I haven’t been around the chapel much lately, partly because I’ve been reading some good books. You may find the following items interesting.
The book I finished last night was Nate Silver’s, The Signal and the Noise. Citing examples from such diverse fields as climate science, baseball, Texas Hold ‘Em and elections forecasting, Silver explains statistical analysis in an interesting, informative, and even entertaining way. The book is a bit long (500+ pages), so you probably won’t read it in one sitting. But, if you’re willing to take a bit of time each night over several nights, you’re likely to learn quite a lot about gambling, earthquakes, and – yes – statistics.
Another book I finished a couple of weeks ago was, Damned Good Company, by Luis Granados. The author selected twenty pairs of contemporaneous historical figures – one secular versus one religious (i.e., Clarence Darrow vs. William Jennings Bryan) – and contrasted ways in which their views intersected, clashed, and influenced the world around them. I’m somewhat surprised this book hasn’t gotten wider circulation because it is very well researched (over 1,100 endnotes) and is quite a good read. Granted, Granados doesn’t write like Hitchens, but he’s more readable than many other better-known authors. Perhaps the lack of publicity is a consequence of being published by The Humanist Press rather than Harper & Row.
The final book I’ll mention, which I read after Granados’ and before Silver’s, is J.K. Rowling’s debut in the world of adult fiction, The Casual Vacancy. Having read and enjoyed the entire Harry Potter series with my sons, I had to see how Rowling would handle adult literature. She did quite well, but don’t take that to mean that The Casual Vacancy is anything like Harry Potter for grown-ups. Unlike the world of Hogwarts, most, if not all, of the characters in this book are not likable people, so it’s likely that readers won’t readily align themselves with any of them. It’s not even easy to choose one to hate more than the others because they’re all equally loathsome. Nevertheless, the story is engaging, especially for anyone who is intrigued by politics, and one can’t help wondering how the issue of the unexpectedly open seat on a small town’s council will be resolved. I enjoyed the book, and I’ll admit that the ending makes a tragic sort of sense; nevertheless, I wasn’t satisfied with the way the final scene played out. If you want to know any more about that, you’ll have to read the book and decide for yourself whether I’ve got that right or missed some profound meaning and symmetry. In my mind, the meaning and symmetry are almost, but not quite, there.
And that, dear friends, is some of what I’ve been doing lately. Have you read any of these books? If so, let me know what you think in the comments. Do you have any other books to recommend? Write a comment. I’m always open to suggestions.
– – the chaplain