"There's only one hard and fast rule in running: sometimes you have to run one hard and fast."

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Book Report

I get a lot of interesting comments that don't get posted in the comments section. My favorite was the suggestion that the reason women don't run as fast as men is that, if they did, the human race would've died out long ago.

I get asked about my reading list a lot. The answers to the questions: I have about 2500 books left on my list to read and the list was compiled from lists various "experts" have made about books one should read some day. I'm reading a lot of non-fiction just because I've already read a lot of the fiction and I tend to read things in groups. I do read current books, not just classics, but I haven't listed everything I've been reading.

Last week, Alexander Solzhenitsyn and Randy Pausch died and I felt I should do some review of their works. Pausch is just a guy who wrote a book ("The Last Lecture"), not an author and his book is just platitudes and unoriginal platitudes at that. I don't think one can learn anything about life from a man who's had nothing but easy successes. It's a best-seller, so I guess I'm in the minority in this opinion.

I've read all of Solzhenitsyn's works except "August 1914," which is on my list (about 2000 books down). "The Gulag Archipelago" is his most famous work and it is an important work, though not especially well-written; it's hard to judge the quality of Russian works, though, as it's hard to translate the nuances and style of Russian into English. "One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich" is generally regarded as his best work and it's won many awards, but it left me a little flat. "Cancer Ward" is my personal favorite; it was surprisingly hopeful and uplifting - perhaps, given his other works and the title, I was expecting a depressing work.

When reading some of the more dense books, I have to intersperse other things. Leibniz' commentary on Kant's ponderous works, "New Essays on Human Hunderstanding," is especially dull. So, I read an Elmore Leonard novel, among other things.

I'm reading Adam Smith's "Theory of Moral Sentiments." He takes for granted that we will forgive a rich man for being foolish and immoral, but won't forgive a man who's wise and good for being poor. I really want to argue that point - but can't. It happens to be true. His explanation for why this is does not make me feel optimistic for society.

Now for an actual review. "The Surrealist Manifesto" of Tristan Tzara is an imaginary cluster of planets. She used to be the number 7. Cluck!


Diane said...

Great minds think alike... I was just going to post to my blog my latest book reviews.

"The Last Lecture" is also on my list (added a week or two ago by recommendation of a friend).

I have the Russian language version of "A Day in the life..." I once tried reading it and got a paragraph into it before giving up as my language skills just weren't good enough. I have read the English version, too.

I've also read and enjoyed "Cancer Ward".

I enjoy Dostoevsky better. He's already dead, though, so if there's anything of his you haven't read yet, may as well start! (j/k!)

I'd give you a book recommendation, but I dare say anything I came up with would be on your list of 2500, and if it wasn't, you should maybe question my recommendation!

Bryan said...

Aren't you being a little unfair to Pausch's brave clandestine delivery of an abbreviated samizdat version of his "Last Lecture" to Oprah, while his work was suppressed and ignored throughout Siberia?

Have you discovered yet who was first to develop the theory of infinitesimal limits of deliciousness in snack cookies: Fig Newton or Choco Leibniz?

Bryan said...

P.S. My favorite Onion article of all-time is "Republicans, Dadaists Declare War On Art", which depicts Tristan Tzara and Jesse Helms together at the podium.

SteveQ said...

Bryan, that's the funniest thing I've read in ages! I felt sheepish comparing Pausch and Solzhenitsyn, but that was totally worth it.

keith said...

what's so great about Estonia? Pssh.

Interesting criticism of the Pausch phenomenon. Society values the ability to look at certain death with a fearless wry grin (and certainly to profit from it), even if the grin happens to be someone else's. It's also some weird taboo that the afflicted and ill cannot be judged or criticized, which I suspect will garner you a few stink eyes...but such is life for those willing to see things as they are!