Thoughts on Books #4

Rubicon: The Triumph and Tragedy of the Roman Republic by Tom Holland

Excellent look at the slow decline of the Roman Republic and the people in the upper echelon who brought this about. The roles of all the major players fromĀ  Sulla to Cicero are discussed in detail. It would seem that in 2000 years, the game of politics hasn’t changed too much.

The Difference Engine by William Gibson and Bruce Sterling

A great Steampunk novel based around the idea that Charles Babbage’s difference engine was successful and started the information revolution over 100 years ahead of time.

The Bottomless Well: The Twilight of Fuel, the Virtue of Waste, and Why We Will Never Run Out of Energy by Peter Huber, Mark P. Mills

The authors of this book attempt to paint a picture of why we will not have a energy crisis. A major portion of the book focuses on how most of our energy is in fact spent towards extracting and purifying more energy, and this so called ‘wasted energy’ will always be present. They also discuss how increasing efficiency usually ends up using more energy as the demand for the more efficient source increases. Although I may not agree with all of their conclusions, this book was an excellent read and had a very technological perspective.

Island by Aldous Huxley

This is Huxley’s last novel, and it provides a forum for him to explore a variety of ideas which are scattered throughout his previous novels. The primary focus of this book revolves around what an ideal society would look like and how it would be structured, in this case on a small tropical island. Against this backdrop we see if such a society would be able to survive given the nature of modern civilization in the rest of the world.

The Story of Philosophy: The Lives and Opinions of the World’s Greatest Philosophers by Will Durant

I picked this book up in the amazing Beijing Books Building near Xidan station (see the basement). It manages to go through all of the major thinkers of the last two millennia, and gives a short biography to provide a background context into which the ideas were developed, as well as the thinkers main idea’s themselves.

Binary by Michael Crichton as John Lange

A short thriller written by Michael Crichton in his early days.

The Death Of Ivan Ilych by Leo Tolstoy

I don’t think there is anything I can say about this book which hasn’t already been said, and in more eloquent prose.

The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka

Wow! Read it if you haven’t done so already.

On the Edge by Jon E. Lewis

A compilation of 28 firsthand accounts of some of the most famous accents in mountaineering history. An amazing and chilling account of man vs the elements and life at the edge of survival.

Logic of Life by Tim Harford

Thought I would give this a go as I had heard it was very similar to Freakonomics. Overall I did not think it was as well written, although the content and conclusions were interesting.

Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies by Jared Diamond

A logical investigation into why human history turned out as it did, with a particular focus on the development of civilizations and its technological achievements. While at times this book can have a glacial pace, it is well worth hanging in until the very end.

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One Response to Thoughts on Books #4

  1. Razvan says:

    I’ll have to check out The Difference Engine. I like both writers a lot. Island sounds interesting too. Haven’t read something by Huxley in quite a few years.

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