Book Log 2015

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: 12 (18 with re-reads)

Diane, the owner of Little Shop of Stories in Decatur, GA, is putting out a 52 book challenge for 2016.  I’m tempted to try it, even if I have no hope of succeeding.  Somewhere along the line, my habits changed and I’m just not the reader I once was, and I’m pretty sure I know why.

We got iPads, and smartphones, and it’s so easy to browse Reddit for an hour or binge-watch a series on Netflix in those moments of “spare” time.   It’s less mental effort, but, possibly as a result, it’s also less satisfying.  I just finished The Magiciansand I got more out of it than a marathon of Friends.  Which is actually saying a lot, because on a recent second viewing, I appreciate the comedic talents of David Schwimmer more than I did originally.

At any rate, I’m going to sign up for the challenge.  This is going to be a busy year, and I’ve never read that many books.  I also don’t like to view reading as a task to be accomplished.  But when 2016 comes to a close, I’m hoping I’ll have spent more time with a book and less with an iPad.  I might upgrade my Kindle, though.

I should note, so as not to get too down on my reading habits, that I do read out loud for 30-45 minutes every night.  My kids and I have worked our way through His Dark Materials and most of the Harry Potter series this year.  For me, re-reads, but maybe I can tack them onto the bottom of the list below.

Before diving into the list, I should mention the books I didn’t read.  Some were good, but I just haven’t gotten through them yet.  Sitting on the shelf, their siren song failed to drown out the appeal of re-watching an episode of New Girl.  The Year of Living Biblically by A.J. Jacobs is entertaining and thoughtful, and I really enjoy it once I’ve settled down on the couch with it.

The Physics of Superheroes by James Kakalios is fascinating but at times really annoying.  Not through the fault of the author, who clearly states the purpose of the book, It’s just that I wanted the book to dive into the errors in physics, or justify the errors in some way.  Kakalios does it some, but his objective is to illustrate the principles of physics through comics, not nitpick the accuracy.  Fair enough, but why doesn’t the Flash leave footprints in concrete when he runs?

A friend loaned me Headlong by Michael Frayn.  It’s well written, but there is a host of art history that is noise to me.  As my friend put it, Headlong is to art critique what Cryptonomicon is to computers, and I lack the background to really, really get Headlong.  The story is good, though, and I’m hanging on by my fingernails, so eventually I’ll knock this one out.

I’ve spent some quality time with Roberts Rules of Order this year, and then the Abridged Roberts Rules of Order, but there is no amount of abridgment that’s going to get me through a complete reading.

1. One More Thing: Stories and Other Stories by B.J. Novack
Like binge reading McSweeney’s Internet Tendency.

2. One Day by David Nicholls
Enjoyable story of a lifelong relationship.

3. Flora & Ulysses: The Illuminated Adventures By Kate DiCamillo
Read to my daughter Scout. A great story of a super squirrel.

4. Spell or High Water (Magic 2.0) by Scott Meyer
5. An Unwelcome Quest (Magic 2.0) by Scott Meyer
Fun continuations of his magic-from-technology series.

6. Funny Girl: A Novel by Nick Hornby
A good, though not great, Nick Hornby novel.

7. Teleport This (Small Universe Book 1) by Christopher M. Daniels
8. Soul to Soul (Small Universe Book 2) by Christopher M. Daniels
Meh. Amateur science fiction. They were cheap and available on the Kindle.

9. Mogworld by Yahtzee Croshaw
A surprisingly good sort-of-fantasy novel. Funny!

10. The Martian by Andy Weir
One of the greatest books ever, and a great movie adaptation as well.

11. SEVENEVES by Neil Stephenson
A sprawling far-reaching disaster/science fiction novel about the moon breaking apart. Loved it.

12. Think Like a Freak: The Authors of Freakonomics Offer to Retrain Your Brain by Steven D. Levitt & Stephen J. Dubner
Enjoyable, thought-provoking book about different ways to look at problems.

Re-reads with the kids:

His Dark Materials Omnibus by Philip Pullman
13. The Golden Compass
14. The Subtle Knife
15. The Amber Spyglass

16. Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone by J.K. Rowling
17. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets by J.K. Rowling
18. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by J.K. Rowling


Book Log – Think Like a Freak

Think Like a Freak: The Authors of Freakonomics Offer to Retrain Your Brain Paperback – July 7, 2015


SEVENEVES by Neil Stephenson

I’m a big Neil Stephenson fan.  I’ve read his entire oeuvre, as far as I know, even The Big U, his first novel, which he is not crazy about.  It was big and unwieldy and I liked it just fine.

I liked SEVENEVES.  I feel like I have to write it in all caps, being a palindrome and all.

It was a page turner, with plenty of action and science.  On the first page, a mysterious “Agent” breaks the moon into seven pieces, and I was hooked on what was going to happen as a result.  I was not disappointed.

I don’t want to hint on where it goes to anyone who might read it, so I won’t make any comments on plot.  I was glad I didn’t know where this story was going… it added to the ride.

My one complaint is that there was no great standout character in this book, which I’ve come to expect from Stephenson.  The Shaftoes and Waterhouses from Cryptonomicon, and adding Eliza to The Baroque Cycle series… all fantastically memorable characters, among a gaggle of other minor ones of note.

In this book, I felt like the main character was the human race in general.  Not necessarily a bad thing, but not what I’m used to from this author.

The other thing I note is that the end felt like a sequel was coming.  I guess we’ll see.



Book Log – The Martian

The Martian by Andy Weir

I’ve read several “hard science” novels about exploring/colonizing Mars.  A friend of mine, who has not steered me wrong yet, recommended this one, and in fact bought it for my son.

His description, though, while accurate, did not grab me: “It’s about an astronaut who gets left behind on Mars and has to survive on his own.”  I pictured heart-wrenching insanity, despair, wistful flashbacks to life on Earth, educational facts about Mars’ environment, etc.  Things I ought to be interested in, but never am.

But I couldn’t be more wrong.

I didn’t pick it up for months.  I was casting about for something to read while I was going to be waiting for an oil change, and grabbed this, grabbing a backup book in case it was too much of a slog.

I’m here to say I’m sorry for ever doubting you, The Martian.  This is a witty, entertaining, and well-written story.  I loved the attitude of the main character, and rooted for him the whole way through.  Life became annoying interruptions preventing me from reading it all in one sitting.

And yes, even picked up some interesting Mars facts in spite of myself.

Book Log – Mogworld

Mogworld by Yahtzee Croshaw

I downloaded this from Amazon thinking it was a self-published type of book, but on further research, the book is published by Dark Horse, so it’s legit.  The author is a game designer and a game reviewer.  So he’s got some writing cred.

The story is comfortably whimsical without being wacky, and feels like a fresh perspective.  Our protagonist is an undead minion, pulled from a place of light back into the world to be a grotesque henchman for an evil wizard.

The prose flows well, and the world-building is entertaining.  I recommend this one for a somewhat Terry Pratchett-like read.

Book Log – Soul to Soul (Small Universe Book 2)

Soul to Soul (Small Universe Book 2) by Christopher M. Daniels

I’m on a streak of reading self-published stuff, and sometimes being pleasantly surprised.

The first book in the Small Universe series was okay.  I saw some potential there in the writing, and some good ideas.  I was hoping the second book would build on that through practice of the craft, but I was disappointed.

I’m not a writer, I’ve never written a book, I don’t have the skills developed to meet my own standards of “good” writing.  But there’s a certain something that makes the difference between a well-woven tale and a “bunch of stuff that happened” as Homer would say.

I can’t put my finger on why I feel like I knew Arthur Dent or Ford Prefect, but don’t know Gilbert or Jon from these novels.  The actions they did were similar, the plots not markedly of different quality, but something is missing.

I suppose if I knew what it was, I’d be writing these myself.

Book Log – Funny Girl: A Novel

Funny Girl: A Novel by Nick Hornby

I’ve never not enjoyed a Nick Hornby novel.  The reviews I’d read of this one were all over the place, but with his track record thus far, there’s little possibility that I’m not going to read anything he writes.

And I wasn’t disappointed.  Though not as rich as his other works, it was still an entertaining and smooth read.  There’s a lot of flavor of the early days of British television, and interesting characters being drawn.

And, of course, funny.

Also, there was a girl.

Book Log: Spell or High Water (Magic 2.0)

Spell or High Water (Magic 2.0) by Scott Meyer

Scott Meyer, the creater of the webcomic Basic Instructions, turns out to be a pretty sharp fantasy/sci-fi writer.  I read his first book, Off to Be the Wizard, and enjoyed it quite a bit.

The fundamental premise of all three Magic 2.0 novels (and this is a limited spoiler, as it is revealed in the first chapter of the first book) is that there exists a secret file on a major corporate network, which contains the data on everything, and adjusting numbers in the file adjusts reality.

From that premise, Meyer explores the possibilities in an amusing and inventive way, doing a good job of balancing the need for story with the omnipotent potential of such a file.

It’s always nice to find a good, self-published work.