Frivolity: Fave Reads '02

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

Larry's Top 10 Fave Reads for 2002

I read many books this year. I liked about 40 of them. Here are the best of those that I liked:

Our Band Could Be Your Life, Michael Azzerad
I usually sneer at the journalism that surrounds pop music. I don't care where Britney Spears grew up, and cringe when someone tries to sell me a book about her. But I didn't sneer at Our Band Could Be Your Life. It's a biography of some bands and musicians. But I liked this book, and think it has merit. Is it because Mr. Azzerad is a better reporter than the spewers of TV entertainment news? Or is it because this book had information about some bands that I like?, Rob Cockerham et al.
You may already have visited may have pointed you at the page where they answer "How much silly string is inside a can?" or something like that. If you didn't take time to explore the site further, I suggest that you do.
Cometbus: Despite Everything, Aaron Cometbus et al.
Cometbus is arguably the best 'zine ever. "Despite Everything," a big "best-of" collection, came out this year. You must read it. I enjoyed reading it so much that I ran over to my local library to read their back issues of Cometbus, finding the stuff that didn't quite make it into the best-of. But, really, the choice of stories in this collection is great. This book has travel, exploring abandoned buildings, and insight into the nature of human relationships.
Diaspora, Greg Egan
Okay, I only read this book because one of its chapters appeared in an anthology called "New Legends" which I only read because I worked on a game called "New Legends". But it's a good book in which superintelligent robots explore the universe (and beyond).
"Girl Genius", Phil & Kaja Foglio et al.
Okay, so there's been a lot of "steampunk" in science fiction lately, maybe more than is really appropriate. And this comic is pretty steamish. But this steam-powered comic has more witty banter than you can shake a stick at. And instead of punks, there are mad scientists. There are many mad scientists. Great art, great banter, you must read this comic. Yes.
Cartoon History of the Universe III, Larry Gonick
Or you could read this comic. It's been a long wait for this volume of the collected Cartoon History of the Universe, but it was fascinating. This one includes a history of Islam's origins, a trendy subject to study up on this year.
The Hungry Ocean, Linda Greenlaw
If you read a lot, you might be put off knowing that the Linda Greenlaw who wrote this book is the same Linda Greenlaw who got mentioned in Junger's The Perfect Storm. But don't be put off--Greenlaw is a much better writer than Junger. She writes about swordfishing--how an expedition goes, past anecdotes, how it feels to work so hard.
Lonesome Dove, Larry McMurtry
This is an old book, a popular book, and you've probably already read it. I finally got around to reading it. Yeah, it's really good.
Down and Out in Paris and London, George Orwell
George Orwell worked as a waiter in Paris and discovered that restaurants are filthy and that French people have terrible taste. Which just goes to show that some pieces of literature are timeless. Orwell also wrote about his time as a tramp in England, moving among workhouses. He has some insightful commentary about the workhouse system.
When the Emperor Was Divine, Julie Otsuka
Yes, it's a novel about the USA internment of Japanese-ancestry citizens during WWII. But it never feels like one of those boring books you're supposed to Learn an Important Lesson from. Instead, there's a really sneaky first chapter, a really good rant at the end, and the stuff in the middle keeps you interested. Disclosure: I know the author's brother.

Honorable Mention

Trust Us, We're the Experts, Sheldon Rampton and John Stauber
This book was interesting, but wasn't full of startling news. Some scientists have sold out, producing studies that skirt around the harmful effects of... whatever their corporate sponsors are producing.
Strange Travelers, Gene Wolfe
It's an anthology of short stories by Gene Wolfe. Most of them are pretty good.
Ernie's America, Ernie Pyle (David Nichols, ed.)
Even though this is a reporter reporting from locations around the USA during the Depression, it's still interesting.
Enigma, R. Harris
This book gets an honorable mention because it doesn't have the continuity gaps of its movie adaptation. I don't even know if the book was that good. It was just such a relief to read after I'd seen the movie.
A Star Called Henry, Roddy Doyle
This book was swashbuckling good fun. Though it starts out sounding like it's going to be the tragic story of poverty in Ireland, it gets past that.
The Berlin Police in the Weimar Republic, Hsi-Huey Lang
You didn't know that you wanted to read about the breakdown of order on the streets of Berlin after WWI. But you do want to. Yes you do. Suddenly, riot police seem like all that stands between you and hordes of anarchist rioters. And, of course, Nazi rioters spreading terror. Read this book and you'll say hooray for riot police.
Big Sugar, Alec Wilkinson
This is a sprawling New Yorker-style book about sugar workers (and the sugar-growing industry) in the Southern USA. Not so long ago, there were slavery-like conditions, and these still linger. You will learn about cane. You will learn about the men who cut the cane. You will learn about hard living. You will like your sugar better when you think about the lives it has ruined. Mmm, sugar.
Look to Windward, Iain M. Banks
It's another novel about the Culture, Banks' science-fiction universe full of super-smart robots and humans battling ennui. Yes, another one. I liked another one. But that doesn't mean I'm in a rut.
A Fairly Honorable Defeat, Iris Murdoch
One character cynically manipulates many other characters and the wacky fun times begin. Some will fail, some prevail. This book sorta reminded me of Sartre's Age of Reason., John Wang et al.
I first encountered Juked as a print 'zine, but it's mostly a website. There are some good stories and some good articles. You do have to pick your way through a few writing exercises, but it's worth it. Oh, and you need to dodge some poetry as well. Look out for that.
Cogito, Ergo, Sum, Richard Watson
This Descartes biography doesn't present many facts. Apparently, not much Descartes source material has survived. So we learn a little, and we also make fun of the stories which hagiography-writers have made up about Descartes.
A Woman Pilgrim, Mary Jo Kelly Wilhelm
She's a guide who helps give specialty tours. These tours involve telling sacred stories of the region. So there are interesting stories. And the tour attracts interesting customers who in turn generate more stories. So this book of travel reminiscences has a high number of interesting incidents. Disclosure: I know the author.

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