Recent Readings: X-mas 2015 & New Year's 2016

Andrei Marks · January 7, 2016

Figured I’d write a little about the few books I’ve read, at the end of December and up to today.

The Heart Goes Last Margaret Atwood's, I didn't like it as much as I thought I might. It actually took me a while to finish, because if I put it down I just wouldn't feel like I reading through it again. This is not like other sci-fi books, where I have to force myself to put them down. Eventually soldiered on, though, and ended up disappointed with how the book wrapped up. The ending just sort of, happened. It was too much being resolved too neatly. I read that it was written in serial form, initially, and maybe that had something to do with it. What I did really like were Atwood's descriptions of how the main characters felt about their relationships and the differences in how they felt when they were with their various partners. The Positron project setup was also a fairly neat idea I haven't read too much about before.
Gratitude Oliver Sacks's, just four essays but of course all of them are excellent and some of them are tear-jerkers. Will eventually buy this one in hard copy.
The Affinities Robert Charles Wilson. A great premise, I wish it was real! I'd love to see if I'd get placed in an Affinity and be able to have the sort of social experiences described. The book was really interesting because it's more of a psychological or social sci-fi premise, rather than being about anything particularly technological.
Lolita This had always been on my backburner, and there was another recent mention of Nabokov in the context of his memoir (which Mary Karr, the author of The Art of Memoir, was really excited about). So, I finally read it and I was pretty impressed. As someone not usually excited by plain old fiction, this one was pretty absorbing. Maybe it was the risqué content, which is just biologically more captivating. But I was also moved by his expressions of obsession. He captures the feeling of being absorbed in the want of another person so well and with such incredible descriptive power. More amazing to me was the little bits of biography that I read about him. So many Russian novels before his English ones! Such an incredible command of the English language despite it not being his mother tongue. That's the most incredible bit of it to me. I'd like to read his memoir and more of his works later.
The Island at the Center of the World I'd actually added this to my Amazon wishlist back in February 2015, but happened upon it here in Florida (currently vacationing at the in-law's condo in Naples, Florida). It was recovered from a box of books that belong to my wife. This one was from a college course on the history of New York City. The book was fantastic, and really the amount of history buried in documents and on the verge of being lost forever (along with the sheer thought of how much has been lost forever) is staggering. It makes me want to journal all the details of my life. As does the next book in this entry. In addition to a little more verve when it comes to NYC history, I've also come away with a much greater appreciation for Dutch culture and history. I'd definitely would like to visit Amsterdam at some point.
Moonwalking with Einstein This book clarified a number of misperceptions I had about the memory palace technique, which I didn't fully appreciate the process of. It has also coincided with a recent interest in memorizing poetry and language learning and a whole host of related reading about developing expertise in general. Really great read, especially because it covers a wide range of topics relevant to memory.

Next up are some more books related to expertise and memory. One related to Scotch. One related to cooking.

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