Sep 192010

A collection of articles, letters, essays and finally the draft of the latest installment of The Hitch-hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy: The Salmon of Doubt. The book was edited and publish posthumously after the sudden departure of Douglas Adams.

The front cover of the UK first hardcover edit...
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The book gives an insight to the man behind the Hitch-hiker’s Guide books, some background of his early years, his opinions, convictions, believes and love for science and technology. Douglas Adams has been writing for popular journals and magazines and this book includes some of his writings. As always, he’s funny, informative and thought-provoking.

The last part of the book includes what is believed would have become the 6th and last installment of The Hitch-hiker’s Guide had Adams completed it. Granted it wasn’t a finished work, overall, it wasn’t the best part of the series either.

For Douglas Adams fans and perhaps The Hitch-hiker’s affictionados this book is a good read. Otherwise, one might find the discontinuity and the patch-work of pieces in the book distracting and incoherent.

The book is forwarded by Stephen Fry and Simon Johns.

Type: Mixed.
Categories: Articles, Letters, Science-fiction.
Edition(s) read: Audio.
Rating: 3.5/5.
Recommendation: Recommended for Douglas Adams fans.

Sep 192010

Douglas Adams‘ epic saga of an Earthling and his pal going through the most absurd yet extremely amusingly ironic, sarcastic and downright hilarious adventures.

Cover of the original UK paperback edition of ...
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The Hitch-hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (25th anniversary edition) is the most read book on my shelf and I’m not a fiction reader by any stretch of imagination. Adams has a way to present very complex and controversial topics with humor and sarcasm.

Adams explores many topics that are both of human and natural origins. There is no one particular primary theme as such, but the characters run into the most unexpected and absurd of situations. The author takes every opportunity possible to provoke the reader in some fashion while being superbly entertaining. He’s not shy of breaking the laws of physics rather he invents ways around their limitations. Devices such as the infinite improbability drive, invented a “smart ass” lab assistant, inverts the probability of one’s atoms spontaneously reappearing in some remote corner of the universe to offer instant teleportation to its users.

Type: Fiction.
Category: Science-fiction.
Edition(s) read: Book, Audio & Radio dramatization.
Rating: 5/5.
Recommendation: Highly recommended for everyone.

Sep 182010

Almost Everyone’s Guide to Science is a science book for non-scientists. John Gribbin is a popular-science writer who has a clear writing style, yet his words keep you turning page after page. However let me state right off the bat that the book assumes some familiarity with many of the scientific concepts. As such, the book is not for the uninitiated. This issue is heightened by the fact that the book contains no illustrations or photos. While this may not be a real issue for the scientifically savvy, it may be challenging to the rest.

The book starts by some history and background to major scientific breakthroughs and achievements. It then progresses to the atomic theory, quantum mechanics and the physics revolution around the turn of the 20th century. The narrative takes one deeper and deeper into the physical world. Specifically, we look at the atom from its early models, down to the discovery of its components. Gribbin then goes on to describe the electrical and chemical properties of atoms and what makes an element active and some inert. This progression takes us well into the realm of chemistry and chemical reactions. Organic molecules are described and the difference between organic and inorganic is clarified. At this point the book has covered the Hydrogen, Carbon and Oxygen atoms to a great degree. Gribbin explains why the Carbon atom is so unique in terms of its ability to make bonds and participate in chemical reactions unlike any other element.

The last section of the book takes us through yet another transition from the world of simple molecules to polymers and very, very complex molecules. This transition is not trivial, as it takes us from the realm of chemistry into that of biology, or at least molecular-biology. RNA and DNA are the building blocks of life, but until we get there, we need to understand what chemical matter is necessary and how they are formed. The complex elements that form the basis of DNA is explained and the book concludes with DNA and self-replicating molecules with millions upon millions of atoms in each one of them.

Overall, the book didn’t disappoint. At first I thought the length at which history and physics was presented put the book squarely in the physics department. I even thought at one point that he ought to have called the book “Almost Everyone’s Guide to Physics“. At least until we got to ions, chemical reactions and solidly into chemistry. However, I was delighted to see the transition and the connections made between these scientific domains. This is unlike any other book that I’ve read. Gibbin doesn’t disappoint. The book is well researched and well written. The narrative is fairly easy to follow, even when the subjects gets complicated and a bit hard to describe by words.

This was my second book by Gribbin, the first being Richard Feynman: A Life in Science,  and I must say both were very good reads.

Aug 082010

Here, I keep track of the non-technical books I’ve read, I’m currently reading (or are on hold) and books I’d like to read next or in the future. I’ll try to write short reviews on some of them as time permits.

The list contains only complete books read in whole, no articles, interviews or previews. Some of the books in the wishlist were skimmed or read in part. They are listed so I’d read them in whole. Some others were read in part but I’ve since decided not to read them in whole; these are not listed at all.

Starred items have been read in whole or in part multiple times.

Books read:


  1. The Hitch-hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (5 books)* (Douglas Adams).
  2. The Salmon of Doubt (Douglas Adams).
  3. The Godfather* (Mario Puzo).
  4. The Da Vinci Code (Dan Brown).
  5. Hearts in Atlantis (Stephen King).
  6. Oliver Twist* (Charles Dickens).
  7. Jane Eyre (Charlotte Brontë).
  8. Pygmalion (George Bernard Shaw).
  9. Jonathan Livingston Seagull (Richard Bach).
  10. The Little Prince* (Antoine de Saint Exupery).
  11. The Metamorphosis (Franz Kafka).
  12. Slaughterhouse 5 (Kurt Vonnegut).
  13. Ishmael (Daniel Quinn).
  14. The Diaries of Adam and Eve (Mark Twain).
  15. Brothers Karamazov (Fyodor Dostoevsky).
  16. The Snows of Kilimanjaro (Ernest Hemingway).


  1. A Brief History of Time* (Stephen Hawking).
  2. Black Holes and Baby Universes (Stephen Hawking).
  3. The Universe in a Nutshell* (Stephen Hawking).
  4. A Short History of Nearly Everything* (Bill Bryson).
  5. Dreams of a Final Theory (Steven Weinberg).
  6. Kinds of Minds (Daniel Dennett).
  7. Captain Scott (Ranulph Fiennes).
  8. Surely You’re Joking Mr. Feynman* (Richard Feynman).
  9. What Do You Care What Other People Think? (Richard Feynman).
  10. Perfectly Reasonable Deviations from the Beaten Track (Richard Feynman).
  11. Richard Feynman: A Life in Science (John and Marry Gribbin).
  12. T Rex and the Crater of Doom (Walter Alvarez).
  13. The Red Limit (Timothy Ferris).
  14. The Universe in a Single Atom (Dalai Lama).
  15. ABC’s of Quantum Mechanics* (V. Rydnik).
  16. Einstein’s Unfinished Symphony (Marcia Bartusiak).
  17. A Beautiful Mind (Sylvia Nasar).
  18. Pale Blue Dot (Carl Sagan).
  19. The Demon Haunted World (Carl Sagan).
  20. The Ancestor’s Tale (Richard Dawkins).
  21. The Greatest Show on Earth (Richard Dawkins).
  22. The God Delusion (Richard Dawkins).
  23. God is not Great (Christopher Hitchens).
  24. The Portable Atheist* (Christopher Hitchens).
  25. Articles and Essays* (Bertrand Russell).
  26. Religion & Science* (Bertrand Russell).
  27. The End of Faith (Sam Harris).
  28. Letter to a Christian Nation (Sam Harris).
  29. The Pluto Files (Neil Degrasse Tyson).
  30. The Truth About Muhammad (Robert Spencer).
  31. Jesus Interrupted (Bart D. Ehrman).
  32. Why Evolution Is True (Jerry A. Coyne).
  33. Why People Believe Weird Things (Michael Shermer).
  34. The Borderlands of Science (Michael Shermer).
  35. Philosophy: A Very Short Introduction (Edward Craig).
  36. The Physics of Star Trek (Lawrence Krauss).
  37. Almost Everyone’s Guide to Science (John Gribbin).
  38. Stuff of Thought (Steven Pinker).
  39. The Antichrist (Friedrich Nietzsche).
  40. Dialogs Concerning Natural Religion (David Hume).
  41. God’s Problem (Bart D. Ehrman).
  42. A History of God (Karen Armstrong).
  43. Death By Black Hole (Neil deGrasse Tyson).
  44. The Moral Landscape (Sam Harris).
  45. Collapse (Jared Diamond).
  46. How The Mind Works (Steven Pinker).
  47. Fermat’s Last Theorem (Simon Singh).
  48. Before the Dawn (Nicholas Wade).
  49. The Problems of Philosophy (Bertrand Russell).
  50. History: A Very Short Introduction (John Arnold).
  51. Physics of the Impossible (Michio Kaku).
  52. Last Words (George Carlin).
  53. How We Decide (Jonah Lehrer).
  54. Confessions of an Economic Hitman* (John Perkins).
  55. Existentialism: A Very Short Introduction (Thomas Flynn).
  56. How To Argue And Win Every Time (Gerry Spence).
  57. River out of Eden (Richard Dawkins).
  58. The Pleasure of Finding Things Out (Richard Feynman).
  59. The Rational Optimist (Matt Ridley).
  60. Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance (Robert M. Pirsig).
  61. Meditations on First Philosophy (Rene Descartes).
  62. The Shock Doctrine (Naomi Klein).
  63. The Age of Reason (Thomas Paine).
  64. Dreams from my Father (Barack Obama).
  65. The Grand Design (Stephen Hawking).
  66. Hitch-22 (Christopher Hitchens).

In Progress:

  1. Our Inner Ape (Franz de Waal).
  2. Biblical Nonesense (Jason Long). 54/181
  3. The Liar Paradox and the Towers of Hanoi (Marcel Danesi). 120/259
  4. Kepler’s conjecture (George G. Szpiro). 40/306
  5. To Kill A Mockingbird (Harper Lee). 1/11
  6. God According to God (Gerald L. Schroeder).

On Hold:

  1. The Satanic Verses (Salman Rushdie). 1/30
  2. The Character of Physical Law (Richard Feynman). 1/6
  3. The Selfish Gene (Richard Dawkins).
  4. Paradise Lost (John Milton).

Fiction Wish List:

  1. Candid (Voltaire).
  2. Micromegas (Voltaire).
  3. Pagan Christianity (Frank Viola).
  4. Labyrinths (Borges).
  5. Atlas Shrugged (Ayn Rand).
  6. Animal Farm (George Orwell).

Non-Fiction Wish List:


  1. The Republic (Plato).
  2. A History of Western Philosophy (Bertrand Russell).
  3. Thomas Paine’s Rights of Man (Christopher Hitchens).
  4. Discourse on the Method (Rene Descartes).
  5. Philosophy Who Needs It (Ayn Rand).
  6. Capital (Karl Marx).
  7. Dialogues (Plato).
  8. Theo

  9. Atheism, A Very Short Introduction (Julian Baggini).
  10. Milestones (Syed Qutb).
  11. Islam Unveiled (Robert Spencer).
  12. Why I am not Muslim (Ibn Warraq).
  13. The Christ Conspiracy (Acharya).
  14. Bio

  15. The Making of the Fittest (Sean Carroll).
  16. Origin of Species (Charles Darwin).
  17. Genome (Matt Ridley).
  18. Evolution and Extinction (Stephen Jay Gould).
  19. Physo

  20. The Black Hole War Susskind vs Stephen Hawking (Susskind).
  21. The Fabric of the Cosmos (Brian Greene).
  22. The Whole Shebang (Timothy Ferris).
  23. Just Six Numbers (Martin Rees).
  24. E=mc2 (David Bodanis).
  25. Scio

  26. The Language Instinct (Steven Pinker).
  27. The Blank Slate (Steven Pinker).
  28. Guns, Germs and Steel (Jared Diamond).
  29. The Oxford Book of Modern Science Writing (Richard Dawkins).
  30. Socio

  31. Infidel (Ayaan Hirsi Ali).
  32. Nomad: From Islam to America (Ayaan Hirsi Ali).
  33. The Audacity of Hope (Barack Obama).
  34. The Snowball (Warren Buffet).
  35. Moab is My Washpot (Stephen Fry).
  36. Mein Kampf (Adolf Hitler).
  37. Genius (James Gleick).
  38. Feynman’s Rainbow (Leonard Mlodinow).

To Checkout:

  1. Modernity (Jurgen Habermas).
  2. Shakespeare’s Universal Wolf: Studies in Early Modern Reification (Hugh Grady).
  3. Time and the Other (Emmanuel Levinas).
  4. History of Madness (Foucault).
  5. ().
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