Book Reviews: Religion, Philosophy, Forensics, and Leonardo da Vinci

I am so impressed with 2016 as a Year of Books so far. From the moment I picked up Solitude on day one and completely fell in love with it, my luck with book lists has remained at an excellent level.

This week was no exception. Four books, three of them excellent, one of them quite good.

Crisis Of Conscience by Raymond Franz

411JC60EA4L._SX306_BO1,204,203,200_If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you may know that I was brought up as a Jehovah’s Witness, which is one of those religions that most people seem to view as weird, but basically harmless.

It definitely is weird, and it’s definitely not harmless, and escaping from it – like escaping from any cult – is difficult and horrible. But very, very worthwhile.

The Jehovah’s Witnesses are run by the Governing Body, a group of men who live and work in a building called Bethel – aka the JW HQ – in New York. Raymond Franz used to be one of these people, until he realised the level of hypocrisy and awfulness, and decided to leave.

Crisis of Conscience will be of interest to people who have recently left the JWs, or are considering leaving. By the time I read it this week, I’d already been out for roughly a decade, and so I didn’t find it particularly stunning or interesting. But as an eye-opener for people who are just starting to doubt whether what they’ve been taught by the JWs is actually true, and whether the organisation actually is led by god or even has their best interests at heart, it’s certainly worth a read.

The Art Of Memory Forensics by Ligh, Case, Levy & Walters

5149KevJcxL._SX258_BO1,204,203,200_I interviewed Jamie Levy a while ago on Forensic Focus, and I find her Volatility project both interesting and a big step forward for the field of digital forensics.

Volatility is an open-source project that allows people to analyse memory samples from a variety of operating systems. The Art of Memory Forensics is essentially a Volatility handbook, but it’s also much more than that.

There are lots of digital forensics books that deal with individual aspects of the field, but the only book I could really compare this one to would be Digital Evidence and Computer Crime by Eoghan Casey. It is both in-depth and accessible – the kind of line that’s really hard to walk, especially in such a technical discipline.

Starting out from absolute beginner level, describing the architecture of a PC and the basics of memory, the book then goes on to talk people through all the information they’ll need to conduct their own memory forensic examinations.

100% recommended for digital forensicators of all levels.

How To Think Like Leonardo Da Vinci by Michael Gelb

how-to-think-like-leonardo-da-vinci-book-cover-10-12-103I bought this book ages ago, because a charity shop was having a BOGOF sale and I couldn’t find another free one that looked interesting enough. I’ve avoided reading it for a long time, because I’m not really a fan of self-help books in general and I expected it to be a bit crap, frankly.

However, it was excellent. So good, in fact, that I think I’m actually going to follow it for a while and do all the recommended exercises.

Some of the “science” in the book is a little sketchy; it’s not all properly backed up by verified research, and in that respect it’s sort of what you’d expect from a self-help book, but the premises of the book and the exercises Gelb runs through for the purposes of self-improvement seem really good.

But I’ll reserve absolutely final judgement until I’ve done all the exercises, so check back in a few weeks’ time for more. 😉

Zen And The Art Of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert M. Pirsig

Zen-and-the-art-of-motorcycle-maintenanceThis was one of those shameful gaps in my list of read books, because everyone I know who’s read it has raved about it, so I wasn’t exactly surprised when I liked it too.

Part memoir, part philosophy lecture, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance is the kind of book that might make you question how you think. It’s also filled with quoteable truisms.

“The truth knocks on the door and you say, “Go away, I’m looking for the truth,” and it goes away.”

“He was insane. And when you look directly at an insane man all you see is a reflection of your own knowledge that he’s insane, which is not to see him at all.”

“Mental reflection is so much more interesting than TV it’s a shame more people don’t switch over to it.” 

“You want to know how to paint a perfect painting? It’s easy. Make yourself perfect and then just paint naturally.” 

And some which are just supremely relatable:

“I think you can understand… why I must always seem so reserved and remote to [my friends]. Once in a while they ask questions that seem to call for a statement of what the hell I’m thinking about, but if I were to babble what’s really on my mind about, say, the a priori presumption of the continuity of a motorcycle from second to second… they’d just be startled and wonder what’s wrong. I really am interested in this continuity and the way we talk and think about it and so tend to get removed from the usual lunchtime situation and this gives an appearance of remoteness. It’s a problem.”

The above quote had that brilliant finally! someone else too! effect on me. I spent five years of my life pretending to be stupid (yes, really); pretending to be uninterested in philosophy; pretending I gave a shit about the shallow, vacuous pursuits in life and no shits at all about the deeper academic ones. Without wanting to sound too dramatic – this is precisely true – it felt like it was killing my soul. And the above statement was a large part of why it started in the first place.

Nowadays I’m being true to myself again, and I’m loving it, and I don’t give a fuck if people think I’m a weirdo. Which is nice.

And a paragraph which aptly summed up my own relationship with undergraduate university study:

“As the class goes on Phaedrus sits staring out the window feeling sorry for this old shepherd and his classroom sheep and dogs and sorry for himself that he will never be one of them. Then, when the bell rings, he leaves forever.” 

What have you read this week? What do you think I should read next? 

Do you have a book you’d like me to review? Drop me a line through the Contact form.


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