Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Voyage of the Beagle

Well, there aren't many people that I love more than Charles Darwin. He is one of my heroes. So I may be biased...a lot. But I loved this book. It was a true adventure tale and one that just could never be repeated in this day and age. The world is a much different place than it was in 1832. Darwin often has a reputation of being a reclusive hermit. And he was in his middle and old age. But the Darwin that cruised the world on the Beagle was young and full of piss, vinegar, and plenty of guts. He headed off into unknown terrain to collect plants, animals, and fossils with nothing more than a compass, a rock hammer, and a single shot pistol that couldn't hit the broad side of a barn. He had no idea where he would sleep each night or what he would eat. He often crossed through territory where local "indians" as he called them had killed European folk. He got rained on, snowed on, and survived several massive earthquakes, not to mention all of the stormy seas that drove him to the rail of the ship to barf. He climbed and crossed the divide of the Andes...several times. With none of the ropes, Gore-Tex and other modern amenities. He never stayed at the Holiday Inn. I guess you get the idea that I think Darwin was cool.
This book could also be painfully boring at time, at least to me. Darwin was a geologist as well as a biologist. His rock discussions were a bit too much for me, mostly because I am geologically challenged. But this book is wonderful. It is an amazing adventure story written by one of the greatest scientists of all time.
Today is Darwin's birthday (he would've been 199 years old today (2/12/08)), and people around the world are celebrating "Darwin Day". I hope you will celebrate too sometime by reading one of his great books. I will soon post about more of his books, as I have 3 or 4 more to read this year! Happy Birthday, Charlie and thanks for this book.

I read "Midnight for Charlie Bone"

I read this book for my daughter's What's in a Name Reading Challenge. Annie strongly recommended it to me after I finished the Harry Potter series this summer. I can see why she did because it is similar to Harry Potter in several respects. A boy gets sent to an "academy" after his family realizes he has a special talent. He is not a wizard in the Harry Potter fashion, but he is what is called "endowed". Each endowed person has one particular "special" ability. One boy at the academy feels the emotions of people whenever he puts on their garments. Charlie Bone's "endowment" is the ability to hear the conversations that took place when a picture was taken whenever he looks at a photo. Early in the book he looks at a picture and hears an intriguing conversation that took place as the photo was taken. The mystery began. It was light and enjoyable "good v. evil" story. I enjoyed it so much that I am reading the second volume of the series. Midnight for Charlie Bone was a good read, and the second installment is even better...so far. Thanks for the tip, Annie.

Friday, February 01, 2008

Another Challenge!

My beautiful wife Debi informed me of the banned book challenge. Being a former hippie, I had to join in. I decided to read 4 books:
1. Darwin's The Origin of Species - had to read it anyway
2. The Lorax by Dr. Seuss - read this to my class each year
3. The Giver by Lois Lowry - highly recommended by my girls, Debi and Annie
4. Slaughterhouse five by Vonnegut, Fahrenheit 451 by Bradbury, or another of the many fine books banned by idiots.
My adorable daughter Annie has tagged me to do Eva's reading meme. Here goes my first meme. (Nerd note: a meme to a biology nerd is somewhat different. Someday when I get ambitious, I'll blog about it)

Which book do you irrationally cringe away from reading, despite seeing only positive reviews?

Chick lit.

If you could bring three characters to life for a social event (afternoon tea, a night of clubbing, perhaps a world cruise), who would they be and what would the event be?

Travis McGee, his friend Dr. Meyer (from the famous series by John D. McDonald), and Glen Bateman from Stephen King's The Stand, along with me, would take a fishing trip in Florida on Travis' boat. This would hopefully take place in January or February. Travis is necessary to provide boat and gin. Meyer and Glen would provide the intellectual stimulation.

(Borrowing shamelessly from the Thursday Next series by Jasper Fforde): you are told you can’t die until you read the most boring novel on the planet. While this immortality is great for awhile, eventually you realize it’s past time to die. Which book would you expect to get you a nice grave?

Les Miserables...what a miserable book.

Come on, we’ve all been there. Which book have you pretended, or at least hinted, that you’ve read, when in fact you’ve been nowhere near it?

I haven't fibbed about reading a book since I was in high school, when I was known to occasionally run to the mall to buy the Cliff's Notes the night before we began discussing a book in school.

You’re interviewing for the post of Official Book Advisor to some VIP (who’s not a big reader). What’s the first book you’d recommend and why? (If you feel like you’d have to know the person, go ahead and personalize the VIP).

Kurt Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse Five. Everyone alive should read this book once each decade at least.

A good fairy comes and grants you one wish: you will have perfect reading comprehension in the foreign language of your choice. Which language do you go with?

Elizabethan English so I could figure out what the hell William Shakespeare was talking about.

A mischievous fairy comes and says that you must choose one book that you will reread once a year for the rest of your life (you can read other books as well). Which book would you pick?

Tough one...maybe one of Gary Larson's Far Side Galleries.

I know that the book blogging community, and its various challenges, have pushed my reading borders. What’s one bookish thing you ‘discovered’ from book blogging (maybe a new genre, or author, or new appreciation for cover art-anything)?

I'm such a bad blogger. I don't spend much time blogging, as anyone who actually reads this blog is well aware, nor do I spend much time reading other blogs except my wife Debi's (which I have to read to see what she is saying about me...gotta check for accuracy). I have gotten some solid recommendations from Debi that have come from others in the blogosphere. One notable one is Neil Gaiman. Debi absolutely loved his book "American Gods".

That good fairy is back for one final visit. Now, she’s granting you your dream library! Describe it. Is everything leather-bound? Is it full of first edition hardcovers? Pristine trade paperbacks? Perhaps a few favorite authors have inscribed their works? Go ahead-let your imagination run free.

It would be a very large room with lots of dark wooden bookshelves covering each wall and very high ceilings. The bookshelves would go up to the ceiling. Wooden floors with a few nice rugs, a fireplace, and a few well placed biological specimens (skulls, etc.) and fossils would provide atmosphere and flavor. There would be lots of windows for natural light, preferably with a fine view of our natural world. A few couches here and there and some nice comfy chairs would provide seating. A few antique wooden desks would provide workspace. A well hidden sound system would play Miles Davis and other fine jazz as needed.