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Thursday, January 02, 2020

Reading List 2019

Five Stars
A History of the Peninsular War, Vol. I, Charles Oman
A History of the Peninsular War, Vol. II, Charles Oman
A History of the Peninsular War, Vol. III, Charles Oman
A History of the Peninsular War, Vol. IV, Charles Oman
1Q84, Haruki Murakami
The Seville Communion, Arturo Perez-Reverte
The Tale of Genji, Murasaki Shikibu

Four Stars
Killing Commendatore, Haruki Murakami
Wellington's Army, Charles Oman
Warwick the Kingmaker, Charles Oman
Night Watch, Terry Pratchett
A Hymn to Old Age, Hermann Hesse
In the Beginning Was the Command Line, Neal Stephenson
Neuromancer, William Gibson
Count Zero, William Gibson
Mona Lisa Overdrive, William Gibson
Zero History, William Gibson
The Master of Go, Yusanari Kawabata
What We Become, Arturo Perez-Reverte
The Nautical Chart, Arturo Perez-Reverte

Three Stars
Klingsor's Last Summer, Hermann Hesse
Hooking Up, Tom Wolfe
A Man in Full, Tom Wolfe
A History of England, Charles Oman
Pattern Recognition, William Gibson
The Jews, Hillair Belloc
Captain Alatriste, Arturo Perez-Reverte
Purity of Blood, Arturo Perez-Reverte
The Sun Over Breda, Arturo Perez-Reverte
The King's Gold, Arturo Perez-Reverte
The Cavalier in the Yellow Doublet, Arturo Perez-Reverte
The Children of Hurin, JRR Tolkien

Two Stars
Fall, or, Dodge in Hell, Neal Stephenson
The Trojan Mouse, Sam Lively
The Virtue of Nationalism, Yoram Hazony
Tender is the Night, F. Scott Fitzgerald
I am Charlotte Simmons, Tom Wolfe
From Bauhaus to Our House, Tom Wolfe

One Star
The Right Side of History, Ben Shapiro
House of the Sleeping Beauties, Yusanari Kawabata

If you're interested in a discussion of these books and why I rated them the way I did, you can watch it on Unauthorized if you are a subscriber there.

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60 Comments:

Blogger DJ | AMDG January 02, 2020 1:14 PM  

What would have been different about Pattern Recognition for it to receive 4*s?

Further, I’m curious as to why you gave Stephenson’s essay In the Beginning... 4*s. Was it the writing or the thesis or overall presentation of the argument or some combination? It strikes me that that his prediction has yet been realized and perhaps the unforeseen “subscription” service and in-app purchasing of functionality has postponed free/open source OS. It’s been a while since I looked at that essay.

Blogger Daniele Grech Pereira January 02, 2020 1:17 PM  

Vox! You spelled 'Shapiru' wrong!

Blogger Maximoushka January 02, 2020 1:22 PM  

Boy, thought you were never going to publish them lists again!
Coule you make any comments as to why you didn't like Stephenson or Wolfe's books. And especially,Hozany.

Earlier last year or so, you'd made a post regarding his book and it was favourable regarding the same.
Now, Herr Hozany is a crookee as any civnats but, is his book without any real merits too?
Thanks anyway!

Blogger Kraemer January 02, 2020 1:28 PM  

Shapiru or Shipiru?

Blogger thalios January 02, 2020 1:32 PM  

@VD - Which version/translation/interpretation of The Tale of Genji did you read?

Blogger Weak January 02, 2020 1:39 PM  

Excellent! This is my favorite post every year. The ratings definitely help guide my reading selection, and I have found several great new (to me) authors from Vox.

Thanks for the list.

Blogger David Ray Milton January 02, 2020 1:42 PM  

Belloc got three stars? Was he too sympathetic? Haha.

Thank you for publishing. I use these for references.

Blogger Newscaper312 January 02, 2020 1:43 PM  

Interesting more nuanced take on context of the Iraq Embassy attack.
https://www.asiatimes.com/2020/01/opinion/willful-ignorance-hurts-christian-militia-in-iraq/

Blogger Sterling Pilgrim January 02, 2020 1:44 PM  

Vox, how many books per week would you recommend as a healthy goal for readers of moderate speed?

Blogger VD January 02, 2020 1:52 PM  

how many books per week would you recommend as a healthy goal for readers of moderate speed?

I don't know. I am one of the worst possible people you can ask that question. I have no idea how fast readers of moderate speed read.

Blogger VD January 02, 2020 1:53 PM  

Coule you make any comments as to why you didn't like Stephenson or Wolfe's books. And especially,Hozany.

This is one of the reasons I didn't post book lists recently.

Blogger Maximoushka January 02, 2020 1:59 PM  

Got it. I'll shut my trap.

Blogger Bogey January 02, 2020 2:06 PM  

Vox I heard you were reading 'Darwin Devolves: The New Science About DNA That Challenges Evolution.' Would you recommend it?

Blogger MagisterLudi January 02, 2020 2:11 PM  

Definitely Not Meth Star: 12 Rules for Life

Blogger Oswald January 02, 2020 2:12 PM  

Good one Vox, the top of the one star list made me laugh.

Blogger Thought Criminal January 02, 2020 2:22 PM  

Sterling Pilgrim wrote:Vox, how many books per week would you recommend as a healthy goal for readers of moderate speed?

Well, if you get rid of the TV...

I would consider myself a fairly voracious reader and based on an average 300 pages per book, I tend to read 4-5 books a week. I suspect most folks are nowhere near this, but they probably have a life.

Being an autodidact, I just can't help myself, heh.

Blogger Weak January 02, 2020 2:24 PM  

Killing Comendatore would have been six stars if the ending hasn't fallen apart harder than the Bluesmobile. It was the most beautiful book I had ever read until that disappointing finish.

Blogger Dr Caveman January 02, 2020 2:24 PM  

Fall, or Dodge in Hell was the biggest disappointment of 2019 for me

Blogger Rattlesnake_Kid January 02, 2020 2:26 PM  

Appreciated.

Blogger Mr Traumaboyy January 02, 2020 2:31 PM  

My wife said...wow...he reads almost as much as you......BS!!! I am still workin on his list from 5 years ago!!!

Blogger bodenlose Schweinerei January 02, 2020 2:34 PM  

"What would have been different about Pattern Recognition for it to receive 4*s?"

Whyya care? Gonna get Gibson to re-write it?

Blogger iDrakian January 02, 2020 2:41 PM  

Vox, what would be your list of the 100 best books to preserve from destruction/oblivion? Thank you

Blogger Matthew January 02, 2020 2:55 PM  

I have fond memories of some of the Alatriste books. Maybe I'll reread them.

Blogger Brick Hardslab January 02, 2020 2:57 PM  

Are all those new reads or are any re-reads?

Blogger Dave January 02, 2020 2:59 PM  

Vox, how many books per week would you recommend as a healthy goal for readers of moderate speed?

Vox reads on his phone or tablet during sets at the gym. It's akin to asking an elite athlete how much should you train for intramural sports.

Depends on the reading material of course, but averaging 1-2 books a week would put you ahead of 99% of the general public.

Blogger Rakshasa January 02, 2020 3:01 PM  

@1 Not sure why VD gave it that, however what I find interesting is how clearly he explains the difference in nature of the OS for the consumer and for the professional.

While most of us can now use vm's and containers for our development needs, there was a time when the choice of OS told a lot about how serious you were as a programmer. And this essay spelled it out clearly to a generation.

Most of the other predictions? Who cares, they were interesting but still just as predictive as most other predictions.

Blogger Dave January 02, 2020 3:03 PM  

didn't like Stephenson

Isn't there a Bookstream available to UA.tv subscribers or there was for Fall, or Dodge in Hell.

Blogger Steve Samson January 02, 2020 3:03 PM  

I found Pattern recognition hard to get into, but the other books in the series (Idoru and I think Virtual Light, a while since I read them) work out well together. But yes, not as good a read as the Neuromancer set, not by a long chalk.

Blogger maniacprovost January 02, 2020 3:08 PM  

I have no idea how fast readers of moderate speed read.

This is a curious statement from an editor XD

200 words per minute, or one 1988 vintage science fiction paperback in 8.5 hours.

averaging 1-2 books a week would put you ahead of 99% of the general public.

Reading one book per month would put you ahead of 98%. More people are listening to audiobooks now though.

Blogger AshMeadowBear January 02, 2020 3:14 PM  

What translation of The Tale of Genji did you read?

Blogger rmb177 January 02, 2020 3:15 PM  

@27 I'm pretty sure there was. Anyone have a link to it? I can't find it on youtube or UA.

I skipped that video because I wanted to read the book, and now that I've read it, would like to hear Vox's review.

Blogger Goodnight January 02, 2020 3:17 PM  

This is one of the reasons I didn't post book lists recently.

I'm very glad you do post these lists, as I've gotten a lot of my reading picks from them and never would've discovered many authors otherwise. Your lists turned me on to Hesse and finally convinced me to read the Sharpe's Rifles series

One from this years list that I have read is Wolfe's Hooking Up. The essay called "The Great Relearning" was a real eye opener to me, and explained a lot about how we've gotten where we are (and also the attitudes of a lot of boomers). The rest of the book was pretty hit-or-miss, but that one essay stuck with me.

Blogger Newscaper312 January 02, 2020 3:24 PM  

Am I correct to assume Vox reads the foreign authors in their original languages? At least the Japanese and Spanish?

For those of us less gifted, any comment on quality or value of their English translations?

Blogger Jeff Weimer January 02, 2020 3:29 PM  

"A Man in Full" was really a lesser Wolfe effort. I read it in hardcover when it came out, and it just didn't feel quite up to his previous works. It felt...forced...much different than Bonfire, although you could see the same types of characters. That said, maybe a re-read is in order to look at it with hindsight.

Blogger VD January 02, 2020 3:48 PM  

What translation of The Tale of Genji did you read?

This time, the Tyler. I'd already read the Waley twice.

Blogger VD January 02, 2020 3:49 PM  

Am I correct to assume Vox reads the foreign authors in their original languages? At least the Japanese and Spanish?

No, only the Italian. I can read German reasonably well, but I don't anymore.

Blogger Karen took the Kids January 02, 2020 4:19 PM  

Introduction to Murakami was Killing Commendatore and that was an outstanding introduction. I was looking for a recommendation for the next Murakami book to read so thanks for this.

Blogger Shane Bradman January 02, 2020 4:44 PM  

Neuromancer was interesting. I could not got into that style at all and it felt like being told a story by someone with ADHD. Gibson ought to have had a co-writer.

Blogger Bill Quick January 02, 2020 4:47 PM  

I'm glad to see somebody agree with me that Stephenson really stunk out the house with his second Dodge novel.

Blogger David The Good January 02, 2020 5:04 PM  

Pattern Recognition is a personal favorite.

Blogger Weak January 02, 2020 5:10 PM  

Karen, I recommend reading a few other Murakami books before tackling 1Q84. A Wild Sheep Chase or one of his shorter novels. 1Q84 is called his magnum opus for a reason

Blogger LiveForever January 02, 2020 5:11 PM  

Do you rate Oman's History of England above Trevelyan's?

Blogger Ora Tevzre January 02, 2020 6:12 PM  

Thanks, I really appreciate that list. Reading good literature is so much more productive that trying to find answers on the Internet.

Blogger Talios Hammerfist January 02, 2020 6:28 PM  

I'm going to read my first Murakami book this thanks to your high praise.

Blogger Sargent.matrim January 02, 2020 6:53 PM  

Thanks for this. Will reference this throughout the year to add to my reading list.

Blogger HouellebecqGurl January 02, 2020 8:01 PM  

Anything by Douglas Reed but especially The Controversy of Zion as well as Maurice Samuels book from 1924, You Gentiles, both should be REQUIRED reading.

Blogger Azimus January 02, 2020 8:19 PM  

Is Wellington's Army by Oman a good introduction to his writing, as well as Wellington?

Blogger God Emperor Memes January 02, 2020 8:22 PM  

Night Watch us great. I liked the development of Vimes' character throughout the series.

Have you read Tom Wolfe's 'The Right Stuff'?

Blogger JRH, esq. January 02, 2020 8:24 PM  

2 stars for I am Charlotte Simmons is generous given its length versus its pointlessness. That one really felt like a waste of time.

Blogger God Emperor Memes January 02, 2020 8:26 PM  

Reading *full stop* would put one ahead of the general public.

Blogger Lazarus January 02, 2020 9:02 PM  

Tender is the Night, F. Scott Fitzgerald

Vox's Darkstream commentary on this just reminded me of BB's take on Seinfeld.

Blogger Edgar Abbey January 02, 2020 10:54 PM  

Fall or Dodge in Hell was a chore to get through. It was atypical for Stephenson.

Blogger S. Thermite January 02, 2020 11:55 PM  

I love Vox’s book ratings/recommendations. I’ll sometimes search the blog archive to see if he mentioned a book before I buy or spend an Audible credit on one. Most recently this helped me pick and enjoy ‘Hyperion’ instead of ‘The Name of the Wind’ despite a friend recommending the latter.

For the other readers here, what Murakami novel would you recommend next for someone who’s only read and enjoyed ‘The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle’?

Blogger Karen took the Kids January 03, 2020 6:49 AM  

Good call. I've been doing some research and you're probably correct. Thanks for the info.

Blogger K. January 03, 2020 8:50 AM  

Surprised to see "Tender is the Night" at only 2 stars, I'll watch the video soon to see your reasons. I always found it far superior to the overhyped Gatsby.

Blogger rcocean January 03, 2020 11:41 AM  

Two stars for Tender is the Night, F. Scott Fitzgerald. Ouch. Have you read "the great gatsby"? if so, how many stars?

Blogger rcocean January 03, 2020 11:44 AM  

I'd give "man in full" 4 stars, and "Bonfire" five stars. Going back to "Tender in the Night" a rating would depend on how much you care about Style vs. Story. The novel got trashed in the 30's because the critics didn't care about "troubled rich people" during the Depression. The party-line was to write Proletarian novels - and Fitzgerald suffered for not conforming.

Blogger rcocean January 03, 2020 11:46 AM  

These lists are helpful, because they identify good books for future reading.

Blogger Azimus January 03, 2020 2:58 PM  

@rcocean - I seem to recall VD saying somewhere along the way that one of his favorite novels - possibly favorite American novel - was the Great Gatsby.

Blogger Zaklog the Great January 03, 2020 7:34 PM  

Hey, also reading Belloc's The Jews at the moment. It is interesting, and I would heartily recommend it.

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