Monday, April 1, 2013

Jenny's Book 4.13: The Making of the Atomic Bomb


It's April and the sweet glow from the Tournament of Books is starting to fade. Sigh. You know what that means, time to replace the sweet glow with a slightly more scary nuclear one! Heh. Just kidding. The nuclear glow at Chernobyl was literally a killer: one dude looked straight into the reactor core and was dead meat.

Before I talk about this month's book, a quick review of the TOB. This year I completed a record best: 17 of the 18 titles by the final match-up. It's strange that the one I didn't get to was Bring Up the Bodies, but I honestly thought it would make it to the final round and I'd have more time for it. Oh well, I am sure I will get to it sooner or later! Interestingly, I'm supposed to read Wolf Hall for my book club next month. I'm thinking I should reread that first, and then go directly to to Bring Up the Bodies

In other news, I did make an April selection. It's called The Making of the Atomic Bomb by Richard Rhodes. You may remember my long standing fascination with nuclear disasters. Given that, it seemed like a shame to miss out on this rather epic tome. I think I must have bought this book around the time of the tsunami and nuclear disaster in Japan. I think I might have come across the title while searching for books about nuclear power. 25 years ago, this book won the Pulitzer AND the National Book Award AND the National Book Critics Circle Award, so needless to say, that seemed like a good bet for readability. I actually have a copy, but once I committed to it for the month, I put it on my Kindle. Weighing in at approximately 900 pages, this one seems like it will be better as an eBook. It's prodigiously footnoted, but they are academic footnotes, and I tend to skip those and just skim through them at the end anyways. As we have discussed previously, Kindles and footnotes are unmixy things.

I'm also linking to a pretty interesting article about why Amazon acquired Goodreads. The most astounding fact in the article is that only 19% of Americans do 79% of the book reading. Maybe we should make a t-shirt that says, "We are the 19%!"  Heh. I do have a Goodreads account, but I do most of my list-making and such here. I'm only really active in the one group of TOB readers. I don't know why I don't use it more, you'd think it would be perfect for me. Hmm..something to consider, I guess.

I've started The Making of the Atomic Bomb. It's interesting, because although you'd expect it to start right with the Manhattan Project. However, I've been pleasantly surprised to find that it instead goes back all the way to the turn of the century with the earliest scientists working with nuclear physics and radioactivity. So far, I've read about Rutherford and now the author is introducing Bohr. I hope there's a part about the Curies! I've always wanted to know about Marie Curie.

The only question at this point is whether I can get through such a one in a single month!


  1. I read that article and I have a couple of thoughts about it.

    1. The headline seems a little dumb to me. "Why?" Um. Duh.

    2. The weird bar graph that shows almost *half* as "Everything else"? That is so bizarre. How is that helpful information? What the heck is in there?!

    3. Aaand... this is funny: I was surprised that the number 19% is so low... I asked Bill what % he thought it would be (before telling him the number) and he said, "3%". HA. Guess I think there are more readers and he thinks there are less (makes sense, since I am one and he is not) (I mean... Bill *can* read... you know. He just doesn't read a lot of books. Heh.)

    Now... for the dramatic backlash. I feel like "Let's wait and see what they do" is the best way to look at this whole thing. Sort of like when Facebook (which I hate) bought Instagram (which I love). I'm sure I'll get screwed sooner or later (and IG has already had some missteps this past year) but I'm still waiting and seeing.

    I also apply the "Who does it hurt more? Me or Amazon?" rule for the people who are leaving GR in a huff right now. Amazon don't care if you leave, kids. But will *you* miss GR? So who loses more? If it's *you*, this might not be the best choice. Just sayin'.

    Re: Not getting into GoodReads more -- While the site has a *lot* of great things going for it (those forums are so well-designed... I wish WW would buy that back-end from them!) they've missed the "social" bit to some degree. I think you might use it more if it offered an easier "Wall" type area for chitter chatter that wasn't just [robot voice:] "Here is the book I am reading and here are my comments about it." (It may work differently than that, but that's how it *seems* to work to me.)

    I have more thoughts on Amazon and it's "killing of the independent bookstore," but I don't have the time right now to get into it. I will say this... Amazon (and specifically, its offering of both eBooks [thank you for convincing me to try the eBook in June 2009 -- I am forever in your debt] *and* aBooks) has turned me from a near-non-reader (def. less than 12 books a year) back into a Frequent Reader (at around 50 books in 2012). Which... is good for all bookstores! Right?

  2. Oh, yeah -- and I *did* finish my March book (and am already about 1/4 way into April's!) but I just need to get it written up! :)

  3. You know. All this thinking about Goodreads made me have a very sneaky thought, and you sort of mentioned it above. They do have lovely forums. Really nice. We could make a private group there and talk about WW *there*.

    Seriously. We hate the WW forums, so let's move.

  4. Oh, by the way. I've been primarily reading this on the Kindle. Lots of footnotes since it's an academic book, and I largely ignore them. But once, I tried reading a little of it on my phone. Holy Moly. I cannot believe you tried to navigate footnotes from Strange & Norrell from your phone. I accidentally clicked on a footnote when trying to turn the page. Then, it wouldn't go back to the original place in the text. After trying for a while to successfully find my place, I did it again. Ugh. I gave up. What a disaster.

  5. EXACTLY! Once you get to the footnote, if you click on the footnote number, in *theory*, it will take you back to your original place in the book. But when you try to click in that tiiiiiny little area of the screen, it just opens the Kindle options (because it thinks you've just tapped at the top of the screen.)

    And then you think "Well, I'll just sync to 'Furthest Location.'" Some books are smart and won't count the footnotes as the "furthest location" so you can actually use that, but a lot of books think that your "furthest location" is the footnote. At the end of the book. So who knows where you were!

    Why the *f* can't they just make the footnote a pop-up -- like the way highlighting/notes works? Would that be great? Click it, a pop up comes up and gives you this info. Then you dismiss it and keep reading.

    If that's too much to ask... how about make the link *back* to the text easier to click. Like... put the little hypertext link at the *end* of the footnote?

    SUPER frustrating, yes.

  6. It was AWFUL. And it was only then that I realized just how painful that must have been.

    Footnotes as pop-ups is a way better idea.