Bill's Book List

Title, Author, GenreNotes
Der Auftrag--Vom Beobachten des Beobachters der Beobachter, by Friedrich Duerrenmatt. Mystery.  
Bliss And other stories, by Katherine Mansfield. Classic Literature.  
The Hunchback of Notre Dame, by Victor Hugo. Classic Literature.  
War and Peace, by Leo Tolstoy. Classic Literature.  
Das Parfum, by Patrick Sueskind. Modern Fiction.  
Neuromancer, by William Gibson. Science Fiction. Start of the cyberpunk genre.
Schweiz ohne Armee? Eine Palaver, by Max Frisch. Politics.  
Franziska Linkerhand, by Brigitte Reimann. Modern Fiction. Long but unfinished novel set in the GDR.
The Secret Garden, by Frances Hodgson Burnett. Children's Fiction.  
Samuel Pepys' Diary, by edited by Richard le Gallienne. History.  
A Taste for Death, by P.D. James. Mystery. Mystery.
Blood of Amber, by Roger Zelazny. Fantasy. All-time FavoriteReread.
Sign of Chaos, by Roger Zelazny. Fantasy. All-time FavoriteReread.
Knight of Shadows, by Roger Zelazny. Fantasy. All-time Favorite 
Visual Guide to Castle Amber, by Roger Zelazny and Neil Randall. Fantasy.  
Shadow of the Torturer, by Gene Wolfe. Fantasy. Gene displays an amazing vocabulary in this series.
Claw of the Concilator, by Gene Wolfe. Fantasy.  
Sword of the Lictor, by Gene Wolfe. Fantasy.  
Citadel of the Autarch, by Gene Wolfe. Fantasy.  
Der Scherz, by Milan Kundera. Modern Fiction.  
A Distant Mirror, by Barbara Tuchmann. History.  
All the King's Men, by Robert Penn Warren. Modern Fiction.  
Erzaehlungen; Moritaeten; und Legenden, by Bohumil Hrabal. Modern Fiction.  
Traveller, by Richard Adams. Historical Fiction.  
Slaves of New York, by Tama Janowitz. Modern Fiction.  
Bridge of Ashes, by Roger Zelazny. Science Fiction.  
Fear and Loathing: On the Campaign Trail '72, by Hunter S. Thompson. Politics.  
The Garden Party, by Katherine Mansfield. Classic Literature. Not as good as Bliss.
Megalithomania, by John Michell. Archaeology.  
Sister Light, Sister Dark, by Jane Yolen. Fantasy.  
A Thief of Time, by Tony Hillerman. Mystery.  
Endangered Species, by Gene Wolfe. Science Fiction.  
Leonce und Lena, by Thomas Buechner. Classic Literature.  
Little Big, by Alistair Crowley. Fantasy. All-time FavoriteReread.
Knight and Knave of Swords, by Fritz Lieber. Fantasy. All-time Favorite 
Collected Short Stories, by Anton Chekhov. Classic Literature.  
Dave Barry Slept Here, by Dave Barry. Humor.  
The Blessing Way, by Tony Hillerman). Mystery.  
Soldier of the Mist, by Gene Wolfe. Fantasy.  
The Black Throne, by Roger Zelazny and Fred Saberhagen. Fantasy. Poe in alternate worlds.
Loner at the Ball, by Fred Lawrence Guiles. Biography. Andy Warhol bio.
Bridge in the 4th Dimension, by Victor Mollo. Games.  
The Mask of Loki, by Roger Zelazny and Thomas T. Thomas. Fantasy. Fantasy story about Knights Templar and the Assassins.
Frost and Fire, by Roger Zelazny. Fantasy. Short story collection.
Kein Schoener Land, by Elke Heidenreich. Humor.  
Le Nebbie di Avalon, by Marion Zimmer Bradley. Fantasy.  
Der Frauenarzt von Bischofsbrueck (4 volumes), by Alfred Marquart. Humor.  
Skinwalkers, by Tony Hillerman. Mystery.  
Listening Woman, by Tony Hillerman. Mystery.  
The Joy Luck Club, by Amy Tan. Modern Fiction.  
Sister Light; Sister Dark, by Jane Nolen. Fantasy. Very nice fantasy world - part I.
White Jenna, by Jane Nolen. Fantasy. Part II is disappointing as the original characters and setting turn into a stereotypical quest-battle-victory-of-the-good story.
Castle View, by Gene Wolfe. Fantasy. Only bad book Gene ever wrote.
Bring Me the Head of Prince Charming, by Roger Zelazney and Robert Sheckley. Fantasy. Only bad series Zelazny ever wrote.
Beim Naechsten Mann Wird Alles Anders, by Eva Heller. Humor.  
Unicorn Point, by Piers Anthony. Science Fiction.  
A Year in Provence, by Peter Mayle. Travel.  
Indemnity Only, by Sara Paretsky. Mystery. First V. I. Warshawsky book.
Pembroke's Cat, by Philip J. Davis. Humor.  
Das Elefantengrab, by Peter Hoener. Modern Fiction.  
?, by Tony Hillerman. Mystery.  
The Dark Wind, by Tony Hillerman. Mystery.  
Deadlock, by Sara Paretsky. Mystery.  
Tod der Maulwuerfe (People of Darkness), by Tony Hillerman. Mystery.  
The Artificial Kid, by Bruce Sterling. Science Fiction. Sci-fi w flying cameras.
Prince of Chaos (plus all other Merlin books), by Zelazny. Fantasy. All-time Favorite 
King Lear, by Bill Shakespeare. Classic Literature.  
Tao of Pooh, by Benjamin Hoff. Philosophy.  
Bart McDowell (National Geographic), by The Revolutionary War. History.  
Dracula, by Bram Stoker. Classic Literature.  
Pride and Prejudice, by Jane Austen. Classic Literature. All-time Favorite 
Bill, by Harry Harrison & David Bischoff. Science Fiction. The Galactic Hero...On the Planet from the Hippies from Hell.
Wuthering Heights, by Emily Bronte. Classic Literature.  
Madame Bovary, by Gustave Flaubert. Classic Literature.  
Happy Birthday Tuerke, by Jakob Arnouli. Modern Fiction.  
Leaving Home, by Garrison Keillor. Humor.  
The Golden Gate, by Vikram Seth. Modern Fiction. All-time FavoriteBill's top ten choice: a novel in verse that you can't put down.
Seventh Son, by Orson Scott Card. Fantasy.  
Se un Viaggiatore..., by Italo Calvino. Modern Fiction.  
Charlotte Sometimes, by Penelope Farmer. Children's Fiction.  
?, by Sara Paretsky. Mystery.  
Guardian Angel, by Sara Paretsky. Mystery.  
Focault's Pendulum, by Umberto Eco. Weird History.  
Woyzeck, by Georg Buechner. Classic Literature.  
Our Mutual Friend, by Charles Dickens. Classic Literature.  
The Fly on the Wall, by Tony Hillerman. Mystery.  
Moerderische Weihnacht, by Ellis Peters. Mystery. Medieval krimi.
Like Water for Chocolate, by Laura Esquivel. Modern Fiction. All-time Favorite 
The Book of Kells, by R. A. McAvoy. Fantasy. Science fantasy set in old Eire.
Live from Golgotha, by Gore Vidal. Humor. Blasphemic satire.
Jazz, by Toni Morrison. Modern Fiction. Worth Keeping By the black female Nobel winner.
Re Tuono, by ?. Children's Fiction. Italian children's stories.
Un poco Peppone, un poco Don Camillo, by Giovanni Guareschi. Humor. Italian village life.
Schlechte Nachrichten aus dem Vatikan, by Wolfgang Jenschke. Science Fiction.  
Briar Rose, by Jane Yolen. Fantasy. Worth Keeping Retelling of Sleeping Beauty in WW II. Hint: translate the German fairy tale title `Dornroeschen' directly.
The World Jones Made, by Philip K. Dick. Science fiction. Relativism. Jones sees 1yr future.
Kuesschen Kuesschen, by Roald Dahl. Fantasy.  
Coyote Waits, by Tony Hillerman. Mystery.  
Racconti Italiani Moderni, by various. Modern Fiction. German-Italian short story collection.
Die Neuen Leiden des jungen W., by Ulrich Plenzk. Modern Fiction. German Catcher in the Rye...but I'm not convinced.
Beowulf, by ed. ?. Classic Literature.  
Macbeth, by Shakespeare. Classic Literature.  
Lempriere's Dictionary, by Lawrence Norfolk. Weird History. All-time FavoriteBetter conspiracy story than Focault's Pendulum.
Sense and Sensibility, by Jane Austen. Classic Literature. Maybe better than P&P? more realism in motivation, behavior.
Amerika ist ein Freies Land, by Wolfgang J. Helbich, Ursula Boesing. History. Letters from German immigrants in US.
letters from a North German home, by ?. History.  
Briefe aus Amerika, by Wolfgang Helbich, Walter D. Kamphoefner, Ulrike Sommer. History. Letters from German immigrants in US.
Island, by Aldous Huxley. Fantasy. Utopia vs the power-hungry.
Red Prophet, by Orson Scott Card. Fantasy. Vol II of the Tales of Alvin Maker.
Prentice Alvin, by Orson Scott Card. Fantasy. Vol II of the Tales of Alvin Maker.
The Book of Guys, by Garrison Keillor. Humor.  
Don't Know Much About History, by Kenneth C. Davis. History. US History in summary. Bought this in a little bookstore with great coffee in New Hampshire.
In Pursuit of Valis: Selections from the Exegesis, by Philip K. Dick. Biography. Read intro. An edited collection of the religious experiences, hallucinations and musings of Philip K. Dick which became the novels Valis, The Divine Invasion, and The Transmigration of Timothy Archer.
Steel Beach, by John Varley. Science Fiction. Heinlein tribute.
Gli Occhi di una Donna, by Mario Bondi. Modern Fiction. Popular novel of 2 dynasties.
Song of Solomon, by Toni Morrison. Modern Fiction. Black life in cities mid-20th C plus slave genealogy, black mythology.
When Gravity Fails, by George Alec Effinger. Science Fiction. Liked characters but not up to Effinger snuff; part of a series.
Flare, by Roger Zelazny and Thomas T. Thomas. Science Fiction. Massive solar flares after 80-year sun spot absence cause EMF, disasters.
Hard Times, by Charles Dickens. Classic Literature. Good but short (Coketown, teacher Grindgrad, boss Bxxbxxxer, good workers, circus folk).
Great Expectations, by Charles Dickens. Classic Literature. All-time FavoriteGood and long (Miss Haversham left standing at altar, little Pip and his uncle Joe, the escaped convict...).
Die Wahrheit ueber den Fall D. [La Verita sul Caso D.], by Fruttero and Lucentini and Charles Dickens. Mystery. All-time FavoriteA convention on completeness decides on the outcome of the Mystery of Edwin Drood...and more.
Bridge of Birds, by Barry Hughart. Humor. Worth keeping Hilarious pseudo-Chinese legend.
Dickens, by J.B. Priestly. Biography. Picture biography.
Dickens, by ?. Biography. Biography.
Emma, by Jane Austen. Classic Literature. Humorous class-romance novel in English society of 1815.
Alive and Kicking, by Michael Levin. Humor. Gaines family hobby is sueing re inheritances.
Thomas Jefferson: A Life, by Willard Sterne Randall. Biography. Acclaimed biography. My favorite tidbit is that Jefferson learned his French from a Scotsman, so he represented us as Ambassador to France with a distinct Scottish accent. Before the DNA evidence was in, Randall (and most other biographers) scoffed at the Sally Heming's stories as the slander of rivals (which fed the rumors to their newspaper allies).
Kipper's Game, by Barbara Ehrenbach. Modern Fiction.  
L'Amante sensa fissa dimora, by Fruttero e Lucentini. Modern Fiction. All-time FavoriteExcellent love story with supernatural(?) touches.
Moon Shot, by Deke Slayton, Alan Shephard and ghostwriters. Science. interesting stories of brushes with disaster and other behind-the-scenes stuff.
Anna G"oldin: Die Letzte Hexe, by Eveline Hasler. History. Die letzte Frau, die in Europa als Hexe verbrannt wurde war eine Gl"arnerin.
Karl der Grosse, by Thomas R. P. Mielke. History.  
Clans of the Alphane Moon, by Philip K. Dick. Science Fiction. All-time FavoriteRevisiting a classic.
Winnetou, by Karl May. Modern Fiction.  
A Night in the Lonesome October, by Roger Zelazny. Fantasy. Humorous horror fantasy.
Die Stumme Herzogin, by Dacia Maraini. Historical Fiction. A deaf Sicilian duchess's life in the 18th c.
Nightside the Long Sun, by Gene Wolfe. Fantasy. New story supposedly set in same universe as Book of the New Sun.
Darwin for Beginners, by Miller and Van Loon. Science. Account of how Darwin came up with his theories.
Weird Tales from Shakespeare, by Katherine Kerr, Martin H. Greenberg. Fantasy. Sci-fi/fantasy retellings of or stories about Shakespeare.
Il Paleo Morto, by Fruttero e Lucentini. Fantasy. Set in Siena at semi-annual horse race.
Sacred Clowns, by Tony Hillerman. Mystery. Leaphorn and Chee solve murders, advance love lives.
Confessions of an English Opium-Eater, by Thomas de Quincey. Biography. 1820 account of opium addiction and society's views.
All the Pretty Horses, by Cormac McCarthy. Modern Fiction. Modern cowboy western set circa 1950 in Texas and Mexico.
Cartoon History of the Universe II, by Larry Gonick. History. All-time FavoriteThe saga continues.
The Flame Trees of Thika, by Elspeth Huxley. Modern Fiction. English girl grows up in Kenya.
Earth Fire, by Ekkehart Malotki + Michael Lomatuway'ma. World Cultures. A Hopi legend transcribed with appendix on their language.
The Navajo(?), by ?. World Cultures. Definitive work on the Navajo way of life.
Grunts, by Mary Gentle. Science Fiction. The last days from the Orcs' point of view -- awful.
Chung Kuo: The Middle Kingdom, by David Wingrove. Science Fiction. Future history with China dominant in politics and culture.
The Curious Eat Themselves, by John Straley. Mystery. Environmental mystery set in Alaska.
The Lake of the Long Sun, by Orson Scott Card. Fantasy. Part 2: life in a spaceship built for a million people.
Das Halsband der Taube, by Ernst W. Heine. Historical Fiction. Worth Keeping The Templars meet the Assassins.
Enigma in Luogo al Mare, by Fruttero & Lucentini. Mystery. Mystery set at vacation resort on Italy's west coast.
Return to Eden, by Harry Harrison. Science Fiction. What if the asteroid that killed off the dinosaurs had missed?.
Luthers Floh, by E.W. Heine. History. Speculative retellings of historical events, including tale of a flea found in Martin Luther's writings.
Monkey Sonatas, by Orson Scott Card. Fantasy. Fairy tales, fables, short stories, including the excellent "Cross Country Trip to Kill Nixon".
Gullivers Travels, by Jonathon Swift. Classic Literature. The classic. The political satire is largely lost on me, and not very funny.
Der Medicus, by Noah Gordon. Historical Fiction. A young apprentice to a traveling medicine man travels to Persia to become a Medicus, the highest of healers.
Omnivore, by Piers Anthony. Science Fiction. Science fiction about a planet inhabited by only 3 species: one carnivore, one herbivore, one omnivore.
Roadmarks, by Roger Zelazny. Science Fiction. A quick (re-)read: illegitimate son meets father and a sentient book.
The Fires of Jubilee, by Steven R. Oates. History. Very good reconstruction of an 1830 Virginia slave rebellion.
She, by H. Rider Haggard. Classic Literature. The hit of 1887, a science fiction story about an evil immortal priestess in darkest Africa.
100 Years of Solitude, by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. Modern Fiction. Wildly surreal but a little to hard to follow for me (half the men in the book are called Aurelio, the other half Arcadio!).
The Difference Engine, by William Gibson & Bruce Sterling. Fantasy. What would have happened if Babbage's difference engine had been built in the 1800's?.
Rest in Pieces, by Rita Mae Brown and Sneaky Pie Brown. Mystery. Ok mystery.
The Broken Wheel, by David Wingrove. Science Fiction. The Stone Within, and The White Mountain, part of the Chung Kuo series.
Grunes Feuer, by Marnie Mueller. Mystery. Story of a Peace Corps worker who discovers environmental/genocidal disaster in Ecuador's rainforest...not as good as I expected (very 60's oriented although written in 80's; clumsy description of German-Jewish relations today).
A History of English in Its Own Words, by Craig M. Carver. Language and Linguistics.  
Atlas of Language, by Connie Matthews Polinsky. Language and Linguistics. Actually I lost track of when I bought and read this book, but it's a good read and a wonderful reference if you're curious about how languages are structured, how they're related, etc.
The Man in the Ice, by Konrad Spindler. Science. The story of the glacier man Oetzi's discovery and history.
Witchdame, by Kathleen Sky. Fantasy. Tale of young Princess Elizabeth (Bess) in an alternate, magical England **.
Framely Parsonage, by Anthony Trollope. Classic Literature. Must-Read Victorian morality piece a la Jane Austen -- enjoyable, try rest of series ****.
Into the Heart of Borneo, by Redmond O'Hanlon. Travel. Travelogue of scientific expedition into Borneo's jungle ***.
Wicked, by Gregory Maguire. Fantasy. Worth Keeping The true story of Oz's Wicked Witch of the West ****.
The Finishing School, by Gail Godwin. Modern Fiction. Coming-of-age story: teen from the South meets 45-year old intellectual woman in NY. drama. ****.
Blind Justice, by Bruce Alexander. Mystery. First Sir John Fielding mystery as told by Jeremy Proctor. Fielding's bro wrote Tom Jones, Sir John knows Samuel Johnson, etc...late 1700's in London.
A Suitable Boy, by Vikram Seth. Historical Fiction. All-time Favorite 
Calvin and Hobbes: It's a Magical World, by Bill Watterson. Humor. All-time Favorite 
various genealogical/Swiss history works, by ?. History.  
Einstein und Sherlock Holmes, by Alexis Lecaye. Mystery. Holmes and Watson solve a series of murders in Bern, and meet Einstein of the patent office.
Smilla's Sense of Snow, by Peter Hoeg. Modern Fiction. Worth Keeping  
English Country House Murders, by ed. Thomas Godfrey. Mystery. Short story collection, rather disappointing to me.
Lincoln's Dream, by Connie Willis. Fantasy. Fantasy of civil war historian and a girl reliving civil war dreams.
Kleines Reisebrevier, by Fruttero & Lucentini. Fantasy. The history of tourism in the ancient classics - not their best.
The English Patient, by Michael Ondaatje. Modern Fiction. Worth Keeping Good erudite book with history, archaeology, etc but inconclusive ending.
My Cousin Rachel, by Daphne Du Maurier. Mystery. Gothic mystery/romance set in Cornwall near Bodmin, south coast.
Lorna Doone, by R. D. Blackmore. Classic Literature. Love story set in Exmoor near Linton at time of Monmouth's Rebellion in 1685 (?).
The Moonstone, by Wilkie Collins. Classic Literature. For T.S. Eliot the best 19th c. mystery.
Don't Know Much About Geography: Everything You Need to Know About the World but Never Learned, by Kenneth C. Davis. General Non-Fiction. Nice light overview of geography, its history, etc.
Venezianisches Finale, by Donna Leon. Mystery. Venezianisches Finale, first book about Venice's Commissario Brunetti involving an opera director poisoned between acts.
The Thirty Years War, by Christina W. Wedgwood. History. A definitive work untangles the changing alliances and allegiences over three decades, and gives you a feeling how it was for all participants, e.g. the farmers who couldn't plant because their crops would be confiscated, and the farmboy soldiers who sometimes did it in their stead.
Dickens' Fur Coat and Charlotte's Unanswered Letters, by Daniel Pool. History. The lives of the Victorian novelists, the fashions of the day, the development of the publishing industry.
A che punto `e la notte, by Fruttero & Lucentini. Mystery. Polit-mystery set in Turino.
Why is Sex Fun?, by Jared Diamond. Science. A look at the unique evolution of human sexuality in comparison with the other primates, etc.
The Salaryman's Wife, by Sujata Massey. Mystery. Japanese-American mystery, not bad for modern cultural background.
Lord of Light, by Roger Zelazny. Fantasy. All-time FavoriteFuture lords style themselves after the Hindu gods, but Sam reinvents Buddhism; reread after 20 years.
Calde` of the Long Sun, by Gene Wolfe. Fantasy. Part 3(?): ok but not thrilling.
Midnight's Children, by Salman Rushdie. Historical Fiction. Worth Keeping Magical realist view of Indian independence.
Atlas of Literature, by Malcom Bradbury. Language and Linguistics. Actually I lost track of when I bought and read this book, so let's call it 1998. Relates various works of literature from many different periods to the places as they were at the time of the stories and as they are now. E.g. one chapter covers Dicken's London, and Paris shows up in several chapters at different periods. Good to review to adding another element to an upcoming vacation.
The Alienist, by Caleb Carr. Mystery. Worth Keeping An early psychologist solves serial killings in NYC under Teddy Roosevelt's police commissionership.
Hinduism, by ?. World Cultures. .
Europe, by Norman Davies. History. To be honest, I read a few dozen pages of this between other books, so I'm now starting the third year of reading it!.
Chronomaster, by Jane Lindskold. Fantasy. She ain't Roger Zelazny, unfortunately, though she completed this collaboration with her last companion.
Snow Crash, by Neal Stephenson. Science Fiction. Worth Keeping SF with cheeky humour in near future: skateboarders with 'poons; Aleutian biker w A-bomb; hacker pizza Deliverator.
Glyphbreaker, by Steven Roger Fischer. Language and Linguistics. How he cracked both the Minoan Phaestos Disk and the unknown script of Easter Island.
Sawai Jai Singh and His Observatories, by V.N. Sharma. History. Why the 18th century maharaja/scientist brought 17th century astronomy to India.
Der Luegner, by Stephen Fry. Fantasy. Homosexual and other adventures of a young Englishman at school and university.
Linguistic Reconstruction, by Anthony Fox. Language and Linguistics. All-time FavoriteTracing prehistory of languages.
Palimpsest, by Gore Vidal. Biography. Memoirs of Vida with lots of gossip, smut, and name dropping.
God of Small Things, by Arundathai Roy. Modern Fiction. Worth Keeping See Salman Rushdie.
Sewer Gas and Electric, by Matt Ruff. Science Fiction. Worth Keeping Rollicking sci fi.
Geschichte Machen, by Stephen Frey. Fantasy. Worth Keeping Gay time travel story.
Donnerjack, by Roger Zelazny. Fantasy. Worth Keeping His last novel. A worthy end.
The Pope's Rhinocerous, by Patrick Norfolk. Weird History. A good thick read for those with the patience for long descriptions. Not quite the delight that Lempriere's Dictionary was, but good.
Middlemarch, by George Eliot. Classic Literature. Somewhere between Jane Austen and Trollope.
Wilkie Collins, by Lucilla. Classic Literature. I don't remember a thing about this?.
Genetics, by Anna C. Pai & Helen Marcus-Roberts. Science. College textbook from 1981 - interesting but dated.
1 Ragged Ridge Road, by Leonard Foglia, David Richards. Mystery. Mystery set in Franklin County, Pa., where I grew up. My aunt says the two visited Chambersburg, and figured that there must be a mystery to explain why everyone was so mistrustful of them. She says they just don't trust strangers, or anything new in C-burg. Strange place!.
Jane Austen: Obstinate Heart, by Valerie Grosvenor Myer. Biography. Bio.
Gedichte - Verse - Sprueche, by Christian Morgenstern. Humor.  
The Pickwick Papers, by Charles Dickens. Classic Literature.  
The Beekeeper's Apprentice, by Laurie R. King. Mystery. All-time FavoriteSherlock Holmes pastiche.
A Letter of Mary, by Laurie R. King. Mystery. Sherlock Holmes pastiche.
Perfect Happiness, by Rachel billington. Classic Literature. Jane Austen / Emma pastiche.
Der Prinz der Finsternis, by Paul Harding. Mystery. Murder mystery in England at time of Edward I(?).
Tanz an der Limmat, by Roger Graf. Mystery. Mystery set in Zurich.
Guide to the Old Testament, by Isaac Asimov. Archaeology.  
Xtc: Song Stories, by Neville Farmer. Music. The stories behind the songs of Xtc.
Sanditon, by Jane Austen and a lady. Classic Literature.  
Famous Chinese Short Stories, by Lin Yutang. Classic Literature. Loose retellings of 2 millenia of Chinese favorites.
Mesopotamia, by ?. Archaeology. See my notes and scanned pix.
Beneath the Tree of Heaven, by David Wingrove. Science Fiction.  
Alvin Journeyman, by Orson Scott Card. Fantasy.  
A Mind to Murder, by P. D. James. Mystery. Murder at a psycho-clinic with poet-detective Adam Dalgliesh.
Mendel's Dwarf, by Simon Mawer. Modern Fiction. Worth Keeping Great-great-nephew of Gregor Mendel, a dwarf and geneticist, locates the gene for chondroplasty and has an affair, lots of genetics and its history.
A Case of Curiosities, by Alan Kurzweil. Weird History. Worth Keeping Wonderfully weird historic drama of a young inventor from France or Switzerland in the 18th c.
Idoru, by William Gibson. Science Fiction. Near-future sci fi, a rock star marries a virtual pop-idol (Idoru) in Japan.
Wait Until Spring, by John Fante. Modern Fiction. Bandini, story of Italian immigrants in Colorado - didn't really grab me - the Zuri West song is better!.
Life: An Unauthorized Biography, by Richard Fortey. Science.  
Pastwatch: The Redemption of Columbus, by Orson Scott Card. Science Fiction. All-time FavoriteNice blend of time travel and historical fiction.
Haben Tiere ein Bewusstsein?, by Volker Arzt and Immanuel Birmelin. Science. Interesting discussion of techniques for distinguishing instinct and learned behavior from consciousness, summary of and conclusions from scientific studies, and unproven/unprovable personal opinions of the authors.
An Equal Music, by Vikram Seth. Modern Fiction. A somewhat depressive professional musician seeks out the woman he curtly dumped, not up to the excellent standard of his other writing, no woman would put up with this self-center idiot of a character for more than 2 days.
London, by Edward Rutherford. Historical Fiction. Worth Keeping Nice history of London from continental drift to the 20th C. told as tales involving a handful of families.
Jack Maggs, by Peter Carey. Historical Fiction. All-time FavoriteDicken's Great Expectations told as the story of convict Magwich returning from Australian exile - very good.
Bleak House, by Charles Dickens. Classic Literature. Story centering around people whose lives are determined by London's Chancery court; long with much repitition, not his best in my opinion.
A Monstrous Regiment of Woman, by Laurie R. King. Mystery. Sherlock Holmes' female apprentice gets involved with the suffragette movement (and of course several murders) in London in the 1920's.
The Thirteenth Warrior (also published as Eaters of the Dead), by Michael Crichton. Historical Fiction. Worth Keeping Fascinating story edited from fragments of the (real!) 10th century account of an Arab diplomat who is pulled into a Viking quest.
Angela's Ashes, by Frank McCourt. Biography. Autobiography of an Irish boyhood, strips away all romantic preconceptions, depressing and very funny at the same time.
Pattern Recognition, by Robert Schalkoff. Science.  
Koenig Minos..., by Brinna Otto Artemis. Archaeology.  
The Professor and the Madman, by Simon Winchester. History. Making of the Oxford English Dictionary - words, London, Johnson, the U.S. Civil War, insanity - an unbeatable combination!.
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, by J. K. Rowling. Children's Fiction. Cute story but still not sure why it's a phenomenon.
The Moor, by Laurie R. King. Mystery. Sherlock Holmes and wife Mary Russell back on Dartmoor at the house of the Baskervilles.
Cryptonomicon, by Neal Stephenson. Historical Fiction. Two-track story based on cryptography in WW II and present-day business, with Stephenson's characteristic array of odd characters, told in his hilarious ironic science geek style.
The First Eagle, by Tony Hillerman. Mystery. The apparent murder of a Navajo policeman by a Hopi poaching eagles for religious ceremonies brings Jim Chee and the `Legendary Lieutenant' Leaphorn together again.
Days of Bitter Strength, by David Wingrove. Science Fiction. Book VII carries the series beyond enjoyment - death, destruction and sadism dominate, there's little left of future history. And at least book VIII is still to thanks!.
How the Irish Saved Civilization, by Thomas Cahill. History. Worth Keeping A great read: a very personal history combining Greek philosophers, black bishop Aquinas, St. Patrick and the Irish. Cahill's thesis is that since the Irish monks developed a passion for copying manuscripts just before vandals and friends destroyed the continent's libraries, we have the Irish to thank for the survival of much of the Greek and Roman classics.
Watery Grave, by Bruce Alexander. Mystery. Worth Keeping Another good detective story featuring blind magistrate (and historic personage) Sir John Fielding and his ward Jeremy Proctor. This time religious fanatics from the American colonies raise hell in London.
Vendetta, by Donna Leon. Mystery. Donna Leon is the perfect accompaniment for a trip to Venice. The story itself is rather depressing but well told through the eyes of the realistic Commissario Brunetti.
The Venetian's Wife, by Nick Bantock. Fantasy. Fantasy with the same tone as Bantock's well-known.
Rocket Boys: A Memoir, by Homer H. Hickham, Jr.. Biography. Story of growing up in a West Virginia coal town, and escaping it from it by finding out what you want to do in life and going after it. The author ended up at NASA, partly through his personal reaction to the US's Sputnik fears, forming a rocket club.
Heartfire, by Orson Scott Card. Fantasy. Another light read in this alternate/fantasy history of an America where magic works, and a half dozen nations co-exist.
Looking Glass Letters, by Charles Dodgson, edited by Thomas Hinde. Biography. Selected letters of Charles Dodgson.
Tough, Tough Toys for Tough, Tough Boys, by Will Self. Modern Fiction. Well written short stories, a style of his own, but a tad too dark for me. (Count the number of stories where someone ends up dead or in prison.).
Harvest the Fire, by Poul Anderson. Science Fiction. Novella by one of my favorite authors during my teens. Poul is still good, someone who can write `hard' science fiction and shape realistic characters.
A Prayer for Owen Meany, by John Irving. Modern Fiction. Weird book, i.e. written by John Irving. I wonder what the book Cider House Rules is like - the movie seemed quite normal - - and you can't say that about Owen Meany. Story of two kids growing up in New Hampshire, the narrator from a well-to-do family, and Owen Meany from a granite family. Owen is deeply religious and has visions of his death. The narrator is adrift in life. Funny characters. Watered down into a 1998 movie called Simon Birch -
Looking Glass Letters, by Thomas Hinde. Biography. Collected letters of Charles Dodgson/Lewis Carroll, illustrated with originals, including drawings, etc.
Nathaniel's Nutmeg, by Giles Milton. History. Story of the Dutch and English spice trade, including the harsh life at sea, the piracy and war carried out in the name of trade, and the enslavement of entire peoples in the name of wealth. Nominally the story of Nathaniel Courthope and his vain efforts to hold the island of Run against the Dutch, but actually a much bigger picture of the spice trade until its decline in importance when the spices were successfully grown elsewhere.
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, by J. K. Rowling. Fantasy. Cute.
The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, by Laurence Sterne. Classic Literature. Bought this after hearing it was the only novel Thomas Jefferson ever read. The style is very tedious for my taste - the main character who is writing his memoirs is constantly distracted and interrupts his story every few sentences for an aside, which can run to 10 pages. As he notes, the story starts with his conception and doesn't manage to get to his birth volume III, 100 pages later. If edited to suit modern tastes, it could make an amusing movie. At the time it was considered scandalous by many because of its just-short-of-explicit sexual references.
Mason and Dixon, by Thomas Pynchon. Weird History. Worth Keeping Weird book, which I guess all of Pynchon's are. Mixture of fictionalized account of Jeremiah Dixon the surveyor and Charles Mason the astronomer, their lives and exploits together in Cape Horn, St. Helene, and at the Pennsylvania-Maryland-Virginia border. Weaves together lots of local history (often coyly weaving absurd side-trips into the story to work in a few extra characters, such as George Washington. Sorties into nonsense (conversations of a Dutch and an English clock), anachronistic references (if ye partake of the Indian hemp, do not inhale it).
The Great Taos Bank Robbery and Other Indian Country Affairs, by Tony Hillerman. General Non-Fiction. Short accounts written by Hillerman as a journalist give the odd flavor of living in the Southwest.
Jack, Knave and Fool, by Bruce Alexander. Mystery. Fifth Sir John Fielding mystery as told by Jeremy Proctor. The Earl of Laningham drops dead in the middle of a concert - accident or poisoning?.
Leeres Viertel - Rub al Khali, by Michael Roes. Historical Fiction. Interesting subject, but the author takes a perverse pleasure in setting up situations and then leaving gaps at the point where they would have been resolved. The stories all go nowhere. Didn't finish it.
Lord Demon, by Roger Zelazny and Jane Lindskold. Fantasy. Worth Keeping The master in fine form, and presumably the last posthumous publication. Conflict between the parallel worlds of gods and demons flares up. Kai Wren, the only demon ever to kill a god, reluctantly puts aside the crafting of his worlds in bottles to play a part and finds a mate.
Tom Jones, by Henry Fielding. Classic Literature. Bawdy classic with liberal humanist morals. Amusing, but very drawn out (900 pages of partings and reunions, misunderstanding and reconciliations), filled with impossible coincidences.
The Telling, by Ursula le Guin. Science fiction. Well written tale of cross-cultural anthropology on foreign worlds.
The Rachel Papers, by Martin Amis. Modern Fiction. Smart-ass British teen's view of the world and women. This character is not like anyone I ever knew or want to know, so it was hard to develop a real interest in his life.
To Die in Italbar, by Roger Zelazny. Science fiction. Reread another classic from the master. A man who survives a plague and a brush with a supernormal alien can heal or kill.
Devices and Desires, by P. D. James. Mystery. A serial killer terrorizes the countryside in Norfolk where Adam Dalgliesh is getting away from London. Enjoyed this one much more than the other P. D. James I've read. Dalgliesh doesn't do much for me though.
A Taste for Death, by P. D. James. Mystery. An MP and a bum are found in a church with their throats slit. Dalgliesh to investigate.
The Decamaron, by Bocaccia. Classic Literature. A group of 10 young people and during plague time meet in a church and tell one story each for ten days.
Sconosciuti in Treno, by Patricia Highsmith. Mystery. Two strangers meet in a train, one a rich layabout who hates his father, who dreams of committing the perfect crime, the other a talented young architect under the thumb of his shrewish fiance. The former proposes a "perfect crime" wherein two complete strangers each commit a murder for the other. So convinced is he of his idea that he starts the crime himself without the consent or knowledge of the architect.
Filastracco in Sangue per Commissario Cataldi, by ?. Mystery. Mystery set in Modena, Italy, painted in dark colors. The gag: the forensic doctor did it.
The Poisonwood Bible, by Barbara Kingsolver. Modern Fiction. All-time Favoritea missionary family moves to the Belgian Congo in the '60s. The father's zeal and narrow mindedness keeps him from relating to natives has people or understanding their culture. His wife and three very different daughters must learn to survive. Each is irreversible changed by the experience but in very different ways.
Ender's Game, by Orson Scott Card. Science Fiction. Grade school children are trained in computer simulations to fight a war against an alien race.
One for the Money, by Janet Evanovich. Mystery. First novel a series about a young only in Trenton, New Jersey who solves mysteries while working for a bail bondsman.
Traumreisende, by Marlo Morgan. Modern Fiction. While on vacation in Sardinia, we saw this book lying in a public area of a hotel. We took it and left Filastracco in Sangue per Commissario Cataldi in its place. It tells the story of Australian aborigines who were separated from their parents at birth. Told from the point of view of one of the children, the styles very matter-of-fact -- contrasting with the poetry of the aborigines beliefs and way of life.
The Anatomist, by Federico Andahazi. Weird History. The story of the monk who discovered the clitoris but fell victim to his obsession for a prostitute.
Under the Tuscan Sun, by Frances Mayes. Travel. A California professor and her boyfriend buy a house in Tuscany and restore it. Many familiar sites, scents , and quirks of Tuscany and Italy come to life while reading this. The basic concept of this and A Year in Provence as a genre is inevitably pretentious, although we would surely think and say the same things, I'm not sure why someone else would want to read about it in great detail.
Linguistic Reconstruction, by ?. Science. All-time FavoriteFascinating explanation of how dead languages are reconstructed from the clues remaining in modern languages and other languages with a documented history. Tells how inferences can be made about culture and location of the people spoke the language.
Archeology -- a Virtual Journey, by Maurizio Forte, Alberto Siliotti. Science. Two Italian archeologists describe 50 of the world's most famous archeological sites, including computer reconstructions and other advancements of evidence from each.
The Angel of Darkness, by Caleb Carr. Mystery. another mystery featuring Dr. Laszlo ? and his psychological methods of analyzing the personality of the perpetrator to solve a crime. Set again in New York in the time of Teddy Roosevelt.
The One Armed Queen, by Jane Yolen. Fantasy. I read this one in the hospital while having three pins inserted into my left elbow. Entertaining story, but Sister Light, Sister Dark is still the best in a series.
Hunting Badger, by Tony Hillerman. Mystery. Jim Chee gets in trouble with the FBI again, but is helped by the legendary Lieutenant Leaphorn and Sergeant Manuelito,.
The Gaea Trilogy -- Titan / Wizard / Demon, by John Varley. Science Fiction. Incredibly creative science fiction story of an artificial planet, the goddess who rules it, and the first humans to make contact. I reread this after 17 years -- it won't be the last time!.
The Crossing, by Cormac McCarthy. Modern Fiction. A young boy traps a wolf but finds himself unable to kill it. Instead he returns it to the mountains of Mexico and finds his own life changed forever.
Globalhead, by Bruce Sterling. Science Fiction. Read this 5 months ago and already can't recall a thing. Short stories. OK but no keeper.
Der Schamane, by Noah Gordon. Historical Fiction. The Shaman in the original English.
The Postman, by David Brin. Science Fiction. Struggling to survive after nuclear-biological war, an idealist stumbles across a dead postman's uniform. Soon he has invented the myth of the Restored United States whose post office he claims to represent, and the struggling communities of Oregon respond to the vision.
The Chess Garden, by Brooks Hansen. Weird History. Worth Passing On Interesting odd tale of a Dutch doctor who settles in Ohio after various exploits in Berlin, London, and South Africa. Much of the book is told in fantasy stories told in letters written by Dr. Uyterhoven, with allegories to the Dr's real life. Nicely conceived, pleasant to read, but not really gripping; not a keeper.
Farmer im All (Farmer in the Sky), by Robert Heinlein. Science Fiction. Nice 1950's science fiction. Has aged quite well, although the character's general faith in technology seems a bit dated. The technology itself seems plausible, with only an occasional jarring discrepancy with the things we either already have or know to be much more difficult. Follows a family that emigrates from a crowded Earth to colonies on Ganymede where a harsh struggle to terraform the moon is underway.
Orbitsville, by Bob Shaw. Science Fiction. A space captain flees a dictatorial Earth to escape a death sentence, and discovers an enormous artificial planet constructed on the *inner* surface of a non-reflecting sphere the size of a small solar system.
Thus Was Adonis Murdered, by Sarah Caudwell. Mystery. A female lawyer from London with an impressive intellect and absolutely no common sense or grip on reality vacations in Venice, where she sleeps with a beautiful young man who is discovered dead in bed an hour later. Her ivory tower female law professor colleague saves the day with her flawless logic. Amusing but not a keeper.
Down By the River, by Edna O'Brien. Modern Fiction. I'd heard that she told gritty tales of Ireland as it is. I guess that's true, but I found this story of child abuse a waste of time. Weaves in elements of the true story of a young girl legally prohibited from travelling to England for an abortion, and reveals a side of Ireland that many of us romanticize away, but somehow is neither satisfying as social criticism or as entertainment. Read Angela's Ashes instead.
Morgan's Run, by Colleen McCullough. Historical Fiction. Worth Keeping The best thing I've read since Poisonwood Bible, making it the 2nd best read of the year. Only thing I've read by Colleen McCullough, and I never saw the Thornbirds (too much ado at the time turned me off the idea), so a nice introduction to her work. Story of a Bristol gunmaker who is transported on one of the first prison ships to Botany Bay, Australia and Norfolk Island. I've heard the critique that Richard Morgan was too passive and dull a character, but I enjoyed the fact that his character was developed through various changes. The variety of settings (England, shipboard, Australia) makes interesting reading, and there are plenty of interesting supporting characters. She promises to write another volume following the Morgans. Should read one of her Roman novels, which are highly praised.
Schweizer Erzaehlungen??, by ?. Modern Fiction. ?.
A Reporter's Life, by Walter Cronkite. Biography. Uncle Walter relates his career as a print, radio, and pioneer TV journalist. Lots of interesting background, such as the story of how live radio broadcasts of football games were simulated before they were technically feasible. Cronkite.
Life: A User's Manual, by Georges Perec. Modern Fiction. Italo Calvino's quote on the jacket cover made it sound worth reading: "The last real 'event' in the history of the novel so far." The author had the interesting idea of telling the story of the interrlated lives of the people who live in a French apartment building, jumping back and forth through time and stories as he wanders from room to room. One of the characters spends 10 years learning to paint, another 10 travelling the world painting water colors, has them handcrafted into jigsaw puzzles, spends another 10 years assembling the puzzles, separating them from their backing, washing off the color, and burning the remains - thus occupying himself for 30 years without doing anyone any harm. The author packs an amazing amount of detail into the stories, but in the end I really didn't care about the characters or story.
Touche 1000 bis 2000, by Tom Koerner. Humor. Hilarious daily cartoons from Berlin's daily paper TAZ.
Shogun, by James Clavell. Historical Fiction. Worth Keeping Finally getting around to reading this books that's been on my shelves over 15 years awaiting the right mood. Felt like something set in the past and kind of long - I didn't consciously realize I was following on to Morgan's Run with another sea tale - although probably only the first 5 pages will actually take place at sea.
Skipping Christmas, by John Grisham. Humor. Comedy of manners in US suburbia at Christmas. Mostly harmless, but I was rather disturbed by the reaction of the parents when their daughter in the Peace Core falls in love with a wonderful Peruvian doctor - "Do you suppose he has dark skin?" While not unlikely, the reaction seemed out of place in this light story, and there was no hint of disapproval from the narration.
Foundations of Statistical Natural Language Processing, by Christopher Manning and Heinrich Schuetze. Language and Linguistics. Cool overview of statistical NLP, which is of great interest since the development of the Internet and the availability and need to use vast amounts of text.
The Dragon in Lyonesse, by Gordon R. Dickson. Fantasy. Average fantasy story. Aspires to recreate the L. Sprague Decamp's stories of scientists who end up in a world where magic works and take a scientific approach to learn it.
Hogfather, by Terry Pratchett. Fantasy. Part of the Discworld series, which I'm not familiar with. Amusing tale of how Death ends up subbing for the Hogfather, the Discworld equivalent of Santa Claus. Although he has a rather different character, he's determined to do the job well, practicing his HO HO HO constantly, and delivering ponies to the 3rd floor apartments of girls living in the city. Pratchett must be well-read, because although the dust cover bio mentions no science background, his jokes refer to the Heisenberg Uncertainly Principle, paraphrase HAL from 2001: A Space Odyssey, etc, etc.
'Tis, by Frank McCourt. Biography. The second half of his memoirs that began with Angela's Ashes. I would guess that it was originally to be published in one volume, as Angela only becomes ashes at the end of this book. Mom says, "Things didn't get better when he got to New York, did they?" They did, but I can imagine it was always difficult for his wife to live with him - although not a steady drinker by his own account, he seems to have stood up each of his partners repeatedly when someone suggested getting "just one" beer. I suppose I can appreciate in a small degree what it's like to live in a different culture than the one you grew up in. As with the first volume, I think that was the best part of the book, the insight it gives you into the Irish in America, and the burden a Roman Catholic upbringing puts on someone who wants to live in the 20th or 21st century.
The Other Wind, by Ursula K. Le Guin. Fantasy. Marcia's Christmas gift - haven't read any of this series for about 20 years, but I think they've survived the dozen cullings of my library for that time!.
Das Antike Italien, by Furo Durando. Travel. Cool coffee table book on ruins and archaeology in Italy, including pre-historic, Etruscan, Roman and other sites.
Caesar's Women, by Colleen McCullough. Historical Fiction. Worth Keeping Historical novel of Julius Caesar starting after the Gallic Wars(?), covering his long-lived affair with Servilia, Brutus' mother, his daughter Julia's engagement to Brutus, his close relationship with his ambitious, independent mother Aurelia, intrigues in the Senate. I read up a bit on the historical evidence - the book seems to be fairly well grounded, although McCullough had to choose a standpoint on many things. She presents a good consistent picture, where she tries to motivate Caesar's actions based on his character as she understands it. This means she smooths over inconsistencies in favor of her Caesar at times, but it's a good rough guide to how things happened, and is not much further from the truth than any attempt to just repeat the facts. Other major characters: Sulla the dictator, Pompeius Magnus, the self-named Great general, Marcus Tullus Cicero, the great orator and lawyer.
Fortunas Guenstlinge, by Colleen McCullough. Historical Fiction. English title: Fortune's Favorites. The story of Sulla's rise to power in Rome, and of Pompeius Magnus and Julius Caesar.
Caesar - Lass die Wuerfel Fallen, by Colleen McCullough. Historical Fiction. Caesar's Gallic Wars and rise to power, but still far from the end of the series. The series is well written and interesting, but the author is a bit too in love with her material - more compression would improve the books.
Frost and Fire, by Roger Zelazny. Fantasy. I was browsing for information on Zelazny, and came across a web site that shows "24 Views of Mount Fuji, by Hokusai" correlating them with the comments from Zelanzy's short story of the same name. I had to go back and reread this. Of course, Zelanzy's oeuvre was to straddle science fiction and fantasy, so it's often difficult to classify his writing, and even more so when it's a collection of short stories. I'll just go with fantasy and this caveat!.
Dr. Johnson's London, by Liza Picard. History. Another fascinating book on London, similar in spirit to Daniel Pool's "What Jane Austen Ate and Charles Dickens Knew" (which somehow didn't end up in my book list, although I read it before his "Dickens' Fur Coat and Charlotte's Unanswered Letters"). Good coverage of the gin craze, Johnson's environment, plumbing, the life of the poor, the state of medicine, and much more. Filled in details of the time of Morgan's Run very well, showing some of McCullough's specific inspirations, I suspect, like the source of the rum-pissing cat.
The Biggest Tongue in Tunisia, by B. Kliban. Humor. A good one for your genealogy: "When my grandmother first came to this country, the only job she oculd get was strapping toothbrushes on fish. She often wondered about what she was doing, but never dared to ask, as jobs were hard to come by." Classic Kliban. I hadn't realized he died nearly a decade ago.
Thought Contagion, by Aaron Lynch. Science. An introduction to "memetics", or the evolution of ideas that program for their self-retransmission, summarizing the state of knowledge of an idea proposed by Richard Dawkins in The Selfish Gene in 1976. Tries to explain why some ideas by nature spread more easily than other, because the people who hold them have more children, or believing brings benefits to the believers, or the holders of the belief spend more time proselytizing than holders of other beliefs. Interesting, but not gripping, and I still haven't finished the whole thing. Also not always entirely convincing - as with books on evolution, my reaction is often, well, maybe, it could happen that way, but ... Finally finished this one Oct 2002.
Der Rechenmeister, by Dieter Joergensen. Historical Fiction. Worth Keeping Story of mathematician Niccolo Tartaglia (1499-1557) of Brescia and later Venice, who claimed to have solved the cubic equations, but did not publish a solution. He confided his solution in a rival, Cardan, who was able to reconsturuct the proof and publish it in his own name. In the book, Tartaglia is a stutterer (his name means stutterer, and his real surname is apparently not known), which makes his life difficult; Historical sources say it was due to head injuries, (one web page - - says that at 12, he "was dealt horrific facial sabre wounds that cut his jaw and palate" and later "always wore a beard to camouflage his disfiguring scars"), but in the novel it is from the psychological trauma of seeing his mother raped. A little monotonous in its concentration on the stuttering, but still a good read, giving a good feeling for life in 16th century Venice, and into the occupation of the paid mathematician who computed compound interest and other matters of interest to businessmen. The book takes quite a few liberties with the facts, so one shouldn't read it in the same light as a biography.
More Than Human, by Theodore Sturgeon. Science Fiction. Reread this classic. Good story (from the 50's - a full half a century ago!) of human evolution to telepathy and related mutations, and how a compound being results.
Das Mathe-Gen, by Keith Devlin. Science. Discussion of how the human mind evolved to understand grammar and develop language, and presentation of the author's theory that this evolved together with the ability or need to "think offline" about things that are not immediately present, and represents the source of our mathematical abilities as well. The title's not very appropriate. Covers a lot of evolution and linguistics, e.g. Chomsky.
Wizard World, by Roger Zelazny. Fantasy. (Reprint of "Changeling" and "Madwand" in a single volume.) Felt like rereading more from the Master. A typical Zelazny combination of a loner who deals with science and magic. Entertaining.
Creation: Life and How to Make It, by Steve Grand. Science. Interesting discussion of how the author designed the computer game Creatures, where the characters are unique every time it is played, since they are based on a kind of genes that implement a simplified intelligent behavior, but since they are based on certain mechanisms, also provide great individual variation and present many surprises. Grand certainly took a very general approach, and as a result came up with a rewarding result. It would be interesting to play the game - but I haven't decided to shell out the bucks up to now. It has a large following worldwide, apparently, and the company was wise to provide community support, and allow the electronic exchange of characters. The author has moved on to other ventures in artificial life; his web pages on his efforts in robotics are interesting.
Europe, by Norman Davies. History. Worth Keeping Yes, this is already entered for 1998, and I'd already been reading it for 2 years then. I finally finished it 6 years. It was a nice break between other reading. A few details stick with me, but there's so much detail here and I'm so poor at remembering it long-term, that I'll just have to keep it on my shelf!.
Der Unsichtbare Zweite, by Fruttero and Fruttero. Humor. Carlo Fruttero normally writes together with Lucentini as `F&L'. In this case, he writes a satire on Italian politics, which he says don't interest Lucentini at all, so this book is by `F&F'. Fruttero is now 76 years old, I wish him and Lucentini a long life and many more books.
We Can Remember It For You Wholesale, by Philip K. Dick. Science fiction. I've read a story here and there in this collection over the past few years. The stories are from around 1952, when Dick was 24. You can see some of his hallmarks: a rush of ideas, concern with the 'little guy'... His style is not very developed here. Sometimes the exposition of background material comes in the form of somewhat unnatural dialogue. No substitute for later Dick, but interesting. The title story is the basis for Total Recall. As usual, the movie deviates quite a bit from Dick's story. In part, that's necessary to turn a short story into a feature film. I think Total Recall is more faithful to Dick's writing than Blade Runner, in the end, even though it has more than a dash of Hollywood.
The Divine Invasion, by Philip K. Dick. Science fiction. All-time FavoriteI was reading some of Dick's early short stories, and wanted to see if his later style was really better, as I recalled. And it was. This was written in 1981, the year before he died. As in nearly every Philip K. Dick book, reality and illusion was a theme. This book came after a religious experience he had in the 70's, and is concerned with Jewish and Christian theology, neatly packaged into a science fiction framework. I enjoyed revisiting it 20 years later.
Vanity Fair, by William Makepeace Thackeray. Classic Literature. Vanity Fair falls somewhere between Jane Austen and Charles Dickens for me. "Vanity Fair" represents English upper class society. Thackeray points out the flaws in all of his characters, no matter where in society they come from. The oh-so-saintly widow raising the son of her rogue husband is pointed out to be rather simple in intellect and fantastic in the image of her husband she paints for herself. The fact that he pokes fun everywhere makes the book fun. The story is not really able to support the over 650 pages here, but it was written for newspaper installments, so people read it in chunks, and the anticipation plus the chance to forget details that would then be repeated in a later installment surely gave it a different feeling to a reader of Thackeray's time.
The Great War: American Front, by Harry Turtledove. Alternate History. One Dad passed on to me: The starting point for this alternate history is that both the French and British side with the South in the Civil War, leaving the North allied solely to Germany. Lee and his generals make short work of McClellan. A later war is fought when the South conquers enough of Mexico to win a Pacific coastline. This novel starts with the assassination in Serbia that started World War I. In this case, the USA and Germany fight together in two different theaters. While Germany fights France, England, and Russia in Europe, the USA fights the CSA and Canada.
Golden Gate, by Vikram Seth. Modern Fiction. Again.
Doorways in the Sand, by Roger Zelazny. Science fiction. All-time FavoriteWent to reread this and couldn't find it - 'fess up, who borrowed it and didn't return it? Bought a copy of the same printing via Amazon's auctions. SF with a heavy dose of humor. Charv and Ragma are two of the greatest cops in fiction, especially under cover as a wombat and a kangaroo.
Sounds of the River, by Chen Da. Biography. Chen Da (or Da Chen when he's in the USA) tells of his life from winning admission to Beijing Language Institute and leaving his fishing village to graduating and getting a job as professor at a US Christian college. This guy is not only a great story teller, but a wonderful mixture himself of humility, self-confidence, naivete, a nice guy and a driven achiever.
The Blue Afternoon, by William Boyd. Modern Fiction. Worth Passing On Interesting tale set in the 30's in California, Portugal and the Phillipines. A young woman interrupts her struggling career as an architect to help a man who claims to be her father follow up a mystery and lost love from decades before.
Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy / Restaurant at the End of the Universe / Life, the Universe, and Everything / So Long and Thanks for All the Fish / Mostly Harmless, by Douglas Adams. Science Fiction. All-time FavoriteReread. I've listened to the radio shows on tape several times since reading the books, and found I've forgotten most of what's not in the radio version. (It only covered the first two volumes, as I recall.) Good stuff.
Flow My Tears, the Policeman Said, by Philip K. Dick. Science Fiction. Reread after seeing The Minority Report. I had a particular Dick novel in mind...and this wasn't it. Interesting, but not my favorite - the story of a well-known TV star who wakes up in a world where no one knows him, and he has no identification - and no identity - in a police state. What is real is the eternal Dick theme. Here he speculates about drugs that change not only your perception of reality, but reality itself.
We Can Remember It For You Wholesale / The Minority Report, by Philip K. Dick. Science Fiction. After seeing The Minority Report, I borrowed the collection of stories that contains "The Minority Report", and read it and finally finished the collection "We Can Remember It For You Wholesale", which is named for the story that inspired the movie Total Recall. Both mostly have stories from the 50's. I think they give a somewhat different flavor than the novels.
50 Klassiker Paare, by Barbara Sichtermann. General Non-Fiction. A nice collection of essays and life stories of famous lovers of literature and history, starting with Adam and Eve, and ending with Leo di Caprio and Kate Winslet's characters in Titanic. Interesting reading, sort of a miniature course in world literature, with lots of stuff you didn't know, starting with the legends of Adam's first wife, Lilith.
Sobrietas, by Ad Visser. Science Fiction. Dutch science fiction write Ad Visser wrote both this novel and an album to go with it. The main character has rented a cabin in a remote area to finish writing a non-fiction book, when he stumbles into a conflict with aliens, and ends up abducted by a would-be allie to protect him from assassins. Soon he is on an alien world in a city built in tree-tops and run by a religious mafia - and before you know it, he's inciting riot against the system there.
The Prince of Tides, by Pat Conroy. Modern Fiction. Also a movie with Barbara Streisand - yuck! Best not to think about that. In fact, I was glad I didn't know about the casting when I read the book. A reasonably good read about the damages done to children in a screwed-up family and the echoes in the relationships of those same people as adults.
Promise of the Earth, by Clive Irving. Historical Fiction. One that had been sitting on our shelves for over a decade waiting for a reader, namely me on vacation in Thailand. A good read about the Middle East at the time of World War I and the intrigues of the British, including various appearances by T.E. Lawrence (Lawrence of Arabia), the Balfour Declaration by a British ministry calling for a Jewish homeland in Palestine, and all the powers of today's Middle East as pawns on the European chessboard.
Martin Chuzzlewit, by Charles Dickens. Classic Literature. Written in the 1843-4 after his first visit to the USA. Includes many a parody of arrogant, money-grabbing Americans, and expresses indignation and unbelief that a country that prides itself on its freedoms can sanction slavery. The book has a central theme of greed and its consequences - all the more interesting when you know that he wrote A Christmas Carol right in the middle of Chuzzlewit. The critics see this book as marking the start of Dicken's mature style and penchant for grand sweeping stories. Characters include Martin Chuzzlewit, Sr. the rich patriarch of a family whose members are chiefly concerned with getting a share of the fortune; Martin Chuzzlewit, grandson of the elder Chuzzlewit, a selfish and arrogant young man, though basically good at heart; Mary Graham, the orphan who is paid to care for Martin, Sr and is engaged to Martin Jr, but who remains a cardboard cutout of the loving victim; Tom Pinch, the eternal optimist, who idolizes his employer, the arrogant Mr. Pecksniff, who is another Chuzzlewit relation and golddigger; Mark Tapley, the jolly innkeeper who feels he's not achieving anything if he doesn't live in the worst of circumstances to challenge his natural good nature; Jonas Chuzzlewit, grasping sadistic nephew of Martin Sr; and Sairey Gamp, the boozing nurse who asserts she might just touch her lips to the bottle if you left it on the chimneypiece. And those are only a few. Available online at and many other places, although nothing replaces having a book in the hand!.
The Doors of His Face, the Lamps of His Mouth, by Roger Zelazny. Science Fiction. Collected short stories from the 1960's, including the cover story and "A Rose for Eccliastes". Showcases Zelazny's poetic style and broad knowledge of other cultures.
Reif fuer die Insel (Stories from a Small Island), by Bill Bryson. _. Amusing if somewhat monotone tour of his farewell tour through the UK before returning to his native USA (after 10+ years in England). The humor's a bit sophomoric at times, but he also lives out some of your fantasies (mostly in his mind, but occasionally for real), like responding to the McDonald's guy who asks "Would you like apple pie with that?" "Do I look like have some kind of mental disease that keeps me from ordering apple pie when I want it?" Bryson is a defender of the beauty of the old Britain that is too often destroyed to make way for anonymous concrete shopping centers and office buildings. He's well versed in English history and literature. The real day-to-day incidents of finding a decent reasonably priced hotel (and usually failing on the one or other count) make a connection to your own experiences, but also become a bit tedious the 20th time.
Laos - Aufbruech am Mekong, by Heinz Kotte and Ruediger Siebert. World cultures. Saw this at the library and realized how little I know about Laos, although we visited neighboring Thailand recently. The opening section describes the huge stone urns that litter the plains of Laos (in one of the many areas still plagued by U.S. land mines), and were created at great expense and trouble, and the current theory that they were burial urns, on the theory that most early civilizations spend a lot more on their dead than their living, and backed up by similar practices and evidence of human bones in some urns. The book describes how the original Laotian inhabitants were pushed into the mountains by the migration of the Tai Kadai (?) folk from China and Mongolia. It details the history of Laos, e.g. the Lane Xang Hom Khao (One Million Elefants and the White Umbrella) dynasty started in 1371. When the European powers started grabbing chunks of Siam, the Thai kings ended up with a big chunk of Laos (details not really explained - was this a sort of exchange, a carving up of spheres of influence?). Today Laos has a mixture of many races, all of which occupy areas that extend outside Laos' borders, making for a touchy situation in which any demands of an ethnic group are felt to challenge the cohesion of the nation. Of course the biggest influences on modern Laos were the "secret" U.S. bombing during the Vietnam war when the U.S. (i.e., Nixon and Kissinger) felt that Laos was a base for attacks on the U.S. and South Vietnamese forces; and the ascent to power of a socialist government after the war, ending in a plutocratic oligarchy that resists all reforms because of their personal losses in money and power. Today Loas is among the poorest countries in the world, and foreign aid is not effective in helping it. I skimmed the book - maybe these notes will help me remember what I read.
A Beautiful Mind, by Sylvia Nasar. _. After seeing the movie, I thought I should read the book and learn the real story. Some reviews alluded to significant differences, and there are enough that I find it rather annoying that Hollywood presents this as the biography of a man, rather than as semi-fiction.

" John Nash was the bright, competitive, not very social child of an engineer in West Virginia, who ended studying mathematics at the Carnegie Institute (now Carnegie-Mellon, I believe). His characteristic style was to look at a mathematical problem anew and largely ignore all other work that had been done on it, and this (and the beautiful mind of the title) often led him to very surprising, original solutions, as for instance in the game theory work that became his thesis and 40 years later won him the Nobel prize. As he was very concerned about getting recognition for his brilliance, Nash often chose problems that were well-known and though to be insoluble. Nash was eccentric, which was not unusual in mathematical circles, and indeed was often seen as a proof of talent. The movie scene of him riding a bicycle in figure eights is taken from the book. That, or whistling, or just lying somewhere and staring, put him into the frame of mind to solve problems.

" What the movie omits is that many of his earlier relationships or attempts at such were homosexual, although Nash apparently didn't think of himself as homosexual. Also omitted are a long-standing (and rather one-sided) relationship with a nurse that resulted in his first son named John, John David Stiers. He never offered to marry the woman, nor to help with any of the costs of giving birth, nor to support the child. He was interested in his son, and in the fact of being a father, but he was not very good at it. Until much later in his life, the book gives the impression that he only knew how to take in a relationship. The relationship that the movie focues on with Alice __ is real and extraordinary, but parts have been romanticized that didn't fit cleanly into the thesis of the movie: for instance, that when his schizophrenia became too much to deal with (at a point long past that where most other people would have given up), she divorced him. After depressions of her own, she did eventually take him in again to offer him a stable environment, which she said later she felt was key to his eventual remission. After his Nobel prize, they remarried. A remarkable romance, but not what is portrayed in the movie.

" The author speculates that after various remarkable mathematical achievements, he tackled a problem (Riemann's Last Hypothesis?) that is perhaps insoluble, and did not lend itself well to his particular method. In ignoring all previous work, he pursued avenues that have been shown not to work. His unusual ability to concentrate on a single problem over months and years served him well in other cases, but in this case may have isolated him in a frustrating situation that provided fertile ground for his schizophrenic tendencies to emerge.

" When they did emerge, they took a rather different form than shown in the movie. Rather than see imaginary people, he became obsessed with avoiding the draft (although he was old enough not to be in danger thereof), which led to a quest to give up his American citizenship and become a world citizen. Eventually he thought he was in touch with aliens. He believed he was "Job, a slave in chains, the Emperor of Antarctica and a Messiah."

" As shown in the movie, Nash was hospitalized (actually several times) by his wife, and did respond temporarily to insulin shock therapy. Later thorazin also helped. He never had electroshock therapy, and his wife was concerned that more extreme treatments would affect his mathematical talents. From the movie I had the impression that his schizophrenic episode lasted about 2 years, after which he returned to work. In fact it lasted around 2 decades. His colleagues at Princeton and elsewhere were amazingly supportive, finding research jobs for him to support himself in the early days when his good spells still allowed him to work. Later he was left alone when he wandered around Princeton campus, scribbling mathematical- religious messages. Someone showed him how to use the computer, and faculty helped him to get an account. At first he used the computer to factor the names of various world figures into primes and derive religious meaning from them. As he was able to slowly recognize and let go of his obsessions, the computer work slowly became a research tool. Although he didn't regain his original brilliance, he started to do interesting research again. His tragedy is that he knows what he lost. Studies say that 8-25% of schizophrenics recover over a period of 20 years, but 25% die before that, many of suicide.

" In an interview, Sylvia Nasar commented on the screenplay that "by concentrating on Alicia's loyalty and the kindness of fellow mathematicians, Akiva has focused on those things that really made a real difference in how Nash's life turned out." Now he and his wife care for their son John, who is also schizophrenic. Definitely worth reading. See also Nasar's online article at
A Wild Sheep Chase, by Haruki Murakami. Modern Fiction. Wonderfully bizarre adventure story of a 30-year-old in Japan whose life is turned upside down after he uses a photo of a sheep as marketing material.
Seabiscuit, by Laura Hillenbrand. History. The colorful characters in this story, brought to life by Laura Hillenbrand on the basis of extensive interviews with the last living people who knew them, illuminate a largely forgotten bit of history. The horse Seabiscuit was of the line of Man' o War but of an unlikely (ungainly!) build for a racehorse. As an underdog he and his jockey Red Pollard overcame injuries and staggering handicaps to win every major racing event and beat out the other heir to Man o' War's crown, War Admiral. The outgoing owner Charles Howard and the taciturn trainer, one of the last cowboys, Tom Smith, and Red's friend and replacement jockey George Woolf are a few of the large cast of interesting characters. The author worked under the burden of a debilitating condition (chronic fatique syndrome) such that she could not leave her single room apartment for most of the writing of the book.
Just For Fun, by Linus Torvalds and David Diamond. _. Light read telling the story of how the open source operating system Linux came to be written by Finnish geek Linus Torvalds. Linus is in turn amusingly self-deprecating and self-confident. He tells of how a student in his computer class completed the assignment of sending him, the instructor, an e-mail by asking him for a date, and eventually became his wife. Encounters with well known characters like Steve Jobs are enlightening - Jobs could not put himself into someone else's place long enough to think that anyone else could have another goal than increasing Apple's market share. In the end Linus ends up a BMW driver, but still acts as leader of Linux development while working at secretive Transmeta. Worth the quick read that it is, but nothing indispensible.
Follow the River, by James Alexander Thom. Historical Novel. True story of Mary Draper Ingles, a pioneer woman who was kidnapped when Indians attacked her community in Virginia in 1755 and took her 1000 miles down the O-y-O or Ohio River, from where she escaped with a Dutch woman and walked the 1000 miles back according to her memory of the route, arriving on the brink of starvation after months of living off of anything that could be found. A truly amazing woman, and a fascinating look at both pioneer and Indian (Shawnee) life during the time of the French and Indian War.
Grieche sucht Griechin, by Friedrich Duerrenmatt. _. Thought it was time to reread one of the first books I read in German on coming to Switzerland 17 years ago. I'm no longer as big a Duerrenmatt fan as I was then, but it was good to revisit this social satire. The other story in the volume, Mr. X macht Ferien is unfinished, but quite amusing.
Outlaw Red, by Jim Kjelgaard. _. I loved Jim Kjelgaard's books as a kid, and thought it was time to revisit them. I found one of my own original paperbacks from the Scholastic Book Service at my Mom's house. Kjelgaard was a good writer - he knew how to tell a story well and put you into the mind of an animal quite believably. No wonder I loved these books.
Aztec, by Gary Jennings. _. Good historical novel of the Aztecs (or Mexica). The young Mixtli (Dark Cloud) is fascinating by the picture writing used by the governing class, and his attempts to learn it bring him into contact with kings and more. At times a sort of Gulliver's Travels covering much of Mexico and Guatemala, the story covers an amazing range of peoples, their languages, histories, and legends, and the fatal encounter of all of them with Cortez. Over 1000 pages of good reading. The author died 5 years ago - and it's a shame when you just discover a good author to find out that there won't be any more books coming from him. But he wrote quite a few historical novels, including one on Marco Polo that sounds quite good, one or more books on the American Civil War, and a sequel to Aztec, called Aztec Autumn. Readers warn against buying Aztec Blood, which is labeled as "by Gary Jennings", but actually written by his notes by an unnamed writer to make more money for his estate.
Death of a Colonial, by Bruce Alexander. Historical Mystery. Another enjoyable tale of Sir John Fielding, the blind magistrate, and his young charge, Jeremy Proctor. In this story, the young Lawrence Paltrow suddenly appears in London to claim his inheritance as heir to the late Lord Laningham, but his claim is in doubt, and soon tangled up with murder and kidnapping.
The Anger of God, by Paul Doherty a.k.a. Paul Harding. Historical Mystery. Petra's favorite mystery series with Brother Athelston and coroner Sir John Cranston.
By Murder's Bright Light, by Paul Doherty a.k.a. Paul Harding. _. Petra's favorite mystery series with Brother Athelston and coroner Sir John Cranston. A greedy, cruel sea captain dies mysteriously. Then the entire watch of his ship disappears while at anchor in London. Another greedy merchant is stabbed in his chambers. Is there a connection?.
The House of Crows, by Paul Doherty a.k.a. Paul Harding. Historical Mystery. Petra's favorite mystery series with Brother Athelston and coroner Sir John Cranston. In the spring of 1380, members of parliament from Shropshire, who are meeting to consider the Regent's request for new taxes, are mysteriously murdered. A message on parchment, a candle, and X's carved in the faces of the victims indicate a secret society. On top of that, a series of robberies plunders the houses of rich merchants who are traveling - with no signs of breaking and entering. Finally, the cats of Cheapside are disappearing, and a daemon is sighted at Athelston's church.
The Assassin's Riddle, by Paul Doherty a.k.a. Paul Harding. Historical Mystery. Petra's favorite mystery series with Brother Athelston and coroner Sir John Cranston.
The Moon and Sixpence, by W. Somerset Maugham. Historical Fiction. Novel based on the life of Gaugin - wonder how much of it is accurate? The main character here, Charles Strickland, lives a quiet normal life, in a conventional marriage with several children, until he suddenly disappears to Paris in middle age to become a painter, not saying a single word to his wife. He lives a life of near poverty, but doesn't even to notice his surroundings. He treats the people around him badly, but his few friends also have themselves to blame, since he never gives any sign he will treat them otherwise. Eventually he emigrates to Tahiti, where a local inkeeperess matches him with a local woman. He paints in solitude, eventually painting the walls of his own home in a madly ingenious mural.
A Pair of Blue Eyes, by Thomas Hardy. Fiction. Nice melodramtic Victorian novel of the difficulties of getting married. Partly biographical, according to the intro, as Hardy was also a journeyman architect whose mentor didn't see him as an equal.
Dance Dance Dance, by Haruki Murakami. Modern Fiction. In retrospect, this sequel to A Wild Sheep Chase was somewhat disappointing, but I couldn't put it down until I'd finished it. The protagonist is back and confused by life as ever; the Sheep Man plays an important role again; the unnamed "girlfriend" who brought our hero to the Dolphin Hotel in the first part is back, and we even find out her name - maybe.
The Wailing Wind, by Tony Hillerman. Mystery. Picked up the latest in the US. Jim Chee, retired Lieutenant Leaphorn, and cute Bernadette Manuela are back to solve a murder involving a rich miner who served time for murdering a business associate, his wife who disappeared at the time of the murder, and a new body discovered years after the original incident.
The Black Throne, by Roger Zelazny and Fred Saberhagen. Fantasy. Parallel worlds story involving Edgar Perry, Edgar Allan Poe, and the beautiful Annabelle Lee. Not as good as a pure Zelazny book, and not as good as I remember their other collaboration Coils to be. I'll have to reread that and compare.
Dawn, by Octavia E. Butler. Science Fiction. First book of the Xenogenesis story. Butler creates some intriguing aliens who help humanity pick up the pieces after a nuclear war, but at the price of genetically mixing their race and ours. Looks to be a good series.
Speaker for the Dead, by Orson Scott Card. Science Fiction. Octavia E. Butler got me in the mood for some more science fiction... I always enjoy Card's books. He writes about personalities and relationships as few men can. Here Ender (of Ender's Game - this is the 2nd Ender book) heads for the planet Lusitania, a colony of Portugeuese-speaking Catholics on the only planet where an intelligent race has been found since Earth's force wiped out the insect-based "buggers" in the first space war. Are the primitive but clever piggies in danger of being wiped out? What happens when they kill the xenologist who is studying them? Ender answers a call for a Speaker for the xenologist, and becomes intimately involved in the fate of the piggies and the colonists. The quote below reminds me of the (to my mind) horribly inappropriate eulogy of a near-saint that was given for my very human grandmother Kelly, and the honest one given for my father by a woman who didn't know him, and could only tell what she saw reflected in his family and the stories my mother told her.
Technology in the Ancient World, by Henry Hodges. Archaeology. Cool book written 1970 about technology developed from the stone age through the Romans. What techniques were used? Who made new discoveries, and where? Why were inventions made in one place and time, and not another? Who borrowed from whom? Did technology from Asia reach North America?.
Benjamin Franklin, by David Freeman Hawke. Biography. Biography of Franklin from his birth in Boston until 1776. Franklin's papers from after that period were only partly published, but hinted at 100 volumes, and the author decided that others could tell that story better, and that he didn't want to spend the next 10 years finishing the book. So far I've learned that Franklin was a vegetarian, ambitious, and vain. The author sheds little light on Franklin's extra-marital affairs, other than that there seem to have been quite a few (he had an illegitimate son by the time he was 20 or so), and that he was perhaps even more a flirt when he was 70.
Flowers for Algernon, by Daniel Keyes. Science Fiction. Another classic reread. Enjoyed it as much this time around. Yes, I am a sucker for the sentimental, so I find the story of a retarded man who becomes a genius through an experimental treatment, only to realize that he and the laboratory mouse, Algernon, are to sink back to their original mental levels. The book deals well with the separate development of book and emotional intelligence, with Charly sometimes able to understand his situation intellectually long before he can deal with his feelings about it.
The Lovely Bones, by Alice Sebold. Modern Fiction. This is a tough read, from the opening sentences on: "My name was Salmon, like the fish; first name, Susie. I was fourteen when I was murdered on December 6, 1973. ... This was before kids of all races and genders started appearing on milk cartons." And the murder was a brutal, perverted one. The story is about the effect this has on Susie's friends and family, and is mostly told by Susie looking down from her individual heaven, which is largely modeled on her dream of starting high school soon. I have my doubts that some of the characters would behave as they did, but that doesn't stop me from enjoying a good story where the author has found a fresh way to tell it.
Darwin's Ghost, by Steve Jones. Science. The cover says that Jones is the UK's Carl Sagan. I might have said its Steven Jay Gould, given the fact that he's writing about evolution here. Jones greatly admires Darwin and his prose, but acknowledges that its victorian prolixity is not to today's taste. Furthermore, the study of evolution has uncovered so many interesting phenomena and patterns since Darwin's times, that he wants to show the modern reader how Darwin reached his conclusions based on accurate observation and a gift of combination, and how they have held up to the developments of over a century. The book includes the usual fascinating tales of nature's variety and wonder, and in such a density that you can't remember even a fraction of them. The book is structured into the same chapters as Darwin's The Origin of Species, including his original end-of-chapter summaries. In a fascinating tidbit, Jones reveals that the word "evolution" is never used in The Origin of Species; at that time, the word was used exclusively to refer to the development of young people and animals.
Seen Gothic Tales, by Isak Dinesen. Fiction. I read these over the period of a year or two or three, using them as filler between novels, which hold my attention better. Being gothic tales, they hint at dark fate intervening in puny human lives. The author is the Danish woman, Karen Blixen, whose life is told in the movie and her book Out of Africa.
The Mysterous West, by Tony Hillerman, editor. Mystery. This is a nice collection of short mysteries that is united only in that they all happen west of the Missippi (although I think even that point is stretched in a story that occurs in Wisconsin). Many of the stories are quite amusing, but they run the whole gamut. I'm not familiar with any of the authors.
Horse Heaven, by Jane Smiley. Modern Fiction. This covers some of the same ground as Seabiscuit does in non-fiction, namely the whole set of odd characters, the rich and the poor, who are involved in horse racing. Luckily the book beginnings with an index of the characters, otherwise you'd be lost as the story switches back and forth between roughly 5 horses and their stables, owners, trainers, breeders, fans; and covers the affairs, depressions, finances, and other human problems of the whole crew.
White Teeth, by Zadie Smith. Modern Fiction. Amusing story of English immigrants and how they visit their problems on their children. The unlikely pairing of Archibald Smith with a young English-Jamaican girl seems to work out more or less, even though he spends every night at the pub with his army colleague Samad Iqbal of "Bangladesh, formerly East Pakistan, formerly India, formerly Bengal". Samad went to university in Dehli, but in England he can't manage to get higher than head waiter in his cousin's restaurant. Add in Samad's 25 year younger wife, their children, the identical but so different twins Magid and Mallitt, Archie and Clara's daughter Irie (from Jamaican for no problem), the intellectual Chalfen family, the militant Islamic group KEVIN, the Jamaican Jehovah's witness grandmother, and it's a real blast. Smith is a good observer with an ear for England's many accents, and a funny turn of phrase.
The Warden, by Anthony Trollope. Classic. A small-town preacher is warden of a hospital for the elderly poor who can no longer work as woolcarders in the local textile factories circa 1850. A young man in town starts a crusade to have the very lavish salary of Mr. Harding, the warden devoted to the poor inmates of the hospital instead, especially now that a century's growth in property values and so on have turned the former pittance into a proud pile. Of course, this young man also wishes to marry the warden's daughter. The story of marriages and English pastors reminds me of Jane Austen, but he has a different way of characterizing people, always emphasizing that they have flaws and virtues. He differs from Dickens in that, but does remind me of him at times. In The Warden he takes potshots at Dickens, claiming that his caricatures in Martin Chuzzlewit have defamed many an honest nightnurse.
Barchester Towers, by Anthony Trollope. Classic. This is a later book in the same series as The Warden. Archdeacon Grantly narrowly misses becoming bishop upon the death of his father, the bishop. A grand battle in the conflict between high church (the Catholic-like aspect of the Church of England, though God forbid one should ever mention the evil papists in the same breath) and low church (where plainness, strict observance of "no fun" on the Sabbath, etc count). Mr. Harding of The Warden is back, along with his daughter, now the widowed Mrs. Bold, and his other daughter, Mrs. Grantly. The new bishop Mr. Proudie is a poor excuse for a man who is torn between the wills of his domineering wife and her ambitious low church protege Mr. Slope. Slope's efforts to shake up the community from its lax practices send the absentee pastor, Dr. Vesey Stanhope, scurrying home from decades in Italy. His family is a comic addition to the community, especially his good-for-nothing spendthrift son Bertie, and his daughter Madeline, who styles herself Signora Madeline Neroni, a beauty crippled by the husband who beat and abandoned her, but still a master (or mistress) of seduction.
An Eye for an Eye, by Anthony Trollope. Classic. A later, non-Barchester novel from the 1870's, where a thoughtless, selfish young man is adopted by his uncle, an Earl, to be heir to the title. His ideas of `adventure' lead him to ruin a beautiful young Irishwomen, Kate O'Hara. More serious than the Barchester books; there's still a preacher in the story, but in a minor role, and this time a Catholic priest.
The Cider House Rules, by John Irving. Modern Fiction. After seeing the movie, which struck me as a heartwarming but relatively normal story, I thought I should read the book to see if it has the usual Irving oddities. It does, to a much greater extent than the movie. The book spans 30 years or more, which the movie compresses considerably, entirely omitting Homer Wells' son and several other major characters, such as the orphan girl Melony. The many medical details of the book are based on Irving's grandfather's medical textbooks of the 30's and 40's. A doctor also reviewed all of the details for accuracy. The book is a plea for women's choice, i.e. the choice of whether to have an abortion or not. I enjoyed the constant references to Dicken's David Copperfield and Great Expectations and to Jane Eyre (Dr. Wilbur Larch of St. Cloud's orphanage believed that the children should be read to each night, but only stories about orphans). I'd recommend both the book and the movie ( with the excellent casting of Tobie Maguire as Homer Wells).
True History of the Kelly Gang, by Peter Carey. Historical Fiction. Fictionalized account of the life of Ned Kelly, told in his own words. The story doesn't quite match what is told at the interesting Ned Kelly web site, . And the letters reproduced at that site have somewhat better grammar, e.g. "I was" instead of "I were" as in Carey's novel. Still, by telling the story from Ned's point of view, you can see how he saw things (and much of that is documented historically).

" I enjoyed Carey's Jack Maggs much more.
Herz auf Eis, by Louis P. Laskey. Mystery. Subtitled "Ein Quast & Quimby-Kriminalroman", i.e. a Quast & Quimby mystery. The setting is a bit hard to figure out - the names are English and assorted, Quimby attempts to be a traditional English gentleman on a low-budget detective's income, so you would think the setting is England, but there are references to "this alpine republic" or some such, and the publisher is Swiss. Also some references to songs and so on refer to German songs, and there is no mention of a translator. What does one do in such a case in 2003: hit Google!

" And there we come up with a SonntagsZeitung (the Sunday sister newspaper of Zurich's Tages Anzeiger) article that interviews Neu Zuercher Zeitung journalist Peter Haffner, who is the man behind the pseudonym Louis P. Laskey. "Insgesamt sind 23 Folgen geplant - alle fuenf bis zehn Jahre wird eine erscheinen", says the seldom-serious Haffner.

"Quimby and Quast are typically quirky mystery novel detectives. Quast is of the Mycroft Holmes type, at least in that he hates legwork, relies on his partner and people who come to him for information, and is very round. Of course Mycroft didn't spend his nights drinking and hanging out with loose women. Quimby is more the timid sort, always having problems with his girlfriend Imelda, a strict and humorless vegetarian (which is not the only kind, right, Petra?). He loves the accoutrements of travel, and owns a dozen or more complete sets of suitecases, shaving kits, first aid kits, travel alarms, and so on, which he packs and repacks for pleasure without ever going anywhere. (How could he on his budget?)

"The mystery here revolves around a woman who suddenly shows up at the detective office announcing that she has murdered her lover, cut him into bits, and had the bits cremated at various veterinarians, passing them off as deceased cats. Shortly thereafter she's arrested and appears in the scandal sheets with quite a different story - but see the book for details.
The Grass is Singing, by Doris Lessing. Modern Fiction. A friend of a friend bought this book for a college literature course and left it at my apartment 15 years ago. It was written in 1950 and is a a plea for treating native South Africans as human beings. Obviously Lessing was 40 years ahead of her time. Early in the book, she describes how newly-arrived English have a sense that the black South Africans are treated unjustly, which they quickly lose in the first weeks and months:.
Happy to Be Here, by Garrison Keillor. Humor. Garrison Keillor is, as the cover says, "America's Tallest Radio Comedian." I read this in the 80's when it was new and I lived in Wisconsin, next to Keillor's home state of Wisconsin. My favorite story is "Shy Rights: Why Not Pretty Soon", recounting the difficulties of forming a civil rights movement whose members are too shy to talk with one another.
Amitra, by Banana Yoshimoto. Modern Fiction. How could you not try an author named Banana? I found the characters a bit flat, but she seems to have quite a fan club judging by the comments at Amazon.
Alles Quatsch (Vintage Stuff), by Tom Sharpe. Humor. Wildly caricatured tale of an aging bachelor teaching at a private English school and dreaming of a life of adventure. When a rival tries to undo him by forging a letter calling for help from a baroness in France, he and a like-minded (and similarly simple) student spring into action, with murderous consequences.
All Creatures Great and Small, by James Herriot. Biography. I thought this would be kitschy, but it's more a nice collection of incidents that occur when a city man fresh out of vet school becomes a country veterinary assistant whose main calling is helping cows to birth. The stories are exaggerated enough to bring out the humour, but presumably close enough to real life to give you the flavor of the Yorkshire countryside. Herriot wrote the stories in the 70's, but the start with his first job interview in 1937, and note the passing of an earlier era, and record the character of the hardworking farmers.
A Grave Talent, by Laurie R. King. _. Kate Martinelli has been promoted to the homicide squad and has to work with the skeptical Al Hawkin investigating a series of child murders near San Francisco. One of the first lesbian detectives, from the author of the wonderful Mary Russell/Sherlock Holmes series.
Asian Portraits, by Harold Stephens. _. Cool collection of stories about Asian ex-patriates. A friend bought this on vacation in Asia in the 80's. One portrait is of Jim Thompson, the silk magnate who lived for decades in Bangkok (without ever learning to speak Thai) and disappeared without a trace during a visit to Malaysia. According to Stephens, Thompson discovered silk weaving when the last practitioners were old men who only did it as a pasttime, and he turned it into an international fashion phenomenon and one of Thailand's main industries. (Mai Thai means thai silk, by the way.) Thompson built a wonderful teak house that can be visited in Bangkok by combining several traditional Thai houses. I haven't seen it, but I'll have to check it out next time we're there. The rest of the portraits are of characters Stephens met while cruising around the Pacific in his sailboat, or in places he lived. They include Jeff and Robin, two adventurers who bought a boat to sail on the Pacific and then had to learn how to sail. They disappeared without a trace too, and Stephens pictures them living on one of the Spice Islands with the locals. Other characters are a lady doctor living and practicing on a Malaysian island, a treasure diver, a plantation owner, an exotic dancer from California passing herself off as Middle Eastern, the Hawaiian sumo wrestler Jessie Takamiyama, and a war photographer who was also a folk singer, a diver, born in a German interment camp in the US during WW II, who bears scars of a lion attack.
The October Horse, by Colleen McCullough. Historical Fiction. The conclusion to Colleen McCullough's Rome series refers to the tradition of sacrificing the best warhorse at an October ritual to ensure future victories. In McCullough's eyes Caesar's murder was also the killing of Rome's best. The book starts with Caesar in Asia Province pursuing Republican rebels, Brutus at his side. Ending up in Egypt, Caesar is taken with the young golden-eyed leader Cleopatra, tries to teach her how to rule better (e.g. appeasing the ever-rioting crowds with citizenship and cheap grain), and fathers a son, Ptolemy Caesarion. As usual, Caesar destroys the opposition. Cato, Caesar's main opponent in the Senate, shows an unusual military side when he takes his troops on a difficult forced march over weeks and miles. When Caesar conquers, he commits suicide - and after his physician sews the belly wound shut, he tears the stitches open and dies. On returning to Rome, Caesar tries in vain to restore order and a decent opposition in the Senate. Everyone is interested in his own fortune and power in the short term. Marc Antony attempts to kill Caesar, but Caesar takes it lightly. Caesar legislates non-stop, laws that would have done Rome good, but upset the traditionalists and all the power bases. Rumors circulate that Caesar wants to declare himself King of Rome, an office that hasn't existed since the times of Romulus and Remus. Never mind that he has all the power as a Senate-approved Dictator. Some even whisper that Caesar is a god. A "Kill Caesar" club springs up, seeing Caesar's death as the key to a "return to the republic". (In a nice scene, Caesar blusters "what Republic", saying that nothing worked before his time, and that the whole system is in danger of collapse.) Eventually the club manages to recruit enough patrician members to be able to claim that its act is a moral one for the good of Rome, and make that claim stick. 23 senators corner Caesar and each stab him once. Then instead of making the patriotic speeches they intended, they panic and flee to Jupiter's temple. The public mourns Rome, being indifferent to the intrigues of the Senate factions, seeing Caesar as a man who grew up in a poor quarter of Rome, the Subara, one who understands their concerns, and doesn't only fight for the aristrocracy. Marc Antony, who condoned the attack, follows through at first on his promise to shield the "Liberators" from prosecution, but he soon grabs power for himself, despite the fact that Caesar has named 19-year-old Gaius Octavius (now Gaius Julius Caesar Octavianus or Octavian) as his heir, shocking Antony who expected the honor for himself. Though Antony and many others write Octavian off as a young naive "pansy", he has Caesar's cunning without his mercy. Promoting Caesar as a god, and himself as Caesar's heir and a god's son, he gains the loyalty of many of the troops, and maneuvers himself into power, first having Antony declared an enemy of the state, then allying himself with him and Lepidus in the Triumvirat to take on Brutus and Cassius, the leaders of what is left of the Liberators. Both sides marshal their armies and come to a winter-long standoff near the Mediterranean in today's northeastern Greece. Brutus, despite showing some military sense basically a banker with no feeling for war, wants to starve out Antony's army, but everyone else wants an attack. Eventually a huge battle starts. Due to huge clouds of dust, the situation is very confused, and eventually Cassius concludes wrongly that the situation is lost, and falls on his sword. Brutus is unable and unwilling to carry on the battle, and flees. He is captured. Antony wants a proper military funeral for him, but Octavian says he requires the head of his "father's" assassin. In the end Octavian gets the head, and Antony burns Brutus body together with a pumpkin to conceal the missing element. Octavian has the head sent back to Rome by ship, but when the crew discovers what the cargo is and then runs into a terrible storm, they conclude that the head is their doom, and dump it into the sea. McCullough ends the series here, saying that if she didn't, she would never find another stopping point, and that the Republican period is the one that fascinates her in any case. She has apparently done a huge amount of research - my main criticism of the series is that she is too caught up in the details - and in the Afterword she recounts some of the liberties she has taken and interpretations she made to be able to give the main actors full personalities and consistent motivations. One of her own inventions was to give Octavian asthma - to explain why he was hiding in the swamps when Brutus army invaded his and Antony's camp - the dust of the plains and the cavalry was too much for his lungs, in her theory. Apparently history says that Octavian was a coward during this campaign, which she feels is very out of character, given his daring in consolidating Caesar's army around him. A good read. In all the 5 books probably come to 3500 pages.
Nightmare in Pink, by John D. MacDonald. Mystery. Reread. Pulled out a yellow-paged paperback I bought used in the 80's, which causes my nose to itch slightly. This seems to be the second in the series - I'm pretty sure I've read the first, The Deep Blue Goodbye, but I don't seem to own it. The stories concern the adventures of beach bum and "marine salvage consultant", Travis McGee, who lives on a houseboat, the Busted Flush, which he won in a poker game. His work is finding things people have lost, for which he gets to keep half. The definition is fairly flexible, and since the loss often involves theft, extortion, scams, and murder, he ends up solving many a mystery and rescuing and bedding many a damsel in distress. In this story McGee helps out the daughter of a war buddy (who doesn't want his help) after her boyfriend is killed in an apparent mugging.
A Purple Place for Dying, by John D. MacDonald. Mystery. Reread. For a change this takes place in the West rather than Florida, when the young wife of a rich rancher is killed by a sniper, after which the body disappears along with all evidence that the murder ever happened. McGee has to solve the problem himself.
The Quick Red Fox, by John D. MacDonald. Mystery. Reread. A movie star who indulges in a 4-day orgy is blackmailed in a tale that ends up involving murder.
Darker Than Amber, by John D. MacDonald. Mystery. Reread. This time the color refers to the eyes of an Asian prostitute McGee rescues when she's dumped from a bridge, wired to concrete blocks. She's been part of a ring killing men for their money.
One Fearful Yellow Eye, by John D. MacDonald. Mystery. Reread. Eyes again, this time the bad guy's. A friend's husband dies, a famous Chicago doctor who should have left $600,000 in 1966 dollars, so figure a couple of million today, but the money has been carefully extorted in installments. Where did it go?.
The Girl in the Plain Brown Wrapper, by John D. MacDonald. Mystery. Reread. A woman on her deathbed writes friend McGee to beg him to help find out why one of her two daughters keeps trying to kill herself. A $25,000 check serves as motivation. By the time McGee gets the letter, the woman is dead, and he feels he has to investigate.
Dress Her in Indigo, by John D. MacDonald. Mystery. Reread. McGee and his friend Meyer fly to Mexico to investigate the death of an acquaintance in a car crash - but was it an accident?.
Wider der Goetter - Against the Gods, by Peter L. Bernstein. Science. Read this over a longer period while alternating with lighter fare. The book describes the history of risk management, starting with the first attempts to describe probability mathematically. Several people from other books in my reading list show up: Cardano, the rival of Niccolo Tartaglia of the Rechenmeister, and John Nash of A Beautiful Mind. Bernstein says the Enlightenment was a necessary prerequisite for the birth of risk management - one has to assume that fate is not controlled by the gods before one can hope to manage risk oneself.
Im Namen des Lexikons, by Amelie Nothomb. Modern Fiction. A slim volume containing a story told almost like a fairy tale. A young woman marries at 19 because she wants a baby, becomes pregnant immediately, but realizes that (like herself) her husband is immature and bound to be a terrible parent - whereupon she shoots him. The woman is jailed, brings her child to the world in jail, and hangs herself. The baby is brought up by the woman's sister and yearns to become a ballerina. Amelie Nothomb herself is a minor character in the story.
Ash Wednesday, by Ethan Hawke. Modern Fiction. Another slim book, just 221 paperback pages, which I read in a day and a half. The author is the actor you know from Reality Bytes, etc. And surprise - he can really write. I enjoy a surprising style - in some cases, that means the story itself is absurd, as in Wild Sheep Chase. In this case, the story and many of the characters are very believable, but they way they describe themselves, each other, and their lives is surprising. Jimmy Heartsock is a 30-year-old Army man with the emotional maturity of about 18. His main passions are basketball, driving around in a hot rod with dice hanging from the mirror, and drinking and doing drugs. He breaks up with his girlfriend Christy Walker just as she's trying to tell him she's pregnant. An emotional roller coaster ride ensues. Much philosophizing about the meaning of life and the right way to live it also follows.
Selkirks Insel: Die Wahre Geschichte von Robinson Crusoe, by Diana Souhami. History. The true story of Alexander Selkirk, a hot-headed Scottish seaman, who sailed with English freebooters to indulge in legal piracy with the Queen's permission against the foes in the ongoing war with France and especially Spain. After surviving hunger and battles against Spanish merchant ships and mainlanders in Chile, Selkirk tells his captain the ship will sink if he doesn't stop at Isla de Ferninando long enough for major repairs, and urges his mates to refuse to sail. In short, he incites mutiny. He swears he'll stay on the island rather than sail on the worm-eaten ship - and his captain takes him up on it. Changing his mind, Selkirk pleas to be taken along, but his change of heart comes too late. The year is 1704.

" The next 4 years and 4 months Selkirk will spend on this island alone, with no native "Friday" for company. The company of cats (descendants of those who jumped off of earlier ships that stopped of for food, water, and repairs) and sexual release of the wild goats are his only companions. Despondent at first, he soon becomes a skilled survivalist, practiced at hunting goats on foot for their meat, able to start fire with wood when his gun's flint wears down, melting down metal for spear tips. Although he finds peace with himself, he is obsessed with finding a ship to pick him up, and keeps a steady lookout. After years of solitude, a ship does land - but the sailors are enemy Spaniards. Selkirk flees into the woods and hides in a shelter in a tree top he has prepared for such eventualities.

" Although the island is not unknown, the next ship to arrive is another freebooter expedition from England including 3 people from the original expedition. Selkirk learns that his prediction was correct - the ship he left 4 years ago did sink before reaching England. Selkirk signs on to the new crew, and in honor of his unique story, is awarded a special share of the booty, which turns out to be 800 pounds (the few sailors who survived the trip and managed to pry their money out of the sponsors go about 40 pounds). His story was put into print by captains and officers of the expedition. He returned to his village a rich man, but still a hothead. After buying a house and starting a relationship with an orphaned young woman, he beats up a man in a pub and flees to escape trouble with the law. He and the woman marry, according to her story, and he writes a will leaving most of his fortune to her, the rest to his family. Unable to settle down to a landlubber's life, he works on merchant vessels in the English channel a while, and eventually signs up with the navy to attack pirates - essentially changing sides. As he waits a month for his ship to sail, he has an affair with the female innkeeper where he does his drinking. She won't sleep with him without getting married, so marriage it is, and she has him write a will to take care of her if he doesn't return from sea. Good foresight: Selkirk and many of his mates die of malaria in Africa. The two wives battle for years in court, and the second succeeds in stripping the first of every penny. Selkirk was not a good husband!

" Daniel Defoe used Selkirk as his inspiration for Robinson Crusoe. The author is not impressed - she says the ship he went down with washed up enough of the trappings of civilization for a whole fleet. Crusoe doesn't seem to notice the wonders of nature around him, and he barely needs any special skills to survive with the bounty he has to work with. He spends his time busily working away at useless tasks until 20 years later he encounters Friday, who immediately becomes his slave.

" The Isla di Juan Fernando was graced with a fortress and a small community of goat herders and fishers. Chile eventually renamed it Isla Robinson Crusoe. The island was declared a national park in 1935, and today it is a minor tourist attraction. Visitors find a lot of peace and quiet, and little in the way of amenities. A plane comes once a week with mail and tourists, and a monthly ship brings heavy goods and transports lobsters to the mainland.
Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them: A Fair and Balanced Look at the Right, by Al Franken. Humor. To be honest, I had to skim large sections of this book, because I couldn't stand to read what the right wing media in the US spew. Living in Europe, one is largely spared. The only time I saw Fox News was in the US during Gulf War II, when Fox News was your All-Jessica-Lynch-Station, freeing it from any need to report substantial news. Not that CNN or the networks were better - BBC was the only reliable news source on cable. The lies here cover the range from brazen to subtle, and I still find it amazing how mean-spirited these people are, grudging every penny of tax money given to someone worse off than they are, intent on distracting the public from the true motivations of US foreign policy.

" Franken closes the book with this text:.
Pfauenprinzessen, by Indu Sundaresan. Historical novel. The English language original is called "The Twentieth Wife". I enjoyed reading this because it takes place in parts of India that we visited: Agra, Fatehpur Sikri, Udaipur, and covers some of the best-known parts of the history of northern India, namely that of the Mogul or Mughal rulers, Descendants of Genghis Khan. Akbar the Great was the third Mughal ruler, who expanded the kingdom through conquest, developed trade, tried to combine Islam with the Hindu religion, and built the city of Fatehpur Sikri as his new royal city. The novel starts with him and focuses on his son, Salim, who later ruled as Jahangir. The main character of the novel is Merunissa, a woman who had some kind of encounter with Salim when she was around 17, I believe, but was married to a military men who later rebelled against Salim. Merunissa served Akbar's principal wife before her marriage and after her husband's death, so she knew life in the harem and many of the wives, concubines, and eunuchs. Her family came from Persia, where her father was a trusted advisor to the ruler - but who was not in the graces of the new ruler who succeeded to the throne. Thus he fled to India and arrived penniless, but Akbar had the reputation of taking any capable man into his regime, and through the kindness of a fellow traveler, Merunissa's father was introduced at court and rose to a high position. Despite a later scandal when he skimmed off money from a building project, his granddaughter was engaged to Jahangir's son. Merunissa returns to the court after her husband's death, is noticed by Jahangir, but the scandal with her father and a rebellion in which her brother is involved keep her from a closer relation. In the novel's version, Akbar's widow intrigues to have Jahangir meet Merunissa, and their original attraction is fanned to life again. Whatever the actual story, he married her when she was 34 and he in his 40's, making her 20th wife. She became his main wife, who co-ruled. After Jahangir's death, his son became Shah Jahan, the 5th Mughal ruler. When Merunissa's niece died, Shah Jahan built the Taj Mahal as her grave.
Confessions of an English Opium Eater, by Thomas de Quincey. _. Book from 1821 about de Quincey's personal experiences with opium, starting from the time he took it for pain relief from gastric problems, through later addiction (he gave it up four times, but always decided to go back to it later - sounds like a smoker nowadays), to his lifelong recreational use.

" His early life reads like a Dickens story. At school he had his first stomach problems. The money his guardian provided him was enough to go to the apothecary but not to a doctor. The apothecary prescribed him an ineffective medicine, and told him there was no alternative (although in later years he found alternatives that worked). Furthermore, the doddering dean of his school blathered through the scheduled pauses in the schoolday, so that he could not take the long walks he had found essential to his health. To preserve his health, he stealthily left the school and went on a months-long foot tour of Wales, sleeping in cheap inns, on the ground, and occasionally in a more noble lodging when his money-rationing plan permitted. Eventually he headed to London and attempted to borrow against the inheritance he would receive on his coming of age. This reads very much like Dickens. He never saw the owner of the lending firm, dealing only with a lower legal person who dealt in half-criminal business. The attempt to get a loan took 6 months, during which time he spent all the money he had and was reduced to poverty - and in the end the loan was refused. The Dickensian lender permitted him to sleep in the building where the offices were. A small girl of mysterious origin also slept there and waited on the lender. De Quincey and she huddled together for warmth in the unheated building. De Quincey spent his days and evenings wandering the streets of London, and came to know the streetwalkers, falling in love with a 15-year-old prostitute named Mary. He eventually left London for several days to get a written loan guarantee from an acquaintance in the nobility. On his return he couldn't find Mary and never saw her again.

" He pleads against the demonization of opium, basically claiming that the elevated states he experienced are only beneficial and that he suffered no health problems as a result. His case seems somewhat doubtful, since he suffered horrible nightmares for years, which never entirely left him. Strangely, other sources say that opium use in England in the late 1800's did not have a particularly strong stigma attached to it. De Quincey cites Coleridge's own strange views of opium - on the one hand, he was the most famous addict, who was always just about to kick the habit, on the other hand he attacked De Quincey for his liberal views of opium.

" The book contains a lot of asides (for instance, a description of which is the left, which the right bank of a river) and footnotes. De Quincey was very well educated (including at Oxford) and could and did quote everyone from Greek philosophers and playwrights (in Greek, of course) on. The book also contains a fair amount of humor. My favorite intentional humor was his description of his country life as a scene for a painter. "Into [a decanter] you may put a quart of ruby-coloured laudanum; that, and a book of German metaphysics placed by its side, will sufficiently attest my being in the neighbourhood; but as to myself, there I demur. ... If the public ... should chance to have framed some agreeable picture for itself of the Opium-Eater's exterior - should have ascribed to him, romantically, an elegant person or handsome face - why should I barbarously tear from it so pleasing a delusion?"

" The best (partly) unintentional humor was the tale of a how a "Malay" appeared at the door of his remote country home. His housekeeper apparently thought de Quincey capable of speaking all languages known to man. After briefly considering, he decided that ancient Greek was the most easterly of the languages he knew, and quoted Ovid to the poor Malay. Then on an inspiration, he gave the poor man a ball of opium sufficient for weeks of use, which the native quickly swallowed. De Quincey was horrified, knowing this dose should be fatal, but he couldn't communicate with the man. For weeks he expected to hear a report of an exotic found dead in the area, news which would have traveled quickly. Since no such news came, he presumes the man had a pleasant journey. I find quite funny the thought that he didn't offer food and drink, but opium, to a foreign stranger at his door. A question of your own priorities, I guess.
Beyond Lies the Wub, by Philip K. Dick. Science Fiction. On learning that the new movie Paycheck is based on a Philip K. Dick short story, I dug out this book and finally finished. These are stories PKD wrote in 1947-1954. In Paycheck, a highly skilled mechanic (the word seems quite quaint in this context) named Jennings has just completed a 2-year project for the businessman Earl Rethrick. In exchange for lucrative pay, he had agreed to have his memory of the 2 years erased. Now he learns that he himself used a clause in the contract to receive goods in lieu of payment - and the goods in question are 7 items in a manila envelope, clues and tools he has sent himself to allow him to reconstruct the secret of his 2 years of work and turn it to his advantage.
Die Siedler von Catan, by Rebecca Gable. Fantasy. The inventor of the popular game Die Siedler von Catan turned to the popular author Rebecca Gable (one of Petra's favorites) to write a novel version. The story starts in a viking community that is ravaged by marauders and a starving winter, leading them to undertake a hazardous sea journey in search of a new homeland. Somewhat long for the content - 700 pages. Interesting characters.
Lilith's Brood, by Octavia E. Butler. Science Fiction. After reading Dawn, I had to read the next 2 volumes in this series. This volume contains all three. The story tells of an alien race that can manipulate DNA and is driven to merge its own DNA with that of races that it encounters. Arriving at Earth after a nuclear war, the Oolankali rescue enough of the human race to breed with them. Such a family consists of 5 spouses: human male and female, Oolankali male and female, and a neutral Oolankali that does the actual DNA manipulation. In the first book, a black woman named Lilith (the name of Adam's wife in some tales) is chosen by the Oolankali to wake humans from suspended animation and prepare them for life on Earth. The problem is that the Oolankali are so alien - with gray skin and tentacles - that they're repulsive to humans. In the second book, Lilith's family raises the first hybrid ("construct" in the story's terminology) male, Akin, who makes it his life's work to plea for the continued existence of pure humans, even though the Oolankali know that the combination of human intelligence and need for hierarchy will inevitably lead to their destruction. In the third book, the family's two youngest children turn into the first neutral (ooloi) constructs. The needs and characteristics of the Oolankali and their relations with the human race are nicely developed - a good read.
Teller of Tales, by Daniel Stashower. Biography. Bio of Arthur Conan Doyle, and inevitably a trove of Sherlock Holmes info, but also an investigation of Doyle's many other facets as doctor, writer of historical novels, sportsman, adventurer. Inevitably there's a lot about ACD's eccentric beliefs in fairies and contact with the dead. According to the author, Doyle was a logical man up to a point - as you'd expect from the creator of Sherlock Holmes. Doyle received a message from his son (I believe) through a medium, with information that he thought the medium couldn't possibly know. After that he never examined his assumptions again, and was not only naive but stubbornly blind in the face of exposes of fraud. Hilariously he maintained that Houdini had supernatural powers even after Houdini showed him how many of his own tricks were done and debunked various fake mediums.
Bangkok 8, by John Burdett. _. a mystery set in Bangkok where the main character is a Bangkok cop who is half US GI (but never knew his father) and half Thai prostitute. I've read, heard, and seen a lot about Thai culture in the last 2 years, and this echoed and filled out what I know. One bit that was new to me, but makes sense. The Thai are over 95% Buddhist, but mix it with various beliefs of their own. Apparently on meeting someone new or hearing of someone's problems, they'll speculate on what they did wrong in their past lives to have deserved this particular burden in this one, and figure how many future lives it might take to atone for it. Something the author never explained (or I missed it) - the "soul brother" of the main character is named Pichai. This is Thai for "big brother", not a particular name.
, by Mark Haddon. Modern fiction. This book did a great job of telling the story from the point of view of an autistic teenager, so that you understand his world a lot better. If I hadn't just read the Doyle bio, I wouldn't have recognized that the title is a Holmes reference. (Inspector Gregory: "Is there any point to which you would wish to draw my attention?" Holmes: "To the curious incident of the dog in the night-time." Inspector: "The dog did nothing in the night-time." Holmes: "That was the curious incident.").
The English Assassin, by Daniel Silva. _. A spy thriller with a lot of stuff set in Zurich, including a neighborhood we used to walk through. I thought the story was a bit lame though. I think I know the Swiss too well. The main point of the story, that the Swiss benefited from their role as the Nazi's bankers and yet maintain a rather self-righteous smugness about the moral superiority of their famed neutrality is true. On the other hand, the Swiss have paid reparations twice for this. I also wonder about the victim status of some of the people who made such great use of numbered accounts. Were the owners in 1940 really any more honest than the pack of dictators, mafiosi, drug barons and white collar criminals who hold those accounts now? Well, I suppose some recognized that their money was no longer safe in Germany but hadn't been able to convince themselves to leave everything behind. One must say, there's no morally convincing argument for keeping the holy cow of "bank secrecy" intact. The only arguments I've heard are economic - it's good for the Swiss economy - and patriotic - we won't let others tell us what to do. And given the belated clearing of the record of those few who broke laws in Switzerland to save the lives of Jewish refugees, it wouldn't hurt to reflect not on past injustices (as is usually the case when Hitler comes up) but on what one can do to prevent the injustices that are rampant today. Why wait 60 years and then say it's a shame things were so bad back then?

" The characterization of Swiss as stubbornly patriotic and bureaucratic have some justification, but are hardly a well-rounded picture of today's Swiss citizen.
The Davinci Code, by _. _. Another conspiracy thriller, this time of religious nature. Looks good so far.

That was 416 in all.

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