September 24, 2015

2015 Books Read, Part II

Books 1-14 for the year are here.  The next 15 are below.

Boys In The Boat
Daniel James Brown
Book club book.  Very interesting insight into the reality of the dust bowl and the Depression as it affected those in the pacific northwest.  A feel-good tale of hard work and perserverence.  Excellent way to learn a bit about rowing, crew, the 1932 and 1936 Olympics and the propaganda machine of Hitler.  If you like real-life feel-good sports stories, this one is a great member of the cannon.
Grimm — Children's and Household Tales
Lucy Crane Translation from the Original German with Walter Crane illustrations
First required reading for the online Sci-Fi and Fantasy course I deluded myself into thinking I had time to complete.  A bit repetitive, but overall, fun to see the origins of many of the tales that Americans learn in their kinder-gentler versions.
The Human Division
John Scalzi
An impressive serial novel.  If you care about the complexities of building coherent characters and worlds, this will impress you.  If you aren't a Scalzi fan before you read this and this doesn't convert you into one, you should probably call it a day with him, as I feel this book is a collection of some of his greatest tricks, which for me, was very fun and entertaining.  If it wasn't for you, you probably just don't really enjoy this guy’s writing, and that's fine too.
The Atrocity Archives
Charles Stross
Sequel to the Jennifer Morgue, in the Laundry Files.  Similar in style -- fast, geeky, otherworldly, fun, and a bit hard to follow at times, but in a stretch-your-imagination kind of way.
Daisy Miller
Henry James
A 58-page novella, much discussed in Reading Lolita in Tehran.  I read it to help round out the books discussed in RLIT.  Historically, it's an interesting piece of writing, putting the difference between the individuality of America vs. the conformity to society of Europe at the time in sharp contrast.  As promised, the sentences were long and convoluted, but they worked.  This one is an example of a book I read for book club that makes me feel more educated and well read, primarily because it has great historical context and I doubt I would have picked it up on my own.
Little Brother
Cory Doctorow
If you know Cory Doctorow's philosophy, this story will fit neatly into your understanding of his position on the world.  Book club book.  Enjoyable.
Charles Stross
A fascinating, but very difficult to follow thought experiment with many forks.  Uploaded consciousness, humanity, space travel, and post-human consciousness.  Very enjoyable for me, but it would not be something I'd recommend to folks who are on the fence about sci-fi.  I think I'll likely re-visit in a year or two.  I really enjoyed it, it was just very difficult work to maintain connection to anything that was happening... it's running quickly and confusingly and you're just along for the ride.
Off To Be The Wizard
Scott Meyer
This was a gift from my sister-in-law and she knows me well.  It was a fun concept.  Essentially, a programmer finds the master file that governs all human life and manipulates it to his own benefit until law enforcement catches up with him.  He then banishes himself into medieval England and lives as a wizard.  Adventures ensue.  Simplicistic writing -- at times it felt like it had to be a Young Adult book, but it's well executed and great light brain candy.  FWIW, E found the writing annoying enough that he had no interest in finishing the series, so I moved to audiobooks for the last 2.
Find the Good
Heather Lende
Sappy?  Yes.  A bit.  But still worth it for the wonderful life lessons and glass-half-full perspective of a small-town Alaskan obituary writer.  A gift from a friend that I will re-gift soon.
The Peace War
Vernor Vinge
Unmistakenly Vinge.  Time travel.  Political power and intrigue built around fundamental humanity/singularity/consciousness conflicts that make you think hard about what it means to be alive and human.  Linguistic head nods to Chinese and Spanish that call out his time in California in a way that make this multi-generational Californian smile with recognition.  Unlike many hard sci-fi writers of his era, his writing is so impressively inclusive, strong characters appear in both genders, multiple sexual orientations, every racial identity (although that concept is stretched imaginatively), and more.  Perhaps my favorite thing about this book was the concept of "bobbling" and the thought experiment it allowed in his book as well as the one it forced me to engage in.  If you love hard sci-fi, this book is a must-read for you.  If you like the idea of hard sci-fi, but struggle with the history of the overtly alpha white male perspective voice, this book is a great option to show that just because the author is a white male born in the 40s doesn't mean he can't imagine and write great characters and plot lines well outside of his experience (which, frankly, is the whole point of speculative fiction, and so I don't really get the whole Puppy drama at this year's Hugo Awards, but that's neither here not there).
The Fuller Memorandum
Charles Stross
3nd in the Laundry Series -- fast paced bond-like, other worldly, math = interstellar magic-science fun.  Very enjoyable and a perfect beach read.
Flash Boys
Michael Lewis
I love me some Michael Lewis.  He can simultaneously educate and entertain like no other.  Suffice it to say that Wall Street is Fucked Up.  And there was a brief time in the last decade before some honest brave folks stepped up where it was even *more* fucked up.  Of course, the fact that it's openly discussed likely means that the current reality is much worse, but even so, this should be required reading for anyone who espouses that "the efficient markets will take care of it."  Turns out, fairness and efficiency aren't in the best interests of those who can exploit inefficiencies.  They'll "take care" of it all right...
Marooned in Realtime
Vernor Vinge
Sequel to the Peace War.  Very well done and enjoyable.  Predictably thought provoking about how to manage society in  a future where technology is so different and yet survival and human political and personal needs are still so very much the same.
Jane Eyre
Charlotte Bronte
I didn't expect to enjoy this book as much as I did.  I put it in the "good like vitamins" category of reading that we select for book club: Something that will be good for me, expand my horizons, make me better educated, etc.  But it's a *good* story.  It moves well.  It entertains.  Interestingly, while I didn't love the character of Mr. Rochester, I found myself deeply disliking Mr. St. John.  It would appear that I am willing to forgive quite a bit for romantic love, and not so much for a harsh and unfeeling religious conviction.
Wide Sargasso Sea
Jean Rhys
The story of "Bertha" -- one of the major plot devices in Jane Eyre.  A completely different writing style, a totally different backdrop, and a very different portrayal of Mr. Rochester than Jane Eyre.  Fun to read and discuss with book club in connection with Jane Eyre.


Angela Knotts said...

Interesting, I didn't know about those two Vernor Vinge books. But I enjoyed "A Fire Upon the Deep" & "A Deepness in the Sky" so maybe I'll give those a shot.

Biting Tongue said...

@Angela -- I think you'd like them. They were both great.