Frivolity: Fave Reads '01

From the "Who asked You?" Department, it's

Larry's Top 10 Fave Reads for 2001

Burn Collector (collected stories from one through nine), Al Burian
Collection of stories from a 'zine. Most of the stories are about traveling and drinking coffee and talking with fellow temp workers. There's a story in there about riding a Greyhound Bus. You can't go wrong there.

Macros2000 #7, "Jeff Stendec"
Would I recommend this 'zine on my Fave Reads page if there wasn't something of mine published in it? Maybe. I like this 'zine a lot. It features conversation patterns which other people have used to good effect. It is funny and gives glimpses into other ways of life. However, it took so little time to read that I ordinarily wouldn't have remembered it. Part of the reason that, say, Romance of the Three Kingdoms is on this list is that I can remember reading it. I remember weeks of sitting on the bus, trying to hold up this heavy book. Macros2000 #7 is not a heavy book. But it's good. And it's cheap.

Three Kingdoms, Lo Kuan-chung (Moss Roberts, tr.)
This is a big book, full of swashbuckling stories of devious devious and brave generals. To survive, generals had to be brave, honorable, tricky, fair, devious, and devout. Since they couldn't manage all of those qualities at once, none survived.

Berlin: City of Stones (collects issues 1-8 of the comic book), Jason Lutes
This comic book, set between the World Wars, has everything: spies, art students, bitter war veterans, communists, persecuted Jews, and potatoes.

America Under Attack, OldManMurray's Erik
After the terrorist attacks of September 11, Americans had to read a lot of stupid stuff by people with strange ideas about What it Means to Be an American. We had to read a lot of generalizations about terrorists, Islam, and air safety. Fear and cowardice appeared in editorials across the nation, often disguised as patriotism. Erik distilled this upswell of awfulness and combined it with video hockey.

Carl Sagan: a Life in the Cosmos, William Poundstone
I didn't watch Carl Sagan when he was on TV. I never thought that he was a wildly exciting guy. I only read this biography because I enjoyed William Poundstone's biography of Johnny von Neumann so much. I still don't think I would have got along with Sagan very well. On the other hand, Sagan was interested in a lot of interesting areas of research, and this biography gives some glimpses into the recent history of these fields. And it's always fun to read about oversexed dolphins.

Declare, Tim Powers
A modern spy story with Tim Powers-style sorcery. I guess it makes sense that Tim Powers would write about Tim Powers-style sorcery. A spy is brought low by his flaws and a brush with the supernatural, but eventually recovers his honor and masters the mysterious forces which percolate in the background of our world.

"The Roads of Liberty" trilogy (The Age of Reason, The Reprieve, Troubled Sleep), J.P. Sartre
These are the best war novels that I've read. They feature lots of bickering. There's bickering, whining, complaining, and betrayal. If there's still anyone alive who thinks of war as an opportunity for glory, they should read these books.

Boy's Treasury of sports, pastimes, and recreations, Samuel Williams
This book was written back in 1844. It was an activity book for boys of that time. Among the suggested activities: kite-making, constructing a whale-bone crossbow, hoop-trundling, making a watchspring gun, and making (and inhaling) nitrous oxide. It also had a then-current map of the Hampton Court hedge maze.

Return to the Whorl, In Green's Jungles, Gene Wolfe
I finished reading this trilogy this year. It got pretty confusing towards the end. This could mean that the plot devolved into an addled mess. But based upon experience with the Severian tetrology, I'm probably just not smart enough to understand these books on the first read-through. By the time I've gone over them a couple more times, I won't be so confused and I'll like them even more. (The first book of the series was good, too. The only reason it's not on my list of Fave Reads for 2001 is that it was on my list of Fave Reads for 2000.)

Honorable Mention

"Glittering Stone" tetrology (Bleak Seasons, She is the Darkness, Water Sleeps, Soldiers Live), Glen Cook
I think I like this series of hard-bitten fantasy soldier stories a lot. But I'm not 100% sure. For one thing, I haven't finished reading the last book yet. What if the ending's dumb? For another thing, I've been reading it recently. Maybe I'm too caught up in it to judge it fairly.

I Sailed with Rasmussen, Peter Freuchen
Some Danes decided to set up a trading post in Northern Greenland. They learned a lot about Arctic survival the hard way. If you want to work on your dogs' teeth, you may need to choke those dogs until they poop. Butchering a bear on an iceberg is bad luck, with good reason. To find out why, read this book.

Polybius on Roman Imperialism
Mike Touloumtzis read something by Polybius and he told me some of the interesting things that he was reading about Hannibal. This convinced me that I should read Polybius. What Mike didn't warn me about is that he'd dug up those few interesting bits out from amongst a lot of dry reading. I'm glad that I read this book. I read a couple of sentences about Archimedes and the siege of Syracuse, thus doubling how much I knew about the life of Archimedes. Still, this book is a good one to skim, looking for the interesting parts.

Rabi, Scientist and Citizen, John S. Rigden
Back in the days of the Manhattan Project, I. I. Rabi didn't work on the Manhattan project. He figured that he'd do the war effort more good by working on RADAR. Also, he didn't like the idea of creating a more powerful bomb. I wanted to read more about him, since his seemed like a rare mix of pragmatism, wisdom, and science. This was a good biography of I.I.Rabi. But it turns out that I'd already read the chapter of this biography that dealt with his interactions with the Manhattan project--it was in a collection of essays about the Manhattan Project. Which is what encouraged me to track down a biography of I. I. Rabi in the first place. So I didn't learn more about what I wanted to learn.

The Big U., Neal Stephenson
This was pretty strange.

InPassing.org, "Eve"
"Eve" overhears things. When she does, she posts them to this web site. I check it nearly every day. When I overhear something, I post it. You can, too.

Yeager, General Chuck Yeager and Leo Janos
This year, I read Tom Wolfe's The Right Stuff. I told Piaw that I was reading it. He said that I should read Yeager instead. You know what? He was right. Don't read The Right Stuff, read Yeager. Later this year, I read The Skunk Works, another book that had Leo Janos in the byline. That book was kind of dumb. Which goes to show that Chuck Yeager is a better ghost-writee than that skunk works guy. Anyhow.

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