Archive for the ‘reading’ Category

Book list 1

One of my students was really inspired by his cognitive science class, so he shared the list of books his Yale professor recommended. I would like to emphasize the fact that the student’s academic focus is  programming.
Goedel, Escher, Bach: an Ethernal Golden Braid

William James: The Principles of Psychology
Antoine de Saint-Exupery: The Little Prince
Kees van Oers: On the genetics of avian personalities
Jerry A. Fodor: The modularity of Mind
*Modularity in Development and Evolution
Alan Turing: The Enigma
Neal Stephenson: Cryptonomicon, The Confusion, The System of the World, Quicksilver
Stephen Wolfram: A new kind of Science
Charles Darwin: The Origin of Species
Santiago Ramon y Cajal: Advice for a young investigator
*Gentle Bridges – Conversations with the Dalai Lama on the Sciences of Mind
Paul Bloom: Descartes’ Baby, How children learn the Meanings of Words

Steven Pinker: The Language Instinct, The Stuff of Thought, How the Mind Works

Stephen Anderson: Doctor Dolittle’s Delusion
Russ Rymer: Genie
J.L.Austin: How to do things with words
Virginia Valian: Why so Slow
Stanislav Debaene: The Number Sense (How the mind creates mathematics)
Noam Chomsky: Language and Problems of Knowledge
Mark Baker: The Atoms of Language
Stephen Anderson and David W. Lightfoot: The Language Organ
Ray Jackendoff: Foundations of Language
Randy Harris: The Linguistic Wars
Stephen Palmer: Vision Science – Photons to Phenomenology
David Marr: Vision
Donald Hoffman: Visual Intelligence
Escher, Dali & the Artists of Illusion – Masters of Deception
Elizabeth A. Styles: The Psychology of Attention
Arien Mack, Irvin Rock: Inattentional Blindness
Brian J. Scholl: Objects and Attention
Robert Axelrod: The Evolution of Cooperation
Robert Frank: Passions Within Reason
Thomas Schelling: The Strategy of Conflict
Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky: Choices, Values and Frames
Dan Ariely: Predictably Irrational
Gerd Gigerenzer: Adaptive Thinking
Geoffrey Miller: The Mating Mind – How Sexual Choice Shaped the Evolution of Human Nature
Matt Ridley: The Red Queen – Sex and the Evolution of Human Nature
Patricia Gowaty: Feminism and Evolutionary Biology
Robert Wright: The Moral Animal – Why we are the way we are: the new science of evolutionary psychology

I was thinking of you

While reading about the donkey.

green worm

Milko says I am a book addict. If I am a book addict, then everyone is a food / water / air addict. I have heard of people who have overcome their addiction to food / water / air, but to my best knowledge, they live in another dimension. On my current plane of existence donkeys die when they have just learned not to eat. So, I’ll be reading all my way to enlightenment, and I guess, it might take millennia…

Milko says I am a tree killer because I buy so many books. Well, I am a tree killer for sure, and I do confess I have never thought enough about that in ethical and spiritual terms, but I have thought about that in green terms and realized trees are renewable. Still I have to find out the answers to many questions like: Are trees mostly cut to produce book paper? What kind of books get the most paper? What happens to different kinds of books when they are bought and read once? Is paper made of other plants as well? What is the process of recycling like? Why don’t I start a (green) book publishing business (one of my teenage dreams)? Why don’t I promote / start / take part in a book related research?

What I now know is that I need to buy books, so that my students and friends have something good to read ( the town library does not get enough money for books, and I don’t think it spends the little money it gets only on worthwhile books). Many people I know cannot afford so many books; some people do have the money, but they’re not used to spending it on books. As I believe reading is essential, I do have to provide people with books. Lucho has been reminding me of our idea to start a library ( I mean a real library, in a separate room). I have not forgotten Doddo’s suggestion to start a reading group (Would you ever care about bringing back some of the books you have kept for more than a year, Doddo?). So, Milko, the books I buy are used many times by many people, and good books don’t need to be recycled – there will always be people who need to read them. Good books never die. (Dimitar, Radka has brought the Iliad and the Odyssey in English for you).

Now that you have been led to believe I am about to become and angel in a couple of millennia, I’ll make a confession: I am not passionate only about learning and helping others learn. It’s a lot about PLEASURE.

Reading is SEXY, guys. I love practicing it everywhere – in bed, on a bench, on the grass, in a tree, in the car, on the floor, on the table, standing in line, in the toilet, in a boring class. Milko would say I should buy a laptop. OK, Milko, let me ask you a question – Have you ever made love to a doll? I know you can close your eyes and not look at it, but … how does it feel when you touch it? How does it taste when you kiss it? I guess it smells of rubber, and I can hear the funny sounds.

Have you ever loved a book, Milko? I can remember doing that as early as I was 3. I cannot take my eyes off a beautiful book or … shelves of books (blush). Have you ever caressed a matt wax book cover? I guess the purr of a processor on a rainy afternoon could be just as cozy as the rustle of pages, but … the smell? That’s what makes old books irresistible – so sweet and unchemical.

I pray to God / Allah / Buddha / Jesus / Mother Theresa / Green Peace / Al Gore to forgive me. I am not quite sure if I know what I am doing.

avoid reading?

If you had grown up surrounded by books, if your parents had read to you and made up tales for you, if your grandparents (sick and tired of reading aloud to a three-year-old) had taught you how to read, if your mom had taken you to the town library to sign you up when you were six, then you’d take reading for granted and feel constantly deprived because there are so many books and so little time. You’d also be at a loss if you need to advocate reading. That’s how I felt while trying to explain the usefulness of reading to a student who believes that now that we have modern technology, the Internet and TV, reading has become obsolete, especially because it is a rather laborious and difficult endeavor.

At first, our conversation made me sad as I imagined this student’s future. Then I decided to try again and again and realized that I might need to turn into a crusader for reading. While taking a shower, I went deep into the issue and brought together seemingly unrelated phenomena. As usual, I thought I would need time to research, think, write, but I realized that there is no time for 16-17 years old students who believe they need to go to college. Thus, I decided to answer a couple of questions as soon as possible.

Can we avoid reading?
It depends on the way you plan to earn your living. If you want to use your brain rather than your hands and legs, then you’ll need to read a lot.

Pragmatic people know that reading provides you with access to information. What else can you gain from it?
It could help you grow smarter as practicing it requires using your imagination and reasoning a lot.

Why is reading harder than watching TV?
Look at the answer to the previous question: in order to get anything from reading, you have to think and imagine. TV does most of the thinking and almost all the imagining for you.

Can reading be completely substituted?
I don’t know. Reading is part of language. Even if you don’t read (the active side), but just listen (the passive side), you actually use language again. Some TV programs might use the difficult language you try to avoid by refusing to read.

Can difficult language be avoided? If you need to explain / understand difficult ideas, you’ll need to use / understand difficult language. Sometimes complex ideas are not amenable to oversimplified explanations. As Einstein said, “Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler.” Thus listening to complex explanations is not much easier than reading them. Try watching some university level video lectures on the Internet.

Can language be avoided altogether? Could we use pictures, video and non-language sounds to express ideas some old-fashioned people used to express through words? Why not? We could use gestures, inarticulate sounds, visual signs and symbols. Yes! As long as blind people do not use letters in order to read, as long as deaf people do not hear words, as long as dumb people do not pronounce words, we could make it! I wonder why, then, some autistic people are taught how to communicate through language? Shouldn’t we learn their ways instead? Isn’t it going to be easier if we are to avoid reading altogether?

Can we learn how to read?
If autistic people can learn how to communicate through language, then my students could too.

Should I teach my students language skills?
Perhaps yes, as their parents pay me to teach them language skills, as my students are going to take language tests and go to colleges, where studying is done through language for the most part, and finally these young people are hoping to do well-paid jobs, and most well-paid jobs rely heavily on competent use of language skills – reading, listening, writing, speaking.