epsilon and Delta menials are retarded during gestation to make their mundane jobs challenging, while Alphas are given extra nourishment to enhance their physique and intellect for the tasks at hand. Birth only marks an increased pace of socialization, as children are brainwashed in their sleep to assume social values that are useful for society and rushed through hundreds of daily activities to adapt them. Huxley uses Bernard Marx, a psychologist and physically stunted Alpha, and Helmholtz, an overly intelligent Emotional Engineer, to bridge the gap between this strange future world and our own. However, his main tool for contrast is John Savage, the son of a Beta left by accident in a Native Reservation who is brought to the "Brave New World" as an experiment. Educated from Shakespeare's collected works and the Indian's at Los Alamos, John embodies the most idealistic elements of modern man. Unable to handle a world in which every need is immediately gratified, he retreats and eventually commits suicide. There are many interesting, and funny ideas in the book, but perhaps the best is Soma - a drug that transports one from a troubled world into superb fantasies. As a physicist, I must confess I was also impressed by Riemanian-surface tennis. The tools and devices used by Huxley to present his defense of suffering are both effective and crude. Despite this, "Brave New World" remains as a literary masterpiece for the ferocity and originality of its vision.
Huxley, Aldous – “Point Counter Point” - What role should reason play in our lives? With gusto and considerable pomposity, Huxley attacks the influence of science and “rationalism” in a novel driven by ideas and debate rather than character, history or even good story-telling. Huxley populates “Point Counter Point” with a cast of characters drawn almost exclusively from the intellectual side of the upper middle class of 1920’s. Philip Quarles is an insular, intellectual novelist; Mark Rampion an animated, passionate painter; Walter Bidlake an ineffectual, romantic and idealistic poet; Burlap a pompous, insincere and very Christian editor of the literary review; and Spandrell an intelligent but heavily disillusioned bounder. Huxley orchestrates them, and a bevy of other characters (many are sharp parodies from the literary and social circles of his day), into lunches, dinners, affairs of the heart and plans for social revolution in whatever ways suit the present state of his arguments. His characterizations are excellent and his caricatures highly entertaining. Sidney Quarles’s treatment of his mistress is recounted with great humour while Sir Edward and his brother’s conversations about God are treated with a delightful comic touch. The principle storylines of Walter’s stupid pursuit of a romantic ideal, Elinor’s dilemma in choosing between fidelity to cold Philip or an affair with the passionate Webley, Burlap’s abuse of Christian ideals to justify his deeds and Spandrell’s search for a purpose in life are woven together well. While each creaks in sections they all conclude successfully.
“Point Counter Point” is an uncommon novel for it’s direct discussion and debate of reason opposing passion. Where other novelists are content to tell a single story, Huxley creates characters continually to explore every aspect he finds interesting or important.
Irving, John - "Cidar House Rules" - Written in 1985, the "Cidar House Rules" recounts the life of Homer Wells. Born at St Cloud's Orphanage, Homer is unable to find suitable foster parents and becomes the de facto son of the orphanage director, Dr Larch. Larch trains him as an obstetrician, hoping that Homer will eventually succeed. Just as Homer announces his objections to Larch performing illegal abortions, a chance to travel arises and Homer leaves St Cloud's to work at an orchard for the summer. Homer likes life at the orchard and when an accidental pregnancy makes him a father, remains despite the unusual domestic arrangements this requires. For fifteen years Homer is steadfast in his refusal to perform abortions. That summer, the incestuous rape of a teenage girl at the orchard shows Homer that if he will not perform abortions for desperate women then others with less training and skill will. Accepting his fate, Homer helps the girl and returns to St Cloud's to succeed Dr Larch under the fictitious persona of Dr Fuzzy Stone. Although the narrative of the "Cidar House Rules" is engaging, Irving's great talent is for caricature. Dr Larch's ether addiction, Homer's irritating mannerisms, Ray Kendall's mechanical genius, Nurse Caroline's socialism and Mrs Grogan's nagging are each established and exploited with tremendous skill. Irving's use of irony and wry humour also display a very fine touch. In short, "Cidar House Rules" is a fascinating story written with verve and style, despite the occasional rough patch.
Irving, John – “The World According to Garp” – A rather odd story about a writer, his family, his un-married mother, the power of social movements and other odds and ends. Jenny Fields, a nurse during World War II, decides to have a child on her own with the unwitting assistance of the terminally wounded Sergeant Garp. While raising her son, T.S. Garp, she works as a nurse at the Steering School for Boys. Garp and she move to Europe when he finishes school where Jenny writes her autobiography, “A Sexual Suspect”, that transforms her into an icon of the nascent feminist movement. Garp also completes a story, “The Pension GrillParzer”, which so impresses his long-time friend from Steering, Helen Holt, that Helen agrees to marry him. Helen finds work as a professor of English Literature while Garp takes care of their children, Duncan and Walt, and writes two novels. Their marital difficulties precipitate in a car accident that kills Walt, half-blinds Duncan and leaves Garp and Helen injured too. Helen refocuses her attentions on her family and has a girl, Jenny Garp, while Garp’s anger fuels a pornographic but best-selling novel, “The World According to Bensenhaver.” To evade the publicity from the novel, he and Helen spend time in Europe but while they are away his mother, Jenny Fields, is assassinated. Her killer is a crazed divorcee who believes Jenny’s book caused his wife to reject him. Garp and Helen return to the US for the funeral and immediately learn that Helen’s father, who still works at the Steering School, has passed away. Garp and Helen settle at Steering but Garp’s public comments draw the ire of a group of radical feminists who assassinate him. Helen lives into old age, Duncan becomes a successful artist and Jenny Garp a nurse.
Ishiguro, Kazuo – “An Artist of the Floating World” – Now retired, Masuji Ono reviews his life in the wake of WWII. In the 1920s, Ono trained under Seiji Moriyama to paint the “finest, most fragile beauty” that “drifts within pleasure houses after dark” but felt unfulfilled making pictures of geishas. Ono was quite receptive to the suggestions of an art society representative, Matsuda, that art might instead serve both the poor and the nation by promoting Japan’s emperor. Filled with idealism, Ono broke from his teacher to become a very productive, successful and influential painter, propagandist and art teacher in Imperial Japan. The widespread repudiation of imperialism in post-war Japan presents a distinct challenge to Ono. Ono is unimpressed by those who hypocritically deny their pre-war imperialism, but he also questions those committing suicide as a form of apology. Rather, he wishes to be the “first to admit” the sentiments of his pre-war paintings are “perhaps worthy of condemnation” while still drawing consolation that “at the time I acted in good faith.” The marriage negotiations of his daughter, Noriko, have focused Ono’s thoughts as he suspects his imperialist reputation might hurt her chances. Ono seeks (sometimes unsuccessfully) to mend his old relations and while his behaviour during the negotiations puzzles his daughters, he believes his work was pivotal. The reader will never really know, though, for we only have Ono’s views upon the matter.
Ishiguro, Kazuo – “The Remains of the Day” – When Mr Farraday departs for a month-long stay in the US, his butler, Stevens, embarks upon a short motoring expedition to Cornwall. The trip combines pleasure and business, as Stevens plans to meet Mrs Benn (nee Kenton), a former housekeeper at Darlington Hall, whom he believes may yet return to work. During the trip, he reflects upon his life, the better part of which was spent serving Lord Darlington. Stevens’ father was a butler and Stevens regards it as a most noble calling. A consummate professional, he takes considerable pride recalling how he maintained his dignity and a calm façade even at the most trying of moments. Many of those episodes are quite amusing. In addition, he is proud to have served Lord Darlington who for much of his life sought to achieve “justice in the world”. However, Lord Darlington’s diplomatic efforts to ease the reparations burden on Germany were cynically exploited by Nazi Germany. Lord Darlington died a broken man, unable to accept the newspapers’ accusations that he colluded with the Nazis. Stevens, in turn, was so single-minded in his service to Lord Darlington that he never considered Miss Kenton’s interest in him and she eventually married another man so that she might raise a family. Miss Kenton still has moments of deep regret, but has come to love her husband. Can Stevens draw satisfaction from his professionalism, trust and dedication alone, or was his life a waste because his trust was misplaced and his quest for dignity denied him human warmth? Ishiguro has crafted a superb novel, deftly building each character through Stevens’ wry observations of intriguing episodes from his life and of his encounters during his expedition. Stevens returns to Darlington Hall, hopeful that perhaps it is true that “the evening’s the best part of the day”.
Jasanoff, Sheila - "The Fifth Branch" - Although notionally addressing all contributions of science to public policy, this book focusses exclusively upon the contributions of expert panels to EPA and FDA decisions prior to 1988. Many of the cases presented are fascinating. Over and under-reactions of government agents to nitrites, carbon monoxide and other pollutants have plagued both agencies. In additions, Jasanoff elegantly summarizes instances of decisions based on incorrect science or incomplete science. She repeatedly stresses the tendency of panels to selectively cite evidence to support their preferred position. However the book does not provided a broad view of science within the EPA and FDA, or within the rest of government. An interesting, but too narrow and conservative book.
Jerome, Jerome K – Three Men in a Boat –Written at the end of the 19th century, “Three Men in a Boat” is a series of tremendously funny anecdotes and observations centred on a fictional boating holiday up the River Thames by George, Harris, a dog, Montmorency, and the author. Jerome’s discourse encompasses the appeal of antiques, the risks of visiting cemeteries, the performance of comic songs, the dangers of rising too early in the morning and several fishing stories. Jerome’s writing is tremendously funny and witty.
Kafka, Franz - "The Trial" - Josef K., a junior bank manager, wakes one morning to find guards in his bedroom. The guards inform him that he has been charged with a crime, but that they do not know what the charges are. While the secret court investigates, K is allowed to continue his work at the bank. K's uncle urges him to employ an advocate, Herr Huld, while a client at the bank suggests K visit a painter who has contacts with the secret court. After the painter explains that cases before the secret court can be protracted and postponed but never acquitted, K resolves to fire his advocate. At the advocate's office he meets another client, Herr Block, who has become completely dependent on the lawyer. Shortly after K fires his advocate, the court sentences him and as K dies, he is still unaware of the charges against him.
Kassner, K. - "Pattern Formation in Diffusion-Limited Crystal Growth" - Written by a theorist, this is an interesting monograph upon a narrow topic. The author focusses his attention upon crystal growth from the melt in which growth conditions are forced to give a more complicated pattern than the usual dendritic instability. The theory is interesting, but only of direct relevance to the narrow area considered by the author.
Kawabata, Yasunari - "Snow Country" - In pre-WWII Japan, the hot springs in western Honshu were a popular train destination for the wealthy residents of Tokyo and other cities. In "Snow Country", Kawabata describes Komako, a hot-spring geisha at a guest-house, falling in love with a regular visitor, Shinamura. Their relationship is a strange one for Shinamura is married, and Komako is a reluctant geisha. Despite being interesting and well written, the Japanese perspective of "Snow Country" makes it difficult to fully comprehend.
Keithley – “Low Level Measurements” - A very handy guide for making low noise electronic measurements. Good details on cables, effective circuits and other details.
Kertesz, Imre – “Fateless” – A fictional account of the Holocaust as viewed by a fourteen year old boy from Budapest, Kertesz’s novel superbly captures the ordinary nature of our responses, even under extraordinary circumstances. The story begins as George’s father departs for the labour camps. George settles in with his step-mother and starts working at the oil refinery. One day the boys are diverted from a bus and together with men throughout Budapest are herded into barracks. Transported by train to Auschwitz, George is deemed fit and sent on to Buchenwald and then Zietz. George works hard and keeps his hope of returning home alive until an infection in his leg forces him to hospital. Receiving enough food and care to survive until the camp collapses, he returns to Budapest but his friends have not yet made it and his stepmother remarried and moved so he winds up at his relatives home. They are difficult to talk to, though, as they see him as a victim. George does not wish to have been destined for suffering by fate. Rather, he views the Holocaust as another part of life where he and others freely made choices. If fate does not rule, then each step or decision belongs to the person who made it. Without fate, life can continue past any hurdle and happiness is possible at any time or place, even in the camps. Kertesz’s novel is remarkable for it’s restrained tone, gentle humor and subtle message. Despite the tremendous hardships described, there is not a single villain or hero within the story but simply people living as best they can.
Kessey, Ken - "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest" - Play by Dale Wasserman - Performed at Royale Theatre, Broadway in May, 2001. Randle P. McMurphy is a character. Frustrated with the constant toil and restrictions of a state work farm, Randle commits himself to a state mental ward hoping to serve out his time more pleasantly. His ward, though, is dominated totally by Nurse Ratched. Randle's animal energy, natural amiability and tremendous creativity serve him well, but Nurse Ratched's years of experience and complete control of patients, attendants and psychiatric staff weigh heavily. Foiled in his attempts to watch the World Series, McMurphy convinces the other patients to pretend the television is working. For his efforts he and the Chief are given shock therapy. Enraged, McMurphy arranges an alchoholic party in the ward, complete with prostitutes. Billy Bibbit, a young patient loses his virginity but crumbles under Nurse Ratched's abuse and escapes through suicide. McMurphy's fate is sealed when he attacks Nurse Ratched, but his actions have inspired the Chief to emerge into the real world. Before fleeing the ward, Chief dignifies McMurphy's life by smothering him, rather than allowing him to live on after his frontal lobotomy. The play is humourous, fast paced and exceptionally powerful.
Koestler, Arthur – “Darkness at Noon” – Set in Russia during the 1930s, “Darkness at Noon” narrates the imprisonment, interrogation, trial and execution of Rubashov. A delegate at the first conference of the Party, Rubashov fought in the Civil War and conducted missions overseas before assuming control of the State Aluminium Trust. Now he stands charged with treason. Rubashov served the party with a hard and pure will and sacrificed many lives to the cause. He clearly regrets this as he reflects upon two colleagues he denounced. Ivanov, his first inquisitor, urges Rubashov to make a false, partial confession to preserve his life. Rubashov refuses and when Ivanov returns a fortnight later, Rubashov is even more adamant having recalled with considerable distaste denouncing his secretary and lover, Arlova, to protect his own life. Ivanov, though, obtains Rubashov consent that some of the many ruthless and cruel acts of the party were essential. Acknowledging that personal experience of suffering is not sufficient cause to reject totalitarianism, he casts his lot with the living. Rubashov composes a justification of tyranny owing to the political immaturity of the masses and waits to hear from Ivanov. Ivanov, though, has been arrested and it is Gletkin who conducts the final hearing. Where Ivanov attempted to reason with Rubashov, Gletkin simply wears Rubashov into submission. Bright lights and sleep deprivation amplify Rubashov’s doubts until it seems pointless to argue. He even concedes to confess publicly as a service to the party. Rubashov has been caught within his own utilitarian philosophy. Helplessly, he seeks the error in his thinking even as he dies.
Kundera, Milan – “The Joke” – Narrated by Ludvik, Helena, Jaroslav and Kostka, “The Joke” describes the intersection of their lives as viewed over one weekend. Ludvik has returned to his home town to revenge his nemesis, Pavel, by seducing Pavel’s wife, Helena. To Ludvik’s surprise, his aquaintance, Kostka, knows Ludvik’s first love, Lucie, who now lives in town. Jaroslav is anxious about the town’s pageant, “The Ride of Kings”, and the decline of folk art in general, and the appearance of his estranged childhood friend, Ludvik, only adds to his foreboding. Helena is excited as she’s been feeling rather lonely since Pavel got a young girlfriend. Ludvik has a tough weekend when his revenge is foiled (Pavel couldn’t care less about an adulterous wife and as a middle aged university professor, now shares many of Ludvik’s views about communism and power) and Kostka explains to Ludvik why Lucie ran away from him. When Helena realizes neither Pavel nor Ludvik loves her, she makes a rather farcical attempt on her life. Meanwhile, poor Jaroslav discovers his wife has only pretended that their son is in the “Ride of Kings” and thinks his folk traditions are stupid. Both downcast, Ludvik and Jaroslav meet that afternoon and together they play in the folk (cymbalo) band. For a moment, Ludvik is happy but Jaroslav suffers a serious heart attack. While Jaroslav will survive, Ludvik sees that life will not be the same. The past cannot be lived again and its marks cannot be expunged from their lives.
Kundera, Milan - "The Unbearable Lightness of Being" - Tereza, a waitress in a small village in Czechoslovakia, falls for Tomas, a womanizing, divorced surgeon from Prague when he visits and follows him to Prague. Tomas and Tereza marry and after the Russian takeover go to Zurich. Here, Tomas again meets Sabina, a painter and one of his many lovers, but when Tereza returns to Prague Tomas feels impelled to follow. Tomas is hounded by the secret police until eventually he, Tereza and Karenin, their dog, move to a village. Sabina, meanwhile, has an affair with Franz, a professor of philosophy in Zurich who leaves his wife only to find that Sabina has fled to America. Franz comes to enjoy life with a student lover but is killed in Thailand while protesting Pol Pot's regime in Cambodia. Sabina moves to America and achieves professional success, along with some personal happiness. All this, of course, is incidental to the thoughts of, and changes wrought on the protagonists. A beautiful novel.
Kundera, Milan - "Book of Laughter and Forgetting" - The "Book of Laughter and Forgetting" consists of seven sections linked by theme, rather than characters or events. The book more closely resembles a piece of music than a conventional novel. Kundera describes a man trying to retrieve love letters from a girlfriend he wants to forget, his own experience writing horoscopes for a Czech newspaper, a woman's attempt to recover her journal from her mother-in-law in Prague, a student's failure to have sex with a married woman, a fictional island inhabited by children and finally, the preparation of a man moving countries, and on in life. Kundera powers of description are superb. For example, he describes the Czech emotion of litost as "a state of torment caused by a sudden insight into one's own miserable self. It works like a two-stroke motor. First comes a felling of torment, then a desire for revenge." This very interesting book is quite different from Kundera's more traditional novels.
Larsen, Glen and Thurston, R. - "Battlestar Galactica" - The book, of the ABC-TV series, of the adventures of Apollo, Boomer, Starbuck and friends as they battle the Cylon nemesis. While a terrible piece of writing, with cardboard characterizations. clunky dialogue and a disturbing lack of attention to reality, it is still a fun read. The settlers of earth have since spread across the cosmos and established 12 home planets. Unfortunately, the Cylon race took an immediate disliking to the humans and has waged war on them for 1000 years. "Battlestar Galactica" commences as the Cylons and humans sign a peace accord, only for the Cylon's to launch an all-out and nearly successful attack on all twelve mother planets. Only a single cruiser, the "Battlestar Galactica" and a remnant of survivors escape, and flee to a quiet region of space. They soon set off for Carillon, home of tylium and the Ovions, a slave race of the Cyons. While the story is sexist, boring, badly narrated and unrealistic, somehow it still seems like rollicking good fun.
Lathen, Emma – “Ashes to Ashes” – A rather formulaic murder mystery. John Putnam Thatcher, assistant president of the Sloan Bank, first learns of St Bernadette’s school when the Parents League files a lawsuit opposing its sale to Unger Realty. His interest in the disputed mortgage grows tremendously when Francis P. Omara, leader of the Parents League, is found bludgeoned to death. The subsequent battle for St Bernadette’s takes some strange turns. The National Laity for Birth Control Reform make a picket line to bolster the struggling Parents League, and are soon followed by Bhagavad Catholics, and Willard Ericson, a lawyer interested in all forms of property rights. Events reach a head, though, when a bomb explodes in the annex of St Bernadette’s during a Beano game. Despite the confusing flurry of events, Thatcher spots the murder and Flensburg citizens resign themselves to development of some kind. A workmanlike story.
Lehninger, Albert - "Biochemistry" - An excellent introductory textbook, if a little dated. Following what was then a revolutionary structure, the book is split into four sections of "Molecular Components", "Catabolism", "Biosynthesis and ATP use" and "Genetics". Each chapter has a concise introduction and elegant summary so chapters can be rapidly skimmed. The writing style is light and interesting, and the author has a number of endearing features. Frequently, he traces the history by which a particular concept was developed, outlining the major experimental results used to deduce the model. As well, he provides many practical calculations of quantities to give a good physical feel for processes.
Lem, Stanislaw – “The Cyberiad” – Trurl and Klapaucius are “constructors” – robots that invent, solve problems and build machines. Natural curiousity and requests from troubled kingdoms draws them into a host of adventures. Fables are not easy to write, but Lem constructs fun, and thoughtful tales about cybernetic poets, kings who play hide and seek and Pirate Pugg’s quest for knowledge. Constantly verging on the boundaries of absolute farce, his storytelling greatly exceeds the similar intent of “I, Robot” or other science fiction fables.
L'Engle, Madeline - "A Wrinkle in Time" - After her scientist father mysteriously disappears young Meg has even more trouble behaving at school. Meg, her mother and her precocious young brother, Charles Wallace, gather in the kitchen during a storm when a strange old lady, Mrs Whatsit, knocks on the door. Charles Wallace claims to have met Mrs Whatsit at the haunted house, where she lives with Mrs Who and Mrs Which. The following day, Meg, Charles and Calvin O'Keefe, a boy from school, visit the haunted house and when they eventually meet all three ladies, the group travel through space and time to the planet Uriel. The children learn that their father has also learnt to travel through space and time, but has been trapped on the planet of Camazotz. Mrs Who, Which and Whatsit have been unable to rescue Mr Murry as Camazotz is engulfed in a "black cloud of evil" so the children must venture there alone. Arriving on Camazotz, the children find the people are enslaved to the will of IT, a giant brain with a penchant for routine and order. When the children meet IT, Charles Wallace is overpowered by IT's will but Meg, Calvin and Mr Murry escape to a nearby planet. After Meg is nursed back to health by an alien, she returns to Camazotz to rescue Charles. Meg's love overcomes IT's control of Charles Wallace mind, and the mysterious ladies transport the children and Mr Murry back to their home.
Leroi, Armand Marie - "Mutants - On Genetic Variety and the Human Body" - A superb book using mutations to illustrate the fascinating process of human development. Topics included conjoined twins, dwarfism, limb abnormalities, sexual development, albinism and piebalds as well as supernumery fingers, breasts and other appendages. Leroi introduces most types of mutation with early accounts before discussing contemporary understanding of the disorder.
Levin, Ira – “The Boys from Brazil” - A thriller in the “Odessa Files” genre, Levin’s novel begins in Brazil as Dr Josef Mengele, former Nazi concentration camp doctor, meets with six killers over dinner and assigns them to kill 94 minor civil servants across the world, all as they turn 65. Barry Koehler, a young American, records their conversation on tape and immediately calls Yakov Liebermann, the famous Austrian Nazi hunter. He communicates the essential details but is killed by Mengele before he can play the tape to Liebermann to corroborate his story. Although Liebermann monitors deaths that match Koehler’s description, at first they seem quite random. On tour in the US, he meets yet another widow and the link between victims is suddenly apparent. Each man had a young wife and an adopted teenage son who is thin and pale with blue eyes, dark-brown hair and a sharp nose. When Liebermann obtains a list of the adopted families in the US, the Organization halts the killings but Mengele flies to America to continue the plan himself. “The Boys from Brazil” has the short, clipped narration style of a “best-seller” novel and solid pacing from start to end. Although predictable, it’s certainly a solid science fiction thriller.
Lewis, C.S. – “Mere Christianity” – Adapted from a series of lectures presented by the BBC in 1943, “Mere Christianity” is a Christian apologetic approach to explaining Christianity. The first section attempts to establish God through our experience of morality. Claiming humanity shares concepts of right and wrong, Lewis posits the existence of a lawmaker/creator. Since men are evil, the incarnation of God in Christ is God’s way to guide or teach humans the path to salvation. Lewis then outlines in the second section those matters upon which Christians agree. Christian virtues are outlined (charity, faith, hope, forgiveness, justice, fortitude, prudence and temperance) and the evil of common sins (pride, sexual immorality, etc.) examined. The final section addresses the theological character of Christianity including the trinity, God’s freedom from time, and the transforming nature of faith. While the barest of introductions, “Mere Christianity” makes an excellent introduction to the logic and beliefs of many Christians and is a resource used throughout the world.
Lewis, C.S. - "The Screwtape Letters" - Wormwood is a junior tempter freshly assigned to lure souls to hell and his first assignment is a young man who has recently joined the Church. Wormwood regularly reports his progress to Screwtape, his uncle and an undersecretary of Hell. It is through Screwtape's letters of guidance that we learn of Wormwood's progress and the repertoire of temptations available to the devil. Wormwood's initial efforts appear quite successful and with the outbreak of WWII hopes his man will be dominated by fear and self-concern. Family relationships, vanity, gluttony and other human failings provide ample rewards until his assignment falls in love with a young Christian lady. Through her and her friends, he develops a greater faith and understanding of Christianity and Wormwood's attacks on chastity, charity and other virtues succeed no more. Wormwood's failure is complete when his charge is killed in the bombing and he must return to hell to face the heavy consequences of his failure. "The Screwtape Letters" novel format permits Lewis great freedom to describe the failings of Christians and the Church. With ruthless efficiency he criticizes many philosophical positions of his day, arguing for a simple, obedient and humble form of faith. The story is entertaining and provokes thought both about Christian belief and in the changes in attitude since the 1930's.
Lewis, Sinclair – “Elmer Gantry” - In a scalding attack on the great waves of popular religion that swept America in the later part of the 19th and early 20th century, Sinclair Lewis narrates the life of Elmer Gantry – womanizer, drinker, egoist and minister of God. Bullied into conversion by the charismatic ex-football start Judson Roberts while at college, Elmer goes to Mitzpah Baptist seminary but while preaching weekly at small church on Sundays, flirts excessively with Lulu Bains, young daughter of the deacon. Elmer escapes his engagement but the Dean Trosper learns too much about Elmer and he is expelled from seminary for drinking and unseemly behaviour. For several years Elmer’s skills prove just as valuable as a sales representative but one day he attends a tent revival by Sister Sharon Falconer and falls heavily for her. Sharon, with Elmer assisting, travel across the country and achieve great success but one night a fire in the tabernacle kills many except for Elmer. After a few more years in the wilderness peddling Prosperity and New Age Wisdom, Elmer meets Bishop Toomis, a forward-thinking Methodist and is persuaded to fill in at a small church in at Banjo Crossing. Elmer finally has the maturity and strength to succeed in the organized church and weds wisely to Cleo, studies hard and is rapidly promoted through the Methodist church for his innovative mixture of inspiring sermons, fun activities, denunciations of booze and prostitution and general energy. With strong and powerful allies, his rise in the church is threatened only by carnal desire, first when he meets Lulu again and later with his secretary, Hettie Dowler.
Lewis writes clearly and well with an entertaining eye for peccadillo’s and quirks. His incidental characters are superbly developed and he contrasts Elmer’s pragmatic but hollow faith with that of Frank Shallard, another student at Mitzpah who struggles and fails to follow his faith. “Elmer Gantry” is a superb denunciation of the fundamentalist, populist religion of the day and makes one ponder the actions of the church today.
Maddox, Brenda - "Rosalind Franklin - The Dark Lady of DNA" - Maddox has written a superb biography of Rosalind Franklin. Born into a wealthy family, Franklin completed her undergraduate studies at Cambridge as WWII started. During the war, she worked as a researcher at the Coal Board studying the properties of porous carbon used in gas masks. This work constituted her PhD, and after the war she was offered a research position in Paris working in the lab of Mering. Under Mering's guidance, she applied the technique of x-ray diffraction to study the structure of coal. Although Franklin was happy in Paris, at her parents prompting she returned to England in 1951 to join J.T. Randall's biophysics group at King's College. Randall asked her to work with the deputy director, Maurice Wilkins and his PhD student, Raymond Gosling, studying DNA with x-ray diffraction. Franklin and Gosling worked well together and Franklin discovered and took superb diffraction images of the A and B forms of DNA. However, Franklin and Wilkins argued frequently and because of their poor working relationship Franklin moved to J.D. Bernal's group at Birkbeck College in 1953. While Gosling and Franklin continued to analyse their data, Wilkins discussed Franklin's unpublished work with Watson and Crick in Cambridge. Although they relied heavily upon Franklin's results, Watson and Crick failed to acknowledge her in their seminal paper. Unaware of their impropriety, Franklin remained on friendly terms with both men. At Birkbeck, Franklin founded a group studying the structure of viruses. Following her death from ovarian cancer in 1958, this work continued under her close friend, Aaron Klug, who was awarded the 1982 Nobel Prize in Chemistry. Maddox does an excellent job of describing Rosalind Franklin's character as a caring friend and colleague whose fierce determination and sharp intellect sometimes made her impatient or abrupt.
Mann, Thomas – “Buddenbrooks” – “Buddenbrooks” charts the decline and dissolution of a family of merchants. The story commences in 1835 as Buddenbrook family celebrates moving to their new and larger home. The daily affairs of business soon rest with, Johann, who is more pious than his father but still a solid businessman. His eldest son, Thomas, proves well suited to the business but Johann’s other children are a different story. Christian, Tom’s younger brother, dislikes business and despite postings to London and South America, returns home to fritter away his time philandering, drinking and worrying about his health. Johann’s eldest daughter, Tony, is impetuous and foolish. Johann naively considers the deceptive request of Bendix Grunlich to marry her, but despite the large dowry Grunlich is soon bankrupt and Tony divorces him. A second marriage to a Munich brewer also fails and Tony resigns herself to living through her daughter, Erica. Clara, Johann’s youngest daughter, has a pious, melancholy character. Despite these worries, the family business prospers in Thomas’s hands and he not only weds Tony’s school friend, Gerda, but is blessed with a young son and is also elected a Senator for the town. These triumphs, though, are offset by a series of catastrophes including the death of Clara from tuberculosis, the arrest of Erica’s husband for business fraud and Christian’s growing debts and improper conduct. Tom is also saddened by his son, Hanno, who is a frail, artistic child ill suited for business. Before his worries coalesce, Tom abruptly dies and the business is liquidated. The collapse of the family is completed when Hanno’s frail constitution succumbs to an attack of typhus at age fifteen. Mann early life has many parallels to that of Hanno, and may well have lead him to the idea that introspective and artistic characteristics are in conflict with simple, everyday life and business.
Mann, Thomas – “Dr Faustus” – “Dr Faustus” is ostensibly the life of contemporary composer, Adrian Leverkuhn, written by his childhood friend, Serenus Zeitblom during WWII. During his schooling Adrian lodged with his uncle, a musical instrument supplier, and learnt from the town organist, Kretzschmar. Despite first studying theology at university, he shifts his studies to philosophy while also composing under Kretzschmar’s guidance. While in Leipzig he is misdirected to a brothel where he is entranced by one of the ladies there. Several years later, while in Italy, he reports having a vision of the devil. Returning to a farm just outside Munich, Leverkuhn writes a series of brilliant pieces firmly establishing his reputation. In a brief span of time, Leverkun’s nephew and close friend die while his proposal of marriage is rebuffed placing him under immense stress. At the public unveiling of his masterpiece, “The Lamentations of Dr Faustus”, Leverkuhn gives a garbled explanation of his life claiming his composition is the product of a pact with the devil. He collapses at the piano and never regains his senses. There are many other elements to “Dr Faustus”, though. In several chapters the narrator records the progress of WWII and how Germany has come to it’s present stance, while conversations of people in the life of Leverkuhn discuss theology, sex, art, nationalism, the German identity and many other topics. Mann is a superb storyteller with great wit, charm and a touch for just the right details. Even if “Dr Faustus” is not his finest work, it is still a very good novel.
Marks, Leo - "Between Silk and Cyanide" - is an extraordinary account of the second world war as told by Marks, the maverick son of a rare book dealer in London who had grown up with a talent for cryptography and rose with startling rapidity to be the head of codes for the British Special Operations Executive at the age of 22. His story, printed in 1998 after the relaxation of a variety of official secrets, gives a fascinating insight into the world of cryptography as practiced in the 1940s (although hiding more of the mechanics of it than it reveals). However, it is two other features that make this an astounding book. The first is Marks' frank and dryly presented picture of the office politics, problems of chain of command and inter-service rivalry which hamstrung much of British espionage activity, especially in France and Holland. The second is his portrayal of and homage to the human faces of the agents he trained to encode their messages, expressed in the poems he wrote for them to use as ciphers and the tasks and risks he undertook to give them safe and efficient communication with home. ST.
Maugham, Somerset – “Of Human Bondage” – A semi-autobiographical novel, “Of Human Bondage” charts Philip Carey’s life from early youth to marriage. Orphaned when his mother dies during childbirth, Philip lives with his Aunt and Uncle, the Vicar of Blackstable. They intend for him to be ordained and send him to board at the Cathedral school. Afflicted with a club foot, Philip has a difficult time fitting in at school although he does make some friends. Philip isn’t sure about entering the ministry and convinces his Aunt and Uncle to allow him to spend a year in Germany after school. Philip greatly enjoys his time there and in discussions with Hayward and Weeks becomes an atheist. Returning to Blackstable, he argues with his Aunt and Uncle about university and to escape to London, obtains articles with an accountant. Philip is horribly lonely in London, loaths accountancy and at the end of the year, leaves the position. His uncle is horrified but his aunt supplies him with funds to move to Paris to learn painting. At the studio, Philip makes good friends and rather enjoys himself. Philip demonstrates considerable kindness towards another student, Fanny Price, who falls in love with him but he has no attraction to her. Talentless and with no funds she despairs and eventually commits suicide. Philip ponders if any of the young artists have genuine talent and plucks up his courage to ask Monsieur Foinet, the studio’s consulting painter, to review his work. Fortuitously, news of his aunt’s death arrives the same day and he returns to England for her funeral satisfied about leaving art. Choosing to follow his father’s profession, he enrolls as a student at St Luke’s hospital in London and commences his medical training. Philip initially struggles in his studies and also falls under the spell of Mildred, a waitress at a local café. Mildred proves to be a singular bane in his life, marrying another man, running off with his friend, destroying his apartment in a fit of rage and yet always returning to Philip when in need. Eventually his feelings for her change but not before she has caused him great grief. Meanwhile, Philip turns into a moderately successful medical student and really enjoys the time spent with patients. He becomes friends with one in particular, Athelny, who invites him home to dinner each Sunday with his enormous brood of children. Short of funds, Philip speculates on the stock-market but loses all he has. Athelny finds him a job at a clothing house and Philip struggles on in poverty for two years. His uncle’s death from bronchitis finally rescues him and he returns to St Lukes to finish his degree. During a short locum spell on the Dorsetshire coast, he impresses the local doctor so greatly he is offered a partnership that Philip declines so he may travel. Holidaying with the Athelny family, he gets caught up by emotion and makes love to their oldest daughter, Sally Athelny, only to find that she has always fancied him. On returning to London, Sally thinks she might be pregnant so Philip commits to Dorsetshire, sacrificing plans to travel. When Sally’s concerns prove false, he realizes he really does want marriage, a home and love and fortunately Sally is also inclined that way. Philip’s character is quite appealing, and the story of his life so well told that even in the slow patches “Of Human Bondage” is quite enjoyable to read.
McDermott, Alice - "Charming Billy" - Following their World War II service, two Irish-American cousins, Billy and Dennis, spend a summer renovating a Long Island cottage owned by Dennis's stepfather. Billy falls in love with a visiting Irish girl, Eva, and they exchange letters after Eva returns to Ireland. The letters from Eva abruptly stop, though, after Billy sends her money to travel to America. Dennis learns that Eva has married an Irishman, but tells Billy that Eva has died from pneumonia. Several years later, Billy marries Maeve, a plain girl with an alcoholic father and Maeve and Billy care for her father. However, Billy also struggles with drink and in 1975 he travels to Ireland to take "the pledge". On his return, Billy visits Dennis at the Long Island cottage and with a sparkle in his eye, tells Dennis about meeting Eva while in Ireland. Dennis is relieved to be found out, especially since Billy can forgive Dennis for his deception and even forgive Eva for her treachery. Billy's drinking demons remain, though, and he dies much sooner than he should. Dennis and Maeve continue to support each other and the widower and widow eventually marry.
McDowell, Josh – “The New Evidence That Demands a Verdict” – A rather enthusiastic if somewhat cluttered and lengthy collection of material concerning the authenticity and legitimacy of biblical scripture. Topics addressed include archeological evidence of events described in the bible, an extensive discussion of the “documentary hypothesis” of the Pentateuch and the accuracy of transmission of scriptures. Much of the material is somewhere between point and paragraph form.
McEwan, Ian - "Atonement" - Spending the summer of 1935 at her family estate, young Cecilia Tallis is oblivious of her attraction to Robbie Turner, the son of the family's house-cleaner. Following an argument with Cecilia, Robbie struggles to write an apology and scribbles an explicit line at the bottom of a draft. Although he mistakenly sends this version, Cecilia is not offended and recognizes their mutual attraction. However, Briony, Cecilia's thirteen year-old sister, also reads the letter. That night, Cecilia's two young cousins, Jackson and Pierrot, run away from the house. While searching, Briony sees two figures in front of her and when she hears her cousin Lola call out, rushes forward. Remembering Robbie's obscene letter, she decides the tall, shadowy, figure retreating towards the house must be Robbie, and not Paul Marshal, the other tall man staying at the house. When Robbie returns to the house with Jackson and Pierrot, he is immediately arrested for rape. Part Two leaps forward five years to when Robbie is an infantryman trying to reach Dunkirk. Despite a serious wound, Robbie hopes to return to Cecilia, who has stayed faithful to him through his time in prison and has become a nurse in London. Part Three describes Briony's experiences as a trainee nurse in London. Briony has learnt that Lola and Paul Marshall are to be married and she has also written to Cecilia saying she will retract her false testimony. Although her meeting with Cecilia and Robbie is tense, Briony is able to apologize and it marks a potential beginning for conciliation. Finally, the novel leaps forward to 1999 and the narration of Briony, who has just finished writing the previous three sections. With death imminent, she regrets that her story cannot be published till Lola and Paul Marshall are dead, and reflects on why she has altered the facts in this final version.
McKibben, Bill – “Enough” – McKibben examines the possibility that genetic engineering and nanotechnology may radically transform the nature of human existence. He is particularly concerned by the use of germline engineering to generate humans that look better, think faster, remember more and live longer. He also fears nanotechnology may eliminate work and further lengthen life. McKibben argues for a conscious renunciation of these technologies. However, his case consists of hand-picked quotes from the most radical technology advocates and ignores most ideas and work in the field.
Melville, Herman – “Moby Dick” - For all the hype, “Moby Dick” is a surprisingly good read. Captain Ahab really is mad, but not so much that you cannot understand his desperate quest to find and kill the white whale. Meanwhile, the lucid and loquacious descriptions of life at sea, whales, whale hunting and diverse other matters makes for remarkably pleasant reading. At times one feels “Moby Dick” is a farce by Thackery, but the grim quest of Ahab to meet and destroy his nemesis continually propels the story along despite the many unusual and interesting adventures along the way. When Ahab finally sees Moby and sets out in his whale-boat the drama reaches a remarkable acme. While sorely dated, “Moby Dick” is deservedly a classic both for it’s charming characterization of the whaling industry and the powerful quest of Ahab for vengence that ultimately devours his life.
Miller, Arthur - "Death of a Salesman" - As the play begins, Linda is startled by the early arrival of her husband, Willy Loman, from a business trip to Massachusets. Willy has been rattled by the return of their drifter son, Biff, and returned home to avoid yet another car accident. Unable to concentrate, Willy's mind drifts forwards and back revealing seeds of his present unrest. Biff's great promise as a youth, Willy's hopes to emulate his brother Ben's business success, his shame at the discovery of his infidelity and his desparate need to be liked and respected are all bared. In the morning, both son and father agree to try again but by that evening the truth is plain. Biff will never succeed in business and Willy's dreams shall remain just that. Rejecting reality to the last, Willy convinces himself suicide will give his son a fresh start. "Death of a Salesman" poses a difficult question. As a salesman, Willy sells dreams to others ; stories of stockings that never run, cars that don't break and labour saving machines to revolutionize life. Willy's problem is the falseness of his own dream, "the only dream you can have - to come out number one man". He cannot succeed himself. He cannot succeed through his son, Biff. Desparate, he forms the new illusion, a new dream to live for. The tragic irony is Willy as a salesman who believes hype and publicity that his own customers would never buy.
Miller, Henry - "Tropic of Cancer" - Henry Miller lived as a writer in Paris during the 1920's and this is semi-biographical record of those times. Miller describes the strange places he's stayed, people he met, various schemes for acquiring free meals, the life of a proof-reader, the goings on in bars and brothels, strange dreams and visions and all other aspects of his life. His prose is excellent, the subject matter less so. While Miller tells his stories well their power has faded with time along with Miller's star.
Mitford, Nancy - "Pursuit of Love" - Abandoned at birth, the narrator, Fanny, was raised by her spinster aunt, Emily. Several times a year, Fanny visits her eccentric cousins at their country estate, Alconleigh, effectively becoming a part of their large family. She becomes especially close to her cousin Linda, who is the second eldest. Following cousin Louisa's marriage to a respectable but dull bachelor, Lord Fort William, Linda is next in line. Following a ball, she falls in love with the Tony Kroesig, the son of a banker, and the two marry despite the strong opposition of both sets of parents. However, despite giving birth to a young girl, Moira, Linda becomes bored with Tony and she divorces him to marry a young communist, Christian Talbot. When Christian travels to Catalonia to help the Spanish communists, Linda joins him. When Linda realizes that Christian is more interested her old acquaintance, Lavender, she leaves him and sets off for England. Linda misses her train in Paris, and while crying in front the train station, is accosted by Fabrice, a good-looking, wealthy Frenchman. Delighted by the attention, Linda becomes Fabrice's mistress and realizes she has finally met the love of her life. Within a few months, though, World War Two breaks out and Fabrice insists she return to England while he serves in the French army. Back in London, Linda discovers she is pregnant. When the bombing begins, she returns to Alconleigh where the rest of the family has gathered. Linda dies in childbirth and Fabrice is killed by the Gestapo, but their child survives and is adopted by Fanny and her husband. The novel is tremendous witty and engaging, especially when Mitford describes the odd behavior of the Radlett family.
Moore, Alan and Dave Gibbons – “Watchmen” - The “Watchmen” begins as Rorschach, a crime-fighting vigilante, investigates the murder of the Comedian, a US government operative and former vigilante. Suspecting a plot to murder the “Minutemen”, a disbanded association of crime-fighting costumed adventurers, Rorschach warns the remaining members Night Owl, Ozymandias, Miss Jupiter and Dr Manhattan. Shortly afterwards, Dr Manhattan, who acquired superhuman powers over matter, space and time through a nuclear accident in the 1960’s, is accused of causing cancer in his former colleagues and teleports himself to Mars to ponder his relationship with humanity in general and his current girlfriend, Miss Jupiter, in particular. Meanwhile, an unsuccessful attempt on the retired Ozymandias leads him to retreat from the public eye. Rorschach and Night Owl team up to discover the identity of the Comedian’s killer and rush to confront the killer at his base in Antarctica. Dr Manhattan and Miss Jupiter soon join them, but they are all too late to prevent the killer’s master plan to transform the world. Although the main plot is engaging, the “Watchmen” also actively explores the character and history of each adventurer using flashbacks, extracts from a retired vigilante’s autobiography, other documents from the “Watchmen” universe and even episodes of “Tales of the Black Freighter”, a pirate comic read by a boy at a local newsstand. A complicated and tremendously engaging story, “Watchmen” raised science fiction comics to an entirely new level.
Moore, Alan and David Lloyd – “V for Vendetta” - In the aftermath of a limited nuclear war, a fascist government has seized control of England using video surveillance, secret police and concentration camps. Following his escape from the Larkhill Resettlement Camp, the protagonist, “V”, commences a vendetta against his former captors and fascist government disguised in a black cloak, hat and Guy Fawkes mask. Evey, a young woman “V” rescues from the secret police, initially rejects his violent methods. In time she comes to support him and when “V” is mortally wounded, Evey assumes his disguise and continues his work to overthrow the government.
Moore, Brian - "Black Robe" - Set in seventeenth century Quebec, "Black Robe" describes the journey a Jesuit priest, Father Laforgue, to a distant mission. On his journey Laforgue is accompanied by a young carpenter, Daniel, and a group of the Algonkin people. Daniel falls in love with a Huron girl, Annuka, and when the group abandons Laforgue, her family returns with Daniel to rescue Laforgue. During an attack by Iroquois, Annuka's mother and brother are killed while Laforgue, Daniel, Anuka and her father are captured and tortured. Although they escape and continue their journey, Annuka's father sickens and dies. Laforgue, Daniel and Annuka finally reach the settlement only to find it in the grip of a deadly fever. When several Christian converts recover from the fever, the tribe ask Laforgue to baptize everyone in the belief that "water sorcery" will defeat the fever. Unable to convince the tribe that baptism is for the soul, Laforgue agrees to baptize them anyway.
Morrison, Toni - "Beloved" - A remarkable novel about the lives of
slaves prior to and after the Civil War. Chronologically, the story
traces back to the 1850's in Kentucky where Baby Suggs, Halle, Paul D. and
Sethe are slaves on the "Sweet Home" farm owned by the relatively
benevolent Mr Garner. Working weekends on other property, Halle is able
to purchase the freedom of his mother, Baby Suggs, who moves North to Ohio and
settles in house 124 to work as a cobbler. Upon Mr Garner's death,
Schoolteacher, his brother-in-law, takes over the Sweet Home property, and his
treatment of the slaves makes them plan to escape through the underground
railway. The escape is a dismal failure. Only Sethe escapes with
her two sons and daughter, although she is sexually assaulted and whipped
despite being pregnant with a second daughter. She has her second
daughter, Denver, while traveling to Ohio and recuperates at 124 under Baby
Suggs care. Almost immediately, Schoolteacher and three colleagues arrive
to reclaim Sethe and her children, and in fear Sethe kills her eldest daughter
to prevent her from returning to slavery. The story centres on events 18
years after this when paul D. finally makes it to Ohio to see Baby Suggs to
Sethe and Denver living in 124 along with the ghost of Sethe's eldest daughter, Beloved. Beloved's assumption of a physical form forces the protagonists to again confront the trauma and horror of their earlier life. The use of a multitude of narrative voices, the tremendous scope of the story along with the deep supernatural elements makes "Beloved" a tremendously moving story. Toni Morrison is an amazing writer.
Muggeridge, Malcolm – “Chronicles of Wasted Time” - Born in 1903 in a semi-detached house in Croyden, Muggeridge spent much of his life traveling the world as teacher, MI-6 agent and journalist. His father rose from poor origins to be a Labour MP, but Malcolm studied science at Cambridge before departing for India as a school-teacher. Returning to England, he married into the Fabian/Socialist aristocracy and taught at a variety of schools including one in Egypt before taking an editorial position at the Manchester Guardian. Posted to Russia as a foreign correspondent, he soon saw the evil of Stalin and made a hasty exit. Muggeridge spent the 1930’s working a host of literary jobs, including covering the British Raj in India, but his career really took off during WWII when he served in the intelligence directorate working for MI-6 in Mozambique, Algeria and France. His accounts of Stalinist communism, British imperialism, fascism, the chaos of liberated France, the farcical deliberations of the League of Nations and numerous other world events are sharp, interesting and strongly personal.
Mullis, Kary – “Dancing in the Mine Field” – Inventor of the Polymerase Chain Reaction, Mullis is a iconoclastic biochemist with a flair for writing and opinions on just about everything. This grab-bag of stories, ideas and arguments covers a huge range of topics. Mullis describes what it felt like to discover PCR, winning the Nobel prize, how he came to chemistry, the DNA evidence at the OJ Simpson trial, hallucinogenic drugs and mind-power, the bad science behind global warming, CFCs and AIDS and the danger of scientific beaurocracy. He is witty, entertaining, irreverent and thought-provoking.
Nadolny, Sten - "The Discovery of Slowness" - This fictional biography describes the life and adventures of the arctic explorer, Sir John Franklin. Born in 1786 in Lincolnshire, as a boy Franklin was determined to become a sailor. He fought in the Battle of Copenhagen in 1801, before sailing on Matthew Flinder's voyage to circumnavigate and map the coastline of Australia. Franklin's first command was an expedition to the Northwest territories of Canada along the Coppermine River. Although half the party was lost, Franklin was given the command of a journey up the Mackenzie River met with far greater success on this voyage. In 1836, Franklin was appointed governor of Tasmania. Despite considerable popularity, his attempts at reform offended powerful landowners and he was recalled in 1843. At the age of 59, he set off to chart the final 500 miles of the Northwest Passage on his third and fatal voyage. Nadolny attributes Franklin with a "slow" temperament. Although often mistaken for a weakness, Nadolny suggests that "slowness" contributed to Franklin's success by making him persistent, patient and thoughtful.
Naipaul, V.S. – “A Bend in the River” – Salim grew up in the Muslim Indian trading community on the east coast of Africa. Another trader, Nazruddin has an understanding with Salim’s family that one day Salim will marry Nazruddin’s daughter, Kareisha. Young, restless and aware of the changes in Africa, Salim leaps at Nazruddin’s suggestion to rebuild a run-down inland trading post. The political unrest has left the town at the “bend in the river” in terrible condition, but Salim stoically works at his business and settles in. He even acquires dependents in the form of Metty, an old family slave, and Ferdinand, the son of one of his customers. After the President easily crushes a small revolt, confidence grows, local business booms and the President builds a university on the outskirts of town. Salim meetsYvette, the pretty, young Belgian wife of an older lecturer, Raymond, and she starts an affair with him. Salim is thrilled, but the relationship runs aground while the situation in the country deteriorates. Sensing the inevitable collapse, Salim visits Nazruddin in England and gets engaged to Kareisha. His return to Africa is briefer than he expected as his business was nationalized while he was overseas. He attempts to smuggle what he can, but decides to flee after his arrest and release by the local police chief. His steamer is the last to leave town before the fighting breaks out. “A Bend in the River” has skilled characterizations, permitting it to show life in Africa from a variety of views.
Nanavati, Rajendra - "Semiconductor Devices" - Another solid text on diodes, transistor and IC physics. Not great or particularly current, but with the main ideas present.
Noddings, Nel - "The Challenge to Care in Schools" - A passionate, if not particularly helpful book on education. Nel asserts that society needs to care to thrive, and that school education has an important role to play in maintaining a caring society. She strongly attacks the focus in American schools on traditional achievement and assessment. One fun idea raised in the book is "methodolatry", a term first coined by Mary Daly, a feminist theologian. While interesting, "The Challenge to Care in Schools" true value comes only in the context of American education's "standards" debate.
Norris, Kathleen - "Dakota - A Spiritual Geography" - Having spent parts of her childhood in Dakota, Kathleen Norris returned with her husband to live in the home of her grandmother. In, "Dakota", she describes the community of Lemmon, South Dakota, and her experiences rejoining her grandmother's church and serving as an oblate in a Benedictine monastery.
Northcutt, Wendy - "The Darwin Awards" - A compendium of news articles about people dying as a result of their own stupidity. Although one is supposed to laugh at the foolishness or gross unluckiness of each individual it's hard not to feel sorry for many of them.
Nuland, Sherwin- “How we Die” – An idiosyncratic, but fascinating look at the process of death and our cultures approach to it. Nuland intersperses medical information with stories of the many deaths he has witnessed during his lengthy career as a physician. Nuland contrasts modern medicine’s “battle for life” with the manifest inevitability of death as our various body systems simply wear out. He argues for a more reasoned and compassionate approach to chronic illness in which a desire to “cure” is not the driving motive.
O’Brian, Flann – “Stories and Plays” –This anthology contained several short stories, the unfinished novel “Slattery’s Sago Saga” and the play, “Faustus Kelly” all written during the middle of the twentieth century. In “Slattery’s Sago Saga”, a rich American woman proposes to protect America from Irish immigrants by replacing Ireland’s potatoes with sago. Alas, the story is unfinished. In the play, “Faustus Kelly”, the chairman of a small, Irish town council makes a pact with the devil to be elected to the Irish Dael. The devil takes on the position of rate-collector to direct the campaign, but is horrified by Irish politics and vows never to let Kelly or his cronies into hell.
O’Brian, Patrick – “Master and Commander” is the first in a series of books recounting naval adventures from the era of the Napoleonic Wars. The series is famous both for its engaging protagonists and historical accuracy. Action is recounted in the idiom of the British Navy during the 19th century and without exception, naval battles are based upon recorded accounts. The novel begins as Lieutenant Jack Aubrey is appointed commander of the HMS Sophie. He is a superb seaman, keen amateur violinist and ambitious to be promoted to the rank of “Post Captain”. He recruits the cultured but impecunious Irish physician, Stephen Maturin, to serve as the Sophie’s surgeon and the two share a common bond of music for Stephen is a capable cellist. After a rather humdrum period escorting merchant convoys, Aubrey is delighted to receive orders to menace commercial ports and vessels along the French and Spanish coasts. Although the crew are thrilled to capture so many prize vessels, Aubrey’s thoughtless anti-Irish remarks and clear delight in financial gain offends his very capable Lieutenant, James Dillon. During a bold and successful attack on the much larger Spanish frigate, the Cacafuego, Dillon is killed to Aubrey’s great regret. Despite the Sophie’s great success, they receive new orders to deliver mail to Gibraltar. Using a rather liberal interpretation of these orders, Aubrey stops to burn three anchored Spanish vessels. The fire attracts three French ships of the line, trapping the slow, little Sophie inshore. Captured by the French, Aubrey and Maturin then witness two giant naval battles. Following his repatriation to Gibraltar, Aubrey is acquitted of wrong doing despite losing the Sophie.
O'Connor, Flannery - "The Violent Bear It Away" - 1955 - Set in the rural south of the United States of America, the novel describes the response of a teenage boy, Francis Tarwater, to the death of his crazed great-uncle, Mason Tarwater, with whom Francis has been living. Believing he was a prophet called by God, Mason had attempted to convert and baptize the members of his family. Mason was particularly embittered by his failure to convert his nephew, Rayber, and tried to convince Francis that it would be Francis's destiny to baptize Rayber's disabled son, Bishop. Following Mason's death, Francis hitches a ride to town, unsure whether to reject or embrace his great-uncle's calling. Francis's uncle, Rayber, welcomes him and hopes to help Francis learn to fit into society. However, Rayber struggles to get through to Francis. Rayber takes his son, Bishop and Francis to a small lake in the country and lets Francis take Bishop out in a boat. Driven by voices in his head, Francis drowns Bishop but he also mutters the words of baptism before Bishop breaths his last. Francis hitchhikes back to his great-uncle's grave and sees a vision calling him to return to the town and preach the word of God.
Pamplin, Brian R - "Crystal Growth" - A useful, if dated summary of techniques and elementary theory involved in crystal growth. While the sections on the theory of growth and molecular beam epitaxy are particularly weak, it is still a handy book.
Piaget – “The Construction of Reality in the Child” - Piaget’s pioneering experiments in child psychology give an interesting backdrop for this text. In it, he describes how the infant develops sensorimotor intelligence as a function of time. Clear stages of development are visible in the child’s conception of objects, the visual field, causality, time and investigating the universe. In early stages the child has only the most basic link between their physical desires and the world, but with time develop a model that explains the phenomena they’re surrounded by.
Posner, George - "Analysing the Curriculum" - An interesting introduction to education theory. Posner notes that as educational experts agree upon almost nothing, a student can hope at best to engage in "reflective eclecticism". "Analysing the Curriculum" is theoretical in tone as it builds a framework for comparing and juding curricula. At base, one needs a model for learning and Bloom's Taxonomy (knowledge, comprehension, application, analysis, synthesis, evaluation) works well. Tyler originally formulated curriculum review into four steps - determining objectives, determining available experiences, organizing the experiences and establishing feedback. George Posner proposes another set of four questions. How does learning occur in a curriculum? What objectives are worthwhile and how are they expressed? What content is important and how is it organized? How is the process to be reviewed? Posner applies these questions to a variety of curricula, including the PSSC science curriculum developed by Jerrold Zacharias in 1956. In summary, the books is a useful introduction to the ideas of educational review and analysis.
Pushkin, Aleksandr – “The Shot” - A short story told in two chapters, “The Shot” describes a confrontation between two Russian officers and a colleague. In the first chapter, the narrator lives in a small Russian town where he is friends with a retired officer and superb marksman, Silvio. The night before departing town, Silvio describes a duel where he refused to fire a return shot at his opponent. Several years later the narrator moves to another town and chances upon Silvio’s opponent who recounts his second duel with Silvio.
Rand, Ayn – “Atlas Shrugged” – Born in pre-communist Russia, Ayn Rand came to America to develop a philosophy (Objectivism) and writings to fight the evils of communism and socialism. “Atlas Shrugged” is not a novel but a 1100 page polemic. Rand describes a world where greedy and lazy businessmen use government rules and regulations to unfairly leach off the most productive, creative and innovative men of industry. The titans of productivity respond by shutting their businesses to move to a secret valley where a new society runs upon libertarian lines. The economy inevitably collapses, the government is deposed and our world-beating captains of industry are then free to return to productive work where everyone (at least everyone who is of any worth) will live happily ever after. Rand’s writing is a solid effort for a whining young adolescent with an unhealthy preoccupation with violent sex, but is a slightly under-whelming work from a grown woman. If the price of defeating communism were more books like this, one could easily tolerate a Marxist paradise.
Randall, Lisa – “Warped Passages : Unravelling the Universes Hidden Dimensions” – Although the force of gravity drives the aggregation of matter into galaxies, stars and planets and other objects of astronomical size, it plays practically no role in the interaction between objects the size of humans, molecules or sub-atomic particles. This apparent disparity between the strength gravity and the other known forces has been called the “hierarchy problem” and is an active field of research in particle physics. A recent suggestion by Lisa Randall (and others) is that the universe may have extra “hidden dimensions” in addition to the three spatial directions we are all familiar with. These extra dimensions are “hidden” because the gluons, photons, quarks and leptons of conventional particle physics are trapped in “our “ 3 spatial dimensions. In contrast, gravitons (carrying the gravitational force) are free to “leak” into the extra dimensions so gravity appears far weaker than the other forces. In the next ten years, experimental data from the Large Hadron Collider in Geneva should shed light on which, if any parts of these speculative models are correct. In “Warped Passages”, Randall summarizes the “Standard Model” of particle physics and the hierarchy problem, introduces the notion of extra spatial dimensions and finishes with a description of her own work using models with hidden dimensions to combine super-symmetry, general relativity and other branches of physics with the “Standard Model”. The book is aimed at the lay reader and is replete with analogies in place of equations, fun illustrations and short stories at the start of each chapter. Randall’s tone is enthusiastic and successfully conveys the excitement she feels for her subject. “Warped Passages” does not give the reader an overview of the frontiers in particle physics, but does a great job of showing how even weird ideas like “hidden dimensions” could play a role in describing our universe.
Reece, Helen (ed.) - "Law and Science - Current Legal Issues 1998" - The conference on 'Law and Science' in 1997 at University College, London resulted in two books of which this is the first. There are a host of papers, but some of the most interesting are 'The BSE Crisis: a Study of te Precautionary Principle and Politics of Science in Law (Fiona E. Raitt)', 'Brainwashing Evidence in Light of Daubert (Gerald Ginsburg and James Richardson)' and 'What Lawyers Need to Know about Science (Lewis Wolpert)'. The application of strict legal reasoning to these cases is quite fascinating and many of the articles are well authored.
Reed, Ronald F., Tony W. Johnson – “Philosophical Documents in Education” – An interesting anthology of philosophical documents related to education. The early selections from Socrates, Plato, Aristotle and Augustine are not completely topical, but Erasmus’s piece from “The Praise of Folly” is exquisite. The works of William James, John Dewey and George S. Counts are interesting in their common urge to use education as a tool for a “democratic society”. Many of the subsequent selections focus on the particular needs of education for women, fostering “caring” or other particular concerns. The pieces by Gareth Mathews and Matthew Lipman discuss the place of philosophy in education and their experiments in the philosophical understanding of children. These are interesting in the same way as Piaget’s original studies of the pre-verbal development of the child. Regrettably, each piece seems remarkably limited to the period and place it was authored. Perhaps this reveals the difficulty of establishing a philosophy of education that is independent of the society in which it is practiced.
Reisner, Marc – “Cadillac Desert” – A fascinating history of the attempts to convert the semi-arid desert of North-West America into irrigation farmland. When Major Powell first surveyed the region, he could not help but concluded that water availability would largely determine the development of these semi-arid regions. Despite this, the trans-national railways actively recruited farmers across the entire north-west of America during periods of anomalously high rainfall. The response to the droughts of the 1880’s and great dust-bowl of the 1930’s was a program of “reclamation” that by 1970 had dammed or diverted almost every river within the United States. Reisner both marvels at the tremendous engineering feats to construct dams such as the Hoover, Shasta and Grand Coolee (168m height by 1.6km length), and the human greed and folly that have driven hundreds of uneconomic and unsustainable projects. Perhaps the most entertaining chapter recounts the machinations of the Los Angeles Department of Water in the early 20th century to steal the entire Owen’s River and pipe it over 360 kilometers. Chapters describing the continued cycle of expanding farmland, draining aquifers, installing dams and then expanding farmland are more depressing, while the description of the 1976 collapse of Teton Dam is simply amazing.
Remarque, Erich - "All Quiet on the Western Front" - One of the great pieces of literature to emerge from the Great War, Remarque's novel is narrated by Paul Baumer, an infantryman serving in the German Army. Enlisting directly from school with his classmates, Paul adjusts swiftly to military life and the horrors of trench warfare. Compared to the new recruits, he and his comrades handle the terror of combat, the gut-wrenching scenes of death and destruction and the continual hunger and ill health with ease. Yet, given a moment to think while relieved from the front, home on leave or recuperating in the hospital and Paul cannot help but be horrified at the changes war has wrought. Kat and the older soldiers might still be able to return to normal life, but the young recruits like Paul know only of fear and loss. Paul struggles bravely on but loses all hope when his close friend, Kat is killed. His own death shortly afterwards is almost immaterial for the War makes life meaningless. Remarque writes with directness and brevity conveying his characters thoughts through short dialogue and accurate descriptions of their actions. Weaving together events from Paul's youth, training, recovery in hospital, adventures on leave and frantic actions at the front he conveys both the raw andrenalin of battle, the paralysing fear engendered by combat and the sheer numbness that besets the troups after the action has ended. Paul's harrowing adventures make that the insidious and inescapable nature of war human.
Robbins, Tom – “Even Cowgirls Get the Blues” - Not for the fainthearted, “Even Cowgirls Get the Blues” is a rollicking tale of endangered species, feminism, hitch-hiking, psychology, perfume, physical abnormalities, art and even a little politics. With great glee, Robbins blends together a panoply of caricatures and unlikely scenarios as he explores love, life and the concept of time. At one end of the story is Sissy Hankshaw, a drop-dead gorgeous model with thumbs 2-3 times the size of a normal person. At the other, the “Rubber Rose” Ranch and Siwash Ridge where the Chink, Bonanza Jellybean, Delores, a bevy of cowgirls and some whooping cranes idle away the time. In between lies Yonni Yum perfume, Dr Robbins the psychologist, hundreds of thousands of miles of hitchiking and much, much more. Robbins has a nimble mind and tremendously dextrosity with the English language, peppering the novel with aphorisms and observations. His characters are smooth yet vivid and the story moves with fun, bounce and pace if a little didactic at times. In some ways its a hybrid of “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance” and “Cat’s Cradle” yet it has a distinct style of its own. Regrettably the book is unsuitable for a younger audience as the ideas Robbins explores fascinate your average teenager and would make for a great introduction to philosophical fiction.
Robertson, Geoffrey - "Crimes Against Humanity : The Struggle for Global Justice" - Until the present age, the umbrella of national sovereignty has invariably protected branches of the state from the reach of human justice. Even after war the political and emotional needs of the victor are commonly foremost (Winston Churchill wished to summarily execute Germany's leaders). Whether pressed by the horrors of WWI and WII, technical advances in methods of genocide and warfare or improved global communication, for the past 75 years nations have actively hidden crimes against humanity. Innumerable treaties have been signed, ratified and ignored (for example, the Anti-Personel Landmine treaty lacks effective measures to ensure compliance), political opponents were given show trials prior to execution (as an illustration, Andrei Vyshinky was Stalin's favourite prosecutor and representative of the USSR at the 1948 UN Conference), death squads acted outside the regular military (as in Chile where Pinochet's death squads organized 6000 "disappearances") and amnesties granted for past crimes (as in South Africa). However, the end of the 20-th century had unexpected and unusual developments that might foretell the late arrival of H.G. Well's "New World Order". Excluding united opposition to South Africa's apartheid policy, the institution of the Balkan Trials by the Security Council in 1993 was the first time genocide and other crimes against humanity were held accountable by national powers foreign to a conflict. The Rwandan tribunal, instituted after the studied neglect of UN and Western powers permitted the deaths of 800,000 Tutsis, was a similar sop to Western consciences. While the arrest of Pinochet in England required the invocation of European Treaties, the bombing of Kosovo directly violated UN treaties, and military intervention in East Timor was only secured through the US bullying Indonesia, there has been a marked change in attitude and actions of the global community. Inhumane crimes are being punished, albiet in small measure for the original penalties, and years afterwards. Geoffrey Robertson, in a thorough, entertaining and sarcastic account, reviews the historical development of international justice and the possibility for future advances.
Robinson, Marilynne - "Gilead" - John Ames is an elderly congregationalist pastor living in the fictional town of Gilead, Iowa. His first wife, Louisa, died in childbirth leaving him a widower but many years later, a young woman, Lila, came to town, fell in love and married him. Because he is suffering from heart disease, Ames sets out to write an account of his life for his son who is seven years old. Ames describes his memories of his grandfather, a pastor who lost an eye fighting in the Civil War, and his father, who was also a pastor and became a pacifist. Ames also describes the joys in his life, his struggles with loneliness and his uneasiness about the disreputable past of his godson, John Ames Boughton, who is visiting town. Ames overcomes his resentment when John Boughton tells him about his African-American wife and child in Missouri. Boughton has been separated from his wife and childe by segregationist laws, while Ames will soon be separated from his son by death. At peace with his godson, Ames concludes his account with a prayer that his son will be brave and find a way to be useful. Robinson writes with tremendous skill and the character of Ames is tremendously engaging.
Rowling, J.K. - "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone" - The first of a series of children's novels concerning the adventures of Harry Potter, an 11 year old apprentice magician. Harry's parents, Lily and James, were both killed in a battle with the evil magician Voldemort who disappeared in mysterious circumstances afterwards. Albus Dumbledore, the principal of Hogwarts School for Wizards, sends the infant Harry to live with his muggle (normal) cousins, the Dursley's. On his eleventh birthday, Harry is able to leave the atrocious Dursley family and heads off to Hogwarts to commence his education in wizardry. The adventures which follow are typical of children that age, and Harry and his two friends, Hermione and Ron smuggle dragons out, fly on broomsticks and all the usual childish entertainments. The story is told at a good pace, and the dramatic conclusion, although predictable, is still a lot of fun. In the words of Orwell, a "good, bad book".
Rush, Norman – “Mating” – Set in Botswana in the early 1980’s, “Mating” is narrated by a thirty-something anthropology PhD student who’s thesis research has just collapsed. While recouperating in the capital, Gaborone, she meets Nelson Denoon, a sociologist running a closed experimental settlement for disadvantaged women. Undeterred when Denoon declines her offer to visit the community, the narrator sets out for the private settlement, Tsau, on foot. Posing as a lost ornithologist, the narrator is accepted by the village “mother committee” and takes a keen liking to life in Tsau. Denoon is greatly impressed by her, and she soon moves into his place where their relationship develops rapidly. Rattled by a number of small dramas, Denoon sets out on a fool’s errand. When his horse is bitten by a snake, he falls and breaks an arm and leg and waits a week before being found. Initially, at least, Denoon’s personality is markedly altered by the accident and his impersonal responses alienate the narrator. Although she seeks help for Denoon in Gaborone, it is to no immediate avail, so she returns to the US to finish her thesis and ponder whether Denoon should be her mate. Rush does a superb job describing the scenes and atmosphere of Bostwana, and his narrator has an engaging personality. Alas, Denoon is predominantly an artificial amalgam of noble and worthy ideologies without the breath of human nature, while the other characters are mere sketches. While this is a serious shortcoming, the novel remains an interesting and entertaining read.
Sachs, Jeffrey - "The End of Poverty" - Noting that (by today's standards) every country in 1750 was "poor", Sachs attributes present disparities in wealth to minor differences in economic growth rates compounded over many decades. Countries with good access to markets and appropriate natural resources could achieve sustained economic surpluses. Investing these surpluses in technology and industry boosted production efficiency and economic growth became self-sustaining. While other countries took longer to achieve economic surpluses, once they could begin to industrialize the gains in productivity again drove rapid economic growth. In contrast, countries where people suffer from extreme poverty frequently have poor access to markets, low or inconsistent rainfall and high prevalence of diseases. Unable to invest in technology, their economies have been trapped at the subsistence level. Sachs argues that a comparatively small investment in public health, infrastructure and grassroots economic development would lead to economic surpluses in these countries. Having reached the first "rung' of the "ladder" of economic development, Sachs believes these countries economies would then be able to drive their own growth. Sachs draws on his experience advising the governments of Bolivia, Poland and other countries to support his views. However, he notes that although the UN and many member countries support these simple goals, very few countries met the obligations outlined in the Millenium Development Plan (0.7% of GNP).
Satre, Jean-Paul – “No Exit” – Garcin, Estelle and Inez each arrive in Hell to discover it is a sitting room where “Hell is other people”. “Dirty Hands” – Under orders from his local collective, Hugo kills a communist leader negotiating with other political parties during WWII. Released from prison three years later, he learns the party did pursue a collaboration under orders from Stalinist Russia.
Schmidt, Jeff – “Disciplined Minds : A Critical Look at Salaried Professionals and the Soul-battering System that Shapes Their Lives” - Schmidt raises numerous interesting and important questions about the professional workplace. In modern society, access to a career in medicine, law, engineering, accountancy or other professions is restricted to a small elite by the admission process of professional schools and societies. One potent mockery of professional selection criteria is the relative ease with which untrained individuals have successfully pretended to be doctors, lawyers and other professionals. While the thirty-six hour shifts for medical interns and engineering student’s brutal courses are ostensibly essential professional training, Schmidt suggests they are in fact a form of cultural brainwashing. He argues that professional training creates individuals with a narrow focus, assignable curiosity and a willing acceptance of the prevailing workplace ideology. This thesis does much to explain how nuclear weapon designers and corporate lawyers sleep at night. Although quite interesting, the book has a somewhat narrow focus with the author drawing heavily upon his own experiences in physics graduate school. Consequently, the important question of how professional training developed into its present form, or how it might be reformed, are left largely unexplored.
Singer, Peter - "Practical Ethics" - Peter Singer is an Australian philosopher, currently working at Princeton University. His approach to ethics is largely utilitarian, although not in an entirely traditional sense. In this book, he primarily discusses equality, killing, economics and legality. He demands that ethics give "equal consideration of interests" so that it be universal in its application, and is then left with the dilemma of having to include non-human interests. Singer's unconventional resolution is to welcome animal interests to ethical decision making. The inevitable conclusion is that almost all farming practices, and most of our treatment of animals is unethical. Using these same criteria, he then examines popular ethical restrictions on abortion and euthenasia. Based on a utilitarian desire to maximise happiness and well-being, he concludes that neither abortion nor euthenasia are ethically wrong, and are indeed ethically desirable. In the later part of the book, he examines the ethical obligations placed on a resident of the first world, and concludes that assisting those in the third is an inevitable duty. Finally, he argues in favour of a case by case basis for deciding the reasonableness of violating the law. Singer is an interesting and original thinker who writes clearly and persuasively. However, his insistance on using only a single scale of happiness or well-being is a drawback which makes his ideas interesting, but not particularly useful. "Practical Ethics" is definitely worth a read.
Sen, Amartya - "On Ethics and Economics" - Adapted from a lecture series at the University of California, Berkeley, this short book combines some of Sen's ideas on economics and philosophy but regrettably does not address many of his more famous ideas. Here, Sen is primarily concerned with the use of self-interest as the sole criterion for economic decisions. Citing first historical opinion and then practical evidence he argues the utility, well-being and communal values are most significant in economic decision making. While he concedes that these cannot be quantified in the same way as self-interest, he argues this does not diminish their role in determining economic dynamics. The book is exceptionally theoretical, in sharp contrast to much of Sen's revolutionary economic work.
Seth, Vikram - "Two Lives" - A description of the remarkable lives of the author's Uncle Shanti and Auntie Henny. Shanti was born in 1908 in Bisram in Northern India. As his father had died several months before his birth, Shanti's siblings played an important role in his upbringing. Although Shanti wanted to become an engineer like his elder brother, Raj, he failed the entrance tests. At Raj's suggetion, Shanti instead traveled to Berlin to study dentistry. Shanti rapidly learnt German and made friends with the social circle of his landlady, Ella Caro, and her two daughters, Lola and Henny. At the time Henny she was unofficially engaged to Hans, the son of her employer, Franz Mahnert, and Shanti and Hans became firm friends. On completing his dental studies, Shanti traveled to England in 1937 and was forced to take the English certification exams before he could practice as a dentist. At the beginning of World War Two, Shanti joined the Army Dental Corps and was posted first to Africa and then Italy where he lost his right arm during a shelling attack. Upon his return to England, he was discharged from the army and found work as a technical and sales representative for a large dental company. With the encouragement of his friends, Shanti gradually returned to working as a dentist and in 1948 he bought a house in London to start his own practice. Meanwhile, Henny had lost her job in Berlin because of the anti-Jewish regulations but her former employer, Franz Mahnert, found work for her in London and she arrived just before war broke out. After the war, Henny learnt that her sister and mother had both been killed in German concentration camps and that Hans had married. She continued to work in London and grew closer to Shanti. In 1951, Shanti and Henny married and lived together in London for the rest of their lives.
Shelley, Mary – “Frankenstein” – While a student at the University of Ingolstadt, Victor Frankenstein discovers the secrets of life and applies his knowledge to construct a monster. Horrified by his creation, he flees and the monster wanders out into the night. Several months later Frankenstein’s young brother, William, is strangled in Geneva. A trusted family servant, Justine, is convicted and executed for the crime, but Frankenstein suspects his monster is the real killer. Man and monster meet while Frankenstein is climbing to the summit of Montavert. Seeking Frankenstein’s pity, the monster recounts how it has learnt the language and ways of humans, yet has been rejected by humans because of its horrid appearance. The monster promises to depart Europe and human civilization if only Frankenstein will give it a female companion. Acknowledging his obligations as a creator of life, Frankenstein travels to England to make a second monster. Before he finishes, however, Frankenstein reconsiders his promise, fearing that the monster and its mate will breed. The monster becomes enraged by Frankenstein’s decision and vows revenge. It first kills Frankenstein’s friend, Henry Clerval, and upon the night of Frankenstein’s wedding, murders his bride, Elizabeth. In pursuit of the monster, Frankenstein races across the Northern ice. The polar explorer, Robert Walton, rescues Frankenstein. As Frankenstein dies, the monster appears before Walton and exults over the death of its creator before departing for the North Pole, where it intends to destroy itself. Written in 1816, “Frankenstein” is remarkable for its originality and creativity.
Singer, Isaac Bashevis - "Collected Stories" - Born in a small village in Poland, Singer came to New York during the 1930's and worked writing columns and stories for Yiddish newspapers. His stories draw on his father's experiences as the Rabbi of a Polish Jewish village as well as Singer's later life in America.
Singh, Simon – “Fermat’s Enigma” – “Fermat’s Enigma” is a popular account Fermat’s Theorem, and the path by which Andrew Wiles eventually discovered a proof. Fermat, a seventeenth century French judge was a phenomenal amateur mathematician making all kinds of interesting discoveries, including the observation that 26 is the only number with a cube and square for neighbours. Mathematics was a hobby, though, so it was only when his son published Fermat’s notes that the conjecture bearing his name became known. Euler solved the case of n=3 in the eighteenth century, and progressive cases were whittled away but in the nineteenth century Kummer showed that existing methods would fail because of the non-uniqueness of factorization and the problem dropped from professional interest. In the 1950’s, Taniyama and Shimura hypothesized that elliptic equations and modular forms were uniquely linked. Neither appeared to bear directly on the problem until the 1980’s when Frey suggested, and Ribet proved that the Taniyama-Shimura conjecture was formally equivalent to Fermat’s theorem. Upon hearing the news, Andrew Wiles, an expert in elliptic equations worked in secret for seven years to try to prove the Taniyama-Shimura conjecture. In 1993 he announced a proof, but an error in his use of the Kolyvagin-Flach method was detected during review. Under great pressure he constructed a corrected proof to that section by merging elements of his new proof with an earlier failed attack. Thus, in 1995 a correct proof running to 170 pages was published. It is remarkable that even though Wiles had dreamed since childhood of proving Fermat’s Theorem, he was unaware his training in elliptic equations would be of direct help until Ribet’s proof. Realizing he could work on current and significant mathematics while attacking his preferred problem, he launched into a remarkable research program. Singh does an excellent job of discussing the mathematical ideas and mathematical personalities that have worked towards a proof of Fermat’s theorem. One is left with no conception of Wiles’s proof, but a good appreciation of the challenges he overcame to complete this remarkable achievement.
Smollet, Tobias – “Roderick Random” – The orphan, Roderick Random, lives miserably until his cruel grandfather passes away and his uncle, Lieutenant Bowling, undertakes to support him as a student in Glasgow. Bowling duels with the Captain of his ship and forfeits his position with the navy so Random is forced to take a position as assistant of the surgeon, Crab. The pregnancy of Crab’s maid causes Crab to send Roderick to London so the accident may be blamed upon him in his absence. Random meets with his boyhood friend, Strap and the two resolve to stay together. After an eventful trip, Random finds London quite overwhelming and is soon swindled of his money and finds his letters of recommendation to be little use. Although soon qualified for a berth as a surgeon’s mate on a British ship, no job is forthcoming until Strap’s connections secure him a position as an assistant to an apothecary. Regrettably Random incurs the ire of the apothecary’s daughter and she and her husband frame him for theft. Thrown to the street, Random moves to humbler quarters, gives aid to a prostitute, Miss Williams, but is soon press-ganged aboard the very ship his uncle served on. By good fortune, the position of surgeon’s third mate is vacant so Random fares quite well. The trip to the West Indies and Carthagena is made quite unpleasant by the barbarity of Captain Oakhum and Surgeon Mackshane. After a somewhat dismal attack on Carthagena, Oakhum and Mackshane remain in the West Indies so Random’s life improves greatly for a short while. Returning to England, the commander and surgeon both die leaving the vessel under the incompetant and brutal command of Lieutenant Crampley. The ship runs aground on the English shore, Random fights with Crampley, collapses and is carried into a local village. Wishing to avoid trouble, Random chooses to remain in the village serving as valet to a local family. When his mistresses’ niece is assaulted by the local squire, Random strikes the squire, declares his passion for the fair Narcissa and flees to the sea-shore where he is captured by smugglers. Upon arriving in France, Roderick has the good fortune to meet his uncle who is penniless. Random’s meager savings are sufficient for Lieutenant Bowling to return to England, while Roderick joins the French Army. Resting in winter quarters in Rheims, he encounters once more his old friend, Strap, who has just come into a small sum of money. They resolve to return to London where Roderick will endeavor to marry a wealthy bride. Fortune-hunting proves rather difficult, and Random is rejected by Melinda, rebuffs the unpleasant advances of Lord Stradle, and finally pursues Miss Snapper to Bath. Narcissa, though, is also at Bath and Random does all he can to win her brother’s approval. Melinda arrives the next day and takes revenge upon Random by spreading unpleasant rumours. After a duel with Lord Quiverwitt over the fair Narcissa, Random travels to London, attempts to bilk his tailor and is soon arrested. Lieutenant Bowling returns to London as a successful merchant captain and with Strap goes to prison to relieve Random from his debt. Bowling recruits Random as surgeon for his next trip to Africa and South America despite Roderick’s determination to pursue the love of Narcissa. The trip is a commercial success and while in Peru, Roderick and Bowling chance upon a wealthy Englishman who is none other than Roderick’s father. Joyful at their reunion, they set sail for England where Roderick marries Narcissa, Strap marries Narcissa’s maid. Everyone, at least, everyone who matters, is happy. One of several picaresque comedies by Smollet, “Roderick Random” is a funny and entertaining set of caricatures of life at sea and land during the 18th century.
Solzhenitsyn, Alexander - "One day in the life of Ivan Denisovich" - Published in 1962, the novel describes life in Stalin's gulags from the perspective of Ivan Denisovich, a soldier falsely accused of spying during WWII. Despite the bitter cold of the Russian winter, the prisoners rise before sunset to march to the worksite where they work until well after sunset. The prisoners work together in gangs and they encourage each other to work hard, since rations depend on the amount of work the entire gang performs. Ivan's gang also works together to collect firewood, steal extra bowls of food and avoid punishment. While other gang members depend upon their religion or contacts with home, Ivan copes with the harshness of prison by focusing on each moment.
Spark, Muriel - "Memento Mori" - A superb novel, "Memento Mori" describes the elderly members of a social circle troubled by anonymous phone calls. Dame Lettie is the first to be told to "remember that you must die", but her brother Godfrey, his novelist wife Charmian, and other acquaintances are soon called as well. Although Dame Lettie is greatly troubled by the calls, Godfrey and Charmian are more preoccupied by the attempts of their new servant, Mrs Pettigrew, to blackmail Godfrey and scare Charmian into a retirement home. While retired Detective Mortimer attempts to trace the mysterious telephone caller, the sociologist, Alec Warner, keeps detailed notes on Lettie, Charmian and the other members of his social group as part of his studies of senescence. The foibles and frailties of each character are subtly and beautifully developed, highlighting viewpoints of life taken from near its end.
Spark, Muriel – “The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie” – Written in 1962, “The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie” is a captivating novella describing an unusual teacher and the effect she has on her students. Jean Brodie is an Edinburgh spinster and primary school teacher with an eclectic set of interests spanning art, music, religion, romance, and the transcendence of the individual. While pretending to instruct conventionally, Miss Brodie’s teaches to transform a select group of students into the “crème de la crème”. Sandy, Jenny, Rose, Eunice, Mary and Monica relish the invitations to tea, trips to galleries and games of golf and they observe with fascination Miss Brody’s love for the Art Master, Teddy Lloyd, and her affair with the Music Master, Gordon Lowther. Although Miss Mackay, the Headmistress, continually seeks evidence for Miss Brody’s dismissal, the girls remain faithful to their mentor throughout their school days. Miss Brodie’s plan for Rose to be Teddy Lloyd’s lover fails, for it is Sandy who starts an affair with him. While the other girls settle relatively smoothly into their adult lives, Sandy studies psychology, takes up Lloyd’s Catholic faith and betrays Miss Brodie to the headmistress in retaliation for years of domination. Despite Miss Brodie’s clear fascist tendencies, her passion and interests in life are developed well so her demise remains tragic. Her love is genuine, even if it is predominantly for truth, beauty and the glory of select individuals.
Spong, John Shelby - "Rescuing the Bible from Fundamentalism" - The advent of evolution and historical geology had powerful effects upon religion in America. For some members of the church, scientific theories surplanted religion scripture, leaving the Church as an institution for social work and ethics. Others rejected science, declaring Biblical scripture to be inerrant, or fundamental. This painful schism persists. Episcopal Bishop Spong is an intelligent, thoughtful and eloquent speaker for American liberal theology and in this short and simplistic book, has outlined one liberal approach to non-literal interpretation of the scripture. The early sections of the book illustrate the potential 4-part authorship of the old testament in the Yahweh, Elohist, Deuteronomical and Priestly texts. The later chapters focus on Paul's letters, the three synoptic gospels and John's. The illustrations he chooses are simple and precise, and the contradictory elements of the four gospels are well selected. However, Bishop Spong is rather free in his interpretation of this evidence. Paul is likely to be homosexual, the discussion between Jesus and Nicodemus is a formal warning against literal scriptural interpretation, and so on. Despite this, the book is informative and a valuable contribution to popular discussions of scripture. Spong's love of scripture, and his desire for all Christians to share it, is irrepressable and this more than accounts for any textual weaknesses.
Stendhal - "The Charterhouse of Parma" - Written in 1839, "The Charterhouse of Parma" recounts the life and adventures of the Duchessa de Sanseverina and her nephew, Fabrizio del Dongo. The story begins as the young Fabrizio runs away to France to serve in Napoleon's army. Reported to the Austrian authorities by his elder brother, young Fabrizio must take up exile in nearby Romagnano when he returns from the battle of Waterloo. Meanwhile, his aunt, the Contessa, has become the mistress of Conte Mosca, the prime minister of the court of Parma. Following the Conte's advice, Fabrizio trains as a priest with the hope of being appointed Archbishop of Parma. When visiting his aunt in Parma, Fabrizio falls in love with a young actress, Marietta, and provokes the jealousy of another actor, Giletti. Giletti attacks Fabrizio, but Fabrizio kills him and flees to Bologna. Back in Parma, the Prince of Parma charges Fabrizio with murder in an attempt to humble the Duchessa. Meanwhile, Conte Mosca's rivals arrange to capture and return Fabrizio to prison in Parma. In prison, Fabrizio falls in love with Clelia, the daughter of the prison's governor, who is torn between her father and Fabrizio. Clelia decides that in "exchange" for helping Fabrizio escape, she must obey her father by marrying her wealthy suitor. With great reluctance, Fabrizio escapes from the prison while the Duchessa arranges to poison her enemy, the Prince of Parma. Although Fabrizio can then return to Parma, he is deeply saddened because Clelia has married and refuses to see him. Although Clelia eventually relents, she keeps her vow to never see Fabrizio by only meeting with him during the dark of night. Fabrizio is heartbroken when his son and then Clelia die, and he retires to the charterhouse of Parma although he continues to visit the Conte and Duchessa each week.
Sterne, Laurence - "Tristram Shandy" - A rollicking tale of discursions, discussions, anecdotes, digressions and surprisingly little narrative. The author starts out with the intent of documenting his life, but in establishing the facts of his birth is so preoccupied that he practically never returns to his main tale. The characterizations of his father, Walter Shandy, his Uncle Toby, the mid-wife Dr Slop, the parson Yorick, the widow Wadsworth and countless other caricatures are exceedingly entertaining, as are their petty adventures. The author's wit and cheekiness make this a very fun, if exceptionally long Cock and Bull story. An added pleasure is the occasional swipe that the author takes at his publisher and other authors of the day as he wends his way through six or so books. A great, and very funny read proving that chronology is irrelevant to entertainment.
Stevenson, Robert - "The strange case of Dr Jeckyll and Mr Hyde" - It is interesting that the author of "Treasure Island" should also write such a classic horror story. The story is narrated by Mr Utterson, Dr Jeckyll's lawyer and long-time friend. His suspicions are aroused when he hears a strange story of a Mr Hyde entering Dr Jeckyll's house and remembers that Mr Hyde is Dr Jeckyll's sole beneficiary. Suspecting blackmail, his interest in Mr Hyde is greatly heightened following the report of Hyde murdering Sir Danvers Carew. Hyde disappears and Dr Jeckyll seems remarkably happy for a few months. Trouble ensues, though, when a few months later, Dr Jeckyll abruptly refuses to see any more visitors and his servants complain of strange noises and behaviour. Shortly thereafter, the mystery of Mr Hyde's disappearance is resolved in a most dramatic and terrible fashion. An excellent story-teller, Stevenson retains a similar literary style to his children's classics, but the sharpness of his observations and the seriousness of tale mask this well. For its cultural significance alone, it is certainly worth reading.
Stone, Brian - "Sir Gawain and the Green Knight" - Recorded in the 14th century, "Sir Gawain and the Green Knight" arose from an alliterative Middle English poetic tradition independent of Chaucer's works of the same period. Based on the Athurian legend, the poem begins at King Arthur's court during the revelry of New Year Celebrations. A mysterious Green Knight rides in and challenges any knight to swing an axe at him on the condition that in one years time the Green Knight may return the favour. Gawain accepts this challenge, beheads the Green Knight with a single blow and sets off the following year to meet the Green Knight to keep the bargain. Just before he reaches the Green Knight's residence he rests at a castle for three days where he enters a strange bargain with the host. Each day the host hunts while Gawain rests and at the end of each day they exchange their gains. During his stay the hostess tempts his chastity repeatedly but Gawain resists almost all her advances. At the duel he is only slightly nicked because he did not quite keep his word. The poetry is distinctive and rich and the translation makes the verse fluid and eloquent.
Streetman, Ben - "Solid State Electronic Devices" - A solid introductory text for the physics of PN junctions, Bipolar junction transistors, Field Effect Transistors, ICs, Microwave semiconductors and other goodies. It doesn't cover the theory to great depth, but makes a good introduction to each device.
Styron, William - "Sophie's Choice" - This quasi biographical novel by William Styron is one of the better novels of the late twentieth century. The author shares many details with the narrator, Stingo, including a marine engineer father, being sacked from the McGraw Hill company for launching balloons out a window, writing a first novel about despair in the South and a passion for the Virginian black rebellion leader, Nat Turner. It is not clear if the other two protagonists, Sophie and Nathan are also drawn from Styron's memory of the era, but they are so vivid as to be assured of immortality. The tale commences with Stingo's sacking by McGraw Hill forcing him to move into Yetta Zimmerman's pink boarding house. Within hours he has heard, if not met Sophie and Nathan, the two lovers on the floor above. Despite odd diversions such as Stingo's father's visit, the comically unsuccessful pursuit of the voluptuous Leslie Lapidus and a Freudian beach party, Styron focusses his narrative effort on Sophie's life before and after her experiences at Auschwitz. Part of the appeal of "Sophie's Choice" is the tremendous candor and modesty of the narrator, Stingo, who faithfully and entertaining describes his dreams, plans, oversights and foolish ideas. However, the character of Sophie is also critical to the novel's appeal. Although at times overwhelmed by feelings of guilt, Sophie provides an extraordinarily balanced view of her life, remembering both the joys along with the terrible fear, unhappiness and guilt that accompanied WWII. Perhaps the best feature of the novel, though, is it's lack of a simple message. Yes, Sophie has surrendered her belief in God and her own future in response to her experiences in WWII, but Styron does not suggest that she really had any other recourse. Stingo has the exuberance and foolishness of a young man, but the wisdom he gains doesn't make him any happier. Because the scenes in the novel are so accurate, their inevitable complexity prevents glib conclusions. Instead, one can only marvel at Styron's ability to record ideas and thoughts of a past age with tremendous fidelity.
Swift, Jonathan – “A Tale of A Tub” – Written at the turn of the 18th Century, this satire is ostensibly an allegory of religion, but Swift, like Laurence Sterne, cannot resist digressions upon all manner of subjects including critics, modern writers, digressions, madness, an appropriate length for books, the necessity and benefits of war and a scheme to map Terra Australis at great profit to the author. Intermittently, he does return to the story of three sons, Peter (Catholicism), Martin (Luther) and Jack (Calvin) and their efforts to follow their father’s will. The original tale was published with an account of a “Battle of the Books” between volumes authored by ancient and modern authors which parodied a debate of the time, and a fragmentary text upon the “Mechanical Operation of the Spirit”. Although less cohesive than “Gulliver’s Travels”, the wit, commentary and humor are first rate and Swift does not omit any possible attack upon rivals. Aside from giving great entertainment, “A Tale of the Tub” gives one a feel for the intellectual debates of the age.
Tenner, Edward - "Why Things Bite Back" - Tenner is a historian at Princeton University with an interest in technology. In "Why Things Bite Back" he ranges over most fields of modern technology in search of an answer to the question "why do problems persist, or even intensify in the face of technology?" In medicine and environmental protection he concludes that progress is generally made despite apparent losses. While treating or curing one problem generally causes others or at least involves exposure to additional risks, a net gain is common. His discussion of animal and plant pests is not nearly as interesting although he does document a number of spectacular failures including the introduction of eucalyptus trees to California. Tenner's thoughts on computers are especially interesting, perhaps because of his many years working for Princeton University Press. He examines the many ways in which computers lower productivity and harm workers. Finally, he has fun examining the role of technology in tennis, golf, football and other sports. Despite Tenner's quest for a general theme much of the book consists of interesting anecdotes and the examination of technological progress in a plethora of situations. Still quite a fun read.
Thackery - "Vanity Fair" - A delightful satiric romance set at the turn of the 19th century. The story ranges widely, but predominantly follows the fortunes of two young ladies, Miss Amelia Sedley and Miss Rebecca Sharp. The former is a charming, delicate and naive creature who marries Captain Osborne, who is unfaithful to her, but dies at Waterloo leaving her with treasured memories of him. Meanwhile, the scheming Miss Sharp marries Captain Crawley, a vile card-sharp who is completely won over by her charms. She rises to great heights in society, before being accused of infidelity and watching her dreams shatter. Meanwhile, Mrs Osborne suffers greatly, but eventually relents and marries the good and thoughtful Captain Dobbin. The characterizations are superb, the comments about polite society most witty and the morality of the tale, unquestionable.
Tolstoy, Leo - "The Two Hussars" - A fun, and rolicking tale of past and present. The story begins as Count Turbin arrives at a hotel to await fresh horses for his journey. An free-spirited man, his evening is wild and exciting as he argues with card sharps, attends the local ball, steals a kiss from Anna Fedorovna and embarks on a spree with the local nobility before departing the next morning in his sledge. Years later, the Count long dead from a duel, his son returns to the town as part of an army expedition. Anna Fedorovna invites the young count and Cornet Polozov to stay the night, perhaps hoping her daughter, Lisa, will have an adventure. Instead, after dinner the count plays cards to win, misinterprets Lisa's politeness as signs for a midnight rendevous and deeply embarrasses the cornet.
Tolstoy, Leo - "Family Happiness" - An unusual romance, "Family Happiness" was written as a polemic against George Sands liberal views. Masha, a young girl living in the countryside with her nurse and younger sister, falls in love with her neighbour, the middle-aged Sergey. Sergey is reluctant because of the vast difference in their lives but their passion prevails. The marriage begins happily, but Masha's desire to experience life slowly distances her from Sergey and his wish for simple life on the estate. An abrupt encounter with an amorous Italian shocks Masha to return to the estate. While she mournes the end of the romantic love she first felt for Sergey, the familial love for her child and his father is more than sufficient recompense.
Tolstoy, Leo - "The Cossacks" - Tolstoy at his most didactic. Olenin departs Russian society to serve as a cadet in the Army in the Caucasus. The natural beauty of the region, along with his strong dislike of high society make him adopt a simple, rustic lifestyle and avoid society. Despite his best efforts, he falls in love with his host's daughter Maryanka, who is betrothed to the young Cossack Lukashka. Maryanka reciprocates, but when Lukashka is shot by the brother of the Chechen Lukashka killed, her heart turns and the despondent Olenin leaves the town. In, "The Cossacks", Tolstoy explicitly states his theology. "The desire for happiness is inanate in every man; therefore it is legitimate" and furthermore, "happiness lies in living for others".
Tolstoy, Leo - "Polikushka" - When three recruits are requested from the Pokrovsk estate to serve in the Czars army, the steward and the mistress disagree. The steward wants Polikushka, a thieving and drinking serf in the household. The mistress, who believes Polikushka has been redeemed through faith, refuses, ensuring one of the Dutlov boys will be conscripted. To prove her confidence in Polikushka, she sends him to collect a debt from a merchant in town while Dutlov's nephew is conscripted. Despite his honest efforts, Polikushka accidently loses the money as he returns home and disconsolate, he commits suicide. By chance, Dutlov finds the envelope while returning home and although he attempts to return the money to the mistress, she insists he keep it because of Polikushka's death. Dutlov frees his nephew, returning home to celebrate with his entire family.
Tolstoy, Leo - "The Death of Ivan Ilych" - A grim, but fascinating story that begins with the death of Ivan Ilych, a member of the Court of Justice. Ilych, it seems, was always successful. His rise through the Civil Service was without excessive effort, he married an attractive woman, has a family and even lives in moderate luxury. However, when gradual illness strikes, the emptiness cannot be avoided. As life slips through his grasp, anger and despair at the folly in his life takes over. Only at the very end does communion, and the comfort is gives, allow him peace to think, hope and die.
Tolstoy, Leo - "The Devil" - Eugene Irtenev suffers terribly at the hands of Tolstoy. Moving to the country, he finds the burden of chastity too great so he arranges occasional liasons with a married peasant, Stepanida. Soon after arriving in the country, he falls in love with Lisa Annenskaya, marries her and forgets entirely of Stepanida. His love for Lisa deepens and grows over the years, but one day on returning home he sees Stepanida cleaning in his house and to his horror, reacts. The rest of the story documents Eugene's struggles to push Stepanida entirely from his mind, and his abhoration of himself for thinking of her. Under the relentless feelings of guilt, Eugene snaps.
Tolstoy, Leo - "Master and Man" - Vasili, the master and Nikita, the peasant, set off on a journey to a nearby town during a blizzard. They should not be travelling, but Vasili is desparate to complete a business deal. Time and again, they become lost and Nikita must again find the path to get them to a nearby township. For the final time, he is too exhausted to plough through the snow and they settle in their sledge for the night. Vasili cannot sleep, and deciding that Nikita will die anyway, rides away on the horse. He is soon lost and the sensible horse leads him back to Nikita and the sledge, where he collapses back in on top of the frozen Nikita. Vasili soon dies from the cold, but his body shields Nikita allowing him to survive until the morning when he is dug up by the nearby villagers.
Tolstoy, Leo - "Hadji Murad" - A fun tale of Hadji Murad, a Muslim Tartar warrior who comes over to the Russians to evade death from the Tartar leader, Shamil. Details of life in Russian army camps, the structure of Chechnia at the time, speculation about Czar Nicholas's behaviour and many other titbits are contained in a fast-paced story that finishes with Hadji's attempted escape to save his family.
Traweek, Sharon - "Beamtimes and Lifetimes" - Traweek is an anthropologist who decided to study the particle physics tribe, in particular, experimental particle physicists. To do this, she spent several years at SLAC and KEK and even married a theoretical physicist (a greater sacrifice than any wise person would make). Her perception is good, and it is interesting to see the generations of physicists, the differences between America and Japan, the pettiness of experimental discovery, the unpleasant sides of physics training and the downright bizarre world-view of physicists all accurately recorded. Her work is sectioned along classical lines of ecology, hierarchy, rearing and cosmology. If it suffers from any weakness, it is an inability to capture the excitement and rapture that physicists experience daily, and the ways in which physicists have fun.
Trollope, Anthony – “The Way We Live Now” – Written in 1874, “The Way We Live Now” is an archetype of the novels of Trollope that generally concern themselves with the appropriate behaviour for a lady or gentleman. In it, the escapades and misadventures of a large cast of characters is followed in considerable detail. Will the despicable but rather attractive Sir Felix win the hand of Marie Melmotte, daughter of the richest man in England or the greatest swindler of our age? Can Lady Carbury charm and bewitch sufficient editors of literary journals to ensure the success of her turgid novels? Can Paul Montague and Roger Carbury remain friends despite their shared romantic aspirations for the hand of Hetta? Will Mr Melmotte’s grand schemes for north-south American railway and a seat in Parliament House succeed? With skill, wit and a good natured spirit, Trollope weaves together a multitude of stories and while the outcomes are easy to predict is still great fun to see his sketches of Victorian England and caricatures of some of her people.
Twain, Mark - "The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn" - Although in some sense a companion to "The Adventures of Tom Sawyer", this novel is an independent work written years later. The tale begins with Huckleberry living in St Petersburg (Hannibal), Missouri under the care of Miss Watson. His drunkard father soon finds Huck, though, and after escaping from his father's cabin Huck's his adventures. Jim, one of Miss Watson's niggers, has also run off and the pair meet on Jackson's Island. Despite Huck's fear of stealing Miss Watson's nigger, they decide to raft down the Mississipi so Jim can get to Ohio. Their brief journey soon extends into a colourful and amazing series of adventures. Huck stays briefly at the mansion of the Grangerford clan until their feud with the Sanderson's erupts, comes into town when Colonel Sherburn shoots the drunkard, Boggs and accompnaies two particularly ill-fated confidence men, the Duke and King, on a number of their adventures. Twain's insight into human nature and behaviour gives each escapade a greater depth than their comic surface. Naivity, cowardice, greed and vulnerability all are narrated by a curious, but puzzled, Huck. For a confirmed pessimist, though, Twain writes a remarkably cheerful and hopeful story.
Twain, Mark - "Innocents Abroad" - In 1868, the steam-ship "The Quaker City" set sail for Europe and the Holy Land from New York City bearing approximately one hundred "Pilgrims" from the New World. Mark Twain journeyed with them and recorded many of their adventures in France, Italy, Greece, Russia, Palestine and many other places inbetween. Twain's descriptions capure a variety of unique perspectives. Nineteenth Century Europe is described as it appears to the New World and the differences with the Old World, between the Old and New Worlds, and our present age are striking. As well, Twain frequently contrasts the ideas and values of the gentlemen and ladies of leisure undertaking the trip with those of local peoples. Finally, Twain's characteristic mixture of cynicism, sarcasm and wit gives it a freshness despite its considerable age. He reports in detail upon the disposition of dogs in Constantinople, the shopping and social habits of Venetian ladies and the athletic abilities of Arab guides at the pyramid of Cheops. In short, "Innocents Abroad" is a remarkable collection of vignettes of a world, distant both in time and place from our own.
Vian, Boris - "Froth on the Daydream" - Vian vividly demonstrates the power and possibilities for surreal literature with this stunning tale. The protagonist, Colin, is a wealthy young man with a resourceful and stylish man-servant, Nicholas, and a healthy supply of doublezoons in his chest. With dizzying speed, Colin meets and weds Chloe in a grand ceremony. Generously, Colin bequeaths a third of his fortune to his friends Chick and Lisa so they too may marry. Happiness should await both couples but Chloe falls ill upon her honeymoon witha lily in the lung, a painful and rare condition that can only be treated by surrounding her with flowers. The expense is prohibitive and Colin soon exhausts his funds. Meanwhile, Chick's obsession with the philosopher, Jean-Pulse Heatre, causes him to spend all his money, effort and attention upon collecting Heartrian literature. Lisa hopes to save Chick financially and renew his interest in her by persuading Heartre to stop publishing books. She kills him when he refuses and seeks revenge upon the booksellers. Colin struggles to provide flowers for Chloe to no avail and his grief as her death is so strong his pet mouse commits suicide to escape the gloom. Vian's pictorial ability is remarkable. The Rinkspot Skating Club, the seething crowds at the Jean Pulse Heartre lecture, the function of the pianococktail, the heart-snatcher and countless other scenes and conceptions spring from the page with uncommon vitality. Vian can overcrowd images and cheapen a scene with unnecessary complications but his vision is robust enough to survive these technical weaknesses. He revels in the world of own making where buildings grow and shrink, morality is a strange reflection of our own social mores and everything is probable.
Vogul, Steven – “Prime Mover : A Natural History of Muscle” – A professor of physiology, Vogul has written an engaging and interesting introduction to various aspects of muscles. His description of the basic structure of muscle cells is excellent and gives a good idea of the roles of the actin filaments, myoglobin and the T-system that delivers nerve impulses right to the fibres. He also presents many basic facts that are obvious upon reflection, but have a profound impact on how muscle is used. For instance, a muscle fibre cannot extend on its own requiring some external force to pull it back to the start. Similarly, there’s a trade-off between large oxygen capacity (red muscle) and high power (white muscle). Finally, he describes the curious uses of muscles in a wide range of animals including insect flight muscles that pulse autonomously, the squid’s hydraulic tenticle extension and our, dogs and horses excellent aerobic systems. This is an excellent discussion of questions that would interest a non-physiologist about the design, function and uses of muscle.
Voltaire - "CANDIDE" - A satire directed against the prevailing philosophy that "in the best of all possible worlds, everything is for the best". The hero, Candide, is evicted from his home, press-ganged into the Bulgar army, escapes, befriended by a Anabaptist who drowns, visits El Dorado, and so on and so on until eventually he is re-united with his true love who is now old and ugly. In the end, he concludes that only through work can man have any hope of happiness. The story is exceedingly vulgar and lacking in subtlety, although wickedly funny at times. It's intent is similar to that of Swift's "Gulliver's Travels" and some of Tolstoy's pamphlet writing, but is closer to the later in style and technical merit.
Vonnegut, Kurt - "Cat's Cradle". To the post-war generation, the spectre of Nuclear Armageddon must have been horrifly real. "Cat's Cradle" is a particularly creative, thoughtful and entertaining perspective of this fear. Classifying Vonnegut is almost futile. Part science-fiction, stongly satirical and yet terribly human and realistic in some elements, his writing style is unique. In "Cat's Cradle", he develops a new terror for the world - Ice 9., a seed crystal that would cause water to freeze into a new molecular configuration. Developed by the inhuman genius Dr Felix Hoenikker, Ice-9 is unknown to the world and only Russia, America and Dr Hoenikker's three children possess samples. As with all Vonnegut stories, fate has near total control, so the interest must necessarily come from meeting the participants in the drama. The world is clearly going to end as we know it, and the fun comes from meeting Dr Asa Breed the research scientist, Mona Aamons the xylophone virtuoso, Bokonon the philosopher, Newt the midget and Julian Castle the misanthropic philanthropist. The only Vonnegut novel I have read that could challenge this is "Jailbird" which lacks the imagination, but compensates through superior insight. Certainly, though, Vonnegut's unique voice has added greatly to 20th century literature.
de Vries, Peter - "The Blood of the Lamb" describes the life of Don Wanderhop, from his childhood in Chicago during the 1920's to the death of his twelve year old daughter, Carol, from leukemia. Don begins his story as his father and older brother, Louie, shock family and friends with their open atheism. Louie's sudden death from the flu confirms Don's own doubts of the family's Calvinist Dutch faith. Meanwhile, Don is kept busy with his studies at university, chasing girls and helping his father with the family rubbish removal business. Although her parents catch Don in flagrante delicto with Greta Wigbaldy, he escapes marriage when he is diagnosed with tuberculosis. At the TB sanatorium, Don falls in love with Rena. Rena's treatment is unsuccessful and shortly after her death, Don returns to Chicago to take care of his father who is suffering from mild dementia. Fortunately, Don's father "finds" his faith again to become eligible for the church-run nursing facility. While visiting his father, Don is surprised to meet Greta Wigbaldy and her parents at the nursing facility. Greta's mother explains to Don that his behavior has caused Greta to fall into a deep depression. Pricked by guilt, Don visits Greta regularly and they decide to wed. Greta admits her breakdown followed an affair with a married man, but Don marries her despite Greta's mother's deception. Unfortunately, Greta continues to struggle with her emotions and she commits suicide. Looking for a fresh start, Don, his six year old daughter, Carol, and their housekeeper, Mrs Brodhag, move to the country and enjoy many happy years together. However, shortly after her eleventh birthday, Carol is diagnosed with leukemia. Unsure of how much time Carol has left, Don works to make the most of every day with her. During the course of her treatment in New York City, Carol makes friends with another girl, Rachel, while Don warms to her father, Stein, and the two men share their confusion and frustration. Carol's leukemia waxes and wanes, but despite excellent care she dies just before her twelfth birthday leaving Don to struggle on alone. Despite his many losses, Don manages to see the comic and humorous side to his life and his narration reflects de Vries' great wit.
Wagner - "Siegfried Idyll" - A gentle, yet at times haunting piece.
Waines, David - "An Introduction to Islam" - This short text discusses the formation of Islam, its subsequent development, the basic elements of its law, theology and philosophy and a little of the present issues in Islam. While a good introduction to the Shariah, basic Islamic beliefs and the different schools of thought within Islam, it has little material on Islamic society.
Warren, Robert Penn – “All the King’s Men” – Written as a roman-a-clef of Governor Huey “Kingfish” Long of Louisiana, “All the King’s Men” is an outstanding novel. Using Jack Burden, a former journalist and political fixer, to narrate the story of Governer Willie Stark, Warren examines the inevitable corruption of ideals by political reality. Stark is undoubtedly an idealist and early on loses his position as County Treasurer in Mason City after refusing to award a building contract to corrupt interests. Even as Governor, he tries to reward honesty wherever he can, does his best to fight corruption and retains his ideal to make government serve the poor and needy. Surviving, though, requires Stark to resort to populist appeals and garnering support from political rivals with methods indistinguishable from blackmail. To hide his son’s involvement in a scandal Stark corruptly awards the contract to build a hospital, and his personal infidelity to his wife, Lucy, is both the cause and enabling factor in his murder. Jack Burden is privy to all these dealings either through his work for Stark, and directly affected by his lifelong friendships with the Judge Irwin, and Anne and Adam Stanton, attorney general and children respectively of a former governor. What sets “All the King’s Men” above most political novels is it’s careful development of each and every character. While perhaps a trifle melodramatic, Burden’s numerous discursions more than compensate for the high drama at the end.
Waugh, Evelyn - "Brideshead Revisited" - A charming, gentle and
fascinating fictional remembrance of a romance. The narrator, Charles Ryder,
begins the story at Oxford after WWI where he first encounters the Sebastien
Flyte family. His visits to Brideshead, the Flyte's ancestral home, bring him
closer to the Flyte family despite his career as a landscape and architectural
painter succeeding. After a period away from the family, a chance encounter
with Julia Flyte leads to a long, adulterous but inevitably transitory
relationship. Lord Marchmain's repentance upon his deathbed ends the
relationship as Julie decides her "little sin" must stop.
"Brideshead Revisited" differs greatly from "Scoop" and
other more satirical works by Waugh. His trademark dry acerbity and skilled
caricatures are still present, but the principle characters have
uncharacteristic depth and warmth. As always, there are a cast of colourful
characters, from Sebastian Flyte and his teddy-bear at Oxford, Brideshead
Flyte's matchbox collection, Lord Marchmain's delight in other's discomfort
upon his deathbed to Rex Mottram, a thoroughly modern man who's conversion to Catholicism
is hindered by Cordelia Flyte telling him of "sacred monkeys in the
Vatican". However, the calm yet passionate nature of the narration is what
really sets "Brideshead Revisited" aside from Waugh's other work. A
really enjoyable, and interesting novel.
Waugh, Evelyn – “A Handful of Dust” – Tony Last loves his wife, Brenda, son, John Andrew and country estate, Hetton. Brenda, though, is bored and starts an affair with a worthless young London man, John Beaver. After Tony’s son is killed in a horse riding accident, Brenda tells Tony she wants a divorce so she may marry Beaver. After the initial shock, Tony agrees but Brenda then demands excessive alimony. Narrowly evading her scheme, he departs on an expedition to Brazil to distract himself. The trip is ill fated and Tony catches a severe fever. Mr Todd, a recluse living in the jungle, saves Tony’s life but imprisons Tony so be has a companion. Presuming Tony to be dead, Brenda marries a good friend of Tony and the estate, Hetton, is willed to Tony’s poor cousins. The satire is excellent and the wit sharp as Waugh critique’s the social values of 1930’s England.
Wharton, Edith – “The Age of Innocence” – Set amongst the upper social set of New York at the end of the 19th century, “The Age of Innocence” begins as Newland Archer and May Welland announce their engagement. Newland admires May’s beauty and purity and both families approve of the match. The announcement was precipitated by the return of May’s cousin, the Countess Ellen Olenska. Having fled from an unhappy marriage in Europe, her family wishes to reintroduce her to polite society and the formalities of an engagement can only help. Ellen wishes to divorce and settle in New York City. Her family, though, would rather avoid scandal and call upon Archer (in his role as a lawyer) to dissuade her from divorce. Archer succeeds, but over the course of his visits he becomes attracted to the countess. When Ellen summons him, he instead visits May (on her holiday) to ask if they might wed sooner. May is perturbed by Archer’s haste and tell’s Archer that she would not wish to constrain him by marriage if he had feelings for another woman. Archer denies this and after talking to her parents, returns with the belief that the wedding is still far off. He soon meets Ellen again and they admit their love for one another. With awful timing, though, a telegram arrives announcing that May and Archer’s wedding is in a month. Archer weds May but still has strong feelings for Ellen. This conflicts with the Welland family’s wish for Ellen to return to her husband in France. After speaking with Ellen, Archer feels he cannot give her up but learns she has planned to return to France but will live apart from her husband. At her farewell dinner, Archer draws comfort thinking he can leave May to follow Ellen to France. His plan is dashed at the end of the evening when May tells him she is pregnant. Archer has three children and lives a busy and active life and finds he misses May when influenza claims her life. When his son travels to France on business, the widowed Archer accompanies him but skips out on a meeting with the Countess, preferring to keep her in his memories.
White, E.B. - "Charlotte's Web" - Eight year old Fern is horrified to learn her father plans to kill the runt from a litter of piglets. Instead, Fern bottle-feeds Wilbur until he grows so large that he has to move down the road Uncle Homer's barn. There, Wilbur makes friends with Templeton, the rat and Charlotte A Cavatica, a spider living above Wilbur's stall. Wilbur is horrified to learn he will be slaughtered at Christmas, but Charlotte reassures Wilbur that she will save him. After much thinking, Charlotte comes up with a plan and overnight weaves the words, "Some Pig", into a web right above Wilbur's stall. As Charlotte hoped, the gullible humans interpret the web as a sign of Wilbur's greatness and don't worry about the spider who wove the web. Subsequent webs reading "Terrific" and "Radiant" only boost Wilbur's fame. When the Zuckerman and Arable families take their famous pig to the county fair, Templeton and Charlotte sneak along as well. Knowing she will soon die, Charlotte weaves one last web above Wilbur ("Humble") before devoting her fading energies to building a giant egg sack. Wilbur's future is assured when he is awarded a special prize, but his elation turns to despair when Charlotte tells him she will die. Wilbur takes Charlotte's egg sack back to the barn and guards it through the winter. In spring, Charlotte's children emerge and although many of the young spiders fly away, three of Charlotte's daughters remain in the barn with Wilbur.
"Membrane Protein Structure" - An interesting text written in 1994. What is most remarkable is range of ideas, but the gross lack of hard evidence. Chapter Four, on Hydropathy plots by Stephen White is quite a useful introduction to this area. Lukas Tamm's chapter on Physical studeis of Peptide-Bilayer Interactions is also quite handy in revealing how difficult it is to differentiate the membrane included peptides from their free cousins. All up, the book is an erudite and educated exposition on how little is know about Membrane proteins.
Wilde, Oscar – “The Ballad of Reading Gaol” – Written in 1896 while Wilde was incarcerated, this six-part poem describes the hanging of a trooper from the Royal Horse Guards for murdering his lover. Focussed on the feelings of the other prisoners, Wilde’s ballad describes the excruciating suffering of prison life. His language is simple, but hauntingly beautiful. From Section V - “But this I know, that every Law that men have made for Man, Since first Man took his brother’s life, And the sad world began, But straws the wheat and saves the chaff With a most evil fan.”
Wilde, Oscar – “An Ideal Husband” - A parlor drama, “An Ideal Husband” describes the complicated machinations of Mrs Cheveley’s blackmail attempt upon Lord Robert Chiltern, important parliamentarian and member of the Exchequer. At a dinner party he hosts, Mrs Cheverly asks him to give public support to a financial speculation in South America in exchange for an incriminating letter. Lord Chiltern first accepts her offer but his wife forces him to rejects it for fear that he would lose her love. His close friend, Lord Goring, argues with Lady Chiltern but she is unrelenting. That evening, a case of mistaken identity and a fortunate accident places Mrs Cheveley within his power. Unaware that Goring has destroyed the letter, Lord Chiltern upholds his principles and denounces the speculation in parliament certain he has ended his political career. In the whirlwind morning that follows, Lord Goring proposes to Mabel Chiltern (Lord Chiltern’s younger sister) and a number of ambiguities are straightened out. While a fun and engaging play, “An Ideal Husband” lacks the exceptional sharpness of “The Importance of Being Ernest” although it is a farce of similar standard.
Wilde, Oscar – “The Picture of Dorian Gray" - A novel by the leading, and most infamous aesthete of the late nineteenth century. Wilde's ability to construct aphorisms and epigrams is probably unsurpassed in English literature and he is unable to resist his addiction even in a novel. Written in 1891, "The Picture of Dorian Gray" was first written as a long short story and published in a magazine simultaneously with Conan Doyle's "The Sign of Four". The tale begins as Lord Henry and the painter, Basil Hallward view the portrait of an incredibly attractive young man, Dorian Gray. Basil has become extraordinarily attached to Dorian's youth, beauty and sweet nature. When Lord Henry explains the fickle nature of beauty to Dorian, Dorian wishes that he could forever stay young and beautiful whilst his portrait should age and wrinkle and unbeknownst to him, his wish is granted. The first evidence of Dorian's wish is immediately after he causes the suicide of the young actress, Sibyl Vane. His portrait has many more reasons to age and wither throughout the novel, although the most dramatic is the murder of Basil Hallward. Repentance is brought on by the pursuit, eighteen years later, of Sibyl's brother seeking revenge. Despite his attempt to reform, Dorian knows that his soul is already dead and tries to destroy the painting of his soul. There are a number of attractive features to the tale. The separation of Dorian's physical and spiritual lives through the painting is effective, as is the unstated nature of his crimes. However, Wilde is not successful at characterization. His own outstanding wit and verbal brilliance is too tempting for him to make authentic characters, and while he consciously works on Dorian's youth at the beginning, his characters all merge in voice and outlook. Aside from this, the tale is both entertaining and thoughtful, even if the language in parts is excessively ornate.
Winchester, Simon - "The Professor and the Madman" - Simon Winchester has written a fun tale about the compilation of the Oxford English Dictionary - a project of collossal magnitude. At the heart of the OED was James Murray, a Scotsman whom despite leaving school at age 14, learnt Italian, French, Catalan, Spanish, Lati, Portuguese, Vaudois, Provencal, Dutch, German, French, Flemsih, Danish Hebrew, Syriac, Aramaic, Coptic and Phoenician and could honestly say that "Philogy, both Comparative and special, has been my favourite pursuit during the whole of my life" (p.36). For the seventy years it took to compile the OED, readers across England constantly sent in slips of paper reporting interesting or unusual usages of words throughout the written history of the language. These were compiled, collated and editted at the Scriptorium, a giant shed in Oxford where Murray and his team of editors produced the twelve volumes of the first edition. Dr William Minor of Broadmore, Crowthorne, Berkshire was one remarkably prolific contributor to the OED ultimately sending more than 20,000 quotations illustrating the usage of various words. The most remarkable point is that for all this time he was an inmate of the Broadmore Asylum for the Criminally Insane. Incarcerated in 1872 for murdering a man he mistook for a paranoid delusion, during his sane moments the doctor meticulously read hundreds of books from the 15th to 17th centuries searching for unusual or interesting usages of words. Regrettably, his illness proceeded untreated and eventually he was unable to continue working on the dictionary. But, for nearly 30 years he remained the pre-eminent contributor to the OED. "The Professor and the Madman" is well written, if a little preoccupied with Dr Minor's tale. For me, at least, the dictionary is more fascinating than an unfortunate, but relatively common case of severe paranoia. Perhaps the most heartening part is Minor's ability to contribute and feel useful despite being plagued by such a terrible state of mind.
Wolpert, Lewis - "Malignant Sadness" - Lewis Wolpert, a developmental biologist, felt compelled to write this layperson's guide to depression after his own encounter with extreme sadness. In concise and well-written chapters the book summarizes what depression is, what it feels like, who suffers from it, prevailing physical and psychological theories of its cause and present treatments. Severe depression has been diagnosed since the Greek physicians and today affects approximately 10% of the population with more female than male sufferers. Depressive episodes commonly last from 6 months to 2 years and are common across all cultures. Although no definitive explanation of depression exists, each theory gives it s own illumination. For evolution, attachment is a desirable trait in social animals and sadness is universal across cultures because it promotes attachment. Attribution theory from psychology divides human rationalization into internal (I'm ugly) and external (They've no taste), stable (I'm a bore) and unstable (sometimes I'm too loud), global (I'm dumb) and specific (I write poor essays). The global, stable, internal attribution characteristic of depressives forms a feedback loop to amplify sadness and helplessness. Biologically, depression has been linked to lower levels of serotonin (a catecholamine) but this is not known to be causal or symptomatic. Given the unknown biological or emotional basis for depression it is understandable that a multitude of treatments are administered, all of which have shown a roughly 2/3 recovery rate (as opposed to a baseline of 1/3 recovery). Chemical treatments for depression consist of two classes - tricyclics and SSRI. Tricyclics (eg. Doxepin) were invented in the 1950's and 1960's, competitively bind to catecholamine receptors on cell surfaces raising serotonin levels but also causing numerous side effects. Selective Serotonin Re-uptake Inhibitors (eg. Prozac) increase extra-cellular serotonin levels by prevent its absorption by neuronal cells. Counselling for depression varies enormously but one popular technique is ANTS (Automatic Negative Thoughts) that attributes much of depression to a patient mindset in which all events lead to negative thoughts. Much of therapy also concentrates on helping the patient regain control through exercises that distract them from their negative feelings. Finally, electroshock therapy induces febrile seisures to reset brain chemistry just as epileptics often feel quite good after fits. For all this progress, depression remains a mystery. It is a major health problem for which effective treatment and management are desperately required.
Wuthnow, Robert - "After Heaven - Spirituality in America Since the 1950's" - Having previously surveyed trends in American religious organizations, Wuthnow attempts in this book to chart the changes in the individual attitudes to the sacred. While Americans remained intensely religious during this era,, their perception of God and their own spiritual experiences have changed markedly. Wuthnow identifies the fifties with a location-based, home-oriented form of faith where the family and local church were dominant. The economic freedom generated by the economic boom of the 1960's spilt over into increased religious freedom. Older people participated less in organized religion whilst the young sought spiritual fulfillment from a diverse set of sources. This period also forged a strong link between self and spirituality. The disciplined faith of evangelical and fundamentalist groups arose largely as a reaction to this freedom. Today many Americans remain within these disciplines and relish the security it provides. Wuthnow also discusses the angel and inner self waves that have swept America since 1990. He doesn't identify proximate causes for these, but suggests they represent the dominant spiritual direction of America today. Wuthnow's book is well-researched and organized but he hovers uncertainly between a popular account and a scholarly work. American spirituality from the past 50 years is not yet distant enough to identify why or what are the dominant causes or consequences. Wuthnow tells a fascinating story, but it one to which we shall have to return in years to come to reach a fuller understanding.
Acheve, Chinua – Things Fall Apart
Alcott, Louisa, M. – Little Women
Amis, Martin - Mondy
Amis, Kingsley – Lucky Jim
Auden, W.H - Collected Poems
Austen, Jane - Emma
Bainbridge, Beryl – The Bottle Factory Outing
Bantock, Nick - Griffon and Sabine
Beckett, Samuel – Waiting for Godot, Malone Dies
Betts, Doris - Souls Raised from the Dead
Bloy, Leon - The Woman Who Was Poor
Boll, Heinrich - The Stories of Heinrich Boll
Bouvier, Simone - "The Mandarins"
Bradbury, Ray - Something Wicked This Way Comes
Bronte, Emily – “Wuthering Heights”
Brown, Dan – “The Da Vinci Code” –
Bunyan, J. – Pilgram’s Progress
Buechner, Frederic -Godric
Cairns, Scott - Recovered Body
Calvino, Italo – If on a Winter’s Night a Traveller
Carrol, Lewis – Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland
Celine, Louis-Ferdinand – Journey to the End of the Night
Cervantes, Miguel de – Don Quixote
Chandler, Raymond – The Big Sleep
Chaucer, William – Canterbury Tales - PR1865 1994
Childers, Erskine – The Riddle of the Sands
Claudel, Paul - The Satin Slipper
Collins, Wilkie – The Woman in White
Collins, Wilkie - The Moonstone.
Conrad, Joseph - Nostromo
Dahl, Roald – The BFG
Defoe, Daniel – Robinson Crusoe
De Balzac, Honore – The Black Sheep
De Laclos, Pierre Choderlos – Dangerous Liaisons
Dewberry, Elizabeth - Many Things Have Happened
Since He Died
Dickens, Charles – David Copperfield
Dillard, Annie - Pilgrim at Tinker Creek
Dostoevsky, Fyodor – The Brothers Karamzov
Dubus, Andre - Selected Stories
Dumas, Alexandre – The Count of Monte Cristo
Eliot, George – Daniel Deronda
Eliot, T.S. - Four Quartets
Ellis, Alice Thomas - The Sin Eater
Ellroy, J. – LA Confidential
Endo, Shusaka - Silence
Faulkner, William – The sound and the fury - PS3511.A92 S7 1956b
Fielding, Henry – Tom Jones
Fitzgerald, F Scott – Tender is the Night, The Great Gatsby
Flaubert, Gustave – Madame Bovary
Foote, Horton - The Trip to Bountiful
Forster, E. M. – A Passage to India
Fry, Christopher - The Lady's Not for Burning
Gao, Xingjian – “Mountain of the Soul”/”La Montagne de l’ame”
Giardina, Denise - Saints and Sinners
Gironella, Jose Maria - The Cypresses Believe in God
Gorey, Edward – The Epiplectic Bicycle -
Green, Julien - Diaries
Greene, Gaham - The Power and the Glory
Grahame, Kenneth – The Wind in the Willows
Grass, Gunter – The Tin Drum
Hampl, Patricia - Virgin Time
Hansen, Ron - Mariette in Ecstasy
Hawthorne, Nathaniel – The Scarlet Letter
Heller – Catch 22
Helprin, Mark - A Soldier of the Great War
Hemingway, Ernest – Men without women, The Sun Also Rises - PS3515.E53 S9 1996
Hijuelos, Oscar - Mr. Ives' Christmas
Hill, Geoffrey - The Mystery of the Charity of Charles Peguy
Hirsch, Edward - Earthly Measures
Horgan, Paul - Great River
Hudgins, Andrew - The Neverending
Ibsen, Henrik – “The Master Builder”
Ionesco, Eugene – “Rhinoceros, and other plays”. PQ2617.O58.R4
Irving, John - A Prayer for Owen Meany
Jacobsen, Josephine - In the Crevice of Time: New and Selected Poems
James, H – “The Princess Casamassima”, “The Portrait of a Lady”
Jarman, Mark - Questions for Ecclesiastes
Jones, David - The Anathemata
Joyce, James – Ulysses, Finnegan’s Wake
Kazantzakis, Nikos - The Last Temptation of Christ
Keneally, Thomas - Three Cheers for the Paraclete
Lamb, Wally - I Know This Much is True
Lamott, Anne - Traveling Mercies
Lawrence, D.H. – The Rainbow
Lee, Harper – To Kill a Mockingbird
Levertov, Denise - Stream and the Sapphire
Levine, Philip - The Mercy
Lewis, C.S. - Till We Have Faces
Lindgren, Torgyn - Light
London, Jack – Call of the Wild - PS3523.O58 C15
Lowell, Robert - Lord Weary's Castle
Lowry, Malcom – Under the Volcano
Mailer, Norman – The Executioner’s Song
Mariani, Paul - Salvage Operations
Marquez, Gabriel Garcia – 100 years of solitude
Mauriac, Francois - Viper's Tangle
Milton, John – Paradise Lost
Morgan, Robert - The Truest Pleasure
Morrison, Toni – Sula, Song of Solomon
Murray, Les - Collected Poems
Nabokov – Lolita, The Gift
Patrick O'Brian, The Aubrey/Maturin Novels
Peacock, Thomas Love – Nightmare Abbey
Proust, Marcel – In Search of Lost Time
Pullman, Philip – Northern Lights
O’Brien, Flan – At Swim-Two-Birds
Orwell, George - 1984
Owens, Virginia - If You Do Love Old Men
Paterson, Katherine - Jacob Have I Loved
Peguy, Charles - The Mystery of the Charity of Joan of Arc
Percy, Walker - The Moviegoer
Plante, David - The Francoeur Trilogy
Potok, Chaim - My Name is Asher Lev
Powers, J.F. - The Presence of Grace
Price, Reynolds - Three Gospels
Radcliffe – Mystery of Udolpho
Richardson, Samuel - Clarissa
Rodriguez, Richard - Hunger of Memory
Rushdie, Salman – Haroun and the Sea of Stories
Sayers, Dorothy - The Mind of the Maker
Shaw, George Bernard – Man and Superman
Silone, Ignazio - Bread and Wine
Sophocles – Oedipus at Cologne
Steinbeck – The Grapes of Wrath
Stoppard, Tom - Hapgood
Swift, J. – Gulliver’s Travels
Tayler, Elizabeth – Mrs Palfrey at the Claremont
Tolkien, J.R.R. - The Lord of the Rings
Tolstoy, L. – Anna Karenina
Tyler, Anne - Saint Maybe
Undset, Sigrid - Kristin Lavransdatter
Updike, John - In the Beauty of the Lillies
Vonnegut, Kurt – Slaughter-house Five
Wakefield, Dan - Returning
Wangerin, Walter - The Book of the Dun Cow
Waugh, E - Scoop
Wiesel, Elie - Night
Williams, Charles - All Hallows' Eve
Wilson, A.N. - Wise Virgin
Winton, Tim - Cloudstreet
Woiwode, Larry - Beyond the Bedroom Wall
Wolf, Virginia – “A Room with a View”, To the Lighthouse, “Mrs Dalloway”
Wolff, Tobias - In the Garden of the North American Martyrs
Beck, Martha – Expecting Adam
DeWoskin, Rachel – Foreign Babes in Beijing. Behind the Scenes of a New China
Ferguson, Marianne – Christian Thought : An Introduction BT77F47 Olin
McGee, H. - On Food and Cooking – The Science and Lore of the Kitchen.
Naskrecki, P – The Smaller Majority
“The Music Teacher" - It's in French, so "Le Maitre Musique"(?)
Atanarjuat – Eskimo movie
City of God a k a Cidade De Deus
Les Invasions barbares
The triplets of Belleville
Goodbye Lenin – Wolfgang Becker
Wake, Awake for the Night is Flying - Bach
for the violin and cembalo. J.S. Bach M 218 .B1183 1993
Two Romanian Folk Dances, Bartok
Trio in C Minor op 1, no 3 (cello, violin and piano)
Finzi Romance - Royal Ballet Sinfonia / David Lloyd Jones
Naxos 8.555069 7'
Romanze Beethoven Op.50
Op 61 Koncert
Zwei Romanzen fur Violine und Orchestra, op. 40 und 50. Beethoven ++ M1013 .B41 op.40
Trio in C Minor, op 101 (violin, cello and piano)
violin concerto Op 26.
'Red Right Hand' (Scream 3 version) from Rarities & B-Sides
'The Mercy Seat' (Acoustic) from Rarities & B-Sides
Abbatoir Blues - 'Get Ready for Love'
'Are You The One That I’ve Been Waiting For' from The Boatman’s Call
12 sonate per violino e basso
continuo op. 5. Corelli. ++M219.C790 op.5 1983
Sonata in C Major, Op 25., no. 5., Corelli
Sonata in F-major, Op 25. No 5. Corelli
"Don't Dream Its Over" - Crowded House
op 53 for Violin
Handel, J –
Sonatas, violin and basso continuo. Handel ++ M219. H13 1985
Konzert Nr2 in G for Violin
Karma County –
Bryan Brown - Karma County - Dexter and Sinistra
Sonata in D Major for cello and piano op 58
Mendelssoln Violin Concerto
Monti, V –
Op 35. Violin Concerto