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Please begin with an informative title:

For those who are new ... we discuss books.  I list what I'm reading, and people comment with what they're reading.  Sometimes, on Sundays, I post a special edition on a particular genre or topic.

If you like to trade books, try bookmooch

I've written some book reviews on Yahoo Voices:
Book reviews on Yahoo

Readers and Book lovers schedule

Readers & Book Lovers Series Schedule

DAY TIME (EST/EDT) Series Name Editor(s)
SUN 6:00 PM Young Reader's Pavilion The Book Bear
Sun 2:00 PM What's on Your E-Reader? Caedy
Sun 9:30 PM SciFi/Fantasy Book Club quarkstomper
Bi-Monthly Sun Midnight Reading Ramblings don mikulecky
alternate Mondays
2:00 PM Political Books Susan from 29
Mon 8:00 PM Monday Murder Mystery michelewln, Susan from 29
Mon 11:00 PM My Favorite Books/Authors edrie, MichiganChet
TUES 5:00 PM Indigo Kalliope: Poems from the Left bigjacbigjacbigjac
alternate Tuesdays 8:00 AM LGBT Literature Texdude50, Dave in Northridge
alternate Tuesdays 8:00 AM All Things Bookstore Dave in Northridge
Tue 8:00 PM Contemporary Fiction Views bookgirl
WED 7:30 AM WAYR? plf515
Wed 2:00 PM e-books Susan from 29
Wed 8:00 PM Bookflurries Bookchat cfk
THU 8:00 PM Write On! SensibleShoes
Thu (first each month) 11:00 AM Monthly Bookpost AdmiralNaismith
alternate Thursdays 11:00 PM Audiobooks Club SoCaliana
FRI 8:00 AM Books That Changed My Life Diana in NoVa
Fri 8:00 PM Books Go Boom! Brecht; first one each month by ArkDem14
Fri 10:00 PM Slightly Foxed -- but Still Desirable shortfinals
SAT (fourth each month) 11:00 AM Windy City Bookworm Chitown Kev
Sat 12:00 PM You Can't Read That! Paul's Book Reviews pwoodford
Sat 9:00 PM Books So Bad They're Good Ellid


You must enter an Intro for your Diary Entry between 300 and 1150 characters long (that's approximately 50-175 words without any html or formatting markup).

Happy New Year! I may not be awake when this posts, but I will get here.

Here is what I read last year.

Science fiction and fantasy (alphabetical by author)

The van Rijn method by Poul Anderson. The first volume of collected stories that make up Anderson's Polesotechnic League, when mankind spans the universe.

The Year's Best Science Fiction edited by Gardner Dozois. My favorite of the annual collections of SF.

The hard SF renaissance  ed. by David G. Hartwell.  A large anthology of "hard" SF from the 90's and 00's. I think Hartwell takes SF a bit too seriously, but the stories are good.

Dune by Frank Herbert.  A re-read. I felt like reading this classic of SF, but I was somewhat disappointed by the experience.

Protector by Larry Niven  Another novel set in the same universe as the Ringworld novels

The Ringworld Engineers by Larry Niven. The sequel to Ringworld in which Louis Wu, Chmee and the Hindmost return to Ringworld, which has become unstable.

A reread of Ringworld by Larry Niven, an SF story about a world that is a ring around a sun. Full review

Heechee Rendezvous by Fred Pohl. The third book in the Heechee series. This was a re-read for me

Making Money by Terry Pratchett. Another re-read. Now that the post office is running fine, Moist von Lipwig is bored. Then Lord Vetinari "offers" him another job: Running the bank.

Going Postal by Terry Pratchett.   A re-read. Moist von Lipwig, con-man, is hanged. Then he is saved by Lord Vetinari, who offers him a job running the post office. Delightful.  full review

Small Gods by Terry Pratchett. A re-re-read. Pratchett at the top of his game, in this first Discworld book that showed he is a great writer. In the religious dictatorship of Omnia, everyone believes in the great god Om (if you don't, the quisition will get you). But the simple man Brutha doesn't just believe. He BELIEVES. Then the God manifests to him as a tortoise (a small god, because almost no one really believes).  

Pratchett beautifully skewers fanatical religion, while not totally skewering the more humane elements of it. full review

The Wee Free Men by Terry Pratchett. This book introduces us to Tiffany Aching, a nine year old girl who wants to be a witch and the Wee Free Men (aka the Nac Mac Feegle). Tiffany is one of my favorites of all Pratchett's characters.

Turing and Burroughs  by Rudy Rucker.  This is a deeply weird book. Not in a bad way at all, but .... odd. It starts off with the (possibly true) attempt of someone in the British government to kill Alan Turing with cyanide laced tea. But Turing's lover drinks first and dies. Then Turing uses biological tools he has been working on to switch faces with his friend. Then the tools get loose, Turing escapes to Morocco where he meets (and melds with) William Burroughs.... This is strange stuff but fascinating. Rucker captures Turing quite well in my view (I have read a lot about Turing).

The Human Division by John Scalzi A series of "episodes" in the Old Man's War series. Good fun, but probably best if you've read earlier books in that series.

Steel Beach by John Varley. A re-read for me. Part of Varley's loosely knit future history in which humankind has been exterminated on Earth but is thriving elsewhere in the solar system. Varley is an excellent writer, one of my favorites. For more about him see this article I wrote on Yahoo!

Biography (alph by subject)

American Lion: Andrew Jackson in the White House by Jon Meachem. A well-researched and well-written account of Jackson, concentrating on his White House years. Meachem has a dual view of Jackson: Positive on most things, very negative on dealing with Indians and Blacks. This book won Pulitzer Prize

Thomas Jefferson: The Art of Power by Jon Meachem.  An admiring look at Jefferson and his need for power. It is a good biography, but did not live up to the reviews (which were very strong).

Master of the Senate by Robert Caro. The third in Caro's monumental, amazingly researched bio of LBJ. I had been reading this but put it down. Not because it's a bad book - it is a great book - but because Johnson was so viciously nasty that I had to stop for a bit. Johnson wanted, craved, needed power. And he was absolutely brilliant at getting it and using it. But he let nothing stand in his way.  Regardless, this is vital reading for understanding the senate. Full review

Robert Oppenheimer: A life in the center by Ray Monk  Oppenheimer was one of the most interesting people of the 20th century. In this biography Monk (a wonderful writer) attempts to cover both his physics and his many other interests. Full Review

Rayburn: A Biography by D. B. Hardeman. A very admiring look at Sam Rayburn, former speaker of the House.  Hardeman has an odd but readable style, mostly in that he overuses this structure "the" (adjective) (state adjective) form (e.g. "the crusty Texan", "the wily Missourian") to an extent that's almost comical. Rayburn

The Blood of Tyrants: George Washington and the Forging of the Presidency  by Logan Beirne.  Washington wasn't quite the paragon of virtues we learned about in school; Beirne covers how Washington did things and how that could affect how later presidents did things.

Woodrow Wilson by John Cooper, Jr. A fairly admiring look at Wilson.

History (alph by author)

A Wicked Company by Philipp Blom. About the radicals of the European enlightenment, especially Holbach and Diderot. Interesting. These two were the ideological ancestors of atheists such as Dawkins and Hitchens, more than 200 years ago. A fascinating book about fascinating people. Rousseau was a jackass.

The Swerve by Stephen Greenblatt.  How the discovery of an ancient book helped create the modern world. Fascinating.  There is a thread running from Epicurus through Lucretius then Poggio then Holmbach and Diderot and on to the modern day with Hitchens and Dawkins. Reading the Swerve leads naturally into reading A Wicked Company (see below).

A Wicked War: Polk, Clay, Lincoln and the 1848 US invasion of Mexico by Amy Greenberg. What the subtitle says, but very interesting. For instance, the 1848 war was the first US war to have a substantial group of anti-War Americans. This was a really good book.

The Great Dissent: How Oliver Wendell Holmes changed his mind and changed the history of free speech in America by Thomas Healy. In 1918, free speech didn't mean what it does today. It meant that government wasn't allowed to prohibit speech before the speech or publication, but was allowed to punish it later. In Abrams vs. United States, Holmes wrote what is probably the most important dissent in the history of SCOTUS. He not only went against precedent, he went against precedent he had helped to establish only a short while before. This is a great book about how that change happened. Highly recommended.

What hath God wrought? by Daniel Walker Howe. Subtitled "The transformation of America 1815-1848. I am reading this with the History group at GoodReads.  This is very well written; an excellent portrayal of the USA in these 3 decades.


Word Freak by Stefan Fatsis. The world of competitive Scrabble and some of its top players. A good book that captures the lure of the game, but Fatsis spends too much time on some of the more unusual characters (and their more unusual characteristics).

Introduction to Defender's Play by Eddie Kantar. Very good basic treatment of defense at bridge by one of the game's best writers and players.

The Bridge Bum by Alan Sontag.  Sontag is a professional bridge player. This book tells what it's like to play bridge at the top level.

Mystery and thriller (alph by author)

Never go back by Lee Child. The latest in the Reacher series and a good example of it. Fast plot, lots of violence, some sex. Not much eloquence or character development. A good page turner.

Taken by Robert Crais. This is the latest in the Elvis Cole/Joe Pike series. For those who don't know the series, these are two very tough detectives. This novel begins when Cole is contacted by the mother of a young woman who has disappeared and then called with a ransom demand for $500. The mother thinks she has run off with her boyfriend,  but the truth is much darker: She has been captured by bajadores: Criminals on both sides of the US-Mexico border who prey on undocumented workers. After that, there's a lot of action and violence and the plot keeps zipping along. NOTE: There are scenes of torture, not overly graphic, that may be disturbing to some.

Ghostman  by Roger Hobbs.  The protagonist of this excellent first novel is  a "ghost man". He is part of a criminal enterprise of high level thieves (they steal large amounts at each crime) and his specialty is the ability to become other people - adapt their mannerisms, their voice, their signature and so on. In his spare time he translates books from Latin and Greek into various modern languages.  Fascinating.  Full review

Maximum Bob by Elmore Leonard - typical Leonard, full of zany characters, most of them low-lifes and a zippy plot. Very well written.

Snakes can't run by Ed Lin A mystery/police procedural set in NYC's Chinatown in the 1970s. "Snakes" is a slang term for illegal immigrants.  Although there is some good atmosphere of Chinatown, the prose (and especially the dialogue) is kind of clunky.

Fletch by Gregory McDonald.  I. M. Fletcher, investigative reporter, is posing as a drug addict to investigate the illicit drug trade on a beach. Then a man makes him an offer: Kill me and I'll pay you a bunch of money. Fast and funny.

Flynn and Flynn's World by Gregory McDonald. Meet Francis Xavier Flynn. Father of 5. Boston police inspector (the only one with that rank). International operative. Wise-cracking, irreverent with no sympathy for rules and regulations but an uncanny knack for arresting the right person.

It happens in the dark Carol O'Connell. The latest in the Mallory novels. If you like this series you will like this book (I do and did). But you should probably read at least a couple of the earlier books first.

The Butcher's Boy by Thomas Perry. A suspense novel pitting a hit man known only as the "Butcher's Boy" against the Department of Justice and others. Lots of violence, some gruesome. Well written with lots of twists.

Sleeping Dogs by Thomas Perry. The sequel to The Butcher's Boy.  The butcher's boy (a former hit man for the mafia) has retired to England and been living a quiet life for 10 years. But now he is recognized and comes out of retirement very fast.

Standing in another man's grave by Ian Rankin. Another in the Rebus series of Scottish noir crime novels. Here, Rebus is investigating a series of girls who have gone missing over a number of years.

Dead Souls by Ian Rankin. The latest in the John Rebus series of Scottish noir crime novels. I like this series and this is one of the best in it. But it's dark dark dark. Child abusers, serial murderers etc.  Full review soon on Yahoo Voices.

Ghost Hero by S. J. Rozan. Another in the Lydia Chin - Bill Smith series of detective novels set in NYC's Chinatown. Quite good, as usual. Full Review

Portuguese Irregular Verbs by Alexander McCall Smith. A light and funny short novel featuring Dr. Moritz-Maria von Igelfield, a professor of Romance philology in Regensburg, Germany. A send-up of academia and its discontents

Island of the Sequestered Love Nun by Christopher Moore. Moore is one of the funniest writers alive, but I don't think this is his best work.  I think his humor is so bizarre that it works better with a simpler plot (like, e.g. that of Lamb: The Story of Biff, Christ's Childhood Pal

The Code of the Woosters by P G Wodehouse. Wooster and Jeeves.

Science and math (alph by author)
The irrationals by Julian Havil.  The history of irrational numbers, nicely presented. Not for the mathematically naive (lots of calculus). A bit over my head, but interesting.

Thinking, fast and slow  by Daniel Kahneman.  Kahneman, most famous for his work with the late Amos Tversky, is one of the leading psychologists of the times. Here, he posits that our brains have two systems: A fast one and a slow one. Neither is better, but they are good at different things. This is a brilliant book: Full of insight and very well written, as well.

Stiff by Mary Roach. A re-read for me, with the History group on Goodreads. This is about what happens to us after we die. It ain't pretty.

Far from the Tree: Parents, children and the search for identity by Andrew Solomon.
The title comes from the phrase "the apple doesn't fall far from the tree". This book is about apples (children) who did fall far from the tree (parents). This book got amazing reviews and it grabbed me from the opening:

"There is no such thing as reproduction. When two people decide to have a baby, they engage in an act of production, and the widespread use of the word reproduction for this activity, with its implication that two people are but braiding themselves together, is at best a euphemism to comfort prospective parents before they get in over their heads"
I don't agree with all that Solomon says, but this is a book to make you think about deep questions of humanity. Full review soon on Yahoo Voices.

Visions of Infinity by Ian Stewart. A relatively nontechnical look at 11 famous problems of math. I found some chapters more interesting than others. Stewart is a very good popularizer of math, so if you like math, you will probably like this.

Weird Life by David Toomey. Life is weird. But, in this book, Toomey discusses weird living things and even weirder things that might be living somewhere else; that is, unusual life on Earth and the possibilities for life elsewhere. Recent years have seen a great expansion in the regions of Earth that are known to have life: Inside of rocks; far under the sea; in places previously thought too hot, too cold, too dry or too acidic for life to exist. Then Toomey goes farther and discusses life that might not be based on DNA or even on carbon. Fascinating and accessible.

Lake Views: The world and the universe by Steven Weinberg. Essays by this leading physicist.

Spell it Out by David Crystal.  The history of English spelling and why it's so weird and why "rules" don't work. Very interesting, but it all sort of blends together.

Arguably by Christopher Hitchens. A collection of essays from the 21st century. Brilliant, erudite, interesting and sometimes infuriating full review

  Found in Translation  by Nataly Kelly and Jost Zeitsche. An interesting collection of tidbits about translation in various contexts, but marred by not having much structure beyond the collection.

Steal the Menu by Raymond Sokolov. Sokolov has loved food all his life and written about it professionally for 40 years for, e.g. the NY Times, the Wall St. Journal, Natural History..... Here he recounts his eating.  Not bad, but rather self-congratulatory... He tells us that he was Phi Beta Kappa at Harvard. Later, he tells us again.

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