The Fabric of Reality by David Deutsch

Disclaimer: I am by no means a quantum physicist (or any type of physicist for that matter), the topic underpinning most of this book, and so my commentary should be read as a layperson trying to understand the arguments of the book rather than a critique of the accuracy of the arguments themselves.

 

The book opens by describing Young’s double slit experiment and its somewhat counterintuitive result due to wave interference, and then goes on to explain the same interference pattern is seen when a single photon is sent through the experiment at a time. Dr. Deutsch then argues that the single particle we can detect is being interfered with a real something, as opposed to something abstract like probability, that is evidence of an otherwise unseen multiverse which interacts directly with the universe we can observe. (The Khan Academy has a good explanation of the double slit experiment here, and two videos of the single photon experiment can be found here and here. If you really want to geek out on this here is a roughly 50 minute from Nobel laureate Richard Feynman on the topic.)

Deutsch then goes on to weave the aforementioned “Many Worlds” theory with inductivism, quantum computing, and Darwinian evolution to a rough framework for what reality is, assuming the things posited in the book were true. At times the subject matter was way over my head, but sticking through it led me to new ways to think about the world and its potential. One of the fascinating thoughts I took from the book was that what appears as junk DNA would be random in closely related universes and as a result would form a type of biological “crystal” that would stand out against the randomness of a single universe.

I recommend the book to anyone who is curious about how the world works and is willing to engage with something likely to be difficult to interpret at times to the point where it poses more questions than answers. Those questions are really what matters though, aren’t they? The two things I would point out as negative are that the book relied on an acceptance of what seemed like assertions and that the four “strands” of ideas were not clearly interwoven.

The Savage Detectives by Roberto Bolano

I struggled with this book because at times it was Bolaño at his best, his prose embodying a bohemian artist's life with touches of mysticism sprinkled in, and at other times it read as an eyewitness account of monotony. While The Savage Detectives did not live up to my expectations from reading 2666 a couple of years prior it is probably still worth a read.

The book is divided into three sections, the first and third narrated from the point of view of a young aspiring poet living in Mexico City, and the second is a series of interviews of various characters, typically centered on their experiences Ulises Lima and Arturo Belaño, two of the founders of "Visceral Realism", a group of young Mexican poets in the novel. The first and third sections are where Bolaño's prose is at its best, propelling the story along at a pace commensurate with the feeling of the moment and fleshing out the thoughts and emotions of the characters. The second, and largest section of the book was where I got bogged down. Storytelling through the perspectives of many narrators was sometimes compelling, and allowed for a number of different perspectives on the main topics of the book, but I found it difficult to deeply engage with any given story barring only a handful of extended entries. 

The topic of the novel that touched me most deeply was the unfocused passion of the main characters and how that passion failed to manifest itself into much in the way of poetry; the characters self-professed vocation. That isn't to say that they were inactive, but that the sum of their activity did not result in any impactful outcome. I zeroed in on that as I am in my early thirties, a new father, and thinking more about the impact I want my life to have on the world as opposed to a focus on promotion or validation from others; but enough about me...

The Savage Detectives is a worthwhile read for someone who has read Bolaño's other work and wants to read more, but for someone new to his work I would recommend 2666, which is a larger investment of time, but offers better storytelling on a similar subject.

Batman: Earth One Volume 2

If you're unfamiliar with the Earth One series from DC Comics it is a series of  short graphic novels telling what is effectively the origin / early adventure stories of DC heroes in a new way (different earth, separate from the DC Universe, yada yada).

The first book in the Batman series was great (Volume 1; not very creatively named, but easy to archive), but I believe Volume 2 exceeded that. It was really entertaining to see Batman struggle a bit, take some risks, have those risks pay off or blow up in his face, and continue to learn how to be The Batman. There are also enough twists and turns to keep you surprised, remember this is not tied to the DC Universe canon, which keeps you on your toes and makes reading the books a lot of fun.

Overall this is definitely a recommend from me, and if you get it, I hope you enjoy it as well.