What I read last week
East of Eden (John Steinbeck)
East of Eden is named for the biblical land where Cain was exiled following his murder of Abel, and as this naming would suggest, Biblical references pervade the story. The bulk of it follows the struggles between two pairs of brothers across multiple generations. Steinbeck at one point even makes the effort to have several characters engage in a philosophical discussion of the parable. In the end, the heavy-handed themes of this book aren’t so bad (and even interesting to think about sometimes), and what ended up drawing me in was the elaborate character development and powerfully descriptive imagery of the Salinas Valley. This is a great read if you’re looking for a solid classic of American literature.
Why We Sleep (Matthew Walker)
The key takeaway from this book is that sleep is very, very, very important. Walker employs an arsenal of scientific literature to drive home the point that sleep has profound implications throughout our lives, ranging from the deep role that sleep plays in the earliest stages of fetal brain development to the numerous links between sleep and aging-related diseases. However, a good number of his conclusions are sensationalist, and like most popular science books, there seems to be a fair amount of statistical craft. I ended up having to do some research of my own to figure out what exactly was worth noting. Looking past these shortcomings, it’s a decent introduction to an exciting field, and I’ll probably be a bit more vigilant about going to bed on time.
What I’m reading this week
World Order (Henry Kissinger)
Opinions on morality aside, Kissinger’s level of perspective and impact is found in few others. In this book, he lays forth his beliefs on how civilizations have defined and asserted themselves both historically as well as in modernity.
Dune (Frank Herbert)
Dune is a sci-fi novel set in the far future where control of the galaxy is divided among several noble families. I’ve heard that it’s a compelling exploration of the interfaces between tech, politics, and religion. This work has been on my list for quite a while, and I’m excited to finally read through it.