Monthly book roundup – 2014 March

Books finished in March:
(Warning: reviews are unpolished and quickly written.)

American Hippopotamus by Jon Mooallem. The quest to start hippopotamus farming in the US in the beginning of the 20th century. Despite colorful characters, the book is a disappointment, since it takes the far-fetchedness of the idea of importing hippos as given and never gives a clear answer for why it did not happen. Many of the claims about hippos in the book are the oppsite of Jared Diamond‘s explanation in Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies for why they were never domesticated in Africa-namely that they are aggressive and terrorial. To me it did what role such good arguments played.

Epic Win for Anonymous: An Online Army Conquers the Media by Cole Stryker. A look on what was the forefront of the internet, from simple message boards to 4chan, and later became common, like the cheezburger networks. Emphasizes the creativity and in some senses meritocracy that the internet has encouraged. Largely refrains from moralizing.

A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole. I was not aware that the neurotic Elling had a fat American relative. (Or rather an ancestor, or at least a predecessor, as Ingvar Ambjørnsen’s Elling first appeared in 1993, as opposed to A Conferderacy…, which was published in 1980). Very funny, but I started to become quite tired of Ignatius J. Reilly a bit more than halfway through the book.

Guerrilla Warfare by Ernesto Che Guevare. Mostly practical advice, on organization, equipment, discipline, sabotage, and other things. Measured in tone and clear on things like decency towards the civilian population, etc. Also focus on learning and the need for indoctrination. No exaggerated portaits of the other side. It would be good if the tone of ideological discourse was more often like this.

The Information: A History, a Theory, a Flood by James Gleick. Information overload is fittingly the topic towards the end of Gleick’s great flood of information topics – language, writing, code, encyclopedias, dictionaries, computing, naming, mathematics, logic, computer science, genetics, the internet. Too much for me to take in, no less do justice to in writing. Recommended.

Nixon-Kennedy DebatesThe first televised debates between the US presidential contenders. In the fall of 1960. Much like todays debates. A bit more civilized and a little less spin. Nixon in the third debate: “And I only hope that, should I win this election, that I could approach President Eisenhower in maintaining the dignity of the office; in seeing to it that whenever any mother or father talks to his child, he can look at the man in the White House and, whatever he may think of his policies, he will say: “Well, there is a man who maintains the kind of standards personally that I would want my child to follow.”” Yes. Nixon was going to be elected president in 1968 and 1972, and resigned in 1974. Both were highly professional in the debates, as they would have to be to have come to this stage.

Ratings and old books are in the library.

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