Book Challenge

So I decided the only way I would actually remember to read for pleasure this year was to give me a public chance of failure. Some of my friends started a “50 Books in One Year” challenge last year, and I’ve decided to join in. Then it got to be mid-February and I had only read two books, so I changed it to “25 Books in One Year.” I’m not ashamed! Here we go:

1. A Hole in Space by Larry Niven
started: January 1st
finished: January 1st
I loves me some Larry Niven. Actually, I think I read this book when I was younger; either that or some of these stories were in the SF short story anthologies my dad used to give me. Lots of detective stories involving teleportation booths, the earliest mention of the Ringworld (in an essay smack dab in the middle), and all sorts of hard science fiction fun. Highly recommended.

2. American Gods by Neil Gaiman
started: February 5th
finished: February 8th
I loved this book. That’s not too much of a surprise, considering how talented Neil Gaiman is, how much I love his children’s stories (don’t buy them for your kid if you want them to sleep through the night – so creepy!), and every single Quality Nerd I know clutches this book to their bosom as one of the Best Books Ever. A complicated, dark, brain tickling novel that satisfies that small part of you that studied Norse mythology back in junior high because the Greeks were far too chipper. Don’t be thrown by the cheesy-ass summary on the back – this book sucks you in and fascinates, disturbs, delights you until the very last page. In fact, the last page had my favorite interaction on it. Plus, he has jokes! And zombies! And coin tricks! Highly recommended.

3. Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman
started: May 8th
finished: May 10th
You can’t really say I’m on a Neil Gaiman kick since its been months between readings, but I do tend to lean towards Gaiman now when I’ve got some time to read. I shouldn’t have read this one when I did, there was no time, but once you start reading you just get sucked in and then there’s no helpin’ ya till it ends. I get the feeling Neil Gaiman has found a good plot line and he’s sticking to it. Everyday good hearted guy stumbles into unknown world of magic and mayhem a la Wizard of Oz except with more death, he somehow becomes that world’s savior, and he is returned to the Real World wiser and more confident than before. I know Anansi Boys has the same kind of set up, as does the movie that just came out. Course, maybe he just likes the idea of hidden societies, there is a lot of intrigue and potential in them. Either way, I still recommend this book. He writes incredibly well, has such good imagery, and an amazing imagination. I think I would have appreciated it more if American Gods wasn’t fresh on the brain.

4. Scatterbrain by Larry Niven
started: May 11th
finished: June 20th
This has been my toilet book. I mean no disrespect by that; Larry Niven is one of the best hard science fiction writers out there, and he has the same kind of simultaneous, big picture, nonlinear type thinking that I do. Course, he’s a hell of a lot smarter than me so he can write all his stuff down and get it published. If you’ve read a lot of Niven you’ll get a kick out of it – there’s email exchanges with Brenda Cooper, Jerry Parnelle, and everybody’s editors while they were collaborating on stuff, there’s a scificon etiquette guide, there’s excerpts from Niven’s journal when he went to Oslo, and how to make yourself a papaya, latte and toast breakfast while recovering from major knee surgery with only a walker, a wheelchair, a cane, some ill-placed steps, and a hungry cat. The only thing in this book that I took slight offense to was his assertion that all liberal arts majors are liberal arts majors because the sciences were too hard for them. I thoroughly disagree with that. I was in advanced science class all through high school and college, physiology, neurobiology, and all those labs were some of my favorite classes (got decent grades too). But hell if that’s what I’m going to graduate school for. It was fun, but it didn’t capture me as much as my chosen field does. Watch the arrogance, Mr. Niven. Of course, of all the people who have been arrogant in a book you’re probably the most deserving. Did I mention he was smart? Freeman Dyson contacted him once, to applaud him for improving on his Dyson Sphere design. That’s pretty damn smart. Anyhoo. These reviews are getting longer and longer. I liked this book a lot.

5. Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli
started: June 25
finished: June 26
On the advice of my friend Genevieve, I decided to read some children’s books and let my brain take a little rest.  I loved this book – I couldn’t help thinking that the school would be far more cruel than they actually were to this homeschooled phenom, but the writing was wonderfully sensual and gently convinces you to suspend any and all disbelief on the subject.  This is an eloquently crafted book (it has one of the best descriptions of meditation Ive ever read), and gives you some space to think about group dynamics, identity, and altruism in non-stereotyped, nonjudgmental kinda way.   Spinelli even has a program set up to start Stargirl Societies in your school!  How cool is that?   Everybody needs to read this.  Seriously.

Currently working on:
How We Believe: Science, Skepticism, and the Search for God
by Michael Shermer
Michael Shermer is the editor in chief of Skeptic magazine, and an honest writer. I like what I’ve read so far, but got bogged down with the subject matter and put it down.

The Lobotomist by Jack El-Hai
I heard about this book on Fresh Air, he seemed like a sympathetic biographer. I always wondered what could ever possess a man to puree somebody else’s brain. The beginning seems to be going well… then I got distracted by the Ringworld series by Niven and completely forgot about the book. I’ll pick it up eventually.

Island of the Colorblind by Oliver Sacks
He’s so… wordy. Not as bad as he was in A Leg to Stand On, but I think I like him better in short story/essay form. There are only so many soaring images of classical music I can take.

Foundation by Isaac Asimov
The chapters are like little short stories, so I didn’t feel bad putting it down when the fall term started. Looks like a good series, but I prefer his robots. Mm, robots.

A Million Little Pieces by James Frey
I started reading this before he got “found out,” and frankly I gotta say I’m relieved. No liver could survive what he said he went through. I’m glad he’s better off than he said. Plus, he’s just a damn good writer. I think its the present tense that makes it so heady.

The Moral Animal, Why We Are the Way We Are: The New Science of Evolutionary Psychology by Robert Wright
Haven’t even opened this one up yet, but there it sits on my coffee table, tempting me. I’ll get to it eventually.

The Politics of Lust by John Ince
The more sex-positive books there are in circulation, the happier I’ll be. He’s a sex therapist, and while his writing is a tad bit self-helpy, he explores some neat concepts. That is, he has so far in the first half.

Mainlines, Blood Feasts, and Bad Taste: A Lester Bangs Reader edited by John Morthland
I had to put it down. He was depressing the hell out of me. His articles are damn entertaining, but his autobiographical stuff made me want to… want to… I don’t know what but gosh they’re harsh. That and my friend from an old job met Lester Bangs and told me he was an asshole. That kind of turned me off. Still, he’s a good writer. I’ll finish it in the tub one day.

So there ya go. Hm… methinks I should focus.

1 Response so far »

  1. 1

    trollboy said,

    I’ve read both Niel Gaiman books you mentioned here, Neverwhere and American Gods, but i read Neverwhere first. As for you having American Gods on the brain, I loved both books, but found American Gods to be the better of the two.


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