Books Read in 2005, Part II
Part I is here.
Favorite Books Read in 2005:
- Wild At Heart by John Eldredge
- The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell
- The Culture of Fear by Barry Glassner
- The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky
- A History of Rock Music, 1951-2000 by Piero Scaruffi
- America (The Book) by Daily Show writers, et al
- A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson
- The Success Principles by Jack Canfield
- Blink by Malcolm Gladwell
- The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
- Box Office Poison by Alex Robinson
- Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion by Robert B. Cialdini
- Persepolis & Persepolis 2 by Marjane Satrapi
- Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs by Chuck Klosterman
- The Bonfire of the Vanities by Tom Wolfe
- A New Kind of Christian by Brian D. McLaren
- The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne
- Innumeracy by John Allen Paulos
- Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass by Lewis Carroll
- Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card
- Stiff by Mary Roach
- Moby-Dick by Herman Melville
1. Changing Minds: The Art and Science of Changing Our Own and Other People's Minds by Howard Gardner. This very quickly went the way of 'The Power of Intention,' so I dropped it.
2. 1001 Things Everyone Should Know About Science by James Trefil. Everyone 'should' know? Most of this is useless junk, and sometimes not even interesting junk.
3. In Six Days : Why Fifty Scientists Choose to Believe in Creation by John F. Ashton. I flipped through the headings and realized that almost all were about debunking evolution, not supporting 6-day creation - and the headlined 'problems' with evolution had mostly all been explained in my recent evolutionary book readings (some of them written more than a DECADE previous to this book's essays).
4. The Elegant Universe: Superstrings, Hidden Dimensions, and the Quest for the Ultimate Theory by Brian Greene. I gave up in frustration. The first 100 pages are excellent, but everything after that is too 'far out' to be worth reading. It's a futile aspiration to explain to laypeople what the world's greatest scientists do not understand at an intuitive level. Worse, nothing in string theory - or much of quantum mechanics - is based on actual evidence. It's all just speculation about possible explanations for natural phenomena. Perhaps that's the best we can do, but it's not good enough for me.
5. The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett. This probably isn't a bad book like my other aborted reads. But it was clearly entertainment literature, and it didn't give me enough reason to read 1000 pages. Had it been 300 pages or if I was in more of a 'novel' mood this year, I probably would've finished and generally enjoyed it.
6. Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden. This was shaping up to be a great book, and probably would've ended up 'Highly Recommended', but I've simply lost all interest in fiction novels.
7. The 247 Best Movie Scenes in Film History by Sanford Levine. I just didn't like the selection. And it's organized boringly by subject rather than the rightly-popular ranking system.
8. Chicken Soup for the Writer's Soul by Jack Canfield, et al. I guess this kind of thing tries to rub my cold dead heart back to life too vigorously, so I found it irritating.
9. The Big Picture by William Goldman. In my mid-teens I was quite insane and William Goldman was my favorite screenwriter. Somewhere around the writing of Dreamcatcher, Goldman himself went insane. This collection of essays is remarkably banal and unnecessary and not very interesting. I read a few, skimmed some others, and threw it back down.
10. Edly's Music Theory for Practical People by Ed Roseman. Seems like a good book, but I realized part-way through that there's no point in learning all this if I'm not going to apply it right now because I'll just forget it all. So, I'll hunt this book down again once I'm going to devote myself to making music, which won't be for many years.
11. Art: A Field Guide by Robert Cumming. Great book, but meant as a 'field guide', not a book you can just read and memorize. So, maybe I'll buy it at a later time. It's definitely an 'own' book, not a 'borrow' book.
12. On Flirtation by Adam Phillips. Phillip's definition of flirtation is much broader than what I was interested in. This is a pscyhobabble book, not a useful one. It may be intelligent and original to compare flirtation with a passage of Milton's Paradise Lost but it is not practically useful. If you're looking for a mental gymnastics program, this may intrigue you. I wasn't, and it didn't.
13. Visionary Film: The American Avant-Garde in the 20th Century by P. Adams Sitney. A very in-depth and intelligent dissection of avant-garde film that engaged me for a while but later I decided I wasn't in the mood to delve quite so deep, at least not right now.
14. How to Read a Film: The World of Movies, Media, and Multimedia : Language, History, Theory by James Monaco. I requested the newer, multimedia edition, but my library sent me the 1977 copy. I scanned over some interesting passages on theory and early film technology, but I'll try to get my hands on the newer copy instead.
15. Shadow Syndromes: The Mild Forms of Major Mental Disorders That Sabotage Us by John Ratey. Just because I didn't read some chapters doesn't mean I got nothing from it. It's very appealing and sensible to think that nothing is black and white, especially something so complex as mental illness. I'm now quite certain I have mild ADD - and that knoweldge isn't frightening, it's empowering (though it does give me another excuse for failing to live my potential). Naturally, my mild ADD is a reason I didn't read the whole thing. My making it through a book is surely a high compliment to the writer's ability to engage.
16. A Brief History of Time : From the Big Bang to Black Holes by Stephen W. Hawking. I don't know why I grabbed this. I've already read 2 or 3 more recent books on the same subjects this year. Whoops.
17. Desiring God by John Piper. I didn't realize desiring God relied entirely on mental gymnastics and wringing every last drop of possible inference from the deepest pockets of Scripture.
18. Notes From Underground by Fyodor Dostoyevsky. Everything I read was just the narrator talking about his views on things; no plot. It's a style that can work, just not one I cared for.
19. The Social Animal by Elliot Aronson. A good book, and a decent refresher on social psychology, but it wasn't what I was looking for, so I gave it up.
20. How to Make People Like You in 90 Seconds or Less by Nicholas Boothman. Wow, I should look people in the eye and smile and imitate their body language and build rapport? Ya think? Gee, thanks for the tips, Nick!
31. Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass by Lewis Carroll
Good grief. This is the most jam-packed, fast-paced book ever. I listened to this on audiobook, and I had to track down a copy of the actual book to believe it was truly 'unabridged.' I also had to stop the damn tape every half hour just so I could breathe (which wouldn't be a problem if I'd bothered to read the book, instead). Of course, I still loved it. Highly Recommended.
32. The Experts' Guide to 100 Things Everyone Should Know How to Do by Samantha Ettus
Some entries are good, but most of them, like the entire book, give you just enough to irritate you that there isn't more here. Not Recommended.
33. The Success Principles: How to Get From Where You Are to Where You Want to Be by Jack Canfield
This is either the most useful book in the world or a bunch of crap. I'm inclined toward the former, but I have to acknowledge a some deceptions or gloss-overs or incomplete ideas in this book. But, I can see how the absolute truth in those few situations do not make the readers more likely to succeed, so it's probably a good thing! Highly Recommended.
34. The Culture of Fear: Why Americans Are Afraid of the Wrong Things by Barry Glassner
This is a fanastic book and a very important one. It's stuffed with facts and figures that debunk our common fears and redirect them to things that are actually worth worrying about. Eye-opening, reassuring, and Highly Recommended.
35. The Daily Show with Jon Stewart Presents America (The Book): A Citizen's Guide to Democracy Inaction by the writers of The Daily Show, et al
Trendy, comically disparaging, packed with great references, hipster friendly, and fucking hilarious - if you like the Daily Show, you'll love America (The Book) (duh). The funniest book I have ever read. Highly Recommended.
36. A Cabinet of Medical Curiosities by Jan Bondeson
Needed editing badly. The few interesting stories are buried in pages of less interesting, unconvincing trifles. Its conclusions are usually boring (true cases of spontaneous combustion were similar to someone doused with alcohal lighting a cigarette and burning), unconvincing (treating known hoaxes as fact), or duh (yes, I know there are bearded women). It's not even that fun to read. Not Recommended.
37. Top Ten of Everything 2005 by Russell Ash
It's occasionally intersting to see something beyond the #1 of everything as in The Guiness Book of World Records, but usually not. Also, I can barely imagine a more boring selection of Top 10s. Listology oughta release a 'best of Listology top 10s' and put this thing to shame. Not Recommended.
38. Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion by Robert B. Cialdini.
Wonderful. Cialdini breaks down the world we live in and shows us why we're taken and how not to be taken. In the process, he shows us how to take others, but he does not recommend this: the mental shortcuts we depend on in this increasingly complicated world must be trustworthy. We should therefore resist their exploitation and not produce it. I haven't read much on the subject before, this feels like the magnum opus on psychological influence. Highly Recommended.
39. Why Pro-Life? : Caring for the Unborn and Their Mothers by Randy Alcorn
I stumbled on this book and, because I didn't know the answer to the question on the cover, read it. It's 100 small pages, anyway. The case against abortion is much stronger than I'd anticipated. I suppose I should read a "Why Pro-Choice?" book first, but for now the better arguments in this book have made me feel very comfortable in choosing (just now) to be pro-life (and in arguing the case for life). Recommended.
40. A Century of Films : Derek Malcom's Personal Best by Derek Malcolm
An honest selection of Derek Malcolm's favorite films with insightful analysis and enthusiastic praise for each in brief. A fun read. But I want to know more about the film that this quote refers to: "...Bergman, with whom Fellini was going to collaborate on a film, together with Kurosawa." Huhwaaa? Recommended.
41. Microsoft Excel Version 2002 Step By Step by Curtis Frye
Still not sure if I should count these, but I will. Recommendation Irrelevant.
42. Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs : A Low Culture Manifesto by Chuck Klosterman
Sometimes relevant to my pop culture experience, sometimes not, sometimes important, sometimes not, but always engaging and rapturously funny. (Look! I'm quotable!) Chuck's either very smart or very good at sounding smart when he's saying nothing - actually, there's a how-to sheet included in the book on how to do just that. Nearly as much fun as the titular elements themselves. Highly Recommended.
43. The Hipster Handbook by Robert Lanham
I'd never heard the word 'hipster' until six months ago, and I've come across it a few times a day since then. So I figured I should figure out what a hipster was. The Hipster Handbook is a lightly amusing read, and is probably as good a guide as any to understanding/being a 'hipster', but it wasn't quite 'there.' If you're in the same boat I was, you're probably just as well off reading the Wikipedia entry. Not Recommended.
44. Film Posters of the Russian Avant-Garde by Susan Pack
When criminal psychologists trying to explain my sicko killing spree in 2025 try to pin down the moment I 'went certifiable', I'm sure they'll pick the time I decided to read this book, cover to cover. But actually, it's a pretty interesting read. Susan Pack gives us an introduction on the period, genre, and its posters & poster artists, and gives us a brief introduction to each poster in three languages, as well as a profile of dozens of poster artists from the period. Alas, the 'coolest' poster is the one on the cover, by far. Not Recommended.
45. Sneaky Uses for Everyday Things : How to Turn a Penny into a Radio, Make a Flood Alarm with an Aspirin, Change Milk to Plastic, Extract Water and Electricity From Thin Air, Turn on a TV With Your Ring, and Other Amazing Feats by Cy Tymony
How's that for a long book title? Sneaky Uses wasn't as interesting, exhaustive, or useful as I'd hoped (the 'home security' gizmos were especially laughable), but there were some fun tidbits in here. My favorite was making plastic from milk and vinegar, since it was easy and actually worked. Recommended.
46. Box Office Poison by Alex Robinson
There's an exception to my 'no fiction' rule, and it's comic books. Box Office Poison is a very thorough examination of the scope and limits of sequential art. I can hardly think of a comic art presentation technique that Robinson didn't use. It's also a demonstration of how graphic novels are often superior to film for visual storytelling - especially due to the depth allowed by 600 pages. The characters are more fully drawn (and perhaps more believable) than in any movie I can think of, the dialogue is great, the stylistic touches are effective - this is great stuff. Highly Recommended.
47. The Life You've Always Wanted by John Ortberg
Don't judge a book by it's title. The working title, "Dallas for Dummies", would've been much better. Some parts ('Training Vs. Trying') are stronger than others ('A Dee Dah Day'), and Ortberg's writing is an uneven balance of insight and whimpering tangent, but his everyman exploration of spiritual disciplines is useful and relevant. Recommended.
48. Microsoft Outlook Version 2002: Step By Step by Perspection, Inc.
I hate this program. But anyway: Recommendation Irrelevant.
49. David Boring by Daniel Clowes
Good characters & story and all that, but I'm not sure why this makes a better comic book than novella - it certainly didn't make use of the form like Box Office Poison or other recent graphic novel favorites of mine. Recommended.
50. The Urban Christian: Effective Ministry in Today's Urban World by Ray Bakke
As a middle-class, white, suburban Christian, I'm utterly out of touch with urban life and the challenges of urban ministry. Ray Bakke ministered and raised his family in the worst neighborhoods of inner-city Chicago in the 50s, and shares the lessons he has learned about being effective in urban ministry. Recommended.
51. God's Politics: Why the Right Gets It Wrong and the Left Doesn't Get It by Jim Wallis
An important book that illuminates important problems for politically-minded Christians and, more importantly, provides lots of potential solutions. Jim Wallis' messages is diluted by more than a dozen multi-page quotes and a misuse of statistics for his cause that matches his opponents' misuse of stastics for their cause. Still, great points (and suggestions) abound. Recommended.
52. PeopleSmart: Developing Your Interpersonal Intelligence by Mel Silberman
A well-compressed overview at working with people, but more obvious and shallow than I was looking for - either that, or maybe I'm not as PeopleDumb as I thought I was. Recommended.
53. A History of Rock Music, 1951-2000 by Piero Scaruffi
This most intellectually influencing book I've read this year. Though some may be turned off by Scaruffi - the ultimate rock snob (who was first a classical music snob) - I was won over by his unparalleled knowledge and analysis. This is an extremely brief history of important "popular" music after 1950. Not music that is important to the record industry or nations and cultures, but music that is important to music: its language and form. For example, Scaruffi argues that The Beatles merely wrapped pop cliches in pseudo-psychidelia, whereas Captain Beefheart wrote a post-Cage study of tonality and provided rock's most important contribution to the history of music in Trout Mask Replica. Don't be too intimidated, though; he loves The Doors. With Scaruffi's rock history, you'll learn the origins of all the major styles (including country, electronica, hip-hop, rap, metal, world music, folk music, etc.). Sometimes, the origins are buried in a rarely-heard recording 20 years ahead of its time. If there's a fault in Scaruffi's stunning work, it's that it's too brief (even at 550+ pages). By trying to cover everything, Scaruffi is limited to a single paragraph on even the most important artists, and doesn't have much time to explain just what the different genres and styles sound like (okay, Scaruffi, what is "post-post-rock" or "jazzcore"?). Nevertheless, Scaruffi's encyclopedic knowledge and unfaltering vision have made me a convert. I'd still rather listen to "Don't Stop Me Now" than "Ant Man Bee", but I now concede that Radiohead haven't contributed anything new to rock music; they've merely made it sound more interesting. So yeah, thanks Scaruffi for splitting my musical "favorites" from "bests" just like David Cook did with me and film. The free online version is fully hyperlinked to exhaustive artist profiles. I exhort you to (at the very least) read the preface to understand Scaruffi's vision of artstic rock. Highly Recommended.
54. Wild at Heart: Discovering the Secret of a Man's Soul by John Eldredge
I read this last year, and knew I needed to read it again. Truly, truly, I say to thee: no book has ever spoken to me so deeply, directly, and surprisingly - not even any of the books in the Holy Bible. A pastor's kid from a warm, safe, Christian-bubble upbringing, I was raised by parents, teachers, and peers to be... a nice guy. Compassionate. Dutiful. Responsible. Sensetive. Careful. I was thoroughly discontented with life and I wasn't quite sure why. Then Eldredge points out that God made me a man so that I can be... dangerous? Fierce? Wild. "The heart of man is undomesticated, and that is good." American culture, its education system, and most especially The Church, have emasculated men and told them to be women. Fuck that. Now, being a man isn't about macho posturing, but it is about embracing what God has put in the heart of man - a deep longing for adventure, danger, battles, pain, and The Beauty. This is a book about the heart of man, the image of God, the question of a man's heart, the wound of man, the battle for man's heart, the healing of man, the enemy of man, battles, The Beauty, and a grand adventure with her. No book has ever opened so much weeping agony inside me or freed so much joy. Highly Recommended.
55. Think Like a Shrink : Solve Your Problems Yourself with Short Term Therapy Techniques by Pat Fogarty, Chris Zois
Not a psychology textbook, but rather a brief, practical primer on the psychology of normal people. To the point and quite a good refresher. Recommended.
56. Reading People : How to Understand People and Predict Their Behavior - Anytime, Anyplace by Jo-Ellan Dimitrius
Much of this book is common sense, but not necessarily common sense I'd have thought up no my own. I wish she gave me easy answers to everything, but the author acknowledges the complexity of reading people. I'm trying out her principles to see if they work. Recommended.