Books and and things

up

Here is where I record the books I read, and a 3 sentence (or less) summary of each. I took this idea from James Clear’s ‘favorites’ – seems like a great way to condense a book down to what it meant to you after you’ve read it.

My goal, generally, is to read, or listen to, (at least) 12 books a year, a mix between fiction and non-fiction.

2021

5000 Words Per Hour

by Chris Fox

A quick read, with practical examples and not a lot of “fluff” about the author. Yes, the title is somewhat click-baity in nature, but the content of the book does follow through on the technique that the author uses to generate a lot of words in a short amount of time. Planning, consistency, practice, and measurement are, I would say, the primary concepts focused on in the context of an authors perspective.

8 Mindful Steps to Happiness: Walking the Buddha’s Path

by Bhante Henepola Gunarantana

I listened to this book, and I feel like it might have been a much different reading experience – being able to more easily reread bits and pieces, and being able to highlight/take notes. It was an informative look at the basics of what is meant by Buddhism, and the generally ascribed path to enlightenment that is often talked about. Parts, I felt, were maybe organized for someone thinking of becoming more devotional to the practice, but despite that, the language was simple, clear, and informative.

Awakening From The Dream: Reimagining The Buddha’s Wheel of Life

by David Nichtern

This short read really introduced me to the idea of the Wheel of Life as expressed through the allegorical illustration on the books cover. It is a compelling idea, and explained with very little Buddhist mysticism – it’s mostly explained through a more psychological perspective. It has definitely made me reflect on the mental states in which I find myself, and has given me a framework to think on the kinds of suffering (in a more esoteric sense) that I experience.

Novel’s of the Discworld

The Color of Magic

by Terry Pratchett

A wonderfully silly fantasy through a truly fantastical world. The world building is full of humor and delight, and the characterization was brilliant and engaging without taking itself too seriously. Terry Pratchett deserves his reputation, and I, for one, will be reading much more of the Discworld.

The Drawings of Heinrich Kley

by Heinrich Kley

This is not a novel, but it is a book I spent some time studying, and will likely continue to study. It’s a reproduction of two published sketchbooks of Heinrich Kley, all of the work is in ink. It is beautiful, dynamic, whimsical, creative, and, a little bit, dark.

The Immortality Key: The Secret History of the Religion with No Name

by Brian C. Muraresku

This was an interest walk through the authors journey to find explicit proof that the Christian Eucarist, in its earliest form, was psycodelic, and that Christian ritual around the Eucarist was directly influenced by the likes of the Eleusinian Mysteries. It was compelling, and fascinating to hear the history “wines” and “beers” and their use through the ancient world. Sheds a new light on what ritualistic use of psychodelic’s might do for humanity, should stigma and law around their use be lifted.

Magic by the Numbers

Master of the Five Magics

by Lyndon Hardy

A quick read through a hero’s journey. Really a great take on magic in a fantasy setting, albiet with some stiff exposition and and scenes. This book has definitely interested me in further books set in the same conceptual universe.

2020

A Fire Upon The Deep

by Vernor Vinge

The thing that strikes me about this book is the mechanism by which the “Tines” communicate, and how they coordinate with one another. My mind wonders about how this would apply to computers – especially in the distant future – that each held the ability to store memory and process sensory data, and could ad hoc join together and mesh as a single device, if all connected components were compatible. The rest of the story… well, had plenty of interesting bits in it, but I wasn’t overly impressed with how many questions I have, and how unlikely it is they will ever be answered in other books.

Caffeine

by Michael Pollan

Just an audio book, I think, but an interesting exploration of what caffeine is to people, and what kind of effects it can have. A legal drug, a stimulant, but with few serious side effects on the face of it. A good listen, but I’m not sure this belongs here, truthfully.

The Cave and the Light: Plato Versus Aristotle and the Struggles for the Soul of Western Civilization

by Arthur L. Herman

This book is rich with ideas that span millenia and, I think, deserve a bit of consideration. Aristotle and Plato were a lot more important to the civilizations of the western world than are, perhaps immediately apparent, and this book does a great job of exploring their influence through history. Truly, it brings up a lot more questions that it answers for me, and shines a light on some of the behaviors we’re seeing in the world today – this book is definitely on my recommended reads list.

Dragonsbane

by Barbara Hambly

This was a surprisingly wonderful tale of dragons, gnomes, kings, princes, knights, wizards and witches. All these things, though are only the backdrop on which a strong tale of the desire for power, love, and the choices we make in life sits. There is a richness to the worldbuilding, to be sure, but the combination of plot and worldbuilding leaves me yearning to explore all the unseen and unsaid parts of the world.

Fortitude

by Dan Crenshaw

I appreciated the overall message of this book – be more responsible, less sensitive, and get after it. I’d recommend it.

How to Talk so Kids Will Listen & Listen So Kids Will Talk

by Adele Faber and Elain Mazlish

I haven’t read many books on parenting, but I’d highly recommend this book to every parent, new or old. This book gets to the point quickly, identifies things a parent can do, and then describes them through examples in stories the authors have been told by parents using their techniques. Even as a novice of the technique, I’ve seen a dramatic reduction in the tension and adversarial situations I’ve had with my eldest – yes, there’s still the emotional outbursts and obstinance on occasion, but I’m able to handle and diffuse them much better.

Kings of the Wyld

by Nicholas Eames

Great world building, lots of emotional ups and downs, deep character motivations, plenty of humor, and so very familiar if you play D&D. This was a fun one, and an easy one to cruise through. Everything I imagine would happen on an epic D&D campaign with characters being pulled out of retirement for one last go at it before the start of a new campaign.

Loserthink

by Scott Adams

An interesting perspective on modes of thinking, and how we like to fool ourselves with modes of thought. ‘Loserthink’ is certainly a one-word descriptor for what the content of the book is about, but I can’t help to think that there might be a better word, one that removes the connotation of being a loser from a way of thinking that makes people lose. If nothing else, though, this book does provide for some subject matter for introspection.

Meditation in Plain English

by Bhante Henepola Gunaratana

This book is a straight foward introduction to what Vipassana Meditation is, and what you need to do to practice it. It sprinkles in some of the core ideals of Buddhism, but that isn’t the focus. It also goes over a lot of the roadblocks one might face when starting out – really a clear, concise read and a good reference.

Mistborn

The Well of Ascension (Book 2)

by Brandon Sanderson

Holy cats! I zipped into this one soon after book 1, but soon kind of got fatigued – I think I just picked it up too soon after the first one, I hadn’t given myself enough time to let things sit and absorb. After I picked it up again, though, I banged through it quick, and what a cliff hanger!

The New Right

by Michael Malice

An inspection of a cultural movement that is, in some ways, an opposite reaction to the rising extremism of the left. An interesting and informative read into a part of American politics that is not otherwise discussed in my circles or in the national dialog I find my self paying attention to.

The Ocean at the End of the Lane

by Neil Gaiman

I am familiar with some other of Neil Gaiman’s work, but I don’t think I was really prepared for this one. It was an engrosing tail told mostly from the perspective of a child who barely has a grasp on the world, and it leaves you feeling like there is so much that happens in the spaces of time that we forget as we grow older. A gentle, easy read with just enough humor, whimsy and dread to leave you thinking on it for awhile.

One Small Step Can Change Your Life: The Kaizen Way

by Robert Mauerer, Ph.D.

A very relaxed read – reminiscent of Atomic Habits, but less about a systematic breakdown of how to change habits. This book is more about a philosophy and approach to problem solving and improvement. I’d say it could be described as discussing the benefit of the ‘compound interest’ of small changes made over time.

On Writing

by Stephen King

What can I say? He’s a master writer, and the book is a master work full of inspiration and insight. The book weaves a narative about his life as it pertains to writing, and exposes his opinions on how to be a good writer.

Revelation Space

by Alistair Reynolds

Worldbuilding was fantastic, but I think this book fell short on character development and subplotting. I suspect newer books by this author would be much better, but this one leaves much to be desired. Almost worth it for the worldbuilding alone, but it doesn’t carry the story quite enough to make this a favorite of mine.

Sithra: Kingdom of the Air

by Jason Brubaker

A beautifully articulated visual story – it feels a lot shorter than 96 pages! A young girl is thrust out into the world on her own, and she finds that she can see the unseen. This book seems like just a the tip of the iceberg for a larger, wonder filled story.

The Stormlight Archive

The Way of Kings (Book 1)

by Brandon Sanderson

I’ll be honest, the shear size of this book was a bit intimidating. It was a quaranteen freebie, but would be worth whatever it’s being sold for. I found each of the character view points compelling (let’s be honest, there was ONE that was a little weaker than the others, but still interesting enough to hold my attention), and my pace of reading only picked up towards the end – leaving me wanting more!

Turning Pro

by Steven Pressfield

I was moved a bit by The War of Art, so I decided to read this one. It’s a shorter piece, but does go deeper on a philosophy of creativity and work that is helpful for self reflection. It has given me a lot to contemplate.

The War of Art

by Steven Pressfield

An important read, and one that I didn’t expect to be at the outset. Pressfield articulates something in this book that is hard to put to words before you hear them, but seem too simple afterwards. The content of this book will stick with me for a long time, I suspect, and I’ll probably come back to it in order remind myself of what Resistance truly is.

Win Bigly

by Scott Adams

Certainly an interesting perspective on prediction and persuasion. This book has piqued my interest about persuasion and manipulation, for sure. A good introduction, I suspect, to the subject matter.

2019

America Before: The Key to Earth’s Lost Civilization

by Graham Hancock

A look at evidence for a civilization existing more than 12 or 13 thousand years in the past, utterly destroyed by a global cataclysm. I’d recommend it for a read – it makes it easy to understand what we think we know, and provides a compelling picture of a possible past we know very little about.

Atomic Habits: An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits

by James Clear

CCRR - Cue, Craving, Response, Reward. Use these nobs in the positive and negative to reinforce things that can be habitual. Focus on the smallest thing to do, and don’t discount environmental changes.

Bobiverse

We Are Legion (We Are Bob)

by Dennis E. Taylor

A software engineer wakes up as a digital copy of his now dead self, taking on the role of an AI interface for an interstellar exploration and colonization effort.

For We Are Many

by Dennis E. Taylor

Bob (and clones) get themselves into it. They have a self-defined responsibility to see humanity spread to the stars, and not die on Earth where they’ve kicked off a nuclear winter. Oh, and they might get eaten by space bugs.

All These Worlds

by Dennis E. Taylor

Bob (and even more clones) must fight and win against space bugs, or humanity and all life in the galaxy might eventually die. Bobs also learn a thing or two about love and loss, and start to explore how being a digital life form that lives forever affects their ability to relate to humanity.

Born to Run

by Christopher McDougall

A great story about a race between people who appreciate running as something fundamental to what it means to be human. The story is entertaining, and interleved with other stories from the author on his path to understanding why his foot hurt while he ran even short distances. To be honest, it made me understand running in a different light and has given me something to seriously reflect upon.

Can’t Hurt Me

by David Goggins

Might be the best book I have read this year, this is more than an inspirational self help book. This is a biography of a man capable of taking ownership of his life and failures, and using them as fuel to understand himself more deeply. The extra bits in the audio book version just added to my respect for how this man leads his life.

Deep Work

by Cal Newport

Lot’s of interesting ideas about attention and focus, without interruption. There is also an element of intentionality to timing, restriction, and response to external attention grabbers discussed. This book try’s to help one consider what artificially matters in your life, versus what holds actual meaning.

Delta-V

by Daniel Suarez

A near future hard science fiction exploring what it might take to kickstart the escape from the Earth’s gravity well. Leaves me hanging a bit, as there is an unresolved hatred… but I suspect this is going to be the subject of future books. Worth a read!

Diaspora

by Greg Egan

This emphasizes the science in science fiction. Very descriptive in it’s imagined use of science, and I imagine fairly accurate where it can be… but a lot of the book went over my head and was hard to maintain a deep interest in. It was compelling enough to finish reading, and left a wierd dichotomy of satisfaction and disatisfaction at the conclusion.

Elantris

by Brandon Sanderson

A long and satisfying fantasy tale with a splash of a lot of different things: empires clashing, succession, theology, magic, redemption, finding one’s own path, love, hate, betrayal, duty, secrets. It does have frustrating chapter boundaries, but they really only serve to carry you along and keep you reading. In reflection, the character I least liked reading ended up being, in some ways, the most interesting character presented, with a nice satisfying ending to the story arc that was, for my part, unexpected!

Gentleman Bastard

The Lies of Locke Lamora

by Scott Lynch

A clever, tricksy, band of “theives” saves everybody. The worldbuilding makes you want to know a lot more about the place these characters live.

God’s Debris

by Scott Adams

This was a short, but interesting read. Not really a book on religion, more of a thought experiment, as the book says. The experiment is about world view and perception of reality, and the argument that there isn’t just one.

Happy

by Darren Brown

An excellent exploration of what it means to be happy. Explores stoic philosophy, but with the context of thousands of years of thought and consideration to frame what it means to be happy, and what it takes to be happy. Definitely worth more than one read.

I Will Teach You To Be Rich

by Ramit Sethi

With a title like that, frankly, I was super skeptical… but I listened to a interview he did, and decided to give it a read (my personal financial situation could alwas use betterment). Turns out, book has a lot of hype and fluff in it… but also contains a good amount of meaningful and practical advice. I’d recommend this to anyone that wants to understand a simple, practical, long-term approach to personal money management.

Mistborn

The Final Empire (Book 1)

by Brandon Sanderson

Wow - this was an amazing story with rich world building, character development, and plotting. While it stands on it’s own, it really feels like it has only scratched the surface of the trilogy. My favorite part was the realization that there was actually a single primary character we were following, and it was done in such a perfectly dramatic high point of the book.

The Murderbot Diaries

All Systems Red

by Martha Wells

More of a novella, this story dives into what it is to be a somewhat antisocial AI that everyone would otherwise expect to want to murder everyone if it would be allowed to roam free. Picked it up at a bargain price… and I think it was a fair price – the regular price of more than $10 would be to much to pay for this book, but for $3 it is well worth the time.

Artificial Condition

by Martha Wells

This is a direct continuation from All Systems Red, and of similar length. Fun read, but would not pay full price for it. Felt like part 2 of the first book, with a feeling there should be at least a few more parts.

Rick and Morty vs. Dungeons and Dragons

by IDW and Wizards of the Coast

More Rick and Morty hijinks, more Dungeons, more Dragons. Beautiful art, fun story, and dialog consistent with the show. Nothing not to like!

Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind

by Yuval Noah Harari

The subtitle is quite accurate – a brief history of humankind [as we understand it]. It presents a walk through of the growth of humankind up to the present, and left me with a slightly hopeful disposition towards what I see the world doing and some interesting questions to ponder about the decisions humanity will make going forward.

Siddhartha

by Hermann Hesse, translated by Hilda Rosner

A tale that describes a person’s path to finding truth and enlightenment from within and without. A read that requires patience and begets comparison with ones own self.

Sky Heart

by Jake Parker

Awesome design, line work, and color! Book one in a graphic novel series, this book really seems like only the tip of the iceberg, and I desperately want more! Seems like it’ll be a fun coming of age type of story set on the backdrop of an intricately unique world.