Books finished in 1996

1: 1/1/96: The Reindeer People by Megan Lindholm
Can't really say too much about this until I've read the sequel since nothing is resolved at the end of the book. This Ace paperback is distinctive for a cover whose art and text have absolutely nothing to do with the book it encloses. Very finely crafted like all of Lindholm's work. This is not a happy book.

2: 1/3/96: Wolf's Brother by Megan Lindholm
Don't let anyone tell you that this and Reindeer People are two books. Together they form one richly well-imagined fantasy saga. Megan Lindholm never disappoints.

3: 1/15/96: Falcon by Emma Bull (repeat)
The second time through this book, I couldn't shake the similarities to Dune. Mostly just the similarities between Paul Atreides and Our Hero Niki, but other things too. I also saw shades of Delany and Le Guin in the setting universe. Bull gets a little preachy in places, but I don't mind a good sermon once in a while, especially when the message is a valid one. There is some really beautiful writing in this book, and Bull shares Steven Brust's skill for making my mouth water when she describes food. When I wrote a retrospective review of this last year I said that I couldn't remember whether the Big Secret that the plot hinges on was cheesy or cool. It's not cheesy. Well, not very.

4: 1/21/96: Distant Stars by Samuel R. Delany
Delany is still one of my favorite writers. This is an illustrated collection of some of his shorter works. Some of which aren't collected anywhere else. With one exception, I found the illustrations more distracting than anything. The exception is Empire Star where they wrap through and around the story nicely.

5: 1/21/96: Cats Have No Lord by Will Shetterly
I had thought that there was some connection between this book and Shetterly's The Tangled Lands, but that was just standard Ace misdirection: both seem to be standalones.

This is a fairly standard fantasy quest with some annoying deus ex machina going on. A sprinkling of social commentary that won't surprise anyone who has read Shetterley's posts to rec.arts.sf.written. The main characters are all interesting, with some good understated background, but the general effect is shallow, feeling more like a novelization of an RPG quest than a real novel.

6: 2/2/96: Sweet Thursday by John Steinbeck
My friend Beth threw this at me last week. I'd never heard of it. It's a sequel to Cannery Row. I'd never read Steinbeck for pleasure before, but got a great deal of it from this book. Sometimes you read a book, and the first few pages are written as if every word was carefully considered, and then after that it just starts to flow into a more generic style. This book never stops seeming like it was carefully considered. And yet it's funny and touching and a real page-turner.

7: 2/12/96: Pecked To Death By Ducks by Tim Cahill
Cahill writes about his travels and adventures. Some of the pieces in this book are hilarious. For some, I have to thank him for the vicarious pleasure of watching him doing things I would never choose to do myself. Some inspire me to get out and have my own adventures. And some gave me chills of revulsion at the evil that men can do. Highly reccommended.

8: 2/12/96: Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead by Tom Stoppard
Saw the movie made of this play a few days before reading it. The movie was fun and thought provoking and kind of confusing. The play is even more fun, even more thought provoking, and significantly less confusing. The play is very much a play since the bulk of its action happens behind and between the scenes of Hamlet. The movie did a remarkably good job of translating the stage references to the screen, but it cannot be fully faithful to the genius of Stoppard's original.

9: 2/17/96: Orca by Steven Brust
Has nothing to do with the ocean mammal of the same name. The 7th in the Vlad Taltos series. This one sees a return to the first person narration that was pointedly lacking in its predecessor, Athyra, however, Vlad is not the only narrator. Well worth reading for anyone who has enjoyed the other books. Worth plodding through Athyra if it wasn't to your tastes to have the necessary background.

10: 3/2/96: 'Tis a Gift to be Simple by Barbara DeGrote-Sorensen and David Allen Sorensen
This is a voluntary simplicity book from a Christian perspective. It practices what it preaches in that it is a very simple book giving hints and theological and scriptural ideas for how to begin to live with less. Concludes with six weeks' worth of devotional verses and prayers to help you on your way.

11: 3/4/96: Ecotopia Emerging by Ernest Callenbach (Repeat)
This is actually the prequel to Ecotopia, but I wanted to see how they scanned out of publication sequence. Actually pretty well. This is the story of how Northern California, Oregon and Washington decided to begin putting the environment first and ultimately seceded from the US. Callenbach doesn't give much detail on how the proposed society would work in practice, though I think a lot of that is in Ecotopia which I'll read again soon. I also don't share Callenbach's optimism about people being willing to give up private automobiles, but it sure could be nice.

12: 3/7/96: Religions, Values, and Peak Experience by Abraham Maslow
My dad recommended that I read Maslow, so I got this one and a couple of others from the library. This book is a presentation of his (Maslow's) opinion that the parts of humanhood which are usually considered the province of organized religion should actually be dealt with as a further aspect of science. Specifically, he asserts that the scientific study of what we call human nature can reveal the true basis of all existing religions (in that they are inspired by the revelations of human beings) Certainly an interesting idea, and fits in well with the way I've been thinking about matters spiritual, but I'll have to think about this some more.

13: 3/20/96: A Collaboration With Nature by Andy Goldsworthy

14: 3/20/96: Hand to Earth: Sculpture 1976-1990 by Andy Goldsworthy
Goldsworthy is an English sculptor who works in nature with materials found on the site. Some of his works are breathtakingly beautiful, but all of them are startling for how well they augment and point out the intrinsic beauty of nature. Media in the sculptures depicted in the photographs in this and the last book range from leaves torn and stuck together to stacked stones to patterns drawn in sand. Remarkable work.

15: 3/23/96: Computing Across America by Steven K. Roberts
This is the story of Roberts' dropping out of his yuppie lifestyle to become a nomad pedalling a recumbent bicycle laden with techno gizmology of all descriptions. The book traces his initial voyage from Columbus, Ohio down the Eastern seaboard to Florida, across the South and through the Southwest ending up in Southern California. It's a voyage of adventure, self-discovery, sex, and community, both in the real world of long days on a bicycle and in the parallel world of the net which provides a semblance of social stability. Well worth reading for anyone who has ever dreamed of the alternatives to office life offered by modern technology. These days the BEHEMOTH (the descendant of the first trip bike which came to be called the Winnebiko ;-) is more of a museum piece with the new project being a technologized sailboat. Find out all about it at the Nomadic Research Labs homepage.

16: 3/26/96: Mindkiller by Spider Robinson
This book isn't as suspenseful as some of his others have seemed to me, but maybe I'm just getting used to his tricks. Told in two parallel, seemingly unrelated stories in alternate chapters. They do converge, of course. Robinson's characters tend to be wildly analytical, capable of examining their own motivations and those of others using cold logic. It's interesting, but somehow not quite believable watching his people think things through. At one point in this book, one of the characters has trouble thinking through his own motivations, and likens his thought processes to a slipping transmission in a car. Heck, I feel like that most of the time! This is as fun as Robinson always is, but the ending is morally troubling.

17: 3/31/96: Time Pressure by Spider Robinson (repeat)
The last time I read this book, I hadn't read Mindkiller to which this one is a sequel even though it takes place chronologically before the events in Mindkiller. This time through it made a little more sense toward the end where our hero finally finds out what's going on.

I think I've said this before, but what I really like about Robinson's books is that he's grappling with big questions. Mostly the biggest question: "How is the human race going to keep from obliterating itself or stagnating?" The thing that's depressing about his books is that he has to go to such outlandish lengths to provide an answer to the question (mostly involving world-wide telepathy, or alien intervention) This book has the added bonus of providing a "scientific" explanation for the sameness of accounts of near death experiences.

18: 4/5/96: A Man For All Seasons by Robert Bolt
A story about a man who chose death over breaking his principles. And about the rest of us. And about the faith that let Thomas More give up his life in preference to truth. A moving play.

19: 4/11/96: The Wizard's Tide by Frederick Buechner
This is about a family weathering the depression in the Eastern US. It's told in a very simple style that includes vast amounts of detail without being the least bit plodding. Closer to novella length, it has the feel of other Buechner books without being very much like them if that makes any sense.

20: 4/19/96: The Infinity Concerto by Greg Bear
Really only the first half of a two book cycle, though it does read decently as a standalone.

21: 4/21/96: The Serpent Mage by Greg Bear
The first Bear fantasy I've read. He continues to show his obsession with Really Big Stuff.

This is actually an alternate interpretation of history mundania meets/is faerie story, and is really tight, even for Bear. The final conclusion is a bit rushed, but it's a satisfying conclusion/non-conclusion. Good stuff.

22: 4/25/96: It's Perfectly Normal by Robie H. Harris
This is a book about the facts of life and adolescence written for adolescents and pre adolescents. There's apparently been some controversy about it, but I'm not sure why. It could be because the book talks about stuff like masturbation and homosexuality with the title firmly in mind. But this is no license for promsicuity. The book is up front about the realities of sex in the AIDS world, using the more accurate term "safer sex", and repeatedly pointing out that the only 100% protection from pregnancy and STDs is abstention.

The illustrations by Michael Emberley are funny and instructive. All the illustrations are drawn by Emberley, there's no photographs.

I'd recommend this book to any adolescents or parents of same as a relatively painless way to encourage conversations on the subject of sex and approaching adulthood.

23: 5/3/96: Double Feature by Emma Bull & Will Shetterly
This is the nearly complete collected short works of Bull and Shetterly. I'd read most of them before in other collections, but it's fun to read them again in this setting and read the authors' comments. A very nicely produced volume from NESFA Press.

24: 5/8/96: Making Book by Teresa Nielsen Hayden
Another from NESFA Press. This is a collection of carefully crafted essays and memoirs. The blurbs alone are fun to read, but Ms. Nielsen Hayden's prose is wonderful. She writes fabulous sentences. There are a few pieces that require some pretty esoteric sf fan knowledge that I seem to lack, but there's plenty here to interest even non sf readers. Topics range from the abuse of money to the Mormon church to narcolepsy to educational financial aid to Disneyland. I'm actually kind of glad NESFA is sold out of the slipcased edition of Double Feature so I ended up with this, my alternate choice.

25: 5/13/96: Rosie by Anne Lamott
Anne Lamott's characters always let me think "maybe I'm not that neurotic after all." ;-)

This book is really great and funny and touching until towards the end when it seemed like Lamott started thinking "How am I going to resolve this? How am I going to show that this not-very-likable character has worth?" and went about solving those problems in ways that strained my suspension of disbelief (which considering the stuff I usually read isn't all that easy!). But the sum of the book is still great and funny and touching, so I'd still recommend it.

26: 5/20/96: Compost This Book! by Tom Christopher and Marty Asher
They're serious about the title. Printed on chlorine-free paper with soy-based ink, all but the cover and binding are compostable. This is a great book for demystifying the age-old practice of composting. I'll start my first bin real soon now. Here's a very compact composting tutorial online.

27: 5/24/96: Pretty Girls by Garret Weyr
We recently processed a large donation of new books to our local library Friends group, and some of the boxes were chock full of those young adult books with the really lame covers. You know the ones. Mass market paperbacks with photos of pretty girls pining after pretty boys. This book stood out from the others with some decent cover art and blurbs from some decent places. It was enough to make me want to read it to see if it was any good.

It is a pretty good book. The characters are interesting in spite of having a few too many textbook neuroses. There were a couple of places where I was jarred by what I interpreted as a guy's failure to write convincing girls, but I don't know that the author is a guy, so I could be wrong, and being a guy myself, I could be way way off base. ;-)

p.s. I was! (off base that is) The power of the net reveals that Weyr is, indeed, female. (Thanks, Peter!)

28: 06/04/96: The Door Interviews by ed Mike Yaconelli
The Door is sort of the Mad of religious magazines. They're irreverent and outspoken and generally don't let anyone get away with anything without giving them a poke or two. This is a collection of almost forty interviews from the magazine of people from Madeline L'Engle to Mr. Rogers, from Frederick Buechner to T. Bone Burnett. The interviewers don't pull any punches, and what they get are some wonderfully forthright statements from all of these people about the christian church, and their own faith. Fascinating reading.

29: 6/8/96: Peopleware by Tom DeMarco and Timothy Lister
Peopleware is a book about managing intellect workers for maximum productivity. I'm not sure I agree with everything they say, but most of it sure makes a lot of sense. Anybody working for a company that manages using DeMarco and Lister's tactics, give me a call if you need a UNIX tool geek ;-)

Mostly just common sense, but like most things which fall under that heading, it's anything but common. (Do you have 100 square feet of office space and a door and a window? I sure don't.) Concentrates mostly on physical environment (If you expect me to think for a living, you better give me a place where I can do it) and team building (and keeping).

If you manage intellect workers, you should read this book.

30: 6/13/96: Blue Champagne by John Varley (repeat)
Varley's short fiction is great fun. The first few in here are loosely connected in the same universe with a couple of others thrown in. He's kind of a cross between James Tiptree Jr., Samuel R. Delany, and Douglas Adams ;-).

31: 6/18/96: God Is Closer Than You Think by Juan Carlos Ortiz
I felt a little self-concious reading this book since it looks like one of those touchy-feely Christian books. And I thought the chances of my ever reading a book with a foreword by Robert Schuller were next to nil.

Ortiz is one of the people interviewed in the Door Interviews, and his comments there seemed very down-to-earth, so I checked the library for his name, and this book popped up.

It really is one of those touchy-feely Christian books, but Ortiz's view of what Christianity is all about seems, to this non-christian, to be very close to what Jesus might have intended.

32: 6/26/96: Joe Jones by Anne Lamott
This is a beautiful book about love and human families and that's all that I'm going to say about it except that it's funny and sad and very very real. Read it.

33: 6/30/96: The Wonderful Flight to the Mushroom Planet by Eleanor Cameron (repeat)
I read this a million years ago, and the cover drawing dredged up the original feeling of wonder the book inspired. On reading it again, I discovered that I had practically no memory of the details of the story. Originally published in 1954, the science is mostly imaginary, but the story is great fun and a definite classic.

34: 7/1/96: The Dilbert Principle by Scott Adams
In between all the clever analogies and sarcasm are some great laughs for anyone who has ever worked with geeks or been one. And, wonder of wonders, Adams steps down off his cartoonist's perch and actually makes some (relatively) serious suggestions about how we should run our companies. So you might even be able to justify the book on an expense report ;-)

35: 7/5/96: The End of the Road by Tom Bodett
Stories from Bodett's radio show (which I haven't heard) about the residents of the town of "the End of the Road" Alaska. Pretty much a cross between Keillor's Wobegon stories and the Northern Exposure television show at least conceptually, but these are in no way derivative (though NE might be...) There's gut-busters and tear-jerkers galore in here. Lots of fun to read.

36: 7/12/96: Ecotopia by Ernest Callenbach (repeat)
After reading this and its sequel out of sequence this time through, I'll say read this one first. Callenbach's wildly optimistic view of a utopian society built from the seccession from the US of Washington, Oregon, and Northern California and based on biological stable-state principles is alternately inspiring, depressing and puzzling. Mainly because it's so far away from the way things are now, and it's difficult to see how they could be changed so drastically. He attempts to answer the question of how in Ecotopia Emerging, but the two books don't quite connect in either time, or figurative place.

Still, this book is in the running for my entry to the one book list (see my books page for a link to it) assuming I ever make up my mind ;-)

37: 7/14/96: Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency by Douglas Adams
Adams has a true gift for the novel metaphor. This is a sci-fi murder mystery with enough of the absurd wit readers of the hitchhiker books have grown to love to make it great fun. Immediately went to the bookcase and got the sequel down after finishing this one (it is not a cliff-hanger, I just wasn't ready to say goodbye to Dirk)

38: 7/20/96: The Long Dark Tea Time of the Soul by Douglas Adams
Dirk is pretty much an innocent bystander in this one, but Adams' twisted humor makes it great fun.

39: 7/22/96: Assassin's Apprentice by Robin Hobb
Fairly vanilla court-intrigue fantasy, told from the point of view of the bastard child of royal blood. The writing is decent and fits with the rumors I've heard of Ms. Hobb's actual identity, but the book seems motivated more by publisher request ("give us something to compete with that guy who writes all those humongous epic fantasy books that sell so well for Tor") than by any inspiration on the part of the author. The plot is fairly simplistic, and our hero is slow to pick up on the obvious traps he walks into. This book ends with him maybe 15 years old, though, so as long as he gets a clue in the later books I suppose I can let it pass. A pleasant diversion.

40: 8/5/96: Blue Mars by Kim Stanley Robinson
Wonderful cap to Robinson's three-part Mars novel (Red and Green being the first two parts) There's an astonishing number of ideas in these books about science and engineering and nature and politics. There were some parts near the end where I kept having to allow him to use his artistic license, but all in all I really enjoyed this one.

41: 8/8/96: Callahan's Secret by Spider Robinson
Can you say "deus ex machina"? I knew you could.

This is a down-in-flames-style finale to the Callahan's books. There's an annoying number of gratuitous rabbits pulled from various hats, and implausible psychologically healing revelations. He should have stopped after two, then he wouldn't have had to protest too much about not having written a trilogy. (of course then there's Stardance, Starseed, Starmind, hmmm... I guess he doesn't have any literary pretensions left after all. Oh, and isn't there a sequel to Mindkiller and Timepressure in the works? ;-)

42: 8/17/96: Life On the Border by ed Terri Windling
Third of the Bordertown collections. This one is much less romantic about the re-entry of faery into our world. The stories concentrate mostly on the young runaways attracted to Bordertown by the hope of adventure. All the stories are good, but I had to take them in small doses cause they're all pretty dark.

In reading the "About the Authors" I had to look three or four times to convince myself that one of them (Michael Korolenko) lives right here in my little town of Issaquah, WA.

43: 8/25/96: Royal Assassin by Robin Hobb
This is the second in Ms. Hobb's (alias Megan Lindholm so the gossip goes) Farseer series. There's no indication of how many books there will be, but the first two each end fairly conclusively, so they're not exactly cliff-hangers. This one's ending was fairly contrived, but the book in general has some interesting things to say about loyalty in all its manifestations. Fun addictive reading.

44: 8/27/96: Haroun and the Sea of Stories by Salman Rushdie
Recommended by a friend from work. Wonderful story about stories. I haven't read any of Rushdie's other work, but I will now. There's more literary and cultural references in here than you can poke a stick at, yet it's an effortless read. Suitable for all ages. Reminded me of Lewis Caroll. The book also provided some useful words and phrases like P2C2E. Fun and thought provoking.

45: 9/4/96: The Memory of Whiteness by Kim Stanley Robinson
Struck me as sort of a cross between Delany's Triton, Nova, and Babel-17. Depicts music as the language capable of expressing the universal laws of physics. It's an exciting thriller with some very interesting characters. I'm still trying to decide who the POV character is.

46: 9/10/96: Life With UNIX by Don Libes and Sandy Ressler
A very cool book. Gives a competent introduction to all aspects of UNIX, from its history to user-level commands to application support to admin-level commands to general philosophy. I'd recommend it for anyone planning on using UNIX in any capacity for more than a week. While it's not a reference to using UNIX, it's got enough information to show you how some of the more bizarre features got the way they did, and how to figure them out.

I read the fifth printing of the first edititon which, copyright back in the dark ages of 1989 has wonderful statements like "[In January of 1987] there were 235 newsgroups [in Usenet]. There were 5,300 sites with an estimated 157,000 readers. Wow!" ( wolfenet carries over 10,000 newsgroups as I write this, not quite 9 years later) and "[In 1984] the price of a 300 dpi laser printer was less than $10,000, making them more popular than daisy-wheel printers." Progress marches on. I believe the book is still in print, and I have to assume it's been revised since there's lots of vendor information that isn't worth much now.

47: 9/14/96: Teckla by Steven Brust (repeat)
The third (publication order...) Vlad Taltos book. Vlad is forced to examine his occupation and lifestyle and the motives that brought him to them in light of the condition of others of his race. My goodness, social conscience in a fantasy novel. It's great to see Vlad being so totally convinced that he's right about things when it is perfectly clear to us as reader that his justifications for his actions are so much bunk. Reminds me of me.

48: 9/22/96: Mother of Storms by John Barnes
This guy is a master of the what-if science fiction book. With one major advance in human technology, plus one plausible change to the environment, Barnes throws us onto a roller coaster of a journey. (The changes I'm thinking of are 1. the direct neural interface, and 2. the sudden release of an enormous quantity of trapped methane into the atmosphere.)

The events that result affect every level of human existence. Great book.

49: 9/27/96: Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer
The story of a young man who hiked into the wild in Alaska and died there. Krakauer was assigned the story for Outside magazine, and, after the article was published, still found himself empathizing with Chris McCandless. The book follows the path that brought McCandless to his death. It questions whether he was worthy of respect for clinging so tenaciously to his convictions that he allowed himself to starve to death, or whether he was simply a fool who got in over his head and paid the ultimate price. I guess I'd submit that the two choices are not mutually exclusive.

50: 9/29/96: Luther by John Osborne
Play about Martin Luther. It probably views better than it read. Interesting contrasts with A Man For All Seasons in that Luther was a tormented (and evidently inconsistent) social misfit who, nonetheless had a sweeping impact on the Christian church, while Thomas More was a gentleman in all senses of the word who, though he clung to his convictions and faith to his death, had only limited effects on the church. Reading Luther made me aware of my ignorance of Luther the man despite my attendance for the last three years at a church which bears his name. Actually, I think this says something good about the Lutheran church, but I'm now curious.

51: 10/6/96: Celebration of Discipline by Richard J. Foster
A Christian perspective on the inward, outward, and corporate disciplines that (from the Christian perspective) help to make one receptive to God's will. As a non-Christian, I sort of glossed over all the explicit Christianness and translated it into my own interpretation which is something like disciplines that help you be open to the truths that you already know but are unable to hear throught the noise of everyday life. Very interesting book, and I can see how adhereing religiously to the practices described could be really valuable to the inward journey.

52: 10/9/96: Callahan's Legacy by Spider Robinson
It is not a spoiler to say that the gang at Mary's Place save the human race from an unstoppable foe by getting telepathic. Pretty much what happens in all the Callahan's books. This one is a little different in that not all of the problems presented are solved. Some get the non-answer that there just is no solution and that's life. Somewhat refreshing. Some good stories about how a few of the original denizens of the old Callahan's found the place.

Spider also includes a HUGE plug for Red House Records which has re-released Jake's favorite album, Spider John Koerner's _Running, Jumping, Standing Still_ along with a lot of other truly great folk music.

53: 10/12/96: Tucker's Last Stand by William F. Buckley, Jr.
I don't generally read spy novels, but I read the first few of Buckley's Blackford Oakes series back when they first came out, and when I saw this one in our Friends of the Library book sale a couple of weeks back I figured it'd be fun. And interesting. This one is set in the time before and immediately after the Tonkin Gulf incident in Vietnam in 1964. It's especially fun to see Buckley's portrayal of prominent public figures of the time, most notably Barry Goldwater and LBJ.

54: 10/14/96: Fugitive From the Cubicle Police by Scott Adams
Despite the fact that the man has become a franchise and there's more merchandising around this strip than Garfield, the comics are still funny and often dead-on to at least my view of corporate america.

55: 10/17/96: Deschooling Society by Ivan Illich
Found out about this book from the Amazon Underground. Illich maintains that compulsory schooling as it is known in most parts of the world is the cause of most of society's ills, especially rampant consumerism (school presents learning as a product which teachers produce and students consume which leads to students thinking in terms of producer consumer forever after) The collapse of the education system which Illich saw as imminent in the late 1960s has, of course, not yet come to pass, but his ideas are interesting. I was especially struck by this (long!) sentence:

I believe that a desirable future depends on our deliberately choosing a life of action over a life of consumption, on our engendering a life style which will enable us to be spontaneous, independent, yet related to each other, rather than maintaining a life style which only allows us to make and unmake, produce and consume--a style of life which is merely a way station on the road to the depletion and pollution of the environment.

And this passage:

[The telephone and postal networks] are true public utilities, whereas the [highway system] is a public service to the owners of cars, trucks, and buses. Public utilities exist for the sake of communication among men; highways [...] exist for the sake of a product. Auto manufacturers [...] produce simultaneously both cars and the demand for cars. They also produce the demand for multilane highways, bridges, and oilfields. The private car is the focus of a cluster of [production oriented] institutions. The high cost of each element is dictated by elaboration of the basic product, and to sell the basic product is to "hook" society on the entire package.

Illich's proposal to replace the existing system of education is what he calls a "Learning Web" (remember this is 1970) which consists of four elements which I'll paraphrase as:

  1. Access to educational materials. Basically a public (and probably widely distributed) library which includes not only books, but such resources as computers, lab equipment, and other things needed to learn about stuff.
  2. Skill exchanges, by which he means a way to hook up people who already know a thing and are willing to demonstrate it with those people who would like to learn that thing.
  3. Peer matching, whereby people with similar interests can find eachother for the purpose of mutual encouragement and learning.
  4. A directory of and access to masters of various fields who could serve as needed as mentors or advisors for those pursuing similar fields of study.

His description of 2 and 3 sounds a whole lot like Usenet ;-)

The concept of learning as something one does, rather than something one is given is the thing that resonated most with my way of thinking. The book is worth reading. It's also out of print, so check your local library.

56: 10/23/96: One for the Morning Glory by John Barnes
If he hadn't already made it, this book would have catapulted Barnes into my buy on first sight list. This book is a fairy tale. And a meta-fairy tale. Full of fairy tale motifs and wordplay. If I hadn't recently read Haroun and the Sea of Stories, I wouldn't have anything to compare it to.

And on top of all that, it has an excellent cover! The most important characters are all portrayed and bear great resemblance to my images of them. There are also references to various events throughout the book. The artist clearly read the whole thing. Very cool.

57: 10/26/96: Deep Water Passage by Ann Linnea
We bought this book at North Wind Books in Eagle Harbor, Michigan on the shores of Lake Superior. If you're ever up there, stop in. It's a tiny store, but they have wonderful books and are fascinating people.

Deep Water Passage is Linnea's story of her summer trip around Lake Superior by kayak with a friend. Of course it turned out to be the coldest, stormiest summer in 100 years... There is quite a bit here about the mechanics of the trip, and the sights seen along the way, but the book is much more about Linnea's inward journey to reevaluate her life and work through her grief at the loss of a friend to cancer. The book is a grippingly honest emotional account of that journey and brings tears as often in sympathy with her pain as in joy at her accomplishments and the kindness of some of the people she meets along the way. My only complaint about the book is that her paddling partner for much of the trip is barely portrayed, but I think this is as much due to his inward focus as to Linnea's. It would be fascinating to read his account of the trip.

58: 11/10/96: Dreams Underfoot by Charles de Lint
Loaned to my by a friend at work (Hi Janet! ;-) This is urban fantasy set in the fictional and placeless city of Newford which has a high concentration of people who haven't forgotten how to see the signs of Faerie in our world. Many of these stories differ from the Borderland books in that on the Border, magic has become almost mundane since everyone can see it, but here there are only a few people who are able to perceive the fantastic easily. For everyone else, their glimps of something strange is troubling and sometimes terrifying. Nice current of creepiness that's missing from the Border books. One thing I did miss from the Border was the variety of authorial voices, but if I hadn't read the whole book in a few sittings this wouldn't have been a problem ;-)

59: 11/19/96: The Sirens of Titan by Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.
What fun. Interesting idea for how to unite mankind in a common cause. Also a decent proof that the meaning of life is fundamentally unknowable.

60: 11/19/96: My Uncle Oswald by Roald Dahl
Too long, but otherwise cute diversion. The tale of how Uncle Oswald made his fortune. Suffice to say that it was through various judicious applications of the powder of dried Sudanese Blister Beetles, the strongest aphrodisiac known to man.

61: 12/02/96: Luther the Reformer by James M. Kittelson
Very readable biography of Martin Luther and his impact on the Christian church. If nothing else, Luther is remarkable for his confidence in the correctness of his own interpretation of the scriptures. He felt he was right, and he had the debating skills to ensure that he could win any argument on the subject.

What's remarkable is how popular Luther's vision became in light of the fact that it is so much more conceptually complex than what the Catholic church was offering. The Catholics were saying, "do good stuff and you'll go to heaven," while Luther's take is that no matter how much good stuff you do, the good never overwhelms the inherent sinfulness of each of us, and that only Jesus' sacrifice redeems us and allows us entrance to heaven _if_ we have faith in him. Come again? Of course with the Catholic redemption through works plan, you're subject to the current letter of the law as interpreted by the current batch of lawyers, I mean priests. So maybe it makes sense that the protestants have become so widespread after all.

62: 12/5/96: The Charwoman's Shadow by Lord Dunsany
Originally copyright 1926, this is a lyrical tale of a chivalrous apprentice magician, and how he strives to serve his family's wishes while following his own sense of adventure and duty. Lovely book from one of the grandfathers of modern fantasy.

63: 12/12/96: Halo by Tom Maddox (twice)
I liked this book enough on first reading to turn right around and read it again. Haven't done that in a long time. On second reading, the rough spots show more, but it's still a good cyberpunk/Machine intelligence book. Interesting take on hierarchical/bureaucratic decisison making versus concensus.

64: 12/19/96: The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman
Knopf is expecting huge things from this book and the two to follow for an eventual trilogy. The rumor I heard is that the first printing is 100,000 copies which is just unheard of in a young adult title. I tried to buy another copy as a gift last Saturday, but all the stores I tried were out of stock. It's got big hype attached.

For the most part, I'd say the hype is well deserved. It's the story of an orphaned girl who grows up in an Oxford-style boarding school as the joint charge of the faculty and staff. She quickly finds herself thrown into a gripping adventure. The world in which it's set is similar to our own, but the differences are striking. For one, the sciences, instead of being scorned by the religious community have been absorbed by something like the Catholic church. "Experimental theology". But the difference most integral to the book is the fact that every person is born with a sort of familiar called a daemon that in childhood can take the form of any animal at will. Sort of a built-in best friend.

While it is the first book of a trilogy, the book stands well alone. It's great fun, but the differentness of the world and the way Pullman uses it ask pointed questions about our own culture. A note at the beginning of the book indicates that the second volume will be set in our world, and the third will move between the two. Should be fun.

65: 12/25/96: Infinity's Shore by David Brin
Middle book of a trilogy. Sigh. Suffers from the same fragmentation that the first book, Brightness Reef did. Too many viewpoint characters, too many subplots. Amazingly enough, Brin is a good enough writer to make the book compelling in spite of these flaws, but there's not enough resolution to make it satisfying. Brin continues to hold the carrots of the Progenitors, the various plots of the Galactics frustratingly out of reach. If we don't see some big payoff in the closing book of this sequence, I'll be peeved.

66: 12/26/96: Simplify Your Life by Elaine St. James
Subtitled "100 ways to slow down and dnjoy the things that really matter," this is mostly just another in the seemingly endless string of simplicity books that have turned the simplicity movement into the simplicity industry, and none of them seem to see the irony in this. (I got it from the library ;-)

This book does have some good suggestions, and St. James is no zealot, so for those unwilling to give up the creature comforts, but interested in getting rid of some of the baggage in their lives, it's worth reading. And it's pretty short, so there's not an outrageous investment in time either.

67: 12/27/96: A Million Open Doors by John Barnes
Delightful. Set in a universe where at some point interplanetary colonization became both desirable (for some reason) and affordable, and every culture on earth that could scrape together the cash sent a colony to preserve their culture on a new world. Separated by light years, the various settlements live basically in solitude until someone invents instantaneous travel, and the fold begins to be regathered. The book begins on a planet whose culture was based on the swashbuckling, honor-bound, style-obsessed kind of thing that never existed on earth except in The Three Musketeers, and Barnes makes it seem as exciting and colorful as that implies. Our main character soon travels off to a planet which has newly been reconnected to the thousand cultures, and through his eyes, their world, based on a form of Christianity married to a kind of controlled capitalism (hmmm.), looks like a hell of repression and blandness. But as he begins to interact with the people, the contrast with his own society throws its flaws into stark relief. Our hero's leaving behind his prejudice comes a bit too easily, perhaps, but it's heartening to think of a human being dealing with the situation as well as he does.

jeffy's books 1996
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