We have three clubs:two "general" bok clubs and one science book club.
If you would like to know more about, or join, our "General" Book Clubs, please contact
Iris Shah at (747) 300-2214 or to e-mail her; or
Chris Smith at (818)701-3006 or click to e-mail her.
For information regarding the Science Book Club, please contact Heidemarie Lundblad at 805-484-8941 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
New members are always welcome!
ARF SCIENCE BOOK CLUB
Report of the meeting of September 16, 2015 submitted by Heidemarie Lundblad
Attending were Adam Gifford, Bill Hosek, Linda Jones, Virve Leps; Phyllis Russell; and
The book discussed was: The Upright Thinkers: The Human Journey from Living in Trees to
Understanding the Cosmos by Leonard Mlodinow (2015)
Mlodinow traces the development of scientific thinking from the earliest agrarian societies of the
Middle East to Quantum Mechanics in a book that is written in a very accessible and entertaining
style even for those of us who still cringe at the mention of quantum mechanics. The author
focuses on the development of thinking from a purely mechanical (counting produce and
determination of property) to the qualitative emphasis of the great Greek thinkers who attempted
to discern theological cause and effect relationships. He briefly discusses that theoretical
scientific thinking was kept alive and further developed by the Arabs, while European scientific
thinking during the Roman period was purely utilitarian (great aqueducts!) until the
Enlightenment period brought about a new approach to scientific thought. Theoretical thinking
abandoned the qualitative emphasis and developed along purely quantitative lines. <
The library has confirmed the dates and locations for future meetings: All will take place from
1:30 pm to 3 pm in the 3rd floor conference room on the following dates: October 21st**;
November 18th**; December 16th; January 20th; February 17th; March 16th; April 20th; May
18th**; June 15th; July 20; August 17th; September 21st.
** On these dates I will be out of town. I will be in email contact and if one of you takes notes
and sends them to me I will summarize and distribute them from afar! Thank you.
We selected the following books to read for the next three meetings:
October 21st: The Gluten Lie: and other myths about what you eat Alan Levinovitz, April 2015.
Available in Hardcover, Kindle, Audio (various versions)
November 18th: The Wright Brothers May 5, 2015 by David McCullough. Available in
Hardcover; paperback; kindle; audio; CD; audiobook
"David McCullough, two-time winner of the Pulitzer Prize, tells the surprising, profoundly
American story of Wilbur and Orville Wright….
In this thrilling book, master historian David McCullough draws on the immense riches of the
Wright Papers, including private diaries, notebooks, scrapbooks, and more than a thousand letters
from private family correspondence to tell the human side of the Wright Brothers' story,
including the little-known contributions of their sister, Katharine, without whom things might
well have gone differently for them."
December 16th: Risk Savvy: How to Make Good Decisions by Gerd Gigerenzer (4/14.)
Available in hardcover, paperback and kindle
"An eye-opening look at the ways we misjudge risk every day and a guide to making better
decisions with our money, health, and personal lives
In the age of Big Data we often believe that our predictions about the future are better than ever
before. But as risk expert Gerd Gigerenzer shows, the surprising truth is that in the real world, we
often get better results by using simple rules and considering less information.
In Risk Savvy, Gigerenzer reveals that most of us, including doctors, lawyers, financial advisers,
and elected officials, misunderstand statistics much more often than we think, leaving us not only
misinformed, but vulnerable to exploitation. Yet there is hope. Anyone can learn to make better
Books to think about for future discussion:
A Recommendation from Sandy Jewett: How Doctors Think by Jerome Groopman (2008).
Sandy's comment: It should really be titled "How Doctors DON'T Think! Heidemarie's
comment: I have been reading it – quite interesting, made me think about some things!
Please note that this is a different book than: How Doctors Think: Clinical Judgment and the
Practice of Medicine Paperback – November 1, 2012 by Kathryn Montgomery
Jonathan Waldman : Rust: The Longest War 2015; Available in Hardcover, Paperback and
Kindle and Audiobook.
"Rust affects everything from the design of our currency to the composition of our tap water,
and it will determine the legacy we leave on this planet. This exploration of corrosion, and the
incredible lengths we go to fight it, is narrative nonfiction at its very best—a fascinating and
important subject, delivered with energy and wit." I found this to be quite interesting, so many
things I never knew about the statue of Liberty; the Alaska pipeline; the lowly can in which we
buy a lot of food…
New recommendations from Phyllis Russel:
Beyond Words: What Animals Think and Feel. Carl Safina, July 2015; Available in hardcover,
kindle. Other Formats: Audible Audio Edition, Audio CD
Weaving decades of field observations with exciting new discoveries about the brain, Carl
Safina's landmark book offers an intimate view of animal behavior to challenge the fixed
boundary between humans and nonhuman animals. In Beyond Words, readers travel to Amboseli
National Park in the threatened landscape of Kenya and witness struggling elephant families
work out how to survive poaching and drought, then to Yellowstone National Park to observe
wolves sort out the aftermath of one pack's personal tragedy, and finally plunge into the
astonishingly peaceful society of killer whales living in the crystalline waters of the Pacific
Spirals in Time: The Secret Life and Curious Afterlife of Seashells: Helen Scales May 2015;
Available in hardcover, paperback, kindle
Helen Scales, a marine biologist, has been nursing a fascination with seashells since she was a
child, and her love of the subject shows. She "moves easily between science, symbolism, and
story," beginning with an explanation of how the 200,000 species of mollusk on the planet
secrete the calcium carbonate that hardens into dazzling fans and logarithmic spirals. But humans
figure prominently in her story, too—from the slave traders who used shells as currency to the
mathematicians who last century finally sorted out how snails build the homes they do.
Adam Rogers: Proof: The Science of Booze Available in Hardcover, paperback, kindle and
Steven Weinberg: To Explain the World: The Discovery of Modern Science Hardcover, Other
Formats: Audible Audio Edition, Audio CD
Jun 7, 2011. Available in Hardcover, Paperback and Kindle and Audiobook.
The Drunkard's Walk: How Randomness Rules Our Lives: (2008) Leonard Mlodinow.
Available in hardcover, paperback, kindle, audio, etc.
With the born storyteller's command of narrative and imaginative approach, Leonard Mlodinow
vividly demonstrates how our lives are profoundly informed by chance and randomness and how
everything from wine ratings and corporate success to school grades and political polls are less
reliable than we believe.
By showing us the true nature of chance and revealing the psychological illusions that cause us to
misjudge the world around us, Mlodinow gives us the tools we need to make more informed
Helen Macdonald: H is for Hawk Mar 3, 2015. "Heart-wrenching and humorous, this book is an
unflinching account of bereavement and a unique look at the magnetism of an extraordinary
beast, with a parallel examination of a legendary writer's eccentric falconry. Obsession, madness,
memory, myth, and history combine to achieve a distinctive blend of nature writing and memoir
from an outstanding literary innovator." Hardcover, Kindle Paperback, Audible Audio Edition,
MP3 CD :
Malcolm Gladwell: Outliers: The Story of Success <br>
Adam Gifford will research books by J. Searle and make a recommendation.
We need more suggestions!
Heidemarie Lundblad, PhD
All meetings unless otherwise noted take place in the Oviatt Library third floor administration conference room at 1:30 pm.
John says the Science Book Club members look like a pretty happy bunch. (Taken at the October 2012 meeting)
Here's a more recent (11/19/14) attempt by John to document the club's activities and check out the workings of his new calligraphy app.
TUESDAY BOOK GROUPARF's Tuesday book group, headed by Ron Schaffer, chose for its April reading Barry Unsworth's Booker Prize-winning 1992 novel Sacred Hunger. Those present for the discussion at Ron and Robbie Schaffer's home were Len Pitt, Frank McGinnis, Iris Shah, Jim Allen, and Robbie and Ron. Everyone seemed to enjoy reading this long (600+ pages) but captivating epic.
Sacred Hunger involves the British slave trade between Africa and the Caribbean colonies during the mid-1700s. Although there are a great many characters, the author focuses particularly on Erasmus Kemp, son in a well-to-do business family in Liverpool, and his cousin Matthew Paris, who signs on as the surgeon on the new slave ship Kemp's father is having built. We see vividly how drunken and penniless men were shanghaied into service as crew on the ship, how slaves were brought out from the coast of West Africa to the ship for potential sale to the captain, how captain Thurso tried to keep his crew in line by flogging for even slight infractions, how slaves were packed into the ship, how they were occasionally made to exercise by dancing in their shackles to a crew member's fiddling, and finally how Paris signaled a stop to Thurso's escalating cruelty to both slaves and crew, with huge consequences.
In addition to learning much about the human costs of the slave trade, we follow the lives of the Kemps back in England and quite a few of the ship's crew, some of whom we meet again after their ship crashes on the coast of Florida. Erasmus Kemp makes his way to the wilds of Florida to bring back his apparently mutinous cousin Paris to be hanged. I won't give away the ending, we all agreed that the entire story gains much power because of the author's underlying moral perspective, focused both on slavery and on how people should treat one another.
Iris Shah hosted our May meeting, when our book was Birdsong: A Novel of Love and War by Sebastian Faulks. Those in the discussion were Iris, Frank McGinnis, John Irving, Jim Allen, Len Pitt, and Ron and Robbie Schaffer.
The book takes place mostly during World War I in northeastern France, where the main character, Stephen Wraysford, was one of thousands of British troops trying to push back the Germans near Amiens. We first meet Stephen before the war, when he is in France on business and falls in love with Isabelle, with whom he has a child he only learns about years later. The many war chapters constitute the bulk of the book, but in those chapters we also follow Stephen's attempts to find Isabelle again or find love as he can.
At one point the book leaps unexpectedly ahead to the 1970s and Stephen's granddaughter. Elizabeth, unmarried and pregnant with her first child, is attempting to construct her family history. She is searching for records and any people who might have known her grandfather during the War so that she could interview them. She is partly successful in these efforts. Although we all thought the title of this book was not a good one, in its totality Birdsong seems to be a paean to the importance of love in human life regardless of whether those relationships fulfill traditionally appropriate forms. I also saw the book as a sad commentary on the fact that later generations may never know of key events and loves of family members who came before.
In the war years the author focuses on Wraysford, now an officer in the British army, but we also learn details of the lives, loves, fears, and deaths of many of his men. We readers in the group had all been aware of the trench warfare of World War I, but new to us was the extensive and very complex system of tunnels that miners on both sides constructed beneath and forward of the trenches for the purpose of laying mines. German and English tunnels sometimes came so close to each other that miners could listen to enemy footsteps. Being ripped apart by artillery or machine guns when advancing from trenches was hardly better than being buried alive in a collapsed tunnel. Although probably a good picture of warfare at that time, I and some of the others thought the author spent too much time in detailing trench warfare and tunneling.
Most, but not all of us, liked this book. Toward the end of the book I was quite moved by being immersed as I was in the lives of these different generations. At least one person in the group strongly disagreed, pointing out flaws in the book's construction and writing that made it not good literature.
Our group will not meet in June, but for our July 19 meeting we will read Vladimir Nabokov's Pale Fire and on August 25 (a Thursday) we will discuss Charles Dicken's Great Expectations. We each may try to see the movie version of Great Expectations prior to our discussion.
Reported by Jim Allen