I slowed down a little last month. Not much, though.
The Shallows – What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains – Nicholas Carr. The internet and high tech are changing the way we access information. And anyone who spends even a little time surfing the net has stories about how their attention span seems to be shrinking, or how they can read something on their computer screen and have trouble retaining it afterwards.
Carr explores these phenomena in this interesting work. He dives deep into the science, laying out the history of brain and memory research before sharing how memories are made and how our brains adjust due to different stimuli. Piggybacked with that is a look at the history of reading and printing, and how they changed civilization.
The concern, according to Carr, is that the flood of stimuli – constant hyperlinks, sounds, graphics, etc. – on each web page are changing the structure of our brains. The quiet, deep reading periods that allow our brains to relax and process are disappearing. Our brains, in turn, are changing to cope with the torrents of information we immerse them in. Are we losing something along the way? Carr thinks so, and some of the research supports him.
I tend to think it’s too early to say that the overall effect of the Internet on our brains is negative. But this is a pretty sobering read, especially when you spend as much time on the Internet as I do.
Darkness on the Edge of Town – Brian Keene. This was sitting in my queue of cheap/free Kindle books and October seemed like the perfect time to read it, since it’s a horror novel.
One day residents of a Virginia town wake up to complete darkness. The power is off, no radio, television, or phone signals are getting through, there are no clouds or sun or stars in the sky, and just beyond the town limits is an impenetrable darkness. A team of firefighters enter the darkness to get news from nearby towns, but they disappear, screaming in horror, and never return. Over the next few weeks, the town slowly disintegrates into chaos as the darkness turns the people against each other.
There is no happy resolution. In fact, there’s no resolution. It’s a pretty solid horror page-turner, though.
Matterhorn: A Novel of the Vietnam War – Karl Marlantes. Best of 2010 lists are starting to pop up, and this is listed prominently on many of them. Marlantes was a Marine Lieutenant in Vietnam, and this novel is loosely based on his experiences. It hits many of the themes other classic Vietnam works have addressed: the morality of the war; the conflict between the troops in the field and the brass far from the battlefields; the conflict about the war back home; the ambition that clouds many officers’ judgement; and the overt and covert racism American troops constantly battled.
Matterhorn is terrifically written. The characters are rich and interesting. We constantly feel the boredom and terror and hopelessness the soldiers faced. The battle scenes are ferocious. This is simply a first class accounting of the Vietnam War and a classic in the genre of war novels.