Book Log #4: The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August

The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August by Claire North [Kindle]

Loved this book.

Claire North takes a cool premise and explores it wonderfully, with an engaging plot.

The premise: Some people live their life over and over. After they die, they restart at the beginning, remembering their previous loops at age 3 or 4. It gives a time-traveler-esque feel to the story line, and the conceit is well executed.

The butterfly effect is handled ok, but there remains the Grandfather’s Sperm Paradox* which, if considered closely, unravels some of the plot.

But, there is so much awesomeness in this one, I don’t mind a little hand waving.

*The Grandfather’s Paradox states you wink out of existence if you go back in time and kill your grandfather, but really all you need to do is bump him a little.

The only portrayal I’ve seen of this is in the very enjoyable movie “About Time”, where a man learns he can travel back along his own timeline and change his history. He discovers if he travels back further than the conception of his child, he ends up with a different child in the present.

Book Log #3: Out of Spite, Out of Mind (Magic 2.0 Book 5)

Out of Spite, Out of Mind (Magic 2.0 Book 5) by Scott Meyer (Kindle)

Decent mind candy as usual. He takes a fun premise (a secret computer file that contains reality, and can be edited, so some people find it and make themselves magicians) and plays with it in amusing ways.

I’m hoping at some point that he starts cracking into the mystery of the file. But maybe he’s going to milk this for as many books as he can before a Big Reveal. Or maybe he hasn’t thought of the Big Reveal.

At any rate, if you like the first 4, you’ll like this one just fine.

Book Log #2: The Weight of Ink

THe Weight of Ink by Rachel Kadish (Kindle)

I stole this recommendation from a friend on Facebook who received it from someone I didn’t even know. I eavesdropped this rec.

And I’m glad I did.

This story jumps back and forth in time between some researchers who find a trove of writings under a stair and the people who wrote them right before the plague hit London. It’s a page turner, and a sharp historical fiction. Philosphy, history, wit… this book’s got it all.

Book Log #1: Down And Out In The Magic Kingdom

Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom by Cory Doctorow (borrowed)

Cory Doctorow is one of those names that have floated around in my mind as Someone Famous who I have never taken the time to learn more about. I mostly know him because he was referenced in an XKCD comic that I didn’t understand.

At any rate, he writes a good book. Recommended by a co-worker because we were discussing the Black Mirror episode (that I also haven’t seen) about a world where people rate each other, Down and Out is about a future world where death and scarcity have been conquered, and Disneyworld is basically run by benevolent gangs.

There’s lots of fun world building, and a mystery, and sharp, amusing writing. It’s a tasty snack of a book, that you can consume in an average domestic airplane flight.

Book Log 2018 : The Year in Review

Books read in 2004: 21
Books read in 2005: 28
Books read in 2006: 40
Books read in 2007: 30
Books read in 2008: 41
Books read in 2009: 22
Books read in 2010: 44
Books read in 2011: 28
Books read in 2012: 31
Books read in 2013: 8
Books read in 2014: 13
Books read in 2015: 18
Books read in 2016: 52
Books read in 2017: ~24
Books read in 2018: ~28

Also failed to track books this year at all. Below is what I can piece together by looking at my bookshelf and scrolling through my book orders at Amazon.

Big thanks to my Facebook friends who recommended most of these when I was staring 50 hours of planes, trains and automobiles in the face this past summer.

1. A History of Video Games in 64 Objects [Colorado book store?] by World Video Game Hall of Fame (Author)
A chapter on each of 64 Objects in Video Game history, like the Pong arcade cabinet or the first Playstation. Total nerdfest, filled with interesting tidbits about how things got made, or became popular.

2. The Power by Naomi Alderman [bought in Colorado]
Awesome. Recommended by Barack Obama, and me. A fantastic what-if story of an evolutionary jump by women that gives them a special power, turning the tables on the gender dynamic.

3. Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood by Trevor Noah [Kindle]
Worth a read. He had a hard act to follow with John Stewart, and I never got hooked on his version of The Daily Show. But, he’s lived a life worth reading about, and I’ve got a better appreciation for him now.

4. Old Man’s War by John Scalzi
The Ghost Brigades (Old Man’s War Book 2) by John Scalzi
Pretty good sci-fi about old people recruited to fight a space war, and given new high-tech bodies to fight it with.

5. Programming the Raspberry Pi, Second Edition: Getting Started with Python
Simon Monk
Raspberry Pi 3 Cookbook for Python Programmers: Unleash the potential of Raspberry Pi 3 with over 100 recipes, 3rd Edition
Tim Cox, Dr. Steven Lawrence Fernandes
These are okay references for learning some Python tricks. Needed it for work.

6. The Collapsing Empire (The Interdependency Book 1) by John Scalzi
Really good sci-fi epic of a space empire facing complete disintegration due to potential disruptions in space transport.

7. Trash: A Love Story by M.H. Van Keuren
A good read but will make you feel guilty… in a good way, though. Some riveting The Martian-like survival aspects, and generally page-turning storytelling.

8. Life After Life: A Novel by Kate Atkinson
Great novel about a life lived multiple times, to greater and greater success.

9. All Our Wrong Todays: A Novel by Elan Mastai
I love a good twist on time travel, and this one is fresh and exciting. Highly recommended to time travel afficianados.

10. Carter Beats the Devil by Glen Gold
Very well written historical fiction, centering around an ambitious magician in the age of Houdini.

11. Lily and Dunkin by Donna Gephart
Heartwarming young adult fiction about a transgender girl and her friend.

12. Lots of Encyclopedia Browns by various
Read most of the books with my daughter. Fun to revisit my childhood. I solved more of the mysteries this time through. Though some were just dumb.

13. Fight and Flight (Magic 2.0 Book 4) by Scott Meyer
My least favorite of this series. I’ve enjoyed the other three a lot, this was ok.

14. The Great Brain series by various
My favorite series as a kid about growing up in turn of the 18th/19th century Utah.
While not as enraptured as I was, my daughter liked them way more than I expected.

15. Sex and the Constitution: Sex, Religion, and Law from America’s Origins to the Twenty-First Century by Geoffrey R. Stone
I wish I’d made notes about this one when I read it way back when, but I do remember it being fascinating and a good read.

16. Unaccompanied Minor by Hollis Gillespie
We Will Be Crashing Shortly by Hollis Gillespie
I’ve enjoyed her non-fiction essays, and these fictional romps are just as fun.

17. The Girl Who Takes an Eye for an Eye: A Lisbeth Salander novel, continuing Stieg Larsson’s Millennium Series (Millennium Series Book 5) by David Lagercrantz
This posthumous continuation of the series by a new author is… okay. Not quite as good as the originator, but I’m glad somebody is going to try to finish the story arcs. Better than nothing.

18. The Art of Loish: A Look Behind the Scenes by Lois van Baarle
I love this woman’s digital painting. See her stuff at

19. Scythe (Arc of the Scythe Book 1) by Neal Shusterman
20. Thunderhead (Arc of the Scythe Book 2) by Neal Shusterman
Recommended by my son, this is a dystopian-utopia novel centering on an organization of official assassins. It is uncomfortable to get on board with following the “good guy” murderers, but nonetheless it is an impressive piece of worldbuilding.

21. Naked Economics : Undressing the Dismal Science by Charles Wheelan
Very enjoyable description of economics that gives much to think about.

22. Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore: A Novel by Robin Sloan
Fun ride about an ancient secret society meets Google employees.

23. Sourdough: A Novel by Robin Sloan
Set in the same universe as Mr. Penumbra’s (but completely unrelated story wise), I enjoyed this story about a computer programmer that learns to make sourdough bread. Also, really made me crave some sourdough bread.

24. An Absolutely Remarkable Thing: A Novel by Hank Green
A delightful young adult novel about an invasion of robots that don’t move, and the girl who knows them best.

25. The 7.5 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton
Recommended to me by my good friend Christy, this is a great sort-of time travel mystery. Very sharp.

26. The Ghost Brigades (Old Man’s War Book 2) by John Scalzi
A fine follow-up to the first Old Man’s War book, but I lost the taste for the premise in general, and probably won’t continue.

27. The Consuming Fire (The Interdependency Book 2) by John Scalzi
Great follow-up to the first book. I’m hooked, looking forward to the next installment.

28. Less: A Novel by Andrew Sean Greer
An amusing story following a sad-sack washed up writer as he embarques on a desperate world tour. Pulitzer prize winning!

Book Log ? : way behind…

I lost the thread of this for a while…

Scythe (Arc of the Scythe Book 1) by Neal Shusterman

This might be the first book recommended to me by my son, I’m not sure. He picked it up in his school library, and enthusiastically recommended it.

This is a dystopian utopia YA novel. The premise, revealed in the first few pages, is that a supercomputer AI runs the utopian world, everyone is effectively immortal with all needs provided. The downside is that population needs to be controlled, and an order of Scythes, intentionally separate from the AI, must permanently kill a certain number of people a year.

We are asked, as reader, to accept the sacrificial premise, and follow the story through Scythes and their apprentices. It was a tough read for me at first. But, in the end, this is really good world building, well-written, with a page-turner plot.

Highly recommended. My son knows his stuff, apparently.

Naked Economics : Undressing the Dismal Science by Charles Wheelan

I can’t remember where this rec came from, I believe a podcast of some sort. But it is a great read; the “naked” means without the heavy mathematics and formulas. I wouldn’t have minded some formulas and graphs, but he does a very entertaining explanation any way. A lot of it is commonly known, but I learned or thought about something new in every chapter.

He delves into policical issues such as immigration and monetary policy, and gave me a lot of food for thought.

Highly recommended.

Book Log #7-#21: catching up…

Sometimes life gets in the way…

I haven’t sat down to document my reading, which, if past is prologue, will likely lead to me, yet again, walking into a bookshop, going “oh, this looks good”, buying a book, and then discovering halfway through the first chapter that I’d already read it.

This hasn’t happened since I started doing this in 2004. How many hundreds of dollars have I saved? Probably less than $100, but still… worth it.

So, in reverse order, here’s what I can remember… probably some I’m missing somewhere

?. The Wild Harmonic by Beth Patterson (unfinished) – still working on this one, but noting it for future reference

21. Lockwood & Co. Book Five: The Empty Grave by Jonathan Stroud
20. Lockwood & Co. Book Four: The Creeping Shadow by Jonathan Stroud
So sad to see this YA series end. I’m hoping my kids dive into this one, but no takers yet.

19. Gnatz By M.H. Van Keuren
Another well-written near-future sci-fi novel. Disney-esque kid stars, nano-drone robots, drugs of forgetting… lots of cool elements to the tale, and engaging throughout.

18. The Inquisitor’s Tale: Or, The Three Magical Children and Their Holy Dog by Adam Gidwitz and Hatem Aly
Read to Scout. Well written fantastical adventure story set in the time of King Louis of France.

17. Saga by Brian K. Vaughan
16. Y: The Last Man by Brian K. Vaughan
Two great graphic novel series. Y: The Last Man is complete, but I eagerly await the next edition of Saga.

15. Run Program by Scott Meyer
Meh. Not my favorite Scott Meyer, but even a minor work is worth a read from this author.
14. The Scrum Field Guide by Mitch Lacey
13. Scrum: a Breathtakingly Brief and Agile Introduction by Chris Sims, Hillary Louise Johnson [Kindle]
12. The Scrum Master Training Manual: A Guide to the Professional Scrum Master (PSM) Exam by Nader K. Rad, Frank Turley [Kindle]
11. Scrum: The Art of Doing Twice the Work in Half the Time by Jeff Sutherland, JJ Sutherland [Kindle]
All of these for work… interesting methodology, though. I look forward to trying it out.

10. Fuzzy Mud by Louis Sachar
Read to Scout. We both enjoyed it.

9. A Conspiracy of Paper: A Novel by David Liss
Enjoyable historical fiction.

8. Lexicon by Max Barry
My wife scoffed at the premise when I described it, which only goes to show Max Barry is a better writer than I. Worth the read.

7. Mr. Burns, a Post-Electric Play
My wife saw the play and loved it… some gets lost in the reading rather than the viewing, but I see the bones of a very entertaining piece.

Book Log #6: Hidden Figures

Hidden Figures Young Readers Edition by Margot Lee Shetterly [Little Shop of Stories, Paperback]

I caught the movie with the kids last weekend before reading this book. Unfortunately, I had accidentally put the Young Readers Edition on my wishlist, and received it for Christmas. So, it was a tad simplistic… I kind of want to get the adult version and read it again.

The stories are interesting, and I’m glad I read (a version of) the book after seeing the movie, so I could sort the dramatization from the facts a bit. If the book is taken as the reality, then the movie did take some liberties with time and order of events, and even reassigned some things that happened to different characters, but overall the movie was by and large a true story, just reshaped for dramatic effect.

According to the book, John Glenn didn’t trust the IBM electronic computers, and did indeed ask for the “girl” to check the calculations on his reentry before he would take his historic flight, which was a touching point in the movie that seemed exaggerated. Nice to know that piece was true.

At any rate, it’s amazing that these stories haven’t been mainstream knowledge until now. They’re inspirational, to say the least.

Book Log #5: The Three Body Problem

The Three Body Problem by Cixin Liu and translated by Ken Liu [Christmas gift, hardback, Little Shop of Stories]

This was originally recommended by… someone. Curt? Can’t remember. But then President Obama recommended it. And I figured if two totally unrelated sources recommended a book, I should probably listen.

I wasn’t disappointed. I feel like Cixin Liu is a Chinese Neal Stephenson. Lots of interesting sci-fi ideas mixed in with a dose of history… a very enjoyable read. It went pretty quickly.

I don’t know that I’ve ever read a book translated from Chinese, so… a first.

Again, it’s difficult to discuss without spoilers… but the story spans from the Cultural Revolution and its fallout to the “present day”, covering a couple generations and jumping back and forth in time with gradual reveals of what’s “really” going on. Reminiscent of Cryptonomicon.

Good read. Thanks, Obama.

Book Log #4 : Fuzzy Mud

Fuzzy Mud by Louis Sachar [Kindle, Amazon]

I finished reading Holes to my daughter, and the ads on the last page of the Kindle version mentioned Fuzzy Mud, which piqued her interest. So, using the insidious evil of instant gratification through ebook purchase, we dove into that.

It’s a fine story, though not quote Holes. The ending has a nice pragmatic, grey-area ending to it that’s refreshing.

It’s difficult to discuss the story without spoilers, so… it’s recommended for young readers.