May 17, 2007
I've recently finished two books in two weeks after battling a reading funk for the last couple years, only reading a book every couple months or so. I've decided to leave fiction alone for a while and pursue non-fiction, especially works written by my generation. The two I just finished I couldn't put down; they were fun and profound, unpredictable and contemporary. I liked them.
The Know-It-All by A.J. Jacobs is the story of one's man's quest to read the entire Encyclopaedia Britannica. It's irreverent, funny, eclectic and personal. He throws topics he finds interesting to the reader, along with commentary that ranges from the stupid to the eloquent, examining society, history, and knowledge itself.
The Botany of Desire by Michael Pollan has got to be the most fun I've had reading about plants. He concentrates on four plants: the apple tree, the tulip, marijuana, and potatoes as he weaves history, legend, and psychology together to beautifully explain humanity and our place in nature. Excellent science writing, almost at a mythical level.
May 10, 2007
Great Quote on Man
From an article in Encyclopaedia Britannica by Robert Ardrey, quoted in The Know-It-All by A.J. Jacobs:
"But we were born of risen apes, not fallen angels, and the apes were armed killers besides. And so what shall we wonder at? Our murders and massacres and missiles, and our irreconcilable regiments? Or our treaties whatever they may be worth; our symphonies however seldom they are played; our peaceful acres, however frequently they may be converted into battlefields; our dreams however rarely they may be accomplished. The miracle of man is not how far he has sunk but how magnificently he has risen. We are known among the stars by our poems, not our corpses."