This page provides two services: links to book review, news, and catalog sources on the web, and capsule reviews of notable books. The reviews are written personally by us, so they are highly subjective; take these reviews with a grain of salt!
|Summer '96 book reviews||Winter '98 book reviews|
|Fall '96 book reviews||Spring-Summer '98 book reviews|
|Winter '97 book reviews||Fall '98 book reviews|
|Spring '97 book reviews||Winter '99 book reviews|
|Summer '97 book reviews||Spring '99 book reviews|
|Autumn '97 book reviews||Summer '99 book reviews||Fall-Winter '97 book reviews||Fall-Winter '99 book reviews|
For other book news and views, check out the Usenet: rec.arts.books.* newsgroups.
Here are some books that you might find interesting.
Educators and social critics noticed, in the late 1980s, that general
familiarity with basic arithmetical concepts and techniques was low
among the American population. J.A. Paulos even coined a word to describe
it: innumeracy. The real key to improving numeracy, many of its
advocates point out, is to make mathematics seem more real and applicable
to people's everyday lives.
Clint Brookhart has stepped up with a book to combat innumeracy, using sound mathematical insight and principles to answer everyday questions about the real world. Unlike many of the recent bumper crop of popular mathematics books, Mr. Brookhart eschews lofty mathematical principles in favor of solid mechanics. This book focuses on effective application of arithmetic, geometry, and simple statistics. Also, to make the book more engaging and interactive for readers, it includes detailed directions on how to perform many of the calculations on a simple scientific calculator.
The main body of the book is broken in to two large sections and two smaller sections. The two large sections cover earthbound and astronomical topics, respectively. Each chapter covers a single problem start-to-finish, with very little dependency between chapters; this makes it very easy to pick up the book any time and read through one analysis, or skip around. The selection of problems is broad, but mostly quite sensible. Some of the best are listed below.
An engineer by trade, Clint Brookhart manages to convey mathematical ideas an procedures in a very concise and direct way. I would recommend this book for anyone looking for an entertaining way to brush up on their numeracy.
Eric Idle spent much of his early career as a primary member of the British Monty Python comedy troupe. Since then, he has engaged in a wide variety of pursuits, including acting and writing. This novel, a sort of science fiction comedy parody morality action story, shows off his sharp comic sense and wit. It also succeeds reasonably well as a straight story.
The title The Road to Mars refers to the circumstances facing the book's three primary characters, comedians Alex and Lewis and their robot, Carlton. In the 2300s, the ultimate destination for entertainers is the showhalls of Mars; Alex and Lewis dream of reaching that kind of success with their comedy act. As they journey together from cheap vaudeville gigs out by Saturn in toward Mars, they hone their skills, while Carlton begins to analyze the very meaning of comedy.
The story is told in two threads: in the third person focused on Carlton and his employers, and as first-person narrative from a historian hundreds of years later. Despite his relative inexperience as a novelist, this is only his second novel, Eric Idle plays off the two threads against each other quite well. As the Carlton's adventures, and his understanding of the meaning of comedy, get more intense, so does the historian's obsession with Carlton's findings. (I don't want to give them away, but if anyone can claim to really understand what makes something funny, Eric Idle can. Carlton's division of comedians into "White Face" and "Red Nose" types is not unique, perhaps, but the treatment is direct and smart.)
Incidentally, perhaps, the science behind the science fiction in The Road to Mars is quite reasonable, with a few odd blind spots. The main disaster scenes late in the book are well-paced and engrossing without being frenetic.
Overall, this book offers a little something for a lot of readers: good characters, some science fiction, some adventure, several obsessions, and even some things blowing up. Plus, you'll laugh the whole time.
Conclusion: Highly Recommended
Many science fiction fans regard Frank Herbert's 1965 DUNE as one of the best books that the genre every produced. In the 1970s and 1980s, Frank Herbert produced five more Dune novels, each one extending the original book's story further and further into the future. However, for fans of the original, there remained a lot of unexplained and unexplored history.
In this new novel, Frank Herbert's son Brian, and popular science fiction author Kevin Anderson team up to tell some of the history behind Dune, and its central family, the Atreides.
The main character of Dune was Paul Atreides, but the events in that book were largely set in their course by Paul's father, the Duke Leto, and the evil Baron Vladimir Harkonnen. Dune: House Atreides tells the story of Leto Atreides, explaining how he became the leader and honor-bound tragic figure depicted in Dune. Fans of the Dune series will be totally captivated by the links and history that the book provides, and in that regard it is quite successful.
Leaving aside the relationship to the Dune series, though, how well does House Atreides succeed on its own? It has good characters, plenty of action, and lots of detail. Particularly interesting are Leto's parents, and young Duncan Idaho. The sub-plot that explains Duncan's background, and how he came to serve the Atreides, is strong and intensely written.
In addition to the central thread of narrative about Leto Atreides, the authors mix in several supporting threads: the schemes of the Emperor's son, the breeding program of the Bene Gesserit sisterhood, the origins of the Fremen dream to remake Arrakis, the intrigues of the rival Harkonnen family, and the relationship of two young brothers trying to join the Spacing Guild. The complexities of all these plots and events make the book a little turbulent; despite its length of almost 600 pages, it does not have any leisurely or placid sections. It almost seems that the authors set themselves an impossible task: explain over a dozen unexplained background areas of the Dune series, in the form of a coherent novel that would appeal to all science fiction readers.
The original Dune, ultimately, was a book about man's relationship with himself and with nature. The great desert of Arrakis symbolized natural systems, driven by energy and water, while the Empire symbolized man and his greeds and drives. While House Atreides has some elements of this theme, it is more focused on history, plot, and character development. In some ways, the themes get lost in the action. One theme that does stand out clearly, though, is that of the struggle between honor, as personified by Leto and his father, and greed, as represented by the Emperor's son and the Baron Harkonnen.
House Atreides does stand on its own as a solid science fiction novel, but the writing and the structure does not approach the maturity or stature of Dune. For fans of that series, though, this book should be on the "must-read" list.
Conclusion: Recommended, strongly recommended for DUNE afficionados
The subtitle of this book is "The Idea the Rules the World", and it matches the book's ostensible thesis that algorithms changed how people look at the world around them. In this highly personal narrative, Dr. Berlinski explains some of the history of logic and algorithmics, along with some philosophy and a little mathematics.
The areas of mathematics and mathematics history that this book covers are well-chosen and very interesting. The coverage of Gottfried Leibniz is sympathetic and detailed, giving him much more of his proper credit in the development of logic and the calculus than he usually gets. The description of the predicate calculus is only fair, but the description of Alonzo Church and his oft-overlooked invention of the lambda calculus is very good indeed. The coverage of David Hilbert is good but uneven. Some of the other topics covered in less depth include Turing machines, Post production systems, Cantor's infinities, NP-completeness, Maxwell's demon, neural nets, numerical integration, and Godel's incompleteness theorem. For the reader interested primarily in math history, this book will shed some light on some lesser-known topics and historical figures.
Despite the breadth of the topics covered in the book, Dr. Berlinski keeps the complexity under control. The text is fairly well supported by simple diagrams and equations; it should be quite accessible for any reader with a solid recollection of high school mathematics.
It is possible to look at this book in a several different ways. As a history of one branch of mathematics, algorithmics, it is good but unremarkable. As a personal muse/memoirs, it is for the most part readable and interesting; Dr. Berlinski's dialog with a Cardinal on the subject of recursion is fascinating.
However, the book is not very convincing in its establishment of the idea claimed in its subtitle, that algorithms rule our intellectual lives. There have been several books published in the past few years that attempt to identify fundamental changes in intellectual climate: James Burke's The Day the World Changed and Peter Bernstein's Against the Gods come readily to mind. An unspoken implication of The Advent of the Algorithm is that the legacy our modern society has inherited from Leibniz, Cantor, Turing, and Church enables us to plan and compute in superior ways. The points and support for this thesis are all there, spread through the text, but nowhere collected or tied together into a coherent, explicit form.
This handy little paperback is stuffed with interesting and useful information on how to cope with various situations. The situations vary from somewhat risky to generally lethal, with most of them falling toward the more dangerous end of the scale.
All of the writing in the book is open and accessible, but serious. The instructions for each situation are all very practical; for each section you get an overview of the circumstances, and a set of steps or alternatives. The authors never mince words about the danger, but they don't dwell on it either. (Interestingly, the authors consulted over a dozen survival specialists in writing the various chapters, and these individual are listed in an appendix at the end of the book.)
The book is not very long, only 176 page, but it covers over three dozen situations ranging from "How to Escape from Killer Bees" to "How to Identify a Bomb". Some of the situations may seem improbable at first, like "How to Jump from a Bridge or Cliff into a River" or "How to Win a Swordfight". Many of the rest are all too possible these days, like "How to Treat a Bullet or Knife Wound" and "How to Jump from a Moving Car".
Much of the survival advice is supplemented with precise line drawings and diagrams. For example, the section about "How to Land a Plane" includes a labelled diagram of a typical small plane console.
Some of the situations seem amusing, but actually kill people. The frontpiece of the book includes the Boy Scout motto: Be Prepared. That's good advice; if you read this book carefully, you'll be prepared to save your life or somebody else's when the unexpected strikes.
Conclusion: Highly Recommended
Coming soon: EATER by Gregory Benford
For more reviews, see the book review list.
Readers Ring site is owned by
Want to join the ring? Get the info here
The Readers Ring Page
|[Prev 5] [Prev] [Next] [Next 5] [Random] [List Sites]|
Here are some serious and not-so-serious book review sites on the web. All of them appear to be stable. (More book review links will be added here as I find them and check them out...)
BOOKWIRE: The 1st Place to
Look for Book Info
A very professionally designed and information-packed book site. Well worth a visit, plus it has links to lots of other book-related sites.
A flashy book site, oriented toward new releases. Well organized but kinda slow loading.
Schuster - Reader Reviews
The SimonSays book site is quite good, and features a thriving section with reader-submitted reviews.
the Net (H-Net) Book Reviews
Very serious site with thousands of scholarly reviews of non-fiction and literary books. (Pages are kinda long, but comprehensive)
BookBug on the Web
Reviews, author information, and excerpts for reader of Romance fiction and related genres.
Executive Book Summaries
Reviews of business books, intended for businessmen and executives.
Danny Yee's Book
Wide variety of reviews by a dedicated reader down under. Well organized.
Nice site for book reviews, recommendations, interviews, and more.
Reviews and Information
Reviews of computer science and programming books.
YAHOO Books Page
The Yahoo web index has links to lots of good book-related stuff, including links to on-line bookstores.
The following are links to other book-related stuff, libraries, and to home pages of publishing companies.
Welcome to Online
Nice-looking site, just starting out. Technically spiffy design, and good variety.
ACSES - Smartest
Book finder service that searches multiple on-line bookstores. Cool, and handy for finding bargains. Search facility still maturing, but seems pretty broad.
Read Print - free books, poems, etc.
A simple but serious web site with a very large number of classic works of literature.
Bookstore and Publishers
Broad site with book sales, publishing and printing information, distribution, and a reading room. Rather weak search engine, though.
Links to thousands of other book-related sites, publishing companies, shops, etc. A little complex at first, but quite a nice reference site for publishing professionals and dedicated readers.
Very attractive and well-organized bookstore, lists and stocks both best-sellers of most English-speaking countries.
Book Express on
This discount bookstore claims to be the Net's largest. It certainly seems to have a lot of books on sale and a fast search engine.
Fatbrain (Computer Literacy Bookshops)
Great selection of computer, science, and technical books. This site seems really well-built and fast, and the search facility shows in-stock status.
"A Web Site For People Who Read" - book discussions and related stuff.
A huge book seller company in Portland, Oregon, USA. Good searching facilities, fast www service.
Purportedly "Earth's Biggest Bookstore"; has a huge selection, good facilities for reviewing books, doing on-line ordering, and tracking new releases. The reader reviews are a rich source of diverse opinions about lots of books.
The U.S. Library
The official home page for the United States' central library is understated and quiet, just like a library. Provides on-line info on activities of the US government and US copyright law, as well as links to other government sites.
The ALA is the professional organization of libraries and librarians. Their web site has book and library information, and links to Internet library resources.
The Advanced Book
Big Internet rare book and antiquarian interest sites, specializing in buying and selling of special, hard-to-find, and out-of-print books. Also has some services for bookstore proprietors.
Tim O'Reilly's company has grown from a tiny operation producing specialized UNIX reference material into a sizable publishing house that sells arguably the best computer books on the market. They have an excellent line of X11 and WWW books.
Academic Press is a publisher of textbooks and scientific books, and their web site provides information about their products and also research science news.
Book page of the National Geographic Society.
Web site of one of my favorite publishing companies. XS
Random House Inc.
Random House is the parent publishing company of Ballantine, Del-Ray, and other names.
W.W. Norton &
A fine old publishing company, and a fine web site. Includes full catalog and on-line ordering.
Four Walls Eight
Small independent publisher, nice web site with complete catalog of their distinctive books.
Newbridge is home of several book clubs, including the Library of Science book club. They also offer on-line customer service and book club news.
Crown Books Home
The Crown Books web site has lots of book-related information and supports on-line ordering.
This is the web site of bargain bookseller. It supports on-line ordering, and a fairly good browse mode.
All reviews (c) 2000, Neal Ziring. Reviews may be reproduced in whole or in part as long as authorship credit is preserved.
[Ziring MicroWeb Home] [Neal Ziring] [Julie Ziring] [Ziring Guestbook]