Sanity is low, morale is high.
Book Review Tuesday! More available at TheWeinerworks.com
The Pope of Physics (Segrè and Hoerlin) On the one hand, I enjoyed this book. On the other, for such an important and fascinating character as Fermi, I couldn’t help but think this book was a bit of small beer. I would’ve happily enjoyed a book three times its length. Relatedly, I would’ve liked fewer asides about the general aspects of the Manhattan Project.
Perhaps there’s no good way to get all the info now, but I would’ve loved to get a stronger feel for all those deathbed conversations with great and controversial thinkers. I don’t want to say it’s a bad book - in fact it might be the best Fermi biography available. It also has the incidental point of interest that one of the authors is the nephew of Emilio Segrè, which may explain why the sections about Fermi’s friends were some of the best and most detailed of the book. If you, like me, enjoy biographies from the Heroic Age of Physics, it’s definitely worth a read.
Pandemic (Shah) This was a solid pop science book on how diseases spread, and what we’re doing (or not doing!) to stop them. The book is structured according to human behaviors vis-a-vis diseases, and also uses cholera as a particular case of a disease with which to weave together the general complexity of epidemiology. I found the overall book a bit disjointed, though many individual parts were quite enjoyable. That said, overall I would’ve liked a bit more depth, especially in the sections concerned with policy.
Shenzhen (DeLisle) These DeLisle books are just delightful. They’re light and fun, but you really get a feel for his experiences going to work in other countries. This one was less funny than the North Korea one, but as a comic I think it was better. He does such a good job of capturing the feeling of loneliness and isolation he experienced. In part this is accomplished by developing a set of silent images for different people and places in the city. These images recur over the course of a book that is sometimes funny and sometimes sad, but either way serves very well to convey his experience as a guy who doesn’t speak Chinese going to work in a city with few English speakers. Highly recommended.