Books-about-books are almost a genre unto themselves. While I mostly share their reverence for the majesty and magic of the printed word contained in a beautifully bound spine, they can cross over into fawning treacle. _Inkheart_ treads on both sides of that line, sometimes plucking the strings of my imagination and other times asking me to care merely because we're talking about books.My indifference to _Inkheart_ stems from the protagonist's passive inaction. I kept hoping Meggie would have an idea, take some initiative, do anything other than be captured and rescued and hauled around like a sack of potatoes.
I had a lot of fun reading _Emergence_, and it inspired many ideas and lines of inquiry. It stitches together topics I've been reading about, including the emergent intelligence of ant colonies in _Goedel, Escher, Bach_, the automata of Sipser's _Introduction to the Theory of Computation_, and the patterns in programming katas like Conway's Game of Life. Among other things, I've installed StarLogo and started programming simulations of epidemics and swarms, with plans for building a software rendition of my cellular automata project. I love books that get me thinking creatively, and _Emergence_ provided a great synergy of new ideas and connections with themes I've been thinking about, in an approachable, readable style.
I'm not sure how to review this book. The writing is excellent--it trips along at an exhilarating clip, with faceted, sympathetic characters who make plausible, relatable decisions, and I couldn't put it down. But it was really upsetting, and I felt stressed and mean the whole time I was in its clutches. Did I chew through it because I was enjoying it, or because I wanted to be free of it? More the latter, I think. I tip my hat to the author, though; it is enviably capable writing.
So much fun. I tell ya, when I read the premise, I couldn't imagine being emotionally engaged in a story that takes place in a virtual reality game, and I feared the main hook--the 80s nostalgia--would just pander to my demographic. Not so; I was totally wrong. This book was fun, exciting, and surprising. It pulled me in and kept me coming back and frequently startled me. (And, is it pandering if you enjoy it?) There's a lot more on the line than a Pac-Man high score.
This book frustrates me. On the one hand, it is cumbersomely loquacious, florid for the sake of hearing itself talk. But I keep learning things from it. My intuitive understanding of the concepts behind calculus is improving. If not for that, I could give up on it for being too amused with its own cleverness, but I persist because I can't resist the sense of deepening comprehension.
What a delight! After reading _Fashioning Technology_ (cover to cover, which is strange for a project book), I am inspired and informed. Here are some of its useful elements: clear how-tos on using a multimeter (explained it far better than the instructions that came with my multimeter) and on wiring up LEDs on a breadboard; a stroll through the catalog of available smart materials, with descriptions of their advantages and trade-offs; and projects that show practical applications of those smart materials, serving as a brainstorming springboard to inspire all kinds of ideas. It gave me useful, applicable info in a format that makes me want to get out there and _make_ stuff.If you don't have a lot of electronics experience, you'll be in good hands here. I'm still a beginner, and I found Pakhchyan's explanations very followable. Boys might find the book a little intimidating, because it assumes you know how to sew. But if you can sew, you can learn to solder, and if you can solder, you can learn to sew.Once again, I must tip my hat to the team at O'Reilly Media: The book is impeccably edited, both in terms of copy and the correctness of the technical instructions. Editing is the kind of thing that becomes invisible when it is done well, but it really makes the difference between a technical book you can enjoy and one that leaves you befuddled and discouraged. _Fashioning Technology_ does a fantastic job.