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Hello all

 

I'm looking for suggestions to go into the vote for our next read.

 

In line with the comments made in the Book Group Thoughts thread, the next few selections will be themed.

 

For this choice I'm looking for non-fiction suggestions.

 

It can be anything as long as its not fiction - biography, travel, journals, cookery books.............you name it.

 

The poll will open on the 5th June so get your thoughts posted!

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How about The Blank Slate by Steven Pinker?

 

I've been meaning to read it for ages as my boyfriend always goes on about it but have never quite managed it, non fiction not really being my thing normally...

 

Amazon synopsis:

What is the truth about human nature? Are we each born a blank slate upon which experience is written? Steven Pinker argues that our usual explanations of human behaviour - stated most clearly in the human sciences of psychology, ethics and politics - tend to deny what is now undeniable: the role of an inherited human nature. Differences in personality or achievement, whether seen among races, ethnic groups, sexes or individuals, are routinely explained away as due not to differences in innate constitution but differences in experience. This work argues otherwise.

 

Well it'd start a few interesting discussions....!

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The Music of The Primes - Marcus Du Sautoy

 

 

In 1859, German mathematician Bernhard Riemann presented a paper to the Berlin Academy that would forever change the history of mathematics. The subject was the mystery of prime numbers. At the heart of the presentation was an idea that Riemann had not yet proved but one that baffles mathematicians to this day. Solving the Riemann Hypothesis could change the way we do business, since prime numbers are the lynchpin for security in banking and e-commerce. It would also have a profound impact on the cutting-edge of science, affecting quantum mechanics, chaos theory, and the future of computing. Leaders in maths and science are trying to crack the elusive code, and a prize of $1 million has been offered to the winner. In this engaging book, Marcus du Sautoy reveals the extraordinary history behind the holy grail of mathematics and the ongoing quest to capture it.

 

This has been on The List of books I want to read for ages, but has yet to make it to the TBR pile. Being chosen for the BGO book club would be a great leap forward!

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Shake Hands with the Devil: The Failure of Humanity in Rwanda by

Romeo Dallaire

 

I meant to read this at the same time Hotel Rwanda was in cinemas - the non-fairytale antedote to the film.

 

From Amazon:

"When Lt. General Romeo Dallaire received the call to serve as force commander of the UN mission to Rwanda, he thought he was heading off to Africa to help two warring parties achieve a peace both sides wanted. Instead, he and members of his small international force were caught up in a vortex of civil war and genocide. Dallaire left Rwanda a broken man, disillusioned, suicidal, and determined to tell his story. An award-winning international sensation, Shake Hands with the Devil is a landmark contribution to the literature of war: a remarkable tale of a soldier's courage and an unforgettable portrait of modern war. It is also a stinging indictment of the petty bureaucrats who refused to give Dallaire the men and the operational freedom he needed to stop the killing. I know there is a God,Dallaire writes, because in Rwanda I shook hands with the devil. I have seen him, I have smelled him and I have touched him. I know the devil exists and therefore I know there is a God."

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I've not joined in on here before (due to lack of time for reading and the choices not being my kind of thing) but I saw this thread, and thought of the only "travel" book I've ever read: Round Ireland With A Fridge by Tony Hawks. I remember it being very good, although it is a few years since I read it now!

 

Amazon Review:

While in Ireland for an international song competition, comedian Tony Hawks was amazed to see a hitch-hiker trying to thumb a lift with a fridge. This seemed amazingly optimistic - his Irish friends, however, thought nothing of it at all. "I had clearly arrived in a country", writes Tony, "where the qualification for 'eccentric' involved a great deal more than that to which I had become used". Years later, during an alcohol-fuelled evening, he found himself arguing about Ireland with a friend. It is, he insisted, a "magical place", so magical in fact, that a man could even get a lift with a fridge. The next morning there was a note by his bed. "I hereby bet Tony Hawks the sum of One Hundred Pounds that he cannot hitch hike around the circumference of Ireland with a fridge within one calendar month." The document was signed. The bet was made. This book is the story of Tony's adventures throughout that month, the people he meets, the difficulties he encounters and the triumphs.

 

I'm also really interested in Megustaleer's suggestion.... may go and hunt that out regardless of the chosen book! :D

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Gödel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid, by Douglas Hofstadter is an admittedly weighty but still accessible read about...well, everything. Music, Science, Art, Folklore, Logic, History.

 

From Amazon:

 

Twenty years after it topped the bestseller charts, Douglas R. Hofstadter's Gödel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid is still something of a marvel. Besides being a profound and entertaining meditation on human thought and creativity, this book looks at the surprising points of contact between the music of Bach, the artwork of Escher, and the mathematics of Gödel. It also looks at the prospects for computers and artificial intelligence (AI) for mimicking human thought. For the general reader and the computer techie alike, this book still sets a standard for thinking about the future of computers and their relation to the way we think.

 

Hofstadter's great achievement in Gödel, Escher, Bach was making abstruse mathematical topics (like undecidability, recursion, and 'strange loops') accessible and remarkably entertaining. Borrowing a page from Lewis Carroll (who might well have been a fan of this book), each chapter presents dialogue between the Tortoise and Achilles, as well as other characters who dramatize concepts discussed later in more detail. Allusions to Bach's music (centering on his Musical Offering) and Escher's continually paradoxical artwork are plentiful here. This more approachable material lets the author delve into serious number theory (concentrating on the ramifications of Gödel's Theorem of Incompleteness) while stopping along the way to ponder the work of a host of other mathematicians, artists, and thinkers.

 

The world has moved on since 1979, of course. The book predicted that computers probably won't ever beat humans in chess, though Deep Blue beat Garry Kasparov in 1997. And the vinyl record, which serves for some of Hofstadter's best analogies, is now left to collectors. Sections on recursion and the graphs of certain functions from physics look tantalizing, like the fractals of recent chaos theory. And AI has moved on, of course, with mixed results. Yet Gödel, Escher, Bach remains a remarkable achievement. Its intellectual range and ability to let us visualize difficult mathematical concepts help make it one of this century's best for anyone who's interested in computers and their potential for real intelligence. --Richard Dragan

 

Topics Covered: J.S. Bach, M.C. Escher, Kurt Gödel: biographical information and work, artificial intelligence (AI) history and theories, strange loops and tangled hierarchies, formal and informal systems, number theory, form in mathematics, figure and ground, consistency, completeness, Euclidean and non-Euclidean geometry, recursive structures, theories of meaning, propositional calculus, typographical number theory, Zen and mathematics, levels of description and computers; theory of mind: neurons, minds and thoughts; undecidability; self-reference and self-representation; Turing test for machine intelligence.

 

Never let it be said we're dumbing down here.

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I've not joined in on here before (due to lack of time for reading and the choices not being my kind of thing) but I saw this thread, and thought of the only "travel" book I've ever read: Round Ireland With A Fridge by Tony Hawks. I remember it being very good, although it is a few years since I read it now!

 

I would second this. It sounds interesting and entertaining. After the last few books chosen, it might be good to have something a bit more lighthearted, for a change.

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Non-fiction books have the capacity to sound much more daunting and intimidating than fiction, don't they. Some of the above sound really hard work, if they cover a subject you have no background knowledge of....

 

I'd love to read something with a bit of meat to it, rather than something more insubstantial like the Fridge one, (although I'd like to read that too...), but I'm a bit wary of launching into something, and not making it to the end because it's just too much to follow. :o

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Non-fiction books have the capacity to sound much more daunting and intimidating than fiction, don't they. Some of the above sound really hard work, if they cover a subject you have no background knowledge of....

 

I agree wholeheartedly! Non-fiction isn't something I usually read but I've read Before Night Falls recently and I'm reading Educating Peter. I'm kind of looking at the book group to give me inspiration to read stuff I wouldn't normally pick up. Some of the titles here sound really facinating even though I know little about their subject matter.

 

I think we are going to have a really interesting choice to make.

 

Thanks to everyone who has made a suggestion so far. Keep them coming!

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If you are after something a bit lighter to read how about Dave Gorman's googlewhack adventure.

 

A Googlewhack is two words which, when entered into the Google search engine, return only a single result. Displaying the level of obsession that lead him to seek out 54 other Dave Gormans, Dave sets out on another modern day odyssey - To meet a perfect "chain" of consecutive Googlewhacks, all connected by random search terms on the internet. What follows is a journey that takes Dave to America, France, China and Australia, sees him play ping pong with a nine year old Boston boy, hang out with hippies in Memphis, Tennessee, and attend a Mini drivers convention in North Wales. Frequently hilarious and packed with fascinating characters and unbelievable coincidences, Dave Gorman's Googlewhack Adventure is a truly extraordinary story of one man's ability to turn procrastination into an art form.

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I enjoyed Dave Gorman's other book and his mate Danny's book Join Me as well. So I would like to read this one too.

 

Plus thought I would throw in biographies as a vein - anyone want to suggest a good one. Michael J Fox's was excellent.

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I don't know about Googlewhack - it was once sitting in my boyfriend's living room for a whole year, and though I never read it and I'm sure its quite amusing, I got really sick of the sight of Dave Gorman's face staring out at me all the time! I don't know if I could stand it...

 

Won't a mathematics book be a bit too hard for non-scientists?

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Won't a mathematics book be a bit too hard for non-scientists?

A well-written "popular science" book should be easily readable by just about anyone whether or not they already have previous knowledge of the subject. Personally I find the Riemann Hypothesis a fascinating subject, but I could understand how someone without a specific interest in the area would find a book on the subject a struggle. I think that's the one problem with non-fiction books - if it assumes too much prior knowledge of a subject, it becomes in accessible to many people. Having said that I've not read the maths book suggested, so I have no idea how specialised it is! :)

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I am verging on the innumerate, so am hoping that this book (The Music Of The Primes) can open my eyes to the magical world that numbers inhabit!

 

If you've ever met a really enthusiastic mathematician you would realise that there is something about numbers that passes the rest of us poor mortals by...I'd just like to grasp a little bit of that excitement.

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I am verging on the innumerate, so am hoping that this book (The Music Of The Primes) can open my eyes to the magical world that numbers inhabit!

 

If you've ever met a really enthusiastic mathematician you would realise that there is something about numbers that passes the rest of us poor mortals by...I'd just like to grasp a little bit of that excitement.

I can recommend "The Magical Maze" by Ian Stewart as an easy maths book if you're interested! I read it just after doing A-Level maths, and it was a not-too-technical-but-still-interesting read at the time! Have a look on Amazon - it should be available on there, or in a library!

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Tell me more, Fiona! How can a book about maths be interesting? It's all adding up, taking away, dividing and multiplying, isn't it? ;)

If only!!! If that's all there was to it I wouldn't be spending three years learning about it! :D I actually have the perfect quote to describe maths and it's usefulness... It's taken from the intro of an american TV series called Numb3rs (no idea if any of the americans on here have seen it...?)

 

We all use math every day, to forcast weather, to tell time, to handle money. We also use math to analyse crime, reveal patterns, predict behaviour, using numbers we can solve the greatest mysteries we know.
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I would like to suggest 'My family and other animals' by Gerald Durrell. It is an autobiographical book and very interesting and funny.

Amazon review below:

 

As a self-described "champion of small uglies," Gerald Durrell (1925-1995) devoted his life to writing and the preservation of wildlife, from the Mauritius pink pigeon to the Rodriques fruit bat. My Family and Other Animals was intended to embrace the natural history of the Greek island of Corfu, but ended up as a delightful account of his family's experiences that were, according to him, "rather like living in one of the more flamboyant and slapstick comic operas".

 

As a 10-year-old boy, Gerry left England for Corfu with "all those items that I thought necessary to relieve the tedium of a long journey: four books on natural history, a butterfly net, a dog, and a jam-jar full of caterpillars all in imminent danger of turning into chrysalids". Durrell's descriptions of his family and its many eccentric hangers-on (he stresses that "all the anecdotes about the island and the islanders are absolutely true") are highly entertaining, as is the procession of toads, scorpions, geckos, ladybugs, glowworms, octopuses, the puppies Widdle and Puke, and the Magenpies. This is a lovely book. --Christine Buttery

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How about "Cider With Rosie" by Laurie Lee, now there's a lovely book.

Synopsis

'I remember, too, the light on the slopes, long shadows in tufts and hollows, with cattle, brilliant as painted china, treading their echoing shapes' Cider With Rosie is a wonderfully vivid memoir of Laurie Lee's childhood and youth in a remote Cotswold village. From the moment he is set down in the long grass, 'thick as a forest and alive with grasshoppers', he depicts a word that is both tangibly real yet belonging to a now distant past.

 

 

or 'Lark Rise To Candleford' by Flora Thompson, another delightful memoir.

Synopsis

Containing "Lark Rise", "Over to Candleford" and "Candleford Green", this is the story of the relationships between a hamlet, a village and a small market town. The book is based on the author's own experiences and chronicles May Day celebrations and the daily lives of craftsmen.

This Amazon synopsis doesn't do it justice!

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Is it not worth giving the non-fiction book which only just missed out by one vote last time another chance? Seems only fair.

 

Our Hidden Lives: The Everyday Diaries of a Forgotten Britain 1945-1948 - Simon Garfield:

 

In 1936 anthropologist Tom Harrison, poet and journalist Charles Madge and documentary filmmaker Humphrey Jennings set up the Mass Observation Project. The idea was simple: ordinary people would record, in diary form, the events of their everyday lives. An estimated one million pages eventually found their way to the archive - and it soon became clear this was more than anyone could digest. Today, the diaries are stored at the University of Sussex, where remarkably most remain unread. In Our Hidden Lives, Simon Garfield has skilfully woven a tapestry of diary entries in the rarely discussed but pivotal period of 1945 to 1948. The result is a moving, intriguing, funny, at times heartbreaking book - unashamedly populist in the spirit of Forgotten Voices or indeed Margaret Forster's Diary of an Ordinary Woman.

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