Tag Archives: murder

What I’ve been reading in February

February has been a banner month for reading. A bumper crop of beaming books brought me a bounty of smiles.
I started out with autism and ended with the midwest.
First I read One of a Kind: The Rise and Fall of Stuey ‘The Kid’ Ungar, a biography of the best poker and gin player ever. My boss recommended it to me, and I really enjoyed it. Much of the highlights of the story were part of his pitch of the book to me, though. Stuey was almost certainly Aspergerian. He was also almost certainly a savant. He was definitely an addict, and his glory was dulled by his inability to discipline his desires. Like many who come by millions too easily, his story doesn’t end happy. I might have appreciated this story more if I played poker. If you do, you owe it to the game to read about the best ever.

I then followed up with two books by an autistic savant, Daniel Tammet. He won the weirdness lottery, as he is an autistic, synesthesic, gay, savant. I do not remember if he is also left handed. I had thought of autism as just a mild form of brain damage until I ran into two persuasive videos:
1. Daniel Tammet: The boy with the incredible brain

2. In My Language, by Amanda Baggs, also the subject of a good article on the emerging autistic rights movement in Wired.

I was wrong and my current view is that many autistics are wired differently and conduct logic, thought, emotion etc in self-consistent ways that don’t match with mine. This is very exciting, getting to know about alien psychology and cognition.

Born On A Blue Day, Tammet’s autobiography, is very nice, but is blown away by the awesomeness of Embracing the Wide Sky. This second book covers a huge realm of cognitive theory, neuroscience, and amazing things that happen in our headmeats. It is never dry, always personal and shockingly clear. I think that this is probably the best first book on the inside of your head that someone can read. It only lacks for practical applications of the knowledge the way a Mind Hackss or Tricks of the Mind provides.

When I was in Utah my pals Mike, Britt, and Brian all recommended the books of Jon Krakauer and the first one to arrive from the library was Under the Banner of Heaven. Truly excellent. It’s the story of the Mormon’s, murder, and ‘merica. It’s a stomper that flips from the genesis of Mormonism to the story of a murder intimately connected. Jon starts with the murder and weaves back to the foundation story of the Mormon’s, which is, unbelievably, crazier than the South Park Mormon story. From there, he makes a great case that the corruption and abuse is embedded right into the history of the Mormons. Don’t miss the horror of the Mountain Meadows massacre and the shameful stories of “Plural Marriage”. Of course, now I can’t even start watching “Big Love.” I hear its great, but the whole time I’d be thinking about what I read in this book, and how it would really work: Men marrying their stepdaughters and using their children to form medieval alliances.

If I had to pick one book that you should read, I would pick Embracing the Wide Sky. You’ll walk away with a profound appreciation for humanity, a sense of hope for the future, and the urge to get some cool things done. The fastest and most enjoyable read was Under the Banner of Heaven.