2016 Reading List – All the Books I read in 2016
This year I ended up reading 49 books, and enjoyed both fiction and nonfiction from a variety of areas. We may all, as a society, have shorter attention spans, but this year I found it harder to get through longer books (one book below is over 800 pages), and instead of the 100 books a year I’ve enjoyed in the past, I only made it through the books below, (perhaps due to social media and other influences). If you’re interested, I have a list at the bottom of this note with links to the books I read in 2015 (34 books), in 2014 (45 books), in 2013 (97 books), in 2012 (100 books), in 2011 (32 books), 2011 (21 books), and in 2009 (19 books). (This list was delayed because I had deleted the original file listing my reviews and list of books read, so there might be one or two that have been forgotten). What books did you enjoy this past year? What books do you recommend for 2017? What books should I avoid? I love your comments. Thanks for reading.
The Kind Worth Killing, by Peter Swanson
Notes: This fiction murder mystery, about two mysterious strangers that meet in a First-Class airport lounge, and hear each other’s stories of unhappiness, has many layers to it. The characters involved are interesting, clearly defined, and with motivations that are clearly written. Although this story was inspired by a familiar Alfred Hitchcock story, it takes some fascinating twists, and slowly reveals more about each character skillfully, and holds attention up to the somewhat abrupt and surprise ending. I enjoyed this book.
Robert’s Rating (RR): 5/5
Destiny and Power: The American Odyssey of George Herbert Walker Bush, by David Meachem
Notes: George H.W. Bush was unique among US Presidents, in that he kept a daily diary, with commentary, of each day that he was in the White House. Those diaries were used here as a starting point for Pulitzer prize winning author and historian Meachem, along with interviewing every living president, and every living member of the Bush cabinets and family, along with his political opponents. The writing here is honestly top notch, and the interviews are handled skillfully and tell a chronological story of a fairly sensitive man with incredible character, emotional moments, and living through and being a part of many of the biggest events of the world in the last century. While Bush Sr.’s unflattering thoughts about his son’s cabinet, mostly Cheney and Rumsfield, got all the press when this book came out last year, there are some other undiscovered gems, including how Bush Sr was surprised when Bush Jr converted to religion, and a story about how GWB (Jr) was drunk and in an argument with Jeb Bush, and then challenged Bush Sr to a fist fight ‘mano a mano’. The story of going out of his way to support Lyndon Johnson against his party, and remove himself from the NRA and move towards civil rights and environmental policies against his party, says volumes. Although this was an over 800 page book, the writing and significance of this biography kept pages turning until it was done.
All the Light We Cannot See, by Anthony Doerr
Notes: This book has a fascinating premise and a brilliant structure – it’s a fiction book set during the years of Nazi occupation in France, and involves both a young German boy fascinated by radio, and the relationship between a crafty father and his daughter, who is blind, and their life and conflicts. With a few twists, it is well told and a thrill to read. I couldn’t not give it my highest rating for the crafting of this expertly told story.
Long Walk to Freedom, by Nelson Mandela
Notes: This autobiography is amazing in so many ways, not least of that it was mainly written during a long prison sentence for activities against the state of South Africa. Most of Mandela’s early years I did not know about, but I learned in detail what the practice of law in segregated firms, big and small, was like in South Africa during apartheid, and the search for meaning in what Mandela was doing before and after his decades long prison sentence. The fact that he rose from prisoner to leader of the entire nation is a testament to his spirit and to the massive changes that took place in that country, in part because of him.
11/22/63: A Novel, by Stephen King
Notes: This book is part deep reminiscence by King of what it was like to be in New England in the 1950s, down to every detail, and part character study. Although it certainly would be described as science fiction, since it involves a man who plans to travel back in time to kill Lee Harvey Oswald before he could kill John F. Kennedy, the time travel element is not the focus, and it takes a long time to get to the action where Kennedy is involved. Knowing King’s biography, this must be a deeply biographical book, but the characters involved, and the skillful writing, and the expert building of tension again and again until the ending, make this an excellent read. When you change the past, the present doesn’t always go the way you want, in many aspects, and this book makes that heartbreakingly clear.
Between the World and Me, by Ta-Nehisi Coates
Notes: This very personal nonfiction book is a series of essays, written as a letter from the author to his son, warning him of the dangers growing up as a black man in America. It examines the author’s views on race in America, and American black history, and how that history has sometimes cost black bodies and lives. Delving into his time at Howard University and in Paris, and focusing on more current examples of Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, and other ugly parts of life as a black man, including the reality of mass incarceration, and police brutality, as history and as present day dangers. as part of its foundation. A powerful book, although not as tightly focused due to the essay style as it might have been.
Spent: Sex, Evolution, and Consumer Behavior, by Geoffrey Miller
Notes: I enjoyed reading the book and always enjoy Miller’s appearances on podcasts, radio, and on television specials. Miller is an insightful and talented writer, and uses his background as a professor in explaining branding in life and in human history. Branding creates associations to a product so that consumers pay more for the brand than for the actual features of the product. Being associated with a brand makes the intellectual property – the trademarks, logos, and brand name, that brings in the sales, not the commodity itself. At length, he documents how people use possessions to signal their properties to potential mates. Humans waste resources just like all other animals to indicate fitness for mating. High maintenance, impractical objects such as expensive suits and cars (or fashion, shoes and purses), act as expensive signals of fitness via conspicuous waste, precision, or reputation, like human versions of the peacock’s tail. Like the book I read a few years ago, 59 seconds, Miller describes the “Big 6” characteristics that explain most of the variation between all personalities: general intelligence, conscientiousness, agreeableness, openness, extraversion, and stability. He goes through a few of these characteristics in detail and argues for the superiority of the Big 6 model over demographics and urges marketers (whether one person looking for a companion, or a large-scale company looking to increase sales of a product), to refine marketing through those eyes.
Born To Run: A Hidden Tribe, Superatheletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Heard Of, by Christopher McDougall
Notes: This is written as almost three separate books. The first book is the author’s attempt to describe his attempts to become a runner, and all the pain that journey took him through, and his assignment trying to find and write about the Taraumara Indian tribe. The second book in a book describes the Taramaura, who are known as ultra-ultra-marathon runners, from the Copper Canyon area of Mexico. The drunken runs of hundreds of miles, day and night, of this tribe, seemed hard to believe, although the stories of life in the tribe, if true, are amazing. I find it difficult to believe that this tribe is both super-secret and do not talk to strangers, and also host several international marathons and events where they have people all over the world live and party with them. The third book is the most interesting – it describes the benefits of barefoot running, as opposed to using running shoes. And it concludes with the fact that humans can outlast and outrun any other animal on Earth. Humans have variable breathing, unlike most other species, and don’t have to stop when they overheat, unlike cheetahs and horses and reptiles. The science here is certainly cherry picked to fit the conclusion, and some of the Americans that travel to and run with the Taraumara seemed annoying (and in fact may have been). This book apparently started the entire rush in the shoe industry to make natural foot running shoes, and inspired an entire generation of runners to run barefoot.
The One World Schoolhouse, by Salman Khan
Notes: A book about what’s wrong with education and how to reform it must be controversial. But it’s hard to argue against the concepts in this book. Sal Khan has an amazing story, from starting a video to teach his niece one basic math concept, to starting a series of videos, filmed from his closet with his own money. When he nearly went broke with his award-winning series of videos, Silicon Valley took notice, and investors, plus notably Bill Gates, made a massive investment. Salman Khan wants the world’s students to learn concepts in all required subjects 100%, not just a passing 80%, and wants that education to be free, and available all over the world. The goal is to give every student a world class education, anywhere, anytime, for free. This is a wonderful and optimistic book that first goes through the history of his idea of an Academy based upon technology, the successes to date (one inner city school raised grades 40%, and an entire country in Africa became world leaders in math and science from his techniques). He then goes into the history of how our education system, along with its most famous attributes – the lecture by a teacher, the testing, breaks and vacations, came to be, past to present. He has interesting theories about keeping students in loops with a variety of teaching techniques until a student gets something completely, allowing teachers to guide what each student needs to learn on their own, and teaching students in a class to tutor each other and become teachers. It also seems a little light on examples as to internships, for example, as he only uses the examples of three tech companies, and the internship or apprenticeship model may not work in all industries. But it’s hard to argue with his common-sense conclusions about the known issues across the whole learning landscape. This could lead to a revolution in education, or at least some very promising experiments with specific schools, that could finally blend education and technology and especially change the developing world.
The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up, by Marie Kondo
Notes: This book was a best seller in Japan, and became a bestseller here when translated into English. And, while this book is very Japanese in what it discusses and what it proposes, it was a very enjoyable read and made me think about everything in the office and the home, from papers to clothing. Her technique of holding each item and asking “does this bring me joy” is a little silly, but she has some very specific techniques for each item of clutter in your home and I ended up with a new understanding of why people keep items and how to minimalize everything in my life.
A Man on The Moon, by Andrew Chaiken
Notes: I have had this book over 18 years, and my father claimed that it was the best book he’s ever read. Only now, for several reasons, did I get around to reading it. And it is an excellent read, providing some detail about the beginnings of the Apollo project, from its first tragedy, to the last landing on the moon, while discussing what an amazing and important achievement it was, why it was important, and takes in and conveys all details about each mission to the moon, what they meant, and why we did it. The research is impressive, and I can see why this book inspired the series “From the Earth to The Moon”, and has made Chaikin popular on the lecture circuit for space exploration. He’s a great writer.
Think and Grow Rich, by Napoleon Hill
Notes: This is a classic, and I may have read this long ago, but, as it is a short read, but an important one. This has stood the test of time as literature for almost 100 years now – long enough to be out of patent, so there are many versions on the market at present. But the clear common sense advice – you become what you focus and think about most – stands the test of time, and is always a good reminder.
The Girl on the Train, by Paula Hawkins
Notes: This book was enjoyable, and even might have rated higher if I hadn’t read “The Kind Worth Killing”, above. I read this novel before it became a film, but wasn’t as impressed by the movie as I was with the novel. The book is told by several narrators in the first-person voice, and that, plus the fact that there are spouses and facts that link each (and some names and descriptions that by design are very similar), as well as the fact that it takes place in suburban England (along with British terms of speech), make for a confusing plot. Some sections you may want to re-read. However, I found this a well-crafted crime mystery and an enjoyable, and recommended, read.
The Science of Liberty by Timothy Ferris
Notes: While Ferris usually writes on big issue science subjects, “The Science of Liberty” is completely different. You will not find much in the way of astronomy or physics, but lots about the big thinkers from the Renaissance forward. Those that published and changed government during the age of enlightenment are the focus of this book. Depending on your politics, you may find issue with his conclusions, but the book is well researched and makes no huge leaps of logic. This is more “liberty” than “science”, and more “history” than science also, but documents how each scientific change made. The hypothesis here, supported with examples and writings from the past, is that individual liberties and scientific inquiry are historically and inseparably linked, and that together they form the principal engine of human progress. Where science is free to be practiced, liberties increase, and where that practice and research stops, societies, from communists, to religions, to monarchies, dictatorships, fascism, dies. An interesting book, well presented.
The Truth: An Uncomfortable Book About Relationships, by Neil Strauss
Notes: This book takes some very sharp turns. Based upon what he has learned about his relationships, including his relationships with his mother, significantly, and his father, this true story follows Strauss into the world of rehab, psychology, what patterns people use based upon their parents to find relationships, why that leads to mistakes again and again, and then his efforts to find what works best for him in relationships, including experiments in non-monogamy, building a harem, becoming celibate, and eventually getting married. Not for everyone, but an honest and wild ride here, with some deep truths that will make you think, especially in the first third of the book.
Attached, by Amir Levine MD and Rachel Heller
Notes: I enjoyed reading this book, as it does seem to ring a few truths. I’m still not sure how solid the psychology is here. My problem, if any, with this book is that it might be an example of a new book creating a new symptom, which seems to be the pattern in pop psychology books every few years. This book asks you to look at other potential relationship partners through a specific filter, and proposes that some people are relationship avoidant, and others have an anxiety and attachment personality, and the mismatch of these two styles (which the authors suggest comes completely from your relationship with your parents) causes most relationship problems. We all know relationships, or have been in relationships, where one party avoids someone, or is overly attached to someone, or vice versa. So, that seems to be somewhat of a simplification, but true. But whether matching those serves to make for better relationships didn’t seem to have much data presented to make it a proven truth, even if it is undeniably helpful. The book also focuses on looking for a relationship more than being helpful to someone that is in one.
An Appetite for Wonder: The Making of a Scientist, by Richard Dawkins
Notes: Dawkins details his childhood and early years. I did not know that he grew up in Nairobi, Kenya, but this book describes his childhood in detail. The book describes his developing curiosity about the natural world, for many pages, as well as the design and results of several of his research projects, which unfortunately bog down the interest of the reader in details. His experiences at Berkeley, and Oxford, and the stunning success of The Selfish Gene as a best seller when he was in his late 20s, are described, interesting, and well written.
Force of Nature: Mind, Body, Soul, and, of course, Surfing, by Laird Hamilton
Notes: Laird Hamilton is a famous big wave surfer, who lives in Hawaii with his famous volleyball athlete wife Gabrielle Reese. And he is an interesting guy. Describing how he grew up on a farm, and peppered with descriptions about him from his friends, as well as nutrition (lots of meatloaf) and workout techniques, this is also a discussion about how he balances his life, and keeps his mind relaxed and focused. Although this is one part biography, one “how great Laird is”, and one part self-help book, you can’t help but like and admire him and his advice.
Life is What You Make It: Find Your Own Path to Fulfillment, by Peter Buffett
Notes: Peter Buffett is the son of Warren Buffett, (and a musician), and he wrote this book, it seems, in part to destroy the myth that being Buffett’s son meant he was privileged (as Warren Buffet has written elsewhere, he only gives his children $10,000 per year to encourage them to be independent (and because that is the gift tax limitation). The main message here is to “forge your own life”, and not live for other people. As he states, enjoying what you do in every moment outweighs any material goods or success, and material success should never be your goal.
The Success Principles, by Jack Canfield
Notes: Jack Canfield is a Southern California local and is often at Newport Beach business events. He is the co-author of the “Chicken Soup for the Soul” books, and as you can imagine, sometimes has some cheesy, but motivational, advice. This book is very solid on common sense reminders of what makes for success and what makes you achieve your goals faster. Well done and concise summary of other success principles.
So Good They Can’t Ignore You: Why Skills Trump Passion in the Quest for Work You Love, by Cal Newport
Notes: As I have noted in the past, many business books take one simple principle and pad it to a full-length book. That means that there is a lot of fluff and filler, but still a good idea that could be expressed in a much shorter length. This book is a perfect example. The central premise of this book is this: the life advice to follow your passion is terrible advice. The book then goes into how very few people at a young age know enough about life to choose something to be passionate about, and even if they do, they are bound to be wrong, at length. The world needs both garbage collectors and creative jobs with an impact on the world, but people tend to go into one and not the other. The author premises that the only way to get something valuable is to offer something in return. And the only way to do that, in turn, is to master a difficult skill. This book also argues that you must develop what it calls “career capital”, which comprises skills, relationships and a body of work, which can be a long and arduous process.
Zag: The Number One Strategy of High Performance Brands, by Marty Neumeier
Notes: “When everybody zigs, zag,” is the message of this book, as to brand strategy. This is a simple book and short read, and the idea here is that in an extremely cluttered marketplace, traditional differentiation is no longer enough—today companies need “radical differentiation” to create lasting value for their shareholders and customers.
E=MC2, the Biography of an Equation, by David Bodanis
Notes: This book looks at the history of the famous equation, and the people and science behind developing the ideas that stand behind each side of the equals sign. The book is good and goes into the personalities that developed the atomic bomb and contemporaries of Einstein at the time of development of relativity. If you know nothing about the equation you will learn something.
Quantum Memory Power, by Dominic O’Brien
Notes: This is a very practical book. Dominic O’Brien is the world memory champion, and this book is filled with memory exercises, and game, and the memory exercises he goes over do work, and they’re not that difficult to learn. I wish this had a bigger focus on remembering names, which is always a challenge for me, but otherwise this book is great for teaching your brain to retain more information.
Six Thinking Hats, by Edward DeBono
Notes: This simple book has been around forever, and is somewhat famous in the corporate world in certain circles. I had never read it before this year. The idea here is found in the title, and it urges people considering a decision to look at it from six different angles. It works best when you explain to team members what each of the six roles are and then play act to get each of the opinions and point of views out, but even as one person considering a decision, this could force you to set aside irrational thoughts and take a decision through each filter and point of view, one by one, to come up with a better decision than just a pro/con list. Some of the information in the beginning and end might be a little outdated, but I found this book helpful and interesting.
Parallel Worlds: A Journey Through Creation, Higher Dimensions, and the Future, by Michio Kaku
Notes: Professor Kaku, teaches theoretical physics at the City University of New York, and is famous for his television appearances, as well as his other books. Here he leads readers through what is the leading current theory of the state of the universe – that evidence is pointing to the multiverse–a world made up of multiple universes, of which ours is but one. Our universe is expanding, which is leading it to cool and eventually freeze, but Kaku believes that we may be able to focus on leaving for another universe, or time warp back into our own past. Most of this is pure speculation. But the arguments, the writing, and the details, are highly interesting.
How We Learn, by Benedict Carey
Notes: I found this book both important, and also extremely dry reading. “How We Learn” is focused on the process of enhancing and exercising learning. The book describes how learning happens only when we memorize, let time pass, rememorize, build routines, and then practice retrieving the information that is memorized. Carey also describes how sleep plays a vital role in our brain function and memorization, and can greatly enhance learning and might be the key to learning things thoroughly.
How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia, by Mohsin Hamid
Notes: This book was recommended by a friend, and while the title sounds like a self-help book, this is a clever fiction book. Written by a narrator to instruct you, the protagonist, how to get rich, this describes growing up in Pakistan and falling in love, and dealing with ethical decisions, a love triangle, poverty, and company scandal. No one in this book is particularly likeable, but the style in which this story is told is highly interesting, and follows the reader through to the death of the main character. Only 240 pages, but a good quick fiction read.
You Can Be a Stock Market Genius, by Joel Greenblatt
Notes: I had read Greenblatt’s “The Little Book that Beats the Market”, and I like his writing style and his insights about the market. This very short book is a little more advanced, and presumes that you know financial world lingo and certain stock selection techniques (or what a value stock vs a growth stock is), but contains lots of practical advice if you want to try investing in the stock market on your own.
The Dinner, by Herman Koch
Notes: This novel is scheduled to be a motion picture this year, a fact I didn’t learn until after finishing this book. The book focuses on two couples at a trendy fancy restaurant, with interludes describing their dinner as well as focusing on the interactions between the four of them, and certain related family members. This book was translated from Dutch, and has descriptions and dialogue of each character that is both cool and collected on the outside, but seething and hateful on the inside, as well as descriptions that might require knowledge of Dutch culture to truly understand. The book itself has a plot and an ending that is somewhat shocking, but overall, except for some quirky dialogue, entertaining and interesting.
The Quiet Man: The Indispensable Presidency of George H.W. Bush, by John Sununu
Notes: This nonfiction book is a telling of the years that John Sununu acted as George H.W. Bush’s chief of staff. As such, it must have a certain bias to it, but Sununu has some interesting facts about running the White House. He details the philosophy of Bush, Sr. – That no one in politics should ever brag about anything, but let your work and your record speak for itself. The friendships and relationships that Bush had cultivated, and all the diplomatic activity, especially in Germany, Poland, Russia, and throughout Eastern Europe, during the sudden fall of the Soviet Union, was fascinating, both politically and as a story. The story of the “no new taxes” pledge and the conflict with the budget law requiring sequester of the government was also interesting, and Sununu seems to blame the media a little too much for the handling of that issue. The creation of the “Points of Light Foundation” (which merged with the Clinton Foundation) and how that came about, plus the 100 hour Iraq war and invasion, was fascinating. Sununu emphasizes throughout the fact checking that went into this book. Overall, a dry for some but interesting look at a slice of history.
Get the Life You Want: The Secrets to Quick and Lasting Life Change, by Richard Bandler
Notes: This is one of the books that popularized Neuro-linguistic Programming, and made for the rise of Anthony Robbins, among others. This book describes various mental and physical change techniques, and then takes you through application to many common problems. A little new-agey for my tastes, but can be helpful for some.
Succeed: How We Can Achieve Our Goals, by Heidi Grand Halverson
Notes: Halvorson is a psychologist, writer for Psychology Today and assistant professor of psychology. Her book tackles attainment of goals in every area of life from relationships to sports. This book rather tediously goes over many academic studies on self-esteem, motivation, and pursuit of goals. Like Wiseman’s 59 seconds, Halvorson says that you should not imagine yourself achieving goals, but rather see yourself defining and working towards a difficult to achieve result. “Don’t visualize success,” she warns. “Instead visualize the steps you will take to succeed.” Dry writing but a nugget of truth in this book.
Becoming Wise: An Inquiry into the Mystery and Art of Living, by Krista Tippett
Notes: Tippett is the host of a popular NPR show and podcast on religion, which I listen to. I had this book recommended by someone and was looking forward to it. The best part are the interviews with people she has had on her show in the past. The worst part is her name dropping without further discussion as to how that fits into her overall themes. Her book challenges readers to let go of assumptions, but since the book doesn’t seem to have much focus, (which can understandably come from trying to string together interviews with musicians and cosmologists, artists and preachers), you may wonder where the various interviews are going, along with her narration. There is some discussion of science, politics and philosophy as well as religion, but I had hoped for more with this book. One thing about her writing and the presentation of the various viewpoints here, is that everything is very, very upbeat and positive.
The Space Chronicles, by Neil Degrasse Tyson
Notes: This book is a collection of essays, some of which have appeared on in interviews, in articles, Tyson’s twitter account, and elsewhere. The opening essay was mind blowing to me, discussing how NASA doesn’t do what the world thinks it does – space exploration to further science. Instead, and he documents this in some detail, it is a massive political agency and jobs program, designed to repeat experiments that have already been done, employ people in the largest population states where voters exist, to keep them employed in jobs in the space industry, or in the case of Ohio, where over 80% of astronauts are from, a swing state that both sides of the aisle are competing to give prestige to. Unfortunately, the rest of the book, much of which are just his tweets from his twitter account, or transcripts of talk show appearances, aren’t as impactful as the strong start.
The Wright Brothers by David McCullough
Notes: On the other hand, McCullough, a famous biographer of personalities in American history, implies that the fact that the Wright Brothers, who were from Ohio, created the first military flight school, and because astronauts came from military flight, it makes sense that most of them are from Ohio. This book made me realize that I didn’t know half of the story of the Wright Brothers, including the obsession with testing and experimentation in design. The story of their successes and failures was fascinating, and as always with McCullough, well written. Many facts you may not know about the Wright Brothers appear in this entertaining read.
Particle Physics- An Introduction, by Frank Close
Notes: If you’ve ever been interested in what makes up individual atoms, and why they act so strange, this book is a great starting point. As you might expect, the material is a little dry, and this book never has any innovative teaching technique to explain each portion of the atomic elements in a way that’s easily understood. As other authors have noted, the model that most people know about the atom, that is on images and t-shirts, of the atom as particles orbiting around a nucleus, is wrong. This book isn’t entertaining, but it covers all the basics.
Brand Against the Machine: How to Build Your Brand, Cut Through the Marketing Noise, and Stand Out from the Competition, by John Michael Morgan
Notes: This book is written in a casual style, and invites people to take another look at branding. Branding is often looked at as a matter of logos and marketing materials. But focusing on a structure that can give your customers an emotional connection is probably more important. This book is short, and focuses on principles of branding, and is a great start for people that are looking to make the most of a new business.
Denial: Self-Deception, False Beliefs, and the Origins of the Human Mind by Ajit Varki and Danny Brower
Notes: The authors of this book met at a conference and had come up with similar ideas. Although one of them died suddenly of a heart attack, the other fleshed out the idea and created an interesting book. This book has research and documentation supporting an interesting hypothesis of how modern humans developed both (a) the ability to understand that they will die; and (b) immediately use denial to make this a benefit to natural selection through evolution. The authors here do a good job of making their case, although this is not an area that can be double blind tested or be subjected to much rigor as to alternative hypothesis. But it does explain why our brains act the way they do, and what value that had as humans developed.
True and False: Heresy and Common Sense for the Actor, by David Mamet
Notes: You may know David Mamet from his work as a playwright and producer of theater plays, or from his scripts and films. This is an older book, for actors, that seems to be mainly a critique of method acting. “The actor is onstage to communicate the play to the audience,” and Mamet invites actors not to do more. Developing good voice skills, good body skills, will do more than trying to “inhabit” or “interpret” a role. Along with this focus, there is much discussion on how to best handle auditions, not become self-absorbed, and to learn to relax.
King Warrior Magician Lover by Robert Moore and Douglas Gillette
Notes: This is a book all about male stereotypes, and given that there are other books written for men, examining other similar male stereotypes in greater number, there may be overlap between the four selected here and others. In general, this is an examination on how others see men and how men see themselves, and how they often cause conflict, confusion, overlap, and purpose. An interesting read, but somewhat simplifies some more complex psychology, and could have gone into the evolutionary and cultural history of each stereotype more. This could have examined interesting fairy tales and / or historical examples, but is told in a drier fashion.
The Art of Non-Fiction, by Ayn Rand
Notes: This book, by the noted author of Atlas Shrugged, is in part a biography, and in part advice on presenting non-fiction in ways that are interesting. Unfortunately, the book is not interesting, in that it is the transcript of a lecture given by Rand that was never meant to be a book.
My Father, My President: A Personal Account of the Life of George H.W. Bush
Notes: This book was written by the daughter of George Bush Sr. (Did you even know he had a daughter?) It has some anecdotes about the family, but in general is too short and too uninteresting (and by virtue of that relationship, likely too biased) to be of much interest. While there were a few facts here that made the book unique, none of them seemed important enough to warrant an entire book.
The Brain Fog Fix, by Dr. Mike Dow
Notes: I was interested in reading this book. The book discusses both diet and exercise, and is heavily into supplements. Some recommendations, like the admonition to “eat fish at every meal”, might sound promising, but upon reflection, it does depend on what type of fish (mercury poisoning and toxicity is very real), and the way the fish was raised also is a factor. Lots of the supplements and recommendations here are unproven, and some don’t even seem to be common sense.
Keeping it Real (Quantum Gravity) by Justina Robson
Notes: I’m almost embarrassed to have read the next two books, but they were from an author recommended by a good friend as mindless fiction. This first book is about special agent Lila Black who is a cyborg (yeah, ugh), who is constantly going into combat mode. She is in love with a rock star, who is an elf (yeah, ugh), and lead singer of a rock band, and has to fight demons and work with fairies (yeah, ugh), with an ending that depends on so much magic that it doesn’t even make sense. Not that any of it would make much sense anyway.
Selling Out, by Justina Robson
Notes: Proving I can be a glutton for punishment, in the second book in the series, Lila Black (again, the cyborg and special agent) has an elf necromancer that lives inside her, as a cutesy narrator describing what is going on throughout the novel. Her mission here is to investigate a “quantum bomb explosion” and learn how her boyfriend went to hell (yeah, ugh) and become part demon (yeah, double ugh). Her other identity requires her to just go to fancy parties. Skip.
Swallowing Darkness, by Lauren Hamilton
Notes: This is another fantasy fiction, about a woman who becomes queen of the fairies, and is the most beautiful and fair and nonviolent person in the land. Until she begins stabbing people with their own sword (seriously). My first draft of this book list had actual quotes that make no sense directly from the book, but since that was deleted, and I have no interest in reopening that book, those must be lost forever. Fiction was not good to me this year due to books like this.
Dry: A Memoir, by Augustin Burroughs
Notes: Burroughs is the author of the book “Running with Scissors”, which I have not read, but is about his childhood. And from the glimpses in this autobiographical book, his childhood was horrible. There is a certain type of biographical non-fiction that deals with persons and cultures outside of the norm – poor children growing up in other countries, or black youth struggling in the inner city, or other cultures or languages that are interesting and profound. This seems to be trying to achieve that, but since its subject is primarily about addiction (in this case, the author’s alcohol, cocaine, and heroin addictions), and his struggles to find love in the gay community, avoid AIDS, and deal with death around him, it could be a profound glimpse into another world. I support the catharsis and documentation of life experiences after a struggle. But seeing the author relapse again and again, and not even seem to care who he hurt or if he were to die from his addiction, was a tough read. I read all the way through, but the discussion of 12 step programs, and gay health practices, and not even caring about drugs or alcohol but going back to them again and again for something to do, was not inspiring, not interesting past the first time, and even depressing. I wish Burroughs well, and I’m sorry he must deal with so much death and addiction without progress.
2015 Reading List: http://www.robert-miller.com/books-read-2015/
2014 Reading List: http://www.robert-miller.com/books-read-2014/
2013 Reading List: http://www.robert-miller.com/books-read-2013/
2012 Reading List: http://www.robert-miller.com/books-read-2012/
2011 Reading List:http://www.robert-miller.com/books-read-2011/
2010 Reading List: http://www.robert-miller.com/books-read-2010/
2009 Reading List: http://www.robert-miller.com/books-read-2009/