Book Logs 2021

It’s gotten away from me again. It’s been a year since I’ve logged what books I’ve read.

And there’s a reason I do this. I was looking at the log from last year, and noted that I had read the Ocean at the End of the Lane. I had no memory of having read this book. I’ve been noticing it on my bookshelf for months now, going… man, I should read that one. BUT I HAVE.

At any rate, I’ll try to piece together the past in no particular order:

The Invisible Life of Addie Larue by V.E. Schwab
This is a freaking great book. A co-worker recommended it. After I read it, I gushed and thanked her for recommending it, and another coworker asked what book we were talking about. We told him about it, and a couple weeks later, *he’s* gushing about it to us. I was telling that story to another friend, and they got it and read it, and gushed about it.

It’s a great book. Now you know.

365 Nights: A Memoir of Intimacy by Charla Muller with Betsy Thorpe
Non-fiction memoir of a woman who decided to give her husband the gift of sex every day for a year. No, it’s not graphic or even a little bit tittilating– these are very religious people– it’s a book with some interesting insights into couplehood.

Educated by Tara Westover
FASCINATING autobiography of a woman raised by extremist Mormons, and her rise from not-schooled childhood to PhD. Riveting story.

In process:
The Madwoman Upstairs by Catherine Lowell
She Memes Well by Quinta Brunson
Law 101 by Jay M. Feinman
The House in the Cerulean Sea by TJ Klune
You’ll Never Believe What HAppened to Lacey by Amber Ruffin and Lacey Lamar

On the metaphorical bedside table:
The Madwoman and the Roomba by Sandra Tsing Loh
The Five Dysfunctions of a Team by Patrick Lencioni
The World is Flat by Thomas L. Friedman
Queenie by Candice Carty-Williams
Black Sun by Rebecca Roanhorse

Book Log #13: The Ocean at the End of the Lane

The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman, Illustrated by Elise Hurst [Free, Gift]

This book is very Neil Gaiman-y, with perhaps a touch of the Terry Pratchetesque thrown in. Not too much Terry Pratchett, but perhaps some echoes of Granny Weatherwax here.

This is not a book I would read repeatedly, but it was an enjoyable distraction in the downtime between tournament softball games one Saturday.

What I have is a signed, hardback edition gifted to me by a co-worker, who had three signed copies, which was two more than he needed. (His wife likes Gaiman, he is indifferent). How does one accidentally end up with three signed copies? Well, he is an Englishman. So I assume they are given out as part of their socialist hellscape healthcare system, or something like that.

I will heap praise on the illustrations of this edition. Elise Hurst’s pen and ink work is haunting, and adds to the experience greatly. I felt a little self conscious as some of the pages are borderline picture book status, but no one at the softball tournament noticed, I don’t think.

Book Log #10 – A Tree Grows In Brooklyn

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith

A friend of the family send this book to us for Scout to read, adding that it was her very favorite book. This is no small praise coming from a person as well-read as she.

It sat on our counter for several months before I took pity on the poor book and decided to give it a try. I knew nothing about the novel, which I think is really the best way to read something.

It is a tremendous book that, had it been described to me, I would never have sought out on my own. In short, it is a coming-of-age novel of a young impoverished girl in Brooklyn in the 1910’s. Sounds depressing, right? I’m not too in to depressing books. I’m looking for escapism; if I want to be sad, I can pick up a newspaper.

But the world our heroine inhabits is fascinating and foreign. It’s I-had-to-walk-uphill-through-the-snow-both-ways but told deftly and with humor and insight.

The writing is well done, and I’ll highlight something that should have bothered me, but didn’t– when a character’s thought processes were being described, they were written in a very matter of fact and stilted way that just… worked, for some reason. I don’t know why, and I never would have tried it myself.

When I was done with the book, I wondered how accurate it could possibly be– where did the author get this incredible detail of Brooklyn life of this time? Even my grandmothers wouldn’t have been old enough to experience it firsthand.

But of course, the answer is that this book is fairly old, written in 1943. I would have known that had I bothered to pay any attention to the cover, with the words “75th Anniversary Edition” printed across the top.

So, in summary, it’s nice the human race writes things down so we can learn about them 100 years later.

Highly recommended.

Book Log 2019: 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
Books read in 2019: ~24

Last year was my 15th year of logging books. Should have commemorated that, I guess. Perhaps a small party? No speeches. No long ones, anyway. Perhaps just a few words about the importance of reading. I mean, I guess I think it’s important. But I’ve also read (ha!) that learning to read causes you to repurpose the part of your brain that recognizes faces. And quite honestly, I could use some better facial recognition skills. It gets embarrassing.

It’s obvious I’m not tracking my reading like I used to. You can tell by the little approximation squiggles before the numbers above. It is because in 2016 I attempted the 52 books in 52 weeks challenge, and I just got burned out for three years?? Possible. That was a hell of a marathon, reading-wise.

I only have one non-digital book on the lineup this year. That is probably because I used my Amazon account to figure out what I read. If I bought something at my favorite bookstore, Little Shop of Stories, and read it– it’s lost to history.

A lotta series books this year. It’s just… easier. Finished one book? Well, here’s another just like it. Rinse, repeat. They weren’t great series, just fine.

Really, nothing on this list blew me away. Fall, or Dodge in Hell was probably my favorite, but I’m a Stephenson-o-phile, and I felt like this book redeemed the previous book with the same characters, REAMDE. Not that the stories had anything to do with each other, beyond using the same characters. Sortof. Anyway, I liked it.

I’m reading a couple of great book now, here in 2020. So the future’s so bright, I gotta wear shades. Especially because of the harsh glare of my phone screen.

1. Down and Out in The Magic Kingdom by Cory Doctorow [borrowed]
I’d never read a Cory Doctorow, so I need to see what all the jokes in XKCD were about.

2. Out of Spite, Out of Mind (Magic 2.0 Book 5) by Scott Meyer [Kindle, $4.99]
I like his universe he’s created, but I would really like him to get around to digging deeper into the obvious mysteries. I’m not sure he wants to.

3. The Weight of Ink by Rachel Kadish [Kindle, $10.99]
Good stuff with interplay between the past and the present. Not my usual, but nice.

4. Replay by Ken Grimwood [Amazon, $13.95]
Recommended by my boss, this is the first of two “people who live their lives over and over again” books I read this year. Both great, with very different takes on the same premise.

5. The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August by Claire North [Kindle, $9.99]
The second of the “people who live their lives over and over again” books of 2019. This was my favorite of the two, probably because it was written recently and the other is like 30 years old.

6. Math with Bad Drawings: Illuminating the Ideas that Shape our Reality by Ben Orlin [Kindle, $14.99] – unfinished?
Interesting, but perhaps shouldn’t have been an e-reader. May need to try to finish it in paper form.

7. Annabel Scheme by Robin Sloan [Kindle, $2.99]
I don’t remember this onen at all. I know Robin Sloan wrote a couple other entertaining books, one about sourdough.

8. The Quantum Magician (The Quantum Evolution Book 1) by Derek Kunsken [Kindle, $1.99]
Odd little sci-fi novel with some interesting world building.

9. Sapiens, A Brief History of Humankind by Yuval Noah Harari [Kindle, $14.99] – unfinished
Fascinating, except I stopped reading it. A friend also stopped reading it at the same point, and it was because the author made a weak argument about something, and I sort of lost faith. My friend had the same reaction. But I’ll eventually get back to it.

10. David Mogo Godhunter, by Suyi Davies Okungbowa [Kindle, $5.99]
Okay. A little claustrophic. I just don’t know Africa very well, and it was hard to get a feel for where I was. And a lot of mysticism, so the I couldn’t assess the stakes, couldn’t understand the dangers our hero was facing.

11. Fall, or Dodge in Hell: A Novel, by Neal Stephenson [Kindle, $16.99]
My fav of the year.

12. Beneath the Sugar Sky [Wayward Children Book 3] by Seanan McGuire [Kindle, $2.99]
Meh. Magical orphans from other universes.

13. Atmosphaera Incognita by Neal Stephenson [Kindle, $2.99]
Fine little short story by the master.

The Murderbot Diaries, by Martha Wells

    14.All Systems Red [Kindle, $3.99]
    15. Artificial Condition [Kindle, $2.99]
    16. Rogue Protocol [Kindle, $9.99]
    17. Exit Strategy [Kindle, $9.99]

This series was entertaining mind candy.

Books of Raksura series by Martha Wells

    18. The Cloud Roads, Book 1 [Kindle, $9.26]
    19. The Serpent Sea, Book 2 [Kindle, $10.49]
    20. The Siren Depths, Book 3 [Kindle, $9.99]
    21. Stories of the Raksura: The Falling World & The Tale of Indigo and Cloud [Kindle, $9.99]
    22.Edge of Worlds, Book 4[Kindle, $10.49]
    23. The Harbors of the Sun, Book 5 [Kindle, $3.79]

I kept reading this series of half-lizard-people long after I should have stopped, probably. They are fine, and there’s some good worldbuilding. But a couple was probably enough.

24. This is How You Lose the Time War by Amal El-Mohtar, Max Gladstone [Kindle, $7.99]
Can’t decide if I liked this one. A sort of epistolary novel, told half in letter form, about two opposing agents in a far flung future time war, each trying to shape the past to bring about their future. The style was a bit too poetical for my taste, but I liked the concept enough to stick with it.

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.