10 Books in 11 Months

booksLast month, I signed up for The Guardian’s 1000 Novels Challenge, which is to read 10 books off of this list before February 1, 2010 and then blog reviews of the books.

I was supposed to start doing this last month, but I have been catching up on some reading that had been lent to me. I’m hoping to be able to start very soon. I know that many of my 5 readers are book people, so I was going to let you all in on the secret too. I’ve already gotten one friend participating. Maybe I can borrow a book or two from one of you (she offered me “Lolita.”)

Anyway, you should check out the list. I compiled a list of the ones that I have read so far; I tweeted about them already but I thought I would share the list with you. If there’s something on the list that you think I absolutely have to read that isn’t listed here, give me a shout! If you’re my Mom, tell me which of the ones on the list you have and I can borrow!

The ones I’ve read:

Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes
Catch-22 by Joseph Heller
Breakfast of Champions by Kurt Vonnegut

The Hound of the Baskervilles by Arthur Conan Doyle
Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton
Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck

Family and Self
Great Expectations by Charles Dickens
One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey
Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison
The Color Purple by Alice Walker

Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen
My Antonia by Willa Cather
The Great Gatsby by F Scott Fitzgerald

Science Fiction and Fantasy
The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams
Foundation by Isaac Asimov
Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
Kindred by Octavia Butler
Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell by Susanna Clarke
Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K Dick
Foucault’s Pendulum by Umberto Eco
American Gods by Neil Gaiman
Neuromancer by William Gibson
Lord of the Flies by William Golding
Stranger in a Strange Land by Robert A Heinlein
Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
The Shining by Stephen King
The Chronicles of Narnia by CS Lewis
Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell
The Years of Rice and Salt by Kim Stanley Robinson
Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone by JK Rowling
Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson
The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson
A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court by Mark Twain
The Time Machine by HG Wells

State of the Nation
Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe
Animal Farm by George Orwell
One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovtich by Alexandr Solzhenitsyn
The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain

War and Travel
Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad
The Call of the Wild by Jack London
All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque
Cryptonomicon by Neal Stephenson
Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathan Swift
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
Slaughter-House Five by Kurt Vonnegut

I guess we see where my loyalties lie!

I better get reading.


I meet the Hodg-man

Tonight I went to a booksigning for John Hodgman‘s new book More Information Than You Require.  It was an excellent time.  I have not yet read the book but I intend to over the next several days.

I am, however, going to subject you to more puns.  The pumpkin names in the previous post was certainly not the end of these portents.  When I got up to the table to discource with John Hodgman as he signed my book, the exchange went something like this:

Me: Hi, I’m Greg.

The Hodge: I’m John.

Me: I have had this pun bouncing around in my head and I can’t help but let it out.  If you converted to Islam and visited Mecca during the high holy times, you would be entitled by tradition to change your name.  What could you change it to?

The Hodge: Er… Greg?

Me: No, Hajji Hodgman!

The Hodge: Ah ha!  And my wife’s middle name could be Sweet…  No, nevermind.

He then proceeded to call me a punster.  I don’t know if that’s a good thing. But his “Sweet” comment was impressive off the cuff. I’d had plenty of time waiting in line to construct my spiel.  I was very impressed.

My parents and I were talking recently about famous people we had met; I only had one on my list until tonight: Bill Nye.  So now I can say I’ve met The Science Guy AND The Resident Expert.

Mini-Review: Little Brother by Cory Doctorow

Those of you who saw my bookcase filled with recommendations may have noticed two books on there by Cory Doctorow: Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom and Eastern Standard Tribe. I am a fan of Doctorow’s work, and his newest title, Little Brother, did not change that. Like all of Doctorow’s books, you can read it online for free. This is the first book of his where I went that route instead of buying the hard copy.

Ostensibly written for the young adult crowd, Little Brother is the story of a young man from San Francisco who gets caught up in a DHS dragnet after a terrorist attack.  He is treated like a suspected terrorist and vows to take his revenge the only way he knows how: by using and spreading technology that will help people keep themselves safe and secure, and that will foil any DHS plans that violate the bill of rights and the freedom of Americans.

Doctorow always writes very simply and forthrightly, and I think that he did not have to work very hard to fit his style to the young adult genre.  The book is perfectly accessible to adult audiences as well, and actually some of the simplified explanation of various technologies such as cryptography and DNS is helpful to the average adult reader as well.

I thought the book very good; I generally don’t review things I don’t like, but I did find a few faults, and no review would be complete without at least mentioning them.  The characterization, I felt, was pretty weak.  I didn’t identify with the characters as strongly as I thought I would; I generally share their politics and their passion for technology but their personality and personal details were left very vague.  The somewhat stilted nature of the romantic and sex scenes didn’t help.

Overall the strength and passion of the politics of the book are what make it worth reading.  What is a society like when everyone is a suspected terrorist?  What is it like to be arrested and imprisoned as an enemy combatant?  Why is the bill of rights important and in what ways is it being trampled?  Do we have a responsibility to fight for freedoms we cherish dearly?  I’ll leave you with a quotation from the Declaration of Independence which features prominently in the book:

Governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, that whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or abolish it, and to institute new government, laying its foundation on such principles, and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness.

Revolutionary!  Read this book!

Dystopian Book Club

Some of the guys at work like to joke about being members of the dystopian book club. They compete to see who can come up with the most dystopian books they’ve read that are of a high quality. Just for kicks, I’m listing what I can come up with here:

  • Nineteen Eighty-Four – George Orwell
  • Brave New World – Aldous Huxley
  • Fahrenheit 451 – Ray Bradbury
  • The Time Machine – H. G. Wells
  • Harrison Bergeron – Kurt Vonnegut
  • Neuromancer – William Gibson
  • Parable of the Sower – Octavia Butler
  • Snow Crash – Neal Stephenson (?)

As an adjunct, the dystopian movie club:

  • Brazil
  • Blade Runner
  • Equilibrium
  • The Matrix Trilogy
  • Planet of the Apes
  • Children of Men
  • Logan’s Run
  • Escape from New York

A lot of the movies appear to be from the 70’s, which is interesting.

Can you come up with any more off the top of your head? No cheating!

Book Recommendations

My Mom came over, who happens to be a book expert, and she helped me whittle down my collection of readables to three small shelves worth.  Since these are the ones I consider keepers, I’ll recommend them to you, also, to read.  Click on the picture for a high-res version, every title is legible.  You should definitely read every one!

Most of these are science fiction, with a few non-fiction and cookbooks thrown in.

Does anyone know if anyone else has done a book recommendation this way?  I would like to see some of these pictures as produced by others.  So do that!  And if you don’t have a blog to put it on, make one!  I’ll link to you, I promise.


So, recently I was accused of taking everything too seriously. Actually, I get that a lot, but this person (who I respect a lot) implied to me that my seriousness might be a symptom of a bigger problem: perfectionism. Then I was recommended a book called Too Perfect, a self help book about perfectionists and the problems they face.

Now, I immediately refuted this claim. I am far from a perfectionist. In fact, I am probably the most unperfectionist person I know. If it works, leave it alone, that’s what I say, and I’ve annoyed more than one person with that attitude.

However, my refutation was not total and so I decided to check out the book. Amazon has their nice look inside functionality and so I checked out the first few pages, which describe people who might need to use the book to figure out how to live saner, better lives. I’ll list out the descriptions with my thoughts in red:

  • The person so driven to meet professional and personal goals that she can’t abandon herself to a few hours of undirected leisure without feeling guilty or undisciplined. This is so not me. I don’t know if I do anything that doesn’t qualify as undirected leisure. Heck, even blogging could be considered that.
  • The person so preoccupied with making the right choice that he has difficulty making even relatively small decisions usually regarded as pleasurable: buying a new stereo, choosing where to go on vacation. I am not picky at all, and I am not scared to make choices. If I am shopping for something, I will spend no more than 15 seconds making a decision between any of several options.
  • The person so finicky that his pleasure is spoiled if everything isn’t “just so.” Nope.
  • The “thinkaholic” whose keen, hyperactive mind all too often bogs her down in painful worry and rumination. To some extent I have this; but not to the extent of painful worry. It only goes about as far as what I would call insecurity about my actions, and even that only happens now and then.
  • The perfectionist, whose need to improve and polish every piece of work chronically causes her to devote much more time than necessary to even inconsequential assignments. Nope, though I have worked with people like this. So painful. Again, get it working, once it works, never look at it again.
  • The person so intent upon finding the ultimate romantic mate that he seems unable to commit to any long-term relationship. We’ll have to see on this one. I’m single for the first time as an adult. I’m not averse to settling, though, to some extent. After someone passes the threshold of “She makes me happy and I can make her happy” then that’s good enough for me, and I think a large minority of women would meet that criteria.
  • The person so acclimated to working long hours that she can’t bring herself to cut back, even when confronted with evidence that the overwork is ruining her health or her family relationships. I’ve worked longer than my 8 hours in a day maybe once.
  • The procrastinator who feels angry at his “laziness” – unaware that the real reason he is unable to undertake tasks is that his need to do them flawlessly makes them loom impossibly large. I am lazy, and I am something of a procrastinator, but I am not at all angry about it. I’m actually pretty comfortable with it.

So, that’s the first list. Then, on the third page, there is another list of traits of perfectionists:

  • a fear of making errors Nope
  • a fear of making a wrong decision or choice Negative
  • a strong devotion to work HAHAHA
  • a need for order or a firmly established routine I could take it or leave it
  • frugality Yeah, this one fits
  • a need to know and follow the rules In a competition or a game, yes. In life, absolutely not.
  • emotional guardedness Not that I can tell
  • a tendency to be stubborn or oppositional Only because it’s more fun than being agreeable!
  • a heightened sensitivity to being pressured or controlled by others Nope
  • An inclination to worry, ruminate, or doubt Negligible
  • A need to be above criticism – moral, professional, or personal I defend myself, but everyone deserves criticism
  • cautiousness No
  • a chaotic inner pressure to use every minute productively Unpossible

So, I don’t think I really fit the stereotype. If you do, maybe this book is for you. If you think I do, let me know where I’m wrong! If it will help me, I will do anything, and taking advice from friends is usually a good way to become a better person.

In short, I am lazy, but I get the job done and I don’t do much fretting about it.