2021

House of M
Brian Michael Bendis
★★★★
OK, Let's Do Your Stupid Idea
Patrick Freyne
★★★ [notes]

Patrick Freyne is a funny guy and he's a really great writer but I could only take this book in small doses. Everyone has friends who only talk in non-stop banter and that's pretty much what this entire book felt like. Every sentence is sculpted to be exactly as funny and clever as the previous one and, I dunno, that sounds like it would be a good thing but the non-stop patter of it was just exhausting.. There are a couple of chapters in here that felt honest and sincere and those were really lovely, but some of the rest felt like a real stretch.

The Glass Hotel
Emily St. John Mandel
★★★★
Thirty-Two Words for Field
Manchan Magan
★★ [notes]

A disclaimer: I’m writing this not because I’m proud of the feelings and thoughts I had but because the first step in interrogating why I felt these things is by addressing them.

Early on in this book, Manchan Magan (who I knew nothing about) announces that he's descended from The O'Rahilly. Like he's establishing his bona fides in writing a book about the Irish language and how it affects the Irish psyche. And then he goes on to mention it again and again. And this was the point at which the book sort of lost me. It didn't feel like it was a fun, standalone little book any more. Because one thing the book didn't address about the Irish psyche is our tendency towards begrudgery. And the more I read of the book, I just kept thinking: would this book have been written if this man wasn't an O'Rahilly? I'm not saying he's not a good writer (he's a perfectly fine writer), but certainly I think that his name probably helped grease some wheels and open some doors. Doors that perhaps wouldn't have opened so easily for a better writer without the same connections.

Ireland has a deep culture of nepotism and it genuinely makes me very uneasy to see so few family names at the top of the list of quote-unquote "important people" in Ireland (e.g. ex-director of RTE television, Helen O'Rahilly, related to The O'Rahilly "by cousins", but you get my point).

Anyway, if I'd never found this out about this book or if it had been announced much later, I'm sure I would have felt a lot different about it. But as it is, it left a rotten aftertaste in my mouth.

(PS the weekend after I originally wrote this, Eve Hewson (daughter of Bono) was on the front cover of the Sunday Independent Magazine because she's starring in a new Netflix TV show. Make of that what you want.)

The Stars My Destination
Alfred Bester
★★★★
How to Do Nothing: Resisting the Attention Economy
Jenny Odell
★★★★

2020

A Children's Bible
Lydia Millet
★★★★
Death by Video Game: Tales of Obsession from the Virtual Frontline
Simon Parkin
★★★
Beowulf: A New Translation
Maria Dahvana Headley
★★★
Piranesi
Susanna Clarke
★★★★ [notes]

When I was in my 20s, I had a healthy social life AND social anxiety which is a hell of a cocktail. Every night I'd come home full of beer and emotions and I'd have real difficulty in shutting my brain off so I could go to sleep. Nothing worked. I'd just lie in my bed going over everything I'd said or did trying to think about things I could have said or did differently. For hours. And then I bought a DVD box set of The Prisoner. I'd put on an episode and it would pummel my brain into submission. Everything about it is so strange and confusing that my mind would give up trying to figure out what was happening and just shut down after 10 minutes.

Piranesi brought back this feeling so hard. I don't just mean thematically (although there are plenty of similarities between the book and The Prisoner -- similarities I'm sure someone with a medium dot com account and an inability to let a take go un-taken will happily point out). I really struggled with the opening of this book because every night I would feel my mind saying "fuuuuucccck this book I can't figure out what's going on" and shutting down. Every single time. It wasn't until page 100 or so where something finally clicked for me and the story started to make sense. After that, it was delightful.

A perfect autumn story.

A Ghost In The Throat
Doireann Ni Ghriofa
★★★★★
Semiosis
Sue Burke
★★★★
Gideon the Ninth
Tamsyn Muir
★★★★
The Perry Bible Fellowship Almanack
Nicholas Gurewitch
★★★★
To Be Taught, If Fortunate
Becky Chambers
★★★★★
Trout Fishing in America
Richard Brautigan
★★★
Wisdom Of Insecurity: A Message for an Age of Anxiety
Alan W. Watts
The Hawkline Monster: A Gothic Western
Richard Brautigan
★★★★
Exhalation
Ted Chiang
★★★★

2019

This is How You Lose the Time War
Amal El-Mohtar
Melmoth
Sarah Perry
All the Birds in the Sky
Charlie Jane Anders
★★★
The Power
Naomi Alderman
★★★★
The Chain
Adrian McKinty
★★
Normal People
Sally Rooney
★★★★★
Ruined by Design: How Designers Destroyed the World, and What We Can Do to Fix It
Mike Monteiro
★★★★★
The Third Policeman
Flann O'Brien
Keep Going: 10 Ways to Stay Creative in Good Times and Bad
Austin Kleon
★★★★ [notes]

This is basically just a collection of inspirational quotes around the subject of just getting shit done even though life is hard and society is a total garbage fire.

And that's exactly what I needed right now. A lovely little hug for the soul.

Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead
Olga Tokarczuk
★★
Treasure
Clive Cussler
★★ [notes]

This is my first Clive Cussler book (although I've loved the films of Sahara and Raise the Titanic). And all throughout, I kept thinking: is this what it's like to read a Chuck Tingle book? Like, every time Dirk Pitt arrived on the page, Cussler would go into such intense details about his rugged good looks, his cold, opal eyes, and his masculine prowess that I actually started to feel uncomfortable. Do you need me to leave the room, Clive?

Also, we can add this to the list of books that use black coffee as a shorthand for telling us how incredibly manly the hero is.

Typeset in the Future: Typography and Design in Science Fiction Movies
Dave Addey
★★★★★ [notes]

This is the first design book to ever make me laugh out loud.

Akira, Vol. 6
Katsuhiro Otomo
★★★★ [notes]

28 years after reading the first volume, I’m finally finished the series. That’s a personal record.

Akira, Vol. 5
Katsuhiro Otomo
The Obelisk Gate
N.K. Jemisin
All the Names They Used for God
Anjali Sachdeva
★★★★★
Tribe: On Homecoming and Belonging
Sebastian Junger
★★★
Akira, Vol. 4
Katsuhiro Otomo
★★★
Circe
Madeline Miller
★★★★★

2018

America
Jean Baudrillard
★★
Zone One
Colson Whitehead
The Ballad of Black Tom
Victor LaValle
★★★★★
Akira, Vol. 3
Katsuhiro Otomo
★★★★
Akira, Vol. 2
Katsuhiro Otomo
★★★★
The Last Samurai
Helen DeWitt
A History of the World in 10½ Chapters
Julian Barnes
★★★★★
Akira, Vol. 1
Katsuhiro Otomo
★★★★
Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business
Neil Postman
★★★★★
The Long Earth:
Terry Pratchett
★★★★
The Player of Games
Iain M. Banks
The Yellow Wallpaper
Charlotte Perkins Gilman
★★★★
Fight Club
Chuck Palahniuk
★★★
A Man Lay Dead
Ngaio Marsh
★★ [notes]

The author has a beautiful way with words and at some points, the language was so wonderfully modern, all wry and sardonic and self-aware. But the plotting was awful, with a dozen or so characters not so much introduced but rather vomited onto the page over a couple of paragraphs so I spent half the book going "now which one is this?" For example, there are two characters, a Mr and a Mrs Wilde, and yet while the two are in conversation, the author would refer to one of them as "Wilde", as in "Wilde said...".

This was my first Inspector Alleyn book, but based on this outing, I don't know if I'll make the effort with the rest.

You Should Come With Me Now: Stories of Ghosts
M. John Harrison
Kill All Normies: Online Culture Wars From 4Chan And Tumblr To Trump And The Alt-Right
Angela Nagle
★★★ [notes]

Throughout the book, I felt like the author was showing a certain amount of sympathy for the alt-right. It unironically did that thing of describing people like Richard Spencer as being the "dapper" face of fascism. Okay, I thought, maybe I'm just imagining things. It's a good overview of what's happened in the last few years and certainly gives a great insight into a lot of the nastier subcultures.

But then you reach the conclusion and realise -- holy shit, my feeling was totally correct and this lady is fully sympathetic to people like Milo and Richard Spencer. Or maybe she's so completely disappointed with the left, it just seems that way. But she talks about how the left is either incapable of arguing with Milo or chooses not to because they come from the "intellectually shut-down world of Tumblr". But then in the next sentence, talks about David French criticizing Milo and being "attacked by ... the alt-right attack dogs". She talks about Stavvers and how "the embarrassing and toxic online politics represented by this version of the left, which has been so destructive and inhumane, has made the left a laughing stock for a whole new generation", but (and I'm in serious danger of whataboutism here) doesn't address how the similarly destructive and inhumane behaviour of the alt-right hasn't made them a laughing stock?

Like I said, it's a pretty good overview of where we're at, culturally, and how we got here. I just completely disagree with her conclusions.

Grimm Tales: For Young and Old
Philip Pullman
A Spaceship Built of Stone and Other Stories
Lisa Tuttle
The Hunting of the Snark: An Agony in Eight Fits
Lewis Carroll
★★★★
The Witch
Shirley Jackson
★★★
Underground Airlines
Ben H. Winters
The Restaurant at the End of the Universe
Douglas Adams
★★★
Fever Dream
Samanta Schweblin
The Wild Shore
Kim Stanley Robinson
Ten Things Video Games Can Teach Us:
Jordan Erica Webber
Zeus Grants Stupid Wishes: A No-Bullshit Guide to World Mythology
Cory O'Brien
★★★
Sea of Rust
C. Robert Cargill
★★★★
The Underground Railroad: Winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction 2017
Colson Whitehead
★★★★★

2017

Queenpin
Megan Abbott
★★★★
Artemis
Andy Weir
★★
La Belle Sauvage
Philip Pullman
★★★
Star Wars: From a Certain Point of View
Elizabeth Schaefer
★★★
Unruly Places: Lost Spaces, Secret Cities, and Other Inscrutable Geographies
Alastair Bonnett
★★★★
The Moonstone
Wilkie Collins
Speak
Louisa Hall
Gardens of the Moon
Steven Erikson
Interview with the Vampire
Anne Rice
Children of Time
Adrian Tchaikovsky
Bitter Seeds
Ian Tregillis
The Business
Iain Banks
Ghost
Jason Reynolds
★★★
You Are Not A Gadget
Jaron Lanier
Authority
Jeff VanderMeer
Become What You Are
Alan W. Watts
Death on the Nile
Agatha Christie
Lincoln in the Bardo
George Saunders
★★★★ [notes]

Bedtime is for two things:

  1. Reading a nice book
  2. Getting hit by waves of existential anxiety stoking your fears of death, mortality and oblivion until you feel like you're suffocating, you feel like you're in a too-hot bath so you have to get up except this isn't a too-hot bath you can jump out of. It's a hot bath you can't ever jump out of, so even as this wave of anxiety subsides, you know there's another one coming for you.

If this sounds like your idea of a good evening then, boy, is this the book for you.

Lincoln in the Bardo a beautiful book. It's witty and unexpected and there are passages (whole characters, actually) that absolutely took my breath away. Each character had their own story, their own voice, and the moment when they form a connection (staying vague because of spoilers), I was reading through floods of tears. At the same time, it took me almost a month to finish because it's also one of the most difficult things I've read (for reasons, see above), so I would approach it every night and ask myself was I mentally ready -- was I emotionally ready -- for this book tonight? Most nights, the answer was 'no'. But when I was ready, I was consuming the book in huge gulps, because it was all so lovely.

The BFG
Roald Dahl
★★★
Alex Cox's Introduction to Film: A Director's Perspective
Alex Cox
★★★★ [notes]

If you've ever seen Alex Cox's Moviedrome introductions, you'll know he's an intelligent, erudite speaker with a passion for films and this really comes across in this book. Occasionally, you (the reader) are prompted to put the book down and watch a specific film or a specific part of a film. Other similar books would just assume you're already familiar with the early works of Abbas Kiarostami and if not well see you in the chapter where we talk about Star Wars I guess. Being told what to look at and why means the whole thing feels less like a lecture and more like a conversation.

The Fifth Season
N.K. Jemisin
★★★★★

2016

Ghost Fleet: A Novel of the Next World War
P.W. Singer
Stories of Your Life and Others
Ted Chiang
★★★★★
Soon I Will Be Invincible
Austin Grossman
Sleeping Giants
Sylvain Neuvel
★★★
The Bloody Chamber and Other Stories
Angela Carter
★★★
Between the World and Me
Ta-Nehisi Coates
★★★★
The Book of Lost Things
John Connolly
★★★★
Gilead
Marilynne Robinson

2015

Caliban's War
James S.A. Corey
Endtroducing.....
Eliot Wilder
★★★★
The Earthsea Quartet
Ursula K. Le Guin
★★★★
On the Shortness of Life
Seneca
★★★
The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History
Elizabeth Kolbert
Altered Carbon
Richard K. Morgan
Breathing Machine: Growing Up in the Digital Age
Leigh Alexander
Whiskey Tango Foxtrot
David Shafer
★★★
Infinite Jest
David Foster Wallace
★★★★
On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft
Stephen King
★★★★★
Rise of the Warrior Cop: The Militarization of America's Police Forces
Radley Balko
★★★★★
A Wrinkle in Time
Madeleine L'Engle
★★
A Canticle for Leibowitz
Walter M. Miller Jr.
★★★
Creativity, Inc.: Overcoming the Unseen Forces That Stand in the Way of True Inspiration
Ed Catmull
★★★★
Black Moon
Kenneth Calhoun
★★★
Havoc, in Its Third Year
Ronan Bennett
In the Woods
Tana French
The Internet Of Garbage
Sarah Jeong
★★★★
Warlock
Oakley Hall
Wolf in White Van
John Darnielle
★★★★★
The Forever War
Joe Haldeman
★★★★
The Girl on the Train
Paula Hawkins
[notes]

Complete trash whose only saving grace was that it was over quickly

Seveneves
Neal Stephenson
★★★
Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less
Greg McKeown
★★
Shovel Ready
Adam Sternbergh
★★★★
Mort
Terry Pratchett
★★★
Leviathan Wakes
James S.A. Corey
★★★
Stoner
John Williams
★★★★★
The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing
Marie Kondo
The Greek Myths
Robin A.H. Waterfield
Right Ho, Jeeves
P.G. Wodehouse
★★
Annihilation
Jeff VanderMeer
★★★★
Crooked Little Vein
Warren Ellis
★★★
Station Eleven
Emily St. John Mandel
★★★★

2014

Heir to the Empire
Timothy Zahn
★★★★
Neverwhere
Neil Gaiman
★★★
Ancillary Sword
Ann Leckie
★★★
Steal Like an Artist: 10 Things Nobody Told You About Being Creative
Austin Kleon
★★★★ [notes]

Like Show Your Work, Steal Like an Artist is a lovely, super-short collection of aphorisms and quotes about creativity and inspiration that never quite crosses the line of 'cloying'. Some great practical advice. I can see myself hitting this up for a quick dose of inspiration when I'm feeling creatively flat.

Foundation
Isaac Asimov
★★
The Descent
Jeff Long
★★
Seconds
Bryan Lee O'Malley
★★★★
Lexicon
Max Barry
★★
Epic Fail: Bad Art, Viral Fame, and the History of the Worst Thing Ever
Mark O'Connell
★★★★
Ancillary Justice
Ann Leckie
★★★★★
Life as We Knew It
Susan Beth Pfeffer
★★★
The Martian
Andy Weir
★★★★
Black Hole
Charles Burns
★★★
Show Your Work!: 10 Ways to Share Your Creativity and Get Discovered
Austin Kleon
★★★★ [notes]

Austin Kleon does a pretty great job of straddling the line between anecdotal motivational bullshit and practical advice for people who are nervous about letting their work be seen by the wider world. It's inspirational in all the right ways.

Here Are The Young Men
Rob Doyle
[notes]

Usually, when I'm writing a review of a book or a film, I try to be a bit lenient and say "well, this person wrote a book and I haven't, so they're clearly doing something better than me!" Except I can't feel this way about this book. I'd be ashamed to put my name to this thing.

The story is about a bunch of one-dimensional stand-ins for various aspects of teenage lives. There's the clever, bookish one. There's the violent misanthrope. There's the boring generic one. And they all go around Dublin, doing drugs and being surly. The few female characters are just as one-dimensional as the male characters - they're there to have sex with and to make the boys feel bad.

The entire book is dreadfully dull and badly written. And then suddenly, it takes a last-act swing into American Psycho territory. Like the author read over his manuscript up until that point and said "fuuuuuuck, nothing actually happens in this book!" and tried to make up for it with a completely unbelievable 'shock' conclusion.

This book was all over the Irish/Sunday Times a couple of weeks ago, and having now finished it, I'm feeling a definite case of the emperor's new clothes here. God-awful. Avoid.

Hatchet
Gary Paulsen
★★★ [notes]

Minecraft: The Book.

Dept. of Speculation
Jenny Offill
★★★★ [notes]

This is a short but lovely story of a relationship, a child and a marriage, as told by that girl on Livejournal you had a massive crush on when you were 17.

Under the Skin
Michel Faber
★★★★
Far North
Marcel Theroux
★★ [notes]

"The Road", if that book was written be someone who had no idea what made "The Road" so great.

Dark Eden
Chris Beckett
★★ [notes]

Despite a great premise, this whole book feels awkward and undercommitted. Emma Donoghue’s Room and Will Self’s The Book of Dave had the courage to fully commit to telling their stories in a broken English style, but this applied it so inconsistently as to make it jarring as fuck. And then the whole thing abruptly ends just as soon as it starts to get interesting. I had to check to see if my Kindle edition was missing a final couple of chapters (it’s not). In media res is a great place to start a story. Unfortunately for Dark Eden, it’s not such a great place to finish.

Ready Player One
Ernest Cline
[notes]

This has been on my "currently reading" list since December 2012. I've given up and restarted it on and off since then. It was such a struggle to get through. I think the problem is that it irritates the same parts of my brain as The Big Bang Theory - it's supposed to appeal to nerds like me, but it's such a shitshow that I find myself getting annoyed. In place of any character development or story, we're treated to a never-ending string of "like that thing in $nerd_reference". Right up until the last chapter. "It was a hedge maze. With the same layout as the one in Labyrinth". This is cheap, lazy writing at its worst. Dan Brown, all is forgiven.

Zen in the Art of Archery: Training the Mind and Body to Become One
Eugen Herrigel
★★★★ [notes]

A great introduction to zen concepts from a western point of view. Archery is just used as the jumping off point - one of the things I love about this book is how its lessons can be applied to pretty much any physical endeavour.

All You Need Is Kill
Hiroshi Sakurazaka
★★★

2013

Horns
Joe Hill
★★★★ [notes]

God, he writes so much like his da, it's not even funny.

The Rook
Daniel O'Malley
★★★
Lost At Sea: The Jon Ronson Mysteries
Jon Ronson
★★★ [notes]

A mixed bag of previously-published Jon Ronson articles and short stories. He's a charming writer with a distinct voice, but the overall quality of this collection was pretty uneven.

Go Ask Alice
Beatrice Sparks
★★ [notes]

This would probably be amazing if you were a 15 year old girl in 1973. As a 34 year old man in 2013, it's total gash.

The Mirage
Matt Ruff
★★★ [notes]

The problem with alternate reality stories -- especially ones that try to 'mirror' reality -- is that it can be too easy to get 'cute' with your ideas. The Mirage is a solid example of this. An abundance of tricksy bullshit almost derails what is otherwise a terrific central idea.

Gun Machine
Warren Ellis
★★★ [notes]

An unusual, zippy detective story written with a light touch. Ordinarily, it would be enough for me to give it four stars. But this is Warren Ellis we're talking about. I'm not reading it for a "light touch". I want something with his fingerprints all over it. Good, but not as good as I'd hoped it would be.

Spin
Robert Charles Wilson
★★★★ [notes]

Occasionally falls victim to the common science fiction problem of writing every character with the same voice, since they're all just empty vessels for the author to express the BIG GRAND IDEAS and THEMES they're OH SO PROUD of. Despite this minor problem (and really, when it's so common as to almost be a genre trope, it is really a 'problem'?), Spin is a really interesting book and, more importantly, one that remains interesting throughout.

Both Flesh and Not
David Foster Wallace
★★★ [notes]

On the one hand, this book is a huge disappointment. Publishers are clearly scraping the bottom of the barrel when it comes to David Foster Wallace. They know that certain people (like me) will buy pretty much anything with his name on it, so they're searching for anything that could possibly be slapped between two covers and called a 'book'. So now we've got Both Flesh and Not which includes publicly-accessible pieces he wrote for newspapers and magazines, as well as weak 500-word nothing-pieces like "Just Asking". These aren't his best works and, what's more, every essay in this collection represents a step closer to the moment when there is no more DFW left to publish in book form.

But on the other hand, even the worst DFW is better than almost all of the rest of the shit on my bookshelf. So there's that.

The Sisters Brothers
Patrick deWitt
★★★★ [notes]

Slow to start, and ends with a bit of a fizzle rather than a pop. But in between? Beauty.

Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore
Robin Sloan
★★★★★ [notes]

Have you ever read a Cory Doctorow book and thought "I like the way this guy is all enthusiastic about technology and how it's changing our lives in a million tiny ways, but holy fuck, I wish he wrote more interesting stories"? Then Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore is for you! I finished it in two sittings. The last time I did that with a book, it was Phillip Pullman's The Northern Lights. Can't recommend this enough.

John Dies at the End
David Wong
★★ [notes]

Is this some experiment in allowing a first-time writer to publish a book without ever sending it through the traditional editing process? A blisteringly entertaining opening gives way to a glacial middle third, and then the book just fizzles to a close without any sense of any sort of through-line or cohesion. I guess the through-line and cohesion would appear if you read the follow-up, but honestly, after slogging my way through this, I don't think I'll return for seconds, thanks.

Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry Into Values
Robert M. Pirsig
★★★
Let's Pretend This Never Happened: A Mostly True Memoir
Jenny Lawson
★★★ [notes]

Jenny Lawson is a funny lady. She's just my kind of sassy, neurotic and rude. When this book works, it's because she's writing with her own voice, the same voice you hear on her blog. When this book doesn't work -- which is, unfortunately, most of the time -- it's because someone took that same voice and tried to hit it with the literary stick. What you get is a dull hybrid that falls too flat to be any way engaging. It's a shame. Although I'd say this is almost certainly first-time jitters and her next book will be something special.

2012

The Last Policeman
Ben H. Winters
★★ [notes]

Entirely flat and forgettable. A huge shame, because it's a waste of a great premise.

The Swerve: How the World Became Modern
Stephen Greenblatt
House of Leaves
Mark Z. Danielewski
★★★★★ [notes]

The literary equivalent of a 'found footage' horror film (like The Blair Witch project or Cannibal Holocaust), House of Leaves is spooky and inventive and probably my favourite book I've read all year. Its experiments in formalism are clever and complement the story perfectly, helping you engage with the story in a unique way.

I can't recommend it enough. Just terrific.

Civil War: A Marvel Comics Event
Mark Millar
Anathem
Neal Stephenson
★★★
A-frame
Chad Randl
Every Love Story Is a Ghost Story: A Life of David Foster Wallace
D.T. Max
Rise of the Videogame Zinesters: How Freaks, Normals, Amateurs, Artists, Dreamers, Drop-outs, Queers, Housewives, and People Like You Are Taking Back an Art Form
Anna Anthropy
Wool Omnibus
Hugh Howey
★★★★
On Bullshit
Harry G. Frankfurt

2011

Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children
Ransom Riggs
★★
Reamde
Neal Stephenson
The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: Century 1969
Alan Moore
★★
Black Dossier
Alan Moore
★★★
The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: Century 1910
Alan Moore
★★
At the Mountains of Madness and Other Tales of Terror
H.P. Lovecraft
★★★★
The Good, The Bad and The Multiplex: What's Wrong With Modern Movies?
Mark Kermode
★★★
More Pricks Than Kicks
Samuel Beckett
Parisians: An Adventure History of Paris
Graham Robb
Kraken
China Miéville
The Wordy Shipmates
Sarah Vowell
★★★★
A Confederacy of Dunces
John Kennedy Toole
★★★★
Good Omens: The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch
Terry Pratchett
★★
Something Wicked This Way Comes
Ray Bradbury
★★★
Batman: The Killing Joke
Alan Moore
★★★
From Hell
Alan Moore
★★★★★
The Complete Maus
Art Spiegelman
★★★★
V for Vendetta
Alan Moore
★★★★
All Things Shining: Reading the Western Classics to Find Meaning in a Secular Age
Hubert L. Dreyfus
★★ [notes]

Poorly researched and poorly written. A sprawling mess of a book.

Of Mice and Men
John Steinbeck
★★★★
The Ghost Pirates
William Hope Hodgson
★★
The Good Fairies of New York
Martin Millar
★★★
Spartan Gold
Clive Cussler
[notes]

First time reading a Clive Cussler book and it was unspeakably awful. Full of passages like "'Buon giorno,' she said. 'Signor Capriani?' 'Si.' 'Parla inglese?' Cipriani smiled broadly. 'I speak English, yes. But your Italian is very good.'"

?!!?

Never again.

Room
Emma Donoghue
★★★★
Blood Meridian
Cormac McCarthy
★★★★

2010

Filthy English
Peter Silverton
Consider Phlebas
Iain M. Banks
★★★
Never Let Me Go
Kazuo Ishiguro
Conquest of the Useless: Reflections from the Making of Fitzcarraldo
Werner Herzog
Image - Music - Text
Roland Barthes
The Secret Lives of Buildings: From the Parthenon to the Vegas Strip in Thirteen Stories. Edward Hollis
Edward Hollis
Catching Fire
Suzanne Collins
★★★★
Mockingjay
Suzanne Collins
Gödel, Escher, Bach: an Eternal Golden Braid
Douglas R. Hofstadter
The Blind Assassin
Margaret Atwood
Fup
Jim Dodge
★★★★★
The Hunger Games
Suzanne Collins
★★★★ [notes]

As faddish throwaway young-adult fiction goes, this was surprisingly robust. Yes, it borrows very heavily from Battle Royale, but once it gets going, it's genuinely very entertaining and a nice little palate-cleanser. Looking forward to the two sequels now.

Freedom
Jonathan Franzen
Open
Andre Agassi
Labyrinth
Kate Mosse
★★ [notes]

There's a lot to dislike about this book. The unnecessary, unbelievable characters, muddying everything up. The last-minute flurry of exposition. Not to mention Mosse's irritating narrative tics (how many characters can we reasonably believe can/should be knocked out over the course of a 600-something page novel? Do French people actually say everything twice, once in French and again in English?). Certainly, it's more literary than Dan Brown, but this sometimes works against the novel. Mosse is clearly aiming for a fast-paced thriller at certain points, but then gets bogged down in description, parading the amount of research she clearly did. On the one hand, I really do feel like this would have been a better, more exciting book if she'd toned down the literary aspirations. On the other hand, it's perfectly satisfactory holiday reading.

Our Man In Havana
Graham Greene
★★★★ [notes]

Terrific story, second only to G.K. Chesterton's The Man Who Was Thursday in the scope and viciousness of its satire. I loved the pace and dynamism of the writing, and I really do think that it's time for a resurgence in these kinds of - as Christopher Hitchens calls them - 'whiskey novels'. Post-colonial, but still very British, stiff upper lip kinds of stories. They're right up my alley. But, my goodness, Greene was never a great comedy writer. The self-consciously 'funny' lines were just painful to read.

Slaughterhouse-Five
Kurt Vonnegut Jr.
★★★★
Killing Floor
Lee Child
That Neutral Island: A History of Ireland during the Second World War
Clair Wills
The Strain
Guillermo del Toro
The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao
Junot Díaz
★★★★
Makers
Cory Doctorow
The Four Gospels: The Pocket Canons Edition
A.N. Wilson
The Secret Agent: A Simple Tale
Joseph Conrad
★★
The Passage
Justin Cronin
Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World
Haruki Murakami
The Broom of the System
David Foster Wallace
★★★★
The Year of the Flood
Margaret Atwood
Who Really Runs Ireland?
Matt Cooper
Fordlandia: The Rise And Fall Of Henry Ford's Forgotten Jungle City
Greg Grandin
How Proust Can Change Your Life
Alain de Botton
If on a Winter's Night a Traveller
Italo Calvino
★★★★★
The New York Trilogy
Paul Auster
★★★★
Yippee Ki-Yay Moviegoer: Writings on Bruce Willis, Badass Cinema and Other Important Topics
Vern
Life of Pi
Yann Martel
Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell
Susanna Clarke
★★★★★
The Handmaid's Tale
Margaret Atwood
★★★★
The Turn of the Screw
Henry James
★★ [notes]

The real horror in this book is the abuse of clauses. Each paragraph is turned into a twisting, winding pile of word-molasses which, for me, killed any sort of atmosphere and tension the author had intended to create. A real shame.

Narrative and Stylistic Patterns in the Films of Stanley Kubrick Narrative and Stylistic Patterns in the Films of Stanley Kubrick
Luis M. García Mainar
A Game of Thrones
George R.R. Martin
A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again: Essays and Arguments
David Foster Wallace
At Swim-Two-Birds
Flann O'Brien
Brief Interviews with Hideous Men
David Foster Wallace
★★★
Consider the Lobster: And Other Essays
David Foster Wallace
Directed by Steven Spielberg: Poetics of the Contemporary Hollywood Blockbuster
Warren Buckland
★★★★★ [notes]

Terrific, technical overview of the inner workings of a Steven Spielberg movie. Worth it for the chapter on Poltergeist alone.

Girl with Curious Hair
David Foster Wallace
Hitler and the Power of Aesthetics
Frederic Spotts
It's Only a Movie
Mark Kermode
On Stranger Tides
Tim Powers
★★★★
Red Seas Under Red Skies
Scott Lynch
★★★★
The Age of Wonder: How the Romantic Generation Discovered the Beauty and Terror of Science
Richard Holmes
The Blade Itself
Joe Abercrombie
★★★
The Complete Cosmicomics
Italo Calvino
The Gunslinger
Stephen King
The Infernal Desire Machines of Doctor Hoffman
Angela Carter
The Lies of Locke Lamora
Scott Lynch
★★★★★
The Lost City of Z
David Grann
★★★★
The Terror
Dan Simmons
Under the Dome
Stephen King
Unit Operations: An Approach to Videogame Criticism
Ian Bogost
Extra Lives: Why Video Games Matter
Tom Bissell
★★★ [notes]

It's a tough sell. The author has to make his book accessible enough for non-gamers, but still interesting enough for gamers of all levels. As a result, this book veers erratically between a genuinely entertaining 'experiential' account of the author's video gaming habits, and a boring, dime-a-dozen primer on video games. For example, the blow-by-blow recounting of the opening minutes of Resident Evil might be interesting to someone who has never played the game before, but as someone who has played that game (and especially that section of that game) more times than he cares to admit, I found that there were very few actual insights in this chapter.

I recently listened to an interview with the author on the Brainy Gamer podcast. The pre-defined audience of this podcast allowed him to go into a lot of detail regarding his thoughts on the relationship between cocaine and GTA IV, and I was left wondering why he couldn't have included these thoughts in the actual book he was promoting? It would have made the book a lot more enjoyable.

In the end, I feel as if the author failed to show us 'why video games matter', but rather told us why video games matter to him - and even then only weakly. For a more engaging and coherent argument on why video games matter, check out [book:Everything Bad is Good for You].

2009

The Elements of Style, Illustrated
William Jr. Strunk
★★★★★