24 January 2009

Basic Concepts of Legal Thought -- George P. Fletcher

This book is basically a philosophy of law book. It is written for non-lawyers as an introduction to legal thinking and the law, but also for lawyers who want a deeper understanding of the philosophical background of their work. It is very broad in scope, very well written and provides quite a bit of insight into issues related to legal systems. I personally learned a lot about the law from the first page through to the end.

It is a quick read, being a relatively short book. The book is broken into three parts. Part I: The Legal System. Part II: Ultimate Values. Part III: Morality In The Law. These are further broken down into more refined elements. I think what is most interesting is the comparison of the Anglo-American legal system to other legal systems around the world. It is enlightening to someone who only has passing knowledge of our own system.

I recommend this book to anyone interested in the law, philosophical foundations of the law, and interesting questions raised in the realm of the legal thought.

Watchmen -- Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons

Only one of a handful of graphic novels that I have read, however it is probably the best. I say probably because "Batman: The Long Halloween" was very good. Watchmen is dramatic and rich with a real, complex story. There is even a twist that I felt was quite unexpected and made the story very engaging and memorable. The story itself is good, but the art is engaging in it's own right. I felt that everything about this graphic novel represents what is good about the genre. I recommend it to anyone, especially someone who has never read a graphic novel or who thinks of them as just big comic books. It is really on the same level as any other form of literature.

I am also looking forward to the upcoming movie that looks as though it will also be quite good.

24 October 2008

Dracula -- Bram Stoker

I think Dracula is one of those stories that everyone thinks they know or do know to some extent, but rarely they have read the actual book. At least, this was my case up until now. I have finally actually read this one. It was very good too. It is, however, written in a strange style. That is, the entire book is in the form of diaries or correspondences. Thus, there is no omnipresent narrator and so the information available to the reader is somewhat limited. Not really that this is a good nor bad thing, basically it just is different.

I very much enjoyed the story and I thought it took just the right amount of time to tell the story. There were some seemingly superfluous parts with people speaking in strange local dialects that were unnecessary to some degree. But, all in all, it was quite a good read. I wouldn't really call it "scary", but then again not much really is scary to me. It was written in the 19th century so that scary and today's scary are often very different. I do recommend it though to anyone, it is a quick read because of the style and it is relatively short at only 400 pages.

01 August 2008

The Bourne Ultimatum -- Robert Ludlum

The finale of the Jason Bourne trilogy was just as good as the first two. I was satisfied with they way he chose to end the series, especially the plot of this one. After the second book, even though I knew there was a third, I could not imagine what would get Jason back in to action. Obviously, Carlos would need to have something to do with this, but I just did not foresee how he chose to do this.

Once again this novel required a lot of disbelief suspension, but it wouldn't really be a good action story if it was any other way. At times I felt like he made certain characters take actions that I just did not think they would have given what I have learned about these characters from the previous two books. For example, Marie does some really stupid things in this book, I was surprised Jason didn't just tie her to a chair and leave her. Additionally, I thought the very end was almost too corny. I mean, let's have every sit down and have a summing up conversation about life that basically saves the author time by making everything very brief and explicit. I am not really complaining, it just felt very rushed. So be it.

I highly recommend this book, but I even more so recommend starting with the first and just powering through these. It was very entertaining and I am sad they are finished. I suppose I can watch the movies now even though they have very little to do with the books.

24 July 2008

Next -- Michael Crichton

Usually this book is not a one day read, at least I don't think under normal circumstances I would have read this so fast. However, I was stuck in the Newark airport from 7pm until my flight finally took off after 3am. After rummaging through my bag and getting a muffin, I decided to pull this book out and start reading. It was quick paced, short chapters and a lot of dialogue, the only parts that slowed the reading a bit were the "news" stories interspersed throughout the book.

The problem with Crichton is that you never know what is specifically true. I know enough about chemistry and the other sciences to know that most of what was happening scientifically in this book is a little premature. But, the main point of the book was right on target. This book appeals to those that are concerned with the litigious nature of our society or those that are not but should be. It appeals to those whom are concerned with the growth of the biotech industry because of the lack of knowledge of those who make decisions and the reckless propaganda of those who actually know what is going on.

I am not saying biotech firms are evil. Quite the contrary. However, read this book and you will understand where the concerns are. There is a lot of benefits to these products and services. They should be rewarded accordingly. However, the courts make rulings where they don't understand the facts. The scientists inside these companies are willing to compromise high academic standards in trade for sensationalizing in front of a scared, misinformed public. Obviously not all are doing this, probably only a few, but the point remains. I highly recommend this book because I agree that the world most people expect to be here in 100 years is already here in many ways.

Specifically about this book, I found the stories to be somewhat jumbled and in some cases were wrapped up hastily and were found lacking. He tried to interweave many different stories and was successful in most ways, however it seemed to me that too many different plot lines were introduced in order to account for less depth and development in all of them. It was an enjoyable read however and the negative aspects in the story telling were outweighed by the skill that was shown in what was there.

23 July 2008

The Bourne Supremacy -- Robert Ludlum

The second book in this series kept up the excitement right where the first one let off. I enjoyed the setting of the first book, primarily France, because I am somewhat familiar with this area. However, the setting of the second book, primarily China during the 1980s, was quite interesting. Not being an expert on the region, it was a welcome change of scenery and language. The customs were different and the whole scope of the novel was much different. Jason knows a lot about who he is and is now using this knowledge, whereas in the first book it was more of a personal scavenger hunt.

The action was very well paced and again it was a very quick and easy read. I had trouble putting it down at times when I had to get back to other work. The character development seemed better and the action sequences were described in a manner that allowed them to be visualized more easily. I often felt as if I was watching a movie while reading because the descriptions are quite good.

Negative aspects of this book were few but they were still there. I am not sure actually if it is a negative or just my fault. Having read the first one so close to the second, it felt so often that he was repeating himself or dwelling on explanations of past events that I already knew about from just reading the first book. I suppose this cannot be avoided in a sequel, but it was still rather annoying at times. Other than this, we had to once again suspend disbelief to the brink at points, but it was done in a way that didn't really hurt the overall story. All in all, I definitely recommend this novel, after reading the first of course. I read on Amazon that a lot of people thought this was the better of the first two, I would say that I agree for the most part. But they are somewhat hard to compare in my mind so I leave it to you.

18 July 2008

And Then There Were None -- Agatha Christie

I read this book rather fast and there is good reason. It was a bit dated in language, but it was still riveting. The mystery had me going until the end. I did not fully understand that whole story until the very last page. She broke the book up into smaller sections and there was quite a bit of dialogue, hence it read very easily. The twists and turns were well designed. I haven't read a mystery novel in a long time, this one did not disappoint the genre. I will definitely be reading more mystery and for sure more Christie. I very much recommend this book, it can be read in a couple days and it is a very enjoyable experience.

The Bourne Identity -- Robert Ludlum

I finally read this book. I had been meaning to after seeing the first movie years ago. I still never managed to see the second or third movies. Not because I did not like the first, but rather I just never seemed to get around to it. I thought this was somewhat of a good thing, because then when I read the three books I would not have known the entire story yet. After reading this book though, I do not think it would have been a problem. This book is so much different from the movie that I remember that I believe the second two movies are probably also very loosely based. I thoroughly enjoyed this book however. The fact that Carlos was actually in this book, albeit that most of the character in the book was false, it still lent a bit of realism to the story.

It has been a very long time since I read what I would actually call a page-turner. I could not put this thing down. Near the end of every chapter there is some new twist that nearly forces me to read on and find out what happens next. I have been reading mostly biographies lately and, before that, nothing I would call action for quite some time. Hence, this book may seem much better to me because I am not engrossed in this genre. But, it was very well executed. Obviously there were times were some disbelief needed to be suspended. Further, I did not fully buy certain characters motivations and feelings throughout. But, I don't always understand why people do certain things in real life either. Thus, with limited skepticism, I believe this is one of the better action-packed novels I have ever read. I fully recommend this book to anyone. It is a very quick read. I am certainly looking forward to the next two.

10 July 2008

The Agony and the Ecstasy -- Irving Stone

This book was fantastic. It took me a while to read, but it was well worth it. I started looking up how to sculpt marble while reading it, that is how well it was written. It portrays the artist with such authority and such a breadth of knowledge that it feels as if you are right there beside him. Michelangelo's life is more than amazing, it verges on the unbelievable. If the works of art and the historical record did not exist, I would not believe such a fantastic tale about one man's life.

The style of the book is novelized biography. This was a new area for me, as I have only read biographies that were meant to be as such. Traditionally, they verge somewhat on the dry fact based novels that they are. Relaying important information and attempting to analyze the life being portrayed. Irving Stone accomplished this in the form of a novel. I had to constantly remind myself that what I was reading actually happened, that this was in fact a biography. Obviously, Stone had to take quite a few liberties with the story and fill in a lot of gaps. However, his ability to tie together the history with such a great story was truly a work of art in itself. I highly recommend this book as the definitive manner in which to enter the life of Michelangelo. His life was filled not only with great work, but also with great intrigue and fantastic stories. It does not disappoint anyone looking for a novel nor looking for a biography. It really does fill both needs simultaneously and thus look no further for either one.

27 May 2008

The Man Who Knew Infinity: A Life of the Genius Ramanujan -- Robert Kanigel

I have wanted to read a book on Ramanujan ever since I heard the basic details of his life story. This book is everything I could have asked for. A complete account of the man's life, as well as everything else one might want to know about the times and places he lived. By this I mean, the book details the lives of those closest to Ramanujan as well as the culture in India and England at the time. It is written for the mathematically unsophisticated and is thus accessible to everyone. Even the layman can appreciate the amazing formulas that are presented and explained very well by the author.

I highly recommend this book to everyone. It gives insight into the workings of professional mathematicians which is something that I think non-mathematicians should be informed of. Further, to the mathematically oriented, this book gives insight into one of the most original and brilliant minds of the 20th century and possibly ever. Furthermore, this book is a wealth of information on the cultural aspects that affect academic achievement from the mid-19th century through to the present.