2013 Books

>> Saturday, March 1, 2014

Here was my starting point at the beginning of 2013:

Only 13 books finished in 2012. A bit of a disappointment considering that I started the beginning of the year so well. I sped through The Diana Chronicles and then was able to finish that behemoth called Good Calories, Bad Calories. Finished a few other books quite easily in the spring like The Shock Doctrine (another massive book) and Where Men Win Glory. Plodded on through a other few books through the summer and then hardly finished anything after September. Ugh. Only 13 books.

And I had so many that I planned on reading and finishing.
Look at Andre Agassi's face right there in the top, left-hand corner. It's been sitting there for years, saying to me, "Please read!" That and so many other books like Glenn Greenwald's How Would a Patriot Act? I've only had it since it was published, and it's not huge. (sigh) Not getting through books is how my mind reacts to the troubles at work. I have a hard time unwinding and concentrating on books that I'd like to read. It almost feels like a double punishment. 

But I made much more progress in 2013! 25 books read! I think that's a new personal best. Although, once again I did slow down in the last two months of the year and not get as much read as I did in the spring. Seems kind of odd that I wouldn't be able to get much material read when the weather outside isn't great. Go figure.

Anyhow, my accomplishment for 2013 is that the first page of books on my bookshelf is almost entirely made up of books that I read in a single year, which makes me quite happy.

Finally a bookshelf that I'm proud of.

The Operators by Michael Hastings: My Christmas gift for 2012. This was a good read. I missed his original Rolling Stone article that caused Stanley McChrystal to get fired, but I became a subscriber immediately after that. I still think that good journalism needs to be supported. That's exactly what this book is for me. Truth to power; telling it like it is. An important book that may not seem like it. I wish more people would read it since they would probably get a better picture of how the upper echelon of our military operates.

A Billion Wicked Thoughts: I found this title in Powell's 2012 staff picks. Would never have heard of it otherwise. This was a good quick read. I finished it in a week. I'd highly recommend it to anyone; although, it's definitely not for kids.

Things I've Learned From Women Who've Dumped Me: Not as funny as I hoped. And not entirely about dumping either. Some essays I really enjoyed like Patton Oswalt and Will Forte's. Others were just...boring. I much preferred "Modern Love" over this. I think I'll have an eternal soft spot for Will Forte after reading his essay.

Blackwater by Jeremy Scahill: It was a long slog but well worth it. There's much a that I've read about Blackwater since this book was published. Even still, it was interesting to find out how the company started and gained its influence so quickly. There were several portions that reminded me of "The Shock Doctrine;" although, that doesn't seem to be a coincidence. I'm definitely going to read his next book Dirty Wars sometime after I finish watching the documentary on Netflix. I missed seeing it at the Sundance Film Festival in 2013. I started watching it on Netflix on an evening I was too tired to finish it. Will finish it soon.

Radicals in Robes by Cass Sunstein: I think this book was more relevant when it was published back in 2005 than 2012 and 2013 when I read it. I felt like I learned quite a bit about legal philosophies, but was quite bored, partially because I was expecting a different book than I got. It's certainly dated in some sections given what has gone through SCOTUS in the past 5 to 6 years. Not sure I'd recommend it.

The Way of the World  by Ron Suskind

Bottlemania by Elizabeth Royte

How Would a Patriot Act? by Glenn Greenwald: A short book compared to his other books but always worthwhile if not solely for the reason that most of the issues are still ongoing, just under a different administration.

The Lone Samurai by William Scott Wilson: Having read this will definitely make reading "The Book of Five Rings" easier to understand/remember the next time I read it. I may have to read this again in a few years just because Musashi was such a great person. I wish the folks who are trying to make a Wonder Woman movie would examine him as a bit of a template for getting the character right in a movie, but it'll just have to remain a wish.

Small Is Beautiful by E.F. Schumacher: Somewhat dated but still very good. Some chapters really dragged for me, while others just flew by. Still a good read but I liked A Guide for the Perplexed better.

Columbine by Dave Cullen: Excellent. Engrossing. Has compassion for all the people involved in the tragedy while telling an extremely detailed story.

The Kensington Runestone by Alice Beck Kehoe: I still believe it's a genuine article.

The Return of Depression Economics by Paul Krugman: I bought this back in Tacoma about 6 years before I read it. Even though this is an edition from 2000, it's still valid considering the times we live in today.

Open by Andre Agassi: Better than I expected and quite the page turner! I let this sit unread for far too long, and once I got into it, it felt like such a huge mistake to let sit around unread. I think I have a much greater appreciation for Andre than I had before as a general tennis fan. I always thought that his sudden marriage to Steffi Graf came out of the blue, but since she is my favorite tennis player of all time, I think it's quite the ultimate pairing. I kept reading waiting for her to appear. Well, that and the tidbit about Pete Sampras being a cheapskate. I remember hearing about it from reading Lainey and had to wait until the very end to read it direct from Andre.

The Family by Jeff Sharlet: I picked this one up based purely on the scandal surrounding that U.S. Senator from Las Vegas who was having an affair with a member of his staff. Can't remember his name 'cause he doesn't really matter anymore. What does matter is the small society of religious freaks who turned the gospel truth of a world-famous, impoverished, pacifist hippie into a cult about war, money, power, and me, Me, ME! Ugh. Never have been more convinced that we need more ethical, egalitarian, pro-union secularists in government than after reading this book.

The Hundred-Year Lie by Randall Fitzgerald: Much of what I read I had heard about before in the various news snippets that much of the book is compiled from. I probably would have enjoyed it more if this book wasn't preaching to my choir. Very well researched though.

The Mayan Prophecies: The Renewal of the World 2012-2072 by Kenneth Johnson: This is an e-book. Probably the simplest and most practical breakdown of "The Mayan Prophecy of 2012" that I've ever read, not that I've read many. I appreciate this book for what it really says about the time period after 2012. That the period between 2012 and 2032 will be a time of have's and have-not's. That the period between 2032 and 2052 will be a bunch of craziness, aka "the world turned upside down." And that between 2052 and 2072 will be when things will finally be a little bit more set right. This makes sense to me given the big conjunctions in Vedic Astrology that happen around 2019-2020. We're still in for a bit of a roller coaster ride for the next six to ten years.

Mansions of the Moon by Kenneth Johnson: Probably the best book I've read about the nakshatras. I particularly enjoyed the second half since it contained information that I hadn't heard about before. I actually wish that last section was longer.

Screwed by Thom Hartmann: Most of this I'd heard before on Hartmann's radio show, but reading some of his elaborations on certain points I really enjoyed more than I thought I would.

Islam: A Short History by Karen Armstrong: Definitely a short history, but I'm not sure it was a very interesting one. I definitely understand the differences between Shi'a and Sunni much better, but I feel like she abbreviated so much that she reduced the interesting parts of history to...footnotes?

The Cosmological Origins of Myth and Symbol by Laird Scranton: I had high hopes for this book, but the author seems to me to be overwhelmed with the material. The first few chapters were so boring I almost fell asleep reading them. Then it perked up a bit when he finally got into the actual details. I do not place much faith in his use of Budge's dictionary comparing words from that to known Dogon words and stories. What he uses from the Dogon has context with stories and rituals; taking words out of Budge's dictionary gives no context for the words. Also, he uses the Egyptian word "Neter" over and over again in his Egyptian word section, yet never uses "Netrit." Why? I'll never be able to figure that out since they go together like yin and yang. He has some nice ideas, but he should really look into studying other cultures in full before writing something like this. It mostly appears as if he is trying to overlay what he knows about Dogon culture onto everything else that is ancient.

Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver: Very interesting but longer than I thought it would be. I'm already part of the choir that the book is preaching to, but I still learned some new things by reading this book such as heirloom animal breeds. Never knew that there were heirloom breeds before reading this book. I've seen heirloom tomatoes in my grocery store, but never knew there were heirloom breeds that we need to put some work in to make sure they survive.

Who Will Feed China? by Lester Russell Brown: Also known as China's huge population is going to cause it a shit load of problems relating to water, food, industrial production of anything, etc. The age of oil has made many things easy, but it has certainly made food production and import/export much easier than it was 100 years ago. People take this for granted, and the author illuminates all the way back in 1995 of why we are set up for a bunch of problems as China ascends the ranks of world industrial powers. I think a few quotes can illustrate this HUGE problem:
Estimating China's future food deficit is a scary exercise. Individuals doing the official grain supply projections at the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization in Rome, at the World Bank in Washington, D.C., and within the Chinese government have been spared some of this trauma simply because they have overlooked the heavy loss of cropland that accompanies industrialization in a country that is already densely populated before the process begins. They have thus assumed that production would continue to climb, closely tracking the rise in consumption, leading to only modest future deficits.
Given the likely continuing growth in China's nonagricultural exports, importing 200 million or even 300 million tons of grain at current prices would be within economic range if the country's leaders were willing to use a share of export earnings for this purpose. Of course, this could mean cutting back on capital goods imports and possibly on oil imports, which in turn could diminish the inflow of technology and energy needed to sustain rapid economic growth. The more difficult question posed earlier is, Who could supply grain on this scale? The answer: no one. No one exporting country nor even all of them together can likely expand exports enough to cover more than a small part of this huge additional claim on the world's exportable grain surplus. In the real world, the price of grain would rise, reducing consumption and imports while stimulating production and exports until a new balance was reached.
Concern about food security runs deep in China. The current leaders, remembering all too clearly the Great Famine, are committed to self-sufficiency in food, at least in their public statements. They are also committed to industrialization--getting rich is now glorious. It is hard to imagine a government any more committed to industrialization, yet Beijing faces a dilemma. It cannot continue to industrialize and remain self-sufficient in food.
The Weather of the Future by Heidi Cullen: An interesting book, but one that elaborates on things I've already heard and suspected: that we're screwed when it comes to climate change, aka global warming. She does give a good explanation of how climatologists evaluate and predict climate data. For me the most interesting parts were the individual chapters on how climate change is and would affect changes around the world. I thought she was a little too optimistic in her predictions of societies making changes the help adapt, particularly for New York City and California's Central Valley. Her chapter on California's Central Valley and the San Joaquin Delta stood out for me since I was not aware of the huge levee system that is in place there. I mentioned it to my parents, and my father told me how in the early 80s (I think) that the state had a vote on how to handle the levee/water system and they've never been able to come to a workable decision on anything, which doesn't surprise me given California's political climate. (This is the state of Proposition 13 after all.) I thought this quote was particularly illuminating:
But what the scientists fear most is something called the "Big Gulp." The name itself sums up the scenario. If the levees break, salt water from San Francisco Bay will come rushing in, proving that nature abhors a vacuum. Lund does a quick back-of-the-envelope calculation: "It would take as little as twelve hours for the salt water to begin intruding into the Delta.
Yup. California is screwed.

And now for a look to the future, specifically books for 2014.

Plagues and Peoples: I've started this. Kind of. Am going to finish this probably right after I finish the Bepin Behari book. Or after I finish A. Scott Berg's Kate Remembered book since I want to sell that one and get rid of it.
Fundamentals of Vedic Astrology (vol. 1) by Bepin Behari: I am ALMOST done with this. I might even finish this weekend. Less than 50 pages to go.

A Public Betrayed: I actually have this, so it shouldn't be too hard to pick up once I get around to it...
The Fluoride Deception: I have had this for 10 years. I got about half through it and then stopped. Can't remember why, but it was probably due to reading multiple books at one time. I'll have to start all over again. I'll probably take the dust cover off when I read it at the hospital. Don't need the wary eyes of doctors at me when they see the title.
Nixonland: I firmly intend on reading this after I read the author's Before the Storm book first. Unbeknownst to me when I purchased this, the author's book on Barry Goldwater was published first, and it would probably be best to go in chronological order.
The Poverty of Affluence: I have it. I started it six years ago and didn't get very far. Am going to finish this very soon, probably within the next three or four books I read.
The Hungry Soul: I actually almost finished this back in 2001, but I didn't. Now I'll have to start ALL over..(sigh)
The Lord of the Rings: Twelve years and counting. I'm about in the middle of The Two Towers. I might have to just forget this one since I KNOW what happens anyway.
Dark Age Ahead: Will have to check this out of the library.
The Silmarillion: I've started this years ago, but will probably finish it before I ever finish The Lord of the Rings, which will be made easier since I own it.
Bad Money by Kevin Phillips: I don't think I'll get to this one this year. I am planning on reading a different book of his this year instead.
Wealth and Democracy by Kevin Phillips: This is the book that I'm planning on reading shortly. I own it. It's sitting in my stack begging to be read given all the talk we have of the 1% and income inequality going on these days.
The Age of American Unreason: I actually was reading this last summer and got half way through until I started to read Mansions of the Moon instead. Since it's a library book, I needed to return it. I think I'm going to let this one sit on my list another year so that I can breeze through it when I pick it up next time.
The Bin Ladens: Um, probably next year unless I'm motivated to check it out of the library.
The Pentagon of Power by Lewis Mumford: I bought this at a used book store 15 years ago. I started it and obviously never finished. I actually have book two, so I'm going to find book one before I start on this again.
Regret the Error: Definitely on my mental list for this year.
Thank You For Smoking: Maybe this year.
Bonk by Mary Roach: Definitely this year.
The Elements of Murder: Definitely this year.
Condemned to Repeat?: This year if I can get it through inter-library loan.
The Great Unraveling by Paul Krugman: Definitely this year. Made easier that it is sitting in my book stack.
A History of God by Karen Armstrong: Also in my book stack. Likely for this year.
The End of Affluence: Not sure if I'm going to be able to find this through the library.
The Battle for God by Karen Armstrong: Well, I've read one Karen Armstrong book a year for at least the past two years. So it's this or something else.
Muhammad by Karen Armstrong: Sitting at the top of my book stack. I'd rate it a likely read for this year.
Emotional Intelligence: I found this book at work in a stack where someone was giving away their books. The psych major in me thought it was a nice, free pick since I had heard a bunch about the topic in the late 90s but never studied it. I picked up quite the battered edition.
Critical Condition: Maybe.
Dust Bowl: Just so I can read about California's future!
So Much Damn Money: Maybe.
Soul Made Flesh: Maybe.
Team of Rivals: Eh. I'm putting this off for another year, particularly since I don't own it.
The Friend Who Got Away: Definitely this year. It's in my stack.
Your Money or Your Life: Definitely this year. Will have to get it from the library.
Marie Antoinette: Definitely this year. Near the top of my stack. I have it in paperback, which is still a size-able tome of a book.
The Duchess (Georgiana): Definitely this year. Haven't seen the movie though, unlike Marie Antoinette.
The Wilderness Warrior: Would like to get to this one soon. Unfortunately it's huge, and I don't think I'll get to it soon.
Man's Unconquerable Mind: This is small. I should have it finished before June since it's the literal top of my book pile.
The Kid Stays in the Picture: At the bottom of my book pile. It's a maybe for this year.
One Fifth Avenue  by Candace Bushnell: I got this as a gift. I so rarely read fiction. I think I'll have to read this since I've had it for about five years.
The Last Lecture: Another book I got as a gift. It's small, and it's subject matter based on what I've read about it reminds me of email forwards that I used to get ten years ago.
Thomas Paine and the Promise of America: It's somewhere between definitely and likely this year.
Zeitoun by Dave Eggers: Same.
The Lost City of Z: I really feel like I should read this before the movie comes out. Just because.
Collapse by Jared Diamond: Another big book. But will I get to it this year?
Ava Gardner: "Love is Nothing": I really might have to check this out of the library this year.
The Shack: Another gift. I'm actually not looking forward to reading that one, but I want to get rid of it.
Furious Love: I own it. It's in my stack. I am hoping I'll be able to breeze through it since it's about Burton and Taylor.
The Roth Revolution: I'm going to read some finance books this year. This one is on my mental list to check out of the library this spring.
The Panic Virus: Somewhere between likely and maybe.
The Invisible Gorilla: Same.
Kickboxing Geishas: I have it. It's not large. I think I'll be reading this one SOON.
The Management Myth: Because anyone who's ever worked is probably thinking the same thing.
The Great Tax Wars: I have it. It's in my stack. Probably the second half of the year.
Bottled Lighting: This year.
The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy: This year.
Before the Storm: I have it in my stack. It's a paperback. It's still huge. I'm thinking summer.
Kate Remembered: I have it ready to start. Hoping to be finished by Easter.
Marley & Me: In my stack and it sounds like a quick read.
Death at SeaWorld: Almost checked it out of the library after I saw Blackfish, which I think makes it a must for this year.
Ninety Percent of Everything: I almost checked this out after watching Captain Phillips. How much we ship by boat over the world has really got to decrease in the next ten years.
Gold: The Race for the World's Most Seductive Metal: Really intrigued about reading this after listening to an interview with the author on NPR.

I'm aiming to read at least 25 books this year. Would like to make it to 30. We'll see how far I get.


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