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Old 02-01-2013, 06:55 AM   #62
Soldim
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Join Date: Mar 2010
Location: Zurich
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75 books

Late to the game, but who cares. My initial goal was to read 75 books during 2013. With 19 books read during January (partially due to exceptional circumstances), I guess I might need to adjust the goal upwards.

January

1. The Chimps of Fauna Sanctuary: A True Story of Resilience and Recovery by Andrew Westoll
Interesting read, though much more focused on the history of the individual chimps and the legislation preventing research on chimps than on primatology. 7/10
2. Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail by Cheryl Strayed
I enjoyed it -- though could have lived without all the personal issues and more focus on the trail. 8/10
3. Diary of a Wimpy Kid by Jeff Kinney
Funny, but nothing exceptional. 6/10
4. Taking Sudoku Seriously: The Math Behind the World's Most Popular Pencil Puzzle by Jason Rosenhouse, Laura Taalman
Very interesting, a good balance between the focus on sudokus and mathematics in general. 8/10
5. My Family and Other Animals by Gerald Durrell
Great read, nice understated British humor, amazing small portaits of live on Corfu. 8/10
6. Birds, Beasts, and Relatives by Gerald Durrell
A sequel to the previous book, surprisingly no decrease in quality. 8/10
7. Garden of the Gods by Gerald Durrell
Last book of the Corfu trilogy, still very strong. 8/10
8. Whatever You Do, Don't Run: True Tales of a Botswana Safari Guide by Peter Allison
Amusing, sometimes there might be slight exaggeration by the author. 7/10
9. Odd Thomas: An Odd Thomas Novel by Dean Koontz
Light, easy read. Normally I am not a great fan of the paranormal genre, but Koontz at least makes it effortless. 7/10
10. The Wild Rover: A Blistering Journey Along Britain's Footpaths by Mike Parker
Hmmm. I actually thought it was #3 on this list when I started reading. Both have 'Wild' in the title and some stuff about hiking on the cover text. The writing is not very fluent, the chapters only moderately interesting. 5/10
11. Forever Odd: An Odd Thomas Novel by Dean Koontz
Another light read. 7/10
12. How to Walk a Puma: And Other Things I Learned While Stumbling through South America by Peter Allison
Amusing, but nothing amazing 6/10.
13. Brother Odd by Dean Koontz
Again, and easy Odd novel. I feel it is quite skillful how Koontz makes the main character evolve -- it keeps these books attractive. 7/10
14. Don't Look Behind You!: A Safari Guide's Encounters with Ravenous Lions, Stampeding Elephants, and Lovesick Rhinos by Peter Allison
In my opinion the better of the three books of Allison I read the last weeks. 8/10
15. Odd Hours by Dean Koontz
I guess one can have too much of the same -- little novelty in this one. 6/10
16. The Day the World Discovered the Sun: An Extraordinary Story of Scientific Adventure and the Race to Track the Transit of Venus by Mark Anderson
A very interesting and entertaining read, where Anderson follows various natural philosophers who study the Venus transit in 1761 & 1769. It nicely mixes scientific discovery and adventure and in addition describes scientific progress during the 1760s. So far the best book I've read in 2013. 9/10
17. Rubicon: The Last Years of the Roman Republic by Tom Holland
Very well written, as I had expected from the reviews and acclaim. Holland manages a rather objective narrative of events where it is easy to choose favorite parties and is able to clearly indicate cause and consequences of this hectic period of the Roman Republic. 8/10
18. Handbook of Epictetus by Epictetus
Though provoking. Which might have been the goal. 8/10
19. Quantum Gods: Creation, Chaos, and the Search for Cosmic Consciousness by Victor J. Stenger
Not what I had expected it to be. A lot of ranting against different theists, a bit of quantum mechanics. Overall not very coherent. 6/10
February

20. Legion of Thunder by Stan Nicholls
Second book in a fantasy series of three, written from the perspective of an Orc band. The first book was pretty cool, and for sure from a novel perspective. In this one there's nothing new or surprising. I am not even sure whether or not I will start the third book. 5/10
21. Ruhlman's Twenty: The Ideas and Techniques that Will Make You a Better Cook by Michael Ruhlman
I liked this one a lot. Basically featuring twenty concepts, ingredients and techniques for cooking, illustrated with different recipes. It is a very nice overview of some of the basic concepts underlying good food and great fun in the kitchen. 9/10
22. The Quantum Universe: Everything That Can Happen Happens by Brian Cox and Jeff Forshaw
This book hovers on the far edge of popular science, with the already not so light subject of quantum mechanics described and discussed thoroughly, with more than a flavor of mathematics. Someway past the middle the authors suddenly delve into the principles behind transistors -- which I always had understood quite well without being too versed in quantum mechanics. The last chapter deal with the Higgs boson, the reason I bought the book, though the explanation was not into the depth I hoped (or I am less smart than thought ). 8/10
23. The Evolution of Useful Things: How Everyday Artifacts-From Forks and Pins to Paper Clips and Zippers-Came to be as They are. by Henry Petroski
I was only moderately impressed with this book. I had expected it to be more focussed on the engineering issues, but it had a lot of design, which I only appreciated so-so. 7/10
24. The Egg and I by Betty MacDonald
Entertaining read, I liked the bitter humor and the seemingly accurate descriptions of life in the untamed Pacific North West in the 1920s. 8/10
March

25. Jerusalem: A Cookbook by Yotam Ottolenghi
A 'real' cooking book with recipes. I like it, but his other book (which will appear later on my list ) seems much better. 7/10
26. I Love Macarons by Hisako Ogita.
A definitive disappointment. Conversions of quantities are a mess and a lot of the advice is just not useful or even completely wrong. 4/10
27. Les Petits Macarons by Anne E. McBride and Kathryn Gordon.
Much better than the Ogita book, I used a couple of the recipes and they turned out well. 7/10
28. Detroit: An American Autopsy by Charlie LeDuff
Recommended to my by a friend, I wouldn't have gotten it otherwise. Raw and harsh, but very gripping. I'd strongly recommend it to anyone interested in contemporary events. 8/10
April

29. Sacred Trash: The Lost and Found World of the Cairo Geniza by Adina Hoffman and Peter Cole
The blurb sounded more interesting than the book actually was. Some interesting aprts, but otherwise rather boring chronological descriptions. 5/10
30. Cheap Meat: Flap Food Nations in the Pacific Islands by Deborah Gewertz and Frederick Errington
I tend to be interested in reading about food, food politics and food economics, but this one simply doesn't cut it. These anthropologists apparently haven't left the 'noble savage' concept behind. 4/10
31. The Man of Numbers: Fibonacci's Arithmetic Revolution by Keith J. Devlin
Either I am getting too critical, or I have bad luck/judgement in purchasing books lately. Another mediocre read, somewhere between a biography and a history of mathematics; inadequate as either or a combination. 4/10
May

32. VB6: Eat Vegan Before 6:00 to Lose Weight and Restore Your Health . . . for Good by Mark Bittman
No, I am not overweight and don't need nor intend to go on a diet. But, I do like the writing of NYT food-writer Mark Bittman. Generally, his books are a must read. This one doesn't feature on top of my list, but it was interesting and has some fun recipes -- all vegan, which considering his history is worth a smile. 7/10
33. On Food and Cooking: The Science and Lore of the Kitchen by Harold McGee's
So. This one took me 4 months to get through -- with some other books interspersed. Like the title indicates, the chemistry and physics behind food and cooking. Highly interesting, incredible information dense. Useful for reading cover to cover once and then to be kept as a reference work. 9/10
June

34. Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman! by Richard Feynman
Well know autobiographic work from the famous Nobel-price winner, has been on my 'to read' list for a long time. I enjoyed reading it, partially because of the interesting historic perspective it gives on the Manhattan project. The writing is not superb, but the interesting life of Feynman makes up for it. 7/10
35. Salt Sugar Fat: How the Food Giants Hooked Us by Michael Moss
Discussed somewhere here in the MR forums, I picked up this book a couple of weeks ago. It has a promising start, but then really keeps focused on big food businesses without considering consumers actually making conscious choices. I felt the many interesting facts in the book are not quite put in perspective. 6/10
36. Gun Guys: A Road Trip by Dan Baum
One more I was inspired to read by the discussions here on MR, this time the one with regards to guns and gun violence. Not quite convinced of the use and appropriateness of permissive gun-laws myself, I found this book putting an interesting perspective on the proponents of that viewpoint. It did something to convince me that putting highly restrictive gun-laws in the US society at this moment might not be the ideal solution. 8/10
37. The Year Without Summer: 1816 and the Volcano That Darkened the World and Changed History by William K. Klingaman and Nicholas P. Klingaman
Not quite as exciting as the blurb promises, but still an enjoyable read. I would have liked to see a bit more science behind it, and maybe a slightly more extensive look at the aftermath (stopping in May 1817 was too early from my point of view). 7/10
38. Kingdom of Ants: Jose Celestino Mutis and the Dawn of Natural History in the New World by Edward O. Wilson and José M. Gómez Durán
Whereas it's a bit on the short side, I did enjoy this book focusing on the life and science of Mutis. He was one of the earlier scientists on the South-American continent and also one of the first entomologists that studied ants. 7/10
39. Odd Apocalypse by Dean Koontz
Got this one a while ago from the library, but it was expired when I got around to reading it -- so I had to wait until it was available again. I still like how the character evolves and Koontz is always good for some surprises. 8/10
40. About Time: Cosmology and Culture at the Twilight of the Big Bang by Adam Frank
I enjoyed this one a lot. It basically follows the understanding and use of time throughout human history. There's quite a bit of science, some cultural aspects as well as history and reflections on society. I'd thoroughly recommend it! 9/10
41. Prehistory: The Making Of The Human Mind by Colin Renfrew
Concise book, more about the study of prehistory than about prehistory itself. I found it very interesting to see how a sub-discipline of history developed and evolved. 8/10
42. Reinventing the Meal: How Mindfulness Can Help You Slow Down, Savor the Moment, and Reconnect with the Ritual of Eating by Pavel G. Somov
Yuk. Horrible book. I had assumed it was some reflection on the Slow-Food movement which is an interesting and laudable initiative. However, it turned out to be some New-Age drivel about the meditation before and during a meal. To add to the insult, the book is incoherently written. Abandoned. 2/10
43. The Loom of God: Tapestries of Mathematics and Mysticism by Clifford A. Pickover
Not quite sure what to think of this one. It is a mixture between some weird sf and interesting tide-bits on mathematics. In addition each chapter has some more details on the mathematics touched upon the fiction part. Frankly, I could have done without the sf 7/10
July

44. Middle Sea by John Julius Norwich
This works describes a huge stretch of time and many nations. I does lean a tad too much to the numerous wars that were fought during the 5000 or so years of history, but I learned many new things while reading this major work. I will definitely add some more Norwich books to my TBR list. 8/10
45. The Human Story by James C. Davis
A single book with the full history of humanity is an ambitious undertaking in any event. Davis does not do a bad job, but definitely manages to glance over many important events, persons and even cultures.

The book is extremely easy to read as is claimed, but sometimes the writing style which seems to be geared towards readers that don't have education beyond the primary school starts to rub a bit. The quality definitely suffers by the endeavor to keep the writing style simple.

This book is definitely more suitable for those with a brief interest in our past than people who have a genuine and long term history interest. 4/10
46. The Last Train to Zona Verde: My Ultimate African Safari by Paul Theroux
This is less a book about a voyage Theroux made, but rather about himself. It's one of the least interesting books I have read by him. Certainly, he is an erudite and his reflections are thought-provoking, but that's not what I bought this book for. 6/10
47. Frozen in Time: An Epic Story of Survival and a Modern Quest for Lost Heroes of World War II by Mitchell Zuckoff
The author skilfully narrates about a quest to track down a plane crashed during WWII in Greenland and the stories of a number of survivors of other plane crashes and the rescue missions in WWII Greenland. I found it a rather gripping book, which realistically portrayed the difficulties of the current discovery mission as well as the hardship the crash survivors went through. 8/10
48. The Long War by Terry Pratchett and Stephen Baxter
I hesitate a bit before purchasing this book. I greatly enjoyed the first installment of this series, but was not quite looking forward to battle scenes etc. However, the book got good reviews and considering the writing skills of the authors I bought it anyway. I was positively surprised, both the plot and character development are logical extensions of the first book. 8/10
49. Band-Aid for a Broken Leg: Being a Doctor with No Borders and Other Ways to Stay Single by Damien Brown
A no-nonsense book about the work the author did for Médecins sans Frontičres in Angola, Mozambique and Sudan. It describes the reality without romanticizing and does an excellent job in depicting the harsh decisions to be taken in when dealing with people that are ill or injured under conditions with very limited resources. 7/10
50. Called Again: A Story of Love and Triumph by Jennifer Pharr Davis
This book describes the two record setting hikes of the author on the Appalachian Trail, mainly focusing on the overall record the Davis set in 2011. It realistically described what it takes to walk over 75 kilometers a day on average for 46 consecutive days. Whereas I overall enjoyed the book, the author does focus a bit to often and too long on her religion for my taste. 6/10
51. Why Cats Land on Their Feet: And 76 Other Physical Paradoxes and Puzzles by Mark Levi
I thought this would be an entertaining book with a bunch of puzzles with probably surprising solutions. I had hoped to pick up some curious tidbits of physics knowledge reading the explanations. It turner out the puzzles are mostly tedious, with the explanations being rather concise and therefor lacking of clarity or generally not providing any insights. Added to that there's more than a fair bit of grammar and spelling errors. 3/10
52. This Life Is in Your Hands: One Dream, Sixty Acres, and a Family Undone by Melissa Coleman
An autobiographical work of a child growing up in a hippy community focused on organic gardening during the late seventies and early eighties. Eliot Coleman, father of the author, is currently considered one of the great experts on organic gardening and season extension. The book definitely shines another light on Coleman, the Nearings from which he learned the tricks of the trade and the general early organic growing movement. 7/10
53. The Stardust Revolution: The New Story of Our Origin in the Stars by Jacob Berkowitz
A highly interesting and well documented book about the origin of the atoms and molecules that have facilitated planet formation and the evolution of life. The book discusses these from a highly scientific angle, but manages to be readable and entertaining. Not only the discoveries of the last couple of centuries leading to the current body of knowledge are discussed but also the scientists doing the research. This book has earned itself a spot high on my all-time-favorite list. 9/10
August

54. Cooked: A Natural History of Transformation by Michael Pollan
Pollan is probably the best known author involved in the debate of factory food vs healthy food (though he does word is more subtly). Especially The Omnivores Dilemma was an eye opener for many people, and has held best selling status for a very long time. The problem for Pollan is that he said what had to be said very well and eloquent, and he has failed to reinvent himself since. So, whereas this book is entertaining and clearly written by a very good author, it basically brings nothing new. 7/10
55. London: The Biography by Peter Ackroyd
A rather hefty volume (and that as an ebook ), describing basically any aspect of London you can think of. It is generally very well written, however riddled with quotes giving it authenticity but sometimes complicating the reading. A lot of words were used to describe the lives of the underclasses and the social disadvantaged. Very little attention was given to the upper-classes and intellectuals though I'd think that, even if they always have been a minority, they have also played a role in shaping London through times. 7/10
56. A Palette of Particles by Jeremy Bernstein
Don't be fooled by appearance, seems to be the take-home message for this book. That’s not only the general message in the content, but also a reflection on the size of this book. Bernstein does a superb job at explaining what basic particles common matter is made up off, as well as giving detailed explanation of the more exotic particles that have been observed in physics experiments. The book is brief but comprehensive and in my opinion succeeds in explaining fundamental physical concepts in layman’s terms without losing out on precision. Additionally, the book provides a chronology of the discoveries, both theoretical and as detected, as well as some background about the leading physicists of the last century.

Overall, this book provides a lot of knowledge in well written form and I would heartily recommend it for anyone interested in general science and quantum physics. 9/10
57. Fear of Physics by Lawrence Krauss
Stumbled over it while purchasing the book listed above. I like Krauss' writing, and have especially enjoyed his 'Universe from Nothing'. This book is more geared towards a public generally interested in physics, and goes into some length in explaining methods that physicist use when developing new hypothesis and testing them. It provides many well explained examples of physical phenomenons. 7/10
58. The Bonobo and the Atheist: In Search of Humanism Among the Primates by Frans de Waal
Frans de Waal asks whether morals and ethics are really unique to humans, or whether we can actually find moral behavior in animals. Considering the title, it won't come as a surprise that De Waal provides very convincing arguments for the existence of moral behavior and ethical values in primates. He presents his evidence from a distinct atheist view, without being dogmatic about it. A very refreshing and interesting read. 8/10
59. Extraction by Preston and Child
A short novella in their Pendergast series, to announce their new book to be published later this year. Boring and predictable. 4/10
60. Relic by Preston and Child
Having read a 'boring and predictable' story by Preston and Child I was somehow inclined to re-read the Pendergast series. This is the first book, that I had actually somewhere in a box full of paperbacks. Still as thrilling as the first time I read it. 8/10
61. Stephen Jay Gould and the Politics of Evolution by David F. Prindle
Looking through some boxes of paperbacks I stumbled over some Gould books from the 90s; convinced I had not read the books he published before his early demise in 2002 I went to Amazon. I bought 'The Rock of Ages', and found this one. There was also a book about his scientific legacy, but at $132 I found that a bit steep. It was an interesting read, but nothing very surprising. 6/10
62.Reliquary by Preston and Child
Second book of the Pendergast series. A great read. 8/10
September

63. A Devil's Chaplain by Richard Dawkins
A selection of Dawkins essays that was published about 10 years ago, but I never got around to reading. If anything, Dawkins is consistent in his arguments and interests. I really like the eulogy he wrote for Douglas Adams. 7/10
64. The Cabinet of Curiosities by Preston and Child
Third book of the Pendergast series, where the protagonist starts being developed quite a bit deeper. 8/10
65. The Mind within the Brain: How We Make Decisions and How those Decisions Go Wrong by A. David Redish
A very detailed description of the neurological and cognitive processes underlying memory, behavior and decision making processes. Although the different processes are well described, the author goes into the great detail needed to really understand the basic science behind them, so the book is not exactly an easy read. I enjoyed it greatly though, and definitely learned a lot from it (and now even understand part of the neurology underlying that learning process 8/10
66. The Philosophical Breakfast Club: Four Remarkable Friends Who Transformed Science and Changed the World by Laura J. Snyder
The book describes the lives and science of the four protagonists very well, and is definitely entertaining. It also manages to put in the historic, social and economic context, which greatly helps to value the discoveries.
67. Still Life With Crows by Preston and Child
Fourth book from the Pendergast series, I think it's probably the best one of the series so far. 9/10
68. Brilliant Blunders: From Darwin to Einstein - Colossal Mistakes by Great Scientists That Changed Our Understanding of Life and the Universe by Mario Livio
Definitely not what the title promises it to be. I was rather disappointed, it's a book describing that even brilliant scientists make mistakes. But not on the subjects that they are known for and did change our understanding of science. 3/10
October

69. Intuition Pumps And Other Tools for Thinking by Daniel C. Dennett
My first pick in a personal quest to increase my background in philosophy. A very nice introduction to the subject, clearly written in brief chapters. 8/10
70. Brimstone by Preston and Child
Fifth book in Pendergast series, not too strong. First part of a mini-series. 6/10
71. Dance of Death by Preston and Child
Book six of the series, and the second of a 3 part mini-series. The book starts strong, but looses pace towards the end. 7/10
72. In the Hands of A Chef: Cooking with Jody Adams of Rialto Restaurant by Jody Adams and Ken Rivard
Was supposed to be a book describing how a great chef cooks at home with modest ingredients. Turns out to be a book showing how a modest chef cooks at home with great ingredients. Not very useful. 4/10
73. The Panda's Thumb: More Reflections in Natural History (Reflections in Natural History #2) by Stephen Jay Gould
A collection of his early essays. Very good and thought provoking. 7/10
74. The Flaw of Averages: Why We Underestimate Risk in the Face of Uncertainty by Sam L. Savage
I was tremendously disappointed with this book. I got the false impression that it would focus on statistics in all aspects of life -- instead it is on discussing business cases, which makes it rather boring. In addition, statistical principles are discussed in very lay terms, without any of the actualy interesting mathematical details. 2/10
75. The Book of the Dead by Preston and Child
Final part of a mini-series, definitely the strongest. 8/10
November

76. An Army at Dawn: The War in North Africa, 1942-1943, Volume One of the Liberation Trilogy (World War II Liberation Trilogy #1) by Rick Atkinson
Description of the early phases of the involvement of the US army in the liberation of Europe. Detailed, well researched and well written. 7/10
77. The Whole Fromage: Adventures in the Delectable World of French Cheese by Kathe Lison
About the best food and tradition. But little to be surprised about found in this book. 7/10
78. The Journeys of Socrates by Dan Millman
Not at al; what I thought it would be. Should have read the blurb. But, to my own surprize I did enjoy reading it. 7/10
79. The Wheel of Darkness by Preston and Child
First book of a second mini-series. Interesting setting, but the rest of the story seemed repetitive. I hope they are setting up for a good ending, as in the first mini-series. 6/10
December

80. Easy-To-Build Bird Feeders by Mary Twitchell
Looked through for a project with my son. Useful, short and to the point with clear instructions. 7/10
81. Gardening in Clay Soil by Sara Pitzer
Picked up at the same time as #80. Identical evaluation. 7/10
82. What a Wonderful World: One Man's Attempt to Explain the Big Stuff by Marcus Chown
He didn't succeed in his attempt. 5/10
83. Fortunately, the Milk by Neil Gaiman
Nah. If it wouldn't have been so short i would not have finished it. 3/10
84. A Million Little Bricks: The Unofficial Illustrated History of the Lego Phenomenon by Sarah Herman
The title says it all. A bit wordy, but a very entertaining read with lots of trivial facts thrown in. 8/10
85. The Dragons of Eden: Speculations on the Evolution of Human Intelligence by Carl Sagan
This book was published over 30 years ago, and much progress has been made in brain research during the last decades. All the more amazing that Sagan book about human intelligence remains spot on in many instances. Not sure if I would recommend it for others to read, but I tremendously enjoyed it. 8/10
86. Adventures Among Ants: A Global Safari with a Cast of Trillions by Mark W. Moffett
At the very end of the year, a highlight. Moffet writes about the research he does on ant societies. Beautiful photography (after five download attempts), well written and for me highly interesting. 9/10

Last edited by Soldim; 01-06-2014 at 09:11 AM.
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