Category Archives: Books

Books I’m reading, audiobooks I’m listening to.

I stopped reading

For the third time in about a month I heard someone described their process of skimming a book. Seth Godin told Gary V he reads a book until he “gets the joke”, and then he puts it down. I heard someone else describe their process of reading the beginning, the one chapter with the meat, and maybe the conclusion. If you do this can you really say you read the book?

I have a point of no return with books. It’s somewhere around a third. If I’m a third of the way through and I realize I don’t like the book, I’m stuck. I’m in it until the end. In fact it’s rare for me to stop reading a book at all. I think I can name all of the books I’ve read only part of in the last ten years – A Game of Thrones, The Great North Road, and The Satanic Verses. When I gave up on that last one I tweeted, “I’m halfway through the Satanic Verses. It’s beautifully written. Every paragraph is like a poem. I have no idea what it’s about.”

I don’t normally read biographies but I picked one up because it was about a person I’m interested in and it’s by an author I know I like. I don’t know exactly when I started reading it but I know I’ve moved three times since then. I never read one book at a time so I’ve read a bunch of other books since then. I’ve read at least one other book on the same topic in that time. But this one is dragging on. It just won’t end. Sitting down to read it feels masochistic at this point. But I’m more than halfway through… just stick it out.

I mentioned this to Chrissy last night and she made a radical suggestion. “Stop.”

Well I’ve thought about it, and I decided to give myself permission to stop reading this book. I don’t feel good about it, but there’s a stack of books on the table I really do want to read. Time to move on.

mario warp zone
Did you really beat the game?

 

Oh look, some books!

Remember when this blog used to be about more than just books I read? Oh well, here’s some more books I’ve read recently.

Irreligion by John Allen Paulos
I didn’t enjoy this one near as much as A Mathematician Reads the Newspaper. The subtitle of this one, “A Mathematician Explains Why the Arguments for God Just Don’t Add Up” pretty well sums up what the book is about. What I don’t understand is who this book is for. EVERYONE knows the arguments for god don’t add up – hence, faith.

The De-Textbook: The Stuff You Didn’t Know About the Stuff You Thought You Knew by cracked.com
This is a fun, quick read. It will help to undo some of the nonsense you were taught in school. If nothing else it should give you some things to think about, and maybe to research on your own. I had no idea the pyramids in Egypt were once covered in a smooth layer of limestone which made them glisten. On the other hand, their oversimplification of the cause of the US Revolutionary war (all Ben Franklin’s fault) was laughable. It ignores the Albany Conference and the British ban on manufacturing in the colonies, for starters.

American Sniper: The Autobiography of the Most Lethal Sniper in U.S. Military by Chris Kyle
A Christian warrior goes Muslim huntin’. A real life monster story told in the first person.
Notes on the audio edition: It’s too bad they didn’t have a woman read the parts of Mrs. Kyle. It would have been a much better experience. Listen at 2x speed or more!

Lone Survivor: The Eyewitness Account of Operation Redwing and the Lost Heroes of SEAL Team 10
I was led to this one not buy the recent movie (which I haven’t seen) but by my brother, and then by a mention in American Sniper. I could really give both books the same review. This is also the story of an American who goes Muslim hunting in Afghanistan and thereabouts. It takes extraordinary mental gymnastics to follow his reasoning for how he is the good guy in this story.

Recent Reads

Context by Cory Doctorow
A collection of essays by Doctorow. A few are dated, but overall it will remain worth reading for a long time to come.

The Blind Watchmaker by Richard Dawkins
It’s by Richard Dawkins and the subtitle is “Why the Evidence of Evolution Reveals a Universe without Design”. What more could I say about it?

Casino Royale by Ian Fleming
I just started getting into the James Bond books. They’re pretty fun, and they’ve held up over time.

Moonraker by Ian Fleming
See above.

Live and Let Die by Ian Fleming

‘I don’t think I’ve ever heard of a great negro criminal before,’ said Bond, ‘Chinamen, of course, the men behind the opium trade. There’ve been some big-time Japs, mostly in pearls and drugs. Plenty of negroes mixed up in diamonds and gold in Africa, but always in a small way. They don’t seem to take to big business. Pretty law-abiding chaps I should have thought except when they’ve drunk too much.’

‘Our man’s a bit of an exception,’ said M. ‘He’s not pure negro. Born in Haiti. Good dose of French blood.’

Oh wow. This is awkward.

The Fabric of the Cosmos: Space, Time, and the Texture of Reality by Brian Greene
Brian Greene does a great job of making really tough concepts approachable. I can probably credit most of my understanding of time dilation to his writing. And yet I don’t really enjoy reading these books. I think the seemingly unending Simpsons and X-Files analogies wear me out.

The Hidden Reality: Parallel Universes and the Deep Laws of the Cosmos by Brian Greene
See above.

Wormhole  by Richard Phillips
The conclusion to The Rho Agenda. Highly recommended sci-fi, appropriate for all ages.

A Memory of Light by Robert Jordan, Brandon Sanderson
The 14th and final book in the Wheel of Time. The end of an era. I was happy with how it ended.

Diamond Age by Neal Stephenson
And I call myself a Neal Stephenson fan! I don’t know why it took so long to get to this one. It’s a neat story, and one of the three weirdest stories I’ll mention in this post.

Singularity it Near by Ray Kurzweil
Published in 2006, already seems like a classic. It’s quite a bit to tackle, but worth the effort. It’s a good starting place for exploring the world according to Kurzweil.

Decoding Reality by Vlatko Vedra
As Wikipedia put it the book, “proposes information as the most fundamental building block of reality.” Interesting idea.

No Easy Day by Mark Owen
I’m not even sure how this got in my queue. It’s perfectly good military fantasy, if that’s your thing.

New New Rules by Bill Maher
Really just a collection of the New Rules from the end of Maher’s show. It’s written by his staff. I recommend the audio edition, which Maher reads.

Not Taco Bell Material by Adam Carolla
Nothing new for listeners of the show. The audio and print editions are different since it’s “read” by Carolla and he’s a functional illiterate.

Lord of Light by Roger Zelazny
I’m a long time Zelazny fan and one of my favorite books of all time is Siddhartha by Hermann Hesse. How are those things connected? Well, this book… LSD.

Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut
Another classic, which I read in Jr High. I don’t believe I understood it then. What a strange, strange trip.

I’m a Stranger Here Myself by Bill Bryson
AKA Notes from a Big Country, subtitled “Notes on Returning to America After 20 Years Away”. Not my favorite of his works, but to be fair it’s a collection of articles he wrote in the 90s.

Pale Blue Dot: A Vision of the Human Future in Space by Carl Sagan, Ann Druyan
For you young whippersnappers, back in the 80s and 90s Carl Sagan was our Neil deGrasse Tyson.

Reading List Update

For a while I was keeping this blog up-to-date with pretty much all of the media I consume, but I guess I got tired of doing that. Now I’m trying to get back into posting here on a somewhat regular basis. I can’t go all the way back to the last time I posted a reading list, so here’s a list of what I’ve read/listened to in the last few weeks:

The Casual Vacancy by J. K. Rowling – I didn’t read any reviews so I went into this completely blind. It’s good story, mostly I’d say because I like the way J. K. Rowling develops characters.

A Walk in the Woods: Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail by Bill Bryson – I’m not sure if James Michener ever wrote about the AT, but if he did, and someone condensed it down to a reasonable sized novel, this could be the result. This was only the second Bill Bryson book I’ve read (after A Short History of Nearly Everything) but when I finished this one I went ahead and added everything else he wrote to my reading list.

The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference by Malcolm Gladwell – Much like Outliers this book basically makes one point. It’s a good point, but it’s still one point.

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline – I do not recommend reading this book. Nope. You shouldn’t read it because Wil Wheaton will read it to you. This is a great story, and I think audio is the way to go for this one.

Salt Sugar Fat: How the Food Giants Hooked Us by Michael Moss – Ever since Fast Food Nation by Eric Schlosser we’ve been flooded with rehashes. Here’s another.

Automate This: How Algorithms Came to Rule Our World By Christopher Steiner – If you find it shocking or hard to believe that when you read the recap of a baseball game the article may have been written by a computer program you should probably read this to gain some insight into how the modern world works. If you consider yourself a student of computing or algorithms on any level there’s probably nothing here for you.

The Second Ship and Immune By Richard Phillips – Books 1 and 2 of The Rho Agenda. I have the third, but I’m holding off because once I read that one it’s over. Good stuff, highly recommended. This was a Steve Gibson recommendation, and the man knows his sci-fi.

Stat-spotting by Joel Best – At just over 100 pages this is something to knock out in one sitting, which I do recommend. It’s a fairly dense 100 pages, and the format is fun and easy to read. After reading this one I was able to put my new skills to work on my next visit to Facebook.