jueves, 27 de noviembre de 2014

Books I have read this year (2014)

Well after thinking a little about it I decided to do a post about the books I read this year (2014), I didn't committed to any particular number of books but in the previous year I resumed my reading hobby, and this year started buying books like crazy. So I wanted to write a little about each book:

Atlas Shrugged (Ayn Rand)

To be fair, I started reading this book in 2013 but finished it this year (it's a big book!) and also wanted to write about it. This is a awesome book, full of details and ideas; Ayn Rand magnum opus is a must read. In it she develops her Objectivism philosophy, each character embodying an archetype around it.
It's a lengthy book, even some parts are very boring (for example, the John Galt's monologue is too much, could be shorten very much), but for the most chapters the writing is great and it gets you thinking about some of your values, principles and thoughts about life it self and life in society.
I liked that the book is written in a timeless fashion, not attached over to any age or time (but certainly some parts seems like it), and that the characters represented different sides of human beings, and how the deal with real life. A common dislike is that characters appear simple and not fully fleshed, they stick to their archetype and never loose it; at certain points of the story this was pretty evident but I didn't find it bothering, boring or disliking.
Lastly, I put here a quote by John Rogers that I find very funny: 
There are two novels that can change a bookish fourteen-year old's life: The Lord of the Rings and Atlas Shrugged. One is a childish fantasy that often engenders a lifelong obsession with its unbelievable heroes, leading to an emotionally stunted, socially crippled adulthood, unable to deal with the real world. The other, of course, involves orcs.

A Feast of Crows (George RR Martin)

I feel sorry about reading this book, after the first three excellent books, this one seems like a step-back. Many of the loved characters of the previous books are gone, and those that are in it looks like are there only for filling pages. I love story about Aria, it's a great story but in Feast, the whole story at Braavos and the guild of faceless men it's very tedious and boring.
And the other characters are unfamiliar and unappealing, the two uncles of Theon Greyjoy feel like made of cardboard, with no depth or sympathy. The two behave almost the same, by some archetype without considering other options or choices.
The character development is non-existent making the novel unappealing, also I don't remember being exited at any moment (I think that not a single important character dies at this novel, nor you feel bravery, shame or dislike to any character's action).
I only hope that A Dance With Dragons improves upon this one.

Anthem (Ayn Rand)

So after reading Atlas Shrugged I wanted to know and read more about Objectivism and Ayn Rand, so I buy several Rand's books. This one seems like Atlas' small brother, you feel the ideas of Objectivism forming up, I really enjoyed the way it's written and how it removed the "I" from the characters vocabulary. Also the book is a very gentle introduction (if you haven't read anything of Rand's work) that you can read in a day.

The Virtue of Selfishness / Capitalism: The unknown ideal (Ayn Rand) 

So after reading Atlas Shrugged I wanted to know and read more about Objectivism and Ayn Rand, so I buy several Rand's books. This two books fell pretty much the same, the core ideas of Objectivism and Selfishness are exposed over and over again. If I had to choose, I kept Capitalism as a must read.
Both books divide the chapters in different papers or discourses made Rand it self or other Objectivism advocates, so you might get the same idea over and over again, getting a little repetitive.

Clojure Programming (Chas Emerick) 

Great book about Clojure, I strongly recommend it if you want to get started on clojure. If filled with detail and examples, it would be great if it had some exercises for you to complete. I wish to get the chance to use clojure at my workplace environment.

Pensamiento Nacional para Principiantes (Tello, National philosophy for beginners)

This book deals mainly with Argentinian thinkers and the ideas they spawned over the history of the country, trying to create ideas and philosophies different that the europeans or to adapt those one to the national idiosyncratic. It's a great book if you want an introduction to the popular national thinking of the country, also relates every character with the context of the moment, and how the context molded this persons and how they influenced this context and the future. Also I liked that the book left out relatively new characters, like Menem or Kirchner, and focused over the thinkers like Jauretche and Ortiz.

Economia para principiantes (Garvie, Economics for beginners)

This book deals with the evolution of economy as a science, from Ancient Greek to modern days. It's a great introduction to the discipline in a way that explains how every great economy school was made. Regretfully it leaves out the mathematical side and it doesn't explain you anything about real economics, it only tells you the problems each new school tried to solve (and what new problems brought to the table).
Including economists like Adam Smith, John Keynes and others, each explaining how they see the world (or more like the economic world, but nowadays whats the difference?). It really get me thinking about how each thinker has influenced what it should be done politically speaking in order for a country to thrive, and how this is seen in modern country, how they apply it.

Fahrenheith 451 (Ray Bradbury)

As an overall it's a good book, I enjoyed it, but I think that is somehow hyped. Please don't get me wrong, is a great book with a great parody, analogy and critic of modern society that I feel everyday (people not reading enough or at all, governments thinking that they know what's best for us, dealing with oppression). But after reading it, I fell something missing, some last revelation or realization of some kind.

1984 (George Orwell)

Absolutely an awesome book, the first part is a bit slow and tedious, but once it gains momentum it gets really good. I can't help myself of tracing analogies with real life, with life in modern society, with politics and with real power (and powers). From the optimistic side you feel like you change change the world if you set your mind to it, that love is a life changing emotion that make you touch the sky. From the pessimistic side you fill tiny, alone and broken, that nothing can we make of this unstoppable tide that we call society, human kind; that for some people power and money is all there is, no matter how many "bugs" must he crush.
The book's ending is entirely unexpected, more than one should be left with a WTF. Nonetheless, in context is a awesome book, a must read.

Einstein: El espacio es una cuestion de tiempo (Einstein: Space is a matter of time)

A very gentle introduction to Einstein theories and discoveries, it also serves as biographical piece. I think is a very good book, a national newspaper is releasing this books weekly, and although I would dig some more math in it the overall picture the problems, theories and solutions are very well explained.

Matematicas, ¿Estas ahi? (Paenza, Mathematics, are you there?)

Over the last few months I wanted to increase my use of mathematics in life in general (and also to get a better grasp over the whole topic) because I really enjoyed my Calculus and Linear Algebra classes over at college. I don't think is a great book, it's good, but seems very convoluted and appears that jumps topic to topic with no correlation or clear intention. Although I didn't like the way it's written, Paenza is great at explaining math, they were very clear. I only would like that there were more exercises and more examples related with real life (say, how can you win the lottery knowing math! hehe).

Destination: Void (Frank Herbert)

Remember when I say'd that started buying books like crazy, well it all started after wanting to read more about Frank Herbert (my favorite author for its work Dune). Regretfully I wasn't able to find a whole lot of books in my country, his work isn't very well divulged and if it isn't mainstream nobody cares to print old books (although it make sense), but I buy some used books, this in particular it's almost my age (it was printed on 1987).
This is an awesome book, not as good as Dune but very good. It focus on consciousness, what's consciousness, what we understand it is, what are the fundamental requirements for it to develop on a sentient being and what the new stage of consciousness. Like Dune, it takes in someway a Zen approach (a religion Herbert was devoted and later on his life converted from Catholicism) to the consciousness issue. I really liked that this book doesn't focus on the technical side of science fiction (much like Herbert has always done), to tell you the truth I don't enjoy when an author get so fixed on technology and gadgets, for me it all revolves around characters, their interactions, decisions and actions.
Each character embodies a different approach in reaching nirvana, the path of faith, the path of science, the path of knowledge; without forgetting about the ship which is like the fifth character of the book I was rushing through the pages to know when Frankenstein creation will be awaken, not to say what an ending!

Special mention

Well, after reading a lot of Ayn Rand I got really hooked up with philosophy and capitalism, but I wanted to read also someone that criticizes capitalism (if not, I would be biased). And who's best to bring down capitalism if not Karl Marx,  so I bought Marx's Capital and started reading it but really couldn't finish it. The whole time it make me feel that I was a stupid, like if someone tried to explain this to ants. Nonetheless I didn't get frustrated, it got me thinking a lot, so that's a good sign but I jumped over other books, someday I'll finish it...
I also read a book about sleeping and the study of sleep, but it was pretty boring and short (I finished in two days, though I did a lot of skimming) so I didn't wanted to add it to list.

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