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Showing posts from May, 2010

Week 22: Death from the Skies!

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Death from the Skies !: the Science Behind the End of the World, by Phil Plait Phil Plait has a really enjoyable writing style and is very good at explaining difficult scientific concepts clearly. In this book, he explores several different possible ways for the world to end, each less probable than the last (or at least, very very far in the future). It's a great book for anyone interested in astronomy; the explanations of the Sun and supernovae are the best I've read. I plan to require my kids to read it as part of logic-stage astronomy.

Week 21: The Graveyard Game and Thomas Sowell

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The Graveyard Game , by Kage Baker I think this is book 4 of the Company series, and it's the first one that really concentrates on the central mystery of just what Dr. Zeus is up to--before this it's been part of the background. Joseph (formerly a resident of Lascaux, more recently a Roman centurion and Spanish Inquisitor) and Lewis, a literary document preserver, set out to find information on what happened to their friend Mendoza. And whatever happened to Budu, who hasn't been seen for about a thousand years? I'm really getting onto this series and am looking forward to the next one. If you are the least bit interested in SF/history, you should read these books. The Housing Boom and Bust , by Thomas Sowell Sowell, an eminent conservative economist, came out with this short book pretty quickly after the housing market bust of 2009. It's his explanation of how we got into this mess and what we need to do to get out of it. It's an interesting--and d

Week 20: The Bottom Billion

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The Bottom Billion: Why the Poorest Countries Are Failing and What Can Be Done About It , by Paul Collier Paul Collier is a professor of economics at Oxford and directs the Center for the Study of African Economies. Here, he addresses the problem of the very poorest countries--the ones we call failing states, that are not becoming wealthier with the rest of the world because they are caught in various traps. There are about a billion people in these countries, so one-sixth of the world population is stuck in dire poverty that is not improving. Collier identifies four major "traps" that keep the bottom billion down: Conflict: usually recurring civil wars Natural resources: if a country has a single valuable resource like oil or diamonds it can work against prosperity Being landlocked with bad neighbors: with no ports, a country needs its neighbors to have good roads and good government in order to export products Bad governance in a small country: corruption! He discusses

Week 19: One Amazing Thing and Mendoza in Hollywood

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One Amazing Thing , by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni Divakaruni is my favorite writer of contemporary fiction; I just love her books. (So thanks, Monica, for hooking me on her!) This new novel uses the old form that Boccaccio and Chaucer used of a gathering of different people, each of whom tells a story. Here, the characters are in San Francisco, applying for visas to India, when an earthquake hits and traps them in the basement visa office. In order to bear the difficulties of waiting for rescue, they tell personal stories that explain much of their lives and why they are where they are. It's not a long book, but it's absorbing and well-written. I loved it. Mendoza in Hollywood , by Kage Baker The first Company novel, In the Garden of Iden , told the story of Mendoza, a Spanish girl rescued from the Inquisition's dungeons and sent on her first mission to Mary I's England. In this third installment of the series, Mendoza is again the narrator, now living in

Week 18: Enchanted Glass

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Enchanted Glass , by Diana Wynne Jones Diana Wynne Jones is my all-time favorite writer, so don't expect an unbiased critique of Enchanted Glass from me. Andrew inherits his uncle's house but has no memory of the powerful magic and work that go along with the place. When a frightened boy named Aidan fetches up on his doorstep, they start to help each other figure out what's going on and why the reclusive Mr. Brown seems to think he owns both of them. That summary doesn't do justice to the story. Jones has been working out themes of land magic in a couple of her recent books (The Merlin Conspiracy, The Pinhoe Egg) and this new book continues that train of thought. Of course, I enjoyed Enchanted Glass and of course, I'll be rereading it many times. Nobody compares to Diana Wynne Jones! The Ultimate Career , by Daryl Hoole Way back in the 60's, Daryl Hoole (who is female) wrote The Art of Homemaking for an LDS audience. I've never read it myself, but