December 24, 2012

2012: Books 12 - 16

Neal Stephenson
One of the most addictive books I've read in ages.  I re-arranged my workout schedule for 2 weeks, substituting much more time on the recumbant bike and stairclimber than originally planned so I could turn these pages.  This is no doubt due in part to the author's commitment to linguistics (if you just started studying Mandarin, this book has tantalizing word bits to taunt you), and his commitment to the 2nd Amendment Gun-Nut Pacific Northwest culture, which I probably understand inherently due to my family, but recently, got a first hand look at during our tour of the Pacific Northwest.  I'm ordering the Baroque Cycle trilogy.   
Men Who Stare at Goats
Jon Ronson
Funny and scary at the same time -- an exploration of the U.S Army's (and CIA's) exploration of New Age and paranormal techniques for peace and war.  A quick and easy read of many very funny tales linked to (predictably) some horrifically grim ones. 
Trip of the Tongue
Elizabeth Little
See the full review
Townie: A Memoir
Andre Dubus III
This memoir from the author of House of Sand and Fog is filled with the struggle with darkness you'd expect from the source of that haunted tale.  But it's full of joy and grit and fight and triumph and learning to love, as well.  Daily violence is described without drama and the matter-of-factness of the tone is what makes this book simultaneously shock the reader while reminding her that “of course this is the uglier stuff of how life works”.
Quicksilver (Abandoned)
Neal Stephenson
A historical fiction with recognizeable characters such as Isaac Newton and Lord Byron, but too much arcana, theatrical verse, and commitment to historical details for me to enjoy.  After 361 slow pages, I finally purged the book from my todo list and moved on.


Matt Ginzton said...

I'm not quite following you here inasmuchas your REAMDE review ends with "I'm ordering the Baroque Cycle trilogy" then your Quicksilver (book 1 of that trilogy) got abandoned. I'm just curious what order that happened in; did you read REAMDE, get excited for the Baroque Cycle and find it didn't live up to expectations, or had you already tried and abandoned Quicksilver before?

FWIW I'm one of those who had no problems with all the baroqueness of the Cycle books; I enjoyed them a lot (and it wasn't even slow going after some point which if memory serves was about halfway through the first one, i.e. about where you got to).

My friend Alex described the Baroque Cycle as "a pirate love story about the invention of calculus -- what's not to like?" I think that's a pretty positive spin to put on it.

In unrelated news, Blogger's theme makes this post almost unreadable on my phone because in the RSS feed the table doesn't wrap, won't allow zoom and won't allow horizontal scroll so the review text is hanging off the right where I can't see it; if I click through to the website it still doesn't allow zoom but it does allow horizontal scroll but it also overrides horizontal scroll as swipe-to-navigate among previous/next posts. If you drag horizontally, you end up at a different URL. If you drag vertically then horizontally, the finger tracking ignores the horizontal component (which is generally a good thing so you can scroll purely vertically which is generally what you want). So the only way to read the review text is to drag very carefully at a 45 degree angle until the finger tracker decides I'm scrolling and not invoking swipe-to-navigate, then I can veer off horizontally.

Matt Ginzton said...

P.S. I had to comment on this post since of your whole year of 33 books, I'd read 3 of the ones on this page and exactly one of the rest. "Men who stare at goats" was entertaining but I liked another Ronson book much better, namely "Them". Recommended. Anyway, clearly I had some affinity for this cluster.

Biting Tongue said...

@Matt: I read REAMDE first, then bailed on the Baroque Cycle Trilogy.

Huh -- not sure what to do about the RSS Feed issue. Thankfully, I rarely post in tables, but good to know that it may cause this issue.