Wednesday, December 1, 2010

8 Holiday Books

Wondering what to give the book lovers on your holiday list? Why not ignore the blockbuster bestsellers and go for the unique and unusual this year? Here's a selection of some of Nick Herbert's favorite things in print.

1. Quantum Reality: Beyond the New Physics by Nick Herbert. Not only one of the best popular books on quantum physics but also the best book about the quantum reality question--a problem so simple to state (what is a measurement?) but so difficult to solve that it continues to baffle every physicist who has ever encountered it. QR is your royal road to this deep quantum mystery.

2. The Age of Entanglement: When Quantum Mechanics Was Reborn by Louisa Gilder. "Entanglement" is an intimate connection between things only possible in quantum physics. Through lively imagined conversations between physicists, Gilder describes the birth and development of this new quantum intimacy and its present exploitation in the growing fields of quantum computing and quantum cryptography.

3. The Great Bay: Chronicles of the Collapse by Dale Pendell. A kind of Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire for the entire human species. Pendell is best known for his three-volume history of mind-altering drugs from coffee beans to ecstasy. Pendell's Great Bay has been aptly described as "wise, cunning, ecological fiction."

4. The Ware Tetralogy by Rudy Rucker (introduction by William Gibson). Rucker's science fiction is truly twisted, bizarre and wildly funny. Although described as a "cyberpunk", Rudy disdains the cyberpunk label in favor of his own one-man genre of "beatnik science fiction". Here in one volume are four of Rucker's most imaginative (and my favorite) novels: Software, Wetware, Freeware and Realware.

5. Esalen: America and the Religion of No Religion by Jeffrey Kripal. The official history of the flagship growth center in Big Sur that continues to foster innovative movements in psychology, bodywork, international relations and other facets of "the human potential". Full of stories of people and ideas. Kripal covers in full Esalen's almost-50-year-old history. Another good book about Esalen's early years is Walter Truett Anderson's Upstart Spring.

6. My all-time favorite book of erotic fiction is Raold Dahl's My Uncle Oswald which describes a conspiracy to gather the sperm of famous men, including Einstein, Bernard Shaw and the King of Sweden, to sell to wealthy women. Hilarity ensues. A promising first novel Delphian Blue by "Gregor Severine" imagines a planet inhabited by a powerful shape-shifting Male Presence. Not surprisingly (for a "spiritual-erotic novel") the crew of the first Federation ship sent to explore Delphia 3 consists of six Earth females with very different abilities and temperaments. A holodeck fantasy run amok.

7. Everybody loves Dr Suess books but "That famous Cat in the Hat? Nick does not like that Cat!" Nick's favorite Suess book is I Had Trouble in Getting to Solla Sollew. My son Khola liked it too, but his all-time favorite children's book was Kick, Pass and Run--a book about animals learning to play football. Betsy and I must have read him KPR a thousand times.

8. Santa Cruz, CA boasts a vibrant poetry scene, partly due to the efforts of Len Anderson and Dennis Morton who host the Poetry Santa Cruz website and associated readings. Len Anderson, a Berkeley physics PhD, recently published Affection for the Unknowable, a collection of his poems. Other fine Santa Cruz poetry collections include Robert Sward's 4 Incarnations, Patti Sirens' Antarctica and a recent anthology Harvest from the Emerald Orchard featuring 18 Santa Cruz poets. Behave like a Medici. Become a patron of the arts. Purchase a few books of poetry.

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