Books / Year 2011
Date: 2011-11-22 (permlink)
Author: Haruki Murakami
Name: What I Talk About When I Talk About Running (Hashiru Koto Ni Tsuite Kataru Toki Ni Boku No Kataru Koto)
Rating: 3 stars

An extremely slim little book about running, mostly, and somewhat about Murakami's personal life. I enjoyed it but let's face it, if it was written by almost anyone else, it would never have been published.

Date: 2011-11-08 (permlink)
Author: Iain M. Banks
Name: Surface Detail
Rating: 4 stars

The Hells are a wildly inventive idea, but overall the book is just a bit too unfocused to get top marks. There are so many civilizations and ships and people and aliens flying around that eventually you lose track of some of them. And it's a bit strange how the main characters spend pretty much all of the book separated from each other.

Have to love how the book manages a twist ending in its very last word though.

Date: 2011-11-02 (permlink)
Author: James Clavell
Name: Tai-Pan
Rating: 4 stars

Much like Shogun, with a different feel to it. Larger scope, more characters, an actual ending, and just slightly less irresistible. Fantastic reading for knowing the background for how Hong Kong was created.

Date: 2011-09-13 (permlink)
Author: Christopher McDougall
Name: Born To Run
Rating: 4.5 stars

People are always saying "Book X changed my life", but rarely is that more than hyperbole. This book has the potential to actually do that for millions of people by introducing them to a much healthier way of running.

If that's all it did, it would be good enough, but the educational bits are sprinkled in amongst a story that, frankly, would not be believable in fiction. Sometimes truth really is stranger.

I am writing this review with muscles and tendons in my feet sore in places I did not even know had them, after my first try at a forefoot-landing running style. The book has inspired me to stop thinking of my feet as fragile things to be protected; in reality, they are fantastically intricate designs cooked up by evolution over millions of years to produce the greatest running animal that has ever existed. There is no question of the fact they are fully capable of running; the only question is how to learn to do it properly in the way they're designed for.

The only reason the book is not given five stars is because I found it annoying how it went on and on describing the photographs taken during the events but did not include those photographs! I had to go to the book's website to see them.

Date: 2011-09-01 (permlink)
Author: J.R.R. Tolkien
Name: The Lord Of The Rings
Rating: Reread

First time I've read this in English. I've had no problem reading other books in English for decades now, but I always put this one off because I had this vague idea it'd be beyond me. Turns out I was wrong, beyond a few words I had to lookup (doughty) I had no problems at all following along, and didn't feel I was missing out on anything.

Date: 2011-06-17 (permlink)
Author: Douglas Coupland
Name: The Gum Thief
Rating: 3 stars

A fast-food book. Enjoyable enough while you're consuming it, but you're going to forget it ever happened by next week.

Date: 2011-06-11 (permlink)
Author: Michel Houellebecq
Name: H.P. Lovecraft — Against The World, Against Life (H.P. Lovecraft — Contre Le Monde, Contre La Vie)
Rating: 4 stars

Good essay about what makes Lovecraft so special. My only quibble is that I think he should've spent a bit more time talking about Lovecraft's use of language, instead of his worldviews. One's view of the world may shape how one writes, sure, but in the end, the only thing the reader sees is the words before him.

And what words Lovecraft uses! A sentence picked at random from 'The Call Of Cthulhu', with only the adjectives shown: '...ugly...malignant...dank...rotting...morbid...malformed...fungous'.

And I do stress 'picked at random': this is not some outlandish expression handpicked to support my argument; this is simply a normal Lovecraft sentence.

I have read a lot of books in my life and Lovecraft remains unique in his writing style and in the effect it brings forth.

Date: 2011-05-26 (permlink)
Author: Scott Turow
Name: Innocent
Rating: 4 stars

Nice followup to its predecessor, but not the best book he's ever written. The multitude of 60-something men banging hot women 30 years younger than them was confusing at first before you remember the author is a 60-something man...

Date: 2011-05-18 (permlink)
Author: Michael Lewis
Name: The Big Short
Rating: 4.5 stars

Good description of the financial crisis, from the viewpoint of the people who knew it was coming, and you know they're not lying about it either, because they had put their own money on the line betting it would happen.

The book also explains the Mysterious Case of The Disappearing Bonuses at Morgan Stanley in 2007, which we never understood and was never explained to us. Damn you, Howie Hubler, damn you to hell.

Date: 2011-05-13 (permlink)
Author: Sam Smith
Name: The Jordan Rules
Rating: 5 stars

Given the rampant Kobe-Jordan comparisons nowadays, it's good to get some historical perspective from back in the day when Jordan was just another basketball player, not yet anointed as the Greatest Ever. Today, whenever Kobe does something bad you hear "Jordan would never have done that". Well guess what? Jordan was flawed too.

He shot badly at times too, stayed out all night gambling, tweaked his knee playing golf during playoffs, didn't exercise to stay in shape, didn't trust his teammates, went for his individual stats over team success, etc etc etc. So to say that from day one he was all about winning over everything else is just flat-out wrong.

Date: 2011-05-11 (permlink)
Author: Bill Simmons
Name: The Book Of Basketball
Rating: 5 stars

700+ pages about basketball by a guy whose columns I've enjoyed reading for a decade. I learned a lot about some of the players from before my time, and liked his takes on most of the stuff he talks about. And nobody can claim he didn't put in the time necessary to research this stuff.

Date: 2011-04-18 (permlink)
Author: Chris Ballard
Name: The Art of a Beautiful Game
Rating: 4.5 stars

You know how you trawl basketball websites every day, hoping to find insightful commentary amidst the endless dross out there? What if I told you that for 7 pounds, you can buy 213 pages of some of the most fascinating basketball writing I've ever encountered?

If that sounds good to you, run, nay, streak, to your nearest online bookstore to order this tome of goodness.

Date: 2011-04-12 (permlink)
Author: David Kushner
Name: Masters Of Doom
Rating: 3 stars

Fun reading about the background stories behind id Software. It's been a decade or more but I remember writing one of my first Perl programs almost 15 years ago that collected all the status updates from them and presented them all (finger! Trying to run that program now, it seems finger is not even installed on my system...If debian doesn't think finger is needed, and I haven't noticed in 10 years of running it, that pretty much says whether it's dead or not.).

Date: 2011-03-19 (permlink)
Author: Arundhati Roy
Name: The God Of Small Things
Rating: 2.5 stars

Unbelievably overhyped and overpraised. There is only enough plot for a 10-page long short story; stretching it out over 300+ pages achieves nothing but annoying the reader (one's reactions go from "When is the book going to actually begin?" to "What, that was IT? Are you kidding me?"). She keeps circling the same minuscule event over and over and over again, never adding anything to it, only retelling it in slightly different forms.

Her use of language is also annoying. Overused made-up phrases, needlessly invented new words and long boring passages of pointless description do nothing but try to take the reader's attention away from the lack of a plot.

Date: 2011-02-19 (permlink)
Author: Arthur Conan Doyle
Name: Valley Of Fear
Rating: 2.5 stars

Bit of a strange Sherlock Holmes book, with a somewhat ridiculous sojourn to the USA occupying most of it.

Date: 2011-02-02 (permlink)
Author: Arthur Conan Doyle
Name: The Return Of Sherlock Holmes
Rating: 3 stars

I absolutely can not think of anything to say about Sherlock Holmes stories that I haven't already said.