So much to read and so little time

This is me recaping and noticing how little I remember of the good things I read over time. As soon as somebody found an interessting read in this section, it has clearly done its duty.

To be updated with old ’n new...

The Stuff of Thought

Language as a Window into Human Nature

Origins of language seemed pretty clear to me: we... oh yeah. How did we decide on things?

Pinker discusses the nature of language. Distinguishes between syntax, semantics and elaborates expanded on the construction of language. Leaving the reader with one question: how the heck can you make sense out of something this context sensitive?

It's a debate of Nature versus nurture: the question of how important peoples' innate qualities are to an understanding of language. From a tabula rasa: a blank state without any given concepts to the perception to radical pragmatics and linguistic determinism. A gradient from understanding varies depending on how the blank state is filled towards any given output is fully deterministic on its input. In other words: our language makes us and defines our abilities. Pinker defines conceptual semantics as a middle ground. A given framework of conceptual elements yielding a language's understanding.

Loads of stuff in this book, keep your breath. Sometimes eyelids get heavy sometimes they open wide. Still, I don't get why a tree is called tree and not chair.

Debt: The first 5000 years

All hail to an electronic readers, this book could be put next to free weights in a gym. Graber looks back and almost everywhere to find evidence for the occurance of money or currency - not meant to be synonymical. On his way he disproves barter as the origin of money. Only economists seem to argue for this turn of events to lay the foundation for emergence of monetary systems. According to Graber, humans have always used some item or agreement to record debt. Debt is therefore reason for money to postpone a repayment. From it social interaction and morality play important duties to ensure the works of a trustworthy market - not necessarily capitalistic in nature. Debt can be in form of gifts, exchange or tradition. The resulting market is often overseen and the amortization of debts is ensured by violence or exclusion. These days, the created hierachies encounter more and more levels blurrying the lines of morality. Debt is power and control moving away from its equilibrium calling to be balanced again.

Outliers - The Story of Success

No, this book will not teach anybody how to become more successful. It's rather quite discouraging. Gladwell argues that we tend to look at certain traits, characteristics and focus on personality when trying to understand other people's success. He looked into it and tries to prove that perception to be incorrect. We need to honor our context more: our predecessors and environment. These factors have by far my influence on ourselves than we would ever want to believe as autonomous individuals. It almost hurts as you can not change the circumstances under which you grew up. We can though learn which made people being able to teach society more and try to embrace and copy these. Some of his findings offer rudiments to change already. A date of birth being a decent indicator for a successful hockey career might be something offering change. Realizing that talent is something almost irrelevant. Whereas hard work (10 000 hours) and opportunity is needed to get recognized as e.g. The Beatles. Yes, the played a lot in Hamburg and the did it for drugs, women and fun. Stories produce thoughts by observations, mostly introduced early into the book, but sometimes bring in worthwhile secondary objects.

Future Perfect

The Case For Progress In A Networked Age

Taking the question what defines this generation from a different perspective, Steven Johnson argues that its distinguishing mark might be its networked nature. Not its good education, preferences for flat hierachies, distrust in gouvernments or narcissism. All of which might still be true and all of which are part of traits and values of the Generation Y or Millenials. Apart from constant accessibility of humans through phones and their computers. The networked society gained an incredible low marginal costs for far distance communication and voting. Johnson makes the case for a new model of political change transforming everything from local governments to classrooms, from protest movements to health care. Society does no longer need to thing in political categories as in liberal or left-wing. People can finally think in single issues on which society can collaborativly decide. Kickstarter and Indigogo are just the beginning tranforming the funding sector from being public to private. This flux can possibly happen to any other area of communal life. What perfect future.

Why Nations Fail

The Origins of Power, Prosperity, and Poverty

If you were ever asking yourself why some countries end up wealthier than others and not just statisfy yourself with an answer such as: their economic activity was more successful. Than this book answers some questions. You might not want to read it completely but it gives some impluses to think about. Older writings always distinguish between culture, location or geography and external factors? Sometimes the easiest assumption is not the right one as it seems here. Non of these factors seems to be the root cause. Just think about it, why is Botswana become one of the fastest growing countries in the world, while other African nations are mired in poverty and violence? The author suggests that it might aswell just be rooted in the political system not saying that democracy is the best solution to create a welfare state. Just arguing that the population of a country needs the right incentives to creativly destruct the established. While the gouvernment is in charge of cultivate this precious, delicate plant of society. Cleary distinguishing authoritarian gouvernments from the ones honoring human rights - good ideas can not be forced.

Discarded Science

Ideas That Seemed Good at the Time

Oh science. You're always portrayed as being so linear, so consecutively constructing truth. I feel like you've been lying to me and examples do not end with a flat earth or heliocentrism. 13 ideas which seemed good at a time but turned out to be awkfully off and immensely entertaining by now. Ideas start from the flat and hollow earth and continue with cannibalism, telegony, cold fusion and end at ideas about Venusians. Just considering the fact that the Nazis seemd to believe partly in a hollow earth and were convinced that if they shot a rocket high enough it would break the sky, makes this book a good bathroom read.

Zeit der Rache

Jack Reacher. Aufgewachsen auf Militärbasen in Amerika. Später angestellt als MP aber irgendwie geendet als Vagabund. Er reist stetig mit Greyhound-Bussen quer durch die USA und stolpert ungewollt auf dem Weg in Fälle derer es Aufklärung bedarf. In diesem Fall laden zwei ambitionierte Anwärter auf eine Laufbahn beim Militär in einer Badewanne. Schwimmend in ihren Tarnhemden - tot. Der Tatort scheint völlig unberüht. Das FBI bekommt eine Täterbeschreibung die auffällig gut auf Jack Reacher selbst passt. Reacher ist allerings unschuldig und wird durch die Anschuldigung in die Aufklärung des Falles selbst involviert. Am Rande: es ist die Grundlage für die jüngste Verfilmung mit Tom Cruise. Lee Childs Bücher haben soviel Potential... das kann sogar ein Scientologe spielen.

A Short History Of Nearly Everything

Frist and foremost consider Bryson being just an interessed reader as you might turn out to be reading this book. He's not an engineer nor a scientist. Nevertheless, he's great at explaining and writing. By coming from the same mental stage as his readers he is able to give interesting insights into science and history. If you were ever intrigued by understanding things you never thought you would even be remotly able to, then this is a read for you. Topics covered go from the origins of the universe, the gradual historical discovery of the size and age of the earth (and the beginnings of the awesome notion of deep time), relativity and quantum theory, the present and future threats to life and the planet, the origins and history of life (dinosaurs, mass extinctions) and the evolution of man. I know this sounds hard to digest but it is not. It's an incredible journey of which you will sadly forget most insights after all.

Predictably Irrational

The Hidden Forces That Shape Our Decisions

So we're all rational right. We make rational decisions, we gather our thoughts, weight options and decide in our best interest. Half of our economic system seems to be build around this idea; the homo oeconomicus seems everywhere. But for the right reasons? Ariely states that irrational behavior is a part of human nature, people tend to behave irrationally in a predictable fashion. Plenty of influences on a psychological level take away parts of our ability to think rational. Even if we wanted, we can't. Even worse, we like thinking irrational. It seems fun and adventurous. We're even unable to compare three options of which the third is asymmetrically dominated. An issue called the decoy effect stating that humans will only consider two equal options of three whenever the third is contrary to the first two. Moreover, we tend to almost go blind when seeing a freeby not even thinking about its true inherent value. Quite the contrary as soon as we own something: its inherent value loses any relation to the rational equivalent. These ideas seem so simple but the plain fact that “expectations can influence nearly every aspect in one’s life.” should be taken away from this. Life without expectations and being without acting prejudiced.

Der Hundertjährige, der aus dem Fenster stieg und verschwand

Allan Karlsson ist ein alter Mann. Sein Kopf jedoch nicht so sehr wie seine Knochen. Ein kleines Abendteuer zieht er daher dem langsamen Ableben im Altersheim vor. Oft stellt man sich Altersheime wie kleine Gefängnisse vor. Er schafft es dennoch zu entkommen. Während er quer durch Schweden flieht, ohne Geld und ohne Plan, erzählt das Buch sein bewegtes Leben. Ein Leben indem er mit nahezu jedem Diktator des 19. Jahrhunderts getrunken hat. Sehr unterhaltsam und so garnicht der blutige Schweden-Krimi.

Das egoistische Gen

Vorweg sollte gesagt werden, dass Richard Dawkins Evolutionsbiologe der in den USA ist. Als Darwinist in der USA hasst man das Lager um Intelligent Design bis aufs Blut. Eines seiner Lebensträume ist es den ID Burschen mal so richtig eins auszuwischen. In diesem Kontext sollte man auch das Buch sehen. Dawkins stellt die Frage ob wir alle Herren unserer selbst oder unserer Gene sind. Wie kommt es überhaupt dazu, dass sich chemische Elemente zu in einem Verbund zusammengeschließen und etwas zellähnliches bilden. Etwas, das sich irgendwann mal in einen Menschen wandelt. Woran liegt es dem Organismus und was sind seine Beweggründe. Diese sind nach Dawkins immer egoistischer Natur. Es gibt keine Gruppenselektion; der Organismus ist sich nach ihm immer selbst am nähesten. Interessanterweise überzeugte das Buch nicht als Befürworter des Dawinsmus. Ganz im Gegenteil: reduziert man Evolution weit genug runter, so scheint sie in sich fast schon unschlüssig. Ihr größter Feind ist Zeit. Warum sollte es egotischer Organismus Kopierfehler begehen und sich andersgeschlechtlich paaren. Warum muss Evolution immer linear ohne exogene Faktoren funktionieren. Was ist mit Zwischenschritten: ein halbes Auge nützt wenig, ein halber Flügel ebenso wenig. Es führt nicht zum Glauben an einen Schöpfer, es stärkt aber auch nicht den Glauben in Darwinismus wie er in der Schule gelehrt wird.


The Psychology of Persuasion

Books about self-improvement are surely a strange breed. Tons of which nobody should probably ever have to read but among the great plenty, this is an original. Influence, is a book on persuasion. It explains the psychology of people and their reasons in saying "yes" or "no" and how to gain understandings of it. Cialdini explains six underlying principles here: reciprocity, commitment and consistency, social proof, authority, liking and scarcity. Overall all principles draw an positive image of us human beings. We like to give back, we identify ourselves with our creations, we trust one another, we identify ourselves with role models, we tend to obey authority figures and we dislike excess. None of which is a bad thing but some of which are interesting insights. I won't promise you being a better person after reading this book.

Point Blank

The hunted becomes the hunter. Meet Parker, the ultimate professional. Parker is a master thief, and a man with a heart of steel. He believes in the oldest law of all - a life for a life. His one-time partner, Mal, tried to pull a fast one, making off with Parker's share of the takings after a successful heist, as well as his Parker's wife, Lynn. Big mistake. They thought they had left him for dead, but Parker survived their bullets and now he's out for revenge and prepared to do whatever it takes. The prey has become the hunter, and now Parker is stalking them, leaving a trail of carnage in his wake. Haunting and brutal, "Point Blank" was made into the cult classic movie starring Lee Marvin as well as the more recent "Parker" starring Jason Statham, and remains one of the most distinctive crime thrillers ever written.

Unternehmen Zufall!

Ob in mancher Garage im Silicon Valley auch ein Auto steht? Suffisante Lektüre, die gerne ironisch schildert wie bärtige Jungs im Valley Kohle in rauen Mengen scheffeln aber trotzdem nicht normal leben können. Der Autor selbst war zuständig für den “Klatsch und Tratsch”-Teil der Wochenzeitung im Silicon Valley. Daher wohl auch sein enormes Insiderwissen. Eine seiner Anekdoten beschreibt Gary Kildall und sein Privatflugzeug, das ihn einiges gekostet hat. Kosten begründet darin, dass er ursprünglich IBMs PCs mit seinem Betriebssystem versorgen sollte. Allerdings konnte nur seine Frau die Tür aufmachen, er saß im Flugzeug. Die ungeduligen IBM Vertreter sind aus Zeitdruck gleich weiter zu einem Brillenträger namens Bill Gates marschiert. Wooppsi!

Freaky Deaky

Another book to not put aside while reading. Elmore Leonard wrote books which became the foundation of famous movies such as “Get Shorty” or “Bounty”. Leonard is perfect at writing crazy funnny dialouges and embeds sarcarism in almost any story. Somewhat his books seems to be the foundation of a lot of Tarantino movies. A car explodes with the main character's brother in it. Someone is relocated from the bomb squad to look into the case. The more he looks the more he gets involved with Mark who's past with his brother comes in haunting him.

Generation X.

One of my all time favorites. Coupland wrote some seriously entertaining lines. Sometimes this book felt like looking into a mirror; a sarcastic and painful mirror. Coupland was a student when he wrote this book portaying a generation he is part of himself. Growing up after WWII, he caught the phrase and summed up his own observations made. All packaged in a story of a bunch of students studying different subjects but all embodying some part of his thoughts. In the book he coins terms such as McJob, Japanese Minimalism and Decade Blending. McJob being an underpayed job for somebody with no perspective for anybody not knowing what a future his life might have. Decade Blending describing the absence of new styles and fashions replaced by people just mixing up the past and calling it something new. These definitions are part of Coupland's initial thoughts and remained as marginalia in the book. An incredibly entertaining read making you laugh about society and yourself - though not for everybody.

Farewell, My Lovely

This guy can write, Chandler's lines are highly addictive. Take this on your holiday, take a sunbath and wake up with a sunburn. You might have forgotten anything around you for a few hours. It's 1941 and a privat dectective by the name of Marlowe is hired by a bankrobber to find a necklace. Luckily the bankrobber was just released from prision and finding a nicklace can bring along digging for some dirt. Nobody wants to talk and at some point Marlow himself is suspected of being the actual necklace's thief and killer of an informant. I should not spoil anymore.