Bookshelf Beats is an interview site run by Gino Sorcinelli. He interviews different authors and writers about their favorite books. For mine, I chose James Gleick‘s Chaos (Viking, 1987), a book that blew my head wide open during a tumultuous time in my late 20s.
Here are a few excerpts:
My life while reading Chaos went through a total upheaval. The start-up company I was working for was purchased and shut down, I broke up with my girlfriend of six years, and I moved from Seattle to San Francisco to work as Slap Skateboard Magazine’s music editor. It seemed like a dream job, and one toward which I’d been working for a long time. By the time I finished reading Chaos, though, I knew I wanted to do so much more. After a month, I left Slap and worked my way into graduate school. I hadn’t been a heavy reader up to that point, but I haven’t stopped reading several books at a time since reading Chaos nearly 20 years ago.
…[T]he first tenet of chaos theory is “sensitive dependence on initial conditions,” more commonly known as “the butterfly effect.” Small changes at the start of any dynamical system can have huge ramifications later on. If we apply that to the time of my discovery of Gleick’s book and its content, I can’t say whether or not I’d be here talking about it now if any of those factors were different. The book changed my life.
There are many major interests and introductions that have landed me where I am now, but reading Chaos was one of the biggest bifurcations. Chaos theory was largely borne of phenomena that had been filtered out by other scientific and mathematical methods. In part it teaches you to look between things and not leave anything out. Once I started reading other books about science and media, I spent a while trying to distance myself from my past in skateboarding, BMX, ‘zine-making, and music journalism. I eventually realized that it all goes together, it all has its place. Now I refuse to choose between being nerdy and getting my hands dirty.
Many thanks to Gino for the opportunity to talk about the book, Steve McCann for loaning it to me way back when, and James Gleick, of course, for writing it. Read the whole interview here.