This week's task is to name 3 books that intimidate you.
Oh boy. Only three?
1. Men of Mathematics by E.T Bell
I have never been good at math. I could be a case-study for students whose abilities are crippled by well-meaning parents & teachers- we moved a lot (military family) and I missed some lessons and ended up confused. All I can remember is grown-ups saying "well, girls aren't usually good at math, anyway."
Since I like reading to improve myself, I occasionally tackle math books thinking it will help me. This one was on sale at Waldenbooks, I had a coupon and it's a nice hardcover. Turns out, I may have skipped too far ahead. Just maybe.
This is from a random page, in the chapter about Isaac Newton:
The binomial theorem generalizes the simple results likeIf you read from the beginning, this is relatively easy. But if you take a break-say, go to the bathroom or sleep or eat-you come back and have to look up words all over again. Am I going senile? Or is this a mental block? I don't know, but maybe the For Dummies series can help.
2. Anything by Heidegger &/or Neitzsche
There is an SNL skit from the 90s featuring Chris Farley and Adam Sandler. In this skit Adam Sandler says "Kill me now, God!"
This is how I feel when I try to read modern philosophers.
Greek philosophers are cool. I get Socrates. I get Plato. I even get Aristotle. They tend to be translated in ways I can understand and their ideas seem more pervasive- I've run into them before.
Modern philosophy is often based on whatever came before it. You have to read Kierkegaard before you read Heidegger and you have to understand Hegel to know what Kierkegaard is going on about.
It's like a really hard game of telephone.
3. War and Peace
Everyone who does this is probably going to have at least one Russian Novel on their list, I think. I do like Dostoevsky's books. But I've never even cracked War and Peace open.
When I see it sitting on a shelf, or being lowered by crane into a library or hauled by oxen into a Barnes and Noble, I see my own mortality stretching before me.
Every 19th century novel has bits that seem dry and uninteresting, that you have to slog through (Moby Dick, for example). That's okay. But if that happens during a book as long as War & Peace, I would find it nearly impossible to finish.Someday, if I am ever imprisoned or laid up with some long illness or confinement, I'll give it a try.
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