A Year of Books

For no particular reason, here’s a list of the books I’ve read in the past twelve months, along with a few comments.

Links to postmortems where appropriate.

  • 1/27/2013 – A Memory of Light (Robert Jordan & Brandon Sanderson)
  • 1/6/2013 – Anna Karenina (Leo Tolstoy, translated by Louise & Aylmer Maude)
  • 12/27/2012 – Christian Science (Mark Twain) A gift from my wife’s grandmother. Twain takes a critical look at the Christian Science religion (newly founded, back then) and its founder, Mary Baker Eddy. It’s funny: he wrote the book 100 years ago, and he makes some very definite – and very wrong – predictions about what will happen in 100 years. He thinks the Christian Scientists will take over everything. One less thing to worry about, I guess.
  • 12/26/2012 – Freedom (Jonathan Franzen) Just as good as everyone says. A whole web of people with deeply messed-up and deeply interconnected lives. Believable, emotional, powerful.
  • 12/22/2012 – The King of Elfland’s Daughter (Lord Dunsany) Reading this book was like eating Godiva chocolate. The first bites are heavenly, but the more you consume, the sicker you get. After a while, you just want it to be over.
  • 12/16/2012 – The Post-American World, Release 2.0 (Fareed Zakaria) An insightful look at the future of geopolitics. Surprisingly optimistic, given the title.
  • 12/9/2012 – The Customs of the Kingdoms of India (Marco Polo, translated by Ronald Latham) I’m pretty sure this little book  is an excerpt from a much longer work by Marco Polo, though the book itself doesn’t bother to give you any context. Anyway, pretty interesting, though Polo’s writing style gets old quick. “And you must believe I am telling you the truth when I say…” Every other paragraph.
  • 12/8/2012 – The Final Solution (Michael Chabon) Playful style, and a great idea for a story: a Sherlock Holmes in his eighties comes out of retirement for one last case. Starts off strong, weak ending.
  • 12/5/2012 – Tao Te Ching (Lao Tzu, translated by Victor H. Mair) Beautiful.
  • 12/4/2012 – The Koran (Muhammad, translated by N. J. Dawood) Not what I had hoped.
  • 11/28/2012 – Dracula (Bram Stoker)
  • 11/18/2012 – A Canticle for Leibowitz (Walter M. Miller Jr.) Very good book. Difficult to follow sometimes, but it makes you think. Deserves its status as a sci fi classic.
  • 11/10/2012 – The Little Prince (Antoine de Saint-Exupery, translated by Katherine Woods) Disappointing. Came across as preachy.
  • 11/1/2012 – Being Zen (Ezra Bayda) Interesting.
  • 9/23/2012 – Thinking, Fast and Slow (Daniel Kahneman) Very insightful, very good. A sharp look at how our brains work, and how they fail. Reading about cognitive biases means learning your own blind spots. My only complaint is Kahneman’s bloated writing style, which reflects his academic background.
  • 9/23/2012 – Batman: The Long Halloween (Jeph Loeb, with art by Tim Sale)
  • 9/23/2012 – The War of Art (Steven Pressfield) A useful kick in the pants for creative types, though some of it gets pretty far into left field.
  • 8/14/2012 – Famine Diary: Journey to a New World (Gerald Keenan, edited by James J. Mangan) The actual journal of an Irish immigrant who came to Canada fleeing the great potato famine. The fact that it’s true makes it all the more heartbreaking. Unfortunately, the editor far overstepped his bounds (in my opinion), not merely selecting or abridging but actually rewriting most of the text in his own words.
  • 8/14/2012 – The Doors of Perception and Heaven and Hell (Aldous Huxley) If you’ve ever wondered what it’s like to take a hallucinogen (in this case, mescaline) then this is the book for you.
  • 8/11/2012 – Rashomon and Other Stories (Ryunosuke Akutagawa, translated by Takashi Kojima) Some stories were better than others, but the title story “Rashomon” was beautiful.
  • 8/10/2012 – Atonement (Ian McEwan) Very good.
  • 8/7/2012 – The Necklace and Other Short Stories (Guy de Maupassant, translator unknown) I picked this up because I’d read and loved “The Necklace” in high school, but his story “Boule de Suif” (literally, “Ball of Fat”) was perhaps even better. Depressing, but skillfully done and true to human nature.
  • 8/4/2012 – The Cathedral and the Bazaar (Eric S. Raymond) A sort of manifesto for the philosophy of open source, Linux, and hackerdom. Insightful. This was the first I’d heard about the idea of a gift economy.
  • 7/7/2012 – Regarding the Pain of Others (Susan Sontag) Sort of interesting, but not what I’d hoped.
  • 7/5/2012 – The Martian Chronicles (Ray Bradbury)
  • 7/3/2012 – Magnificent Desolation (Buzz Aldrin) The autobiography of the second man to set foot on the moon. After reaching the apex of his career, Aldrin has nothing left to achieve, and his life falls apart. Depression, alcoholism, one failed marriage after another. But he gets it together in the end, and today he’s living a reclaimed life.
  • 7/3/2012 – Twelve Angry Men (Reginald Rose) Exquisite. Very short. You can read this in a couple hours, and you should.
  • 6/16/2012 – Mockingjay (Suzanne Collins) Sort of disappointing.
  • 6/10/2012 – Catching Fire (Suzanne Collins) Good, but not great.
  • 5/8/2012 – Atlas of Remote Islands (Judith Schalansky) Not a normal atlas. All the islands in this short book give you a map and a brief, true story about them. This kind of thing just fascinates me.
  • 5/6/2012 – Outliers (Malcom Gladwell)
  • 4/8/2012 – Mimus (Lilli Thal, translated by John Brownjohn) A good book.
  • 3/26/2012 – The Hunger Games (Suzanne Collins)

Any thoughts? Questions?

What have you read lately?

5 responses to “A Year of Books

  1. “Rashomon” and “Twelve Angry Men” are so clear in my mind as movies that I hadn’t really thought of them as coming from anywhere. I was aware that “Rashomon” had been a book (or I guess a story in a book) because the book is featured prominently in the movie Ghost Dog.

  2. Recently:

    The Last Chronicles of Thomas Covenant- I’ve worked my way through the first two series, and I’m quite happy with the third so far. Looking forward to the last book.

    Crime and Punishment- 69% through it, according to my Kobo. I’m absolutely adoring it so far. So much human nature.

    Speaker for the Dead- I had to read Ender’s Game for English and loved it. While this wasn’t quite as good, it was still very compelling.

    Musicophilia- Music and how the brain works… two of my favourite topics in one very interesting book.

    Leviathan- I recently abandoned this one at only about a fourth of the way through. As much as I love to talk about the dry, thick books I read without breaking a sweat, this one was just too much.

    Of your books, I can’t say that I’ve read very many. Thinking, Fast and Slow is one that I’ve been meaning to read… one day… eventually. Dracula I’ve read. Mimus was one of the options for our literature circles in English, and was my second choice, but I never did read it.

    • I’ve seen Thomas Covenant in stores before, and been intrigued, but never got around to it yet.

      Crime and Punishment was – ahem – required reading in my college Russian Lit class. Enjoyed it a lot.

      Speaker for the Dead – I had exactly the same reaction as you. Unfortunately, the two sequels after – Xenocide and Children of the Mind – are horrible imho.

      Leviathan – by Hobbes? Damn, girl. That is ambitious. 🙂 I’ve never even picked it up.

      • I think you should read the Chronicles of Thomas Covenant. It’s very deep for a fantasy series, although my one problem with it was that I had to carry a dictionary with me all the time. Big words everywhere.

        -Insert quote about the evils of ambition here- Yeah, that book pretty much took all my rosy ideas about philosophy and drowned them in a bath of cyanide. Next time I have that sort of idea I’ll just hit my head against a blunt surface a few times and have it over with.

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