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?
- cockeyed.com, Rob Cockerham et al.
- You may already have visited cockeyed.com--someone 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.
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.
- 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
- 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.
- juked.com, 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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