What I've Read Recently...

  • Superfolks: A Novel by Robert Mayer
  • Smoke and Mirrors: Short Fictions and Illusions by Neil Gaiman
    A very nice collection of short stories. I especially liked his take on SnowWhite and the story of the angel of Vengeance.
  • Jennifer Government by Max Barry
    Takes the 1984 theme and twists it around, exploring what if corporations become more powerful than governments. In some ways, more frightening than 1984 as our human natures are used against us to create this corporate dominated world.
  • Sync: The Emerging Science of Spontaneous Order by Steven Strogatz
    This book describes the science of synchronization, in which physical systems coupled to one another begin to act in concert. Examples of such phenomena are taken from many fields of science and efforts to understand it are also described. Overall, an intriguing and well-written book.
  • Thieves' World: Turning Points editted by Lynn Abbey
    A nice resumption of the Thieves' World anthologies. Some of the stories are definitely stronger than others, but overall there are some very intriguing characters that I look forward to see more of.
  • The Hour of the Octopus by Joel Rosenberg
  • Emergence: The Connected Lives of Ants, Brains, Cities, and Software by Steven Johnson
    A good introduction to the science of emergence, which is basically that of complex behavior arising out of simple rules
  • Founding Brothers: The Revolutionary Generation by Joseph J. Ellis
    A very interesting look at some of the founders of the US. Most interesting, to me, was the fragility of the new country and how quickly politics "as usual" became established
  • The Minotaur Takes a Cigarette Break by Steven Sherrill
    What if the Minotaur was alive today as a cook in a small town restaurant?
  • The Blank Slate by Steven Pinker
    Probably one of the most interesting books I've read. Argues that human nature is innate and explores the consequences for politics, ethics and public policy
  • Kushiel's Chosen by Jacqueline Carey
  • Sanctuary by Lynn Abbey
    It's great to see the city of Sanctuary come alive once again!
  • Talon of the Silver Hawk by Raymond E. Feist
  • Kushiel's Dart by Jacqueline Carey
  • The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemmingway
    Haven't quite gotten through this one, definitely not as interesting as For Whom the Bell Tolls
  • Catch-22 by Joseph Heller
    I'm glad I finally got to reading this one. It has to be one of the most frustrating novels I've read, in the sense that I really connected to the insanity that Yossarian was surrounded by and his inability to truly control much in his world. I could really feel his frustration.
  • Calendar by David Ewing Duncan
    An interesting, if somewhat bland, account of how our modern (western) calendar was developed.
  • Grendel by John Champlin Gardner
    The autobiography, so to speak, of Grendel, from the Beowulf epic
  • Murder in LaMut by Joel Rosenberg and Raymond E Feist
  • The Salmon of Doubt by Douglass Adams
    This collects some very interesting articles, especially on computers, that Adams wrote for various magazines. It also has the rough draft of the first couple chapters of the book he was working on, a very intriguing teaser for a book that will never be.
  • America by Franz Kafka
  • Honoured Enemy by Raymond E Feist and William Forstchen
    A nice addition to the Riftwar saga
  • Einstein, Picasso: Space, Time, and the Beauty That Causes Havoc by Arthur I. Miller
    Argues that the genius of both Picasso and Einstein were the result of the ideas floating around them as well as their personalities
  • The Complete Etchings of Goya
    A collection of the darker etchings of Goya, including his take on Napolean's invasion of Spain. Very gruesome stuff.
  • American Gods by Neil Gaiman
    An interesting idea (what if all of the gods ever believed in really existed?), well executed, though maybe a bit slow in places.
  • The World of the Witches by Julio Caro Baroja
    A look at what the people who perscuted witches believed about them
  • Dirty War, Clean Hands : Eta, The Gal and Spanish Democracy by Paddy Woodworth
    A very interesting look at the ramifications of a state using terrorist tactics against terrorists
  • A Book of the Basques by Rodney Gallop
    A far-reaching, if maybe somewhat outdated in parts, look at many aspects of Basque culture
  • A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway
  • The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay by Michael Chabon
    A very nice book with great characters. Highly recommended
  • Bilbao and the Basque Lands by Dana Facaros and Michael Pauls
  • The Demon Haunted World by Carl Sagan
    A look into why superstition still holds such a powerful place in the modern world and why we need to move past it
  • The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway
  • Krondor: Tear of the Gods by Raymond Feist
  • The Epic of Gilgamesh translated by Maureen Gallery Kovacs
  • The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath
    Read for the Listology book club (which never quite took off). A very interesting book, but emotionally not as powerful as one would expect (at least by today's standard's), as I could never really connect to the despair the protagonist constantly felt.
  • The Structure of Scientific Revolutions by Thomas Kuhn
    How science evolves
  • A Whale Hunt by Robert Sullivan
    About the Makah Whale Hunt
  • Not Quite Scaramouche by Joel Rosenberg
  • Beowulf translated by Seamus Heaney
  • Escape Via Berlin by Jose Antonio de Aguirre
    The President of the Basque Country trying to escape Franco after the Civil War via Hitler's Europe
  • The Spanish Civil War by Hugh Thomas
    A very thorough and complete look at the Spanish Civil War and the factors that led to the Republic's eventual defeat
  • For Whom the Bell Tolls by Ernest Hemmingway
    A very interesting account of the Spanish Civil War. The descriptions of the brutality of both sides of the war against their enemies were especially powerful for me.
  • The Language of Names by Kaplan and Bernays
  • The Language Instinct by Steven Pinker
    A very powerful argument for the idea that we are born with some wiring for learning language and the ramifications that has on how the brain must work.
  • An Enduring Legacy by John and Mark Bieter
    History of the Basques immigrants to the western US
  • The Land of My Fathers by Robert Laxalt
    Thoughts by Laxalt about the Basque Country
  • Che Guevera: A Revolutionary Life by Jon Lee Anderson
    A great book about a very interesting man, a man with strong ideals and convictions
  • Guns, Germs, and Steel by Jared Diamond
    Why did Europe become the rich and powerful continent? A well thoughtout and argued answer.
  • Inside Terrorism by Bruce Hoffman
    An overview of the many groups worldwide that employ terrorist tactics to further their goals, including some analysis of their methods and how well they've achieved their goals
  • How the Mind Works by Steven Pinker
    A continuation of The Language Instinct where Pinker draws from other fields of brain study to further construct his image of how the brain works.
  • The Basque History of the World by Mark Kurlansky
    A good, if biased, overview of the history of the Basque people and some of their contributions to the rest of the world.
  • Founding Father: Rediscovering George Washington by Richard Brookhiser
    A good overview of who Washington was and why he is still relevant today.
  • The Pleasure of Finding Things Out by Richard Feynman
    Why do scientists become scientists
  • Krondor the Assassins by Raymond E. Feist
  • The Glorious Cause by Robert Middlekauff
    A history of the Revolutionary War
  • 1984 by George Orwell
    A classic that is especially relevant today
  • Virtual Light by William Gibson
  • The Life of Andrew Jackson by Robert Vincent Remini
    A good biography of one of the more interesting presidents and the political change his election brought.
  • Portraits of Basques in the New World by Richard W. Etulain and Jeronima Echeverria, editors
  • Is Blood Thicker Than Water? by James M. McPherson
  • The Stone Raft by Jose Saramago
    Not as good or interesting as Blindness
  • D'Shai by Joel Rosenberg
  • Alburquerque by Rudolfo Anaya
  • Idoru by William Gibson
  • The Earth Shall Weep by James Wilson
    History of the Native Americans after the Europeans arrived
  • Battlecry of Freedom by James M. McPherson
    An excellent overview of the Civil War
  • Not Exactly the Three Musketeers by Joel Rosenberg
  • Blindness by Jose Saramago
    One of the most interesting novels I've read: what would happen if the world were infected with a disease that caused sudden blindness? The prose is hard to get into, as Saramago has an aversion to punctuation and paragraphs, but still highly recommended.
  • Lincoln by David Herbert Donald
    A very good biography of Lincoln
  • Obabakoak by Bernardo Atxaga
    The first book written in Basque translated to English
Author Comments: 

These are recent books that I've read that I've enjoyed. I would greatly appreciate recommendations by anyone who has read these books and found others in a similar vein that they also enjoyed.

Most recently read books are at the top. The book above the line is the book I am currently reading.

What did you think of How the Mind Works? I read and enjoyed Pinker's The Language Instinct, and was wondering if I should read some more.

I'm just at the end of it now, and I have to say that it's one of the most interesting books I've read. It gives me a much deeper appreciation of psychology and also surprised me as to how much we know (and don't know) about how our brains work. He really tries to explain, and supports with evidence, that our emotions, thought processes, everything is a result of the environments our ancestors lived in. I highly recommend it and I'm thinking of getting The Language Instinct soon.

Just wanted to let you know... Chabon has published an additional chapter to kavalier & clay in mcSweeney's #7.

Thanks for the note. I'm not familiar with mcSweeney's. Is that a magazine? Is it online?

It's kind of a magazine :)


Buber, long time no see! So what did you think of Grendel?

Thanks Jim! I thought it was really good. It's basically Grendel's narration of the events in Beowulf, how he grew up, the first time he met humans, and his encounter with Beowulf. It tries to give Grendel some motivation for his actions in the epic, basically by describing what it is he hates so much about humans. I found it to be a very interesting commentary on human nature and some of the less pleasant aspects of who we are. I would highly recommend it and it's a relatively quick read as well.

I was actually asking from the position of somebody who already read it and liked it. :-) We read it in high school paired with Beowulf. I bet I'd like it even better now. Glad you enjoyed it as well!

I'd actually never heard of the book until seeing it in a New York Times book review issue a couple of months ago. I'm glad I did as it was well worth the read.

Would it still be worth reading if you know nothing about Beowulf?

Please tell me this isn't your first time reading Catch-22. Then again, if it is, I envy you in a way.

Funny you should mention a first time reading of Catch 22. I just finished the book, and wow, this may be my favorite novel of all time.

It stands alone as a "monster's point of view" story, but I think reading it immediately after Beowulf is a nice experience. And they're both short, not that that should matter to you with your gazelle-like reading speed. :-)

I agree with Jim that it stands alone. In Beowulf you don't see anything of Grendel except for a couple of brief encounters with humans. Most of the events of Beowulf are also at least briefly described in Grendel. I think it would go well alone.

Actually, yes, this would be my first time reading Catch-22. It was never assigned in high school and college, and to be honest, I always resisted reading those stories that people said I should read or were classics. I guess I didn't like being told what to read. But, now, I'm trying to read some of those very same books, slowly but surely.

I actually had read Catch-22 before I had it assigned in high school. I really ought to do a re-read.

I should mention that I recently read Seamus Heaney's translation of Beowulf and, while I haven't read enough translations to be able to recommend one over another, I thought that this translation was very good, if you do decide to read it.

I've heard good things about Kushiel's Dart. What do you think of it?

I haven't quite finished it yet, but I'm definitely enjoying it. It is a long tale, some 850 pages or so, and there are times where I feel the prose rambles a bit more than necessary. That said, I will definitely read the rest in the series. The world is Carey has created is both very familiar, being based on Europe, but very different, with an interesting mythology and political structure. I would definitely recommend it.

Buber, nice to see you put in an appearance! How was The Blank Slate? I've only read Pinker's The Language Instinct, but I thought it was fascinating.

Thanks Jim. I thought it was a very good book. It basically summarizes what he has said in his previous books, as well as other research on human nature, and then discusses the implications of our current understanding about human nature on politics, ethics, and public policy. In particular, he stresses the danger of basing policy and ethics on incorrect assumptions of human nature, for example, that all humans are born with a "blank slate", that is, no innate personality or nature, all with the exact same potential. He discusses why political movements based on this, and other, false assumptions on human nature might run into trouble (if you base the arguments for equal rights on the assumption that all humans are born identically, and that assumption is found to be incorrect, do you have to throw out equal rights?). He isn't saying that you should throw out equal rights, for example, but rather that the argument for having equal rights, or any other policy based upon human nature, should be based on ethical choices, not assumptions on how humans behave that might prove false.

I found it a fascinating book and would definitely recommend it.

Cool beans, thanks for the review! I'll have to check it out. And welcome back!