Sunday, July 2, 2017

Towards 100 Nonfiction Books Everyone Should Read

Maybe I'll expand these tweet sized reviews...

*Gregory Bateson, "Mind and Nature"

what processes does a mechanical system need to have to act like a mind? to evolve? are they the same?  concrete vocabulary to ask and answer.

*M. Mitchel Waldrop, "Complexity: the emerging science at the edge of order and chaos"

how do the behaviors of economies, ecosystems, and living organisms come from interactions between their parts?  narratives of this new field

*Alberts et. el. "Molecular Biology of the Cell"

You are a confederation of a TRILLION living amoeba, each amoeba is a dance of more nanotransformer robots than there are bricks in all of NYC

*Charles A. Sorrel and George F. Sandstrom, "Minerals of the World"

how does the chemistry of merely 2 dozen elements create the 1000s of wildly different minerals?  this is one book i learned chemistry from

*Kernighan and Plauger, "Software Tools in Pascal"

how to break down the solution to a complex problem into a toolbag of simple generically usefull tools that you can then use for the next problem

*Robert M. Hazen, "genesis: The Scientific Quest for Life's Origin"

can life have formed only from chemicals?  finally chemists are looking outside of their water filled testtubes for the chemistry at the origins of life.

*Douglas Hofstadter, "Goedel, Escher, Bach",

can a system complex enough to understand itself be too complex to understand?  Goedel's math proof says, YES! a playful romp explaning that

*Barry Goldman, "Complexity Lab Manual (in progress)"

can we understand the origins of this rich fragrant creative living world from first principles of heat flow, chemistry and mathematics?

where does the complexity and creativity life come from?  a michaelangelo like creator or from the chemistry of mud? 100 lab experiments

*greenwood and earnshaw: chemistry of the elements

these are the players: carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, oxygen, phosphorus, sulfur, silicon, aluminum, iron... and oh boy, the game that they play

*Morrison and Boyd: Organic chemistry

chemistry is not simply colored fluids in beakers... but molecules, each responsive to temperature, pH, solvent, each other. and the responses...

*Dennis Bray: wetware: a computer in every cell

we are a conversation of a trillion living amoeba.  each is a massively parallel computating device that makes your computer look like a toy

*Julian Jaynes, "The Origins of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind"

were the characters in Homer's Illiad conscious? what are kings graves gods and hallucinations?  why do humans organize around leaders?

*James Howard Kunstler, "Geography of Nowhere"

insights in psychological reaction to lived spaces and history and analysis of how we have created the american automobile clusterfuck

*Vicki Hearne, "Adam's Task: Calling Animals by Name"

Can dogs and horses learn to become responsible citizens? yes. do they enjoy excelling at these tasks? yes. good advice on raising kids too.

*John Janovy, "Yellowlegs"

one biologist's journey to follow and enter the life of of a single wild bird, or maybe it's a journey into his own mind as a biologist

*Kaufmann, Walter, "Critique of Religion and Philosophy"

wild journey through philosophy, religion and poetry, "what was once poetry when done spontenaously, becomes religion when routine". also a trip to hell

*Bill Moyers, "A World of Ideas"

amazing insights about human civil and poetic life in interviews with dozens of public figures. should be standard highschool text book.

*David Rindos, "Symbiosis and instability in Agriculture"

we were nomadic hunter gatherers for 100,000s of  years and then in a flash, agriculture took us by surprise and spread like wildfire, how?

*Erick Hawkins, "The Body is a Clear Space"

to Hawkins, dance is not the placements of joints in various positions like marionett puppets, but shared feeling of existence. collected essays.

*"Baghavad Gita"

life eats life to live. biology's messier than that.  then humans evolve to get cought up on petty egos. the HORRIFIC reality and a way back.

*Sidney Mintz, "Sweetness and Power: the Place of Sugar in Modern History"

only read a taste of this.  something about women healers, the church and slavery for sure...

*Jonathan Sacks, "The Dignity of Difference"

christian, islamic, brittish, american... vision for humanity is the soul crushing world swallowing monolith, but there is a another way...

*Joseph Campbell, and Bill Moyers, "the Power of Myth"

life eats life to live. on every level.  our clinging egos are latecomers to the scene and have been reacting in creative horror ever since

*Mary Daly, "Gyn/Ecology: the Metaethics of Radical Feminism"

wild poetic real trip from mother Earth to Athena, to witch burnings, to Nazis to Medical industry to the mother....

*Annie Dillard, "The Writing Life"

writing is brutal.  this is a beautiful book

*Mary Catherine Bateson, "In a Daughters Eye: A memoir of Margaret Mead and Gregory Bateson"

growing up with two fascinating anthropologist/biologist parents

*M. Scott Peck, "The Road Less Traveled"

the art of learning to listen to another, is very hard. is necessary

*Richard Eliot Friedman, "Torah and commentary",

old testament is an interlocking poetry puzzle that each generation must solve for themselves. hebrew text, translation and commentary shows how

*Robert Alter, "The Art of Biblical Narrative"

essays describing the mechanics portrayed in Friedman's book

*Bloom and Rosenberg, "the Book of J"

was the core of the old testement a finely crafted ironic critique of religion written by a woman writing in solomon's court?

*Vernon Amadjian and Surindar Paracer?, "Symbiosis: An Introduction to Biological Associations"

lush detailed examples of range of biological associations from deadly parasitic to mutually beneficial symbioses. do organisms have boundaries?

all the different stories of creatures living inside each other

worms that travel between snail and raccoon, fungi that

*Lynn Margulis and Karlene Schwartz, "Five Kingdoms: An Illustrated Guide to the Phyla of Life on Earth"

100 phyla of critters out there that are more different from each other than plants are from animals, by lifecycle and molecular mechanics

*E. C. Pielou, "After the Ice Age: the return of life to glaciated north america"

lush details of how our landscape and ecosystem grew back together as the Glaciers retreated over 10,000 years. today's stability is not the norm

*Mark Winston, "Biology of the Honeybee"

learn the intimate life of a space alien, the over 270 different skills they have. how they create a complex superorganism without no leaders

*Borror and White, "Peterson's Field Guide to Insects",

there may be a dozen kinds of mammals lurking 'round your back yard, but you can find at least 500 kinds of insects living there.

*Jack Harlan, "Crops and Man"

the complex ecology and evolution of weeds, humans and crops. how it all got started in multiple places in multiple ways.

*Holling Clancy Holling, "Pagoo"

follow the story of a young hermit crab growing up in the sea. jam packed with lush illustrations of all kinds of sea critters and biology

*John C. Kricher and Gordon Morrison, "Field Guide to Eastern Forests",

go out and see how your landscape is knit together by the myriad creatures, get to know some of them.  great details of ecological processes

*"Golden Guide to Pond Life",
stick it in your back pocket and get to know what's happening at a pond near you.  from microscopic anamalcules to turtles and raccoons

*Buchsbaum, "Animals Without Backbones"

detailed biology of ALL the squishy critters.  fun.

detailed biology of amoeba, jellyfish, parasitic worms, starfish, lobsters, octopi,

*George W. Barlow, "The Cichlid Fishes: Nature's Grand Experiment in Evolution"

A lake in africa where a 1000 species of fish evolved quickly. they explore every niche, have elaborate mating rituals, raise their young...

*L. David Mech and Luigi Boitani, "Wolves: Behavior, Ecology, and Conservation"

wolves r the most geographically and ecologically widespread mammals besides us.  they are also more civilized. we've hated them throughout history

*Donald Kroodsma, "The Singing Life of Birds"

only 50 years ago we start LISTENING to birds.  they are singing elaborate creative patterns with rules.  we don't yet know what they are saying

*Menno Schilthuizen, "Frogs, Flies, and Dandelions: Speciation -- the evolution of new species"

it's not just astroturf, humans and hotdogs out there.  a 1000 creative species out your window.  how does it happen?  here are some fun examples

*David Arora, "Mushrooms Demystified"

it was fungi, taught the green plants to live on dry land, and fungi learned to digest their wooden skeletons.  (and everything else) a field guide, learn them!

*William Morton Wheeler, "The Fungus Growing Ants of North America"

how one ant sized mother eventually raises up a city of a million children the size of your living room. in south america, they are in charge.

*Paul Colinvaux, "Why Big Fierce Animals Are Rare",

2 dozen tales of how our world is knit together at the biological and chemical scale

*Lewis Thomas, "The Lives of a Cell",

these little biology essays got me started in highschool on lifelong expeditions of the biological world. 

*Paul Colinvaux, "Ecology"

textbook.  the beef.  all the parts.  plants animal mineral.  how they weave together.

*Michael Procter, Peter Yeo and Andrew Lack, "The Natural History of Pollination"

the elaborate mating dances between flowers bees and wasps.  yes, wasps and orchids are having sex with each other! humans aint so weird.

*Frank Shu, "The Physical Universe: an Introduction to Astronomy"

read about, do the physics of the grand drama between gravity and the 2nd law of thermodynamics which creates all the structures of our universe

calculate how much energy the pulsar looses to glow of the crab nebula, then how far back in time it began in an explosion. yes one was recorded there 1000 years ago!

*John Janovy, "On Becoming a Biologist"

biology is a unique science half way between chemistry and geology, @ the human scale, ready to teach us if we listen to the critters.

*Gerald Holton and Stephen Brush, "Introduction to the Concepts and Theories in Phyiscs"

why trust science?  each theory takes a 100 years of exacting observation, brutally honest constructive criticism, back and forth before being woven into a stable edifice

learn how hard, how long, with what back and forth confusion to wrest basic facts of science: heat is energy of motion of atoms that make up matter

*Philip Davis and Reuben Hersh, "The Mathematical Experience"

history and exercizes of the mathematician's art. details. what IS mathematics? whimsical creation of the human mind or bedrock of reality?

*Guy Alexander, "Silica and Me"

thin. easy read. how does a scientist make sense of puzzling experiments? beautiful details. learn some chemistry. geology is silica.  read it.

*"Statistics the Easy Way"

statistics is some subtle complex shit. properties of distributions of multiple samples of distributions... first book that helped me understand

if you take a 100 different random samples of a bag of 40 red and 60 blue marbles, how does the average # of red in all samples relate to 40/100?

how many random samples of 30 people in a city does it take so that the total average of the average height of each sample is close to the average height in the whole city?  statistics is subtle complex shit. this book taught me.

n different random samples of people in a city, each of size m. what must n and m be so that the total average of the average height of each sample is close to the average height in the whole city?  statistics is subtle complex shit. this book taught me.

*Duncan C. Blanchard, "From Raindrops to Volcanoes"

a delightful romp through observation and experiment.  how to collect microscopic water drops in sea spray? have a baby spider build you a net...

one scientists experimental journey to understand rain. how to collect microscopic water drops in sea spray? have a baby spider build you a net...

*Richard Feynman, "The Meaning of it All",
*Richard Feynman, "The Pleasure of Finding Things Out",

science as a way of life of exploration, being able to live without certainty, striving for brutal honesty, is it valuble for human society?

*Richard feynman: six easy pieces

master physicist introduces you to his craft.  whats the most profound sentence of science knowlege? what is energy? gravity?  whats batshit insane about the quantum world?

*Wilson: 4 colors suffice: how the map problem was solved

math is weird: 5 color theorm takes only 9 pages to go over 5 cases, you can do it! but 4 color theorem takes a computer to go over 1400 cases!

*Einstein and Infeld: the evolution of physics

from the masters.  first time i understood what soundwaves were, how light works

*rebecca stott: darwin and the barnacle

get inside the very human world of Charles Darwin as he spends 20 years to hone his craft before daring to explain his world shattering theory

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