My 5th annual yearly book list. It's my usual mix of science fiction, mystery, biography, science, history and politics. I hope you enjoy the mix.
Before I start I'm going to put a little plug in for a MacApp called Bookpedia. Previous to this year I was using a FileMaker database of my own design to track my reading material, both the books I own and books I borrow from the library. The nice thing about Bookpedia is that all you generally have to enter is the IBSN number and the program goes out and searches a number of on-line databases to find all the info (author, pages, publisher, etc.) that I like to record about each book. It has an iTunes like interface that I like as well. I supposed this is rather self-indulgent but like I said last year, why else have a blog if not for self-endulgency (is that a word).
So here we go, my 2012 book list in the order I read them. All 54 of them.
Kahneman, as the cover says, is a winner of the Nobel Prize in Economics, but this book isn't about economics. It's a pretty good review of the current state of knowledge of how the brain works.
I had read the 4th novel in Atkinsin's series aboutJackson Brodie "Started Early, Took My Dog" late in 2011 and started looking for other books by Atkinson. This is the 2nd. My library doesn't have the 1st. Jackson, while in Edinburgh, stops a mugging. And gets involved. The finish of the title isn't "deserves another" it's "doesn't go unpunished".
In the not-so-distant future everybody's got a robot. But they all get taken over by some evil artificial intelligence and it's a battle till the end. Apparently they are making a movie of this. I hope it's better than the book.
When I started reading this, I didn't know it was the start of a new series about Admiral "Black Jack" Geary. Geary had been lost in a survival capsule since the beginning of an interstellar war 100 years before his rescue. I went back and started the original series. If you like 'hard' science fiction you may like this but the writing is a bit dense and the characters (even after the 10 books of the original series) are a bit too much like cardboard cutouts.
The third Jackson Brodie novel finds him trying to find the killer in a crime than happened 30 years before. All of these Atkinson books are great.
I'm big on Apple products. I've owned a series of Macintosh computers since 1985 and live my iPod and iPhone. Steve Jobs was a genius at product development but, based on this book, seems to have been not a very nice guy. Jobs allowed Isaacson a lot of access to him before he died and, according to Isaacson asked for no editorial control of the book, except for the cover.
Ok, here's the first book of the "Black Jack" Geary saga. The Alliance Fleet is deep in enemy space when it find's Geary's survival capsule. Geary had barely woken up when the enemy (the Syndic) springs their trap and kills most of the leadership of the Fleet at a supposedly peace conference. Geary, who is 100 years older than everybody else, finds himself in charge of the fleet and must lead it home with the secret to defeating the Syndic.
Edgar Freemantle loses his right arm and gets his brains scrambled in a terrible accident at a construction site. After he recovers, he sells the construction business and moves to Duma Key in Florida. There he finds an unknown talent for painting and an evil force on the island. It's Stephen King, of course there's an evil force. If you like King, you'll like this.
Every book in this series is named for one of the ships of the fleet. The connection between the story and the ship is usually nebulous. They also generally show a guy, who I suppose is Geary, with a big gun, which never happens. Anyway, the Fleet continues to run, Geary has to overcome extreme hero-worship and mutinous captains. It's never exactly clear but there must be hundreds of ships in the Fleet.
My first Kindle book. I "borrowed" the book through my library. I try to read at least one baseball book a year and this was a good one. Aaron is defined through two things: baseball and the terrible racism he lived through to play baseball.
Bob Greene, a journalist from Chicago, spent several summers in the early 2000's traveling with the surf-group Jan and Dean. He'd been a fan in the 1960's. This is an interesting look at the world of musical acts who are well past their famous days but still perform. At the height of their popularity, Jan, driving too fast, crashed his car. He had lifelong physical and mental problems after that and the band's raising star was stopped. In the book they perform a county fairs, farm shows, insurance conventions and pretty much anywhere their agent can find them work. Jan still was performing with them but had to listen to a tape of the songs they were going to play before each show to remind him how the songs went.
Apparently we buy the stuff we buy due to "innate evolutionary forces". I'm not sure I buy the entire premise, but it was an interesting book.
Another book about how the brain works. I like reading this sort of stuff. Written for the layman and pretty interesting.
I'd never read anything by Oates before. This book is about Rebecca, daughter in a family which managed to just escape from Nazi Germany. Her educated father settles for the only job he can find in America, the gravedigger in a small up-state New York town. It's a brutal life they lead and her family comes to a brutal end but Rebecca escapes to make a new life for herself. I liked this quite a lot.
You think reality TV is bad now? Well I do. In this slightly in the future novel, the quest for more and more exciting reality TV has led one former TV master to propose a game show where teams of contestants are dropped on Mars for a race. Pretty good satire on the genre I think.
This was largely disappointing. It really should have been titled 50 popular beliefs that people shouldn't think are true. Harrison claims he's going to use scientific reason to show that UFOs, psychics and homeopathy aren't real but he mostly actually relies on anecdotal evidence. I ended up just skipping through the book.
Alex Benedict is a dealer in interstellar artifacts, the rarer the better. This time, he and his assistant and pilot Chase Kolpath, are tracking the whereabouts of an author who apparently disappeared into a space-time rift. This is a series, obviously, and a pretty good one.
The second far-fetched novel about the Kennedy assassination that I read this year. If you were just some ordinary guy (say a high-school English teacher in small-town Maine) would you, if given the opportunity, go back in time to stop Lee Harvey Oswald. What if you had to go back to 1958 and live in the past for 5 years before you could do anything? What if, while making your plans in the Land of Ago, you fall in love? There are some plot holes in this that King pretty much just dances around but I found it to be a good (if really long) read.