Books Read in 2006

24 Jul 2007

An ongoing list of the books that I’ve read in 2006 and a little snippet of my thoughts about them. I didn’t feel like keeping this on my blog, so here it is instead.

The goal is an average of a book a week, no cheating by reading really short books that I wouldn’t have read anyway. The totals for past years have been:

1996 1997 1998 1999 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006
23 22 26 29 46 39 42 53 36 51 28

Asimov’s Mysteries by Isaac Asimov 16 Jan 2006

Short SF stories with a mystery bent to them. Some were good, some were clever, some were obvious, and others were just…meh. Typical Asimovian ratio, I think. Fun, though, and with some forewards and afterwards that explained why and when he wrote some of the stories and what the reactions to them have been, either on scientific grounds (he pointed out that some “recent” discoveries negated his solutions) or logical ones.

Pastoralia by George Saunders 16 Jan 2006

Loopy, but good. Kind of a cross between Aimee Bender and David Sedaris.

Coraline by Neil Gaiman 16 Jan 2006

A kid’s book, true, but not a bad one. I’d say that it wasn’t as good as American Gods, but that’s a completely different type of book for a completely different kind of audience. For what it was, it was pretty good, and I think that I would have been all over it when I was a certain age.

It does seem like it’s a gateway read to his Sandman stuff, though.

The Second Coming of Steve Jobs by Alan Deutschman 9 Sep 2006

This was an unabridged audiobook that I downloaded from Audible.com about the mercurial founder and head of Apple, Pixar, and then Apple again. It’s the Pixar stuff in the middle that’s fascinating, since Jobs just sort of stumbled into it. NExT was dying, and Pixar’s imaging hardware and software seemed like a good acquisition. It came this close to being shut down, but then John Lassetter started winning awards, and the rest is history…

Altered Carbon by Richard K. Morgan 9 Sep 2006

Another Audible.com download, and one that I have to admit that I still haven’t finished. I got to a torture scene and just kind of stopped. It’s good, but it’s also about 17 hours long, and I don’t have that kind of time.

I’ll get back to it, though.

More Than Human by Theodore Sturgeon 9 Sep 2006

A SF classic, and one worth reading.

Bait Money and Blood Money by Max Allan Collins 9 Sep 2006

These are actually two books, but published under one title, Two For The Money by Hard Case Crime. I was really skeptical, but they were really good reads.

Fire Lover by Joseph Wambaugh 9 Sep 2006

An interesting piece of local history from the town in which I live, where an arson investigator for the city fire department was actually one of the most prolific arsonists in the region. As fiction, you wouldn’t buy any of it, but it’s all true.

The Intuitionist by Colson Whitehead 9 Sep 2006

The way I took it, it was a look at dogma and orthodoxy written as a kind of mild science fiction, using one of the most mundane occupations imaginable—elevator inspector—as a stand in for politics and religion. Remove the usual labels and hot-button issues, and you’re left wondering what all the foaming at the mouth is about.

A Good Man Is Hard to Find by Flannery O’Connor 9 Sep 2006

The famous short story collection, which no one told me was as oddly loopy in some places as it was. Fortunately, I like oddly loopy. Quite good. I need to read more of her.

Strange Angel by George Pendle 9 Sep 2006

Another piece of local history, this from Pasadena. One of the founders in the field of rocketry, who finagled a department at CalTech that ultimately became the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, was a college drop-out who liked to dabble in Black Magick and was a devotee of Alastair Crowley and a friend (and one of the first scam victims) of L. Ron Hubbard. The book starts with him blowing himself up while creating a pyrotechnic device for a movie studio, and gets stranger from there.

Ragtime by E.L. Doctorow 9 Sep 2006

I can be a sucker for historical fiction sometimes. I really did enjoy this, though, although I can’t quite figure out how they turned it into a musical…

The Third Galaxy Reader edited by H.L. Gold 9 Sep 2006

SF from the Golden Age. You can hear several of the stories dramatized here.

Due To Circumstances Beyond Our Control… by Fred W. Friendly 9 Sep 2006

Part history, part plea for responsible broadcasting, I read this after re-watching Good Night, and Good Luck. I think that it’s something that a lot of people who are high on the idea that blogs and YouTube will completely rework the American media landscape into a information utopia should read, to know that a lot of people thought the same thing about television at one time. Never discount the forces of mediocrity at work.

Published in 1967, he advocates a national public broadcasting network utilizing new communications satellites (what became and is PBS), but also warns against a lot of negative things that have also come to pass, like the decimation of news divisions in favor of entertainment.

What I really took away, though, is that while he disagreed with William S. Paley, the head of CBS, about a great many things, he did respect him. I couldn’t help but imagine that he’d view Leslie Moonves, the current head of CBS, as anything but a putz.

Kiss Her Goodbye by Allan Guthrie 9 Sep 2006

Another Hard Case Crime, this one set in Scotland. Thumbs up.

Edward R. Murrow and the Birth of Broadcast Journalism by Bob Edwards 9 Sep 2006

A short bio about Murrow, downloaded from Audible.com, written and read by Bob Edwards, a radio broadcaster himself (who was unceremoniously fired from NPR after hosting “Morning Edition” for many, many years). Another read/listen, like “Due To Circumstances…”, that I picked up after re-watching “Good Night, and Good Luck.” It covers the big picture, and tided me over until I could get to A.M. Sperber’s bio on Murrow.

The Secret Sharer and Other Stories by Joseph Conrad 9 Sep 2006

Mort by Terry Pratchett 9 Sep 2006

I don’t want to tell how long it took for me to get through this book. It wasn’t bad, and it wasn’t difficult, but there was so much going on (my fiancĂ©e and I were trying to plan our wedding) that every time I settled in to read it, I’d fall asleep from sheer exhaustion after two pages.

I still like Terry Pratchett, though.

The Stars My Destination by Alfred Bester 9 Sep 2006

361 by Donald E. Westlake 9 Sep 2006

Hard Case Crime.

A Multitude of Sins by Richard Ford 9 Sep 2006

Short stories, which is always a little hit-or-miss. And despite the title, there is really only one sin: Infidelity. But even the misses are better than most.

City of Light by Lauren Belfer 9 Sep 2006

Too long, and too slow to get started. Any book that takes 200 pages to really get started could do with some serious editing.

Once it does get started, though, it isn’t bad. It’s pretty good in spots, in fact.

Men and Cartoons by Jonathan Lethem 9 Sep 2006

Another unabridged download from Audible.com. Another set of short stories. But these are almost all really good, straddling some middle ground between literary and science fiction.

A Case of Conscience by James Blish 1 Jan 2007

Questions of imperialism, of religion, of faulty reasoning, of good intentions gone awry, and of bad faith. Even now, I don’t know how to summarize what the book is about, since I think the strength comes from the questions it left me with when I’d finished reading it rather than the tale it told. Not that it isn’t without fault, or that I haven’t read better SF novels, but it’s worth checking out.

All The King’s Men by Robert Penn Warren 1 Jan 2007

It’s not about Willie Stark, it’s about Jack Burden. Anyone who tells you otherwise is talking about the movie version. One of them, anyway. I haven’t seen either, but the Broderick Crawford one is in my Netflix queue. I think I can skip the Sean Penn portrayal.

But about the book: As Willie explains at one point, you can’t do good unless you have some bad that you’re acting against. The question, of course, is if identifying one or the other is really all that easy.

Danse Macabre by Stephen King 1 Jan 2007

My wife has been recommending this book for years, as King’s tour through the landscape of horror books, movies, and TV from the late 1940s or so through the early 1980s. I am nothing but a very, very casual horror fan, so what started as a kind of interesting trip, led by someone who has great passion for his subject and eloquent defenses against its detractors, felt a little overly long and tedious by the time I got to the end.

Moondust by Andrew Smith 1 Jan 2007

A mix of rumination about the Apollo space program by someone who had nothing more than a lay interest in it as a child in the 1960s and 1970s, as well as a “Where are they now?” revisiting with as many of the 9 surviving “moonwalkers” he can get to talk to him. As someone who’s in the midst of questioning the state of his present career track, it was interesting to read about these men who’d made the greatest voyage of the 20th century, viewed by heroes by many, only to return to Earth and ask, “Well, what do I do now?”

As an overview of the Apollo program, it’s servicable, but there is certainly no dearth of other books that can give you the history in greater detail. The strength of this book is in answering the questions (sometimes not fully considered by space fans) of What happened next? and What did it all mean?