- Not Even Wrong, by Peter Woit, Basic Books, 2006. The backlash against superstring theory in physics is coming on strong. Lee Smolin also has a book on the topic. Is a theory that makes no testable predictions something that most physicists should spend two decades on? Woit says no. Started in today’s M’s chemotherapy treatment, went on to page 62 or so, will definitely finish.
- The Echo Maker, by Richard Powers, Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2006. Another overwhelmingly intelligent novel by Powers. A bit slow-going, especially now that reading about someone’s hospital experiences is not always what I want to do. But I can feel the genius between the lines, and, as usual, the critics are in awe of Powers; I’m pretty sure to finish this one, if only in the new year. Here’s an excerpt from Margaret Atwood writing in the New York Review of Books:
“If Powers were an American writer of the nineteenth century, which writer would he be? He’d probably be the Herman Melville of Moby-Dick. His picture is that big. Moby-Dick sank like a stone when it first came out: it had to wait almost a century before its true importance was recognized. Given Powers’s previous interest in devices like time capsules, I’d hazard that he has the long view in mind: open him up in a hundred years, and there, laid out before you in novel after novel, will be the preoccupations and obsessions and speech patterns and jokes and gruesome mistakes and eating habits and illusions and stupidities and loves and hates and guilts of his own time. All novels are time capsules, but Powers’s novels are larger and more inclusive time capsules than most.
I doubt that Richard Powers will have to wait a hundred years, however. American literature students will be into him with their picks and shovels before long. He’s the stuff of a thousand Ph.D. theses, or I’ll be the Wizard of Oz.”
- Stuff for work, and plenty of it. ‘Nuff said.
- Several recent issues of the New York Review of Books (thanks Tenley!).
- The Black Book, by Orhan Pamuk. Pamuk won the Nobel prize for literature this year, and Tyler Cowen over at marginalrevolution.com has recommended this book as as the best to start with. Slow going so far. I find many other things to read before it. Is it because his vivid rendition of middle-class Istanbul is too much like the middle-class Athens that has left me such a sour taste? Not sure to finish this one.
- American Gods, by Neil Gaiman. I picked this one up for diversion. I figured any book by someone who has a cc-authored book with Terry Pratchett will be a good choice for diversion, and nerds on the web seem to like what Gaiman does with his reinterpretation of mythology. This one has been the bedside book for the last several nights. Will finish, but is it a great book? No, not really. (If I change my mind when I’ve read it all, I’ll post again about it.)
- The Rejection Collection, by Matthew Diffee, 2006. An excellent compilation of cartoons that the New Yorker rejected, by cartoonists who regularly publish there. An inspired gift, Rob!