Author: Kirk Johnson and Ray Troll
Title: Cruisin’ the Fossil Freeway: An Epoch Tale of a Scientist and an Artist on the Ultimate 5,000-Mile Paleo Road Trip
Publication Info: Fulcrum Publishing (2007)
Summary/Review: I’ve long been a fan of the art of Ray Troll who specializes in drawing realistic but whimsical representations of fish and prehistoric creatures. This book is written by Kirk Johnson, a paleontologist from the Denver Museum of Nature and Science who teams up with Troll for a fossil-gathering road trip through the Rocky Mountain states. Johnson does a good job of balancing the roles and importance of academic and museum work with commercial diggers and fossil collectors, showing respect and admiration of all. The journey detailed by Johnson visits many beautiful and awe-inspiring locations that are richly illustrated with Troll’s art and photographs. It’s a great book for anyone interested in paleontology, travelogue, and popular art.
Recommended books: Planet Ocean: A Story of Life, the Sea, and Dancing to the Fossil Record by Bradford Matsen and Ray Troll
Archive for July 26th, 2011
Author: Kirk Johnson and Ray Troll
Author: Jonah Lehrer
Title: Proust Was a Neuroscientist
Publication Info: Brilliance Audio on CD (2008)
Previously read by same author: How We Decide
This book explores the work of eight artists and how their art revealed truths about the human brain that would later be discovered through science. A quick search of Google brings up several reviews that dismiss Lehrer’s work as “popular science” but I think they’re missing the point that readers can learn scientific concepts through an artistic lens. Of course, with my humanities background I’m biased to the idea that the arts have something to offer to scientific study. The artists include Walt Whitman (feeling), George Eliot (malleability of the brain), Auguste Escoffier (taste), Marcel Proust (memory), Paul Cezanne (vision), Igor Stravinsky (music), Gertrude Stein (language), and Virginia Woolf (self). The conclusion of the book is an appeal to end the artificial divide between arts and sciences that I strongly support.
“Nature, however, writes astonishingly complicated prose. If our DNA has a literary equivalent, it’s Finnegan’s Wake.”
Recommended books: Emergence: The Connected Lives of Ants, Brains, Cities, and Software by Steven Johnson, Lost Discoveries: The Ancient Roots of Modern Science–From the Babylonians to the Maya by Dick Teresi, Out of Our Heads: Why You Are Not Your Brain, and Other Lessons from the Biology of Consciousness by Alva Noë, and The Man Who Mistook His Wife For A Hat: And Other Clinical Tales by Oliver Sacks.
Author: Suzanne Collins
Publication Info: New York : Scholastic Press, 2010.
Summary/Review: The final installment in The Hunger Games trilogy is the strongest of the series. The whole series is built on moral ambiguity and in this novel Katniss Everdeen finds herself among the revolutionaries in an austere and militaristic society. She once again finds herself being used as a symbol for propaganda and uncertain who to trust. Collins does a great job of detailing the unromantic truth of war and the ignoble motivations of those involved, even the “good guys.”
Related books: The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, Traitor to the Nation, Volume II: The Kingdom on the Waves by M. T. Anderson and The Dead Republic: A Novel by Roddy Doyle
Author: Jesse Sheidlower
Title: The F-word
Publication Info: Oxford ; New York : Oxford University Press, 2009.
Summary/Review: Not the book I expected. I thought it was going to be a cultural history of the word “fuck” through history and various usages. That was just the introduction which was pretty good. The main body of this work is 269 page lexicon of different usages and phrases of the f-word. It perhaps make a useful reference book, but definitely not something I’m going to read end to end.