Wednesday, 10 September 2014

My Ten (or so) Sticky Books

I was tagged me for this "list ten books that have stuck with you" Facebook meme. I tried to do that, list books that have stuck with me. These are books that I still think about from time to time or had some influence and affected what I did or how I've lived in one way or another. Some of these are really great books, but a number of them aren't but, for whatever reasons, best met the "stuck with you" criterion as I understood it.

Godel's Proof - Ernest Nagel: A splendid little book that helped me get started in wrapping my head around the Godel Incompleteness proofs, the most important achievement of the twentieth century.

The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined - Steven Pinker - This book stuck with me because it manages to pore through and present reams of data, explore large numbers of research articles and develop various arguments on a fascinating  subject in an extremely engaging manner. It's an encouraging book that convincingly argues that the world is, by leaps and bounds, becoming a much much better place. (of course, it will all be destroyed soon by climate change but that's another story)

The Wounded Healer - Henri Nouwen - I really appreciated Nouwen's writings in general but especially wrt his sincere and non-patronizing love of and respect for people with profound intellectual disabilities. I picked this book as representative.

Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance - Robert Pirsig - This isn't a great book at all, but somehow it managed to stick with me and even affect me and the way I lived.

The Brothers Karamazov - Dostoyevsky - The last novel ever written. oh, wow, what a book. "Dostoevsky is a full meal with a vitamin pill and extra wheat germ"

Computability and Logic - George Boolos - The last textbook ever written.

Shadows of the Mind - Roger Penrose - I know people love to disparage this book and Penrose's sympathy for the Lucas argument but this book motivated me to spend a lot of time on the Lucas argument. And while I believe Penrose (and Lucas) is wrong, I spent an awful  lot of time thinking and writing about why it wasn't for the reason(s) most of his critics gave.

Empirical Methods for Artificial Intelligence - Paul Cohen - This is the book that every Intro Stats prof should use (and read)

James Herriot series of veterinary books - I'm not an Anglophile or even atypically obsessed with animals. but I think I read this series five or six times when I was quite young. They delighted me to no end and I still remember many of the anecdotes to this day.

Beyond Beef: The Rise and Fall of the Cattle Culture - Jeremy Rifkin - I stopped eating meat by about the beginning of Chapter 3

The World According to Garp - John Irving - I've read most of the books Irving has written and enjoyed most of them. But this and "A Prayer for Owen Meany" were by far my favourites. I'll pick Garp because it was a bit quirkier and because I still vividly remember reading the pivotal scene

The Secret History - Donna Tartt  - I just finished this after reading and thoroughly enjoying "the Goldfinch". Wow, this was even better, so much better even (and darker). Like "A Separate Peace", but interesting. I so want some masterful script writer and director to  turn this into an amazing movie.

Towards A Just Society: The Trudeau Years, Lloyd Axworthy, Pierre Trudeau - A somewhat academic book about and/or partially written by Pierre Eliot Trudeau. This book greatly changed my views on Trudeau, made me more forgiving of his FLQ blunders and caused me to persistenly long for the day when societies return to wanting, if not a philosopher king, at least a person who has given a lot of thought about what it is to govern and what a society should be. 

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