Getting under the covers

Today I was taking a look at the bestsellers on Amazon – a fascinating social study – and noticed this rather amusing juxtaposition of cover art, subject and added advertising graphics:



One of the rather nice things about getting older is that you can enjoy being on the pedestal, putting someone else there, or the mutual awareness that you’re enjoying all this skirt uplooking without sacrificing your sense of safety or self. In any case, I tend to avoid the pop psychology and head for the speculative fiction or fascinating non-fiction.

Here’s what I have read in the top 100:

Freakonomics – fun, but pushed a little far to pop. I would have liked a bit more depth. Fascinating ideas, though; particularly the observation that legalized abortion correlates tightly with lowered crime 15 or so years later.

Blink – very much enjoyed this. Thinking about getting the audio book version since Malcolm Gladwell is such a great speaker.

The Tipping Point – amazing, influential book, and oddly enough still imbued with my original mental image of Gladwell – professorial, badly-weathered 50something, Alan Ginsbergesque – despite my now knowing he’s a young guy with an afro who’s rather nice looking (and just professorial enough to have the male equivalent of sexy librarian going).

The Time Traveler’s Wife – recommended to me by my dear friend Shannon and very wisely so.  Fantastic premise, very very well executed.

A Short History of Nearly Everything – highly enjoyable science writing from the ever funny Bill Bryson. Recommended. The audio book is fun too since the guy reading it sounds like the voice of the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.

The Catcher in the Rye – read it many long years ago; only can recall being rather annoyed at the protaganist.

The Chronicles of Narnia – I must have read every one of these seven books at least 25 times each. Probably more. The imagery of these books is firmly rooted in my internal landscape. (Have to admit that I had read them more than a dozen times and loved them deeply before someone pointed out the Christian metaphor to me; my reaction was to think "but that makes them so much smaller…")

1984 – time to re-read this again, America. (Very glad to see this in the top 100).

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix – I love the Harry Potter books. Great characters with some complexity to them and I really like the friendship between Harry, Ron and Hermione. I was very pleased in this one to see Harry hitting the hard part of adolescence and J.K. Rowling having the cajones to write him as a less sympathetic character.

Fahrenheit 451 – well, heck, I’m a librarian. Of course I’ve read this classic.

If I switch over to the top-sellers for science, I can also note Strunk & White’s Elements of Style (apparently now achieving the status of a natural law), Fast Food Nation (scary, very scary and essential reading), Walden; Or, Life in the Woods (which I am still working my way through in a plain text version on my PDA while waiting for trains and stuck in lines), and Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers (a great pleasure, discovered on the virtual book tour if I recall correctly).

There’s a new book which ought to be in both those lists. Rebuilt: How Becoming Part Computer Made Me More Human by Michael Chorost is a great book. At the most simple level it is the memoir of a man who goes deaf, gets a cochlear implant and then has to deal with having a computer in his head. And at that level it’s a fascinating and enjoyable book. Chorost explains the science of hearing and of the technology which restores it with such grace that you leave the book smarter without struggling. The simple facts of his story are interesting and well told.

It could have been a good book with just these things, but he pushes it in additional directions to create a rich, deep experience. Its also about what makes us human, the nature of reality, longing and loneliness, what it is to be deaf and what it is to be on the outside of the signing deaf community, the trials and tribulations of romance in the age of online dating, how technology like the cochlear implant is created and improved, a literary review of the concept of the cyborg, the frustrations and pleasures of physical life, and how we all rebuild who we are over time.

When most non-fiction books are tasty but hasty, like stir fry, it’s a profound pleasure to read a work of depth and maturity in which the carefully chosen ingredients have been slow-cooked to an intricate perfection.

My favorite Amazon review of Rebuilt so far is by Alex Soojung-Kim Pang, who writes

What struck me most about the book, though, was the sense that this is the first of a new genre: the memoir of people becoming cyborgs. The experience Chorost describes is one that, in the future, more and more people are going to go through: surviving some major medical crisis, recovering some lost ability, or regaining a sense, through a technology that then comes to contorl part of their body or mediate their relationship with the world. We’re going to see many more books that talk about how, thanks to technology, the author learned to walk again, or learned to see again, or came back from the brink of death. "Rebuilt" sets a high bar for the genre.

Go read Rebuilt.


Published by

Dinah from Kabalor

Author. Discardian. GM. Current project: creating an inclusive indie fantasy ttrpg

3 thoughts on “Getting under the covers”

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