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text 2017-07-08 19:52
The Invention of Nature by Andrea Wulf (PROGRESS UPDATE)
The Invention of Nature: Alexander von Humboldt's New World - Andrea Wulf



"No one had ever comet his high before, and no one had ever breathed such thin air.  as he stood at the top of the world, looking down upon the mountain ranges folded beneath him, Humboldt began to see the world differently.  He saw the earth as one great living organism where everything was connected, conceiving a bold new vision of nature that still influences he way that we understand the natural world."


Alexander von Humboldt was an extraordinary scientist and adventurer who influence many of the greatest thinkers and scientists of his day, and whose insight into the working of the world gave us our current concept of nature.  However, he has been largely forgotten and barely gets mentioned when compared to Charles Darwin.  In the prologue, the author states her objectives "to rediscover Humboldt, and to restore him to his rightful place in the pantheon of nature and science", and "to understand why we think as we do today about the natural world." 


Part 1 of this book discusses Alexander von Humboldt, his family, his early life, education and inventions.  However, the author fails to mention his half-brother or sister who died young.  So this isn't a complete, definitive biography, and Wulf appears to be including only those aspects of Humboldt's life that she thinks is important.  Good news for those who want the basics and the science bits.


Wulf also provides a context for Humboldt by showing us the world he was born and raised in, i.e. the Age of Enlightenment.  This section also describes his relationships with the foremost thinkers of the day (Goethe, Schiller,Kant etc), and how he influenced and was influenced by these people; thus providing insight into the development of Humboldt's concept of the world with which he would view his experiences in South America and elsewhere. 


"Being with Goethe equipped Humboldt with 'new organs' through which to see and understand the natural world."


Part 1 ends with how Humboldt finally got the freedom, finances and permission to follow his dreams. Being stuck on a continent whose leaders were all going to war with each other didn't help much.


"But the real purpose of the voyage, he said, was to discover how 'all forces of nature are interlaced and interwoven' - how organic and inorganic nature interacted.  Man needs to strive for 'the good and the great', Humboldt wrote in his last letter from Spain, 'the rest depends on destiny.' " 


So far, this is an enjoyable and beautifully written book.  The author doesn't get bogged down with lists of dates and who begat whom etc.  The descriptions of the towns and people visited are brief and relevant to the narrative, without excessive, long winded paragraphs of filler.  One can feel the over-enthusiastic energy of Alexander von Humboldt (someone really needs to slip him a valium or a sedative!), his brother's concern for him, and the excitement Goethe feels when Humboldt visits - all from a few sentences.


The next section discusses Humboldt's trip though South America. 




NOTE ON THE E-BOOK:  The book contains numerous illustrations and three maps which don't display very well in e-book format. 





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text 2015-08-16 01:55
Reading progress update: I've read 22% (and question for British Booklikers)
The Valkyrie - Charlotte Vassell

Well, I think I might...just might...be finally getting to a point in this book where I am getting interested enough to want to keep reading...I think...we'll see. The beginning was very slow for me and actually felt somewhat depressing, which surprised me since this book is supposed to have humor/sarcasm so I was expecting it to start out quite differently. I have yet to lol or even snort to myself. Not much seems to have happened so far and I keep waiting for them to do something Valkyrie-ish. They haven't done much other than drink, pop pills, and snark at each other while planning how to orchestrate the next human war. There is supposedly some major event on the horizon as there are hints like "it had begun" (the blurb refers to an apocalypse so I guess that is it), but I'm still clueless as to what is going on. I don't know if that is my bad for missing something or the author's bad for not making it clear, or if that is the intention of the storytelling at this point in the book. I'm willing at this point to persevere and see how it goes.


So my question for the British readers here.  Is the word "draw" some kind of British slang for a drawer? As in, "She opened the draw that contained small random things...".  I keep coming across this word used in this way. When I first noticed it, I immediately considered it a typo. However, it has been so consistently used in this way throughout the book so far that I started to wonder if it was a British slang word I didn't recognize.

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text 2015-01-14 17:25
Reading progress update: I've read 160 out of 371 pages.
Prodigy - Marie Lu

I started this book like a week ago. Why is it taking me this long to read this book. It's succccccccccch a good sequel too. Hopefully I'll finish it this weekend. There's so many other books I want to read now. Sigh. The struggles of a reading slump. I wish there was more to say but damn man I am out of words. (Shocking, I know.)

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text 2014-11-12 16:36
The Time Hunters and the Spear of Fate (Volume 3) - Carl Ashmore

Ok, now I've probably over-sensitized myself, but Becky has just gained them access to their goal by solving two riddles and a puzzle; has saved the lives of three of them with her telekinetic power; and helped to capture the bad guy.


this is the accolade she gets:


"Then Edgar opened his massive arms and pulled Becky and Joe into a giant hug. ‘I will miss you both. And I shall always be your servant, your friend and your ally.’


His eyes found Joe’s. ‘Joe your bravery, your integrity, your courage is worthy of the most noble King.’


He looked at Becky. ‘And Miss Becky your kindness, your compassion, and your beauty would rival that of Artemis herself.’"



Still a very good book, but it's trying my patience.

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text 2014-11-12 13:46
We persist in passing down our prejudices
The Time Hunters and the Spear of Fate (Volume 3) - Carl Ashmore

As much as I love books and reading, and as much as I love all the positives that occur when you enjoy them, I regret that we still incorporate some things that are not so good.  Here we have one generation teaching the next that it's okay, not to mention entertaining, to ridicule, objectify, disrespect, and stereotype a particular subset of humanity.  In this case, it's women; but of course it happens across the entire spectrum.


‘‘Ah, Cleopatra, truly a fascinating woman,’ Butterby said, looking starry- eyed and distant. ‘And nothing like her traditional portrayal in popular culture, of course.’


‘What do you mean?’ Becky asked.


‘Well, if nothing else, she must’ve weighed a metric tonne.’




‘Oh yes, her derrière was as big as this bus.’ Becky and Joe laughed.


‘Now, Charles,’ Uncle Percy said firmly. ‘Let’s keep it civil. These are impressionable minds, after all.’


‘I’m all about the truth, Percy, you should know that.’ Butterby winked mischievously at Becky. ‘Yes, there have been many distortions when it comes to Cleopatra, and none more so than the nature of her death. Do you recall how she supposedly died?’


‘Wasn’t she bitten by a snake?’ Becky offered. ‘An asp?’ ‘That’s partly correct,’ Butterby said. She was bitten all right. But not by an asp. No, she he was actually bitten by an ass … a donkey, the bite became infected and that’s how she popped her clogs.’


‘Really?’ Becky giggled. ‘And was she the most beautiful woman alive?’


‘Far from it,’ Butterby said. He lowered his voice so Uncle Percy couldn’t hear. ‘Between you and me she was a bit of a moose. Queen Nefertiti, on the other hand, now that was a different matter.’



I like this book, overall; but it makes me sad that we can't, somehow, do better.  (Steps down from soapbox.)



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