During the last year most of my books had to stay in the basement due to lack of space. I didn’t like this solution, but my studio in Cambridge was too tiny to put them onto shelves. But now that we live in our nice and big one bedroom apartment, I could finally take all of my books out of their boxes. Also we don’t have a basement to store things anymore. But there is enough room on our kitchen shelves for all my cookbooks. All other books are in the living room. Last week we set up the last bookshelf that we had ordered. It makes me happy to see all my books properly again. For the last year I have mostly read on my tablet, which isn’t bad either. But every now and then it is nice to hold an actual book. Also I feel I should read the books I have already on my shelves because they are not there only for decorative purposes. I now have a whole list of those shelved books I want to read soon. (You can always see what I am reading on my Goodreads account.) Here they are:
Orhan Pamuk: The Red-Haired Woman*
On the outskirts of a town thirty miles from Istanbul, a master well digger and his young apprentice are hired to find water on a barren plain. As they struggle in the summer heat, excavating without luck meter by meter, the two will develop a filial bond neither has known before–not the poor middle-aged bachelor nor the middle-class boy whose father disappeared after being arrested for politically subversive activities. The pair will come to depend on each other and exchange stories reflecting disparate views of the world. But in the nearby town, where they buy provisions and take their evening break, the boy will find an irresistible diversion. The Red-Haired Woman, an alluring member of a travelling theatre company, catches his eye and seems as fascinated by him as he is by her. The young man’s wildest dream will be realized, but, when in his distraction a horrible accident befalls the well digger, the boy will flee, returning to Istanbul. Only years later will he discover whether he was in fact responsible for his master’s death and who the redheaded enchantress was.
Salman Rushdie: The Golden House*
When powerful real-estate tycoon Nero Golden immigrates to the States under mysterious circumstances, he and his three adult children assume new identities, taking ‘Roman’ names, and move into a grand mansion in downtown Manhattan. Arriving shortly after the inauguration of Barack Obama, he and his sons, each extraordinary in his own right, quickly establish themselves at the apex of New York society.
The story of the powerful Golden family is told from the point of view of their Manhattanite neighbour and confidant, René, an aspiring filmmaker who finds in the Goldens the perfect subject. René chronicles the undoing of the house of Golden: the high life of money, of art and fashion, a sibling quarrel, an unexpected metamorphosis, the arrival of a beautiful woman, betrayal and murder, and far away, in their abandoned homeland, some decent intelligence work.
Cixin Liu: The Three-Body Problem*
Fans of hard SF will revel in this intricate and imaginative novel by one of China’s most celebrated genre writers. In 1967, physics professor Ye Zhetai is killed after he refuses to denounce the theory of relativity. His daughter, Ye Wenjie, witnesses his gruesome death.
Shortly after, she’s falsely charged with sedition for promoting the works of environmentalist Rachel Carson, and told she can avoid punishment by working at a defense research facility involved with the search for extraterrestrial intelligence. More than 40 years later, Ye’s work becomes linked to a string of physicist suicides and a complex role-playing game involving the classic physics problem of the title.
Edith Hall: Introducing the Ancient Greeks*
The ancient Greeks invented democracy, theater, rational science, and philosophy. They built the Parthenon and the Library of Alexandria. They wrote down the timeless myths of Odysseus and Oedipus, and the histories of Leonidas’s three hundred Spartans and Alexander the Great. But understanding these uniquely influential people has been hampered by their diffusion across the entire Mediterranean. Most ancient Greeks did not live in what is now Greece but in settlements scattered across Turkey, Syria, Egypt, Libya, France, Italy, Bulgaria, Russia, and Ukraine. They never formed a single unified social or political entity. Acclaimed classics scholar Edith Hall’s Introducing the Ancient Greeks is the first book to offer a synthesis of the entire ancient Greek experience, from the rise of the Mycenaean kingdoms of the sixteenth century BC to the final victory of Christianity over paganism in AD 391.
Rick Riordan: Percy Jackson and the Greek Gods*
Who could tell the true stories of the gods and goddesses of Olympus better than modern-day demigod Percy Jackson? In this action-packed tour of Greek mythology, Percy gives his hilarious personal views on the feuds, fights and love affairs of the Olympians. Want to know how Zeus came to be top god? How many times Kronos ate one of his own kids? How Athena literally burst out of another god’s head? It’s all here in black and white …
Christine Kenneally: The First Word: The Search for the Origins of Language*
Language is a distinctly human gift. However, because it leaves no permanent trace, its evolution has long been a mystery, and it is only in the last fifteen years that we have begun to understand how language came into being.
The First Word is the compelling story of the quest for the origins of human language. The book follows two intertwined narratives. The first is an account of how language developed—how the random and layered processes of evolution wound together to produce a talking animal: us. The second addresses why scientists are at last able to explore the subject. For more than a hundred years, language evolution was considered a scientific taboo. Kenneally focuses on figures like Noam Chomsky and Steven Pinker, along with cognitive scientists, biologists, geneticists, and animal researchers, in order to answer the fundamental question: Is language a uniquely human phenomenon?
Philip Zaleski & Carol Zaleski: The Fellowship: The Literary Lives of the Inklings: J.R.R. Tolkien, C. S. Lewis, Owen Barfield, Charles Williams*
C.S. Lewis is the twentieth century’s most widely read Christian writer and J.R.R. Tolkien its most beloved mythmaker. For three decades, they and their closest associates formed a literary club known as the Inklings, which met weekly in Lewis’s Oxford rooms and in nearby pubs. They discussed literature, religion, and ideas; read aloud from works in progress; took philosophical rambles in woods and fields; gave one another companionship and criticism; and, in the process, rewrote the cultural history of modern times.
In The Fellowship, Philip and Carol Zaleski offer the first complete rendering of the Inklings’ lives and works. C. S. Lewis accepts Jesus Christ while riding in the sidecar of his brother’s motorcycle, maps the medieval and Renaissance mind, becomes a world-famous evangelist and moral satirist, and creates new forms of religiously attuned fiction while wrestling with personal crises. J.R.R. Tolkien transmutes an invented mythology into gripping story in The Lord of the Rings, while conducting groundbreaking Old English scholarship and elucidating, for family and friends, the Catholic teachings at the heart of his vision. Owen Barfield, a philosopher for whom language is the key to all mysteries, becomes Lewis’s favorite sparring partner, and, for a time, Saul Bellow’s chosen guru. And Charles Williams, poet, author of “supernatural shockers,” and strange acolyte of romantic love, turns his everyday life into a mystical pageant.
Stuart Jeffries: Grand Hotel Abyss: The Lives of the Frankfurt School*
Who were the Frankfurt School—Benjamin, Adorno, Marcuse, Horkheimer—and why do they matter today?
In 1923, a group of young radical German thinkers and intellectuals came together to at Victoria Alle 7, Frankfurt, determined to explain the workings of the modern world. Among the most prominent members of what became the Frankfurt School were the philosophers Walter Benjamin, Theodor Adorno, Max Horkheimer, and Herbert Marcuse. Not only would they change the way we think, but also the subjects we deem worthy of intellectual investigation. Their lives, like their ideas, profoundly, sometimes tragically, reflected and shaped the shattering events of the twentieth century.
Grand Hotel Abyss combines biography, philosophy, and storytelling to reveal how the Frankfurt thinkers gathered in hopes of understanding the politics of culture during the rise of fascism. Some of them, forced to escape the horrors of Nazi Germany, later found exile in the United States.
Peter Singer: The Life You Can Save: Acting Now to End World Poverty*
Using ethical arguments, provocative thought experiments, illuminating examples, and case studies of charitable giving, philosopher Peter Singer shows that our current response to world poverty is not only insufficient but ethically indefensible.
Singer contends that we need to change our views of what is involved in living an ethical life. To help us play our part in bringing about that change, he offers a seven-point plan that mixes personal philanthropy (figuring how much to give and how best to give it), local activism (spreading the word in your community), and political awareness (contacting your representatives to ensure that your nation’s foreign aid is really directed to the world’s poorest people).
Werner Heisenberg: Physics and Philosophy: The Revolution in Modern Science*
Nobel Prize winner Werner Heisenberg’s classic account explains the central ideas of the quantum revolution, and his celebrated Uncertainty Principle. The theme of Heisenberg’s exposition is that words and concepts familiar in daily life can lose their meaning in the world of relativity and quantum physics. This in turn has profound philosophical implications for the nature of reality and for our total world view.
Sean Carroll: From Eternity to Here: The Quest for the Ultimate Theory of Time*
Time moves forward, not backward, everyone knows you can’t unscramble an egg. In the hands of one of today’s hottest young physicists, that simple fact of breakfast becomes a doorway to understanding the Big Bang, the universe, and other universes, too. In From Eternity to Here, Sean Carroll argues that the arrow of time, pointing resolutely from the past to the future, owes its existence to conditions before the Big Bang itself, a period modern cosmology of which Einstein never dreamed. Increasingly, though, physicists are going out into realms that make the theory of relativity seem like child’s play. Carroll’s scenario is not only elegant, it’s laid out in the same easy-to- understand language that has made his group blog, Cosmic Variance, the most popular physics blog on the Net.
Have you read any of these books?
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