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Rafiki
03-10-2011, 12:52 PM
Thanks in part to my tax return, I have purchased six books that I will read over the spring.

Art of War- Sun Tzu
Conquest of Gaul- Julius Caesar
The Prince- Nicholo Machaivelli
The Confessions- St. Augustine
Gulliver's Travels- Jonathan Swift
Fabric of the Cosmos- Brian Greene

I've already started on the Art of War. I have to say that even though I've read it before during my adolesence (because it was "cool"), I am getting so much more out of it now, especially when it is read as an allegory for everyday life.

Do any of you have a list of books you're planning on reading over the spring? Or have you read any of the books I've purchased?

Locke
03-10-2011, 02:32 PM
I finished by a few books by Neil Gaiman, American Gods and Neverwhere, recently. He co-authored a book with Terry Pratchett called Good Omens that I'm working on now. Apparently Terry Pratchett has a series of books out called Discworld that I'm going to look into once I'm done with this.

I know they are a significantly different genre than the books you listed, but i spend so much time reading scientific journals and various articles that I need my leisure time reading to be the polar opposite of that...

Rafiki
03-10-2011, 05:34 PM
I've been reading novels for awhile (English Major). I haven't read Gaiman, but the wiki information surrounding him and American Gods is very interesting.

I turned back to the classics this spring because I sometimes feel that I am impeded by my ignorance of them. That isn't to say that they aren't profound and interesting on their own, but it's always useful to know the older canon of works that are highly influential. I went for a strategy and philosophy theme, but I've been known to devour novels.

Yet my most recent attempts at novel reading haven't been successful. If I find that I can't identify with or at least empathsize with the characters in the novel, I will quit reading. If you don't understand what I mean, try reading Jane Eyre by Bronte or Angle of Repose by Wallace Stegner.

Locke
03-10-2011, 06:19 PM
I've been reading novels for awhile (English Major). I haven't read Gaiman, but the wiki information surrounding him and American Gods is very interesting.

I turned back to the classics this spring because I sometimes feel that I am impeded by my ignorance of them. That isn't to say that they aren't profound and interesting on their own, but it's always useful to know the older canon of works that are highly influential. I went for a strategy and philosophy theme, but I've been known to devour novels.

Yet my most recent attempts at novel reading haven't been successful. If I find that I can't identify with or at least empathsize with the characters in the novel, I will quit reading. If you don't understand what I mean, try reading Jane Eyre by Bronte or Angle of Repose by Wallace Stegner.

I know exactly what you mean. It's an ongoing issue, especially in the Science Fiction genre. There are only so many plot variations you can encounter when dealing with the supernatural, so a good novel has to have a strong character. Unfortunately for readers like you and I, SciFi probably has the highest proportion of novice writers trying to put their spin on something done 500 times already. It invariably means that they try too hard on the plot and completely ignore the character. It's to the point where I don't even buy random books like I used to. I find an author I know is known for having those strong characters, like Neil Gaiman, and just read everything they've written.

American Gods is a must read. Especially if you have any interest in mythology, he hits on almost every religion's Gods at some point. Plus, Gaiman is an amazing storyteller...

Rafiki
03-15-2011, 11:35 PM
I'm on to Julius Caesar's book, Conquest of Gaul. His style is so easy to read (especially when compared to Cicero). The only problem is with the names of various Gallic and Celtic tribes and their chiefs.

It's easy to see why he is a famous tactician. He was a great manager of personnel and resources, and utilized geography to give him the advantage. I have to admit, after reading Art of War you start to see why the Gauls fell.

For instance, when Caesar has to engage King Ariovistus, he noticed that even though they were within miles of each other for days, and the King's army would often harass the Roman lines, they never advanced towards decisive battle. When he questioned captives, they told him that the women in camp were talking omens that if they battled before the new moon, they would surely go down in defeat. Big mistake. Sun Tzu says to prohibit any kind of omen taking in your army camps. Put the possibility of defeat behind you, and wait to destroy your enemies.

Rafiki
04-19-2011, 07:34 PM
I started The Prince today.

One point I thought was pretty interesting was his assertion that a country with appointed/elected governors is much easier to take control of than a country with ancestral tribes/princes. This is manifest both in Caesar's campaign in Gaul as well as our current troubles in Afghanistan.

The good news for the Afghan government is that they just need to hold on to power and eventually the old authorities will fall away through attrition, culminating in a singular recognition of authority vested in the central government.

Rafiki
05-04-2011, 04:29 PM
I'm now about halfway into The Confessions by St. Augustine.

I'm really liking it because he's asking a lot of the same questions I ask myself about God and life in general. Hopefully by the conclusion he'll offer a satisfactory explanation of his understanding.

I like his analogy of the beggar. Here's an overview from another website:


In Confessions 6.6 he makes an analogy between himself and a poor drunken beggar that is meant to illustrate for the reader the futility of Augustine's own quest for the happy life. The beggar deludes himself into thinking that his drunken revelries make him happy; Augustine deludes himself into thinking that his own quest for fame will make him happy. Both are equally foolish, but at least the beggar gets a few moments reprieve from his cares--a heck of a lot more than Augustine gets.

The two actually suffer from the same "disease"--disordered love or lust. The beggar's lust is for booze, Augustine's for fame and glory. Both crave some limited good in an absolute way, and are enslaved by their disordered longing. Neither, therefore, is able to find the happiness he seeks.


http://www.molloy.edu/sophia/augustine/conf6_notes.htm

Rafiki
05-31-2011, 02:10 PM
Well, to be honest I stopped reading Confessions at the parts where he delves into his understanding of time (I have another book for that). I appreciated his life journey from sinner to saint, and I really admire his pledge to chastity. I think his fundamental question he wants all of us to ask is, what will give us happiness in life. For him the answer was God and God only.

Now, I've started reading Fabric of the Cosmos. This book is really interesting. I've heard in the past that the faster you go in space, the slower you go through time, but never did I understand exactly why. The reason is that the combined speed of space and time can only add up to the 670 million miles per hour (speed of light). Therefore, if you are going 500 million miles per hour through space, you are only traveling 170 million miles per hour through time. The discrepancy would be something like 15 minutes for every hour.

Also, Brian Greene is the same author who wrote The Elegant Universe, which became a documentary on PBS. I found out that Fabric of the Cosmos will also be a PBS documentary that comes out in November.

Next up is Gulliver's Travels. And I'm already working on a list for the Summer.

Rafiki
06-15-2011, 01:27 PM
So I finished Fabric of the Cosmos. I would have been more blown away if I had not already had a pretty good understanding of Quantum Mechanics and String Theory. A lot of it was review, but I was kind of blown away by the explication of the Expansion Theory of the universe, which incorporated repulsive gravity via the Higgs field. Now I know why they are looking for the Higgs boson, and what its discovery would mean for contemporary science.

After reading all that philosophy and complex science, I pounced on Gulliver's Travels and read half of it last night. The satires are a bit dated, but ironically the section on Brobdingnag, which is supposedly a satire of Britain in the eyes of the American colonists, worked well against America's current political system.

I will finish it tonight and then begin again on another list, a thread for which I will make in a few minutes. I'm excited for this next list as it will be more short story collections and novels, as opposed to philosophy.