November 19, 2015
Have been very slack at logging reading this year. Does anyone read these or care, anyway? Who knows. But they are useful for me. So here is a recap, glancing through my diary. Feel like I read a lot less than usual this year. I also think I am getting a lot of my mental stimulation from podcasts these days.
The Pastel City – M John Harrison
First in the Viriconium series. Oddly angled fantasy, a very different mood and mode, elegiac and austere. Written back in the 70s, maybe? Harrison is a wonderful writer and this is bizarre and neat.
Mad, Bad and Dangerous to Know – Ranulph Fiennes
Autobiography of adventurer/explorer/mad bastard Fiennes. What I read of it was entertaining.
Occupational Hazards – Rory Stewart
Scottish dude ends up running a really large province in Iraq under the Coalition Provisional Authority after the US invasion. Really fascinating insight into what trying to run a country and make things better is like when the country is messy and complex, and the area you are in charge of has its own very distinct history and culture from the rest of the country. Things do not go well. Great read.
Think Two Products Ahead – Ben Mack
Really excellent book about marketing and how to think about marketing and communicate what you are doing by a, well, wizard.
8 Tribes: The Hidden Classes of NZ
That book about NZ being made up of 8 tribes. Meh. It was short to skim. Deservedly forgotten.
What We See When We Read – Peter Mendelsund
Really interesting book by a designer – so there was lots of wild design as a book – who loves to read, about what goes on in our heads as we read, and how we visualise and imagine and interact with words. Definitely worth a look if that sounds like you.
Capital in the 21st Century – Thomas Piketty
Epic tome about inequality and how it isn’t going to go away, and in fact has and will worsen, because of how our economic system is structured. Compelling argument. Necessary to be familiar with at least the introduction.
Ritual – Malidoma Some
West African shaman describes the function, role and importance of ritual in the life of his people, with some eye-opening stories.
Conversation – Theodore Zeldin
Something short and light about the art of conversation, I think.
The Laughing Monsters – Denis Johnson
Novel, gave up real quick, Johnson is great but wasn’t in the mood.
Prophet – Brandon Graham (comic)
If you want some very very weird sci fi comics, this is your jam. Epic scope, weird, mad, fun. The most Metabarons-esque thing since Metabarons.
The Truth is a Cave in the Black Mountains – Neil Gaiman
Nice short story with illustrations, sort of the darker side of Gaiman.
Autobiography – Miles Davis
Entertaining ride, didn’t get too far. Jazz guys were a pretty wild crew, back in the day.
Money: Master The Game – Tony Robbins
Pretty exceptional book about managing money and investing. Robbins used his access to the most successful billionaire investors in the world to model what they are doing and put it together in a system. Essential.
I Will Teach You To Be Rich – Ramit Sethi
Irritating smartarse Indian teaches you money management and investment. Very sharp, good material, but annoying.
A God Somewhere – John Arcudi (comic)
Random grab from the library. Neat take on someone actually getting super powers and the guy who remains his best friend through it.
The Wake – Snyder (comic)
Ditto random. Award winning comic. Decent.
Neonomicon – Alan Moore (comic)
Alan Moore turns his genius to modernising Lovecraft. Really fantastic, and easily the darkest and nastiest thing I have read by him. So good.
Ecko Rising – Danie Ware
Random genre novel from the library on a whim. Sort of a sf/fantasy mashup. Shades of Thomas Covenant without the prose ability. A heavily implanted hi-tech assassin wakes up in a fantasy world, doesn’t know what is going on but has some special abilities in the local sense. Fast, fun read.
New Spring – Robert Jordan
Never knew this existed until I found it and read it. A prequel to the Wheel of Time, which I read a bunch of when I was much younger, then gave up on 300 pages into book 6 when nothing had happened for those 300 pages. This prequel features Lan and Moiraine 20 years before the first book, and how they got to where they got to at the start of the first book. It was really fun to reconnect with that world, though man does Jordan go on and on. Like, a hundred pages of this book could have been summarised in a paragraph or twp, but the depth of the world is amazing.
What I Learned Losing A Million Dollars – Jim Paul
Really useful book about when to get out, and how not to lose money, and the inner psychological game of money and investing. Biggest takeaway is this amazing question: if you were not already in your current situation, would you want to get into it?
The White Lama – Alejandro Jodorowsky (comic)
Fun times as Jodo does Tibet.
An Interpretation of Universal History – Ortega y Gasset
This was actually pretty fascinating. Dude takes on Toynbee’s model of history by showing that the Rome Toynbee takes as an exemplar of civilisation never existed on those terms.
Guide to Tranceformation – Richard Bandler
Bandler returns and summarises his life’s work. Best book you could get on NLP.
Ancillary Justice – Ann Leckie
Hugo Award winner? Real good for reasons it is difficult not to give spoilers about. Slowly uncovering just who the main character is and their history is exceptional.
Infinite Jest – David Foster Wallace
Read about 4/10 of it, which is an immense amount of this tome. It is incredible and Wallace is obvious genius and deserving of whatever praise is heaped upon him. Still, too long, eh? Gargantuan, genius, very funny, very dark, very empathic. No wonder the poor bugger topped himself. Sort of hope to get back to it someday.
Radical Acceptance – Tara Brach
Skimmed it. Woo Buddhist positive psychology.
Bold – Peter Diamandis
Very very interesting book about accelerating change and exponential technologies and what that means for changing the world via business. We are living in very interesting times.
Man’s Search for Meaning – Victor Frankl
Classic book by psychiatrist holocaust survivor about the experience of Auschwitz and what separated those who survived from those who didn’t. Incredible, powerful, stark view into humanity, and what is really important. Essential.
Ancillary Sword – Ann Leckie
Sequel to the above. Still enjoyable but much less interesting since most of what there is to be revealed has been revealed.
Magic and Mystery in Tibet – Alexandra David-Kneale
Woo. If you only read one book on Tibet, this is the one. French woman travels around Tibet in the early 1900s, spending time with hermits and magicians and in monasteries and documenting her experience and the stories people told her. There was some wild and crazy shit happening in Tibet, and credible miraculousness.
6 Months to 6 Figures – Peter Voogd
Sharp, punchy, entrepreneurial book. I rate it.
The Metabarons – Alejandro Jodorowsky (comic)
Jodorowsky’s masterwork, in a number of ways. A lot of what would have gone into Dune made its way into this. Mindfuckingly epic account of a thoroughly unreasonable lineage as they tear the galaxy apart.
Graveyard Book – Neil Gaiman
Read a chapter, Gaiman doing storytelling, was not in the mood.
Moore does Lovecraft in Lovecraft era. Still coming out. Nice.
The Death Cure – James Dashner
Third part of the Maze Runner trilogy. Saw the first movie randomly, the second movie is way better and I recommend it, read this cos I couldn’t be bothered waiting for the third movie. A lot must have changed in the second book to movie adaptation. Anyhow. Decent enough. Very YA.
Beyond the Beautiful Forevers – Katherine Boo
Absolutely extraordinary. Pulitzer prize winning journalist gets to know slum dwellers in Mumbai over several years. Writes up an eventful period of their lives as a novel, essentially nonfiction but written novelistically and based on immense interviews etc. Shattering, profound.
Although of Course You End Up Becoming Yourself – David Lipsky
Lipsky spent a week interviewing David Foster Wallace on the last leg of the book tour launching Infinite Jest, as Wallace was in the process of going stratospheric. Fascinating as an account of a guy coping with the descent of fame, and as an insight into a remarkable mind. A film of it came out, End of the Tour, haven’t seen it.
Hard To Be A God – Arkady and Boris Strugatsky
Russian SF from way back. Russian observer-scientists go to another planet to document the Renaissance happening in a medieval world… except it doesn’t seem to be happening, if anything, a reversion to barbarism is underway. Great novel. I read it cos I saw the insane, incomprehensible film version at the film festival a year or two ago, and wanted to know what the hell actually happened.
The Magus – John Fowles
The first 3/4 of this are an astonishing novel. The end, well, lost me a bit. But hell, the quality of Fowle’s prose, and the intensity and observation he brings to bear, are exceptional, and the dizzying weirdness of the island and the elaborate charade the narrator is caught up in is unforgettable.
The Three-Body Problem – Cixin Liu
Modern Chinese SF, apparently a bestseller there. Very unique take on first contact and Earth being invaded by aliens, through a very different cultural and historic lens. Recommended.
Killer in the Rain – Raymond Chandler
Early novella from Chandler.
Teaching the Dog to Sing – Jonathan Carroll
Recent novella from Carroll, whom I hadn’t read in years. Alright, I guess.
Harvest – Jim Crace
Multi award winning Irish novel of the end of the era of peasant farming before enclosure. Beautifully written.
Blood Meridian – Cormac McCarthy
McCarthy’s most intense and darkest vision of the old West. If it was the first thing of his I’d read it would have taken my head off. Incredible evocation of landscape and nature and random brutality and the ugliness of humanity, in astonishing prose.
A Visit From The Goon Squad – Jennifer Egan
Pulitzer prize winning novel, told through a bunch of different tangentially related characters set over many years, about growing up and the changes time wrings. Really well done.
The King’s Justice – Stephen Donaldson
Fantasy novella from a real master of fantasy. Good good shit.
Beasts of No Nation – Uzodinma Uweale
Novel about a child soldier somewhere in Africa caught up in a cycle of senseless violence and destruction. Short and unpleasant. Weirdly similar vibe to Blood Meridian, come to think of it.