What are you reading now?


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Re: What are you reading now?

Postby Daisy » Tue Jun 22, 2010 11:19 am

Has anyone read Philip Pullman's "His Dark Materials" trilogy? The first is the Golden Compass (Northern Lights in the UK). I just finished the whole trilogy and its a great read and thought provoking. It's a combination of ideas in theology, philosophy and physics. Lots of different characters from various universes, plenty of mythology and a lot of action.
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Re: What are you reading now?

Postby lonewolf » Tue Jun 22, 2010 12:33 pm

IanS_Liv wrote:
lonewolf wrote:I learned that my paternal great-grandfather was born in Chester Co, England in 1817.

Is that Chester, England, as in the other side of the Atlantic from the USA? That's interesting to me because that's where I was born. It's also only 25 miles away from where I live now. The local record office is very good.

Yep, that Chester, England. I assume. I have not looked it up on a map so don't know in what part of England it is located. I will pm his name to you, maybe you can look it up if convenient and you are so inclined.
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Re: What are you reading now?

Postby Conor Dary » Tue Jun 22, 2010 1:55 pm

I've been to Chester. It is over near North Wales. Nice town.
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Re: What are you reading now?

Postby lonewolf » Tue Jun 22, 2010 7:46 pm

I Google Earthed it. Charming town and much bigger than I envisioned. The area is believed to have been first occupied in the ninth century. I don't know how much it has changed since 1817 or what prompted my ancestor to leave there but the wilds of NW MIssouri in 1842 and even wilder SW Oklahoma in 1880 must have been quite a contrast.
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Re: What are you reading now?

Postby gh » Tue Jun 22, 2010 9:02 pm

Daisy wrote:Has anyone read Philip Pullman's "His Dark Materials" trilogy? The first is the Golden Compass (Northern Lights in the UK). I just finished the whole trilogy and its a great read and thought provoking. It's a combination of ideas in theology, philosophy and physics. Lots of different characters from various universes, plenty of mythology and a lot of action.


There was an '07 movie The Golden Compass based on this. I found it delightful escapist fantasy, but the regs on IMDB who had read the books pretty much trashed it for going off-topic a bit. I gather it's not too faithful to the book, other than in basic premise.

Polar bears as gladiators? Love it.
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Re: What are you reading now?

Postby Daisy » Tue Jun 22, 2010 9:05 pm

gh wrote:There was an '07 movie The Golden Compass based on this. I found it delightful escapist fantasy

I have not seen the film but the escapism is part of the delight of the book too.

I started reading it as I thought it might be good for my son, but it is not really a kids book, despite the marketing.
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Re: What are you reading now?

Postby IanS_Liv » Tue Jun 22, 2010 11:29 pm

lonewolf wrote:I Google Earthed it. Charming town and much bigger than I envisioned. The area is believed to have been first occupied in the ninth century. I don't know how much it has changed since 1817 or what prompted my ancestor to leave there but the wilds of NW MIssouri in 1842 and even wilder SW Oklahoma in 1880 must have been quite a contrast.


Ninth century? It's an old Roman city, occupied since the late 1st century AD, built to keep my ancestors the Britons at bay in Wales. The original Roman stone walls are there, although rebuilt and repaired by the Victorians.

I don't know about Chester in 1817, although the layout of the city hasn't changed except to build proper roads. The countryside that surrounds Chester, well, the only way I can describe it is that it's very much like The Shire as depicted in Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings films. Even more so in 1817. How that contrasts with NW Missouri or SW Oklahoma I can't imagine. Less bison, for one thing. Squackee would like it - it has lots of cheese.

On topic - are His Dark Materials really worth reading? All I know is that they got the Vatican's proverbial knickers in a twist. Which is always good, and they're escapist, which I like. Are they anti-God or anti-religion? (There's a difference). Or have I got it completely wrong?
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Re: What are you reading now?

Postby Daisy » Wed Jun 23, 2010 4:46 am

IanS_Liv wrote:Are they anti-God or anti-religion? (There's a difference). Or have I got it completely wrong?

It is not particularly anti-God or anti-religion but organised religion definitely comes across badly. It is a new perspective based on recycling old ideas into a great story.

Having said that, there is one particular thing in the third book that would have really pissed off the vatican. But I think they are being over sensitive, it is a fictitious church in a fictitious universe that had a fictitious doctrine. I think they should be more worried about their real history rather than a misrepresentation of their doctrine.

It is definitely worth reading.
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Re: What are you reading now?

Postby lonewolf » Wed Jun 23, 2010 7:47 am

IanS_Liv wrote:[Ninth century? It's an old Roman city, occupied since the late 1st century AD, built to keep my ancestors the Britons at bay in Wales. The original Roman stone walls are there, although rebuilt and repaired by the Victorians.

You are right, of course. my imperfect mental retention of my quick Google research. :oops:
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Re: What are you reading now?

Postby IanS_Liv » Wed Jun 23, 2010 1:58 pm

lonewolf wrote:
IanS_Liv wrote:Ninth century? It's an old Roman city, occupied since the late 1st century AD, built to keep my ancestors the Britons at bay in Wales. The original Roman stone walls are there, although rebuilt and repaired by the Victorians.

You are right, of course. my imperfect mental retention of my quick Google research. :oops:

Oh dear. I hope I didn't come over as harsh. Probably over-proud of the town where I was born. :oops:
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Re: What are you reading now?

Postby mike renfro » Sun Jun 27, 2010 2:23 pm

Boston Noir. A collection of short stories edited (one written) by Dennis Lehane. The first two were pretty good. I/we have a bunch of junk novels from the library. Latest output of J Patterson & Nelson DeMille (although DeMille is a cut above junk, not quite LeCarre, but not that bad a writer). They still don't have the new Alan Furst. He's pretty good.
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Re: What are you reading now?

Postby jules » Sun Jul 18, 2010 1:28 pm

I just finished "Goodbye To All That" an autobiography by Robert Graves. Most of it takes place in the trenches in WWI. It was a very enjoyable read. Now I'm reading a Nero Wolfe. Yesterday I walked past a book store with an outside table of books. On it was "The Regulars" by Roald Dahl. The cover says it's about the British spy ring in wartime Washington. I bought it and will read it next.
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Re: What are you reading now?

Postby Conor Dary » Sun Jul 18, 2010 2:17 pm

jules wrote:I just finished "Goodbye To All That" an autobiography by Robert Graves. Most of it takes place in the trenches in WWI. It was a very enjoyable read. Now I'm reading a Nero Wolfe. Yesterday I walked past a book store with an outside table of books. On it was "The Regulars" by Roald Dahl. The cover says it's about the British spy ring in wartime Washington. I bought it and will read it next.


I read Goodbye years ago. I agree, an excellent book.
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Re: What are you reading now?

Postby IanS_Liv » Mon Jul 19, 2010 2:40 pm

Next on my list of books I think I 'should' read is The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists, because recently there was a version for the stage put on in town. And, after a visit today, I feel I ought to read George Orwell's The Road to Wigan Pier.
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Re: What are you reading now?

Postby dukehjsteve » Mon Jul 19, 2010 4:14 pm

I've read just about every book Martin Gilbert has written about WW I and WW II, and about Winston Churchill. Now I am reading his latest, " Churchill and America."
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Re: What are you reading now?

Postby DrJay » Mon Jul 19, 2010 9:11 pm

Plowing through "A Peace to End All Peace," by David Fromkin. A thorough and well-written history of Britain's involvement in the Middle East in the years from 1914 to 1922, and how that led to the lines in the sand and the conflicts that persist to this day.
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Re: What are you reading now?

Postby KDFINE » Fri Jul 23, 2010 5:07 pm

While it has been about two years since I read it, I am reminded today upon the passing of Daniel Schorr that his autobiography was an absolutely wonderful read.
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Re: What are you reading now?

Postby Daisy » Fri Jul 23, 2010 5:37 pm

My Father's Dragon trilogy by Ruth Stiles Gannet. A fun read but definitely a kids book. If you have kids, or grand kids this one is a must. Another in this category is Ralph S. Mouse by Beverly Cleary.
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Re: What are you reading now?

Postby kuha » Fri Aug 06, 2010 6:38 pm

Completed on a couple recent long flights:

Massimo Pigluicci, "Nonsense on Stilts: How to Tell Science from Bunk" (2010); a genuinely good book, more serious than it's title might suggest, written by a philosopher; a rich and thought-provoking study of what science is (and isn't) and all the fascinating shades of grey in between.

Bart D. Ehrman, "Jesus, Interrupted: Revealing the Hidden Contradictions in the Bible (and Why We Don't Know About Them)" (2009); also good; a quick introduction to an immensely complex and fascinating subject: the historical nature of both Christianity and the Bible. The author emphasizes that what he covers is utterly common knowledge in (serious) seminary programs, but remains either unknown, ignored, or actively resisted by a large portion of the American religious public. A reader comes away with the feeling that the gap between knowledge and faith can be something on the order of a conceptual Grand Canyon.
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Re: What are you reading now?

Postby Daisy » Fri Aug 06, 2010 8:34 pm

kuha wrote:Massimo Pigluicci, "Nonsense on Stilts: How to Tell Science from Bunk" (2010); a genuinely good book, more serious than it's title might suggest, written by a philosopher

I was just about to write that he is a botanist, not a philosopher. But a quick look made me realise that as a faculty member he must have taken courses in philosophy and he has now morphed into a fully fledged philosopher.
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Re: What are you reading now?

Postby gh » Fri Aug 06, 2010 8:58 pm

kuha wrote:....
Bart D. Ehrman, "Jesus, Interrupted: Revealing the Hidden Contradictions in the Bible (and Why We Don't Know About Them)" (2009); also good; a quick introduction to an immensely complex and fascinating subject: the historical nature of both Christianity and the Bible. The author emphasizes that what he covers is utterly common knowledge in (serious) seminary programs, but remains either unknown, ignored, or actively resisted by a large portion of the American religious public. A reader comes away with the feeling that the gap between knowledge and faith can be something on the order of a conceptual Grand Canyon.


This will put us close to forbidden territory here, but my ex-wife was assistant dean to the chairman of Religious Studies at Stanford in the '70s, and I spent a lot of time at parties (just as I do now!) with a gaggle of PhDs on the subject, and at the risk of portraying them in a false light, I would say most of them were atheists. Incredibly moral people, but Religious Studies had nothing to do with "religion"; it was about the study thereof. Their knowledge of the ins and outs of religious literature was stunning. Your suspicion about the "gap between knowledge and faith" is huge seems to be well founded.
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Re: What are you reading now?

Postby lonewolf » Fri Aug 06, 2010 9:07 pm

gh wrote:[This will put us close to forbidden territory here, but my ex-wife was assistant dean to the chairman of Religious Studies at Stanford in the '70s, and I spent a lot of time at parties (just as I do now!) with a gaggle of PhDs on the subject, and at the risk of portraying them in a false light, I would say most of them were atheists. Incredibly moral people, but Religious Studies had nothing to do with "religion"; it was about the study thereof. Their knowledge of the ins and outs of religious literature was stunning. Your suspicion about the "gap between knowledge and faith" is huge seems to be well founded.

That has been my experience and observation also. The more people know about religion and religions, the less "religious" they become. It may or may not affect their "morals" or behaviour relative to conventional acceptable religious conduct but, personally, they don't buy in to the "whole shebang.".
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Re: What are you reading now?

Postby Pego » Sat Aug 07, 2010 3:39 am

Daisy wrote:
kuha wrote:Massimo Pigluicci, "Nonsense on Stilts: How to Tell Science from Bunk" (2010); a genuinely good book, more serious than it's title might suggest, written by a philosopher

I was just about to write that he is a botanist, not a philosopher. But a quick look made me realise that as a faculty member he must have taken courses in philosophy and he has now morphed into a fully fledged philosopher.


Pigliucci has been a regular contributor to Skeptical Inquirer for many years, where I enjoyed reading his essays immensely. To be honest, I liked his biology/evolution/genetics articles more than the more recent philosophy.
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Re: What are you reading now?

Postby catson52 » Sat Aug 07, 2010 6:26 am

Pego wrote:Many moons ago I read a book by Robert Jongk "Brighter than a thousand suns", IMO a very readable history of the first couple of generations of nuclear physicists.


Read it almost 50 years ago, and it was a very nice read. Trouble is that much of it was not properly researched. An example, was the section about the guy (Etherly?) who claimed to have been on the Enola Gay, repented later on and tried to make things right. Turns out that he was a total confidence man and had never been in the line of combat during WWII. A lot of anti-nuclear weapons people picked up on Jungk's story and pushed it to the hilt.

Current reading is towards getting a full and proper understanding of Renaissance Art. I am troubled by the fact that I will have to look to Janson's History of Art - 950 pages long - which I picked up some 10-15 years back, but have never seriously looked into. Also got intersted in reading more Dostoevsky, my small Columbia Encyclopedia describes him as one of the towering giants of Western Literature. Have now obtained a criticism/appreciation of The Brothers Karamazov, will read it and then see whether I feel I have to tackle the ~900 page book. (I have only read Crime and Punishment, and have had Notes from Underground recommended to me by people I respect).

To those put off by some of the above. When you are reaching 70, some feel that time is running out, and want to devote most/all their time/reading to the true classics.
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Re: What are you reading now?

Postby kuha » Sat Aug 07, 2010 7:41 am

Pego wrote:Pigliucci has been a regular contributor to Skeptical Inquirer for many years, where I enjoyed reading his essays immensely. To be honest, I liked his biology/evolution/genetics articles more than the more recent philosophy.


I've done a fair bit of reading in the subject (far more so than in biology, etc.), and I thought that he did a very good job of dealing with both the history of philosophy and the nuances of current ideas...It's not an easy thing to do... He rather exuberantly flamed the ultra-relativism of the so-called Post-Modernists/Social Constructivists, but they richly deserve it...
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Re: What are you reading now?

Postby kuha » Sat Aug 07, 2010 7:46 am

catson52 wrote:Current reading is towards getting a full and proper understanding of Renaissance Art.


Interesting. I've just returned from a quick trip to Europe. A highlight was to visit (for the second time) the Velazquez rooms at the Prado in Madrid. For me, increasingly, the "Old Master" work in general looks more and more amazing as I get older...and Velazquez is simply over-the-top astonishing--for my money, the greatest painter who ever lived.

By the way, I like what you said about pursuing serious subjects "for fun." We are heirs to the greatest achievements in all of human culture. How can one NOT take that inheritance seriously?
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Re: What are you reading now?

Postby Pego » Sat Aug 07, 2010 8:45 am

catson52 wrote:Also got intersted in reading more Dostoevsky, my small Columbia Encyclopedia describes him as one of the towering giants of Western Literature.


After English became my primary use language over 40 years ago, I attempted to read a few Slavic authors in English translation. While all of them lose something, Dostoyevskiy is the worst to translate, Gogol close second. What reads great in Russian (and other Slavic tongue translations) became essentially unreadable in English. Pushkin translates a lot better. Likewise, of the Czech authors, Hašek is essentially untranslatable, while Čapek loses very little in translation.

Edited a typo.
Last edited by Pego on Sat Aug 07, 2010 8:56 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: What are you reading now?

Postby DecFan » Sat Aug 07, 2010 8:46 am

kuha wrote:
Bart D. Ehrman, "Jesus, Interrupted: Revealing the Hidden Contradictions in the Bible (and Why We Don't Know About Them)" (2009); also good; a quick introduction to an immensely complex and fascinating subject: the historical nature of both Christianity and the Bible. The author emphasizes that what he covers is utterly common knowledge in (serious) seminary programs, but remains either unknown, ignored, or actively resisted by a large portion of the American religious public. A reader comes away with the feeling that the gap between knowledge and faith can be something on the order of a conceptual Grand Canyon.


A good response to Ehrman is found in Michael Kruger's review of Jesus Interrupted.

Presently reading Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy, a new biography by Eric Metaxas. Bonhoeffer is fascinating - an intellectual who decided he couldn't live as an intellectual; a theologian trained by skeptical scholars who came to trust in the revelation in Scripture; a scholar with pacifist tendencies who had arranged to meet Gandhi, who then participated in a plot to assassinate Hitler. A good read that sparks much thought.
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Re: What are you reading now?

Postby gm » Sat Aug 07, 2010 12:51 pm

Thanks for the link to that Kruger piece, DecFan, much appreciated!
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Re: What are you reading now?

Postby bambam » Sat Aug 07, 2010 2:01 pm

catson52 wrote:Janson's History of Art - 950 pages long - which I picked up some 10-15 years back, but have never seriously looked into.


Used Janson's History of Art as an undergrad at Duke in the early 70s when I took that course. I like art, but must admit my rationale was that I needed the course for an inter-disciplinary requirement, and it was famous for the female eye candy that also took the course.
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Re: What are you reading now?

Postby bambam » Sat Aug 07, 2010 2:02 pm

Picked up a math book yesterday at Barnes & Nobles, with an absolutely great title:

Here's Looking at Euclid!
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Re: What are you reading now?

Postby Daisy » Sat Aug 07, 2010 2:46 pm

bambam wrote:Here's Looking at Euclid!


I heard an interview on Science Friday with Danica McKellar who has written a bunch of books aimed at HS girls. Her titles are pretty good. Her latest is "Hot X: Algebra Exposed". This follows her previous book titled 'Kiss My Math" and "Math Doesn't Suck"
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Re: What are you reading now?

Postby Pego » Sat Aug 07, 2010 3:02 pm

DecFan wrote:
kuha wrote:
Bart D. Ehrman, "Jesus, Interrupted: Revealing the Hidden Contradictions in the Bible (and Why We Don't Know About Them)" (2009); also good; a quick introduction to an immensely complex and fascinating subject: the historical nature of both Christianity and the Bible. The author emphasizes that what he covers is utterly common knowledge in (serious) seminary programs, but remains either unknown, ignored, or actively resisted by a large portion of the American religious public. A reader comes away with the feeling that the gap between knowledge and faith can be something on the order of a conceptual Grand Canyon.


A good response to Ehrman is found in Michael Kruger's review of Jesus Interrupted.

Presently reading Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy, a new biography by Eric Metaxas. Bonhoeffer is fascinating - an intellectual who decided he couldn't live as an intellectual; a theologian trained by skeptical scholars who came to trust in the revelation in Scripture; a scholar with pacifist tendencies who had arranged to meet Gandhi, who then participated in a plot to assassinate Hitler. A good read that sparks much thought.


I read Dr.Kruger's critique of Ehrman's book. As it looked to me as more adressing Ehrman ad hominem, rather than disproving what Ehrman says, in the style of a long list of biblical apologists, I looked it up further. Dr.Kruger teaches at a fundamentalist Reformed Theological Seminary, so biblical literalist that it rejects evolution and recently forced a faculty member to resign for publicly acknowledging his support for "theistic evolution".
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Re: What are you reading now?

Postby kuha » Sat Aug 07, 2010 3:23 pm

Pego wrote:I read Dr.Kruger's critique of Ehrman's book. As it looked to me as more adressing Ehrman ad hominem, rather than disproving what Ehrman says, in the style of a long list of biblical apologists, I looked it up further. Dr.Kruger teaches at a fundamentalist Reformed Theological Seminary, so biblical literalist that it rejects evolution and recently forced a faculty member to resign for publicly acknowledging his support for "theistic evolution".


And Kruger is much more than a "mere" reviewer; he has staked his professional reputation on arguing vehemently against some key ideas of Ehrman's (as laid out in Kruger's book "The Heresy of Orthodoxy").

Suffice to say that the issues involved here reflect a) real historical complexity; and b) for some, a passionate commitment to core beliefs.
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Re: What are you reading now?

Postby IanS_Liv » Sat Aug 07, 2010 6:17 pm

I've done a bit of reading on early Christian history. Geza Vermes is probably the author I trust the most I think. He has very good credentials, and writes very well. Plus, he's Jewish, so may have less at stake in writing about Christianity?

Pego has the right approach - so many of these authors have a vested interest or world view, so everything has to be read with a sceptical-ish mind. I have to admit I don't always do it, but I'm glad to say that I've got past the stage that says, "they must have some credibility if they found a publisher and got it through the editing process."

The trouble is - and I know we're verging on forbidden territory here gh - is authority. Having hung around academics, ideology plays a very large part in what they write. It's not always a bad thing, but it has made me realise that who writes something is almost as important as what's actually written.
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Re: What are you reading now?

Postby kuha » Sat Aug 07, 2010 6:58 pm

IanS_Liv wrote:I've done a bit of reading on early Christian history. Geza Vermes is probably the author I trust the most I think. He has very good credentials, and writes very well. Plus, he's Jewish, so may have less at stake in writing about Christianity?

Pego has the right approach - so many of these authors have a vested interest or world view, so everything has to be read with a sceptical-ish mind. I have to admit I don't always do it, but I'm glad to say that I've got past the stage that says, "they must have some credibility if they found a publisher and got it through the editing process."

The trouble is - and I know we're verging on forbidden territory here gh - is authority. Having hung around academics, ideology plays a very large part in what they write. It's not always a bad thing, but it has made me realise that who writes something is almost as important as what's actually written.


Thanks for this...I'll look into Vermes.

A few quick thoughts:

1. Of course every book/statement/assertion needs to be evaluated; with even our best writers, one is wise to have a "trust but verify" point of view
2. Tons of worthless books are published; merely putting words on paper and having the result bound means--in itself--next to nothing.
3. Ideology can play a major role in ANY author's writing--whether that writer is deemed "academic" or not.
4. It is always important to know something about the author--no book represents a view of timeless objectivity, which is impossible in any case. Every book represents a particular interpretation of the facts, by a particular person, with particular ideas, allegiances, intellectual gifts or baggage, etc. But this does not imply that such authors are incapable of achieving their own truths...
5. On any single subject, one learns alot by reading multiple books & thereby getting multiple perspectives on the "real" subject at hand. One also gets a pretty clear sense of the major splits or arguments within a given field--which, in itself, tells us something important about the subject...
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Re: What are you reading now?

Postby Pego » Sun Aug 08, 2010 5:52 am

Let me chime in a little about the objectivity of history accounts. While it is undeniable that English children hear a different version of the 100-year war than the French children, most disinterested historians will largely agree on facts. Once you go through chronicles, Froissart, Chaucer, a fairly objective picture will emerge. The same is true about virtually every historic event. Motives, morality, allegiances, affairs can be misapplied, the facts usually become not in dispute (at least for the majority of non-ideological researchers).
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Re: What are you reading now?

Postby jules » Sun Aug 08, 2010 9:58 am

This is very true.
I once advised a Russian student who was attending the U of O for one year only. She wanted to take my Calculus class. I told her that math was the same everywhere and she should take a European history class to see a different perspective.
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Re: What are you reading now?

Postby bhall » Sun Aug 08, 2010 12:45 pm

Neuromancer

I just finished rereading it for the first time in 15+ years. I was struck at how unbelievably far ahead of its time it was.
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Re: What are you reading now?

Postby Cooter Brown » Sun Aug 08, 2010 12:56 pm

Pego wrote:Let me chime in a little about the objectivity of history accounts. While it is undeniable that English children hear a different version of the 100-year war than the French children, most disinterested historians will largely agree on facts. Once you go through chronicles, Froissart, Chaucer, a fairly objective picture will emerge. The same is true about virtually every historic event. Motives, morality, allegiances, affairs can be misapplied, the facts usually become not in dispute (at least for the majority of non-ideological researchers).


An interesting book is History Lessons: How Textbooks from Around the World Portray U.S. History. Basically, it's just a collection of excerpts from foreign text books on various events in US History...usually from the country that was on the other side of the event. For example, slavery is from a Nigerian text book, the Cuban Missile Crisis is from a Cuban book, etc. It's a light read but pretty interesting.
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