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June 03, 2014


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Recent reading

  • Jaron Lanier: Ten Arguments for Deleting Your Social Media Accounts Right Now

    Jaron Lanier: Ten Arguments for Deleting Your Social Media Accounts Right Now
    This was preaching to the choir with me, of course. But Lanier's book is essential reading any case, as he makes, once again, an overwhelming case that Silicon Valley needs to find a new business model, and provide services we might actually be willing to pay for. Otherwise it's privacy invasion and thought manipulation all the way. Delete now!

  • Gabor Mate M.D.: In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts: Close Encounters with Addiction

    Gabor Mate M.D.: In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts: Close Encounters with Addiction
    Mate is a doctor who works closely with a community of drug addicts in Vancouver; this book draws on that work and, through a series of extraordinary (and often harrowing) portraits maps out the origins of addiction of all kinds. It's humane and powerful stuff with relevance to all of us.

  • Roger Golten: The Owner's Guide to the Body

    Roger Golten: The Owner's Guide to the Body
    Although Golten's book is getting on for a couple of decades old it's nonetheless a very worthwhile read, outlining a holistic approach to health that draws heavily on the somatic education movement, including Alexander Technique, Rolfing and Heller. It's also peppered with quotations from Buckminster Fuller, which must be uncommon for a book on fitness and health.

  • Alastair Reynolds: Absolution Gap

    Alastair Reynolds: Absolution Gap
    The Revelation Space trilogy reaches its climax and if anything it's more hysterical, dark, weird and delirious than its predecessors. Somehow Reynolds brilliantly balances giant ideas and a vast canvass with compelling human-scale (and intricately interwoven) stories. For anyone following this sidebar, this will be the last space opera here for a while. I think.

  • Gerry Anderson: Inside the Worlds of Gerry Anderson

    Gerry Anderson: Inside the Worlds of Gerry Anderson
    OK, ok... but I grew up on Thunderbirds and Captain Scarlett and they had a deep effect on how I see the world on everything from world government to architecture; this collection of beautiful cutaway paintings done in the 90s by Graham Bleathman provided me with a very enjoyable couple of hours. Thunderbirds are still very much GO!

  • George Leonard: Mastery

    George Leonard: Mastery
    Not only vastly shorter than Robert Greene's book of the same name (which I loved) Leonard's earlier book thinks about mastery in rather different terms: as a state any of us can attain in skills and more generally - not as a route to a truly elite position in any field (though it addresses that too) but as a way to approach all aspects of our lives.

  • Kim Stanley Robinson: 2312

    Kim Stanley Robinson: 2312
    More Hard SF (well, I have been on holiday) and yet another personal first. Robinson is one of the giants of modern SF I've somehow missed... more fool me. 2312 is apparently full of the left-leaning Robinson's recurrent themes - ecological disaster on Earth, the emergence of new political systems on off-world populations - and also throws in some timely concerns about General AI. But Robinson is also a fantastic storyteller, who puts human (or post-human) relationships at the core of the book. My generation's Asimov?

  • David W. Barber: Bach, Beethoven, and the Boys

    David W. Barber: Bach, Beethoven, and the Boys
    OK, so Barber's 1986 wilfully irreverent romp through the lives of the great composers, from Perotin to Cage, is eminently silly, full of in-jokes, and really has only one setting. But I have to say that it continually made me laugh out loud, which you can't say about many histories of Western Classical Music. It's also thoroughly knowledgable (if a little random in some of its choices) and clearly written with real love of the music.

  • Raymond Chandler: Farewell, My Lovely

    Raymond Chandler: Farewell, My Lovely
    Another first for me - and slightly more shamefully: Chandler. This is of course widely thought to be Chandler's masterpiece, the second of his Philip Marlowe books and I have to concur with the consensus for once. I read it in about two nights flat and was grinning from ear to ear all the way. Pretty much every sentence of Marlowe's famous first-person narration is a jewel, and the evocation of (low) life of 1940s LA utterly compelling.

  • David Brin: Existence

    David Brin: Existence
    This is my first Brin, and I came to it as a result of his appearance on the Partially Examined Life philosophy podcast (which I loved, despite the hosts clearly not enjoying the experience). The book slightly suffered from being read straight after Seveneves, as Brin occupies something of the same space without having (to my mind) quite Stephenson's verve. But it's great stuff for all that, a multi-headed piece of storytelling that charts the consequences of alien life appearing at some point in the next hundred years. I'll definitely be reading more.