Starry Wisdom

Entropic Words from Neilathotep

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

2012 Books

2012 was a banner year for book reading for me. By my count, I finished thirty-one books, although one of them, The Latke Who Couldn’t Stop Screaming is a children’s book, so maybe it doesn’t count. Either way I at least hit my goal from the previous year of thirty books. There is also one book that is unfinished, which means it will always remain in book limbo, stuck between 2012 and 2013, poor thing.

Moving on, almost all of the books I read where ebooks – although the final three completed books, the limbo book and one or two others were physical books. Six books, plus the limbo book were nonfiction, and of them two were memoirs – 52 Loaves: One Man’s Relentless Pursuit of Truth, Meaning, and a Perfect Crust which is a funny little book about obsessing over bread baking, and Blood, Bones & Butter which was definitely the more awkward of the two. One of the non-fiction book was actually an opinion piece, and therefore maybe shouldn’t count? Two books were re-reads – The Hobbit and Treasure Island.

It’s hard to choose favorites, but I think I will be boring and say that the best non-fiction book I read in 2012 was probably the aforementioned 52 Loaves, and the the best fiction book was The Art of Fielding, which might be the overall best book I read in 2012.

Also, I think I resolved to post at least once a week in 2013, so maybe I won’t forget to post for another fourish months?

posted by neil at 10:29 am
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Friday, January 6, 2012

Year in Books 2011

Well, I owe you all another post about side dishes – I hope to be able to do that this week. But right now, I want to do a quick (I just wrote SQUID there, btw) rundown of the books I read in 2011.

I read a total of 23 books in 2011, which is far short of the 30 books I resolved to read, according to the resolutions I put in the champagne bottle last year, which we cracked open on NYE. Anyway, some more info:

Only 7 of the books were nonfiction, and two of those were memoirs. Maybe this is balanced out that one of the books was about deeds in California? I don’t know. That one was not one of my favorite books of the year.

I read two books by David Foster Wallace in 2011, A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again and The Pale King. The latter is his posthumously published ‘last’ novel, although it’s to complete, so I’m really not sure what to call it. Despite that fact, it ranks as one of my favorite thing read in 2011, without a doubt. It’s also one of the two books published in 2011 I read this year, the other being Tina Fey’s Bosspants which I did not like nearly as much!

I read almost half (eleven) of the books electronically, via the Kindle reader on my iPad. Actually, wait, I read 12, so really just over half, of the books electronically; I read Bossypants on Mackenzie’s actually Kindle. It’s very convenient, and very comfortable to read this way in bed, but I do have some misgivings about the whole thing. The last physical book I read this year was a reread of At the Mountains of Madness by H. P. Lovecraft, back in September, which I own at least two copies of in various collections.

At Home: A Short History of Private Life Bill Bryson
How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe: A Novel Charles Yu
The Art and Science of Communication: Tools for Effective Communication in the Workplace P.S. Perkins
All Clear Connie Willis
Dune Frank Herbert
Deeds for California Real Estate Mary Randolf
Children of Men P.D. James
A Supposdely Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again:Essays and Arguments David Foster Wallace
On Stranger TIdes Tim Powers
Cryoburn Lois McMaster Bujold
Packing For Mars Mary Roach
Light M. John Harrson
A Canticle for Leibowitz Walter M Miller Jr.
Game of Thrones George R.R. Martin
Bonk Mary Roach
Declare Tim Powers
“I Know I Am But What Are You?”
Cowboys and Aliens “Scott Mitchell Rosenberg
Spellwright Blake Charleton
Bossypants Tiny Fey
At the Mountains of Madness H. P. Lovecraft
The Neverending Story Michael Ende
The Pale King David Foster Wallace
posted by neil at 10:25 am
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Wednesday, February 16, 2011

How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe

I recently read How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe: A Novel by Charles Yu. I actually read it on my iPad, which I will discuss a bit more about below.

The book itself is a novel, loosely, in that it is fictional and has a story. However, it’s not a very traditional novel, even for science fiction. It’s pretty much an excuse to play around with the ‘what ifs’ that we’ve all thought about time travel. The sort of things that made Fry immune to the Brain Spawn on Futurama. But also what happens if you do something to your future self – that will also get done to you when you are that future self.

The point is, it’s a novel, but it’s more of a bunch of musings on time travel, encased in a novel and world that are crystalized enough to contain it. It’s a very funny book, and I enjoyed its humor almost as much as the philosophical musings.

As I mentioned above, I read this on my iPad, using the kindle reader application. This is the first time I used the iPad for that purpose, and I’ve found that its pretty great for reading in bed, and also for taking on a plane trip (save for the no reading until 10,000 feet and during landing). The version of the book for the iPad reader in particular had additional content (color pictures and a link to a pretty sweet youtube video about the apparent lack of free will).

posted by neil at 11:03 pm
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Sunday, January 2, 2011


Well, 2010 was another crappy year in reading for me. I finished a mere 20 books, a full 3 fewer than 2009. It was such a sad year that I have resolved to read more in 2011. Anyway, as per normal, here is a discussion of the books read in 2010. I am not going to bother putting in the list of books, unless it is demanded.

The best Ursula K LeGuin books I read in 2010 was A Wizard of Earthsea narrowly edging out City of Illusions. Yes the fantasy beat out the SF.

The overall best novel I read in 2010 was probably The Anubis Gates by Tim Powers. This is a must read for fans of time travel stories!

The most nonsensical book I read in 2010 was The Silmarillion “by” J.R.R. Tolkein. It’s really a collection of notes edited posthumously by his son Christopher, and is a difficult read. Interesting for people who enjoy LOTR, but a big undertaking.

The best collection of essays was David Foster Wallace’s Consider the Lobster. In fact I should read more of his essays post haste. Honorable mention goes to Medium Raw by Anthony Bourdain, however.

Looking back at the books I read in 2010, Consider the Lobster was probably my favorite overall, although I enjoyed most of them quite a bit.

posted by neil at 5:51 pm
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Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Books read in 2009

2009 was a pretty poor year for me and reading. Only 23 books finished (one additional book is still being read, and as such will get counted as 2010, or perhaps not at all).

Here they are in all their glory:

Pirate Sun

Karl Schroeder

“Jan 12, 2009”

“Jan 18, 2009”

One More Time: The Best of Mike Royko

Mike Royko

“Jan 19, 2009”

“Jan 28, 2009”

Encore Provence

Peter Mayle

“Jan 30, 2009”

“Feb 05, 2009”


Neil Gaiman

“Feb 04, 2009”

“Feb 15, 2009”

The Inferno

Dante (Translated by Robert Pinsky)

“Feb 05, 2009”

“Feb 21, 2009”

The Throwback

Tom Sharpe

“Feb 10, 2009”

“Mar 09, 2009”

Mortal Engines

Philip Reeve

“Feb 22, 2009”

“Feb 28, 2009”

Boss – Richard J. Daley of Chicago

Mike Royko

“Mar 01, 2009”

“Mar 26, 2009”

His Majesty’s Dragon

Naomi Novik

“Mar 25, 2009”

“May 10, 2009”

The Time Traveler’s Wife

Audrey Niffenegger

“Mar 27, 2009”

“Apr 04, 2009”

Cheeseburgers – the Best of Bob Greene

Bob Greene

“Apr 05, 2009”

“Apr 17, 2009”

Full Circle

Michael Palin

“Apr 18, 2009”

“May 15, 2009”

The Algebraist

Iain M. Banks

“Apr 28, 2009”

“May 09, 2009”

Settling Accounts: Return Engagement

Harry Turtledove

“May 11, 2009”

“Aug 17, 2009”

Focault’s Pendulum

Umberto Eco

“May 16, 2009”

“Jun 14, 2009”

Food Politics

Marion Nestle

“Jun 15, 2009”

“Oct 26, 2009”

Infinite Jest

David Foster Wallace

“Jun 28, 2009”

“Sep 20, 2009”


Neal Stephenson

“Jul 02, 2009”

“Jul 12, 2009”

Dead Witch Walking

Kim Harrison

“Aug 07, 2009”

“Aug 09, 2009”

The Acts of King Arthur and His Noble Knights

John Steinbeck

“Aug 25, 2009”

“Oct 01, 2009”

Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell: A Novel

Susanna Clark

“Oct 26, 2009”

“Dec 01, 2009”

Spook Country

William Gibson

“Dec 05, 2009”

“Dec 14, 2009”


David Change and Peter Meehan

“Dec 11, 2009”

“Dec 25, 2009”

I’m not going to make excuses, I just didn’t read a lot. I will point out a couple of personal highlights in the list, and we’ll just leave it at that:

  • Boss – Richard J. Daley of Chicago: this was a fantastic book, but I really wanted to punch the guy (Daley, not Royko!)
  • Infinite Jest: This was my second read, which I did for “Infinite Summer” and probably helps account to my less than one book per two weeks total. Upon a second reading I noticed a lot of things I missed the first time, although I still ended up with a lot of questions
posted by neil at 5:30 pm
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Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Book Report

I haven’t reviewed a book in quite a while (save for my secret book list – ask for more info if you really care). But I just read something that I want to talk about. But first, some background.

Back when I was in high school, on days where I didn’t go in early for swim practice, I would browse through the Chicago Tribune before going in to school. In particular I would read the comics page, and Mike Royko’s column. He wrote about a variety of things, quite often politics, but in a different and amusing way. He didn’t mince words, he didn’t pull punches, and he almost always made sense. When I went away to college I pretty much stopped reading him, although I would do so on occasion when home in the summer. When he passed away in 1997 I was sad, but I didn’t realize what a treasure had been lost. Flash forward to last fall. I was at the friends of the SF Library sale, and I saw a copy a book of his columns, which I immediately grabbed – a bargain at 4 bucks, if I do say so. The old people who rung me up were surprised that I was interested in that book, but when I told them where I came from they understood.

Anyway, the book in question is One More Time: The Best of Mike Royko by Mike Royko, with an introduction by another Chicago treasure, may he rest in peace, Studs Terkel. The book covers columns from his start in the 1960s through his final essay, about the cubs, in 1997. It’s strange but across over three decades he managed to remain so consistent, in tone and viewpoint. I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised, but it is refreshing to realize how genuine he was – always on the side of the common man, never shying away from those in power when they were abusing it.

He was a proponent of civil rights and equality from the beginning until near the end of his life. He leapt to the defense of Harold Washington (the first African-American mayor of Chicago) from the get go, although he was at least somewhat critical of his successor, Eugene Sawyer. He was awestruck that Powell was seen as a viable presidential candidate for the 1996 selection, while lamenting that the most celebrated speaker at the Million Man March was Louis Farrakhan. I cannot imagine the delight he would have taken in the story of Barack Obama, but I was also know that he wouldn’t be afraid to call Obama on anything he did wrong.

The world of today seems to have so much possibilities for him – I would have loved to see his commentary on the whole Rod Blagojevich fiasco. I cannot imagine what sort of words he would have had for the fear mongering Bush administration. Alas, I have to accept that we’ll never know what could have been.

I highly recommend this collection (there are others, which are probably equally excellent, but I cannot recommend at this time). I am going to try to read his biography of Richard J. Daley (the current Mayor of Chicago’s father), Boss in the near future.

posted by neil at 1:16 pm
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Monday, January 5, 2009

My Year in Books

Trending backwards again, I completed 42 books in 2008 – only 4 in the last two months, and two of those completed in the last 3 days of the year.

Anyway, here are my top 5, in reading order, not most best to least best or least best to most best:

A Prayer For Owen Meaney – John Irving

This is the sort of book where when I finished it, I couldn’t stop thinking about the characters. Simply fantastic!

In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto – Michael Pollan

This is a really interesting book about eating, and the American Edible Product industry (note I didn’t say food!)

The Name of the Rose – Umberto Eco

I really liked this book, although I can see how some people have a hard time with it. It’s pretty strange, but hey, it’s a novel about logic and semiotics set in a medieval monastery, written by an Italian.

Blindsight – Peter Watts

I fucking love this book. So much that I read it two years in a row, and twice this year. I probably put it on top last year too! So good!

Watchmen – Alan Moore

Great novel with pictures. Need I say more?

posted by neil at 11:14 pm
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