Festival of Books

LA Times Festival of Books ImageIt’s a bit more than a month away. It’s always fun every year. It’s a Los Angeles celebration of the written word, done in wonderful sunshine, with hundreds of marvellous events in three days for young and old – Yes, it is the LA Times Festival of Books, coming up the weekend starting April 25th. The main daytime proceedings take place on the 26th and 27th (Saturday and Sunday) and I recommend them to you if you’ve not been. Mark your calendar. (Once you’re over there on Sunday, stay for the Categorically Not! event in the evening (entitled “Loops”), which will involve among others, science writer Dava Sobel!!) (Above right: One of the 2008 theme images from the Festival’s website. More here.)

The Friday evening will see the book prizes given out, kicking off the festival as usual. I remembered this just now because I found myself curious about the shortlist of books in the Science and Technology category. I wondered if there was something on the list (from that or any other category – full list here) I might like to get to read as a Spring Break treat. Sure enough, I found something that I might go and pick up from the bookshop tomorrow. The list is:

  • James L. and Carol Grant Gould, Animal Architects: Building and the Evolution of Intelligence (Basic Books)
  • Douglas Hofstadter, I Am A Strange Loop (Basic Books)
  • Christine Kenneally, The First Word: The Search for the Origins of Language (Viking)
  • Daniel Lord Smail, On Deep History and the Brain (University of California Press)
  • Gino Segrè, Faust in Copenhagen: A Struggle for the Soul of Physics (Viking)

There are some very good things there (as usual for this list), and this time the book on physics (the one by Segrè) catches my eye as something that might be good. I love reading into the history of my subject (especially around that time), and still love reading well-written tellings of the stories of the development of ideas (and new facets of it) when I can find them. Of course, I mean not just the ideas and the physics itself but the people involved, the personalities, and the wrong ideas as well as the right ones. I’ve found (from since I was a teenager to this day) that this sort of exploration of the subject really brings current research and the research community even more to life than it already is.

I hope that this book is good. Have you read it? Heard anything about it? Do put your thoughts into a comment, if so inclined.


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One Response to Festival of Books

  1. Bilal says:

    Thank you for the excellent book suggestions. I’d love to pick up the Serge, Smail and Kenneally books. I also enjoy reading the history behind the science. In textbooks everything is so distilled and sanitized that one often doesn’t see the wrong turns that were taken in order to get to where science now stands. In the current context, I am referring to quantum physics.
    Were you at the American Physical Society’s March meeting in New Orleans last week?