Books / Year 2009
Date: 2009-12-29 (permlink)
Author: Arthur Conan Doyle
Name: The Sign Of The Four
Rating: 3.5 stars

I'm running out of stuff to say about Sherlock Holmes stories, so I won't strain my brain trying to invent something. After reading one of them you pretty much know if you want to read more of them or not, and they're all freely available, so it's not really that difficult to find out if you're into them or not. Go find out yourself instead of reading my book reviews!

Date: 2009-12-24 (permlink)
Author: Arthur Conan Doyle
Name: A Study In Scarlet
Rating: 3 stars

The beginning of Sherlock Holmes. Doyle's grasp of the character is not as refined yet, but still entertaining.

Date: 2009-12-13 (permlink)
Author: Jim Perrin
Name: The Climbing Essays
Rating: 3.5 stars

The beginning biographical stuff is boring (Biographical early childhood stuff about a person you've never heard of before? What's the point?) but once it gets to essays about climbing and climbers it becomes interesting.

I can't agree with him about his attitude to safety-concerned modern climbing though. One would think he especially would be all for it, considering how many friends he's lost to unsafe climbing practises, but somehow, he still thinks they're a good idea without ever really explaining how on earth that could ever be justifiable.

It's one thing to climb K2 with the knowledge that there are risks involved; there's no other way to do it. It's a completely different thing climbing a route unsafely when you can just as well climb it safely: the word we're looking for here is "braindead stupid".

Date: 2009-12-03 (permlink)
Author: Jerome K. Jerome
Name: Three Men In A Boat
Rating: Reread

Read a beautifully prepared ebook version this time and was glad to find it has not lost any of its charm over the years since I originally read it.

Date: 2009-11-18 (permlink)
Author: James Hilton
Name: Lost Horizon
Rating: 3 stars

I've had this book for years and have absolutely no memory of what prompted me to buy it. Only reason I read it now was that it was the slimmest book on my bookshelf and I wanted something quick to read.

The story's enjoyable enough, but when you stop to think about it, practically nothing happens in the book. People talk endlessly and that's about it.

A 5-second internet search also revealed that the claim on the book's cover of being "the first paperback ever published!" is blatantly false.

Date: 2009-11-07 (permlink)
Author: Randy Pausch with Jeffrey Zaslow
Name: The Last Lecture
Rating: 3 stars

I gave this three stars not because I think it has some valuable insights into how to live your life (the author is a workaholic who promotes the contradictory statements of "live your life to the fullest" and "stay in your office until 22:00 on Fridays to get ahead in life") but because Pausch himself led an interesting life and it's fun to read about that.

Date: 2009-11-06 (permlink)
Author: Michael Lewis
Name: Moneyball
Rating: 4.5 stars

After years of avoiding reading the book despite constant mentions of it everywhere, I broke down and read it. Incredibly fast, it turns out, since it's unbelievably addictive from the very first page. There's something glorious about reading how baseball was being turned inside out by numbercrunchers and their statistics.

Date: 2009-11-01 (permlink)
Author: Arthur Conan Doyle
Name: The Adventures Of Sherlock Holmes
Rating: 3.5 stars

I do not think I've ever read any Sherlock Holmes stories before, and they were the ideal vehicle for testing out my new ebook reader. Neither the stories or the device disappointed: the stories were interesting and the device did its job without getting in the way of reading.

Date: 2009-10-17 (permlink)
Author: Jack McCallum
Name: :07 Seconds Or Less
Rating: 3 stars

I'm sure I would've enjoyed his book much more had I read it couple of years ago when Phoenix Suns were still relevant. It's hard nowadays to look back at their near-success and not dismiss it almost completely.

Date: 2009-10-06 (permlink)
Author: Henry D. Smith (editor)
Name: Learning From Shogun
Rating: Unrated

Interesting background about Shogun and where it deviates from reality (surprisingly little).

Date: 2009-09-09 (permlink)
Author: Royal Robbins
Name: Basic Rockcraft
Rating: Unrated

Found this slim volume of instructions about climbing, dating from 1971, in a used bookshop and couldn't resist picking it up. Reading it was a fascinating reminder of how much the sport has changed in the past 40 years. So many things I take for granted weren't even invented then.

Date: 2009-09-05 (permlink)
Author: P.G. Wodehouse
Name: Right Ho, Jeeves
Rating: 3 stars

Feels like a short story length piece stretched out to book length with no new content added. Still amusing enough but basically a filler for when you can't be bothered to read something more serious.

Date: 2009-08-31 (permlink)
Author: Haruki Murakami
Name: Norwegian Wood (Noruwei No Mori)
Rating: 4.5 stars

I enjoyed the book greatly but I'm having difficulty understanding why. The characters are passive whiners who should just get on with their lives and stop living in the past, there is basically no plot to speak of, and the description of student life in Japan 40 years ago is fascinating but maddeningly brief.

I expect it's one of two things: either Murakami is a good enough writer to overcome the above problems or I was swept away by the sex scenes, which are reoccurring, frank, and sexy.

Date: 2009-08-06 (permlink)
Author: Cory Doctorow
Name: Overclocked
Rating: 3.5 stars

I think Doctorow is better in short story form than in novels. I liked this collection of them much better than the two novels of his I've read before. And the fact they were freely available for reading on the iPhone certainly didn't hurt either; short stories also suit the iPhone better than full-length novels.

Date: 2009-08-02 (permlink)
Author: James Clavell
Name: Shogun
Rating: 4 stars

The beginning is irresistible, but it slows down to pretty much nothing eventually and the end particularly sucks. No resolution of any kind to anything, it's like the author one day just said "Okay, that's it" and declared the book done.

The book certainly manages to make Japanese history much more interesting than I thought it was. The constant violence and sex doesn't hurt either.

Date: 2009-07-20 (permlink)
Author: P.G. Wodehouse
Name: My Man Jeeves
Rating: 3 stars

I liked the Jeeves stories, but the non-Jeeves stories were boring.

Date: 2009-07-17 (permlink)
Author: Ambrose Bierce
Name: The Devil's Dictionary
Rating: 3 stars

There are truly immortal bits lifted from this dictionary and that everyone knows, so I was expecting more of the same. Naturally I was disappointed. In the end it's almost as mentally tasking as reading a normal dictionary from A to Z.

That said, it was the perfect book to have available on my iPhone for killing couple of minutes whenever I had nothing else to do.

Date: 2009-07-01 (permlink)
Author: John Irving
Name: A Prayer For Owen Meany
Rating: Reread

Considering how much of the book I remembered it's hard to fathom it's been 10 years since I last read it. First time in English, this time. It only gets better each time.

Date: 2009-06-07 (permlink)
Author: Alex Berenson
Name: The Number
Rating: 4 stars

A very good overview of the various ways in how the financial markets have failed time and again over the last 100 years or so.

Date: 2009-05-10 (permlink)
Author: Paulo Coelho
Name: The Alchemist (O Alquimista)
Rating: 2 stars

I'm sure religious people get more out of this book than me. Seemed like an overlong and pointless fable to me.

Date: 2009-05-06 (permlink)
Author: Carl Hiaasen
Name: Nature Girl
Rating: 3 stars

I've realized that if I've read almost 10 of Hiaasen's books, and generally enjoyed them, but can't recall the plot of a single one of them or even a single character from any of the books, they're the literary equivalent of fast food: convenient at the time but ultimately not memorable or good for you.

I also disliked torturing a guy just because he copped a feel.

Date: 2009-04-04 (permlink)
Author: Franz Kafka
Name: The Metamorphosis (Die Verwandlung)
Rating: 3 stars

While browsing for stuff to read on my iPhone I came across this classic, which I've somehow never got around to reading even though it's very short.

Having now done so, I must say I haven't missed all that much. The story flows along and Kafka's treatment of the family is refreshingly unsentimental, but that's about it, there's not much more to the story.

Date: 2009-03-27 (permlink)
Author: Iain M. Banks
Name: Matter
Rating: 6 stars

One more holiday trip, one more giant Banks novel read. There really is nothing better to distract oneself from the fact one is staying in a non-airconditioned room in 38 degree weather.

As good a science fiction book as any he's written. I'm beginning to form an opinion he actually writes better books when they're a mixture of low/high-tech as this one is, because a) he's forced to stick to human-scale events while b) still allowing him to put a larger context around the story with an awe-inspiring scale of things.

Date: 2009-03-10 (permlink)
Author: Jack London
Name: The Call Of The Wild
Rating: Reread

I acquired an iPhone a few days ago (the local carrier started giving them away for free) and naturally the first applications I installed were ebook readers. And what better book to test reading on a new device than London's most famous book? It's short and holds one's attention admirably.

It's remarkable how much reading one can get in when you always have your reading material with you and easily accessible. Up to now I thought a small paperback book was the most portable option, but I was wrong. You don't carry that around with you 100% of the time, but you always have your phone with you. This transforms every available time into potential reading time, no matter if it's just 5 minutes waiting for a train or an extended break after lunch.

There are lots and lots of old books available for free, and some newer ones. I suppose from now on I'll always have something waiting to be read on my phone. It's nice to know I'm never going to be bored again :)

Date: 2009-02-24 (permlink)
Author: Tom Shippey
Name: J.R.R Tolkien - Author Of The Century
Rating: 4 stars

I've avoided reading pretty much any serious Tolkien commentary for reasons I can't really recall right now, and it seems I've been missing out. This book opened up new insights into his works and made sense of some things that didn't before. I think I'll have to try tackling Tolkien in English pretty soon; so far I've only read the (excellent) Finnish translations, but I'm feeling up to the task of diving into the original versions now.

Date: 2009-02-21 (permlink)
Author: Scott Smith
Name: A Simple Plan
Rating: 4 stars

This review contains spoilers. Click here to show it.

Not quite as good as The Ruins, but still very enjoyable. Only thing I really minded was the burning of the money at the end, since one could easily come up with lots of ways to "clean" it.

Date: 2009-01-24 (permlink)
Author: Nassim Nicholas Taleb
Name: The Black Swan
Rating: 3 stars

The central idea is of course true (anybody arguing otherwise is a complete idiot) and even exciting in some ways, but what it is not is very complex. It can be explained in extreme depth in oh, I don't know, 50 pages at most, yet Taleb spends 300 pages doing so, repeating himself over and over again and talking about completely unrelated things much of the time.

Date: 2009-01-08 (permlink)
Author: Boris Vian
Name: Foam Of The Daze (L'Écume Des Jours)
Rating: 2 stars

The style has a certain charm and uniqueness to it, but the book in general is incredibly boring. A book 220 pages long should not take me 4 months to read.