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#194013 - Sat Sep 20 2003 07:42 AM Reading to Widen General Knowledge
shady_shaker Offline

Registered: Sat Jul 19 2003
Posts: 246
Loc: Brisbane QLD Australia      
I often think about how much knowledge there is in this Universe, and how little of it we know!! I have a passion to
broaden my knowledge base. Reading is one of the ways I do
this. At present Iam engrossed in a book written by a guy
named John Gribbin who trained as an astrophysicist at
Cambridge University. "Science: A History 1543-2001" is devoid of any sort of 'scientistspeak', extremely easy to read
and weaves the threads of scientific achievement with contemporary political, social and military history very effectively. Gribbin brings these luminaries to life in a way which isn't always complimentary! For instance, we learn that Isaac Newton did not earn his knighthood for scientific
achievement or for the valuable work he performed at the London Mint. Instead, the honour was bestowed upon him in
1702 in what Gribbin describes as "a rather grubby bit of
political opportunism...." (Newton was standing as a candidate
for Cambridge University in the Election of that year).
If you get a chance to, read this book. You won't be sorry!!!

#194014 - Mon Sep 22 2003 07:46 AM Re: Reading to Widen General Knowledge
ironikinit Offline
Forum Adept

Registered: Wed Jun 11 2003
Posts: 187
Loc: Brisbane Queensland Australia
My local library doesn't have the book you mentioned, but it does have "Almost Everyone's Guide to Science: The Universe, Life and Everything" which is a decent read if the reviews on Amazon are a good guide. Maybe I'll pick it up.

Right now I'm reading Daniel Boorstin's "The Creators". It's a bit of a slog really. The writing is good and the subject matter is interesting enough, it's just very long and I haven't made much time for reading. Usually when I pick it up I become drowsy in a hurry.

The general fun to read book I like to recommend as an introduction to a variety of topics is "An Incomplete Education". I first read it in college and the sections on Marxism, for example, were helpful when I wanted to kiss up to certain professors in the Anthropology department. Some of the information never actually turned out to be useful and there was a bit of misinformation as well, but it's a great book IMO.

#194015 - Mon Sep 22 2003 11:25 AM Re: Reading to Widen General Knowledge
A Member Offline

Registered: Fri Nov 23 2001
Posts: 3082
Serendipity , The FT Book Club's choice for November "The Map that changed the World" looks to be exactly the sort of book you would enjoy. (Well I would say that - I chose it!)

The book is written by Simon Winchester, it's a "factual"(as far as this type of book can be) recount of the birth of the science of Geology in the UK but has fascinating side-lines into the society of the day. The book became an unexpected Best Seller!
I've noted the book you recommend, it sounds like my sort of book!

Edited by Fosse4 (Mon Sep 22 2003 11:27 AM)

#194016 - Fri Oct 10 2003 06:30 AM Re: Reading to Widen General Knowledge
ironikinit Offline
Forum Adept

Registered: Wed Jun 11 2003
Posts: 187
Loc: Brisbane Queensland Australia
Well, I gave up on the Boorstin and checked out the Gribbin, and maybe I should've stuck with the Boorstin. The Gribbin ("Almost Everyone's Guide to Science") has a great deal of interesting information, but I found the Boorstin easier to retain. I'd really have to read the Gribbin twice or take notes to get much out of it.

One painless way to increase general knowledge is through historical fiction. It's actually the long way around, as you could pick up more information in a lot less time by reading non-fiction, but I find that I'm more likely to finish novels and I often retain more. Here's a few I've enjoyed:

"I, Claudius" by Robert Graves. I believe that this is the highest-ranking historical novel on the Modern Library top 100 novels of the 20th c. list. Since reading it I've never had much trouble remembering the order of the Julio-Claudian emperors, anyway.

"The Alexander Trilogy" ("Fire From Heaven", "The Persian Boy", and "Funeral Games") by Mary Renault. I've been reading the first book of another series of historical novels on Alexander the Great, something called "Alexander: Child of a Dream" by Valerio Massimo Manfredi. It suffers greatly in comparison to Renault's books. Frankly, I wonder how the guy had the nerve to even try after Renault. I suppose that Manfredi may have been aiming at the juvenile market. Renault favoured homosexuality and so some would probably find parts of her books on Alexander objectionable, at least for younger readers.

"The Killer Angels" by Michael Shaara. Tells the story of the battle of Gettysburg from the American Civil War.

A couple non-fiction books come to mind which I found interesting and informative:

"Longitude" by Dava Sobel. The story of a guy coming up with a really good clock didn't sound all that promising, but it was an enjoyable and fast read.

"Guns, Germs, and Steel" by Jared Diamond had a lot of interesting trivia in it, such as how the lack of pack animals in the Americas impacted the native cultures there. More, though, the book provides a general overview of human cultural development while arguing for the importance of factors beyond human control in the development of competing societies.

#194017 - Mon Dec 22 2003 10:41 PM Re: Reading to Widen General Knowledge
bookworm Offline

Registered: Fri Nov 14 2003
Posts: 35
Well, I don't particularly enjoy reading fact books, but "The Blue Bear" by Lyn Scholar was terrific! It's a true story about 2 men that go in search of the glazier or 'blue' bear in Alaska. It's very imformative and gives you alot of facts about Alaska, glaziers, Hubbard glazier, animals, plants and just general knowledge. I think it's different because it's not all about the facts, but it takes you away from all of the facts by including their emotions, and friendship throughout the journey.
You should all read it!

#194018 - Tue Dec 23 2003 07:29 PM Re: Reading to Widen General Knowledge
satguru Offline
Forum Champion

Registered: Thu Feb 17 2000
Posts: 6365
Loc: Kingsbury London UK           
I prefer reading facts to fiction, apart from some good stories as a child, I have always read reference books for pleasure and let the TV provide my fiction.

My parents had a copy of Baby and child care by Dr Benjamin Spock, and I picked it up and it became my favourite book. This led to every medical book I could find (maybe 9 years old onwards). A stay in hospital seeing these diseases in reality put me off the subject, and I moved slightly to psychological problems, which is my job as I speak some 30 years later.
I enjoyed books on science, geography and lists of data like thesauruses and directories, and now find them a great help answering questions here, and now writing a few quizzes as well. Many of the textbooks we had at school actually make quite good reading once the exam is over and I can pick and choose what I read and not worry now if I can't understand it. My final phase of reading was the supernatural, hoping to find something evidential, but probably read some better fiction there that claimed to be true. Whitley Streiber's alien abduction books are very absorbing, even if they and similar are really designed to sell books, not truth!
"The climate system is a coupled non-linear chaotic system, and therefore the long-term prediction of future climate states is not possible."


#194019 - Wed Dec 24 2003 09:32 AM Re: Reading to Widen General Knowledge
lothruin Offline

Registered: Wed Nov 12 2003
Posts: 2165
Loc: Nebraska USA
I have almost always preferred fiction to non-fiction. I find reading far more engrossing than television and movies, and I consider my imagination one of my most prized possessions, so anything that helps me excersize it is worthy to me.

However, I've been known, in the past, to enjoy some light reading like Stephen Hawking...

But to be honest, among my favorite genres is Science Fiction, and my favorite authors are Arthur C. Clarke And Robert Heinlein, etc. These gentlemen stay so close to the legitimate scientific theory of their time. Clarke is as close a thing to Leonardo Da Vinci as recent generations have come up with. While the stories are fiction, the relationships not real, a person really can learn a great deal about actual scientific theory while reading them.
Goodbye Ruth & Betty, my beautiful grandmothers.
Betty Kuzara 1921 - April 5, 2008
Ruth Kellison 1925 - Dec 27, 2007


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