Monday, August 27, 2012

Latest Reads

So I've finished four books just lately.  I mentioned the Wilson one a while back.  Finished it about two weeks ago.  I recommend it if you want to learn a great deal about our 28th president.  It also gave me a somewhat new perspective on WWI.

Most recently (last night) I finished a biography of Bart Starr.  It was very engaging, written by a guy who argues that Bart Starr is the greatest NFL quarterback of all time, but about half way through I started to count the factual errors in the text and became increasingly annoyed by them.  Mike Ditka was not a linebacker, he was a tight end.  'Acid' and LSD refer to the same substance.  About a dozen like that, eventually.  Plus, the whole thing lacked depth.  I would have loved this book when I was 13.

Friday night I finished Thirteen Moons, by Charles Frazier (Cold Mountain).  I read this when it was new, back in the summer of '07.  Just felt like reading it again.  Frazier is a master of historical fiction.  In Thirteen Moons Will Cooper, orphaned at a young age, is sent by the adults who had been caring for him to the frontier, at the age of twelve, to mind a store and 'earn his keep.'  He is adopted by the Cherokee and lives with them for the rest of his rather long life. 

In between Wilson and Frazier I finished Robert Wright's Nonzero: The Logic of Human Destiny.  I had previously read his The Evolution of God, and while this one is a bit more of a slog it was worth finishing (I put it back on the shelf once but resumed it a week later).  Wright examines an age old question: is there a point to all this?  He argues that there is, and further that there needn't be a 'God' in the equation.  Why?  I'm not sure.  Likely because he has decided that we're never going to know whether or not there is a 'God' but he thinks it would be 'nice' if we can still have some of the things that we usually attribute to God.  Such as a purpose, one that reaches beyond our own, brief, lives, even. 

The gist of his argument is the idea of Nonzero (it's in the title), a concept he takes from game theory.  Zero sum games promote conflict, he argues (successfully, in my opinion) and inhibit cultural progress almost always.  When humans recognize the value of cooperation, looking at 'nonzerosumness,' culture advances.  Leading to the development of language, writing, science, art, etc.  And also allowing for the proliferation of the species.

Then he takes it to another level and shows how non-sentient life behaves in the same way.  When we study evolutionary theory we see a 'direction.'  God would be the director if we accept the notion of God, but he makes a strong (convincing, for my money) case for nature pushing everything forward.  God could still be there but He has covered His tracks, if He is. 

I'd recommend any one of these books except the Starr bio.  Unless you like books like that.


  1. OK I will look for one of the Robert Wrights books. Right now I am waiting for UPS to show up with "Language Intelligence" Lessons on Persuasion from Jesus, Shakespeare, Lincoln and Lady Gaga, by Joseph J Romm. It's a print on demand book but I found Amazoon had a half dozen so I should have it by Thursday.

  2. Alas, my old sergeant's ass isn't the intellectual type like you two - I am going to hit Amazon for Shades of Grey -
    book three...



    Oh, Bart Starr best quaterback ever?