Books‎ > ‎


Implementation Patterns 
Beck is great.

Software Estimation
Another great book by Steve McConnell. I'd read his other books first, which are classics, but this is also really good.

Patterns of Enterprise Application Architecture
Very heavy reading, but fascinating.

Essential Knowledge for Front-End Engineers
Essential for all web developers. Very important book.

Refactoring: Improving the Design of Existing Code
An excellent book on refactoring, how to do it well, and why it is important.

The World Without Us
One of my favorite books of this last year.

In Defense of Food: An Eater's Manifesto
Very good, although I was bugged by the beginning, where he seems to conflate the proto-science of "nutrition-ism", with science.

Test-Driven Development
Very interesting, worth reading.

The Pragmatic Programmer

The Road

How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed
Another fantastic book by Jared Diamond, this one on the collapse of societies, often for environmental reasons. We think of environmental problems as a modern issue, but it has been happening for thousands of years. Fascinating.

Getting to Yes: Negotiating Agreement Without Giving In
Had good examples.

Essays on Software Engineering, 20th Anniversary Edition
This was a very groundbreaking book in its time, and for good reason. There are a lot of interesting ideas in this book, but I think if you read much about software development, you'll find little new in this book, mostly because everybody else discusses these ideas so much that they're no longer that new.

Thoughts on Reclaiming the American Dream
What's amazing about this book is that it's actually very enjoyable to read, which is not at all what you'd expect from a politican who wrote the book when he was in the Senate and contemplating running for President. It's remarkably sincere and well-written, and not ideological.

Hackers and Painters
This is a very interesting book, thoughtful and insightful. I was especially taken with a couple of the earlier chapters, such as the first one, which describes schools better than anything I've read previously.

Agile Project Management with Scrum
Excellent overview of SCRUM, which is a software development practice that I think has a lot of merit -- very worth checking out!

Agile Software Development with SCRUM
This turns out to be the older version of pretty much the same book on SCRUM. Actually, the content is completely different, but it's less polished, and not the book I'd recommend on SCRUM.

You Are Here

IT, Software, and Services: Outsourcing and Offshoring
A decent book, but overpriced. It's an overview of offshoring.

Ajax Design Patterns
Fantastic book on Ajax, covering pretty much everything everyone has done with Ajax. Shows code examples for each technique, and gives extensive references to live examples.

Designing Interfaces: Patterns for Effective Interaction Design
This is an excellent book on interaction design. The most interesting thing about the book is that it shows lots of example of how other designers have approached common UI problems, and it gives the strengths and weaknesses of each approach. Very useful reading and useful as a reference work as well.

The Omnivore's Dilemma
This is one of my favorite books of the last few years. Fascinating! I find myself trying to get everyone I know to read this...

Rapid Development
Covers everything you would ever want to think about if you are delivering software on a schedule.

Absolutely essential, as is his earlier work, Code Complete.

Code Complete, Second Edition
Although this book suffers from list-itis, it covers a lot of important ground, and causes you to revisit a lot of topics you probably have not thought about since undergrad days. Reading this made me a better programmer. I especially appreciated the section on refactoring code, and on improving coding clarity. I'd recommend this book without hesitation to most programmers. However, for experienced programmers I would add that it may not seem like you're actually learning that much with this book until a few days after reading the book you realize that it's changed the way you think about programming, and changed the way you produce code. He backs up most of his statements with actual studies from the software industry, and his own extensive experience at Microsoft and other places. I enjoyed the book, despite the preponderance of lists and other modern text-book like devices.

The Best Software Writing I
I wasn't as impressed with this book as I expected. It was good, and there were some essays that were definitely worthwhile. But when I hear that this is the best software writing, I kind of expect the quality of the writing to be at the New Yorker level of good writing. I didn't think this lived up to that, unfortunately. Part of the problem may be that most of the essays are blog entries, and perhaps blog entries don't take kindly to being transferred to a book?

The Scientist in the Crib: Minds, Brains, and How Children Learn
Wonderful book on childhood development. Very well written and readable, full of interesting information.

The Three-Martini Playdate: A Practical Guide to Happy Parenting
I really enjoyed this book. It's a sort of practical guide to parenting without having children completely run your life. Not only is the book interesting and have some good ideas, it's also hilarious.

Nuts! Southwest Airlines' Crazy Recipe for Business and Personal Success
An uncritical but mildly interesting look at how Southwest Airlines is run and operated. Contains a lot of interesting information, but it's so lavish in its praise for Southwest that it's a little hard to take while reading it.

America (The Book): A Citizen's Guide to Democracy Inaction
Pretty funny, but not as funny as the show.

Blood Meridian : Or the Evening Redness in the West (Modern Library)
A pretty intense book, full of gore and amazing use of language. I got the feeling that there's a lot that went over my head in this book -- something to be read carefully. Very good, much less easy than All the Pretty Horses.

Effective Oracle by Design (Osborne ORACLE Press Series)
Hands down one of the best books on database design and development. Not just Oracle specific either -- the principles in this book are widely applicable.

There are times the descriptions get a little boring -- but that's because he proves everything he says to you with real examples. And to contrast with that, much of the book is fascinating. Just skim what you don't currently find interesting. I'd recommend this heartily to any database developer or admin.

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

Freakonomics : A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything
Also very good.

Blink : The Power of Thinking Without Thinking

Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell: A Novel
A very engaging and mature fantasy about an England where magic comes back, set in the early 19th century.

All the Pretty Horses
When I first was given this book, I wasn't that excited about reading it. But several people kept telling me it was a good book, and I trusted their taste, so I picked it up.

...and couldn't put it down. All the Pretty Horses is a very strong piece of fiction, a story about two boys who ride into Mexico, leaving their homes in Texas.

It avoids cliches, contains surprising depth, and is a riveting story. The language is terse, sparse, and rigid. I highly recommend this book, and I'm looking forward to reading other books by McCarthy.

Chain of Command : The Road from 9/11 to Abu Ghraib
Seymour Hersh broke the Abu Ghraib story, and back in the Vietnam era, broke the My Lai massacre story as well. He's probably on of the two mostly highly regarded journalist in the country.

I wasn't expecting very much from this book, because I'm a political junkie, and follow the news closely. I didn't expect to find much new in the book. Instead, I was riveted by a detailed description of the Bush presidency, including mostly things I had never read anywhere else. What is amazing about this book is both the level of access he had (which allows him to report on a lot of intelligence you won't read anywhere else) and how he presents the context for why people made the decisions they did. It's perhaps the best critique of the neo-conservatives I've read (except for possibly Paul Krugman), except that he does a better job of describing why they are making the decision they are, so they actually seem half-way logical to you. Impressive, and good reading.

How to Change the World: Social Entrepreneurs and the Power of New Ideas

Read Status: In the queue

The Tin Drum
This book is full of very interesting descriptions and fanciful, rather amazing stories. But I ultimately tired of the it.

Attachment Parenting: Instinctive Care for Your Baby and Young Child
Read this a while ago, but forgot to add it to the list. This is even better than the other book on Attachment Parenting I read last year.

My Life
Reading this right now.

Read Status: In hand/reading

Fahrenheit 451
A classic on censorship. I read it for the second time.

Bush's Brain: How Karl Rove Made George W. Bush Presidential
When I was in school, teachers told me to 'show, don't tell'. Although this book suffers a little from telling rather than showing, it is still a very interesting book on Karl Rove, the mastermind behind Bush's ascendancy to the whitehouse.

The Inmates Are Running the Asylum: Why High Tech Products Drive Us Crazy and How to Restore the Sanity
A must-read book for software developers, especially anyone who designs the interaction of software.

Fluke : Or, I Know Why the Winged Whale Sings
I read this book on the flight back from a Maui vacation, so it was interesting to read a book set in Maui, and hear all the local references. The book started of with great promise: a great plot line, interesting if somewhat sterotypical characters, funny writing. But it trailed off later in the book, as things became more and more fantastic. It ended up reminding me of an old 50s style sci-fi movie. Still, this was an enjoyable, entertaining read.

Universal Principles of Design
I think this is possibly my favorite book. Each page describes a design principle, illustrates it, and provides context for when it is important to use this principle.

The book also is an illustration of the principles it is describing. It is incredibly concise, uses graphics well, and largely succeeds in it's goal of being an encyclopedia of design principles.

Lamb : The Gospel According to Biff, Christ's Childhood Pal
Very funny and entertaining book about the early years of Christ's ministry, through the eyes of his childhood bud, Biff. Quite funny and well-written, although it got a little slow in the middle. Laugh out loud funny, though. I don't often enjoy books that are "merely" entertaining, and this was a definite exception.

Reefer Madness: Sex, Drugs, and Cheap Labor in the American Black Market
An interesting overview of the underground market, which may equal about 10% of the US economy. Focuses on marijuana, the pornography industry, and illegal immigration and their exploitation. I thought it was a very good overview of the topics, and I learned a lot from reading the book. The most interesting theme throughout all of the book is that the market acts as an invisible hand, fulfilling our desires. It's a strange look at capitalism at the fringes of the law.

The Great Unraveling: Losing Our Way in the New Century
I have been reading Krugman's columns in the New York Times for some time, and that's essentially what this book is: a collection of his essays from the last couple of years.

I found it fascinating, and the introductions are probably the most damning things I've read on the Bush Administration and the media. What I'm most impressed with about Krugman is that he doesn't hold back any punches, but at the same time, he backs up everything he's saying with data. Yet, he still manages to write in an engaging way.

I'd say this is a must read, especially the introduction. If you can stomach talk of economics and politics, then the rest is good reading too. I loved the whole book, although it might cause you to sleep less at night...

Insult to Injury: Rethinking our Responses to Intimate Abuse
An excellent analysis of how we approach domestic violence, and how we could better approach it. Very intelligent and interesting, and a must read for anyone in the DV field.

The Attachment Parenting Book : A Commonsense Guide to Understanding and Nurturing Your Baby
A very reasonable, common-sense book about parenting and raising a baby. One that makes you happy to read it instead of freaking you out about everything that can go wrong!

Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them: A Fair and Balanced Look at the Right
Funny and well-researched.

Ex Libris: Confessions of a Common Reader
This was a book given to me several years ago by a good friend, but one of those books you never actually read. I finally picked it up when I was looking for a good book for a plane flight, and I was very pleased to find it was fabulous! Pure delightful, wonderful writing. It's about books and the love of books.

Dude, Where's My Country?
I thought this was better than his last book, and it nicely complimented Al Franken's book. I thought Franken's book was slightly better, but they were both pretty good.

Rules for Radicals: A Practical Primer for Realistic Radicals
A very interesting book on strategy of social change.

Stupid White Men ...and Other Sorry Excuses for the State of the Nation!
The first part of this book was really good, but it went downhill from there for me. Often funny.

The Botany of Desire: A Plant's-Eye View of the World
I had wanted to read this book for quite a while, ever since I read an essay by him on corn. The book was better and worse than I expected -- better because it was full of interesting, juicy thoughts on biology and food and drugs. The writing was a little annoying for me sometimes -- he writes in such a New England intellectual way that it even bothered a snob like myself. But the book is very solid, and in fact I think the last chapter, on potatos (which, incidentally, was the chapter I was least interested in), should be required reading for all people that eat (which is to say, all people). Totally fascinating book, and one that I would recommend to most people I know.

Einstein's Dreams
One of my favorite works of fiction, this is a collection of poetry-like dreams that he imagined Einstein to have while he was coming up with his theory of relativity. Absolutely beautiful, and no math required!

Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies
Though Diamond sometimes draws out his arguments longer than necessary, this is an excellent book, one that completely reshaped my understanding of how the world's cultures developed and evolved. It's really worthwhile reading.

Music, Cognition, and Computerized Sound : An Introduction to Psychoacoustics
I only read the first few chapters of this book. It was very dense, but fascinating. If you want a detailed examination of how human's hear, this is the book for you. Beware, however, because when I say dense -- well, this book is plenty dense. It reminds me of higher level university textbooks.

Computer Music: Synthesis, Composition, and Performance
This book is a good summary of the different types of computer music. Again, fairly technical, and not at all what I was actually looking for. For example, this book will explain all of the different types of synthesis in detail, and spend a whole chapter explaining the differences between them. Interesting, but I was looking for something else. Worth reading if that's what you're looking for, however.

Womenfolks : Growing Up Down South
Fantastic memoir about the history of the south and the author's family in the rural South. Intelligent and insightful.

Philosophers and Kings: Studies in Leadership

The Farthest Shore (Earthsea Trilogy)

Native Speaker
The story operates on many different levels, but it details the life of a Korean-American man whose job is to spy on Korean nationals.  It talks about issues of loyalty, ethnicity...  It much more complicated a book that I can give it credit for.  The writing is like poetry -- very refreshing!

Franny & Zooey
An interesting read.  It is actually a fairly quick book to go through, but it also seems very deep.  It's about a family of prodigies and their difficulties in adjusting, but it's not really about that at all.

Snow Falling on Cedars
A masterfully crafted account of life in the San Juan islands right after WWII.  It is a murder mystery, but also an exploration of the white and Japanese-American communities there.  It won the Pen/Faulkner Award.  I wasn't very impressed when I first heard about this book, but it's been something I've had to ration out so that I get enough sleep at night!

A book that talks about parts of our human culture that we don't even think about.  It shows some of the basic assumptions that we've based our civilizations upon.  This is another excellent book -- one that I wish everybody could read.  I couldn't put it down.  I've read it several times, and I would like to emphasize even stronger how important this book is. This is one of those books that changes how you look at the world forever. There is a website for this book at I think this series of books is one of the books I would recommend most strongly... a must read. See also

In the Company of Others
A collection of essays about community.  The topics are very broad, dealing with electronic communities, cults, communes, individualism, historical descriptions of various communities, skills required of community members, stages of community, salons, the environment, etc...  Most of the essays are very interesting and worthwhile reading.  I skipped a few of the less interesting ones.  If you're interested in community and group building, I would recommend reading this book.

Long Walk to Freedom: The Autobiography of Nelson Mandela
Wow! I just finished reading Long Walk to Freedom, Nelson Mandela's autobiography.  Actually, I stayed up all night last night reading it.  After I got halfway through the book, I was hooked, and I could not put it down.  Mandela details his life from his childhood in the countryside to a practicing lawyer in Johannesburg, to his increasing involvement in the African National Congress, to his years in prison, to his release and inauguration as president of a new South Africa.  Mandela is a very good writer, and although I found the unfamiliar names a little bit bewildering, I was gradually sucked into the story he told of his life.  It was fascinating to see the changes that happened during his life, and I learned a great deal from the book.  It's changed my perspective towards people who are radical and challenge their society to change.  It's also interesting to see Mandela as a man -- a person with strong conviction, but one with weaknesses and one who described himself as "introverted".  It reinforced my feeling that leadership is not about the type of person that you are but the future that you're living for and the integrity with which you carry it out.  I think this is a book that will take a while to digest, and one that I will recommend to my friends.  Mandela, thank you for recording your life to posterity!

Business Plans That Win $$$: Lessons from the MIT Enterprise Forum
A book I had to read for my Business of Software course.  The book details how to make an effective business plan for companies that are interested in venture capital.  Although I found the business side of it interesting, I also found it interesting just to see how much thought has gone into the development of the science of business.  It was amazing to me to see how people are trained to organize groups of people into effective companies, and do things like market, manufacture, and develop products.  When I think of other organizations, like activist groups and so on, they seem inept in comparison.  I don't know if this is what my professor wanted me to learn when I read this book, but I guess I'm getting more out of it that even the authors intended!  Another thing I learned from this book is how important presentation is, and how much thought can go into the future of an organization/business.

Facets of the Renaissance
***1/2 Specifically, the essays on The Reinterpretation of the Renaissance, and Harris Harbison's essay on Machiavelli's Prince and Moore's Utopia. These two essays were excellent, the first a review of the historiography of the Renaissance (it argues that the Renaissance was not such a marked departure from the past as historians wanted to portray it), and the second a comparison of Machiavelli and Moore, who were contemporaneous but wrote from the opposite sides of the spectrum, yet had much in common. Very interesting! (1/14/00)

The Trial
***  Hmm, a definite mixed bag. Kafka paints a bleak, vivid picture of the world of the Trial, and the story is worth reading. The book is a little dry, though, and I was simultaneously bored and wanting to continue reading. I kept wondering how I would act in this situation. I think the book might have been better if Kafka had lived to edit it down... I liked the ending, despite, well, I don't want to give anything away.

One of the reasons this book is worth reading is because it's such a good cultural reference. (1/14/00)

Very different than other Ayn Rand books I've read. It was a good story, with themes familiar to anyone who's read her books. Stylistically very different, with strong parallels to 1984 in its mood and flavor. (8/2/99)

The Plague

I'd recommend reading Blindness instead of this book, despite its merits. This book is a very objective-seeming account of how an outbreak of Plague affects a city in France. Of course, it is also not just about that -- apparently it also is a comment on the German occupation of France. But it is another book that is interesting and boring at the same time. It is actually quite a fine book, and the tone might be totally appropriate for the topic. It seems to accurately depict how life proceeded from season to season during this outbreak of plague. Still, I found Blindness to be almost devastating, while after The Plague, I felt like I was contemplating human nature casually. It doesn't force itself upon you, but forced you to engage with it in order to find what you can from it. (1/14/00)

The Wealthy Barber: Everyone's Commonsense Guide to Becoming Financially Independent
A friend lent me a Canadian book called, The Wealthy Barber.  It's a book about basic financial planning, but it's written in a very accessible way.  The protagonist tells of going to his father for financial advice and being referred to his barber.  His barber, despite his meager income, learned early about financial planning, and this book gives an easy to understand overview of financial planning, insurance, and retirement, and does it in a way that is actually fairly easy to implement.  It doens't advocate elaborate budgets, etc... I rarely feel strongly that everyone should read a book, but this is a book that I would wish upon my friends and family, and really everyone. There are Canadian and American versions of the book, and several editions have been written as well.

To Free a Generation
A friend also gave me a book called To Free a Generation, a book that I only got about a third of the way through before I lost it somewhere on the subway. The essay that I found most interesting was the one that described our economic system. It talked about how the hype is that "third world countries" are receiving economic aid, and so forth, but in reality, our economic system depends on having them both as dependent markets and producers of our products. There don't seem to be a lot of examples of third world countries successfully improving the living situation of their people. The essay went into great detail talking about the historical role that the US has played in South and Central American. It was interesting to read, and a little disturbing. (2/1/98) I found the book, and I'll finish it later.

Your Money or Your Life: Transforming Your Relationship With Money and Achieving Financial Independence
Your Money or Your Life is a book that examines our relationship to money. It connects our personal use of money to its effect on the world, and argues that frugality is not only more satisfying than excess (if done in the way they propose), but also it is better for the world. The basic part of this book, though, is a how-to manual of how to make money something that doesn't rule your life. We trade our lives for money, this book points out. Therefore, thinking carefully about how we use our money is a wise perspective and one that helps not only ourselves, but the world we live in. The ultimate goal is to become financially independent (live off of interest income) so that you are financially free. At this point, you can devote your life to bettering the world and doing things that are important to you and the people around you. It's an interesting book, and well worth reading. This book (and the Wealthy Barber) made me interested in planning my financial future. highly recommended

Shelley: Poems (Everyman's Library Pocket Poets)
I went to the library looking for The Fountainhead, which my friend said is a book that will totally change the way I would look at the world (that's all you need to tell me to convince me to read a book). Unfortunately, the 3 copies at the university library were all either checked out or lost. So, while wandering through the "to be stacked" books at the library, I came across a compliation called "Poems of Shelley". Shelley, the English poet! Well, I haven't read poetry in a while, I thought, and picked it up. Some of the poems are quite boring (maybe my attention span is too short), but others were amazing. Listen to these lines about death: "The rude wind is singing / The dirge of the music dead, / The cold worms are clinging / Where kisses were lately fed. // The babe is at peace within the womb, / The corpse is at rest within the tomb, / We begin in what we end." Call me morbid, but I loved this poem, especially for some reason the words about worms clinging to where the kisses were fed. Ooooh, I love it!

No Longer Human
No Longer Human (Ningen Shikkaku), by Osamu Dazai is a book that has been sitting around for a long time on my bookshelf (the Japanese version). A long time ago, my friend recommended it to me, saying it was his favorite book. I finally decided to get a translation of it in English, because otherwise, I would never get around to reading it.  So, I went to the library, checked it out, and read it last night. I think I understand why he liked it so much. The title is actually probably better translated to mean "failed to qualify as human" or "failure at being a human". No Longer Human darkly paints the life-story of an artist in Tokyo who is terrified of other people, and retreats into a world of booze, drugs, and women to escape his pain. Yet Dazai doesn't let us off the hook, because the protagonist speaks painfully to anyone who's ever felt lonely, disassociated, and afraid. He shows us how we're all afraid of each other, and points out how painful it can be to not fit in with society. I strongly recommend this book. I'm going to read another book by Dazai next, and I've heard it's also very good.

The Setting Sun
The Setting Sun is another book by Dazai, and although at the beginning I didn't think it was as good as No Longer Human, by the end, I think it was close. The Setting Sun starts with a woman living with her mother peacefully in the countryside. Just like the title, the sun slowly sets upon her life. Her mother is slowly dying, and her brother returns from the war, an alcoholic who is drinking himself into oblivion. She watches her life and her aristocratic values falling apart. I felt like a lot of this book went over my head, so that's all I can really say about it. An interesting book.

The Story of B
After I finished The Story of B, by Daniel Quinn, I took a long walk -- a long thinking sort of walk, where the sun is setting and you're not really paying attention to where you're going. This book, just like Ishmael, is a book that will permanently change the way you look at the world. The Story of B is a sequel to Ishmael, and it goes into more detail than the previous book. Daniel Quinn says this in the end of the book: "I supposed people will ask you to summarize what it's all about. I offer you this, knowing how inadequate it is: The world will not be saved by old minds with new programs. If the world is saved, it will be saved by new minds -- with no programs. They won't like the sound of that, especially the last part."

Abraham Lincoln: His Story in His Own Words
I've been very fond of autobiographies lately, so I picked up Abraham Lincoln's autobiography. Well, actually, it's just a collection of autobiographical writings. They were pieced together by an ambitious editor somewhere, and commentary tried to tie the pieces together. It didn't really give a very comprehensive view of his life, but Abraham Lincoln: His Story in His Own Words was interesting. I don't recommend it unless you're very interested in his life, however. What I found interesting: Lincoln had a total of about a year's education; yet, he wrote very well. His writing was often very graceful -- I particularly appreciated his deft modesty.

Norwegian Wood
Describes love so well... I really identified with this book! I recommend this book!

Different Drum
I was in a bookstore in Eugene, Oregon recently, and I ran into two very good books. The first was Long Walk to Freedom, the book I mention below, and the second is M. Scott Peck's The Different Drum. I just finished this book last night, and it is a very thought-provoking book. Peck talks about his experience with long and short term communities, talks about the different stages groups go through on the way to community (that section alone is worth the price of the book), and details the pitfalls and wonders of community. This book has a lot to offer for anyone interested in learning more about how groups work and how they can work. Peck finishes the book with a criticism of the Christian Church and the American government, talking about his experiences in both of these groups, and the problems and solutions he sees for both of these groups. I've always enjoyed Peck's writing style and uncompromising, probing thinking. Peck is the author of The Road Less Travelled, another book I highly recommend.

Under the Tuscan Sun: At Home in Italy
My friend loaned me a book called, Under the Tuscan Sun. It's a lush, beautiful book about a teacher who buys an old farmhouse in Tuscany to live in during the summers. She and her husband(?) fix up the place, eat lots of good food, and describe the beauty of life there. It's a sensual book, but for some reason, I lost interest in it midway, and stopped. Perhaps I'm too unsophisticated to live with a book without a plot to pull me along. It is a visual book, and very satisfying, but I looked at my next book on my to-read list, and decided to start it.

The Color of Water: A Black Man's Tribute to His White Mother
My mother lent me a copy of The Color of Water, a story of a man and his mother. It's a pretty amazing story... The format of the book is to alternate between the author's life and his mother's life. He is one of 12 black children raised by a white mother (it's interesting how we label half-black, half-white people as black, eh?). The title of the book comes from a point in which he asks his mother, "what color is God?" His mother replies, "God is the no color. God is the color of water." This is not on my list of must-reads, but it is pretty close. I'd say that I recommend it. In particular, I think it can help you understand your parents a little better.

The Capitalist Revolution: Fifty Propositions About Prosperity, Equality, and Liberty
I've been surprised at how much my tolerance for academic books has gone up. The fact that I was reading Lenin a few months ago was pretty surprising to me. Surprising mostly because I was enjoying it! Anyway, I've read a book by Peter Berger before, and I really enjoyed the way he thinks and writes. Even though he says "ipso facto" every other page, the ideas he presents are eventually very interesting. He is also a conservative, which makes me want to read him all the more, because it's nice to challenge my beliefs a little. The Capitalist Revolution did a pretty good job of doing just that. Just when I thought I was safely anti-capitalist, I find a book that does a pretty good job of convincing me not to be. Berger is an evidence-driven person, and I think the bottom line for him is how things affect people. "Do people suffer more in X or Y?" "How does Z affect the poorest part of the population?" These are the types of questions he tends to ask. I don't agree with a lot of the points he made in this book -- in particular, I think he's overlooking the effect of growth on the environment, but overall, the arguments he made were very compelling. Though this is not easy reading, I would recommend it for anyone who's concerned about the United States' position in Latin America (or in the world for that matter), and also people concerned about our society. That being said, however, I quit the book about halfway through. I feel a relentless drive recently to read the next book, and I feel like I had picked up his basic argument. Perhaps I missed out on something? Who knows?

Dune Messiah (Dune Chronicles, Book 2)
I think Frank Herbert is incredibly imaginative, and if you're just looking for pure entertainment, these books are very good. I've read the whole series before, a long time ago, and reading them this time, I was struck with how well he handled the sequels. I am getting somewhat bored with the third one, but I think it's because I'm tiring of pure entertainment, rather than because of some flaw in the series. I like his use of metaphors, especially the metaphor for the "valleys" and "hills" of the future. (8/2/99)

Movement and Revolution
A friend sent me Movement and Revolution, a book by Peter L. Berger and Richard J. Neuhaus.  It was written in 1970, during the midst of the Vietnam War.  The two writers come from completely different ends of the political spectrum -- Berger being a conservative sociologist and Neuhaus being a pastor and civil rights activists.  The book covers a lot of ground, and is very though provoking.  I particularly liked Berger's writing style -- it may be some of the best written English I've read for persuasive writing -- logical, intelligent, but also approachable.  It reminds me a little of another writing whose writing I love, M. Scott Peck.  Anyway, I was surprised how much I found myself agreeing with Berger's assertions.  The book isn't presented as a debate between two different ideological sides -- more than that, it is a look at how society has changed in the past, and an analysis of how change can be conducted, and under what terms drastic change is acceptable.  Berger's background in sociology makes his analysis of this fascinating.  Of course, change is a topic that I'm very interested in, so I may be partial, but this is a book that I would recommend to anyone who's interested in making a change in the world.  Berger's analysis is that the litmus test for "revolutionaries" should be 1) that their motivation for change is out of compassion for others, and 2) that they deal in the realm of rational thought and analysis (not precluding passion, of course). I found out that Berger has written a lot of other books, and I'm planning to read some of them.

On Liberty
John Stuart Mill: On Liberty. Brilliant! Discusses the problem of the rule of the majority and the liberty of the individual, and defines principles to guide the protection of liberty. I love Mill's thinking. He thought of this book as his masterpiece -- the best thing he had ever written, and I understand why. I'm deliberating whether or not to include this on my must read list. (7/1/98)

The Heart of a Woman

In the Heart of the Country
My friend lent me J.M. Coertzee's In the Heart of the Country. She said she had been reading a lot of South African literature recently, and recommended this. First of all, stylistically, Cortzee's writing is some of the best I've encountered. His words gash their way through your mind, with relentless energy and sparseness, like haiku without pretty adornments, like vulgar haiku. I loved it. The book is sad, depressing, disgusting, beautiful, obsessive, and it reminds me of daydreams, but tragic ones. It's the story of a woman living out a lonely life on a remote farm in South Africa, and more, but you can discover the story yourself. (7/6/98)

Ender's Game
My favorite piece of science-fiction. It is the story of a genius coming of age and being trained for a war with an alien race... It is sophisticated and beautiful, and highly recommended. (5/23/99)

Robot Dreams
Robot Dream's, by Isaac Asimov, has some very interesting stories, a few I didn't like, and mostly, except for the few I really liked, it didn't impact me much. (5/23/99)

A Wizard of Earthsea (Earthsea Trilogy, Book 1)
Reminds me vaguely of Ender's Game. It is also a story about growing up, but this is a fantasy world of Le Guin's construction rather than a futuristic world. I thought her writing style was a smidgeon difficult to follow, but this is one of my favorite fantasy books. (5/23/99)

***1/2  This is another excellent book, well worth reading. I found myself thinking about the book for days afterwards, and the book makes you confront you own ideals about what an "ideal society" looks like. Personally, I don't think I would be able to tolerate living in his Utopia... it is a very static, conservative society. But his thinking is extremely interesting, and I love how he traces out all the aspects of the Utopians' lives.

Keep this thought in mind when thinking of a Utopia: can there be a utopia when people are so different? A utopia for me may not be a utopia for you.. (1/14/00)

Animal Farm
A very well-done account of what happens during revolutions. It also details how power and good intentions don't always work together, and ... well, it's just a great book, pretty short. (7/10/99)

Hume in 90 Minutes (Philosophers in 90 Minutes)
Paul Strathern gives a lot of context for philosopher's ideas, and broadly shapes the thinking that Hume is well-known for. Entertaining, and a good introduction to philosophy. (7/10/99)

Aristotle in 90 Minutes (Philosophers in 90 Minutes)
Paul Strathern gives a lot of context for philosopher's ideas, and broadly shapes the thinking that each philosopher is well-known for. Entertaining, and a good introduction to philosophy. (7/10/99)

Plato in 90 Minutes (Philosophers in 90 Minutes)
Paul Strathern gives a lot of context for philosopher's ideas, and broadly shapes the thinking that each philosopher is well-known for. Entertaining, and a good introduction to philosophy. (7/10/99)

The Fountainhead
The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand is a book I set high on my must read list. It's a piece of art. This is a book that will challenge you in a lot of ways. It turns everything you believe about individualism, selfishness, and altruism on its head, but beyond that it will change how you look at architecture and art probably forever. It's a novel about an brilliant architect who is a hyper-individualist, but that's just a small part of it, in a way. You don't have to agree with everything, but you do have to react to this book. I've read this a couple of times.

Autobiography: The Story of My Experiments With Truth
My latest autobiographical read, Mohandas K. Gandhi's Autobiography The Story of My Experiments with Truth was a mixed bag for me. On one hand, I found it fascinating to be listening to Gandhi in a book where it felt like he was talking directly to the reader and chatting about his life. On the other, he seems to assume that the reader is already familiar with his life, or has read his other major works, so it skips some of the most interesting sections of his life and gives little background information for others. It left me feeling a little confused sometimes. Nevertheless, Gandhi goes into great detail to show how he gradually simplified his life and his diet, and talks about all of the experiments he made during his life, such as setting up communal farms, experiments with fasting and health, and sexual abstinence. His humility is amazing, and I found myself amazed that Gandhi was not a very good speaker. He used to tremble in front of large audiences, and often has his speeches read by other people. This was very difficult for him as a lawyer, and his influence was not made my great speeches, but by his lifestyle, his writing, and his ability to affect people individually and in smaller groups. Kind of changes our view of leadership a bit, eh?

Performance Rock Climbing
Ironically, I am typing this with one hand because of a climbing injury... This is the third time I've read this book actually. Performance Rock Climbing is an incredibly interesting book -- I imagine a person who has never rock climbed before and never wants to would even find it interesting and useful. Goddard and Neumann, the authors, talk about how to train for rock climbing, how muscles work (I had no idea!), how you become stronger, how your body responds to different psychological states, and so on. The first time I read the book, I was struck by how generalizable all this information is. For example, one of the ideas discussed in the book is that people generally try to train in areas they are already good at, because the psychological rewards are very high. However, training at the areas you're weakest at is much more effective. This is true in life as well, isn't it? There were many things like that in this book (6/7/98)

Searching for Memory: The Brain, the Mind, and the Past
Searching for Memory, by Daniel Schacter, is a fascinating book about how we remember. It sometimes is a little technical, but he weaves in countless fascinating case studies, his own memories, and artwork to show the importance of memory in our lives and how our memories work. I'm reading this for a paper I'm writing, but I would have read it anyways. If you're interested in that sort of thing, it's a great read. (6/7/98)

The Brothers Karamazov
My friend Ali lent me The Brothers Karamazov, by Dostoevsky. Although it was a long read, Dostoevsky is a master of the novel -- I don't know if I've ever read a novel where I felt more like I lived in this world than with this book. I found it very entertaining, and I learned a lot as well. Some of his discussions on whether or not God exists, for example, were refreshing perspectives on old questions (even the arguments were old, but Dostoevsky seemed to make them very new and twisted them in interesting ways. Great book, though I wouldn't recommend it as a must read to everyone. (6/7/98)

Bass and Stogdill's Handbook of Leadership: Theory, Research, and Managerial Applications
I recently discovered an area of social science that I didn't know existed -- leadership studies. It seemed like it would be a fascinating subject. I've been a little disappointed, though. Although the book I skimmed through, Handbook of Leadership, by Ralph M. Stogdill, is amazing in the amount of research he's put together, I didn't find it to be terribly helpful. He is very rigorous in looking at studies of leadership and what they have to tell us, but I didn't really see anything that profound from the studies. Maybe I just missed it? I don't know. They all seem to be obsessed with Max Weber, too. His idea of charismatic leadership seems to be an idea that everyone can't help but respond to. The book I'm reading now is ever more like that. Stogdill's book avoids that by being completely a summary of research. It's like reading a bibliography. Not terribly interesting. What I'm interested in is how leaders became leaders, and how leadership training works and doesn't work... (6/15/98 or so) This review is of a really old version of the book.

I just finished John Stuart Mill's autobiography. I extract this from the intro to "On Liberty", another book of his: "The Utilitarians [of whom John Stuart Mill and his father were two of the most notable] were virtually a political party as well as a philosophical movement. They promoted the cause of reform by seeking to influence public opinion and members of parliament. They were publicists, propagandists, candidates, and sometimes members of Pariliament in pursuit of their goals." J.S. Mill was a strong advocate of women's sufferage in England, and he had a tremendous impact on their country. His life was also fascinating -- his education was quite different than that that most of us receive. His father gave him an amazing education from a very young age, which Mill elucidates in detail in his autobiography. I was very impressed with the life of a man whose life is marked with intelligence, and incredible independence; yet, at the same time, a life so sensitive and committed to the betterment of humanity. There were many ideas in this book which intrigued me, and many insights which impressed upon my mind. I think I will read his book, "On Liberty" soon -- my friend Ben lent it to me. (6/21/98)

Plato Five Dialogues: Euthyphro, Apology, Crito, Meno, Phaedo
I just finished Plato's Meno, which my philosophy friend recommended as a good introduction to Plato/Socrates. I found it fascinating, and enjoyed it quite a bit. This deals with defining virtue and discusses whether virtue can be taught or not. I would write more, but my hands hurt. I found the discussion on the difference between knowledge and correct intuition or guesses to be interesting. (7/10/98)

Entertaining science fiction, very imaginative. (8/2/99)

Churchill's Black Dog, Kafka's Mice, and Other Phenomena of the Human Mind
Churchill's Black Dog, Kafka's Mice, and Other Phenomena of the Human Mind, by Anthony Starr. I had mixed feelings about this book. It was so similar to Philosophers and Kings: Studies in Leadership that I felt like I was reading additional chapters of that book... I enjoyed reading about the problems with depression that Churchill and Kafka had, and the essays he includes about violence and so on were pretty interesting. However, I found myself skimming through parts of the book. I'm happy that I read this book, though. (7/16/98)

Atlas Shrugged
Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged may be the largest book I've read. It's almost 1200 pages. I had mixed feelings about this book also. Although it deal with broader topics than the Fountainhead, I felt like it wasn't as well done, overall. I enjoyed some of the ideas in this book, and the story itself is pretty interesting, but I wouldn't recommend this unless you'd like to understand some of the ideas in the Fountainhead better, or you're interested in her philosophy. I would recommend The Fountainhead instead. It felt like she took all the characters from The Fountainhead, gave them different names and situations, and rewrote the story. (7/16/98)

For the New Intellectual
I just finished Ayn Rand's For the New Intellectual, her manifesto for the Objectivist philosophical tradition. I doubt you'll agree with everything she says in this (I didn't), but I think it's something I'd strongly recommend reading, because it forces you to define your attitudes towards capitalism and individualism, both of which she strongly endorses. She also summarizes the history of philosophy, and argues that American philosophers and intellectuals are responsible for much of the moral bankruptcy of the nation. Strongly recommended. (7/18/98)

Werner Erhart, the Transformation of a Man: The Founding of est
I read a book about Werner Erhart, the man who started est back in the 1970's. The book is called Werner Erhart, the Transformation of a Man: The Founding of est. It is an authorized biography, which means that Erhart probably shaped a lot about the book. It is about 70% fascinating, 20% fluff, and 10% "what the hell is this?". What I found most interesting was his development of integrity and also his ability to affect the people around him. Also, I found it interesting how he set out to become who he became. It seems very deliberate. Having taken the next generation of est, the Landmark Forums, I know that a lot of what he developed is very effective, so was interesting for me to understand what type of a person developed it. I probably wouldn't recommend it to someone who was thinking about the Landmark Forum. Why? Because I think the Forum isn't about Erhart, and some of the strangenesses of this book might scare people away from a very positive experience. Of course, describing it like that will probably want to make someone considering Landmark's classes want to read the book. (8/7/98)

The Penguin History of the World
The History of the World is a fascinating overview of history from human ancestory to the present day. I didn't finish it (I had to return it to the library) but I probably will someday. (8/19/98)

Till We Have Faces: A Myth Retold
Till  We Have Faces, by C.S. Lewis, is a beautiful interpretation of the myth of Psyche and Cupid. It is intricate, and employs exquisite language. Has some interesting points about love. I strongly recommend this book. (9/21/98)

One of my favorite books of all time, and a must read.

Brave New World
Let's tackle all of our dystopias at once, right?

Technopoly: The Surrender of Culture to Technology
Technopoly, by Neil Postman. I love to read intelligent criticism of society, and although I was sympathetic to many of Postman's points, I was so disgusted with the way he argued his points that I quit the book midway. His mode of argument seems to be to make a sweeping statement, and try to find some (flimsy) evidence for it, and then proceed as if his case has already been accepted. I was really prepared to be convinced -- prepared to read a lambasting of the priorities of our society, and so on, but this book was terribly disappointing.

The Sound and the Fury: The Corrected Text (Vintage International)
Only read 2/5 of it, and got bored.

The Selfish Gene
The Selfish Gene, by Richard Dawkins, is one of the most interesting books about science I've read. I enjoy the way this guy thinks and writes. I think some of the implications of this book are very profound. Even though this book is about evolution, I think it has many insights into the way that our world works, the way we act, and the way we set up institutions... I very highly recommend this book. (3/13/99)

By Any Means Necessary: The Trials and Tribulations of the Making of Malcolm X
By Any Means Necessary, by Spike Lee, is about the making of the movie Malcolm X. It's fascinating, and provides a loit of insight into who Malcolm X was as well. For the movie, Lee interviewed a lot of people, and the contents of those interviews highlights aspects of Malcolm's personality that wasn't present in his autobiography. It also details everything Lee went through to make the film... which was quite a lot. Fascinating! (3/14/99)

The Ecology of Commerce: A Declaration of Sustainability
Sometimes interesting, sometimes a little unfocused. I think the book could have benefitted from more structure. But some of the ideas are interesting, such as the explanation of internal and external costs for businesses. I generally like systems or ecology thinking, because it is based not on what is good but what is stable and sustainable. A lot of his thinking was speculative... I agree with him that business is probably the most influential institution on the planet, and like his train of thought. Generally, he is looking at how to employ the advantages of capitalism and free enterprise to the benefit of the world environmentally. (4/10/99)

Karma Cola: Marketing the Mystic East (Vintage International)
Gita Mehta's Karma Cola tells of the marketing of Indian religion and culture to westerners. It was pretty interesting, and reminded me of Demon-haunted World in a vague way. She more presents the scene than tells you her analysis of it. She guides you through the bizarre world of gurus, the culturally displaced, the drugs and sex, the strangeness of the foreigners in India. Witty and eye-opening.

Sophie's World: A Novel About the History of Philosophy
Gaarder's Sophie's World is a novel about the history of philosophy. A teenage girl starts receiving mysterious letters about philosophy, and she sets out to learn the history of philosophy, through her hidden correspondent. It's quite entertaining, and intriguing as well. I recommend this very highly to anyone interested in the Big Questions in life. (8/7/98)

The Japanese Mind
An excellent book on Japanese culture. Having lived in Tokyo for a year, I'd say this is an excellent introduction to Japanese culture, even if a few things are right out of the 80s. An excellent look at culture itself, and how it shapes our thinking.

My Ishmael
Another great book by Daniel Quinn, answering many of my previous objections to his books.

Won the Nobel prize for literature, a beautiful and haunting book.

The Stranger

Prelude to Foundation
Prelude to Foundation, Isaac Asimov. Very entertaining. It had been a while since I had read science fiction (excluding Brave New World). Good, but for full effect, it should probably be read after a lot of his other books. (3/9/99)

The Demon-Haunted World: Science As a Candle in the Dark
The Demon-Haunted World, by Carl Sagan, is a vigorous defense of science and its role in society. But more than that, it talks about the role of skepticism and wonder in our world, and about pseudoscience and fundamentalism... I thought this is one of the most 'fair' books I've read. He seems to carefully try to understand all of the different viewpoints available and the reason people hold those viewpoints. I found it refreshing.

Into the Wild
Very very good (3/23/99)

Monkey is a retelling of an old Chinese tail. I found it entertaining. It's kind of like Superman, except he also has magic powers. It's interesting to see him change from an arrogant ignoramous to a civilized being. (4/10/99)

Frank Herbert is incredibly imaginative, and if you're just looking for pure entertainment, these books are very good. I've read the whole series before, a long time ago, and reading them this time, I was struck with how well he handled the sequels. I am getting somewhat bored with the third one, but I think it's because I'm tiring of pure entertainment, rather than because of some flaw in the series. I like his use of metaphors, especially the metaphor for the "valleys" and "hills" of the future. (8/2/99)

Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry into Values
Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance started beautifully, but left me somewhat lost in the middle. I'm not quite sure about his idea of Quality, and I will eventually read this book again in the attempt to find out what he means. But the book is truly wonderful, a collection of fascinating philosophical lines of thought, and a gentle, unhurried approach to his explanations. It's definitely a book of ideas, a thinking book. I like his discussion of people's approach to technology, the distinction between classical and romantic views of the world, and his attempt to meld the two. Ultimately, I failed to follow his unification scheme, and felt lost as he kept driving his motorcycle west. Plot-wise, I also found Phaedus an interesting device... or is Phaedus real? I was very curious. I'd recommend this book to anyone interested in philosophy. (8/2/99)

The Fall of Hyperion
Entertaining science fiction, very imaginative. (8/2/99)

Stranger in a Strange Land
Loved this book when I was younger, was pretty bored with it now. I read up until the last few chapters, skimmed them, and left very disappointed. (8/2/99)

Wow! Nabokov is an amazing writer. I was very impressed just with the lyrical quality of his prose, the gentle, flowing voice in it... I loved the little asides, the details, the eye for the small he possesses. Lolita was a great examination of obsession and lust, told frankly by a quite sympathetic character of Humbert Humbert. The scenes in this book etched themselves in my mind... he tells a tale so vividly that I wished I could read Russian so that I could appreciate what he could do in his mother tongue! A very satisfying book. (8/2/99)

The Basic Essentials of Survival
A small book(let) that gives an overview of some things you would want to know if you were lost in the woods. I found particularly interesting a section which detailed how to tell which direction is which, day or night, from any part of the planet. (8/7/99

White Noise
White Noise reminds me vaguely of Nabokov in its lyrical quality, has fascinating characters, rich conversations, and seems to possess a current that runs deep, slightly below consciousness, light and ironic simultaneously. The themes it deals with is death and American culture, and it handles the latter so deftly I am hard pressed to think of any other book I've read that even stands in the same category. The book is complicated but engaging, and I strongly recommend reading it in a sitting or two. I made the mistake of reading it gradually, and halfway through the book, started over and was happy I did. (8/7/99)

The Magus
A beautifully crafted book. Although I found the extensive references to obscure Greek mythological figures and the use of untranslated French a little pretentious, that was my only complaint with the book. The book starts slowly and carefully, describing in lush, absolutely believable detail his relationship with a woman. The next part of the book occurs in a remote Greek island, and gradually picks up to a frantic, almost nightmarish pace... It is a fascinating, complicated, twisty sort of book, but infinitely rewarding, and one of my favorites. (10/11/99)

The Sound of the Mountain
Yasunari Kawabata wanted to be a painter, but ended up being a Nobel prize-winning author instead. Nevertheless, his writing, even in translation, comes across as like a painting or haiku. He has this great way of connecting completely unrelated events... like birds or trees or a dream...  The Sound of the Mountain is the second book I've read by him, and it was equally enjoyable to Snow Country. I felt like this book made me into an older man, with all of my old-age concerns... This was a great book! (4/11/99)

Fahrenheit 451
Fahrenheit 451, by Ray Bradbury, is the temperature at which books burn. As the name implies, it is about censorship. I found Bradbury to be an imaginative writer -- I like his style, and appreciate his message. I think I enjoyed 1984 a little more, but parts of this book were brilliant, and I would recommend it to any sci-fi fan. (5/4/99)

The Martian Chronicles
The Martian Chronicles is a classic in sci-fi, as far as I'm concerned. It was some of the best sci-fi I've read (perhaps second to Ender's Game, the one true classic, and competing for second with Zelazny's Amber series). (5/4/99)

The Tombs of Atuan: The Earthsea Cycle
Also very good

Tehanu: The Earthsea Cycle
I think Le Guin's writing carries you through the story, but I felt like the plot was weak, especially in the last book, where the ending is completely anticlimatic. Nevertheless, for the fantasy genre, I consider this series to be a must-read.

Illusions: The Adventures of a Reluctant Messiah
Illusions, by Richard Bach... Well, it was a quick read. I didn't really find anything new here, but if I hadn't come across the ideas before, I suppose i could have found this interesting. It was entertaining, and made me think a little, but I would give it a rating of "Shrug". (5/23/99) There were a few times in the last few days when I mentioned thought that arose from this book. So it did have some value for me.

The Continuum Concept: In Search of Happiness Lost (Classics in Human Development)
The Continuum Concept, by Liedloff, was a mixed bag for me. There are some ideas in this book that I want everyone to be exposed to, but it also disappointed me when she would talk about "gurus", as if she believed in them, and so on. The book is about child-raising, and the beginning is fascinating, compelling, brilliant even. After that, it goes downhill, but I recommend reading this book until you lose interest (for me it was halfway through). Definitely read this book if you'll be raising children! Just don't swallow everything she's saying. This book is like sifting for gold in a stream that has promise. (5/23/99)

The Fifth Discipline
A strongly recommended book for me. It is about systems science (and a few other things). It talks about how to solve problems of the variety where you feel like the stronger you push, the more everything pushes back. It also talks about the types of problems people are not very good at solving, such as situations where there is a gap between what we do and the reaction we see. It is easy to read, and accessible, and although I did not finish it because I tired of it, I would still recommend it with little reservation to almost anyone. (5/23/99)

A Brief History of Time
A Brief History of Time, by Stephen Hawkins, was a fascinating book about physics, relativity, and quantum mechanics. It got complicated at the end, almost seemed like nonsense, but everyone else who's tried to explain quantum mechanics to me has fared far worse. Worth reading, if you're interested in the nature of the universe. (5/29/99)

Burning Chrome
A selection of short stories by William Gibson, who is famous for his novel Neuromancer which arguably created the genre cyberpunk. I thought Gibson was compelling, imaginative, and also confusing sometimes. He jerks his camera around so fast sometimes that I didn't even understand his story. Nevertheless, very well written. (5/29/99)

I, Robot
Interesting and well-written sci-fi. But it wasn't particularly compelling for me. A few of the stories were quite good, however. (5/29/99)

Speaker for the Dead
Although occasionally I tire of Card's style (especially after reading this whole series straight through!), he is arguably one of the most sophisticated sci-fi writers out there. He makes me think about life and big questions, while at the same time, giving such humanity to his characters that you really care what happens to them. I wish he had written the whole series as one huge book, but then of course nobody would touch something that large. But he could have then made the story a little leaner perhaps. Nevertheless, his books are the top rungs of sci-fi and really are literature in their own right. I'm loving these books! (5/29/99)

Although occasionally I tire of Card's style (especially after reading this whole series straight through!), he is arguably one of the most sophisticated sci-fi writers out there. He makes me think about life and big questions, while at the same time, giving such humanity to his characters that you really care what happens to them. I wish he had written the whole series as one huge book, but then of course nobody would touch something that large. But he could have then made the story a little leaner perhaps. Nevertheless, his books are the top rungs of sci-fi and really are literature in their own right. I'm loving these books! (5/29/99)

Children of the Mind
Although occasionally I tire of Card's style (especially after reading this whole series straight through!), he is arguably one of the most sophisticated sci-fi writers out there. He makes me think about life and big questions, while at the same time, giving such humanity to his characters that you really care what happens to them. I wish he had written the whole series as one huge book, but then of course nobody would touch something that large. But he could have then made the story a little leaner perhaps. Nevertheless, his books are the top rungs of sci-fi and really are literature in their own right. I'm loving these books! My biggest complaint was with the last one, in which he occasionally lapses into what seems to me to be cheesy romance novel material. (5/29/99)

100 Ways to Improve Your Writing
Gary Provost's 100 Ways to Improve Your Writing is a useful collection of guidelines for writing. I found a few suggestions in it to be quite good, and of course it is well-written and well-illustrated. It's a small book, and inexpensive. (10/11/99)

The Master and Margarita

One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest
Ken Kesey
I just read Ken Kesey's One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest for the second time. It's a classic individual vs. society book, a theme I happen to be partial to. This book is another of my favorite books. It's the story of a con man, a swaggering individualist, who is admitted into an insane asylum. He is a sort of Christ figure... A wonderfully told story with beautiful, well-defined prose and intelligently written. (10/11/99)

The World According to Garp
John Irving
A mixed bag for me. It's frightfully good at the beginning and at the end, and Irving is an excellent storyteller: he excels with his characterization and storyline. Yet there was also something about the novel, especially in the middle, that screamed, "this is just an entertaining novel." I almost gave up in the middle, but was glad I didn't: the book manages to squeeze out some interesting themes by the end, and I left the book very satisfied, like after a large meal. Yet it wasn't my stomach that was full -- Irving had provoked my thinking, and that is what ultimately satisfied me. His writing is smooth and unobtrusive, almost pre-digested even -- very easy reading, unpretentious. (10/24/99)

The Winshaw Legacy or What a Carve Up!
Jonathan Coe
***1/2 I have mixed feelings about this book. On one hand, I loved it: it was clever, had interesting characters, and a backdrop of social satire and humor that appealed to me. However, even though this was probably intentional, I also found it a bit overdone, and the spoof of mystery novels was just not that rewarding to me, especially at the end. The writing was excellent, and the use of various points of view and news clippings made it like you were switching from camera to camera, an interesting effect in a novel. Overall, worth reading. (11/06/99)