The Hedgehog, the Fox, and the Magister's Pox by Stephen Jay Gould

I enjoyed this argument for the sciences and humanities to get along, respecting and borrowing knowledge and techniques of each other. Gould is opposed to E O Wilson’s reductionist approach in Consilience which argues for an all-inclusive strategy to remake all human endeavour in the image of science. Wilson has previously written Sociobiology, interpreting human behaviour in terms of evolutionary biology. Maybe it could have been called the snail (Gould’s study animal) vs the ant (Wilson’s specialty) but I’m not quite sure how to work that metaphor.


The Art of Asking by Amanda Palmer

Amanda Palmer’s story of building a career and community around her music is quite something. Made me uncomfortable, actually. Although the book does share some of her concerns about things, she appears to be fearless and relentlessly optimistic. It seems so beautiful to experience these amazing connections with people around the world. It seems to take courage, patience, and energy. She seems to be a genius at bridging the power of the internet with the vitality of live experiences. Rather than asking, I suppose she is giving people the chance to give and feel good about supporting an artistic enterprise.

Momotaro:Xander and the Lost Island of Monsters by Margaret Dilloway

I started reading this book because I saw its relation to the Japanese Momotaro story, which I have used myself. I enjoyed this middle grade fantasy adventure about Xander grade six student in California who discovers he has special powers his Japanese father had not told him about before being captured by demons. It incorporates many different Japanese mythological elements, including _tsukumogami_, objects that turn into monsters, which I only heard about this summer in a talk by Japanese folklore guy Zack Davisson at the Powell Street Festival. I still find it surprising to see stories that involve Nikkei characters.

Born Standing Up by Steve Martin

My brother had a picture of Steve Martin in his trademark white three-piece suit with a fish sticking out of his vest. This memoir shares fascinating insights into comedy as an art form. Apparently, he wore the suit to be more visible on huge stages. The former wild and crazy guy reflects on how he melded his interests in banjo playing, magic, and comedy to consciously push the originality of his act. He intentionally made himself look absurd to be less offensive. His overwhelming success led to his disillusionment and abrupt departure. I'll try to keep that in mind.

Paper Towns by John Green

An amusing and moving, coming-of-age, romantic mystery adventure. It follows the narrator's pursuit of the mysterious dream girl next door, who is beautiful (of course), socially connected, highly intelligent, and perhaps most distinctively, brave. Maybe I am too old to read about nerdy teens finding themselves and each other, but I really enjoyed this. Isn't the point of reading to crawl inside the heads of others? Or maybe it is just arrested development to imagine an alternative high school life. Maybe I miss the excitement, though not the anxiety, of facing the world when it felt brand new.

The Cunning Man by Robertson Davies

I enjoyed this novel I borrowed as an audiobook from the library. It is written as a first person narrative by a doctor who takes a holistic approach to medicine, in the sense of attending to the psychological or spiritual aspects of a person and not just the physical, though he is also very attentive to that as well. He also ponders the medical ailments of characters from literature. I liked the series of episodes involving different characters as they grow old in Toronto, though I thought it ended a bit abruptly and maybe a little sadly.

Agatha: The Real Life of Agatha Christie by Martinetti, Lebeau & Franc

I have only read one Agatha Christie mystery. I was turned off after realizing I couldn’t have figured out what happened because she didn’t give you all the information. But I liked this graphic version of her life, drawn with simple lines and colouring. They began with her mysterious disappearance, which they ascribe to her response to her husband having an affair. They playfully include her chatting with some of her characters. I had a vague memory of her as a white-haired old woman, so it was interesting to see her as a vivacious young woman with red hair.

what if?

I don’t often envy other people, but this what if? book I have started reading makes me want to be able to think like Randall Munroe, who quit working at NASA to draw cartoons. Let me say more positively then, that he is an inspiration. This is a wonderful book of weird questions, which he explores with splendid reason and imagination. This book captures the spirit of thought experimenting in a delightful and hilarious way.  This could very well inspire some future scientist to figure out some great new idea. Sometimes it is kind of gross. I should admit that.