Hot on the heels of a book about a monster comes a new about monsters generally, though I honestly did not plan it that way. Though I’m not an avid fan of old (or new, for that matter) monster movies, I am generally interested in the engines of culture which generate monsters. This is one of the reasons that I like Kornwolf so much: where monsters come from is ultimately more interesting than the monsters themselves.
I don’t recall at what point I became aware of John Perkin’s tell-all exposé on the seedy underworld of global politics, but while the idea was intriguing, it sounded a bit too exaggerated for my tastes, and I left it well enough alone. Finally, I could not resist the temptation to read this tome by Perkins, who is referred to as a “frothing conspiracy theorist” (more on this later) but praised by a multitude of readers.
I became a fan of A.J. Jacobs when I read his debut book, The Know-It-All. The idea of reading the entire encyclopedia was a bit preposterous, but overshadowed by the sheer joy of trivia; I never really thought of it as an experiment per se. Things changed a bit with The Year of Living Biblically, which was a genuine life experiment for Jacobs, and one that sometimes put him in awkward positions. If you read my reviews, you’ll find that I enjoyed both, but found the latter somewhat cloying at times; Jacobs has a tendency to profess life-altering revelations or profundities which, if they are true, make him naïve, and if they are false, making him disingenuous.
I hadn’t predicted, when I picked up Daniel Gardner’s The Science of Fear and Richard Mullen’s Physics For Future Presidents, that there would be so much overlap between the two. I suppose, ultimately, it was inevitably: Mullen’s book, by title and design, covered those areas of science which are the most politically and socially relevant. As is so often the case with complicated issues with big numbers, these situations have the ability to frighten people who can’t keep a level head: consider, if you will, the fear, antipathy, and abject horror that most people have for nuclear energy after the events of Three Mile Island and —even worse in the sense that it actually caused deaths—Chernobyl.
Enter The Science of Fear, Daniel Gardner’s (a Canadian journalist) to both explain and debunk the fear that tends to grip most people when it comes to vaguely menacing concepts.
There are few things I like better than a good book about linguistics or etymology. The only thing, I think, that could possibly make one any better is if it’s written by one of my favorite authors—namely Bill Bryson.
In fact, Made in America was my introduction to Bryson: I purchased the book (a mint-condition hardcover) for $0.25 at the library and absolutely devoured it. Not only did the book initiate a long and storied appreciation of Bryson’s writing, but I think I can honestly credit the book with inspiring my lifelong love of language.