More books

Feb. 9th, 2010 03:01 pm
jfs: (Default)
I have a horrible feeling I'm missing one ...

#10 - Stalky and Co by Rudyard Kipling. A collection of short stories based on Kipling's life as a student at the Army and Navy College in Devonshire. Middle and lower Upper class boys and their disregard for authority. More specifically, their disregard for unearned and undeserved authority. One of my favourite collections of stories; Kipling is, in my opinion trying to show the mindset that will strengthen the Empire. Teach children to think, and to be flexible, and to be just. Then step back and let them make mistakes.

#11& #12  - Presentation Zen and Presentation Zen Design, both by Garr Reynolds who writes Presentation Zen - excellent introductions to minimalist presentation skills - the design book (like Robin William's Design for Non Designers) is a good introduction to some basic graphic design concepts - well written and with beautiful examples. Both highly recommended.

#13 - Information is Beautiful by David McCandless - written by the author of the Information is Beautiful blog and a great introduction to displaying data in informative and well designed ways. My only caveat is that there are a number of printing errors in the book that mean that some of the graphs are meaningless, and I'd expect a book on this subject to be better proofread - not that there are a lot of errors, but when you're talking about presenting data, you're setting yourself up to a higher standard, IMO. Anyway - the graphs with errors in can be downloaded in their proper format from the author's blog, but it's a bit of a fail on the part of the publishers. 

#14 The Big Necessity by Rose George - this is about the San in WatSan - Sanitation, or to put it more bluntly, shit. (There's an important reason for the use of the swearword, explained in the first chapter.) This is an excellent whistle-stop tour of what's going on in the world of sanitation, talking to sanitation engineers, entrepreneurs, agents for social change and academics. It's a topic that some people might find disgusting, but it's one that affects us all, and George is an engaging writer on such a scatalogical topic. Well worth a read. The temptation to have it as the only book in my toilet is almost overwhelming.

So - not a lot of non-fiction in the last couple of weeks - the forthcoming weeks have Neal Stevenson (Still aiming to read The Big U and Snowcrash), Native Tongue and the Judas Rose by Suzette Haden Elgin and Johannes Cabal the Necromancer, written by someone I went to college with.
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An interesting experience on the way into work, courtesy of Mr. Jobs - having an accidental playlist mixing the soundtracks to 'Oh Brother, where art thou?' and 'True Blood' makes for some very interesting pictures in my head. Especially seguing from 'Keep On The Sunny Side' to 'Bleed 2 Feed' and then into 'The Big Rock Candy Mountain'.

The cool thing is that the tracks do actually fit together well - in my (admittedly small) experience of American country music, Louisiana Bayou and Bluegrass seem to be quite natural partners.

More reading - I have a funny feeling that the majority of updates on this journal this year might be book reviews:

#7 The Lathe of Heaven by Ursula K LeGuin.  Shockingly, I've only just got around to reading this - it's in the 'Masterpieces of Science Fiction' collection for very good reason. Imagine being someone who knows that certain dreams they have will come true, even if the universe has to re-write itself to make them true? Then imagine that someone else finds out how to control your dreams. LeGuin is always a strong writer, but this is stunning stuff about the nature of shared realities.

#8 Cobra Trap by Peter O'Donnell - the last short stories that O'Donnell wrote about Modesty Blaise, one of my favourite fictional heroes. She's always been timeless, and this collection shows her off at her best. Probably not a good introduction to the character, but definitely a good finish.

#9 The Cognitive Style of PowerPoint: Pitching Out Corrupts Within by Edward Tufte. Tufte hates Powerpoint, and this short book explains why. His main dislike of it is how it is used in inappropriate places and how that causes problems - up to and including the Columbia Space Shuttle disaster in 2003. Tufte is worth reading, especially if you're into doing more scientific / data heavy presentations.
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Continued book lists / reviews

#4 The Anglo Files by Sarah Lyall - an American journalist married to an English writer who writes a column on living in England for the New York Times. I guess you could call this a reverse Letter from America but without Alistair Cooke's warmth. It's well written, but I got to the end wondering why Lyall was putting up with living in this country at all. Not much philia in the Anglo Files.

#5 The Winter Book by Tove Jannson - far more to my taste. The ever lovely [ profile] njarbaggytep gave me Jannson's The Summer Book and I loved it. Stories from a small Finnish island of the relationship between a girl and her grandmother. The Winter Book is a collection of Jannson's short stories and is just beautiful - sparse, windswept writing that is as solid as rock and as gorgeous as ice. One story - Correspondance is now on my list of things never to read when I want to actually write something shortly afterwards - like much of Ursula Le Guin's work, I'd just give up, knowing I could never write anything that perfect.

#6 Learning The World by Ken Macleod is a First Contact novel - describing what happens when humanity meets it's first alien race. Interestingly, the first contact story is told simultaneously from the perspective of the humans and the aliens (who are actually Alien Space Bats) and it has some very though provoking concepts in it.

In other news, I've just bought a new jacket - it's one of these and it's very nice indeed. However, I may have to consider myself old, as there are several bits on this jacket where I don't actually know what they're for. (That may be related to it being a snowboarding jacket, so I'm hoping that either [ profile] kneeshooter or [ profile] quondam will be able to explain at some point why I need something which looks like a pocket to put photo ID in, but inside and hidden away?)
jfs: (Default)
I have no idea how many books I read in a year, so I'm going to keep count (until I get bored, obviously).

I'm only going to count books that I actually finish, and I might even try a mini-review as I go.

So, with no further ado.

#1 The Art of Peace by Morihei Ueshiba. A present from the ever lovely [ profile] quondam and the source of my favourite quotation of the year thus far.
The art of peace is a form of prayer that generates light and heat. Forget about your little self, detach yourself from objects, and you will radiate light and warmth. Light is wisdom; warmth is compassion.

#2 Zodiac, by Neal Stephenson. Back when he was able to tell a short story, Neal Stephenson wrote some very cool books. Zodiac is a modern day eco-thriller set in Boston, with a fantastic protagonist. I expect I'll be re-reading The Big U and Snowcrash soon.

#3 Jim Henson's Return to Labyrinth vol. 1 by Forbes and Lie. A manga tale of what happened after the film ended; specifically, what happened to Toby, Sarah's young brother. Admit it - can't you totally picture Jareth drawn in a manga style? An interesting enough story, and I've got vol.2 sitting around for when I want to read it, but I have to admit, I'm not rushing. Okay, but not compelling.

Next on the list, a Ken McLeod and a couple of Murakami, plus Jackdaws by Ken Follett - a story of an all women resistance team in WWII.

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