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READ MY MIND © Book Reviews by Michael G. Harris, OD

Apr 01, 2015 01:12PM ● Published by Jennifer Neys

I've loved inventions ever since I read a book about Ben Franklin in first grade. So imagine my delight when I found two recent bestsellers on the subject. Walter Isaacson's The Innovators is the story of “how a group of hackers, geniuses, and geeks created the digital revolution." In tracing the history of the digital revolution to its earliest beginnings, we meet the first computer programmer, Lord Byron’s daughter Ada Lovelace. In the 1840s (yes, that's right, the 1840s) Ada worked with Charles Babbage on his “analytical engine,” the first computing machine.

Isaacson, who wrote bestsellers about Ben Franklin and Steve Jobs, introduces us to origins of the transistor, microchip, video game, and personal computer. We also learn how the Internet started. (No, Al Gore did not invent the Internet, but he did play an important role in its development.) We also meet troubled geniuses like Alan Turing and William Shockley. We learn why a computer glitch is called a "bug” and how “the mouse” got its name. This is a great book for geeks and geek wannabes. 

A wonderful companion book is Steven Johnson's How We Got To Now: Six Inventions That Made The Modern World. This marvelously illustrated book follows six major inventions that made our world what it is today. Some are works of genius and other happened by pure accident. What's really amazing is how these basic discoveries are linked together. You will never look at your refrigerator, alarm clock, drinking water, or iPod the same way after reading this book.

Now it's time for a good laugh. If you love food is much as I do, comedian Jim Gaffigan’s Food: A Love Story is the book for you. I finally found someone who has the same love affair with food that I do. And we’re talking about real food, like doughnuts and bacon, the stuff made from those old-fashioned ingredients sugar and fat, not that tasteless junk like kale and spinach. 

Gaffigan never met a vegetable worth eating. Why waste your time on something flavorless when you could be enjoying the incomparable taste of a cheeseburger, fries, and a milkshake? This laugh-a-minute book had me in stitches (and hopefully not the kind you have after heart surgery). After reading this book, you'll never feel the same when you pass a KFC in the mall.

And speaking of food, wouldn't it be nice to know how French women can eat all that rich food and never gain an ounce? The secret to this and other mysteries can be found in How To Be A Parisian Wherever You Are, essays by four gifted French women who share the secrets to "love, style, and bad habits" that make French women so irresistible. This book isn't just for women. We guys can learn a thing or two. Where was this book while I was single and dating?

 Noted Brazilian author Paulo Coelho has been called "one of the most influential writers of our time." I read his seminal book, The Alchemist, many years ago and really enjoyed its charm and wisdom. With that in mind, I picked up a copy of his latest novel, Adultery, hoping for more of the same. 

Unfortunately, I was sorely disappointed. It's the dismal story of a thirty something woman who has “a wonderful husband" and a near-perfect life. Yet something is missing. So she starts an affair with an old boyfriend. I got bored halfway through the book and didn't care one way or another what happened to this self-centered ingrate. Don't waste your time. Read The Alchemist instead.

 

Community April 2015 The Innovators Read My Mind
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