22 November 2005

Picks by Donald Knuth

How often do you get a reading list from a certified genius?
This is from Donald Knuth's website, the page called "Retirement"

[quote]
Of course I like to read nontechnical books, although I read very slowly. Here are some that I recently read and heartily recommend:

Life A Users Manual,

by Georges Perec (perhaps the greatest 20th century novel)
Gaudy Night

by Dorothy L Sayers (captures Oxford high-table small-talk wonderfully)
An Instance of the Fingerpost

by Iain Pears (also Oxford but in the 1660s)
Death of a Salesperson

by Robert Barnard (who is at his best in short stories like these)
The Haj

by Leon Uris (great to read on a trip to Israel)
Marjorie Morningstar

by Herman Wouk (in-depth characters plus a whole philosophy)
On Food and Cooking

by Harold McGee (applied biochemistry in the kitchen)
Food

by Waverley Root (his magnum opus, a wonderful history of everything delicious)
The Golden Gate

by Vikram Seth (the Great California Novel, entirely in 14-line sonnets)
The Age of Faith

by Will Durant (volume 4 of his series, covers the years 325--1300)
Efronia

by Stina Katchadourian (diaries and letters of a remarkable Armenian woman)
The Man Who Knew Infinity

by Robert Kanigel (biographies of Ramanujan and Hardy)
Hackers

by Steven Levy (incredibly well written tale of our times)
The Abominable Man

by Maj Sjöwall and Per Wahlöö (one of their brilliantly Swedish detective novels)
[end quote]

I had quite forgotten Maj Sjöwall and Per Wahlöö. I just requested two of their books from the library. More on that soon, I expect.

19 November 2005

The Laws of Our Fathers, by Scott Turow

The book moves back and forth between 1970 and 1996.

Characters

Sonny, a felony court judge in "Kindle County".
Seth, her lover in 1970, now a syndicated columnist living in Seattle. Seth writes under the name of Michael Frain, which is the name of a college friend whose whereabouts are unknown. He is last seen running from prosecution for the bombing of a research lab at "Miller Damon University."
Nikki, Sonny's 5-year-old daughter by her former husband Charlie, a poet.
Seth's father
Hobie Tuttle, Seth's lifelong friend, attorney for the defendant Nile Eddgar, son of Loyell Eddgar. Hobie in 1970 is implicated in a Black Panther bombing of a lab at "Miller Damon University" but never charged.
Loyell Eddgar, State Senator, but in 1970 a militant revolutionary working with the Black Panthers.
Nile Eddgar, in 1996 a Probation Officer responsible for Ordell (Hardcore) but involved with smuggling drugs into jail under Hardcore's direction, and in love with a 15-year-old female gang minion of Hardcore's. Nile is on trial charged with hiring Hardcore to murder his father, which murder resulted in the killing of his mother.
June Eddgar, Nile's mother, who is killed by "Gorgo" when Hardcore tries to kill Nile's father. In 1970 June is married to Eddgar, and the revolution, but it is a loveless marriage. She seeks consolation elsewhere with various men, but especially Michael Frain.
Hobie's parents, Seth's mother. Seth's deceased 5-year-old son Isaac. Seth's brother Isaac, killed in a concentration camp during WWII.
Seth's daughter Sarah
Lucy, Seth's ex-wife, Hobie's lover in 1970.
Cleveland, a black panther involved in the lab bombing who talked in jail and implicated Michael Frain.
The character list should recall enough of the plot to remind anyone who's read this long novel (534 pages). And I hope it will intrigue anyone who has not read it sufficiently to entice him or her to read it.

I love Scott Turow's books, and have read all of his novels. He is a journeyman writer, a practicing lawyer, what more can I say?

An interesting aspect of Turow's books: he writes of a fictional city and state in the Midwest. The city is located in "Kindle County."

Turow lives near Chicago.

In "Laws" there is a fictional university in California, in the bay area, known as Miller Damon University. There's a Miller Damon, MD, in the Palo Alto phone book. That 's about the most pertinent hit I got from Google just now.

My thanks to Mr. Turow for another terrific novel.

There's a new on on the way, Ordinary Heroes, just published this month. I'll read it, I hope.