Recent Books — 4/4

* “The Bottomless Well: The Twilight of Fuel, the Virtue of Waste, and Why We Will Never Run Out of Energy”:amazon — One of the better nonfiction books I have read in years. If you are thinking at all about energy policy, you should read this book. Its explanation of the energy economy in our society is lucid and insightful. I’d understood intuitively for years that to create the advanced products of our modern society — cars, computers, etc — you have to start with mountains of raw materials that get refined down into a small amount of useful goods. I hadn’t intuitively grokked that the same thing happens with energy — we start with gross amounts of highly chaotic energy (running water, burning hydrocarbons) and refine them down to the highly ordered, highly valuable electrons/photons used in computers, telecom, medical equipment, etc. These authors explain this in length, and clearly articulate how technology is pushing us even more towards an electricity basis and away from raw fuels.
The authors take a light hand on policy recommendations but an obvious policy question to consider — would you rather have nuke plants built in our country, or our armed forces deeply engaged in battles in oil-rich parts of the world? It is probably not a direct tradeoff, but they are not unrelated choices.
* “Under the Glacier”:amazon — this is a very challenging novel. deep references to the bible, to catholicism, to nordic myth, indian myth, and probably a thousand other creation myths, religions, and philosophies that i didn’t catch. the author was incredibly well read and wrote this in his 60s — i probably need to do another 20 years of reading to be able to begin to appreciate this novel.
* Another list of great novels of the 20th century — nothing shocking but a good reminder list