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home :: books

Aug 28, 2006

Library Thing

If you need a simple way to catalogue your book collection try LibraryThing. Its a bit like Rateyourmusic except a little more commerical - you can add 200 books for free or pay a nominal fee if you have more books in your collection (most people wouldn't).

Permalink | 2006.08.28-00:47.00

Jul 24, 2006

Reading List (Updated 26/07/06)

Neal Stephenson - Quicksilver

This is a good read and my first introduction to cult author Neal Stephenson - not quite the very first as I had already read his geek monolog on the joys of a command line interface. Basically a historical drama set in the 1600's following three interconnected story arcs with a common element of discovery and change (hence the mercurial reference of the title). Lots of links to famous historical figures that leads to interesting wikipedia lookups as I try and get a handle on some of the characters and locations visited by the characters. About the only downside is that the density of information and sheer size of this book makes for really really slow going. The storylines are good but not compelling enough for me to plow through the next two similarly sized books in the series. However if you really enjoy historical fiction and have some big chunks of time to dedicate to reading then it will be of interest.

Charles Stross - Accelerando

This is much more my speed - I picked it up 3/4 of the way through 'Quicksilver' as some light relief from Stephensons tome. Charles Stross is turning into one of my favourite authors - this collection of three stories (available in free pdf/etext as well as commercial dead tree format) follows one of Stross' favourite themes - the impending Singularity. It touches upon many popular ideas and technologies but pushes them just a little further into the very near future giving it a very realistic feel - wether it will age well is another story. Highly recommended.

Permalink | 2006.07.24-20:57.00

Apr 28, 2006

Reading List (Updated 27/04/06)

Natacha Du Pont De Bie - Ant Egg Soup: The Adventures of a Food Tourist in Laos

Mouth watering Laotion travelogue. Shame I'm a vegetarian - most of the recipes seem decidedly porky/beefy/fishy. An excellent read if you enjoy exotic food and travel.

Charles Stross - Iron Sunrise

Followup to Singularity Sky but better. The protagonists race to discover who destroyed a planet before a retaliatory strike takes place. A must read if you like hard sci-fi.

Steven Strogatz - Sync: The Emerging Science of Spontaneous Order

I find it hard to read non-fiction books about science and mathematics - the last one I read, completed and actually enjoyed would have been James Gleicks 'Chaos'. Sync is actually not to bad and actually pretty interesting and (comparitively) easy to read with lots of personal anecdotes about the nature of synchronisation (how does the body know when to wake up or sleep ? why two pendulum clocks fall into sync ?).

Lynne Truss - Talk to the Hand: The Utter Bloody Rudeness of the World Today, or Six Good Reasons to Stay Home and Bolt the Door

Humourous look at rudeness from the author of 'Eats shoots & leaves' (she'd have a field-day with my typos and grammatical faux pas). A nice light read which leaves you nodding in agreement to pretty much every point she makes regarding the increased rudeness encountered in every day life.

Permalink | 2006.04.28-00:48.00

Mar 25, 2006

Reading List (Updated 25/03/06)

Since I can't get the reading room blosxom plugin to work as a static sidebar I've grabbed the contents of my reading list and appended them to this file. I'll try to keep it updated whenever I complete a new book.

Anthony Bourdain - Kitchen Confidential - 5/5

Don't eat the fish on Mondays and never eat the hollandaise sauce. Great insight into the work required to become a professional chef. And an excellent read to boot.

Antony Beevor - Fall of Berlin 1945 - 4/5

Terrifying and very well written account of the last days of the Third Reich. Written from many different perspectives - you get a real feel for what it must have been like if you the misfortune to be on the ground ahead of the Russian advance in the last 6 months of World War II. Antonys book on Stalingrad is meant to be just as good.

Stephen Donaldson - Runes of the Earth - 5/5

I'm a huge fan of his books and this is an excellent followup - his writing style can seem a little overblown but a read of his sci-fi novels show he can write gritty dialog just as easily as flowery-fantasy prose.

Neil Gaiman - Anansi Boys 4/5

Not as good as 'American Gods' but still a very worthwhile read.

Alastair Reynolds - Redemption Ark -4/5

Last in a series - some great ideas but the storys pacing does let it down a little. A good read for fans of 'hard' sci-fi.

Dan Brown - The Da Vinci Code - 3/5

A nice way to spend a day or two - if you like this definitely read Umberto Eco's 'Name of the Rose' and .Focoults Pendulum' which cover similar ground (but better IMHO). Actually Warren Ellis also goes over some of this stuff in his 'Preacher' series too :-)

Mark Haddon - The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time - 5/5

An excellent insight into a childs mind who suffers from a form of Autism. One of the best books I've read all year.

Alastair Reynolds - Revelation Space - 4/5

Second in a trilogy - more good ideas but pacing lets it down. The idea of the 'inhibitors' is definitely an excellent (and realistic) new spin on the 'angry aliens are awoken to destroy humanity' concept.

Charles Stross - Singularity Sky - 4/5

Highly recommended sci-fi - excellent combination of ideas in this 'post-singularity' novel.

Iain Banks, Alastair Reynolds, China Mieville and Charles Stross have pretty much revitalised a stale genre.

Ken MacLeod - Newtons Wake - 3/5

Another 'post-singularity' novel - not quite as good as Charles Stross but still worth reading.

John Pilger - The New Rulers of the World -4/5

One of those books that will really wind you up and make you wonder wtf is going on in the world. John Pilger is in a similar class to Noam Chomsky but has a much more down to earth and humanistic take on some of the worlds problems (he's also much easier to read).

Simon Singh - The Code Book - 5/5

Fascintating look at the evolution of code creation and code breaking - right up to PGP and Quantum encryption.

Iain M Banks - The Algebraist - 5/5

I love his Culture novels - this isn't one of those but it is just as good (also definitely better than his recent non sci-fi output).

PS - how cool is google ? You can query 'amazon 0670030414' (eg a books ISBN number) and get results returned on the book at Amazon.

Permalink | 2006.03.25-21:04.00

Dec 05, 2005

Recent Books

Just finished Stephen Donaldsons Runes of the Earth. I'd definitely give it a 5/5 for any fans of the original books and the cliff-hanger ending leading into the next book is brilliant and frustrating in equal measure. Being almost two decades (time flys!) older than when I finished the original series there is a certain nagging suspicion about the language and way in which the author phrases his text that can make you squirm a little. Still can't detract from an excellent story. If anyone finds Stephen Donaldson text flowery or his characterisations one dimensional they should try his sci-fi 'Gap' series or 'Mordants Need' series - much grittier writing (the 'Gap' series is almost shocking compared to his fantasy stuff).

Prior to that I polished off Neil Gaimans 'Anansi Boys' which was also an excellent book - if you enjoyed 'American Gods' you'll enjoy this one. Its very tame in comparison but its still a wonderful story of two brothers coming to terms with their fathers legacy.

Now I've just started 'Absolution Gap' the last in the Inhibitors series by Alastair Reynolds. I find it tough going getting into his books but usually by the half-way point it becomes pretty riviting stuff. Certainly some of the best sci-fi I've read since Iain Banks 'Culture' stuff.

I also hear Stephen Pressfield has jumped on the Alexander bandwagon with his latest novel - ' Alexander: The Virtues of War'. His 'Gates of Fire' was inspired but his followups were a little dry - I'll still check this one out though.

Permalink | 2005.12.05-23:12.00

Sep 04, 2005

Alastair Reynolds + Mark Haddon

I just finished Revalation Space by Alastair Reynolds. Very slow start but the last 3/4 of the book is pretty impressive and when it ends you feel the need to rush out and get the next one.

Just started reading The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time. Not something I'd normally consider but curiosity got the best of me and I was duly rewarded by a fascinating read. Highly recommended insight into autism with smatterings of science and mathematics rolled into a (dog)murder mystery.

Permalink | 2005.09.04-23:17.00

Mar 19, 2005

A Few Notes on the Culture

Great reading A Few Notes on the Culture by Iain M Banks.

On a related note heres a good list of Culture Ship Names as featured in his novels.

Permalink | 2005.03.19-21:19.00