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What if is an absolute must read!

I absolutely LOVED this book. Randall Munroe’s scientifically accurate answers to ludicrous questions are absurdly funny, well written and extraordinarily well researched. I laughed out loud throughout most of the answers. It’s funny how he destroys the world and/or humanity in half of the answers. I kept wondering who are those people who send these insane questions? I particularly loved the answer to the question of what happened if you put a hair dryer in a 1 square meter indestructible box, but frankly I laughed out loud so many times I lost count (and I can’t remember when is the […]… Read More

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Think Like a Freak

Freakonomics and Superfreaknomics – the bestselling books of Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner are no longer news to the readers of this blog. However, their new work – Think Like a Freak is worth a shout-out. In Think Like a Freak, Levitt and Dubner use their famed unconventional analysis in explaining the hidden side of things. The readers of Freakonomics will recognize the authors’ thinking process and their unorthodox approach. But their compelling story telling and the new topics covered make this work a page-turner for anyone interested in behavioral economics, or in simply thinking outside of the box. In… Read More

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The Martian is Robinson Crusoe on Mars

Andy Weir’s book gripped me from the start. I typically don’t like books written in the first person, even more so when the entire book is a series log entries without dialogue. Obviously, I was willing to make some allowances given that he’s alone on Mars with no one to talk to. In any case, I need not have worried as his journey was thrilling and the technique surprisingly effective. The entrepreneur in me really related to his experience. It felt he was running a startup which had taken a wrong turn, leaving him with extremely limited resources and desperate… Read More

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Command Authority is Tom Clancy’s best book in years

It’s also the best book he co-wrote with Mark Greaney. I suppose the bar is not very high given the quality of their latest books, but I really enjoyed this one. The topic is uncannily timely given the current events in Ukraine. The book cleverly integrates Red Storm Rising-style sequences, like the fantastic opening passage of the book, with the Jack Ryan intelligence analyst sections. I wish there were more of the former. However, given the gimmick of having the story unfold in parallel both in the present day and 30 years ago, I was happy to see Jack Ryan… Read More

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Notes on the future of humanity based on Matt Ridley’s book The Rational Optimist

By Otilia Aionesei Humans tend to be very optimistic about their individual lives – for instance we buy lottery tickets, but we are fundamentally pessimistic about the future of the world. The sensationalist press plays a crucial role in enhancing our pessimism. Bad news simply sells more, so a conflict in the Middle East or an oil spill will more likely make the headlines than a recent development in medicine. We often seem to forget the extraordinary achievements the human race has made in the last century. In our lifetime, food per capita and life expectancy both increased by one… Read More

How to live

By Otilia Aionesei When I think about sixteen-century European writers, I think of a heavily ornamented writing style and grand themes such as history, religion and ethics. I had no reason to believe Montaigne will be different than most Renaissance writers, but what I discovered in Sarah Bakewell’s How to Live: A Life of Montaigne is a modern thinker in every sense of the word. The book is a short biography of Montaigne, and a wonderful celebration of being alive and conscious. Every chapter is based on one of Montaigne’s Essays, and attempts to answer questions such as how to… Read More

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Why does the world exist is a thoughtful and compelling read

Jim Holt deftly tackles one of most profound questions in philosophy: “why is there something rather than nothing?” To tackle the question of existence he deftly takes us through the history of the philosophy and physics on the issue presenting the case of theists and atheists alike. To answer the question Jim travels around the world and discusses the issue with leading thinkers including Oxford philosopher Richard Swinburne, Oxford physicist David Deutsch, Pittsburgh philosopher Adolf Grünbaum, the Platonist mathematician Roger Penrose, the writer John Updike and the Nobel Prize-winning physicist Steven Weinberg. In so doing they discuss the perspectives of… Read More

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Murder as a Fine Art is a fantastic historical thriller!

As I reviewed Inferno I criticized Dan Brown for the poor writing and character development. The same cannot be said of David Morrell’s writing. While Inferno was merely good entertainment, Murder as a Fine Art is brilliant and extremely well written. It artfully mixes fact and fiction and is truly genre bending: part crime fiction, historical fiction, thriller and police procedural. I love that Morrell uses Thomas De Quincy and his daughter as lead characters as the former’s renowned intellect and wit allow for fantastic dialogue. The writing is exceptional beyond the dialogue. I truly felt transposed to Victorian England… Read More

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Inferno is a good summer read

I am a big fan of thrillers and loved The Da Vinci Code and Angels and Demons. Dan Brown’s books typically have poor writing and character development, but he makes up for it with fascinating plots. I also love the way he intertwines symbolism, art history and exotic locales with fast paced action; though obviously one has to suspend disbelief that a professor of symbology is the perfect person to solve these mysteries and that the Bond-esque villain just has to leave a litany of clues for Robert Langdon to unravel his evil machinations. The book is a quick read,… Read More

Gone Girl is riveting!

I had never read a Gillian Flynn novel or heard what Gone Girl was about when I started reading the book. At first I thought it was a love story gone wrong, akin to the movie Blue Valentine, as Nick wrote about the travails of his marriage in the present time (their 5th wedding anniversary), while Amy’s diary described their falling in love 6 years earlier. When Amy disappears in suspicious circumstances, it becomes obvious that the book is about much more than a love story gone very wrong! As Nick’s unsavory behavior comes to the forefront, you… Read More