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Author Topic: My public library makes me want to cry.  (Read 29527 times)
southerntransplant
A man on a porcupine fence and a
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No recess.


« Reply #120 on: December 27, 2012, 12:06:13 PM »

And often horribly written so even the specialists find themselves gritting their teeth for a long slog through them.

bioteacher,

That's astonishing. Most of the monographs that I've read were well-written.

I read a part of monograph earlier this year entitled "The Mind of Frederick Douglass." (Didn't finish it though) It was exceptionally well-written and insightful as many other monographs that I've read.

I wonder if it's certain disciplines that tend to have horribly written monographs.

I think there isn't anything special to the variability of quality among scholarly works intended for a general audience. It's probably the same as it is for other works.

I can usually lose myself as easily in a book about the history of the Riemann zeta function as I can an Ishiguoro novel, but "Guns, Germs and Steel" still awaits a complete reading by me despite four attempts.
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"...And on the other side of this wall is a whole 'nother studio that you'll never get to see...because, you know, fvck you guys."

Steve Albini, showing Dave Grohl and the Foo Fighters around his studio
polly_mer
practice makes perfect
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Posts: 37,443

Have you worked on that project today?


« Reply #121 on: December 27, 2012, 7:10:56 PM »

I can usually lose myself as easily in a book about the history of the Riemann zeta function as I can an Ishiguoro novel, but "Guns, Germs and Steel" still awaits a complete reading by me despite four attempts.

Strange.  I have the opposite reaction.  Ishiguoro annoys me and I'm not reading another math book unless I get paid, but Guns, Germs, and Steel was a quick read on a Sunday afternoon.  GGS was crap, but it was fast crap, unlike many of the things Macaroon apparently wants people to read.  I seldom encounter an award-winning book that is worth the effort I put into reading (I read it because I believe in continuing education), unlike random books just sitting on the shelf where I often encounter ideas that I wouldn't otherwise encounter because the worldview is so different from my daily experience.

The problem with many of the books chosen for their importance is the desperate need to whack the reader over the head with the BIG, IMPORTANT ideas every.single.paragraph.  If the ideas are present, then I can pick them up, especially if the point is to contrast what is with what could be. 

Hmm, what would the world be like if world leaders were engaged in bread and circuses to placate the masses instead of having open societies?  What would happen if someone came along and fought the system?

What would happen if you were the only one who knew that something was rotten in Denmark and you had to somehow get support to save the world?

Yeah, let's ignore the reams of books in those category and instead teach children that books are those boring things that teach a lesson with a 2x4 instead of another way to investigate the world and think about actions, consequences, and possibilities.

I no longer wonder, Macaroon, why you continue to express such difficulty in making new friends where you are.  If you don't read, you don't watch television, and you don't look for friends for whatever hobby you have, then of course you won't find friends.  Shared interests of some sort are usually the ways that people make friends.  Even those of us who are generally considered obnoxious bores sometimes make concessions so that we can get enough of a foot in the door to have a prayer of finding shared interests.
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I've joined a bizarre cult called JordanCanonicalForm's Witnesses.  I have to go from door to door asking people things like, "Good evening, sir!  Do you have a moment to chat about Linear Transformations?"
oldfullprof
Ridiculous
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Representation is not reproduction!


« Reply #122 on: December 27, 2012, 9:43:40 PM »

I can usually lose myself as easily in a book about the history of the Riemann zeta function as I can an Ishiguoro novel, but "Guns, Germs and Steel" still awaits a complete reading by me despite four attempts.
Strange.  I have the opposite reaction.  Ishiguoro annoys me and I'm not reading another math book unless I get paid, but Guns, Germs, and Steel was a quick read on a Sunday afternoon.  GGS was crap, but it was fast crap

Look, I'm a social scientist, so I was already aware of some of the issues in GGS, and I read very quickly (I used to win speed reading competitions.)  It took me about four days at a boring conference where I attended very few sessions to closeread GGS.  I really did close read it, too, because it was, I thought, a pretty important book.  It isn't crap; it's fairly persuasive.  It lays out geographical and resource differences as the deep reasons for why some societies achieved technological superiority and dominance and others didn't.  Unlike Weber and Marx, it depends far less on metaphysical assumptions and much more on empirical theory.  Some of the elements in the book are testable, I think, and at least can have Trimberger-Skocpol type (methods of similarity and difference - actually JS Mill) methods applied as tests.

This is sort of like me saying the periodic table is crap.
« Last Edit: December 27, 2012, 9:46:11 PM by oldfullprof » Logged

Taste o' the Sixties
southerntransplant
A man on a porcupine fence and a
Distinguished Senior Member
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Posts: 11,106

No recess.


« Reply #123 on: December 28, 2012, 2:06:00 AM »

I can usually lose myself as easily in a book about the history of the Riemann zeta function as I can an Ishiguoro novel, but "Guns, Germs and Steel" still awaits a complete reading by me despite four attempts.

Strange.  I have the opposite reaction.  Ishiguoro annoys me and I'm not reading another math book unless I get paid, but Guns, Germs, and Steel was a quick read on a Sunday afternoon.  GGS was crap, but it was fast crap, unlike many of the things Macaroon apparently wants people to read.  I seldom encounter an award-winning book that is worth the effort I put into reading (I read it because I believe in continuing education), unlike random books just sitting on the shelf where I often encounter ideas that I wouldn't otherwise encounter because the worldview is so different from my daily experience.

The problem with many of the books chosen for their importance is the desperate need to whack the reader over the head with the BIG, IMPORTANT ideas every.single.paragraph.  If the ideas are present, then I can pick them up, especially if the point is to contrast what is with what could be.  

I'm not sure where you are going with this, but most of the math history books I have picked up have been gems. I would also recommend The Making of the Atomic Bomb by Richard Rhodes for enlightening me on an area of science I was not well versed in before. I think that if anyone wanted to lay bare the contributions of physicists without resorting to the standard "Einstein was a smart guy," then this is worth the read. It takes the basis of atomic physics past even Bohr to the days of Rutherford and Thomson.

I didn't dislike Guns, Germs and Steel, but it hasn't grabbed me in that I would think "Hey I'd rather read this than work on my syllabi right now." I would rather sort out my syllabi than read this book. I caught the central premise as described by OFP, but it didn't engage me.
« Last Edit: December 28, 2012, 2:07:14 AM by southerntransplant » Logged

"...And on the other side of this wall is a whole 'nother studio that you'll never get to see...because, you know, fvck you guys."

Steve Albini, showing Dave Grohl and the Foo Fighters around his studio
merce
strange attractor
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« Reply #124 on: December 28, 2012, 9:47:13 AM »

From NYTimes: Libraries give books back to the private homes that the creation of the public library system intended to parallel for those who didn't have the money for a private home library.
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spammer 
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Profuse gift offerings to garnish your day.
southerntransplant
A man on a porcupine fence and a
Distinguished Senior Member
*****
Posts: 11,106

No recess.


« Reply #125 on: December 28, 2012, 10:17:41 AM »

I can usually lose myself as easily in a book about the history of the Riemann zeta function as I can an Ishiguoro novel, but "Guns, Germs and Steel" still awaits a complete reading by me despite four attempts.

Strange.  I have the opposite reaction.  Ishiguoro annoys me and I'm not reading another math book unless I get paid, but Guns, Germs, and Steel was a quick read on a Sunday afternoon. 

(just caught this and am crafting a separate response)

I'm not referring to a math book, but a history of math. Prime Obsession by John Derbyshire (whose political writings make me ill, but who can write an excellent history) and Fermat's Last Theorem by Simon Singh are excellent examples. I generally don't open, say, Swokowski's Calculus and Analytic Geometry unless I'm looking for something specific.
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"...And on the other side of this wall is a whole 'nother studio that you'll never get to see...because, you know, fvck you guys."

Steve Albini, showing Dave Grohl and the Foo Fighters around his studio
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