The Bookworm Club

Learning new ideas from different domains is one of my great joys in life

I'm currently reading The Immune System: A Very Short Introduction by Paul Klenerman. I've read about 15 books from the Very Short Introductions series. As the series name implies, each book is an introduction to a different domain, written by an expert in that domain. In general they're very jargon-y but if you can wade through the jargon you usually come away with some fascinating new ideas.

Sometimes I question why I read so much. Wouldn't my time be better spent doing something else? Over the last few years I've come to appreciate that I read so much because encountering new ideas fills me with joie de vivre, joy of living. It's only a brief flash, but it's palpable. It's the same feeling as when I'm in the presence of a huge, 1000-year-old tree, or when I'm staring at a starry sky.

In the case of The Immune System: A Very Short Introduction I got that feeling within the first 10 pages:

The immune system is not limited to a single set of specialized cells with discrete functions, but is embedded in every cell in the body.

What a cool idea! And as a sidenote, what a great storytellling hook. I don't think of science books as having hooks (aside from the popular science stuff), but there you have it. It makes me wonder how I can apply hooks more to my own day job (technical writing; I write how-to guides, references, and so on for website developers).

After I get that flash of joie de vivre thanks to the new idea, the next thing that usually happens is that I start thinking about how the new idea applies to other domains of life that I'm familiar with. For example, after learning that every cell in my body plays a part in my immune system, my mind immediately flashed to computer security. I'll avoid making any grandiose claims about how the two domains are related, because I know how finicky computer security experts are, but I think it's reasonable to suggest that a sound computer security strategy for a company requires many, many layers of defense, similar to how our immune systems operate. I wouldn't be surprised if computer security experts draw inspiration from immunologists, and vice versa.