Axis , Robert Charles Wilson — In this sequel to the 2006 Hugo Award-winning novel, Spin ,
Musicophilia: Tales of Music and the Brain , Oliver Sacks– Sacks seems to be the neurologist of the masses, at least the mass reading audience. As with his prior popular works, Musicophilia is a collection of neurological case histories although, as the title indicates, one that focuses on the brain’s processing of music (or failure to do so). While certainly a readable approach to interesting and at times bizarre problems, it often feels like an extended literature review prepared for a general audience. We don’t really gain any real insight or understanding of how the brain processes music. Instead, the focus is on the plight of people who encounter difficulties in that area. Although they undoubtedly have different aims, I personally prefer Daniel Levitin’s This Is Your Brain On Music .
Passage to Ararat , Michael Arlen — It’s easy to see why Arlen’s exploration of his Armenian heritage won the National Book Award in 1976. Although it won in the category of Contemporary Affairs, Passage to Ararat is so much more than that. Although much of the focus is on Arlen’s trip in the early 1970s to the
The Siege of Mecca: The Forgotten Uprising in Islam’s Holiest Shrine and the Birth of al-Qaeda , Yaroslav Trofimov — Journalist Trofimov’s prior book, Faith At War , was a wide-ranging exploration of Islam in a dozen countries. While Islamist fundamentalism, particularly Wahhabism, and the Sunni-Shiite divide remain topics in his new book, The Siege of Mecca has a narrower focus. It is a generally well-paced exploration of the events surrounding and the ramifications of the November 1979 seizure of the Grand Mosque in
How hard it is to be a father.
Michael Arlen, Passage to Ararat