Reading List 2009

Following is the list of books finished in the course of 2009:
2 January – Georgina Howell’s life of Gertrude Bell. (see a brief review)
8 January – Jules Verne, a Biography (William Butcher) See review
12 January – The Vertigo Years: Europe 1900-1914 (Philip Blom)
22 January – Dragon (Steven Brust) (re-read, wanted some mind candy)
26 January – Logic & Language (ed. Anthony Flew) – A collection of papers on the subject, loosely, of language and its relation to logic and philosophy. This collection dates from the early 1950’s, a period in which philosophy seems to have been very much concerned with precision in the use of language. Some of the essays seemed quite interesting, others less so, but I expect that my initial judgements will have to be revised as I learn something about the controveries being addressed in each. That is, I won’t attempt to say more about this until I feel I have learned something about the topic.)
2 February – White Mughals (William Dalrymple)
5 February – Setting the Desert on Fire (James Barr)
7 February – Jhegaala (Steven Brust) – Good news and bad news. The bad news is, Brust is slipping, and has been for the last few volumes of the Vlad Taltos septadecology. The good news is, even slipping he’s a better writer than most in the fantasy genre, and he’s still great fun to read.
14 February – Amarcord (Marcella Hazan)
21 February = Voltaire Almighty (Roger Pearson)
23 February – The Man Who Outshone the Sun King (Charles Drazin)

30 February – “On The Wealth Of Nations” (P. J. O’Rourke) – Nebbishy libertarian adores Adam Smith in 200 pages. O’Rourke can’t decide if he wants to be smart or clever, and winds up as a sort of boring, humorless cross between Ann Coulter and Dave Barry. Compare this to Christopher Hitchens writing on Tom Paine’s Rights of Man for the same series: a serious, well-composed study of the book, its origins and effects and place in intellectual and political history. O’Rourke, on the other hand, has expanded a seven page pamphlet on Wealth of Nations to 200 pages, without adding any appreciable depth or analysis. One does not come away with the impression that he’s actualy taken the time to read the work in question, particularly as he goes to the effort of citing his tutor at several points by name.

14 March – Olympio – Andre Maurois (a life of Victor Hugo)

15 March – Into the Looking-Glass Wood (Alberto Manguel) – a fantastic collection of essays on reading and points west.

16 March – Titan’s Daughter (James Blish)

19 March – Economic Sentiments (Emma Rothschild)

20 March – C Style (David Straker)

23 March – Java Extreme Programming Cookbook (Eric Burke & Brian Coyner)

26 March – Beyond Java (Bruce Tate)

29 March – The Three Musketeers (Alexandre Dumas, trans. Richard Pevear)
3 April – Wars and Revolutions: Britain 1760-1815 (Ian R. Christie)

6 April – Freedom and Necessity (Steven Brust & Emma Bull)

9 April – Madame de Staël- The First Modern Woman (Francine du Plessix Gray)

11 April – The Duplicated Man (James Blish and Robert Lowndes)

15 April – Waking Giant – America in the Age of Jackson (David S. Reynolds)

19 April – …And All the Stars a Stage (James Blish)

20 April – Casanova (Ian Kelly)
21 April – the House of Medici (Christopher Hibbert)

25 April – Machiavelli, Philosopher of Power (Ross King)
26 April – A History of Reading (Alberto Manguel) – Not so much a history of reading as an encyclopedia, in which the entries are short chapters on themes – reading aloud, reading privately, the author as reader, the translator as reader, etc. – which Manguel uses as the starting points for erudite and engaging discussion.

3 May – Samuel Johnson: The Struggle (Jeffrey Meyers)
8 May – The Cartoon History of the Universe, volume 1 (Larry Gonick)
12 May – The Mysterious Flame of Queen Loana (Umberto Eco) – Began this one about the same time as Manguel’s History Of Reading, but took a bit more time with the novel than the essays. However, they two do complement each other nicely, both being the product of voracious and articulate readers reviewing their reading habits and speculating on how those habits have affected them and, by extension, how our reading affects all of us.
14 May – UML Distilled (Martin Fowler)
15 May – The Seedling Stars (James Blish)
15 May – The Cartoon History of the Universe, vol 2 (Larry Gonick)
16 May – A History of Civilizations (Fernand Braudel)
16 May – Popular Music of Vittula (Mikael Niemi)
21 May – The Man Who Made Lists (Joshua Kendall) – Biography of Peter Roget, unfortunately not nearly as interesting as its subject.
22 May – History of Madness (Michel Foucault) – Read under duress. Did not get much out of it, not sure there was much to get. Perhaps it made sense in French, but I’m not convinced there’s much sense there to make.
24 May – The Ascent of Money (Niall Ferguson)
28 May – The Double (José Saramago)
29 May – The Victorian Internet (Tom Standage)
30 May – The Night Shapes (James Blish)
3 June – The Quincunx of Time (James Blish)
8 June – A World On the Move: The Portuguese in Africa, Asia and America, 1415-1808 (A. J. Russell-Wood)
9 June – A History Of Their Own:Women in Europe From Prehistory to the Present, vol. 2 (Bonnie S. Anderson & Judith P. Zinsser)
10 June – The Maltese Falcon (Dashiel Hallett)
19 June – We All Got History: The Memory Books of Amos Webber (Nick Salvatore)
25 June – The Algebraist (Iain M. Banks)
28 june – The Thin Man (Dashiel Hammett)
3 July – Crucible of War (the Seven Years’ War) – Fred Anderson
7 July – On Writing Well (William Zinsser)
9 July – The Judgement of Paris (Ross King) – the development of impressionism, well told
15 July – The Design and Implementation of the 4.3BSD UNIX Operating System (Leffler, McKusick, Karels, and Quarterman)
– a clear and systematic treatment of the elements making up the UNIX operating system, specifically the 3.4BSD distribution. An excellent piece of technical writing
17 July – The Ethnography of Communication (Muriel Saville-Troike)
19 July – The Medici (Franco Cesati)
20 July – Computers and the Human Mind (Donald Fink)
21 July – Richelieu (D. P. O’Connell)
22 July – Friedrich Nietszche (Curtis Cate)
24 July – The Everlasting Story of Nory (Nicholson Baker)
27 July – The Social Contract (Jean-Jacques Rousseau)

3 August – Relations in Public (Erving Goffman)
6 August – The Unfinished Game (Keith Devlin)
8 August – The View From a Distant Star (Harlow Shapley)
10 August – The Lucifer Effect (Philip Zimbardo)
Mid-August (in transit – 8/17 or so) The Handmaid’s Tale (Margaret Atwood)
20 August – Sweet Dreams (Daniel Dennett)
24 August – The Curious Life of Robert Hooke (Lisa Jardine)
25 August – The Structure of Scientific Revolutions (Thomas Kuhn)
26 August – No Room For Man (ed. Ralph S. Clem, Martin H. Greenberg, & Joseph D. Olander) (science fiction stories on the theme of overpopulation, collected in 1979)
1 September – Tycho and Kepler (Kitty Ferguson)
7 September – Measure For Measure (Thomas Levenson)
9 September – Dreaming In Code (Scott Rosenberg)
11 September – Going Dutch (Lisa Jardine)
12 September – When Asia Was the World (Stewart Gordon)
13 September – Excession (Iain M. Banks)
18 September – Inquisition (Toby Green) (A diffuse and unenlightening collection of some of the more outlandish anecdotes collected by the author in the archives of the Inquisition)
19 September – Sociolinguistics (R.A. Hudson)
23 September – Marx’s General (Tristram Hunt)
23 September – A Few Good Men From Univac (David Lundstrom)
29 September – Practices of an Agile Developer (V. Subranamiam & A. Hunt)
1 October – Technical Editing (Judith Tarutz) – Well written, convincing, and comprehensive. Ostensibly aimed at editors, but I found it very helpful as a student of technical writing.
3 October – The Mythical Man-Month (Frederick Brooks)
4 October – Nightbirds on Nantucket (Joan Aiken)
5 October – Joel On Software (Joel Spolsky)
6 October – Capitalism and Slavery (Eric Williams)
10 October – The Road (Cormac McCarthy)
13 October – Maps and Legends (Michael Chabon)
17 October – From Baker Street to Binary (Henry Ledgard, E. Patrick McQuail, & Andrew Singer)
19 October – The Philosophical Programmer (Daniel Kohanski)
22 October – My Century (Günter Grass)
30 October – Idlewild (Daniel Sagan)
31 October – The Art of UNIX Programming (Eric S. Raymond)
3 November – M: The Man Who Became Caravaggio (Peter Robb)
8 November – Anathem (Neal Stephenson)
14 November – Tree Spiker (Mike Roselle) – Biography of an Earth First founder. Self-congratulatory and rambling, but a fun way to revisit some of the campfire blowhardery of the world of the “eco-warrior” – a world that is, for good or ill, now firmly behind us. The stories are fun, and I’m sure they’re all true, at least as long as the teller is speaking, but unless you were there, you might have a hard time caring.
19 November – The Hacker Ethic (Pekka Himanen) –
21 November – Expert C Coding (Peter van der Linden)
23 November – Programming On Purpose Vol. 3 (P. J. Plauger) – A collection of essays on people the software business. Plauger is a good enough observer and writer that this retains much interest, despite being out of date by several revolutions’ worth of development.
28 November – The UNIX Companion (Harley Hahn) – An effective guide to UNIX for the low-level user willing to learn the command line. Assumes very little background, but some curiosity.
28 November – My Name is Aram (William Saroyan) – Lovely, this. A perfectly lovely collection of childhood stories, in the same vein that Steinbeck mined for Cannery Row and Tortilla Flat. If there’s a small child handy, they’ll make a good excuse to read these aloud – and they’d read well aloud – but if not, just read them to the cat.
29 November – Decoding the Universe (Charles Seife)
29 November – Hand Me My Travelin’ Shoes (Michael Gray)
2 December – Concentration Camps on the Home Front (John Howard) – A fine example of what’s wrong with history writing today. Truly awful.
4 December – The History of the Personal Computer (Roy A. Allan).
7 December – Armageddon in Retrospect (Kurt Vonnegut). You might expect a “retrospective” and posthumous collection of scattered writings – letters, stories, parables, sketches, what-have-you – to be a less than stellar offering, simply a means to cash in on the recently-departed writer’s last go-round. Wrong – this is probably the strongest collection of Vonnegut’s work I’ve come across. Read it.
10 December – Inversions (Iain M. Banks)
14 December – The Following Story (Cees Noteboom)

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