Hal Flynn's Non-Fiction Reading List


This is a list of some of the non-fiction I've taken interest in within the last few years.

The Ancient Celts

This book is an examination into the history of the common thread of all countries in what is today Europe. "The Ancient Celts" is an excellent study of roughly 2000 years of Celtic history, describing their places of existence, some aspects of their culture, and chronology.

The Course of Irish History

This book is an account of Irish history compiled by numerous people. The majority of the book covers Irish history from the 1st Century A.D. through 2001 A.D. The book does give some pre-historic background about Ireland, to which two chapters are devoted. An excellent, well-written book.

Jarhead

Quite possibly one of the most therapeutic books I've ever read. "Jarhead" is an account of Gulf War I by Anthony Swofford, then a sniper in the Marine Corps. The story covers himself as a kid growing up in a military family, his life in Okinawa, joining the Marines, the push into the Middle East for Desert Shield, his time in Desert Storm, and his screw-up brother. The book tells things that only Marines (and those that spent their tours with them, like myself) know. The book begins and ends with him cleaning out and sorting out things in a foot locker; after reading this book, I felt as though metaphorically I'd done the same with some of the junk in my locker from my time on active duty.

The Taoist Classics I

This is the first of a four-volume compilation of Thomas Cleary translations. It contains the following five ancient Chinese texts in the Taoist canon:

  1. Tao Te Ching
  2. Chuang-Tzu
  3. Wen-Tzu - Understanding the Mysteries
  4. The Book of Leadership and Strategy - Lessons of the Chinese Masters
  5. Sex, Health, and Long Life - Manuals of the Taoist Practice

The Taoist Classics II

This is the second of a four-volume compilation of Thomas Cleary translations. It contains the following four texts:

  1. Understanding Reality - A Taoist Alchemical Classic
  2. The Innter Teachings of Taoism
  3. The Book of Balance and Harmony
  4. Practical Taoism

The Taoist Classics III

This is the third of a four-volume compilation of Thomas Cleary translations. It contains the following four texts:

  1. Vitality, Energy, Spirit - A Taoist Sourcebook
  2. The Secret of the Golden Flower - The Classic Chinese Book of Life
  3. Immortal Sisters - Secrets of Taoist Women
  4. Awakening to the Tao

The Taoist Classics IV

This is the fourth of a four-volume compilation of Thomas Cleary translations. It contains the following two texts:

  1. The Taoist I Ching
  2. I Ching Mandalas

The 9-11 Commission Report

Analysis of Al Qaeda and the US Government anti-terrorism capabilites.

A History of PI

This book was written by Profession Petr Beckmann, a Czech research scientist born in 1924 that visited the University of Colorado from then Soviet-controlled Czechoslovakia and "decided to stay permanently." His sense of humor throughout this book is dark, sardonic, and all-out hilarious. He is a truly fantastic writer.

Professor Beckmann starts the book with the assertion that humanity was already roughly aware of its value in prehistory, with evidence as early as 2000 BC. He then goes on to track it through Alexandria of antiquity and the Roman conquest, the height of Arab mathematic activity, the dark ages and middle ages in Europe, the Christian and Islamic crusades, the Enlightenment, and eventually brings it to the present-day 70s (the time in which the book was written). All-in-all, the book is not extremely technical in nature, and the proofs can be followed relatively easily until discussed from the 18th century onward, where knowledge of the Calculus is necessary to follow the proofs.

The Code Book: The Science of Secrecy from Ancient Egypt to Quantum Cryptography

This book is an excellent examination of the history of cryptography. It begins with a discussion of Queen Mary of the Scots, and briefly tracks back into the cryptography of antiquity. It then presses forward, covering the major cryptographic innovations of the last two millenia, ending with a discussion about quantum cryptography, and what possibly lies ahead for cryptography.

Overall, the book is a fascinating read. It is not technical, and discusses the big picture aspects of the various types of cryptography described in easy-to-understand terms and analogies. Mr. Singh's work in describing cryptography and raising awareness of it is commendable, and as an author he is stellar. I found it to difficult to put this book down until it was finished.

Fermat's Enigma: The Epic Quest to Solve the World's Greatest Mathematical Problem

This outstanding piece of literature summarizes the quest to solve the "last theorem" of Pierre de Fermat, the 17th-century math genius. Fermat made several lasting mathematical contributions, including further developing the calculus. It was his tangent curves used for limits that many students learn without knowing it to be a contribution of Fermat.

The book details the search for the solution to Fermat's last theorem, a permutation of the Pythagorean Theorem described as a^n + b^n != c^n while n > 2. Accounts of the various characters throughout history that tried and failed in proving or disproving Fermat's Last Theorem lead up to Professor Andrew Wiles, a current (at the time of publication) mathematics professor at Princeton. Upon reaching Wiles in the present-day, the book gives an account of the seven years leading to the proof.

This book is an excellent, entertaining, non-technical read. Like the last Singh book I read, I found it nearly impossible to put down. I literally gobbled it down in two days of pleasurable reading.

Men of Mathematics

This read has been a labor of love that I've been working on off-and-on for nearly a year. The book is as much about the contributions of the greatest men of mathematics as it is about them. An excellent read covering 2500 years of mathematics, beginning with Zeno and Eudoxus in the Fifth Century BC, and ending with Georg Cantor in the 20th Century. Bell doesn't shy away from the technical content, though he must pick cherries because of space limitations when writing about some of his subjects and their contributions (the Bernoullis, for example). I was particulary pleased with his chapter on Gauss, and found the fascinating the discussion of Cantor and his contributions to set theory.

The Mystery of the Aleph

I picked up this book completely on a whim while walking through the science aisle at the bookstore. It caught my eye for some strange reason, and I was inexplicably compelled to buy it. I'm glad I brought it home.

The central premise of the book is the work on the continuum hypothesis first put forward by Georg Cantor in the later part of the 19th century. The book gives background about Cantor's roots, childhood, education, domestic life, gives a round picture of him and his work leading up to his death in the Nervenklinik in Halle.

The book continues on describing work on the continuum problem by Zermelo, then Godel. It moves next to the work by Cohen, and closes with mention of the work by Jack Silver of UC Berkeley and Saharon Shelah of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. The book is not an overly technical read, and is accessible to most readers.

A Brief History of Time

This book was another impulse buy. I'd been thinking about doing some physics reading for a couple weeks, and just happened to be walking down the science aisle of the bookstore when I saw this one. This is, without a doubt, one of the better purchases I've ever made.

In this book, Hawking discusses the universe as we know it now. He touches on some of his work with black holes, the problem with the grand unified theories of physics, the affects of quantum theory on the universe, and where physics will likely go in the near future. It's not a technical read: it can be easily understood through Hawkings masterful pen and verse. But beware, and don't start this before any task that will consume a large amount of your attention and time; this one is a real page-turner.

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Last Update: April 10, 2006