I read an awful lot in the last three months of 2013, helped along by a long holiday in Australia punctuated with lots of flights. Here’s a little bit about what I read.
A full list is at the bottom.
In the world of fiction, I finally got around to reading A Deepness in the Sky, which is something of a prequel to A Fire Upon the Deep. It’s much harder sci-fi than I normally read, but a very enjoyable adventure nevertheless.
Likewise science fiction is The Circle. You won’t find it on sci-fi shelves though because Dave Eggers is a serious author with an establish literary reputation, and thus the book will sell much better when placed on the literature shelf. The Circle predicts a future panopticon where privacy has vanished. It makes a few good points, but they are almost all made in impassioned speeches by characters lampshaded as preachy. One or two scenes of genuine poignancy don’t make up for the rest of the book being dull.
Republic of Thieves is a welcome return to form for Lynch. Red Seas wasn’t bad, but it just wasn’t as well-paced as the first book. Republic goes a long way to redeeming the most annoying trait of the series’ protagonist Locke Lamora.
Best Served Cold is pretty much exactly like the only other Joe Abercrombie book I’ve read. Like Heroes, it invites you to feel vicariously superior by indulging in the violent, “realistic” nihilism of hard-bitten soldiers of fortune.
The tall man in striped robes kicked his feet on the dismembered limb of a teddy bear. He looks down and grimaces.
“War is shit, B1”, he grizzled.
“Yeah, but we’re all just shit in the end, B2”, said B1. It was true enough, but B2 wasn’t going to say so. Not to her.
Likewise, The Land Across is a new Gene Wolfe and is everything you’d expect from that. Although the distinction is a bit arbitrary, it’s probably more magical realism than SF. I don’t know what it’s really about, but on the surface it’s about a young man trapped in a made up Eastern European country.
Neptune’s Brood is Charlie Stross’s meditation on David Graeber’s wonderful book, Debt. Except it also has Disney mermaids and skeleton armies, because Charlie Stross. Thanks to Michael Hudson-Doyle for the recommendation.
The Mill on the Floss is the most recent fiction book I’ve finished and without doubt the best I’ve read in the quarter. It’s also the most depressing. Not because bad things happen to good people (although they most definitely do), but because it’s such an effective skewer of middle-class life and aspirations that I’m now left in a meditative stupour wondering what on earth I should do with my life.
In the world of non-fiction, In the Shadow of the Sword is a short and thought-provoking history about the Middle East before and during the rise of Islam. How to Solve It is a moderately interesting book on mathematical problem solving that would really be improved with a good solid round of editing.
I just finished The Black Swan, even though many people I respect have been recommending it for some time now. I’d like to chew on it a bit more, but my initial reaction is that Taleb is needlessly arrogant, given to name-calling and false dichotomies, and that despite these things, it’s a very, very interesting book.
The books themselves
- A Deepness in the Sky, Vernor Vinge
- The Republic of Thieves, Scott Lynch
- The Circle, Dave Eggers
- Best Served Cold, Joe Abercrombie
- The Mystery of Edwin Drood, Charles Dickens
- The Mill on the Floss, George Eliot
- The Land Across, Gene Wolfe
- Neptune’s Brood, Charles Stross
- Wolverine: Old Man Logan, Millar, McNiven
- Action Comics: Superman and the Men of Steel, Morrison, Moralis, Kilbert
- Fables: Legends in Exile,
- All Star Superman
- Action Comics: Bulletproof
- Hawkeye: My Life as Weapon
- Learn You a Haskell for Great Good!, Miran Lipovaca
- Real World Haskell, Bryan O’Sullivan
- Personal Kanban, Tonianne DeMaria Barry and Jim Benson
- Survival Cooking, Simon Mulholland
- Crucial Conversations, Kerry Patterson
- The Black Swan, Nassim Nicholas Taleb
- In The Shadow of the Sword, Tom Holland
- How to Solve It, G. Pólya
It’s “not a metric”, but in 2013, I read 68 books, 10 of which were comics.
Here’s the breakdown by quarter:
- Q1: 13
- Q2: 22 (4 comics)
- Q3: 11
- Q4: 22 (6 comics)