My 2013 Reading List – First Six Months

I started the year with another ambitious goal of 100 books (using the Goodreads site to log and track), as last year I read 119. Through June, I’ve managed 58.

I’m grouping the books as I did in last year’s recap by the month in which I finished them (and fiction/nonfiction subgroups.) As the list is already quite long, and I’ve decided to tag all of the authors and titles, I’m publishing the first half of the year as a standalone.

Some quick stats for the BLUF (Bottom Line Up Front): heavier on the nonfiction (again) for the six months so far this year:

  • 34 nonfiction
  • 24 fiction
  • 9 of the fiction were Arthur C. Clarke novels. The last of the Big Three (Asimov and Heinlein being the other two, though Heinlein doesn’t warrant the distinction…IMO), I think he did well with science fiction and not so well with things that involve people.
  • I’ve rated 10 as five-star on Goodreads
  • I gave 2 books a one-star rating (not-only-no-but-really-no)
  • I’ve linked all of my Goodreads reviews (even if only one line) to each title, in case anyone is interested in what I thought.

And, now to the books of the first half of 2013…

January – 11

Nonfiction (6):

I found The Naked Brewer to start my research on brewing my own ales …haven’t taken the plunge yet.

The Signal and the Noise was an outstanding read. Silver does a great job talking about a wide range of subjects and makes statistics actually interesting! Glenn Beck (along with about fifteen other writers of that mess), on the other hand, was the noise to an intelligent signal and earned the first one-star rating of the year. Michael J. Fox’s very short memoir was charming and insightful, while both Truss’s and Sack’s books were informative (and coincidentally, both British).

Fiction (5 ):

I like quite a bit of Piers Anthony, despite being annoyed with most of his writing. I wanted to refresh my memory of the Incarnations of Immortality series before reading the eighth that I did not know existed until 2010.

Ballard’s “experimental” novel was to me a failed experiment. Nuff said.

I saved Clarke for the last of my survey of the Big Three. Asimov wrote so much that I only read his Foundation arc (robots through Empire through Foundation) in 2010. I started Heinlein last year but only made it through 16 novels before I gave up my stubborn quest. He simply does not belong in any conversation about great science fiction writers. In my opinion, of course (but then, this is my opinion here). Clarke is the better science fiction writer in comparison with the other two (IMO, again). I was not too taken by Childhood’s End, but the others were good reading.

I remember watching The Man from U.N.C.L.E. as a kid and I also read some pulpy stuff when young. The Thousand Coffins was typical for the genre of the time.

February – 10 (of 21 through February)

Nonfiction (6 ):

Keen’s polemic rants against the amateur content of the internet (to which I am contributing with this blog). A few good points undone by a sarcastic ass who thinks everyone is stupid (-er than him?). I expected more out of Dude, but it was a pretty lame transcript of a conversation between Bridges and Zen master (whatever that is) Glassman. Weird Things made me laugh – the human capacity for dumb is boundless.

I found Throwing Madonna while looking up references debunking the right/left brain myth. In a collection of Calvin’s essays first published in 1983,  he talks about his theory of handedness (humans are pretty much the only animals, large claw crustaceans aside – who exhibit a distinctive dominant hand) as rips Roger Sperry, likening the myth to phrenology. And, in the same thread pulling exercise, I read Haidt’s Hypothesis after it was referenced extensively in Scott Trent’s Right (next month…). As I said on Goodreads, I wanted to like the book, but he made it too hard to…too much stuff about transcendence and higher powers.

Fiction ( 4):

Clarke is great science fiction. Even his lesser stuff is hand over fist better than anything Heinlein wrote, though his work diminishes as he got older. I liked Rama the first time I read it and again this time. Not too keen on Alborn, or at least Five People. Maybe Tuesdays with Morrie would be better.

March – 8 (of 29 through March)

Nonfiction (4 ):

Jim Holt really tried with Exist, but he wove in so much BS that it waxed and waned intelligence, and waned and waxed nonsense. Managing is an academic collection with a couple of good notes, but not for the average reader. I wasn’t all that impressed. Now, for whatever reason, I like Tom Peters, and even as uneven a collection of stream of consciousness thoughts as Little Big Things is, I still liked a lot he had to say.

Trent’s book was also uneven. A good core idea not packaged well. I also read his PhD dissertation “Digital Media-based Design that Facilitates Collaboration”, which though it doesn’t count as a book, was still 172 pages. Lot of repetition… something to keep in mind if I ever decide to go for a doctoral degree.

Fiction ( 4):

Clarke’s Islands was simple, young adult sci-fi, whereas Twenty Thousand Leagues was an encyclopedia of marine fauna and flora. I figured out that I must not have actually read it as a teen… no way it would have held my attention. Sawyer’s Calculating was a light read with a cloying end, but the niggling annoyance was his use of contemporary references…those never stand the test of time. And Boulle’s Apes was both different and similar to the movie, though I’d have to give the nod to the screenplay as superior.

April – 14 (of 43 through April)

Nonfiction (10 ):

Of the ten nonfiction books I read in April, two stood out from the rest: The New Business of Design and The Quality Instinct. I found New Business specifically because I had seen several references praising Tom Peters’s keynote address at the 45th International Design Conference in Aspen (1995). The keynote was great and the rest of the book full of valuable information on the (then) future of design in the business world. I looked for the other stand out after I heard about Max Anderson’s Quality Instinct and heard him as part of a panel discussion in Dallas. Very well-written and not at all pretentious, Anderson should be able to help some readers understand quality. Both highly recommended.

Daniel Smith’s Sherlock was nothing like Maria Konnikova’s Mastermind – derivative and more of a Conan Doyle quiz book.  Thaler and Sunstein’s Nudge fell far short of the hype (referenced in other books I’d read); the book is supposedly about how people need “choice architecture” to help them make decisions. Tripe. Sacks’s Man Who Mistook was on the New Scientist Top 25 Most Influential Popular Scoence Books, all of which I’ve resolved to read. He described a lot of very odd pathologies. S’okay.

Livio’s God is a nice survey of the history of math and while good. misses the mark on answering the question. Hawking’s Grand Design earned with Livio the other four-star rating of the month. Both were easy reads, though I didn’t see any of the controversy in Design that had been in the news. Napkin was a waste of time – Roam made some money conning people into thinking a simplistic concept was a world-shattering epiphany. Good for him – but bad on him. I read through Fry’s Interview for my sons and to refresh my own memory on the topic. Not bad.

What was bad was Alexander’s Proof (hard to not put that title in quotes …the sarcastic type… and hard not to put it below in the fiction where it belongs). He earned my second one-star of the year. His writing style was like an easy conversation, I’m still shaking my head.

Fiction (4 ):

I liked the two Chalker novels in second Well World series better the second time around. As with most second novels in trilogies, Shadow seemed more filler, but both still showed his imagination. I was not impressed with Steampunk Poe, neither with the gimmick of steampunk illustrations nor with Poe’s writings. And Rama II, was a weak sequel to Rendezvous with Rama – I was disappointed…again, for I read it years ago when it came out and was disappointed then.

May – 8 (of 51 so far through May)

Nonfiction (3 ):

I read the Everything Practice Interview to help prepare for a series of interviews. Didn’t make much difference in that outcome, but it is still a good book overall. Good examples of how not to answer questions. Johnson’s Good Ideas is an excellent read, for while he talks about specific examples of innovation in his illustrations, he focuses more on the processes. And MacCormick’s Nine Algorithms is also recommended for anyone in the biz (his explanations are simplified, while not dumbed down…might help explaing what you do), or has more than a passing interest in the underpinnings of the information world.

Fiction (5 ):

What can I say about J.K. Rowling’s first Potter book that hasn’t already been said? Of course, if the sayings are negative, then you can leave the room. Bloody brilliant. A book that can be read by young folks as well as old folks, with a story arc spanning seven books and inklings of things to come so early? Again, bloody brilliant.

Clarke and Lee slumped further with Garden but Clarke’s 2001 is still pretty good. As with the first two in the Watchers at the Well trilogy, I like Gods better the second time through. I think Chalker will be my next semi-exclusive author to read (yeah, if I don;t get distracted…) And I read Lee Child’s Killing Floor after watching the “Jack Reacher” movie. It was rather pulpy, but still not a bad airport read.

June 7 (of 58 so far through June)

Nonfiction (5):

Curious coincidence…I read Marilyn’s Fragments: Poems, Intimate Notes, Letters last year in June. That, people know to be hers. My Story?…probably not. And I was very disappointed in Hutson’s Magical Thinking – gimmicky, poorly reasoned and all the more of a head shaker given that Hutson was the editor of Psychology Today.

Neat story on Simon Zingerman’s Heroes – he found me on and asked if I’d read his book and comment on it. So I did. Not something I’d ordinarily pick up, but it wasn’t bad. Plus, he sent me an autographed copy from Sweden. Pretty cool.

Coyle’s Talent Code, however was nearly a one-star. “Revolutionary scientific discoveries” don’t come along that often, and certainly not via the pen of a sports writer. Fortunately, the month was saved by The Naval Institute Press’s Quarterdeck and Bridge – great history of the great movers in U.S. Navy history

Fiction (2 ):

Andrea was reading Extremely Loud to Dylan and Drew (yes, she still does that with our 16 and 14 year olds) so that we could watch the movie. I read it, too. I had problems with the incongruous elements that no kid would think, see or do, but it wasn’t bad. Neither was World War Z, though don’t read it going in thinking it is about zombies or the movie. It was neither.

Recap…through June

So, there you have it, 2013 (first half) reading in review. These are the 58 books I’ve read so far.

2 responses to “My 2013 Reading List – First Six Months

  1. Pingback: My 2013 Reading List – Second Half | Random (and not) Musings

  2. Pingback: 2013 Reading Summary | Random (and not) Musings

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