Neal Ford  |
  • Author, Thoughtworker, & Meme Wrangler





DONE Tannhäuser: (English National Opera Guide 39) Nicholas John   nf tree

DONE Mozart: A Life Peter Gay   nf tree

Good if short biography of Mozart, bypassing many of the enduring fictions left over from the Amadeus play/movie.

DONE Richard Wagner: A Life in Music Martin Geck   nf kindle

DONE Mahler: A Biography Jonathan Carr   tree

DONE Opera 101 Fred Plotkin   tree

Great overview of opera, told with specific recordings (which the author provides references for). I was able to find most of the recordings on streaming services, but that wasn't the real value of the book–in the current day, I'd much rather have blu-ray recommendations to get the visuals as well.

The best part of the book was the progression the author took to introduce opera, choosing good representatives by type and complexity, not chronologically. He chose extremely well.

The least interesting part of the book was the over-long sections about actually going to the opera and all the logistics. And, he's adamantly anti-supertitles; he needs to get over it. All in all, a great introduction to opera that contextualizes the journey better than anyone I've seen so far.


The Orpheus Project

The Orpheus myth is ancient, attributed to Plato and other writers from that era, about a most fabulous magician, who could make plants and stones weep when he played music. One part of the myth is particularly well known, about the fate of his new bride, Eurydice:

The most famous story in which Orpheus figures is that of his wife Eurydice. While walking among her people, the Cicones, in tall grass at her wedding, Eurydice was set upon by a satyr. In her efforts to escape the satyr, Eurydice fell into a nest of vipers and suffered a fatal bite on her heel. Her body was discovered by Orpheus who, overcome with grief, played such sad and mournful songs that all the nymphs and gods wept. On their advice, Orpheus traveled to the underworld. His music softened the hearts of Hades and Persephone, who agreed to allow Eurydice to return with him to earth on one condition: he should walk in front of her and not look back until they both had reached the upper world. He set off with Eurydice following, and, in his anxiety, as soon as he reached the upper world, he turned to look at her, forgetting that both needed to be in the upper world, and she vanished for the second time, but now forever.

The first popular opera was based on the Orpheus story (L'Orfeo by Monteverdi in 1607), and it has been treated as a subject of opera many times, obviously for it's sympathetic subject matter.

In 2019, the English National Opera staged an interesting event: four Orpheus operas from different composers and eras on subsequent nights (when I happened to be in London anyway):

The last of these, Orphée, is the third of Philip Glass' Cocteau Trilogy, operas based on the films of famous French director Jean Cocteau; I had seen the other two in the trilogy but never this one (yet).

In anticipation/celebration of this happy circumstance, I'm reading many of the books and poetry also inspired by this myth, including a bunch of modern takes based on Eurydice's side of the story (a new opera debuts in 2020 called Eurydice). These books call belongs to this category of books based upon or referencing the Orpheus myth.

  • 12. Einstein Intersection Samuel R. Delany   fiction kindle orpheus

    Very abstract science fiction from the 1970's from an author known for pretty abstract stuff. The author loves pre-chapter quotes, sometimes from his own writing journals about how he's thinking about the story. It's set in a far-off future earth with mutants and vague magic powers, based around a character named Lo Lobey who has Orpheus' (and Ringo Starr's, it turns out) magic powers. He tries to rescue his Eurydice (named Friza here) from Kid Death. Very loosely based on the myth, and abstract to the point of incoherency. Delany obviously wants to write a version of the myth, but drags in Einstein, Godel, Jean Harlow, and a hodge podge of cultural references that generate head scratching more than deep insight. Interesting take on a simple story; I don't think he added a lot.

11. A Mad Love: An Introduction to Opera Vivien Schweitzer   nf kindle

Fantastic introduction to Opera overall. While the author covers some plots, the book doesn't get lost in that, using the summaries only to add to the historic narrative. I learned a ton, and thoroughly enjoyed the writing, which was top notch.

10. Walks Through Lost Paris: A Journey Into the Heart of Historic Paris Leonard Pitt

This book chronicles the razing and rebuilding of Paris under Napolean III by the city planner/architect Haussmann, who was the city planner in charge. This book provides a brief history, then four specific annotated walks through Paris that the author has painstakingly recreated from archives and other historical records. Highly interesting if pointed history.

9. Fall; or, Dodge in Hell: A Novel Neal Stephenson   fiction kindle

What a terrible book! And I say that as huge Neal Stephenson fan. I pre-purchased this book when it was announced, as usual. I've never been one to claim that Stephenson is an uneditable rogue as some have suggested, although the first of his Baroque trilogy is one of the few books I gave up on. In fact, I think Anathem, Cryptonomicon, and Seveneves all have great pace and excellent third acts. This book has none of those things, and makes good the suspicion that no one will deign edit his work.

First, this is an extended allegory, which is always difficult to pull off; it's only been done really well a few times (like Animal Farm). Fall reads like a freshman college student creative writing assignment to attempt allegory–but that's not all. Second, it poorly mimics the style of Gustave Flaubert, a leader of the literary realism movement; his novels would include multi-page descriptions of mundane objects, such as chairs or doors. Fall does the same thing, but in a purely nascent virtual world, which somehow makes it extremely tedious (even more so than 19th century literature). Pages go by describing what is obviously the Garden of Eden, whole paragraphs describing virtual leaves that don't exist, and with none of the flair that makes 19th century realism readable. The author could reduce the first 400 pages of this book to about 50 tight pages. Third, if an author is going to create a bespoke world, they need to be careful not to careless contaminate references to non-relative concepts. For example, characters in the book don't know what rocks are but use the word "paving" correctly within the same page. Ridiculous inconsistencies abound, which reinforces the lack of editorial oversight–someone should have caught all these unforced errors.

Fourth, in the clumsy attempt at allegory and mixed metaphors, Stephenson eventually gives up and just has one of characters explain the associations–worst than explaining a joke. Fifth, the continuing appearance of his mystical alter ego, Enoch Root, grates more and more, especially because he had no purpose except ham-handed philosophical exposition. Fifth, while the author apparently wanted to make some points about virtual life after death and the implications, even that was tangled up in a dual plot with massive holes–can the two worlds communicate or not, or just when convenient to move the plot? Last, no compelling narrative arc exist–twenty-five pages into the book, I had an idea of what was going to happen, and at the halfway point, I knew exactly how it was going to end–and I was deadly accurate. I literally deleted the book off my kindle at the 60% mark, the resurrected it because I hate to abandon works–I was holding out the hope for a killer third act to make it worth it. Alas, it ended exactly predictably, with a literal Deus Ex Machina.

I was so disappointed in this book–his last novel, The Rise and Fall of Dodo, was fantastic, within his top ten. Fall reads like a poor attempt to mimic Neal Stephenson, which falls extremely flat. It was so bad that I'm going to tread carefully on future books and look at some reviews first. To Neal Stephenson: please find a good editor, and listen to him/her.

8. Don't Panic: Douglas Adams & the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy Neil Gaiman

A reasonably good if not terribly deep history of Douglas Adams and his brain child. This book contained lots of details I didn't know before, and was engagingly written, but didn't get much beyond the surface detail.

7. Fosse Sam Wasson

I've been fascinated with Bob Fosse since All That Jazz came out during a pivotal point in my life–it was one of the first serious movies that I understood, and opened a lot of perspectives for me. FX just put together a miniseries based on this book called Fosse//Verdon, combining the intertwined life of these two artists (better than the book). The book uses nice narrative trick that the miniseries adopts–each chapter starts with how many years/months/days/hours left if Fosse's life. This is a good book with both interesting biographical insights but, more importantly, deep insights into his creative process, the good and the bad.

6. To Kill a Mockingbird Harper Lee

Surprisingly, I had never read this novel, but was prompted to because of the New York Broadway play (which uses this book as source material but rearranges the narrative significantly to work on the stage). As expected,

5. All My Sons Authur Miller

Great play by the master Authur Miller, the reader/audient has no idea how things will end until the very end, which creates great boiling suspense. I've seen two productions, one in London and another in New York. One fantastic directorly trick I saw in the NY production: during the first part of the play, one of the character sits quietly reading the news paper; in this production, he mouths the words silently as he reads. At the denouement, that same character must read a devastating letter that the audience already knows the contents of. Watching the character visibly read allowed the director to make that scene longer, prolonging the suspense even more.

4. The Witness for the Prosecution Agatha Cristie

A short story with a twist ending, very well written, and well crafted to build a surprise into such a short piece.

3. Uncommon People: The Rise and Fall of the Rock Stars David Hempworth

A plethora of breathlessly written anecdotes about rock stars, some of which I was already familiar with and others that were new. Typical of books like this, the quality of the writing isn't really the point, but this one grated a little more than most–I didn't care for the author's tone, but enjoyed many of the new stories.

2. Betrayal Harlod Pinter

A famous play from the 1980's told in reverse chronology; like all such works, the real narrative lies in why people are acting they way they are early in the play (but chronologically later), which you discover late in the play (early in the chronology). Like all well done works in this genre, the author manages to pack an emotional punch outside the obvious.

1. Everything Is Illuminated Jonathan Safran Foer   f kindle

A fantastically quirky book, the inspiration for the movie that got me to the book, but the movie represents only a small subplot of the book. The novel exemplifies meta-modern literature: lots of different points of view, different narrators, different eras, and shockingly surprising events that still slot neatly into the universe the book creates. A fantastic book brimming with original ideas. In fact, I think the excellent movie captures the primary theme of the book better because it focuses primarily on it. However, the multiple nuance just amplifies the book. Highly recommended.


17. The Natural History of the Rich: A Field Guide Richard Conniff

This is a charming book, taking an anthropological approach (literally) to study how rich people act differently from others. Lots of keen observations, with plenty of tongue-in-cheek humor.

16. Mona Lisa Overdrive William Gibson

Re-reading the Sprawl trilogy.

15. Count Zero William Gibson

Re-reading the Sprawl trilogy.

14. Neuromancer William Gibson

Re-reading the Sprawl trilogy.

13. Everything Trump Touches Dies Rick Wilson   nf kindle

11. The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich William Shirer

This is another re-read because I visited concentration camps this autumn in Poland and wanted to reorient myself to WWII. This is still the best overall book about WWII I've read; outstanding and broad coverage.

10. Technology Strategy Patterns Eben Hewitt

I read a final draft, pre-release version of this book, based on a a talk delivered at a recent O'Reilly Software Architecture Conference. This book is a terrific primer for the very arcane world of technology strategists, a special breed of consultants. They use nomenclature, tools, (so many) slide decks, and other tools of the trade that can be overwhelming to the uninitiated. This book lays out the landscape via the well worn patterns approach, which works reasonable well here. Highly recommended if you find yourself in that space somehow.

9. Zappa The Hard Way Andrew Greenaway

In the late 1980's, Frank Zappa put together one of the first bands in his career capable of playing his most complex music properly, including a full horn section and many of the players he had worked with for many years. The band rehearsed, learned over 100 songs, and toured Europe with plans to extensively tour in the US. Frank's Broadway the Hard Way album had just been released, and I was itching to see Frank live again (I had seen him once before, on the 1984 tour). Alas, the band developed crippling internal problems during the European tour, causing it to collapse. Some highlights of the shows they did play from Europe were captured on The Best Band You Never Heard in Your Life. Shortly thereafter, Frank was diagnosed with terminal prostate cancer, which killed in late in 1993. This book chronicles, via interviews with fans and band members, exactly what happened during that fateful tour, what caused the tensions, and why the pieces couldn't be put back together. The book is great, with lots of memories and answers to long-standing questions about what happened. Plus, it's been a great excuse to go back and listen to a ton of this music, which really was outstanding. This book likely won't mean anything to those who weren't around at the time, but it answered a lot for me.

8. Close to the Edge: How Yes's Masterpiece Defined Prog Rock Will Romano

One of many histories of Yes, this one focusing on one particular period, the single album Close to the Edge. While certainly an interesting album, I don't know that there were enough compelling events to justify a book. I bought this album shortly after it was released, and know quite a lot about it, but still learned new things from this book. However, the author had to go deep, into some pretty specious territory, to fill out all the pages. Certainly an interesting read to fans, I doubt this will create converts.

7. Metamodernism: Historicity, Affect, and Depth after Postmodernism Robin van den Akker

One of the few available books on my latest obsession, Metamodernism. The subject of this book was fantastic, but the writing was needlessly difficult. It contains three sections (Historicity, Affect, and Depth), with an introduction and essays illustrating how each of these aspects of metamodernism manifest. The range is broad, from deep dives into novels (including an essay on David Foster Wallace), photography, poetry, and a host of other subjects. The grade of B is purely because of the terribly stilted academic writing: every sentence bends over backwards to show how clever it is, really harming exposition and clarity. However, this style commonly exists amongst academics; in this case, it is the swamp the reader must traverse to get to the nuggets of insightful information. This book isn't a great introduction to the subject, but rather a deep treatment of how metamodernism leaks through much modern art (and discourse).

6. Surface Detail Ian M Banks   f

The penultimate culture novel: simply sublime. Banks' command of plot, detail, exposition, surprise, and fascinating philosophical exploration make this book a pure joy to read. He deeply explore virtual realities and some of the inevitable consequences (virtual heavens and hells), along with a bit of gratuitous torture detail. Still, outstanding novel, on par with the rest of the culture series.

5. Ready Player One Ernest Cline

I didn't know anything about this book before the hype about the movie started. It seemed an interesting premise, and I decided to read it before seeing the movie. It's a fine space opera set in a virtual reality world, leaning strongly towards adolescent fiction, but a good representative of that genre. The plot is interesting enough, dripping with geeky pop culture references sure to warm the cockles of many geek's hearts (everything from 2112 to Zork). The plot is predictable and relies too heavily on Deus ex Machina to fix up some annoying plot points, but overall an enjoyable read.

4. How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big: Kind of the Story of My Life Scott Adams

Another confoundingly great book by Scott Adams. He gives some of the best concrete career/life advice I've ever read, filtered through his unique humor. I've read and thought a lot about productivity, creativity, and how to be effective, and I still learned tons on all those subjects form this book. He provides a summary "book tease" which does a good (if superficial) job of describing the thrust of the book. Here is the list, with my parenthetical comments.

  1. Goals are for losers (He prefers systems to goals, which is a good distinction)
  2. Your mind isn't magic. It's a moist computer you can program. (IOW, pay atttention to inputs and outputs and manage your food/energy/music/movies/etc based on the next tip–energy.)
  3. The most important metric to track is your personal energy. (Excellent advice–if you have good energy, lots of other things become easier.)
  4. Every skill you acquire doubles your odds of success. (He talks about "skill stacks"–a unique combination of skill–being more important than extreme skill in any one area.)
  5. Happiness is health plus freedom. (A bit more editorializing here about schedule freedom, but I like his emphasis on health and energy.)
  6. Luck can be managed, sort of. (The weakest advice, replicated elsewhere: luck finds those who are looking for success.)
  7. Conquer shyness by being a huge phony (in a good way). (Pretty good advice for painfully shy people.)
  8. Fitness is the lever that moves the world. (Back to health and energy, he correctly identifies exercise as a great way to increase energy. He asks: when you see people who exercise regularly, do they seem more energetic or less so?)
  9. Simplicity transforms ordinary into amazing. (Great Zen observation, with very little advice about achieving this beyond some anecdotal cases from his areas of expertise. )

This book careens wildly from context to context, with concrete writing advice alongside ways to "Not be an asshole". Adams has a unique perspective on the world, partially because of early training in hypnosis and a unique eye for human observation. He can shift your perception about something five degrees, but it forces you to reevaluate that thing in a new light.

Just as in his Win Bigly book, he plants an incongruity so obvious that I thought he was trolling. After all, one of the tennants of the book is to build bullshit filters around things the world tells you. One of the great pieces of advice concerns prefering systems to goals. Goals always leave you in an unhappy state–either you are striving for the goal or you have achieved it, leaving no purpose. Systems are better because you can look at the outputs to tweak future inputs, and incrementally work towards something goal-like. Amidst all the concrete, experiement based advice around a host of subjects, Adams discusses affirmations at length: basically, repeating to yourself, mantra-like, some loft goal: I will someday be a famous cartoonist. He talks about a variety of things he affirmed (and none that his affirmations didn't work for). Of course, affirmation and goal are basically the same thing; I thought he was planting some convenient bullshit for readers to spot and filter out. Yet, at the end, he dedicated a weak chapter trying to convince the readers that affirmations work somehow, without offering an explanation. So, it seems he's serious.

This is a terrific book; the aformentioned weak parts and the relentless tone of the author are the only things that knock it from A to A-. Highly recommended.

3. The Stone Sky (The Broken Earth Book 3) N. K. Jemisin   f kindle

A fantastic end to an outstanding trilogy. The author manages to walk the tightrope of blending world building, action driven plot, real consequences (the end of the world!), and convicing emotion. The whole trilogy is a brilliant balancing act, eventually explaining the origins of a lot of funky stuff in a convincing and satisfying way. The best new voice in science fiction/fantasy I've read in a long time.

2. The Obelisk Gate (The Broken Earth Book 2) N. K. Jemisin   f kindle

Book two of a phenomenal trilogy. It combines the page-turner characteristics of a thriller, the world building of the best science fiction and fantasy, and well realized characters. I can "see" the scaffolding of the plot, but it doesn't matter; like a well designed building, you marvel at the structure if it's made apparent. I also love the way the author describes the physics of her world. As she reveals more things, the reader understands the world more deeply than I ever anticipated. In other words, she introduces "magic", but then describes how it works later. Can't wait for book three!

1. Win Bigly: Persuasion in a World Where Facts Don't Matter Scott Adams   nf kindle

This is a book I enjoyed much more than I thought. I heard the author (the creator of the Dilbert comic) on a podcast, which lead me here. Scott Adams is trained in as a hypnotist, persuasive sales, and writing. It has some incredible perception about how persuasion works and how really good sales people do it. If anyone struggles to understand Trump's appeal and how he keeps it, this is a must read. It dissects the mechanics of how he creates killer nicknames (his "best words"), how he sucks oxygen out of discussions via rhetorical techniques, and manages to avoid normally deadly controversies and proclivities.

Adams' insights in this book are incredible and perceptive. The reason it fell from an A to a B+ concerns obvious flaws in the text. He describes confirmation bias in some length, then offers arguments later in the book that reveal clear confirmation bias himself, admitting it in some cases. It happens so much I suspect it might be a troll–it's something like what he would do, and it's blatant. He also made the mistake of predicting some future events based on his analysis, which largely haven't come true in the intervening time, hurting his argument of incredible predictive powers. However, a few flaws aside, the insights make this a terrific read.


36. Wizzywig Volume 2: Hacker Ed Piskor

Same as above: this one carries the story of the fictional character into prison for hacking and provides more flashback back story.

35. Tribe: On Homecoming and Belonging Sebastian Junger

This is the book I've been looking for, that I hoped The Rational Optimist might be. I've long realized that we all have certain hard-coded constants built into us by evolution because we're small group primates; Dunbar's Number is a great example of this phenomonem. The Tribe talks about another, and unravels many mysteries of why people behave the way they do. While The Rational Optimist tried to be comprehensive, The Tribe focuses primarily on how we are wired to cooperate in close-knit groups, and how modern society has created barriers against that intrinsic desire. This book is well written as well: in another contrast between the two, The Rational Optimist beats the reader do death with prose, while The Tribe relies more on illustrative stories–/Show, don't tell/. The two books try to cover different ground, but The Tribe covers its subject superbly. Highly recommended.

34. Sugar Skull Charles Burns

While the ostensible length of Charles Burns' X'ed Out trilogy is 56 + 56 + 64 (= 176) pages, the actual length is closer to 528 pages: you must read the entire thing about three times to understand what's going on. And it's well worth it. It tells a surrealistic, disjointed story of a guy, his relationship(s), and how things have gone wrong. It's packed with symbolism ranging from TinTin cartoon references, William S. Burroughs, and lots of other creepy stuff. I thought for sure I had figured out what the central conflict was, but I was off the mark in a pleasant way–in other words, it didn't end in any sort of conventional way. I strongly recommend you read the entire trilogy (all 528 pages), then check out some fo the critical writing about it, including Charles Burns brings his haunting cartoon trilogy to a close with Sugar Skull and The Only Part I’ll Remember: The Dream States in Charles Burns’ X’ed Out Trilogy and Terry Gilliam’s Brazil.

33. Wizzywig Volume 1: Phreak Ed Piskor

This is a series of graphic novels depicting much of the history of the hacker movement, including phone phreaking, blue boxes, and Cap'n Crunch whistles. The main character is an amalgam of several famous hackers. It tells the fictional tale of a loner in school who becomes a master hacker. While mildly entertaining, it didn't provide much insight for someone who already knows the history of the real people; it's a historical novel about things that happened within my life. This primarily serves as an introduction to a young audience who didn't know about paid long distance and how sophisticated early phone systems were.

32. Neonomicon Alan Moore, Jacen Burrows

Alan Moore, famous for Watchmen, can go dark, and this is the darkest graphic novel I've read. It basically takes some of the more horrible parts from H P Lovecraft and creates a sort of warped origin story. It tells the story of a couple of detectives trying to solve a series of grisly murders, tied up to a cult that follows Lovecraft's writing (as it turns out, it wasn't fiction, he was describing stuff. This one is full of creatures, rape, creatures and rape, and a bunch of other unsavory stuff. In addition, the story telling is primarily just there for the horroribleness; it has no where near the grace or symbolism of Watchmen. Only for the hard-core completests or Lovecraft junkies.

31. The Rational Optimist Matt Ridley   nf kindle

I started this book with high hopes, and I mostly agree with the general premise, that markets are often the overlooked drivers of innovation. However, this book slides far beyond case making into full-on advocacy, and essentially erodes his good ideas with too much added claptrap. When reading authors in areas where I don't have expertise (like economics), I defer to their aleged knowledge. However, when the author wanders into areas that I know well (like computer science) and says outrageously untrue things, it diminishes my confidence in the author's opinions on other subjects. Even within the text, the author maddingly contradicts himself within paragraphs–disdaining the value of scientific research, then offering a litany of smart things innovators did with LASERs. I aslo suspect the quote by one of President Obama's science advisors recommending we abandon all technology and return to an agrarian lifestyle might have been taken out of context. Perhaps.

Like most such texts, this one conveniently ignores facts that harm the author's case and amplify others that support it. However, it ignores the fact that most complex socio-economic phenomenon occur because of a complex mix of many factors.

30. The Hive Charles Burns

The promise delivered: this one is creepier and odder than the first, and more of the realy story is slowly emerging from the fog of memories, hallucinations, and alternate dimensions the protagonist experiences. This is one of those books (like Wool) that carries its own creep atmosphere with it, immersing the reader from the outset. This graphic novel is an excellent example of a good use of the medium. Can't wait for the end of the trilogy!

29. Arvo Pärt in Conversation Arvo Part,‎ Robert Crow

A book of interviews with the phenomenal and odd Estonian composer Arvo Pärt and his wife. His insights are fascinating: he studied that standard kinds of academic music in his early life, including twelve-tone and minimalism, but went back to ancient chants and other liturgical music to forge his own unique composition style, to my ears a mixture of sacred and minimalism that creates calm, sedate music. Alas, the actual contents of the book feature him third behind his wife and the overly intrusive interviewer. Boy, am I impressed with his knowledge…but wish it were somewhere else and not in the way of the actual interesting content, Mr. Pärt.

27. X'ed Out Charles Burns

A very atmospheric, creepy, Twilight-zone meets Willam Burroughs kind of graphic novel, first of a trilogy. The protagonist is confused, leading to a stuttering narrative with repeating elements in suprising contexts. And this installment ends on a cliff hanger that foreshadows an intensification of the strangeness in chapter 2.

26. The Fifth Season (The Broken Earth Book 1) N. K. Jemisin   f kindle

A fantastic book! Recommended by a New York Times book review plus the considerable praise by readers, this novel resides in the genre of science fiction dealing with the end of or near end of the earth; in this case, in a far future where all the continents have merged back into one and weird stuff is happening. The book does some serious world building, and readers must work through the relentless pace of it near the front, but the narrative quickly starts paying off and never stops. Highly recommended, but fair warning: you'll quickly want to pick up the second in the trilogy, happening soon for me.

25. Lost in Translation: An Illustrated Compendium of Untranslatable Words from Around the World Ella Frances Sanders   nf tree

What a delightful little book. Since my first proper poetry class in university, I've been fascinated by the distinction between the denotaion and connotation of words (in fact, it was the Robert Graves poem The Naked and the Nude that brought the point home for me). This book captures words around the world for which the denotation of the word only hints at the depth of connotation each word carries. The author takes un-tranlatable phrases from different languages. For example, we say Joie de vivre rather than translate it directly into Joy of life because the original carries so much extra connotation; this book consists of similar words. A few of my favorites:

  • boketto – Japanese word that means "Gazing vacantly into the distance without really thinking about anything specific"
  • vacilando – Spanish word that means "traveling when the experience itself is more important than the destination"
  • resfeber – Swedish for "the restless beat of a traveler's heart before the journey begins, a mixture of anxiety and anticipation"
  • meraki – Greek word meaning to "pour yourself into something wholeheartedly, and doing so with soul, creativity, and love"

The entire thin book is filled with gems, along with fanciful illustrations. I got the hardback book–this is one that I fear would suffer from electronic reading, but I haven't seen it so I can't say for sure. In any case, highly recommended and guaranteed to generate a few smiles.

24. The Underground Railroad Colson Whitehead   f kindle

An outstanding book, another from the New York Times best sellers of 2016. It tells the narrative of some compelling characters, but the real impact of the novel comes from the mundane and horrifying logistics that must accompany something like slavery. It manages to humanize and point out absurdity without ever becoming preachy.

23. The Rise and Fall of D.O.D.O. Neal Stephenson & Nicole Galland   f kindle

I'm a huge fan of Neal Stephenson, and didn't even realize this new book was out until a friend told me. Collaborations are sometimes iffy, but this one comes through with flying colors. It is decidedly Neal Stephenson at his/their best, with lots of quirky touches such as striking through the sometimes off-color slang with proper Victorian phrases, all nicely within the context of the novel. The authors do a convincing job explaining witchcraft with quantam mechanics and why it ended (the McGuffin of the novel). Not quite the towering Seveneves, but still an outstanding contribution to his oeuvre.

22. The Vegetarian Han Kang

Another book from the New York Times best novels of 2016, this is a dark book written in a quirky, compelling style. There is nothing happy in this book; it is mostly peopled by characters who have deep psychic wounds and their foils. It covers a lot of ground about what compels people to do things that may be destructive to their lives but they cannot stop themselves. It ends with no firm conclusion, more of an impressionistic fog of troubled characters. One recurring theme that works quite well plays off the previously unnoticed ambiguity in the title–a vegetarian is someone who doesn't eat meat, but perhaps also someone who identifies too closely with vegetation as an escape. Recommended, but don't expect a happy time.

21. The Writing Life Annie Dillard

I'm finding that the odd sub-genre of books by writers about writing has some terrific works, including this one. This short book is a marvel of writing and story telling. Each metaphor offers deep insight and perception, all described in impeccable prose. The writer is clearly also a poet; she packs maximum meaning and nuance into the most compact form, which just adds to it's elegance and beauty. I can offer no higher recommendation for this book. She has some great, deep insights into writing.

The classic computer science text Structure and Interpretation of Computer Programs was used for years as the introductory computer science textbook at MIT. As an experienced programmer, reading this text resonates strongly with hard-won experience–virtually every sentence caused me to sit back to ponder just how wise the advice was. I wonder if The Writing Life will have the same effect on someone who hasn't written a book? I had a strong sense of déjà vu in the parallels between the two works–in both cases, each sentence is packed with connotations that go far beyond the mere denotation of the words.

20. Change Agent Daniel Suarez   f kindle

Change Agent was a return to style to Kill Decision, which is to say back to traditional potboiler science fiction. The story follows this author's general style: choose a few cutting edge science discoveries, then project into the future about the impacts they will have on, well, everything. I generally enjoyed the writing style, although the long pilgrimage in the middle seemed a little invented to string out the tail. I'm hyper sensitive to this sort of stuff, but one glaring continuity error jumped out at me: at one point, the main character professes to know the motive behind what happened to him, yet there is no way that motive would make sense to the character at that time. Anyway, a good SciFi romp.

19. Fragile as a Song Tony Levin

Tony Levin is a phenomenal musician, photographer, and general renaissance man. He released this short book of poetry that illustrates just how broad his interests are. The poems here fall into mostly two camps: very sincere and bordering on sentimental (but never too far) to entirely whimsical. I thoroughly enjoyed this several book and looking for more.

18. David Foster Wallace's Infinite Jest: A Reader's Guide Stephen Burn

I've read Infinite Jest three times now, as it's obviously one of my favorite books. So, I went into this reader's guide not expecting much fresh insight–was I ever wrong! Rather than tackle the whole thing, the author focuses on coincident dates within the narrative that only reveal themselves upon close reflection (because of the fractured time line of the novel). For example, I never realized before that the day that Hal starting secretly using drugs was also the same day Don Gately was forced into rehabilitation because of the accidental murder. It turns out there are lots of similar date collisions add even more depth to the narrative. Currently fighting the urge to take Infinite Jest off my shelf and dive in again…

17. Devil's Bargain: Steve Bannon, Donald Trump, and the Storming of the Presidency Joshua Green

Reluctantly, I dragged myself into politics with this book. But, I saw an interview with the author that intrigued me, and the book did not disappoint. It's about how Bannon helped the unlikely ascension of the president, including useful insights on strategy and miscalculation from the other side. I think this book also shows possible hazards of undirected autodidacticism–sometimes even intelligent people go down rabbit holes best left unexplored. Ironically, I finished this book the day that Bannon was fired from the White House.

16. The Show That Never Ends: The Rise and Fall of Prog Rock David Weigel   nf kindle

This is a brand-new rock history of my favorite era of music, and it mostly delivered. I learned a few new things, but nothing earth shattering. Living through the era, I had not realized how popular many of those bands really were. It was organized to start with Cruise to the Edge, the progressive rock cruise (I've attended all of them), so I was on the ship with the author. And, it ends with a story from NEARfest, the progressive rock festival I attended several times. So, the author certainly knows his pedigree! If you love this music, you'll love this book. If you know nothing about this music, it will baffle you.

15. Native Son Richard Wright   f kindle

A fantastic novel by a great novelist. This is book number 20 on the Random House Modern Library 100 Best Novels of the 20th Century, which I'm slowly working through–this one is a gem. It tells the story of Bigger Thomas, a very poor African American who commits a horrific crime, and investigates the intrinsic and extrinsic motives: a compelling combination of his personality and the culture he matured within. The writing style is sublime: each sentence has the minimum number of words to convey a visceral scene, sort of like a slightly more verbose Hemingway, but less reportery. One interesting aspect of this novel–the author describes in vivid detail what Bigger thinks throughout his crimes, yet later has Bigger try to explain those feelings and thoughts, and he cannot articulate them. I enjoyed this book thoroughly.

14. Influx Daniel Suarez   f kindle

What a much better book than Suarez's previous one! Influx starts as a typical techno-thriller like his other books, but quickly goes to an unexpected place and stays there. It has homeopathic resonances with Wool and its sequels, albeit less stylized. There are still some tired tropes here (the geek and the impossibly attractive woman were destined to end up together, which is obvious from the outset. Still, a highly imaginative book with a compelling plot.

13. Kill Decision Daniel Suarez   f kindle

Conflicted about this book. On the plus side: the ideas are stellar, and the author has a compelling way of creating technology mashups that seem realistic and frightening. However, it is definately potboiler SciFi, with the obvious target audience of programmers–how many books go out of their way to mention Emacs? The plot points outside the killer (literally, in this case) technology were formulaic, but overall the book is worthwhile.

12. The Better Angels of Our Nature Steven Pinker   nf kindle

This book has perhaps the densest prose of any book I've ever read–it seemed to last forever. Fortunately, Daniel Pinker is an outstanding writer, and reading his prose is a real joy. He provides exhaustive arguments (and I do mean exhaustive) to make all his points, and the preponderance of evidence is overwhelming. Highly recommended, but expect for this book to take a long time to read–each page is packed with information. I recently read that Bill Gates called this book the most important book he's ever read. Generally, I would be wary of hyperbole, but the case that Pinker thoroughly proves does have some long-term impacts on how we as a species approach the future.

11. The Book of Opeth The Members of Opeth

A biography of the Swedish death-metal-turned-lyrical-progressive-rock band Opeth that contains a surprisingly frank look at their creative process, band member dynamics, and This is Spinal Tap moments. I was expecting a shallow rock-journalist fluff piece, but the book consists entirely of interviews with band members, interspersed with nice photography from each of the band's eras. My favorite Opeth is the post-Heritage material, and the book covers the creative decision process to radically change their sound to keep following their musical passion. Highly enjoyable and impressively frank.

10. At the Existentialist Cafe Sarah Bakewell   nf kindle

This book purports to take the notoriously voluminous output of several existentialist philosophers and reduce it to a reasonable page count, summarizing and distinguishing along the way. Mostly, the book succeeds in this regard. This subject is necessarily obtuse because many of the prominent figures either disagreed on what it meant and/or changed their definition along the way. The root message really careens off two previous books ago: relativity. The existentialists believed that no philosophy can be understood without considering the individual first, because all their thoughts and impressions will always be relative to their experience, otherwise stated by Frederick Copleston as existence precedes essence. I enjoyed this book as a good introduction to the overall philosophical subject, the messy individuals, and how both they and their ideas evolved against the backdrop of messy 20th century events.

9. The North Water Ian McGuire   f kindle

What a fantastic novel! Another suggestion from the New York Times 10 Best Books of 2016, this is like a gritty mixture between Moby Dick and Game of Thrones. The plot is riveting, along with lots of fascinating bear symbology. The writing style is fluid and effortless, with just enough detail to evoke scenes (sometimes vividly) with a poetic sparsity of words. This is the best novel I've read in years.

8. Black Hole Blues and Other Songs from Outer Space Anna Levin   nf kindle

Billed as a book that covers both the science of gravitational waves and the scientists who struggle to build increasingly complex mechanisms to detect this phenomenon predicted by Einstein's General Theory of Relativity. The book is well written, verging on poetic in places, but the ratio of science to personality felt skewed to me. Part of the problem lies with the in-between nature of the physics. The general principle is easy to explain (and this book would have benefitted tremendously from one of the diagrams found on the previously linked Wikipedia page) but the real physics is too complex to even skim over. Thus, once the author has nicely explained the concept with a few well chosen metaphors, the rest of the book resolved to personalities and the mystery story of if/when scientists would detect the gravitational waves with their detectors. This book is an easy way to catch up on some fascinating astrophysics from the last couple of decades.

7. Serenity: Better Days Joss Whedon, et al

Volume 2 of the Serenity graphic novels. Like the first, it basically represents a short Firefly episode. A few minor character revelations, but nothing earth shattering. Neither volume really extends the TV series in meaningful ways, alas.

6. The Association of Small Bombs Karan Mahajan   f kindle

A fascinating book completely from left field. In an attempt to broaden my exposure and see what is considered hot in modern fiction, I added a number of books from the New York Times 10 Best Books of 2016, including this one. It did not disappoint; along the way I made 8 observations.

  1. the book had an unusual structure, almost like a bomb in the way story lines exploded from the initial event, which was an explosion.
  2. Starting the book with such a dramatic event with very little lead up sets a distinct tone.
  3. The author does an outstanding job of subtle foreshadowing, casually mentioning "He later regretted X" at a critical time lets the reader know subtle hints about the future.
  4. The author does wonderfully subtle wordplay with the title, which could also be The Associations of Small Bombs, because a number of such associations around bombs exist: the initial victims, their extended affected groups, the bomb makers, and intersections between the groups. Eventually, one of the bomb makers becomes a bomb. Many of the relationships in the book come from associations caused by bombs.
  5. Several characters underwent radical but believable transformations, making the question of "who is/are the protagonist(s)?" interesting.
  6. It has an authentic feel for India, including some intracountry issues like bigotry.
  7. The author does a great job, through a filmmaker character, of anthropomorphizing the bomb and its explosion–darkness followed by sudden movement in all directions.
  8. The author makes the point several times that small bombs are worse because the pain is more concentrated among a small number of victims. Large bombs create a lot of victims, which in turn generates media attention and corresponding government aid. However, the media and government often overlook small bombs, which intensifies the victim's family grief and coping.

An excellent book, full of interesting plot twists, a wide array of characters, transformation, and eloquent prose. Highly recommended.

5. Dr. Horrible and Other Horrible Stories Zack Wehdon, et al   graphic tree

Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog, a three-segment serial story, was the writer's strike brain child of Jack and Joss Whedon, along with a willing cast to create something truly remarkable. When I heard about it, I thought it sounded cheesy, but I didn't realize that they nailed the perfect level of cheesy and camp, an extraordinarily hard chore. I loved the mythology they created, so I was excited to see a graphic novel companion by some of the same authors. It does not disappoint. This book is a series of short comics, highlighting each of the characters, including the origin story of Dr. Horrible himself. All well done, with the same level of humor and whimsy of the blog.

4. Words without Music Philip Glass   nf kindle

This is also a reread from last summer because I wanted to go over the music descriptions along with their creative process again. This book was even better the second time around–it is in fact one of the best autobiographies I've ever read. It covers fascinating life details of a struggling artist living in Manhattan in the 1950's and 60's in a loft with no hot water, the origins and development of his musical style and how it evolved. I suspect this book is a great contextualizer for introducing his music because it explains why things sound the way they do. Rather than force listeners to ascertain the structure and process, knowing it exists first allows for better clarity when listening to the music. No higher recommendation for this book–highly entertaining, informative, and insightful about the creative process.

3. Serenity: Those Left Behind Joss Whedon, et al.   graphic tree

One of several Firefly graphic novels released by Joss Whedon after the series left the air. This one is a typical Firefly episode, with each character being highly characteristic, with some mythology thrown in around the hunt for Summer. A pleasant enough graphic novel–the art is quite good, and it carries the story along nicely.rake-

2. Arrival of the Fittest Andreas Wagner   nf kindle

This book came to me via Amazon's long tail because I've been researching evolutionary biology for the Evolutionary Architectures book. It is about the latest advances in biology assisted by computational techniques. It is a fascinating look at how innovation happens via natural selection, and makes the argument for how the mechanisms of protein synthesis, genotype/phenotype mapping, gene regulation, and "junk" DNA all contribute to the mechanism and robustness of natural selection. While the science is fascinating, the book become repetitive because he walks through the nature of hyperspatial cubes and exponentiation three separate times, which serves to show how many avenues of innovation exists, but becomes a tad repetitive. This book also shows just how much computation has influenced biology and genetics over the last few decades.

1. Dreaming in Code Scott Rosenberg   nf kindle

Re-reading of this book for the purposes of an upcoming conference talk, I was struck again at the futility of the slow-motion train wreck of this project, and the obvious places they wander down the wrong path. A great quote that I harvested from the book, useful to the talk:

We’ve consistently overinvested in infrastructure and design, the fruits of which won’t be realized in the next development cycle or even two—that is, not in the next six or twelve months. You pay a price for that in a loss of agility. The advice I would give is to do even more of what we’ve been doing in the last couple of years, which is to sequence the innovation, stage things, and be less ambitious. Do not build out infrastructure, like CPIA, except insofar as you need to meet the goals of the next year. I’m more and more feeling like the art here is to do agile development without losing the long-term vision—and, frankly, I didn’t even define the problem as that to start with.

Reading Queue

TODO The Life of Richard Wagner Volume I /Ernest Newman /   nf tree

  • State "DONE" from "TODO" [2020-06-04 Thu 20:31]
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  • State "DONE" from "TODO" [2020-05-20 Wed 19:04]
  • State "DONE" from "TODO" [2020-05-19 Tue 18:23]
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  • State "DONE" from "TODO" [2020-04-25 Sat 23:59]
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  • State "DONE" from "TODO" [2020-04-22 Wed 09:25]
  • State "DONE" from "TODO" [2020-04-19 Sun 23:59]
  • State "DONE" from "TODO" [2020-04-18 Sat 15:38]
  • State "DONE" from "TODO" [2020-04-15 Wed 18:47]
  • State "DONE" from "TODO" [2020-04-14 Tue 17:45]
  • State "DONE" from "TODO" [2020-04-12 Sun 23:59]
  • State "DONE" from "TODO" [2020-04-12 Sun 11:56]
  • State "DONE" from "TODO" [2020-04-09 Thu 20:00]
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  • State "DONE" from "TODO" [2020-04-06 Mon 18:45]
  • State "DONE" from "TODO" [2020-04-05 Sun 15:26]

TODO The Life of Richard Wagner Volume II Ernest Newman   nf tree

TODO The Life of Richard Wagner Volume III Ernest Newman   nf tree

TODO The Life of Richard Wagner Volume IV Ernest Newman   nf tree

TODO Last Day /Domenica Ruta /   f nocopy

TODO The Grammarians Cathleen Schine   f nocopy

TODO Exhalation: Stories Ted Chiang   f nocopy

TODO The Body in Question /Jill Ciment /   f nocopy

TODO Ducks, Newburyport /Lucy Ellmann /   f nocopy

TODO Optic Nerve /Maria Gainza /   f nocopy

TODO The Heavens /Sandra Newman /   f nocopy

TODO Deaf Republic Ilya Kaminsky   poetry nocopy

TODO What You Have Heard Is True /Carolyn Forche /   nf nocopy

TODO An Audience of One Srinivas Rao   nf nocopy

TODO How We Fight for Our Lives Saeed Jones   nf nocopy

TODO In Byron's Wake /Miranda Seymour /   nf nocopy

TODO Rusty Brown Chris Ware   graphic nocopy

TODO Harrison Birtwistle: Wild Tracks Fiona Maddocks   nf kindle

Orpheus Project

TODO Selected Poems II: 1976 - 1986 Magaret Atwood   kindle poetry orpheus

TODO The Ground Beneath Her Feet Salman Rushdie   fiction kindle orpheus

TODO Persephone In Underland: #1 Orpheus Sin Ribbon   fiction kindle orpheus

TODO Orfeo: A Novel Richard Powers   fiction kindle orpheus

State of Wonder Ann Patchett   orpheus

based on Orpheus, not purchased yet

TODO Harrison Birtwistle: The Mask of Orpheus Jonathan Cross   kindle nf

:PROPERTIES: :start-date: :end-date: :pages: 196 :grade:

TODO Delta-v Daniel Suarez   f kindle

TODO Where Good Ideas Come From Steven Johnson   kindle nf

How to Change Your Mind Michael Pollan   nf kindle

Difficult Women: A Memoir of Three David Plante   nf

The Remains of the Day Kazuo Ishiguro   f

Manhattan Beach Jennifer Egan   f

Recommended by NYTimes book review

Orson Welles Vol 1 Simon Callow   nf tree

The Book of Tea Kakuzo Okakura   nf unlimited

Dark Money Jane Mayer   nf kindle

SYSTEMANTICS Gall   nf unlimited

Orson Welles Vol 2 Simon Callow   nf tree

Evicted Matthew Desmond   nf kindle

In the Darkroom Susan Faludi   nf kindle

Metaphors We Live By Lakoff–Johnson   nf kindle

War and Turpentine Stefan Hertmans   f kindle

The Return Hisham Matar   nf kindle

V. Thomas Pynchon   epub f

Time Travel: A History James Gleick   nf kindle

The Hamlet (1940) Faulkner   f kindle

The Cybernetic Brain Andrew Pickering   nf nocopy

Mastering Emacs Mickey Petersen   nf epub

The Elements of Eloquence Mark Forsyth   nf kindle

Electric Don Quixote Neil Slaven   epub nf

David Bowie: The Last Interview David Bowie   tree nf

Pink Floyd Album by Album   tree nf

The Ancestor's Tale Dawkins   nf epub

Naked Lunch William S. Burroughs   f kindle

Only the Longest Threads Tasneem Zehra Husain   nf

Book of Numbers Joshua Cohen   kindle f

Little Brother Cory Doctorow   f

Met the author at FOOCamp 2015

Constellation Games Leonard Richardson   f

Recommended universally by the authors at the SciFi panel at FOOCamp 2015

Nexus Ramez Naam   f

The Hydrogen Sonata Ian M Banks   f

The Professor in the Cage   nf

The Reivers Faulkner   f

Brasyl Ian McDonald   f

The Broken Land Ian McDonald   f

You are Now Less Dumb David McRaney   nf


Berlin Noir trilogy Phillip Kerr   f

5 Dumb Guys walk Into a Bar Newt   f

Brief Interviews with Hideous Men DFW   f

Dhalgren Samuel Delany   f

Everness (1of3): Planesrunner Ian McDonald   f

Everness (2of3): By My Enemy Ian McDonald   f

Everness (3of3): Empress of the Sun Ian McDonald   f

Girl with Curious Hair DFW   f

Glasshouse Charles Stross   f

Gravity’s Rainbow Thomas Pychon   f

Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell Susanna Clarke   f

Live in Ruin Marilyn Johnson   f

Oblivian Stories DFW   f

Seed to Harvest Octavia E. Butler   f

The Blade Itself Joe Abercrombie   f

The Dervish House Ian McDonald   f

The Hamlet (1940) Faulkner   f

The Long Tomorrow Leigh Brackett   f


A Solemn Pleasure: To Imagine, Witness, and Write (The Art of the Essay) Pritchard   nf

A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again DFW   nf

An Anthropologist On Mars Oliver Sacks   nf

Both Flesh and Not DFW   nf

The Boundaries of Desire Eric Berkowitz   nf

Chariots for Apollo Brooks–Grimwood   nf nocopy

Consider the Lobster DFW   nf

Cooking for Geeks   nf

Countdown to Zero Day Kim Zetter   nf

Everything and More DFW   nf

Fate, Time, and Language DFW   nf

Future Perfect Steven Johnson   nf

How not to be Wrong Jordon Ellenberg   nf

How Buildings Learn Stuart Brand   nf nocopy

I, Mammal: Why Your Brain Links Status and Happiness Loretta Breuning   nf

Incognito Eagleman   nf

Me, Myself, and Why Jennifer Ouellette   nf

Nonzero Robert Wright   nf

The Non-Designer's Design Book Robin Williams   nf


Reflections Walter Benjamin   nf

Salt: A World History Mark Kurlansky   nf

Sex and Punishment Eric Berkowitz   nf

The Coming Storm: DDOS, … Molly Sauter   nf

The Evolution of God Robert Wright   nf

The Lagoon Amand Marie Lerol   nf

The Moral Animal Robert Wright   nf

The Wisdom of the Heart Henry Miller   nf

The Writing Life Annie Dillard   nf

Wayfinding Part 1: Rats and Rafts Howey   nf

What If? Randall Munroe   nf

What Technology Wants Kevin Kelly   nf

Writers on Writing John Darnton   nf

Writers on Writing Vol II / Jane Smiley/   nf

Writing Fiction / Janet Burroway/   nf

WTF, Evolution? Mara Grunbaum   nf

You are Now Less Dumb David McRaney   nf

Zen in the Art of Writing Ray Brabury   nf

Graphic Novels

Megg & Megg in Amsterdam Simon Hanselmann   tree f

March Book one John Lewis   tree nf

March Book Three John Lewis   tree nf

V for Vendetta Alan Moore   tree f

Paper Girls Vol 1 Brian Vaughn   f tree

Hunter S Thompson

Hell's Angels: A Strange and Terrible Saga

Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas

The Rum Diary

The Culture Series

Consider Phlebas

The Player of Games

Use of Weapons

The State of the Art



Look to Windward


Surface Detail

The Hydrogen Sonata



The Broom of the System (1987)

Girl With Curious Hair (1989)

Infinite Jest (1996)

Brief Interviews with Hideous Men (1999)

Oblivion: Stories (2004)

The Pale King (2011)


A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again (1997)

Signifying Rappers (1999)

McCain’s Promise (2000)

Everything and More: A Compact History of Infinity (2003)

Consider the Lobster (2005)

This is Water (2009)

Fate, Time, and Language: An Essay on Free Will (2011)

Both Flesh and Not (2012)

Getting Away from Already Being Pretty Much Away from It All: An Essay (2012)

On Tennis (2014)

Faulkner’s Yoknapatawpha County novels (in terms of internal chronology):

The Unvanquished (1938)

The Hamlet (1940)

The Reivers (1962)

Absalom, Absalom! (1936)

Sartoris (1929)

The Town (1957)

"Old Man" (1939), published in If I Forget Thee, Jerusalem

The Sound and the Fury (1929)

A Rose for Emily (1930)

As I Lay Dying (1930)

Sanctuary (1931)

Light in August (1932)

Requiem for a Nun (1951)

Go Down, Moses (1942)

Intruder in the Dust (1948)

Knight's Gambit (1949)

The Mansion (1959)

Thomas Pynchon

V. (1963)   epub

The Crying of Lot 49 (1966)   epub

Gravity's Rainbow (1973)   epub

Slow Learner (1984)   epub

Vineland (1990)

Mason & Dixon (1997)   epub

Against the Day (2006)   epub

Inherent Vice (2009)   epub

Bleeding Edge (2013)   epub

Kurt Vonnegut

Player Piano (1952)

The Sirens of Titan (1959)

Mother Night (1961)

Cat's Cradle (1963)

God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater (1965)

Slaughterhouse-Five (1969)

Breakfast of Champions (1973)

Slapstick (1976)

Jailbird (1979)

Deadeye Dick (1982)

Galapagos (1985)

Bluebeard (1987)

Hocus Pocus (1990)

Timequake (1997)

Chuck Palahniuk

Fight Club

Fight Club #2



Modern Library 100 Greatest English-language Novels of the 20th Century


  1. ULYSSES by James Joyce
  4. U.S.A. (trilogy) by John Dos Passos
  5. WINESBURG, OHIO by Sherwood Anderson
  6. A PASSAGE TO INDIA by E.M. Forster
  7. THE WINGS OF THE DOVE by Henry James
  8. THE AMBASSADORS by Henry James
  9. TENDER IS THE NIGHT by F. Scott Fitzgerald
  10. THE STUDS LONIGAN TRILOGY by James T. Farrell
  11. THE GOOD SOLDIER by Ford Madox Ford
  12. THE GOLDEN BOWL by Henry James
  13. SISTER CARRIE by Theodore Dreiser
  14. A HANDFUL OF DUST by Evelyn Waugh
  15. ALL THE KING'S MEN by Robert Penn Warren
  16. THE BRIDGE OF SAN LUIS REY by Thornton Wilder
  17. HOWARDS END by E.M. Forster
  18. GO TELL IT ON THE MOUNTAIN by James Baldwin
  19. THE HEART OF THE MATTER by Graham Greene
  20. LORD OF THE FLIES by William Golding
  21. DELIVERANCE by James Dickey
  22. A DANCE TO THE MUSIC OF TIME (series) by Anthony Powell
  23. POINT COUNTER POINT by Aldous Huxley
  24. THE SECRET AGENT by Joseph Conrad
  25. NOSTROMO by Joseph Conrad
  26. THE RAINBOW by D.H. Lawrence
  27. WOMEN IN LOVE by D.H. Lawrence
  28. TROPIC OF CANCER by Henry Miller
  29. THE NAKED AND THE DEAD by Norman Mailer
  30. PORTNOY'S COMPLAINT by Philip Roth
  31. PALE FIRE by Vladimir Nabokov
  32. ON THE ROAD by Jack Kerouac
  33. THE MALTESE FALCON by Dashiell Hammett
  34. PARADE'S END by Ford Madox Ford
  35. THE AGE OF INNOCENCE by Edith Wharton
  36. ZULEIKA DOBSON by Max Beerbohm
  37. THE MOVIEGOER by Walker Percy
  39. FROM HERE TO ETERNITY by James Jones
  40. THE WAPSHOT CHRONICLES by John Cheever
  41. THE CATCHER IN THE RYE by J.D. Salinger
  42. A CLOCKWORK ORANGE by Anthony Burgess
  43. OF HUMAN BONDAGE by W. Somerset Maugham
  44. HEART OF DARKNESS by Joseph Conrad
  45. MAIN STREET by Sinclair Lewis
  46. THE HOUSE OF MIRTH by Edith Wharton
  47. THE ALEXANDRIA QUARTET by Lawrence Durell
  48. A HIGH WIND IN JAMAICA by Richard Hughes
  49. A HOUSE FOR MR BISWAS by V.S. Naipaul
  50. THE DAY OF THE LOCUST by Nathanael West
  51. SCOOP by Evelyn Waugh
  53. FINNEGANS WAKE by James Joyce
  54. KIM by Rudyard Kipling
  55. A ROOM WITH A VIEW by E.M. Forster
  56. BRIDESHEAD REVISITED by Evelyn Waugh
  58. ANGLE OF REPOSE by Wallace Stegner
  59. A BEND IN THE RIVER by V.S. Naipaul
  60. THE DEATH OF THE HEART by Elizabeth Bowen
  61. LORD JIM by Joseph Conrad
  62. RAGTIME by E.L. Doctorow
  63. THE OLD WIVES' TALE by Arnold Bennett
  64. THE CALL OF THE WILD by Jack London
  65. LOVING by Henry Green
  66. MIDNIGHT'S CHILDREN by Salman Rushdie
  67. TOBACCO ROAD by Erskine Caldwell
  68. IRONWEED by William Kennedy
  69. THE MAGUS by John Fowles
  70. WIDE SARGASSO SEA by Jean Rhys
  71. UNDER THE NET by Iris Murdoch
  72. SOPHIE'S CHOICE by William Styron
  73. THE SHELTERING SKY by Paul Bowles
  75. THE GINGER MAN by J.P. Donleavy
  76. THE MAGNIFICENT AMBERSONS by Booth Tarkington


  1. THE GREAT GATSBY by F. Scott Fitzgerald
  3. LOLITA by Vladimir Nabokov
  4. BRAVE NEW WORLD by Aldous Huxley
  5. THE SOUND AND THE FURY by William Faulkner
  6. CATCH-22 by Joseph Heller
  7. DARKNESS AT NOON by Arthur Koestler
  8. SONS AND LOVERS by D.H. Lawrence
  9. THE GRAPES OF WRATH by John Steinbeck
  10. UNDER THE VOLCANO by Malcolm Lowry
  11. THE WAY OF ALL FLESH by Samuel Butler
  12. 1984 by George Orwell
  13. I, CLAUDIUS by Robert Graves
  14. TO THE LIGHTHOUSE by Virginia Woolf
  15. AN AMERICAN TRAGEDY by Theodore Dreiser
  16. THE HEART IS A LONELY HUNTER by Carson McCullers
  17. SLAUGHTERHOUSE-FIVE by Kurt Vonnegut
  18. INVISIBLE MAN by Ralph Ellison

j20. NATIVE SON by Richard Wright

  1. ANIMAL FARM by George Orwell
  2. AS I LAY DYING by William Faulkner
  3. THE SUN ALSO RISES by Ernest Hemingway
  4. LIGHT IN AUGUST by William Faulkner
  5. A FAREWELL TO ARMS by Ernest Hemingway

Graphic Novels

Unflattening Nick Sousanis   tree


1. The Peripheral William Gibson 2015-01-02 Fri

Better than Zero History

2. Dr. Mutter's Marvels: A True Tale of Intrigue and Innovation at the Dawn of Modern Medicine Cristin O'Keefe Aptowicz 2015-01-05

3. The State of the Art Ian M Banks 2015-01-16 Fri

4. The Sense of Style Daniel Pinker 2015-02-01

5. Rosemary and Rue Seanann McGuire 2015-02-03

6. Excession Ian M Banks 2015-02-15

7. Mastering Bitcoin Andreas Antonopoulos 2015-02-20

8. A Local Habitation Seanan McGuire

9. Inversions Ian M Banks

10. An Artificial Night Seanan McGuire

11. Badass: Making Users Awesome Kathy Sierra

12. Blindness José Saramago

13. As I Lay Dying (1930) William Faulkner

14. What are you looking at?

15. Seveneves Neal Stephenson

16. Words without Music Philip Glass 2015-07-07

17. Look to Windward Ian M Banks 2015-07-26

18. The Unvanquished (1938) Faulkner 2015-08-10

19. Prog Rock FAQ Will Romano 2015-08-14

Given as a semi-gag gift by Scott Davis at Pasty Geeks 2015, this book turned out to have some excellent articles, with insights into some favorite bands (ELP, Genesis, Jetrho Tull) that I'd never heard before.

20. Why I write George Orwell 2015-08-18

A collection of essays, including the pamphlet-length Why I Write. The long middle essay is a harrange against British politics in the midst of WWII, and less relevant now. The last essay, Politics and the English Language is a brilliant observation about the corrosive effect stock phrases and tired metaphors has on political speech. He ends with a great list of things to avoid vagueness of speech:

  1. Never use a metaphor, simile, or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print
  2. Never use a long word where a short one will do
  3. If it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out
  4. Never use the passive voice where you can use the active
  5. Never use a foriegn phrase, a scientific word, or a jargon word if you can think of an everyday English equivalent
  6. Break any of these rules sooner than say anything outright barbarous

21. A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius Dave Eggers 2015-09-13

5% too exuberant for me; I understand the DFW comparisons but it's weaker by far than DFW. Fanciful non-fition, relatively weak narrative arc, all style.

22. The Yellow House: Van Gogh, Gauguin, and Nine Turbulent Weeks in Provence Martin Gayford 2015-10-29

Best biography of Van Gogh I've read; it actually treats him like a disturbed adult, not a magical elf.

23. Matter Ian M Banks 2015-11-14

One of the better Culture novels, a sprawling narrative chock full of cool science concepts (shellworlds, multitude of races, etc). Abrupt ending but, ala Infinte Jest, the reader has enough information at the end to figure out what happens (without a head-beating). Matter is noticeably more mature than earlier ones.

24. The Falcon and the Snowman Robert Lindsey 2015-12-23

Re-read from two decades ago, still a pretty good real-life spy story. I can only see Dalton as Sean Penn now because of the movie.

25. An Entity Observes All Things Box Brown 2015-12-23

Interesting stand-alone graphic novel consisting basically of short stories.

TODO The 10 Best Books of 2018

TODO Reading Broadly: A List of Good Books | Glenn Vanderburg

Author: Neal Ford

Created: 2021-01-31 Sun 10:44


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  • Author, Thoughtworker, & Meme Wrangler