21 July 2004

Yet More Non-Fiction

Hey, one of these is actually not a library book! I got it ages ago at the last Times Colonist (that's the Victoria newspaper) book sale.
  1. Heavenly Errors by Neil F. Comins. This is the other astronomy book I mentioned when I blogged about Bad Astronomy. Of the two, I liked Heavenly Errors best, though they cover different aspects of the topic of astronomical mistakes. Bad Astronomy has more of the thing things we think are true but aren't and, while Heavenly Errors has some of that (plus some more technical ones not covered in BA), it's more about why people believe things that aren't true--how we come to believe them, and why we sometimes have difficulty changing those beliefs even when we learn they're wrong. Interesting stuff, and a good continuation of my pseudoscience reading.
  2. The Alphabet Effect by Robert K. Logan. The main premise of this book is that science developed in the west and not the east (despite the superior technology of eastern countries like China) because it took the kind of thinking associated with monotheism, codified law and an alphabet to produce scientific thought. I'd be interested to see what a more recent scholoar would say about this (the book was published in the mid-80s, I think; I haven't got it to hand right now). The arguments are interesting, though the book itself is rather dry.
  3. The Werewolf: In Legend, Fact, and Art by Basil Copper. I have to say, I found this book really disappointing, and I almost took it back to the library after the first chapter. The author seems to know nothing about folklore (nothing about folklore scholarship, anyway--he said something about fairy tales being nice little stories for children! How Victorian). And he seems to know almost nothing about structuring a book-length work. There were a lot of places where he said he couldn't go into detail due to lack of space, but then he'd go on about some irrelevant thing in the most wordy manner. Anyway, I am kind of glad I persevered, as the chapters on literature and movies were a bit better, and gave me lots of intriguing-sounding books to look for. Not something I'd recommend, really, especially if you already know a little about lycanthropy.

I also read a skinny little book called The Spirit of the Chinese Character, which was very cool. It only has a small number of characters, but it showed the way they were made--both the order of strokes to draw them, and the other characters each was made up of and how the meanings combined to produce the meaning of the whole. Very interesting, and a topic I will explore further.

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