Wednesday, October 7, 2009

This Week at the Library (7/10)

Books this Update:
  • The Last Command, Timothy Zahn
  • Beautiful Minds, Maddalena Bearzi and Craig B. Stanford
  • Kokoro, Natsume Soseki

This was a quiet week for reading, as most of my energies were committed to a paper for my senior seminar. I began it by finishing the Thrawn trilogy by Timothy Zahn. When the series began, the Empire was a devastated shadow of its former self -- but the initial two books saw the rise of Grand Admiral Thrawn, who rallied the troops, dealt the Republic devestating defeats, and laid the groundwork for eventual Imperial victory. Only decisive action taken by our heroes -- the original trilogy crew and two additions -- can defeat the grand admiral and save the Republic from being strangled in the cradle. I thought the book was quite strong, moreso than Dark Force Rising. It was a fitting if almost unexpected end.

Next I touched a personal reccommendation from a friend called Beautiful Minds: The Parallel Lives of Dolphins and the Great Apes. The book's two authors each write on their respective field experience within a theme (intelligence, sex, politics, interaction with humans) and allow the reader to draw his or her own conclusions about similiarities for the most part. The book also warns against the impending exinction of the subject animals. What makes the book most fascinating is that similairies between dolphins and the apes have arisen through convergent evolution -- they are not closely related to one another the way humans and chimpanzees are.

Lastly, I read assigned reading for a Japanese history course in Kokoro. Kokoro is set at the turn of the 20th century. Japan, under the Meiji emperor, has seen rapid modernization. In my experience, books and papers concerned with "modernity" often emphasize human feelings of alienation and loneliness, and this is very much the case with Kokoro -- dominated by a sense of melancholy. Each of the main characters' lives are motivated by their responses to their own loneliness. It was an interesting read, one readers might consider taking up if they have access to the novel.

None of the three books particularly dominated the other two this week -- not the first time that has happened.

Potentials for Next Week:
  • The Consolations of Philosophy, Alain de Botton.
  • I Sold My Soul on eBay: Viewing Faith Through an Atheist's Eyes, Hemant Mehta. I've been a reader of Mehta's "Friendly Atheist" blog for a few years now and am about to read the book that made him famous.
  • Last Seen in Massilia, Steven Saylor. Caesar and Pompey have left Rome without a government and at war with itself: within this context, Gordianus the Finder will need to keep his family safe.
  • The Different Paths of Buddhism, Carl Olson. For my Japanese history paper, I am anticipating researching Buddhism's evolution in Japan, particularly exploring why or how it could be adopted for military means. (I would appreciate reccommendations for those more familar with Buddhist history than I.)

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