Category Archives: Books

The Age of Radiance by Craig Nelson Book review

19769305Two things I would say will help dictate whether you are likely to enjoy the book “The Age of Radiance: The Epic Rise and Dramatic Fall of the Atomic Era” by Craig Nelson. The first and most obvious is whether you have interest in the subject matter of learning about the sweeping history of the atom, radiation and nuclear weapons, power, and medicine. The second reason is if you like the style of historical writing that is used by author Craig Nelson. The style that Nelson uses and which is not unique to him is to make liberal use of quotes normally from people involved or who lived through the events described.  Nelson likes to construct his story with a smaller mixture of his telling of events and then more weighted towards his  use of quotes. If you like hearing more directly from the people involved then you will be more inclined to like this book given that is the style it uses.

The book covers a larger span of time than you might imagine for this topic. It covers the discovery of x-Rays in 1895 to the nuclear accident in Fukushima, Japan in 2011. If you are looking for a heavy dose of science and how exactly things work, that is not what you will find with this book. Nelson gives you a moderate understanding of the scientific principles in play when talking about x-Rays, radiation, the splitting of the atom, nuclear energy and weapons among other topics talked about. While at certain times I wish I had gotten a bit more detailed scientific information than I did get, I can see the balance that Nelson likely had to walk in giving you enough information on the science behind the topics discussed but at the same time not getting bogged down in the details so that it would not become inaccessible to your average reader.  In that sense I think Nelson has done a good job of giving you enough of a taste of the scientific underpinnings of the story he is telling to allow you to understand the topics discussed. Nelson also gives you a good idea of the large and varied group of people that you encounter over the course of the history of this topic and the politics and personal stories that are prevalent with in this subject.

If you are looking for a good but not extremely technical look at radiation and nuclear based devices this book is certainly worth a look in my estimation.

Review of ‘Dogfight’ by Fred Vogelstein

cover_thumbThe first book I have finished this year is Dogfight: How Apple and Google Went to War and Started a Revolution by Fred Vogelstein. The book covers the development of the iPhone, iPad, development of Android based phones, looks at the legal battle that erupted between Samsung and Apple, and finally, what these gadgets have done to change the market in a broad sense. I have seen this stated in other reviews and it held true for me after reading the book myself, that the first two-thirds of the book is the best part of the book and that it tails off after that. I read the first two-thirds of the book over the course of five days and it took me another week to finish the last third of the book.

The first seven chapters make up the telling of the creation of the iPhone, Android, and the iPad and the battle that takes place between Apple and Google once Apple learns about Android. Those first seven chapters are the strongest and where we learn most interesting details about the inside stories of the two most popular mobile operating systems. It is in the telling of the back and forth story between Apple and Google where Fred Vogelstein shines in the book. The chapter covering the trial between Samsung and Apple was alright, just did not grab me as much as the previous seven chapters.  It did not cover as many interesting details which I guess is not a huge surprise given it was focused on a patent trial. The next two chapters are a bit different than the rest of the book, focusing on the more industry-wide effects that iOS and Android devices have had on the world of technology. From how it has effected websites, to media publishing, and the entertainment industry of movies and TV among other things.  While there is some good information in this section it just is a bit of a different turn for the book after a much closer look at a smaller set of topics in only two companies and topics in the first seven chapters.

Overall if you enjoy reading about technology and parts of the inside stories surrounding Apple and Google, there is enough good information I think to read this book in the end. Although it is interesting after reading this book and now several weeks after I have finished it, a lot of the details from it have not stuck with me as well as I might have thought since I have just so recently read it.

“Lincoln’s Boys” A peak into the making of history

5190p2uQsJL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_From the excerpt I have read of  Lincoln’s Boys: John Hay, John Nicolay, and the War for Lincoln’s Image by Joshua Zeitz in the Smithsonian Magazine it certainly seems like it could be a good book.  More likely a book for people who have a fondness for history and in this case Abraham Lincoln. The excerpt below gives a little taste of it.

It is little wonder that historians consult Hay’s and Nicolay’s writing frequently—their letters and journals provide eyewitness accounts of their White House years. But their major life’s work after the Civil War is a largely forgotten story.

“The boys,” as the president affectionately called them, became Lincoln’s official biographers. Enjoying exclusive access to his papers—which the Lincoln family closed to the public until 1947 (the 21st anniversary of the death of Robert Todd Lincoln)— they undertook a 25-year mission to create a definitive and enduring historical image of their slain leader. The culmination of these efforts—their exhaustive, ten-volume biography, serialized between 1886 and 1890—constituted one of the most successful exercises in revisionism in American history. Writing against the rising currents of Southern apologia, Hay and Nicolay pioneered the “Northern” interpretation of the Civil War—a standard against which every other historian and polemicist had to stake out a position.

via The History of How We Came to Revere Abraham Lincoln | History | Smithsonian.

I think I am likely to get a copy of this when it comes out, but will see.  If you get enjoyment out of learning about history this certainly seems like a book worth checking out.

“The Magicians” Review

7125342I have been looking back at some books I have read and which I have given shorter reviews to in the last few years and I have decided to update and do a little expanding on those reviews.

First off is The Magicians by Lev Grossman, which is set in modern day New York and based around a young teen named Quentin Coldwater who ends up finding out that magic is real and is accepted into a school that teaches modern day magic.  Quentin Coldwater faces the standard problems teens face but also faces some uniquely magical problems that he must confront in this new world of magic he is in.

The Magicians  by Lev Grossman I would say is not an amazing book but is still an enjoyable read overall. I found it a bit interesting how Lev Grossman can sometimes pass a few months of time simply in a few pages. I sometimes wished he had slowed down a little in how much time he covered to give us more of the story that the characters where going through in the book. The jumps in time certainly contrast to the Harry Potter series where each book covers one school year.  I don’t think I would need to see the book confined to one school year per book just slow down a little more than Grossman ended up doing in the book.

Overall I found it was an enjoyable book, in that it gave me a different view of magic then say Harry Potter did over course of that series. I have the sequel The Magician King and plan to read it some time soon just not sure when. I just have so many books to pick from that I want to read that it is hard to decide what to read next.

Game Of Thrones Season 4 Trailer

It is always great to see the first trailers for the new Game Of Throne TV season. In this case season 4 of the show.  I will be glad/excited to have this show back.  It will be interesting to see how they handle the end of book 3 A Storm of Swords that they did not get to in season 3 and what parts of book 4 Feast For Crows they get to this season. What the trailer shows for season 4 looks promising. As I said above, excited for it to be back.

4 Days until return of Game Of Thrones to HBO

It will be great to have the HBO TV show Game Of Thrones back for its second season starting on Sunday April 1st. From all the previews I have seen for the new season it certainly looks like we are in for another good season or at least I hope we are.  As it was with the first season, it will continue to be interesting to see how the second book is adapted to the screen and what type of changes end up being made.

Below is a trailer for season two:

HBO has also released a series of Pledge Your Allegiance videos focusing on 5 different noble houses that are in the show.  I have put the one for House Stark below and included links to the other four.

House Baratheon House Lanister House Greyjoy House Targaryen

The Civil War 150 Years Later, book by Adam Goodheart

Yesterday April 12th was the 150th anniversary of the start of the U.S. Civil War with shots being fired on Fort Sumter.  The book below that I have included two quotes from the article about it certainly seems like it might be worth reading.  Might have to check it out.

“[At Fort Sumter] the Southerners thought that they would be able to drive the Yankees off of Confederate territory, and [they thought that] the North would feel like it wasn’t worthwhile to fight to bring the South back into the Union,” says Goodheart. “Suffice to say, they miscalculated hugely.”

Goodheart is the author of 1861: The Civil War Awakening, a social history of the earliest days of the Civil War, a time when the country — soon to be two separate nations — was preparing itself for battle. He chose the year 1861, he says, because there were so many uncertainties all over the United States.

via Adam Goodheart: Looking At The Civil War 150 Years Later : NPR.

10 Reasons Why to Read A Game of Thrones & First 14 Minutes of Premiere Episode

This great article lays out in more detail why people should read George R.R. Martin’s A Game of Thrones than I did in my review of the book.  I think a lot of these reasons will also relate to why people should also watch the HBO series that is premiering on Sunday, April 17th.  Here is an excerpt of one of the points that I liked a lot.

#8 The Story Is Driven by Realistic Human Conflicts

Martin has said that the series’ central struggle for power — the titular game of thrones played by various important people we meet — was inspired by England’s real-world War of the Roses, with its complex web of family loyalties and regional rivalries and so on. In terms of narrative fiction, I think the closest comparison is The Godfather and The Godfather Part II. A Game of Thrones combines the first film’s story of rival families violently jockeying for supremacy amid all sorts of complex conspiracies and alliances with the second film’s story of the very serious, very smart leader of one of those families trying to uncover the origin of a plot against him and his. The point is that we’re very far from rote Joseph Campbell hero’s-journey fantasy storytelling, with some dude learning it’s his destiny to defeat the Dark Lord. If you’re sick of that sort of thing, you’ll find a lot more to hook you here. This goes double if you’re the sort of person who’s ever enjoyed fictional or non-fictional war epic’s or gangster stories. “The Sopranos with swords” really is a pretty dead-on way to describe what’s going on here.

via 10 Reasons Why You Should Read George R.R. Martin’s A Game of Thrones – Topless Robot

Yesterday HBO, showed the first 14 minutes of the premiere episode of Game of THrones, and as I have been with everything I have seen so far, the chunk we saw last night was just great.  I simply can’t wait until it premieres in less than two weeks now.

The start of baseball season & baseball books

It is officially baseball season now with the regular season starting this last weekend.  While my Minnesota Twins, did not have a great first series to start out with, hopefully they will have a good season.

For me I personally kicked off the baseball season when last Tuesday, March 29th, I went to hear author/baseball historian John Thorn talk about his new book ‘Baseball in the Garden of Eden: The Secret History of the Early Game’.   While I already had some background knowledge on the early history of baseball, it was great to hear Thorn speak and learn details about the early history that I did not know much about.  Garrison Keillor was the person who was interviewing Thorn, before they opened it up to audience questions.  What Thorn talked about it is how the myth of Abner Doubleday creating baseball is just that a myth, and went on to talk about the real influences on the early history of baseball and how it changed early on became something that was able to grow and become popular.  Overall it was a great event and a nice way to kick off the baseball season for me.  I did end up buying the book on amazon the day after and look forward to reading the book at some point this summer.

I also ordered another baseball book at the same time from amazon, called ’56: Joe DiMaggio and the Last Magic Number in Sports’ by Kostya Kennedy. The takes a look at the 1941 baseball season and Joe DiMaggio’s 56 game hitting streak and the impact that it had on different parts of the country.  Short blurb from the book description:

In 56, Kostya Kennedy tells the remarkable story of how the streak found its way into countless lives, from the Italian kitchens of Newark to the playgrounds of Queens to the San Francisco streets of North Beach; from the Oval Office of FDR to the Upper West Side apartment where Joe’s first wife, Dorothy, the movie starlet, was expecting a child. In this crisp, evocative narrative Joe DiMaggio emerges in a previously unseen light, a 26-year-old on the cusp of becoming an icon. He comes alive-a driven ballplayer, a mercurial star and a conflicted husband-as the tension and the scrutiny upon him build with each passing day.

From the little I have skimmed over since I have gotten it, it seems like a nice mix of looking at the story line of DiMaggio and his actual hitting streak along with as describe above the impact it had.

Frank Herbert’s ‘Dune’ looking for new film home.

The rights holders to Frank Herbert’s Dune are on the look out now for a new partner to help make a new film a reality:

Paramount has turned loose the giant worm, and everything else that was part of the seminal Frank Herbert science fiction novel series Dune. The studio’s four-year attempt to make a movie out of the franchise has fallen by the wayside. “Paramount’s option has expired and we couldn’t reach an agreement,” said Richard P. Rubinstein, who controls the rights on behalf of the author’s estate and ABC.

via Paramount Ends 4-Year Attempt To Turn Frank Herbert’s ‘Dune’ Into Film Franchise –

I would enjoy to see a modern take on Dune, since David Lynch’s version in the 1980’s was a bit of a weird take on it and the mini series the SCIFI channel now SYFY did in 2000, was well done but you can tell it was done on a some what of a limited TV budget.  So it would be nice to see a big budget version of Dune be made, the question will be can any one really make a single 2-3 hour movie out of the complex book.  It would be interesting to see them try, in the link above, it says Rubinstein was happy with the latest script.

Another possible interesting option is to see a channel like HBO, Showtime or Starz make a full fledge TV show out of the book.  If HBO did it and gave the type of budget and care they are doing for Game of Thrones, I would be confident in how it might turn out.

I do hope a new version comes along here soon, since I have always enjoyed the world of Dune once I started reading the books years ago and would enjoy a new take on it.