As promised, I am gonna talk a bit about the books that I enjoyed last year. Remember, these are not reviews! May be, if a visitor to my blog is contemplating about getting a book from the list, but haven’t made up his or her mind, I hope my post might help. Also, the order of the list does not conform to rankings of any sort. So, let me start.
1. The Cinema of Mamoru Oshii – Fantasy, Technology and Politics, by Dani Cavallaro
I chanced upon this book totally by accident. Oshii’s work has been the subject of many books, the most prominent being, Stray Dog of Anime: The Films of Mamoru Oshii, by Brian Ruh. I loved that book. If you had watched all of Oshii’s films, it should be evident that he has a unique style that cannot be replicated by any other director. As had been the case with many Oshii fans, my first exposure to Oshii was Ghost in the Shell. It will always remain on the very top of my best anime ever list. Then I worked back and forth, seeing all of his other films.
Dani takes a similar approach like Brian in that she analyzes Oshii’s work chronologically. She has made a name for herself writing extensively about Japanime. Some of her other titles include, The Anime Art of Hayao Miyazaki, Cyberpunk and Cyberculture: Science Fiction and the Work of William Gibson, etc. Her analysis of Oshii’s work borders around the academic and is extremely detailed. However, one cannot escape the feeling that some of her treatment is very similar to that of Brian’s. Nevertheless, its a good read. One thing needs to be said though – Since the treatment is academic, the language she uses in the book is highly stylized and sometimes complex, at least for a non native English speaker. But it grows on you.
If any big fan of Oshii is interested in reading this book, I would say, go ahead. It would be another great addition to the Oshii school of film making. By the way, who wouldn’t wanna buy a book that has one of anime’s most iconic images on the cover? 😀
I do have a pdf version of the book as well. If anyone is interested, please let me know.
2. Cycles of Time: An Extraordinary New View of the Universe, by Roger Penrose
I never thought twice about buying this book because of one reason – Sir Roger Penrose. I have read all his books and in fact he is one of few people who were primarily responsible for me taking interest in Theoretical Physics. I read The Emperor’s New Mind for the first time roughly 9 years after it had come out. I was hooked. I followed it up with all his other books. I watch his lectures, television interviews and listen to his radio programs. He is one of those unique people who is changing the way we look at out world and our universe (multiverse). In Cycles of Time, he highlights Conformal Cyclic Cosmology, which is an extension of General Relativity to explain the nature of the universe, unlike string theory approaches and inflation model of the universe. The way he explains the importance of the Second Law of Thermodynamics is fascinating. Entropy FTW!
I have read in many places that the book is a bit advanced for the normal reader. But, with a little effort, one can definitely grasp the core concept of CCC. Detailed mathematical treatment of the methods are given in Appendices. I agree with The Guardian’s review of the book that the analogy of Russian doll geometry with CCC was mindblowing and has M. C. Escher written all over it (I loved Gödel Escher Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid by Douglas Hofstadter). So, if you are a budding physicist/mathematician or someone who is just interested in math and physics in general, give it a shot. Penrose’s books are one of a kind.
That completes Part I. More books coming later…