Townhouse Books

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Catching Up...

School is over and now I can read whatever I want. Actually, I've been doing that a little bit, but haven't been posting. Cuz I'm lame. So, in the spirit of evt1618's "Stalled, but starting up again" post, I'll recap everything I've been up to for the past year or so.

Absolution Gap
by Alastair Reynolds

As I've written before, I'd recommend Reynolds as one of the most exciting new authors in science fiction. For some reason, he's touted as a hard sci-fi writer, but I'm not quite sure we're working with the same definition of "hard" sci-fi. I mean, this is not the Mars Trilogy by Kim Stanley Robinson. Anyway, Reynolds is still fantastic and if you're looking for amusement and not "literature", I'd definitely recommend him. Revelation Space, his first work, can be a little rough around the edges. Combined with Chasm City and Redemption Ark, these four books complete a so called space opera. I haven't read his most recent books, but I'd probably suggest starting with one of them anyways. It'll be good.

Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer

Excellent! It was topically similar, but ideologically the opposite of On the Road by Jack Kerouac. Our friend, Dan R. in New York made me read On the Road, so I made him read Into the Wild. I think On the Road can only make sense to people (mainly men) in their late teens or early twenties. Into the Wild is probably more relevant to someone about thirty or later. I've put Into Thin Air on my list and I already have his Mormon book, Under the Banner of Heaven: A Story of Violent Faith, thanks to Bill, which is on my list even despite this copies dubious origins. By the way, Dan read Into Thin Air while I refuse to read anything else by Kerouac. Did I win or lose?

Watership Down by Richard Adams

Fantastic! Somehow, I never read this as a kid.

Quicksilver: The Baroque Cycle #1 by Neal Stephenson
King of the Vagabonds: The Baroque Cycle #2 by Neal Stephenson
Odalisque: The Baroque Cycle #3 by Neal Stephenson (UNCOMPLETED)

So, in the hardcover version, The Baroque Cycle is a triology. In the paperback version, apparently there are something like seven books. Against my temperment and better judgement, I signed on to the complete triology. However, I became concerned when Odalisque didn't seem to be wrapping things as briskly as was necessary given the relatively few remaining pages. Brian cleared up my confusion, but not my disappointment. Stephenson is an excellent, complex writer. But, I'm just not up to finishing this series any time soon. Plus, I really liked Half-Cocked Jack Shaftoe and I'm beginning to wonder if he'll show up in later books. And I haven't really forgiven Stephenson for the bow and arrow incident in Cryptonomicon.

Angels and Demons by Dan Brown
The DaVinci Code by Dan Brown

Not bad. I'd recommend the illustrated version of The DaVinci Code; it really made the whole thing more enjoyable. I think Angels and Demons probably had a better story, but was a little rougher around the edges from a writing perspective.

The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference by Malcolm Gladwel

I read it because of the "buzz". Interesting ideas, backed up with some studies, springled liberally with anecdotes, amounting to little substance. I didn't hate it.

The Wilding by C.S. Friedman

The long (really, really frickin' long) awaited sequel to In Conquest Born. Like many things in life, it wasn't worth the wait. Sorry. If you like sci-fi, I would recommend Friedman's This Alien Shore.

Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America by Barbara Ehrenreich

Bill sent this to me and I've yet to send it on. I've been told that The Working Poor: Invisible in America by David K. Shipler is much better, which is doubtlessly true. My main problems with Nickel and Dimed was that the book focuses on Ehrenreich who is, in my opinion, relatively unlikable. She made the whole thing seem like a game, which was annoying given the serious subject matter. Anyway, it was a short read, which is better than many other options out there.

And that's about it. Right now, I won't tell you what I'm reading because it's fairly infantile. I have a bunch of books on my list, but I'm always taking recommendations.

I'm not going into anything business or finance related, although I'd be more than happy to make suggestions (if anyone begs me).

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  • I have been wondering about The Tipping Point... was there mention of intuition in it?

    By LPD, at 9:55 AM  

  • Intuition? Not that I recall. But that might be in his latest book, Blink. The Tipping Point is more about psychological epidemics (as opposed to physiological). It's a relatively quick read with some interesting stories.

    By jch1530, at 11:15 AM  

  • "Blink" was definitely the one about intuition. The full title is "Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking." I saw him speak on the book and found it, and him, interesting, but never read the book. (And only read articles based on The Tipping Point).

    "Into the Wild"
    I think it was Rick who got me to read "Into Thin Air," which blew me away. I remember Krakauer got some flak over "Into the Wild" because he had some definite admiration for what others saw as stupidity. "On the Road" I never read, but your "mainly men" has made me curious enough to take a look at it. Is it worth it? Anyone?

    "Watership Down"
    I never read it as a kid either and seeing the movie sometime in college without anybody giving me any context left me too traumatized to ever get near this story again, in any format.

    "Nickel and Dimed"
    Affected me:
    Let me know how the other one is.

    By evt1618, at 2:36 PM  

  • Hmmmmm, I should clarify some things...

    I think mainly young men can identify personally with On the Road. For example, the main character from Into the Wild probably loved On the Road. Unfortunately, I read both more recently. I found On the Road to be rambling and annoying. I think Into the Wild does a great job of showing the motivation and waste of the protagonist's life.

    On the Road is a classic, but I won't recommend it. I'd definitely recommend Into the Wild instead.

    While I was hard on Nickel and Dimed, it definitely affected me; I don't have a maid service anymore. Even so, I have to wonder about the economics of decreasing demand? Anyway, the Shipler book is supposed to deal with the topic and even discusses possible solutions. I'll write it up when I'm done. I apologize for stomping on a book that really spoke to you.

    By jch1530, at 4:29 PM  

  • I, too, was very much affected by reading Nickel and Dimed. But I can relate to Justin's frustration with the author's personality as well. If I remember correctly, her next book was pretty thoroughly stomped for similar reasons -- all about Barbara Ehrenreich's adventures, not about her subject.

    By Anna, at 10:49 AM  

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