September 29, 2011

Books: Aug-Sept'11

I like to read, mostly science fiction, but sometimes other things too. Here is what I've been reading lately:

Fuzzy Nation by John Scalzi
Fuzzy Nation is a modern ‘reboot’ and reimagining of ‘Little Fuzzy’ by H. Beam Piper from 1962. It offers the reader a snarky sci-fi look at intelligent life and corporate ethics through the lens of a morally ambiguous rogue who’s a bit of a jerk (just for fun) and makes a circus of legal courtroom procedures in the most amusing way. It also has velociraptors, because who doesn’t love the threat of a good velociraptor-maiming scene?
The Third Wave: A Volunteer Story by Alison Thompson
The Third Wave tells the inspiring story of how volunteering changed Thompson's life. It begins with her first real introduction to disaster relief after 9/11 and ends with her more recent efforts in Haiti , where she has helped create and run, together with Sean Penn, an internally displaced person camp and field hospital for over 65,000 Haitians who lost their homes in the 2010 earthquake. In The Third Wave, Thompson provides an invaluable inside glimpse into what really happens on the ground after a disaster—and a roadmap for what anyone can do to help. As Thompson shows, with some resilience, a healthy sense of humor, and the desire to make a difference, we all have what it takes to change the world for the better.
Kara Goucher's Running for Women: From First Steps to Marathons
Kara Goucher is crazy, madly, head-over-heels in love with running, and she wants to help you feel that love, too. Whether you’re just getting started or already a seasoned runner, this is the book that will take you to the next level. Kara Goucher’s Running for Women contains her expertise, tips, and tricks targeted specifically at female runners to help you become a better, happier, healthier, and more fulfilled runner.
Fire Monks: Zen Mind Meets Wildfire at the Gates of Tassajara

The true story of how a group of resident monks saved the oldest Zen Buddhist monastery in the United States from a wildfire. A gripping narrative as well as an insider’s portrait of the Zen path, Fire Monks reveals what it means to meet an emergency with presence of mind. In tracking the four men and one woman who returned—all novices in fire but experts in readiness—we witness them take their unique experiences facing the fires in their own lives and apply that wisdom to the crisis at hand. Relying on their Zen training, the monks accomplished the seemingly impossible—greeting the fire not as an enemy to defeat but as a friend to guide. The Tassajara monks were able to remain in the moment and act with startling speed and clarity. In studying an event marked by great danger and uncertainty, Fire Monks reveals the bravery that lives within every heart.
Buddha by Karen Armstrong
With such bestsellers as A History of God and Islam, Karen Armstrong has consistently delivered "penetrating, readable, and prescient" (The New York Times) works that have lucidly engaged a wide range of religions and religious issues. In Buddha she turns to a figure whose thought is still reverberating throughout the world 2,500 years after his death. Many know the Buddha only from seeing countless serene, iconic images. But what of the man himself and the world he lived in? What did he actually do in his roughly eighty years on earth that spawned one of the greatest religions in world history? Armstrong tackles these questions and more by examining the life and times of the Buddha in this engrossing philosophical biography. Against the tumultuous cultural background of his world, she blends history, philosophy, mythology, and biography to create a compelling and illuminating portrait of a man whose awakening continues to inspire millions.
Road to Heaven: Encounters with Chinese Hermits
From 1966 to 1976 the malevolent rage of the Chinese Cultural Revolution struck a devastating blow to all religions in China, destroying countless temples and shrines that had stood for centuries and forcibly returning thousands of monks and nuns to lay life. Bill Porter had been told that the venerable hermetic tradition in China had also succumbed, but he went looking anyway. What he found, Taoist and Buddhist monks and nuns living in huts and caves deep in the mountains of central China, is more than a revelation, it is a glimmer of hope for the future of religion in China