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Wednesday, January 01, 2014

Reading List 2013

Of the 81 books I read this year, the one I enjoyed most was Jill Paton Walsh's remarkably good revival of Dorothy Sayers's famous characters in A Presumption of Death, followed by Haruki Murakami's 1Q84 and Nassim Taleb's Antifragile. The worst book I read this year was, without question, Isaac Asimov's Forward the Foundation, which is one of those ill-considered prequels that makes one wonder how the author ever managed to write the books that inspired them in the first place. I couldn't even bring myself to start the third book in the trilogy, which was so dreadful that it almost caused me to reconsider the merits of the original Foundation trilogy. The most disappointing book was Umberto Eco's The Prague Cemetery. It wasn't bad or poorly written, (in fact, it was remarkably well-researched), but it was unpleasant, the protagonist was a cipher, the literary device employed was both irritating and unnecessary, and there was little point to the plot itself other than to provide a creative explanation for the authorship of The Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion.

On the non-fiction side, I read a number of truly excellent books this year. Rothbard's An Austrian Perspective on the History of Economic Thought: Vol I is an epic must-read for anyone with any interest in economics, (I'm halfway through Volume II now), and Nassim Taleb's Antifragile articulated some very important concepts towards which I'd been fumbling over the last ten years. I finally got around to actually reading Kuhn's The Structure of Scientific Revolutions in its entirety, and re-reading Mere Christianity was, as always, both thought-provoking and encouraging. However, PJ O'Rourke's Don't Vote It Just Encourages The Bastards read as if it had been phoned in; either O'Rourke has lost his fastball or his effervescent conservativism was fatally discouraged by the Bush '43 administration.

Keep in mind these ratings are not necessarily statements about a book's significance or literary quality, they are merely casual observations of how much I happened to enjoy reading the book at the time. 

FIVE STARS
An Austrian Perspective on the History of Economic Thought: Vol I, Murray Rothbard
Panzer Commander, Hans von Luck
My Name is Asher Lev, Chaim Potok 
A Presumption of Death, Jill Paton Walsh
Antifragile, Nassim Taleb
Mere Christianity, CS Lewis
The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, Thomas Kuhn
Dune, Frank Herbert
Children of Dune, Frank Herbert
Inherit the Stars, James Hogan
1Q84, Haruki Murakami

FOUR STARS
Norwegian Wood, Haruki Murakami
Il Cavaliere Inesistante, Italo Calvino
Scoop, Evelyn Waugh
King Rat, China Mieville
Lord of Light, Roger Zelazny
Officers and Gentlemen, Evelyn Waugh 
Red Country, Joe Abercrombie
Aunts Aren't Gentlemen, PG Wodehouse
Cosmicomics, Italo Calvino
Five Red Herrings, Dorothy Sayers
Clouds of Witness, Dorothy Sayers
Spellbound, Larry Correia 
Warbound, Larry Correia
Monster Hunter International, Larry Correia
Defense of the Divine Revelation against the Objections of the Freethinkers, Leonhard Euler
The Art of Game Design, Jesse Schell
The Gentle Giants of Ganymede, James Hogan
Giant's Star, James Hogan
In Search of Stupidity, Rick Chapman

THREE STARS
The Theory of Money and Credit, Ludwig von Mises 
Mostly Harmless, Douglas Adams
The Meaning of It All, Richard Feynman 
Vile Bodies, Evelyn Waugh 
Sharpe's Battle, Bernard Cornwell 
Sharpe's Company, Bernard Cornwell 
Sharpe's Sword, Bernard Cornwell
The Desert Spear, Peter Brett 
Macroscope, Piers Anthony
Greenwitch, Susan Cooper
Down on the Farm, Charles Stross
Terms of Enlistment, Marko Kloos
Men on Strike, Helen Smith  
Looking for Jake, China Mieville
Hailstone Mountain, Lars Walker 
Tales of the Dying Earth, Jack Vance
The Jewels of Paradise, Donna Leon 
Lord Talon's Revenge, Tom Simon
Jhereg, Stephen Brust 
Yendi, Stephen Brust 
Teckla, Stephen Brust 
Taltos, Stephen Brust
Hard Magic, Larry Correia
Monster Hunter Vendetta, Larry Correia 
Monster Hunter Alpha, Larry Correia 
Tour of Duty, Michael Z. Williamson 
The Gap into Conflict, Stephen Donaldson 
Lights in the Deep, Brad Torgersen 
The Hydrogen Sonata, Iain M. Banks 
Busman's Honeymoon, Dorothy Sayers 
A Desert Called Peace, Tom Kratman 
The Prague Cemetery, Umberto Eco 
Big Boys Don't Cry, Tom Kratman
Dune Messiah, Frank Herbert 
Frostborn: The First Quest, Jonathan Moeller
On Sophistical Refutations, Aristotle
The Ocean at the End of the Lane, Neil Gaiman

TWO STARS
 Victory of Eagles, Naomi Novik
The Daylight War, Peter Brett
Infinite Jest, David Foster Wallace
Imperialism & Social Classes, Joseph Schumpeter
Phoenix, Stephen Brust 
Athyra, Stephen Brust 
Songs of the Dying Earth, Dozois and Martin, ed.
The Gap into Vision, Stephen Donaldson 
The Gap into Power, Stephen Donaldson
The Gambler, Fyodor Dostoevsky

ONE STAR
Prelude to Foundation, Isaac Asimov
Forward the Foundation, Isaac Asimov
Tactics, Asclepiodotus
Don't Vote It Just Encourages The Bastards, PJ O'Rourke

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47 Comments:

Blogger JACIII January 01, 2014 6:17 AM  

As a recovering Sharpe'saholic I wish you had not mentioned the Sharpe's books....

Blogger Heuristics January 01, 2014 6:49 AM  

A commentary on some parts of Mere Christianity can be made into an alpha game post as well I would think. Right after I became a christian about 11 years ago I read it and agreed with everything it said except that the woman should be hierarchically lower then the man in marriage. Since then I have changed my mind, which was previously just an absorption of the typical current Swedish zeitgeist, exposure to reality through close relationships showed that this was not a realistic view to have.

Anonymous Conservative January 01, 2014 7:23 AM  

Reading "The Overton Window" by Beck, it's pretty good, it's hard to put down.

"Freedom had been hunted around the globe;
reason was considered as rebellion;
and the slavery of fear had made men afraid to think;
But such is the irresistible nature of truth;
that all it asks, and all it wants;
is the liberty of appearing."

- Thomas Paine

Blogger Tank January 01, 2014 7:35 AM  

No Wodehouse? I read his omnibus of short stories plus several Jeeves novels. Actual LOL. And a wonderful wordsmith.

Blogger Tank January 01, 2014 7:37 AM  

Reading The Chronicles now, per VD's recommendation. About to start book 5.

Anonymous Smokey January 01, 2014 7:46 AM  

1Q84 is five stars? Interesting. Personally, I thought it was Murakami's worst work yet. It just seems to be lacking something, and kind of drags on, especially around the middle.

Anonymous VD January 01, 2014 7:49 AM  

No Wodehouse?

Who do you think wrote Aunts Aren't Gentlemen?

I thought it was Murakami's worst work yet.

I don't have much to which I can compare it. I liked it better than Norwegian Wood, which was good but suffered from literal overkill, and about a quarter of the way into Wind-Up Bird, I like it better than that too. It's clever and very well-written, with excellent characterization.

Blogger Tank January 01, 2014 7:51 AM  

Ha, you're right. Got some bourbon in my eye.

Anonymous Ryan ATL January 01, 2014 8:09 AM  

I thought 1Q84 was ok perhaps above average.

4/5 at best

Anonymous jack January 01, 2014 8:36 AM  

Big Boys don't cry [Kratman?] Thought I knew all of his; checked Amazon' a no go.
Did find this:
Jeanne Tompkins (Nov 4, 2013) Big Boys don't cry???

Blogger Harry T. Conan January 01, 2014 8:43 AM  

My apologies if you've published this before, but we readers (especially the silent ones) who greatly admire your commitment to self-education would be interested to get a glimpse at your personal reading/writing schedule. You have a full time job, kids and a wife. And yet you also have accomplished extraordinary feats of reading and writing. How do you do it, Hermione? Happy New Year!

Anonymous jack January 01, 2014 8:44 AM  

Re: The Name of the Rose/Eco.
It's such a rich hunting ground it can be over whelming at times. Am at 45% in, according to Kindle and have just finished William and Adso's discussion of heretics, the 'simple', their flavors thereof and the manipulation of them by the PTB, both secular and church. Most interesting. I think much of that could be applied to modern manipulating of race relations and the modern simple folk. Or, I may be reading too much into it. Eco is probably quite the social commentator as well as historian/mystery writer. But, that judgement will have to wait for the second read. [In about two weeks after finishing the book].

Anonymous Peter Garstig January 01, 2014 8:45 AM  

For some reason, I thought you read Spenglers 'Decline of the West' this year, which I'm currently reading.

Just passed the part where he called Kant a 'Kathederphilosoph'. The man had some strong opinions...and was funny (probably not intentuonally)

Anonymous VD January 01, 2014 8:52 AM  

I thought you read Spenglers 'Decline of the West' this year, which I'm currently reading.

I read about 100 pages into it. I don't count a book unless I read the entire thing. I'm very nearly done with Cantillon's book, for example, but I won't count it until I finish it this year.

interested to get a glimpse at your personal reading/writing schedule.

I don't really have one, except to try to write about 1k words of fiction per day.

Anonymous Kyle In Japan January 01, 2014 9:00 AM  

I read 1Q84 when it came out (in English, reading it in Japanese would take me about seven years of work) and I enjoyed it, but I found it had a mixture of really, really strong parts mixed in with other sections that floundered. But I can definitely see people loving it if it's their first meeting with Murakami's writing.

Wind-Up Bird (and really, a lot of the subsequent long novels) does a similar thing, but it's probably the overall best. Wind-Up Bird also has the distinction of having the most chilling scene I've ever read in any book (trust me, you will know when you get to it.) I like Norwegian Wood too, but I think South Of The Border, West Of The Sun (which is in the same vein) is actually a little better. My favorite, of course, is Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End Of The World, which is not only my favorite Murakami novel but possibly my favorite novel, period. I'd definitely say that one, South Of The Border, and Kafka On The Shore are all essential reading.

I'd skip A Wild Sheep Chase and Dance, Dance, Dance, I feel like Wind-Up Bird does the same stuff, but better. The shorter novels after South Of The Border are less interesting to me, but Murakami's short story collections are great. Talking about all these is making me want to re-read my whole collection of Murakami books (purchased in the pre-Kindle days) when I get back stateside.

Anyway, I always like these yearly book lists, I usually pick up some good stuff to read from here. Inherit The Stars is a standout, it quickly became one of my favorite books I've ever read.

Blogger Tom Kratman January 01, 2014 9:07 AM  

Jack:

It's a novella I am going to rewrite and put up for e-sale for 2.99. It's taking more thought to rewrite than I'd assumed.

Blogger JDC January 01, 2014 9:26 AM  

I always enjoy perusing your reading list. I did notice you, as I have done, have confused Cromwell with corn_well. Or perhaps it's as I have just discovered...the blog doesn't like corn, and will replace it with Cromwell. Interesting.

Anonymous KSC January 01, 2014 9:47 AM  

Just read the Gaiman. i would give it a higher rating than you, but I can see why you gave it 3 stars. Still, an excellent and quite touching evening read.

You and Doug WIlson also introduced me to Wodehouse--thanks for that.

Anonymous VD January 01, 2014 9:54 AM  

Just read the Gaiman. i would give it a higher rating than you, but I can see why you gave it 3 stars.

I went back and forth on that one. If this was a rating on simple merit, it probably would have gotten four stars. But I found it to be more meritorious than enjoyable.

Blogger mmaier2112 January 01, 2014 10:05 AM  

RE: Rothbard's An Austrian Perspective on the History of Economic Thought: Vol I

Free DLs here from Mises.org:
http://mises.org/books/histofthought1.pdf
http://mises.org/books/histofthought2.pdf

Blogger mmaier2112 January 01, 2014 10:07 AM  

Thanks for the suggestion, Vox. At least I can delve into it gratis and see if I like it before I drop $15 for the PB on Amazon.

But I found it rewarding, if not actually pleasurable, reading Thomas Sowell's beast "Knowledge & Decisions" so I think I must have a masochist streak to some degree.

Anonymous Harsh January 01, 2014 10:22 AM  

I've never thought of keeping track of all the books I read and doing a tally at the end of the year. That's a great idea. I'm going to do it for 2014.

Anonymous SkepticalCynical January 01, 2014 10:49 AM  

Not sure if you are a Wagner fan, but the Donaldson books are much better with that context. Definitely a spirited attempt to put the "opera" into space opera. His reuse of the same words/phrases for each character doesn't entirely work on a literary level, but it's certainly an interesting translation of Wagner's leitmotifs to the page.

Anonymous VD January 01, 2014 11:47 AM  

Not sure if you are a Wagner fan, but the Donaldson books are much better with that context.

I am a moderate Wagner fan and I did not find that to be the case. It is interesting, to be sure, and even worthy of respect. But it didn't make me like the books any better.

Blogger Nate January 01, 2014 12:28 PM  

3 stars for Ludwig Von? Because its just so much damned work?

Blogger Nate January 01, 2014 12:29 PM  

also... I liked War Bound and Spell Bound better than Hard Magic too... But I loved MH Alpha.

Anonymous VD January 01, 2014 12:42 PM  

3 stars for Ludwig Von? Because its just so much damned work?

Pretty much, yeah. It's vital. But it's not pleasurable.

Anonymous Orville January 01, 2014 1:20 PM  

Put me down for Antifragile. It was a trans-formative book for me.

Blogger rcocean January 01, 2014 2:12 PM  

2103 Best Fiction Book Read - Heart of the Matter by Graham Greene. This one surprised me, since I loathe GG, the man. Judas Priest, what a left-wing Brit snobby wanker he was. As much as I despise American Intellectual lefties, the British leftists are even worse. More effete, ideological, snobby, and suicidally anti-Western Civilization.

Best Non-fiction Chandler's The Campaigns of Napoleon , a real war nerds history of Napoleon's Campaigns.

Anonymous JAU January 01, 2014 2:51 PM  

Interesting, Prague Cemetery was actually my favorite Eco novel. perhaps its just that I'm obsessed with food...

Anonymous RedJack January 01, 2014 3:47 PM  

Read Panzer Commander when I was young. One of those books that seemed to seep into my brain more than I expected.

And I agree with you about Prauge Cemetary. Just seemed, well, forced.

Blogger RobertT January 01, 2014 6:12 PM  

You read a ton of books. One every 4 days or so. That's impressive, and all the more so because I get the impression you read them completely, even the dogs. I'm reading the Foundation series right now. The first book was great, the second less so and I'm just starting the third, One thing I noticed is he does a lot of explaining. I learned a long time ago that if you're explaining, you're losing. At least in politics and business. I assumed it was because he was only 21 when he wrote them, and I assumed they would get better as they went along. But you've disabused me of that idea. On Taleb, I picked up all the big points in Black Swan, which you apparently haven't read and which I thought was the better book. But they're both eminently readable.

I really appreciate this kind of post because they've introduced me to some great authors I would have never read had it not been for your introduction, among them Stross, Stephenson and Mieville. (sp?)

Anonymous scoobius dubious January 01, 2014 6:12 PM  

since Murakami interests you...

for your consideration in 2014:

Oe Kenzaburo:
"A Personal Matter" backed w/ "Aghwee, the Sky Monster" (they pair very well, intentionally, and for a good reason)
"The Day He Himself Shall Wipe My Tears Away"
"Teach Us To Outgrow Our Madness"
"Prize Stock"

Tanizaki Junichiro: well, pretty much everything the guy ever wrote.

I'm not a huge fan of Kawabata Yasunari's "normative" work, but I think "One Arm" and "The House of Sleeping Beauties" are haunting, esp would be to an SF/F writer.

Anonymous scoobius dubious January 01, 2014 6:21 PM  

It's a pity in a sense that Nihon-go is not really a diaspora language, because Tanizaki is one of the great belle-lettristes of our times, up there with Eco, Borges, Woolf, Beckett, and Nabokov, and a few others whose names escape me at the moment. Every second's a pleasure. The guy just had it goin' on.

Blogger Bogey January 01, 2014 6:53 PM  

Thanks for the warning on the Foundation prequels, hate to see something great get a Lucas-esque work-over.

I still remember the post on Infinite Jest, i didn't think the excerpt was too bad; most of the commenters thought it was irritating.

Quite a few three star reviews, I wish people would stop thinking anything under 4 stars is a deathknell for a book on Amazon.

Blogger JCclimber January 01, 2014 6:54 PM  

Hm. My wife bought me Norwegian Wood before we got married, and I still haven't gotten around to finishing it 11 years later.
Mayhap I can finish it before her relatives come to visit in February.

Anonymous scoobius dubious January 01, 2014 7:51 PM  

As an off-topic new year's aside, it's still kind of hard to believe that here we are, months and months later, and still Larry Auster is no longer on the scene. Man, I miss that dude.

Blogger bethyada January 01, 2014 8:33 PM  

I've never thought of keeping track of all the books I read and doing a tally at the end of the year. That's a great idea. I'm going to do it for 2014.

I've been doing this for a long time. There are some apps that can keep a record for you, some even scan the barcode and look up the book. Takes about the same amount of time as putting the book back on the shelf! You should be able to download an electronic record at the end of the year.

Blogger bethyada January 01, 2014 8:43 PM  

In terms of regular reading, Douglas Wilson suggests that 1-2 books per week is a reasonable target for developing the intellectual mind. I tend to agree, though find 1 book a week more attainable. It depends a little on your combination of fiction and non-fiction. I guess I read non-fiction: fiction about 10:1. I suspect that one can read fiction at a slightly higher rate, though would be interested in others' thoughts.

One caveat to the 1-2 books per week is that it depends a little on what else you read such as journal articles, scientific papers, and internet articles

Anonymous mule January 01, 2014 9:07 PM  

if you liked Antifragile... then check out Knowledge & Power by G. Gilder also published in 2013...

Anonymous Beverly January 01, 2014 9:08 PM  

Same as bethyada, I have been compiling the books I have read since 1997 (before apps). Now I list them on my account at Goodreads. BTW, I read 185 books this year, but then, I am a librarian (850 books counting all the picture books I read.)

Anonymous Beverly January 01, 2014 9:15 PM  

I noticed that you read Greenwitch by Susan Cooper. Have you read the other 4 books in that series: The Dark is Rising? Greenwitch is #3 in the series.

OpenID cailcorishev January 01, 2014 11:35 PM  

I'd been wondering what you'd think of Macroscope. Three stars seems about right to me. I really liked a couple of the concepts in the story and enjoyed most of it, but the ending was downright lame.

Anonymous VD January 02, 2014 7:08 AM  

I noticed that you read Greenwitch by Susan Cooper. Have you read the other 4 books in that series: The Dark is Rising? Greenwitch is #3 in the series.

Many, many times. The Dark is Rising is one of my favorite books. The Grey King and Silver on the Tree are also excellent.

Anonymous mule January 02, 2014 9:10 AM  

Vox:

Have you seen the Sharp movies from the BBC, the ones starring Sean Bean?

ALSO: How many stars did you give Sharpe's Eagle? (Or haven't you read that one yet?)

Anonymous NorthernHamlet January 04, 2014 9:42 PM  

You know Vox, right when I think, alright at least this one goal on my list... I got Vox Day beat at that one... then you say 81 books, and I feel like throwing the stack of papers I'm holding right in the air and cursing. 81. 8-damn-1.

Anonymous Colorado Confederate January 08, 2014 1:05 AM  

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