EssentialstheDiagonal is a personal blog by Mike Gerra, skeptic, technologist, psychologist, artist, humanist, collector of grand, eclectic ideas.theDiagonal blog connects the dots across multiple disciplines for inquisitive, objective and critical thinkers, exploring the vertices of big science, disruptive innovation, global sustainability, illuminating literature and leftfield art. It is on this diagonal that creativity thrives, big ideas take flight and reason triumphs.
Tag Archives: books
Saturday, April 6, 2013
Last week Amazon purchased Goodreads the online book review site. Since 2007 Goodreads has grown to become home to over 16 million members who share a passion for discovering and sharing great literature. Now, with Amazon’s acquisition many are concerned that this represents another step towards a monolithic and monopolistic enterprise that controls vast swathes of the market. While Amazon’s innovation has upended the bricks-and-mortar worlds of publishing and retailing, its increasingly dominant market power raises serious concerns over access, distribution and choice. This is another worrying example of the so-called filter bubble — where increasingly edited selections and personalized recommendations act to limit and dumb-down content.
From the Guardian:...read more
Saturday, March 9, 2013
“England and America are two countries separated by the same language”. This oft used quote is usually attributed to Oscar Wilde or GBS (George Bernard Shaw). Regardless of who originated the phrase both authors would not be surprised to see that book covers are divided by the Atlantic Ocean as well. The Millions continues its fascinating annual comparative analysis.
American book covers on the left, British book covers on the right.
From The Millions:
Tuesday, October 23, 2012
Author Joe Queenan explains why reading over 6,000 books may be because, as he puts it, he “find[s] ‘reality’ a bit of a disappointment”.
From the Wall Street Journal:
I started borrowing books from a roving Quaker City bookmobile when I was 7 years old. Things quickly got out of hand. Before I knew it I was borrowing every book about the Romans, every book about the Apaches, every book about the spindly third-string quarterback who comes off the bench in the fourth quarter to bail out his team. I had no way of knowing it at the time, but what started out as a harmless juvenile pastime soon turned into a lifelong personality disorder.
Fifty-five years later, with at least 6,128 books under my belt, I still organize my daily life—such as it is—around reading. As a result, decades go by without my windows getting washed....read more
Saturday, June 16, 2012
The official start of summer in the northern hemisphere is just over a week away. So, it’s time to gather together some juicy reads for lazy days by the beach or under a sturdy shade tree. Flavorwire offers a classic list of 30 reads with a couple of surprises thrown in. And, we’ll qualify Flavorwire’s selection by adding that anyone over 30 should read these works as well.
Thursday, March 1, 2012
OK, it’s World Book Day today, March 1. Regardless whether or not this day was contrived by Hallmark (or more likely, Barnes and Noble or Amazon), it’s fascinating to look at some beautiful record holders.
From the Daily Telegraph:
To mark World Book Day on March 1, we look at some of the world’s most valuable titles. In a list of the most expensive books sold at auction, The Economist put John James Audubon’s The Birds of America (1827-1838) at number one. It sold for $10.3m in 2010.
See the Top 10 most expensive books here.
Send to Kindle
Monday, November 21, 2011
Daniel Kahneman brings together for the first time his decades of groundbreaking research and profound thinking in social psychology and cognitive science in his new book, Thinking Fast and Slow. He presents his current understanding of judgment and decision making and offers insight into how we make choices in our daily lives. Importantly, Kahneman describes how we can identify and overcome the cognitive biases that frequently lead us astray. This is an important work by one of our leading thinkers.
Monday, October 31, 2011
From the New York Times:
Amazon.com has taught readers that they do not need bookstores. Now it is encouraging writers to cast aside their publishers.
Amazon will publish 122 books this fall in an array of genres, in both physical and e-book form. It is a striking acceleration of the retailer’s fledging publishing program that will place Amazon squarely in competition with the New York houses that are also its most prominent suppliers.
It has set up a flagship line run by a publishing veteran, Laurence Kirshbaum, to bring out brand-name fiction and nonfiction. It signed its first deal with the self-help author Tim Ferriss. Last week it announced a memoir by the actress and director Penny Marshall, for which it paid $800,000, a person with direct knowledge of the deal said....read more
Wednesday, October 26, 2011
Tens of thousands of independent bookstores have disappeared from the United States and Europe over the last decade. Even mega-chains like Borders have fallen prey to monumental shifts in the distribution of ideas and content. The very notion of the physical book is under increasing threat from the accelerating momentum of digitalization.
For bibliophiles, particularly those who crave the feel of physical paper, there is a peculiar attractiveness even to the “bad” bookstore or bookshop (in the UK): the airport bookshop of last resort, the pulp fiction bookstore in a suburban mall. Mark O’Connell over at The Millions tells us there is no such thing as a bad bookstore.
From The Millions:
Tuesday, October 25, 2011
Charles Fishman has a fascinating new book entitled The Big Thirst: The Secret Life and Turbulent Future of Water. In it Fishman examines the origins of water on our planet and postulates an all to probable future where water becomes an increasingly limited and precious resource.
A brief excerpt from a recent interview, courtesy of NPR:
For most of us, even the most basic questions about water turn out to be stumpers.
Where did the water on Earth come from?
Is water still being created or added somehow?
How old is the water coming out of the kitchen faucet?
For that matter, how did the water get to the kitchen faucet?
And when we flush, where does the water in the toilet actually go?
The things we think we know about water — things we might have learned in school — often turn out to be myths....read more
Thursday, September 15, 2011
“You cannot be serious”, goes the oft quoted opening to a John McEnroe javelin thrown at an unsuspecting tennis umpire. This leads us to an earnest review of what is means to be serious from Lee Siegel’s new book, “Are You Serious?” As Michael Agger points out for Slate:
We don’t know what to take seriously anymore. Is Brian Williams a serious news anchor or is he playing at being serious? How about Jon Stewart? The New York Times exudes seriousness, but the satire of The Onion can also be very serious.
Do we indeed need a how-to manual on how to exude required seriousness in the correct circumstances? Do we need a 3rd party narrator to tell us when to expect seriousness or irony or serious irony? Perhaps Lee Siegel’s book can shed some light.
More from Slate’s review of Siegel’s book:
Tuesday, August 23, 2011
Skeptic in-chief, Michael Shermer has an important and fascinating new book. The Believing Brain: From Ghosts and Gods to Politics and Conspiracies – How We Construct Beliefs and Reinforce Them as Truths – describes how our beliefs arise from patterns and that these beliefs come first, and explanations for those beliefs comes second.
Shermer reviews 30 years of leading research in cognitive science, neurobiology, evolutionary psychology and anthropology and numerous real-world examples to show how the belief mechanism works. This holds for our beliefs in all manner of important spheres: religion, politics, economics, superstition and the supernatural....read more
Friday, July 22, 2011
Phew! Another heartfelt call to action from business blogger Seth Godin to become indispensable.
Author, public speaker, orthogonal thinker and internet marketing maven, Seth Godin makes a compelling case to the artist within us all to get off our backsides, ignore the risk averse “lizard brain” as he puts it, get creative, and give the gift of art. After all there is no way to win the “race to the bottom” wrought by commoditization of both product and labor.
Bear in mind, Godin uses “art” in its most widely used sense, not merely a canvas or a sculpture. Here, art is anything that its maker so creates; it may be a service just as well as an object. Importantly also, to be art it has to be given with the correct intent — as a gift (a transcendent, unexpected act that surpasses expectation)....read more
Thursday, July 7, 2011
Hilarious and disturbing. I suspect Jon Ronson would strike a couple of checkmarks in the Hare PCL-R Checklist against my name for finding his latest work both hilarious and disturbing. Would this, perhaps, make me a psychopath?
Jon Ronson is author of The Psychopath Test and the Hare PCL-R, named for its inventor, Canadian psychologist Bob Hare, is the gold standard in personality trait measurement for psychopathic disorder (officially known as Antisocial Personality Disorder)....read more
Monday, June 20, 2011
Solar is a timely, hilarious novel from the author of Atonement that examines the self-absorption and (self-)deceptions of Nobel Prize-winning physicist Michael Beard. With his best work many decades behind him Beard trades on his professional reputation to earn continuing financial favor, and maintain influence and respect amongst his peers. And, with his personal life in an ever-decreasing spiral, with his fifth marriage coming to an end, Beard manages to entangle himself in an impossible accident which has the power to re-shape his own world, and the planet in the process....read more
Sunday, June 12, 2011
Sunday, May 29, 2011
Leonard Mlodinow weaves a compelling path through the world of statistical probability showing us how the laws of chance affect our lives on personal and grande scales. Mlodinow skillfully illustrates randomness and its profound implications by presenting complex mathematical constructs in language for the rest of us (non-mathematicians), without dumbing-down this important subject.
The book defines many of the important mathematical concepts behind randomness and exposes the key fallacies that often blind us as we wander through life on our “drunkard’s walk”. The law of large numbers, the prosecutor’s fallacy, conditional probability, the availability bias and bell curves were never so approachable....read more