Tubes, Home and Exile, Ender’s Game, Making Our Democracy Work, Logicomix. No overarching themes this week - just a lot of unrelated books.
Logicomix is a graphic novel about Bertrand Russell’s life and search for a working system of mathematical logic. Given that, the fact that I didn’t like it too much speaks a lot to how the book chose to tell this story. It’s based loosely on Russell giving a speech in which he talks about his life and substantive encounters with other philosophers. However, there are interjections from the authors (in their cartoon representations) and a number of other side-tracking additions, which makes it hard to keep track of the main story. Russell was a badass, but this is not the best way to understand his work or life.
Stephen Breyer’s Making Our Democracy Work is a weird combination of a book on the Supreme Court for a general audience, and a book that recounts how Breyer feels like SCOTUS judges should make decisions - which is not aimed at a general audience. Breyer first goes through a history of the Supreme Court and its attempts to have the executive branch enforce its decisions. This, of course, is all a backdrop for his judicial philosophy, which focuses on policy ramifications of court decisions. It’s not actually a good book for a general audience, because Breyer tells his story in such a specific way that if this is the first time you are encountering these cases, you probably will be very very confused. Still might be worth a read if you like Breyer, though.
Ender’s Game - who hasn’t read Ender’s Game? Me, until two weeks ago. I knew the ending plot twist, however - the spoiler statute of limitations on that is undoubtably past. I enjoyed it, although, like with most classic books that I was supposed to have read by now, I probably would have enjoyed it more had I read it earlier.
Home and Exile (by Chinua Achebe) was a book I picked up because Achebe had just died. Rather morbid, but it lead me to discover a work I very much enjoyed. The book is based on a series of lectures he gave at Harvard about his experience as a story teller and a novelist.
Finally, Tubes is a book about the infrastructure of the Internet. Andrew Blum, who wrote it, doesn’t come off as having a particularly technical background, and some of the sections will prove remedial for anyone with the slightest knowledge of Internet architecture. The section on submarine cables, for example, owes a huge debt to Neal Stephenson’s “Mother Earth, Mother Board”, which if you haven’t read, I recommend instead of this book. Stephenson gets it, Blum doesn’t and although he manages to go some interesting places, I found the constant insertion of a not particularly insightful narrator quite annoying. (Granted, I’m not the intended audience.)