reading april 2013


The Business and Practice of Coaching – Lynn Grodski

Solid, in depth, nitty-gritty nuts ‘n bolts book about what it says it is. Very useful.

The Quantum Thief – Hannu Rajaniemi

Rajaniemi burst on the scene a few years ago to great props with this, and they are justified. Hugely fun romp through a posthuman future where the hard science has melted and become effectively magic. Clever, entertaining, definitely a standout of recent SF.

The Course of the Heart – M. John Harrison

Deeply weird novel. (Came it at #1 on the Guardian’s list of weird fiction, as it happens.) Probably does the best job of presenting the experience of the uncanny entering into the normal world I have seen. At times deeply frustrating – what exactly are you trying to say here, Mr Harrison? – , but short, acute, and its strengths are so overwhelming – so many amazingly good lines! – that it is worth the effort. Maybe would be clearer on a reread.

Thundersqueak – Ramsey Dukes

OMFG. Incredibly funny, entertaining, and brilliant. It is scary that something written over thirty years ago can be so fresh, relevant, anarchic, and thought-provoking. Incessantly quotable.  A book about magic via politics, it has a lot to say about politics, even for the jaded, and sort of encapsulates the whole point of chaos magic (of which it is considered a founding text). And so much more. One to return to. (Dukes (itself a pseudonym) is here writing under a pair of pseudonyms, Liz Angerford & Ambrose Lea.)

Vathek – William Beckford

A 17 year old English lord’s son wrote this in 3 days about 150 years ago. And that sort of shows, but also, there is a reason people are still reading it. Entertaining, mildly deranged, tale of the Caliph Vathek being tempted by evil, and succumbing, abusing his absolute power. The vision of Baal’s fiery palace, and the wrong doers eventual punishment, is remarkable.

The Forever War – Joe Haldeman

Classic SF novel about the madness of war unfolding across relativistic spacetime. Breaks most of the show vs tell dichotomy in writing, but what he is telling is consistently interesting and entertaining. Mostly, aside from the technical stuff, which isn’t too hibrow, the book is really about  abiding disgust with war, and human and military stupidity. A short fast read, well worth it.


Currently on: Gilead by Marilynne Robinson, which comes with a big rep as far as being good literature goes, and so far lives up to it.

Remember where you are and why you are here.

Go out one clear starlit night to some open space and look up at the sky

at those millions of worlds over your head.

Remember that perhaps on each of them swarm billions of beings,

similar to you or perhaps superior in their organization.

Look at the Milky Way. The earth cannot even

be called a grain of sand in this infinity.

It dissolves and vanishes, and with it, you.

Where are you? And is what you want simply madness?


Before all these worlds ask yourself what are your aims and hopes,

your intentions and means of fulfilling them,

the demands that may be made upon you and

your preparedness to meet them.


A long and difficult journey is before you…

Remember where you are and why you are here.

Do not protect yourselves and remember that no effort is made

in vain. And now you can set out on the way.


sunday mutants april

Hmm. Printing this manuscript is taking a few hours. Ah! Twitter!


The Web We Lost – short and fascinating look back at how much has changed online in ten years.

Weirdly fascinating breakdown of China’s online gaming industry, and other internet businesses.  It is evolving differently in isolation  over there.

use LinkedIn smarter I’m not on, but figure it to be inevitable.


The answers to this year’s Edge question are out: 192 smart people’s replies to the question

“What is your favourite deep, elegant, or beautiful explanation?”.

Pretty much a selective must read.


On cold reading, and why it still exists

Sundberg’s study highlights one of the difficulties in this area. A fake, universal sketch can be seen as a better description of oneself than can a uniquely tailored description by trained psychologists based upon one of the best assessment devices we have.

 Life as a Mexican drug gangster’s moll

Mattermap – contextual tool/app to create maps about issues, debates, conversations


Reading March 2013

A Midsummer Nights Dream – William Shakespeare

Compact and entertaining, with some philosophical meat. Good stuff.

Mosaic – me!

Reread the 3rd draft of my fantasy novel, in preparation for rewriting. It was pretty good. 🙂

You Are Not A Gadget – Jaron Lanier

Really fascinating critique of current pro internet/web 2.0 orthodoxy. Probably essential reading for computer people, and oddly, musicians (Lanier being both of these.) Deeply thought provoking. May give it a separate post to get my teeth into it. Quite brilliant; strongly recommended.

Gun Machine – Warren Ellis

Hmm. Easy to read, entertaining, sort of, but disappointing; I picked it up to give Ellis a shot in long form, hoping he would have some depth (a la Transmetropolitan), but this is pretty much just a twisted police procedural with colourful mental cases for main characters, and occasional vague stabs at something approaching meaning. So probably more fun than this sort of thing normally is, if this is the sort of thing you read, but really just a disposable entertainment.

The Coaching Manual – Julie Starr

Really solid guide to personal coaching.

Anarchists in the Boardroom – Liam Barrington-Bush

Read a prerelease draft copy. Very timely book grappling with big questions around how we do things and why as groups; how our organisational cultures are often horrific and dehumanising, and exploring what we can do to make them better, more satisfying, and more human. Weaves many stories of the changes unfolding across the world from a guy who has been involved in many of them first-hand. Interesting and worthwhile, particularly for the NGO/non profit sector, but really for anyone who works with other people and wants that to be a better experience.

Alif the Unseen – G. Willow Wilson

Best novel I have read so far this year. Excellent. Arab spring hackers meet djinn in a metaphysical cyberfantasy. Fascinating to read a cyberpunkish novel set in an arabian context. Lots of fun, rockets along, and human and smart, too. Check this one out.

The Songlines – Bruce Chatwin

Extraordinary sort of book. Part travelogue of Australia in the 80s (a redneck nightmare), as he tries to find out about Aboriginal culture and worldview, particularly the songlines; and part deeply meta travel musing on the origins of humanity, taking in nomadism, evolution and anthropology. Very enjoyable.