fnorizny's 100 books in 2009
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Bradbury is one of my favorite authors ever, so naturally I wanted to find out what he thinks of creativity and writing and so on. I actually bought this book this summer at Powell's, started it this winter, and finished the day before yesterday, but it still counts as 2009, right? :D
Anyway, this was a fascinating book, particularly because I've read so many of the stories he talks about. Bradbury insists that writing is not work one does to make money or gain popularity - it's writing to release the passion and the child full of images and the fire inside your soul. We should write as much as possible every day - 1,000 to 2,000 words - no matter how bad it is, because we will improve.
In short: it's inspirational and, well, it's Ray Bradbury; where can you go wrong?
002. The Future of an Illusion by Sigmund Freud (1927)
I just read this for my Culture & Psychology class. Freud thinks that religion is an irrational institution, unnecessarily restrictive of instinct, and that it should be replaced in the future by the psychology, with psychiatrists instead of priests. The "illusion" of the title is religion - and Freud thinks it doesn't have a future.
I think that's bull. Religion maybe isn't the best institution for society to be guided by, but it is something that will never leave humanity, simply because so many people recognize that there is something unexplainable out there. Freud has obviously never had a numinous (mysterious, spiritual, unexplainable) experience. Reading his opinions of other people always feels to me like they're his own neuroses that he's projecting onto others.
003. The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss (2007)
This book left me blown away. It is the story of Kvothe, a figure of legend in his own lifetime. As he himself says, he has killed an angel, burned a town, does not bleed... The Name of the Wind chronicles (haha, pun! You have to read the book to get it) the beginning of his life through his time at University learning magic, and does an amazing job showing how the reality became the legend from Kvothe's perspective. I am planning to read this again, then again before the next book in the trilogy comes out, and recommend it to every sci-fi/fantasy fan out there. The back of the book says this book belongs up there on the shelf with LOTR - and it's right.
004. Panorama of Paris by Louis-Sebastien Mercier, trans. Jeremy D. Popkin (1781-1788)
I just read this for my 18th Century Things class. Mercier, a contemporary of Rousseau and one of the younger generation of Parisian Enlightenment philosophers, wrote small sketches of everyday life in Paris and compiled them. This book is just a fraction of his total, but it is fascinating and an easy read. The topic of each chapter is always something different: from cows, to wigs, to window boxes, to theatre boxes, to carriages, to the second-hand clothes market, to quack medicine. Mercier's Paris is dirty, stinking, busy, and utterly fascinating.
005. Patterns of Culture by Ruth Benedict (1934)
For some reason, everybody has heard of Margaret Mead, but nobody has heard of Ruth Benedict. This book is from the 1930s and is an analysis of three native cultures and an argument for understanding foreign cultures in order to expand our minds and sustain diversity. Benedict's arguments are still relevant today, and she's a great writer. Everybody should read this book. I read it for my Anthropology (Culture & Psychology) class.
The Preliminary Discourse was unexpectedly interesting. Diderot's Encyclopedia is one of the first great encyclopedias of the eighteenth century, coauthored with d'Alembert, who gives a detailed breakdown of everything about it. I wouldn't recommend it to anyone who wasn't already interested in the topic, though. Read for my 18th Century Things class.
007. Reflections on the Nature of Light and Fire by Thomas Cussans (1783)
I read Cussans's book for a research project I'm doing about fire. He published this book in 1783. Basically he thought that the sun was the coldest part of the solar system, because obviously the higher up a mountain you go, the colder it gets. The sun emits light, which interacts with solid matter when it gets to Earth and ferments, thus creating heat. Those crazy eighteenth-century people! *lol*
008. The Turk: The Life and Times of the Famous Eighteenth-Century Chess-Playing Machine by Tom Standage (2002)
The Turk was pretty interesting. We read this and la Mettrie (#009) in my 18th Century Things class - the topic for the week was automata, which are machines that imitate life. The Turk was a chess playing automaton, or at least that's what Standage makes you think - it's actually a false automaton, operated by a person hiding inside. I was very disappointed by this revelation at the end.
009. Man a Machine by Julien Offray de La Mettrie (1748)
De la Mettrie was interesting - he thought that the human body is basically a machine and that the soul cannot be separated from it.
010. Observations upon fire by David Young (1784)
David Young's book, another from the eighteenth century, is essentially a call for common sense in fighting fire. I read it for my research project on fire.
Written in the sixteenth century by a French monk, it's the fantastical story of two giants and their adventures with their friends. It's a satire, which means, given the medieval emphasis on the physicality of the body and their propensity to make things up about foreign places, that the book is full of sheer batshit crazy. A very entertaining read, if too long. Check it out if you want something vulgar and crude and hilariously crazy. I loved it. :D
012. Sweetness and Power: The Place of Sugar in Modern History by Sidney W. Mintz (1985)
Sweetness and Power should have been far more interesting than it was. Mintz examines the role of sugar in world history and how it came to be a necessity, rather than a rare luxury, in England, from 1650 - 1850.
013. Onania; or the Heinous Sin of Self-Pollution (1712)
Our theme this week in 18th Century Things is sex. Onania is the first book, at the beginning of the 18th century, to seriously protest masturbation. Apparently before it was published in 1712, nobody cared, and after, everybody was freaking out about the heinous sin of masturbating, aka Onanism. My professor says this book was originally intended to censure sinners and give advice, but turned into a huge volume of soft-core porn after many editions. *sporfle* At any rate, it was an interesting read, although not as interesting as I thought it would be. More interesting was Solitary Sex, of which we read three (looooong) chapters - an analysis of Onania and the problem of masturbation in the 18th century. I would have read the entire book, but it wasn't at the library, so I can't put it on this list. :(
014. The Sacred and the Profane: The Nature of Religion by Mircea Eliade (1961)
Very good book. A classic of religious studies.
015. Wizard's First Rule by Terry Goodkind (1994)
So I read Wizard's First Rule because of the TV series, "Legend of the Seeker," and it was well worth it. It was fascinating to see how different and how similar the two series are, and to find some of the things that will probably appear in future episodes, like the Con Dar just did. I would recommend this book to any fantasy/sf fan except the very squeamish, because it's pretty brutal and I hear the rest of the series only gets worse in that respect.
Being familiar with occult literature as I am, I knew Bonewits had a very good reputation, but had never read him before. I found that he has a great sense of humor and a very realistic, pragmatic way of looking at life, as well as an attitude that I found troubling at times. Aside from the few reservations I have, I can easily say that this is a classic and one of the best books about magic I've read.
017. Speaker for the Dead by Orson Scott Card (1991)
Last night I couldn't sleep, so I went looking for trouble and found Speaker for the Dead. Having never read any Orson Scott Card before, I hadn't realized how good he was. This book moved me and resonated with me in a wonderful way, and made me think about the parallels with Star Wars. Anyway, if ever there was a good argument for the careful study of anthropology, this is it. Everyone should read it. Everyone.
018. Don't Send a Resume: And Other Contrarian Rules to Help Land a Great Job by Jeffrey J. Fox (2001)
Don't Send a Resume is a book I inherited from my brother. It's about 150 pages, but I finished it in somewhere between one and two hours - it's very quick. Fox's basic argument is that doing things that no one else does will get you the job you want. I think he has very good points, but they don't apply to every job. I will be using his recommendations, but selectively.
019. First Meetings in the Enderverse by Orson Scott Card (2003)
Yeah, I know, I should have read Ender's Game before Speaker for the Dead. I didn't realize this one had only the novella, not Ender's Game the book, until about halfway through. So I know all about the Enderverse but still haven't read Ender's Game. Whatever - I'll read it eventually, when somebody who has it checked out of the library eventually gives it up.
Anyway, I loved this series.
020. Dune by Frank Herbert (1991)
Another classic I should have read in my childhood - except that I wouldn't have been old enough for it. I was surprised at the fact that I didn't particularly like it for the first two thirds or so. Still not sure why. But the end was very good.
I am trying to get ahold of Ender's Game. It seems to be checked out of all the libraries around here. *le sigh*
021. Blood Engines by T.A. Pratt (2009)
I got Blood Engines off the Suvudu Free Library. It's about a bitchy, cold sorceress who has to go with her lovable, snarky, gay sidekick to San Francisco to find a magical artifact called the Cornerstone, in order to avoid being killed. Except for the ending, which sped up considerably, most of the book was incredibly boring and slow. The characters are total cliches and didn't make me interested enough to care about them. In short - I didn't like it.
022. Voices from the Pagan Census: A National Survey of Witches and Neo-Pagans in the United States by Helen A. Berger, Evan A. Leach, and Leigh S. Shaffer (2003)
This I read for my thesis. It's been a while since I read anything relating to paganism/Wicca/whatever, but given that I used to read a LOT about the subject, this book really resonated with me. Most surveys about pagans are given at festivals, which makes the data and analysis completely unrepresentative of the general pagan population. This one, in 1993, was the first to avoid the easy channel (festivals) and actually get some accurate, representative data. It's not perfect, of course, but it is a damn interesting read and is going to be really helpful for my thesis.
023. Hot Zone by Richard Preston
This is an old favorite of mine: the story of the Ebola virus in the 1970s through the 1990s. It's written as a thriller novel - I'm not particularly fond of the genre, but I love this book. Ebola is disgusting and fascinating and beautiful and utterly terrifying, all rolled up into one tiny package of virus. And the story of how it was discovered in Africa, and how the military stopped an outbreak in the U.S. that could have destroyed most of humanity, is heartening.
024. The Eye of the World by Robert Jordan (1990)
025. The Great Hunt by Robert Jordan (1990)
Another old favorite. These are the first two books of the Wheel of Time series, the story of Rand al'Thor, the man who will Break the world to save it from the Shadow. I know some people disparage Robert Jordan's writing, but I think he's an excellent writer, and I love this series.
027. The Shadow Rising by Robert Jordan (1992)
Yup, I'm still making my way through the Wheel of Time series. ♥
028. Elantris by Brandon Sanderson (2005)
The only thing by Sanderson that I can find around here. :( I liked it - he's a good world-builder, and very good at making character-driven stories, and at developing interesting, non-cliche characters. My only quibble is that it was a little predictable. But I liked it, and I'm still looking for Mistborn.
029. The Fires of Heaven by Robert Jordan (1993)
030. Lord of Chaos by Robert Jordan (1994)
031. Three-Fisted Tales of "Bob": Short Stories in the SubGenius Mythos by Rev. Ivan Stang (1990)
Very weird, and occasionally intriguing. I read these to get a better feel for the Church of the SubGenius for my thesis, because fiction can usually do that better than nonfiction, and indeed it was the case. I wouldn't recommend this to everybody, though.
032. A Crown of Swords by Robert Jordan (1996)
Number seven! Still can't stand Faile, still love Mat but want him to accept his fate and do some hardcore memory awesome, and so happy that Lan and Nynaeve got married ♥!
033. The Bhagavad-Gita trans. Barbara Stoler Miller (in 1986)
A wonderful piece of literature, of course, but it's not for me. I'm a very literal person and so I had a hard time with what I read in this. Not to mention the fact that I strongly disagree that the soul and body are separate and that the physical world is merely an illusion that we should cast aside. I feel really strongly that those things aren't true. But I had to read it for Religions of India class, so oh well.
035. Winter's Heart by Robert Jordan (2000)
036. Crossroads of Twilight by Robert Jordan (2003)
The eighth, ninth, and tenth books in the Wheel of Time series. Not much actually happens in these books, so I feel kind of meh about them, with the exception of Rand and Nynaeve cleansing saidin, which is possibly the coolest and most momentous thing in the entire series - and Jordan barely touches on it at all afterwards except to note that everybody thinks it's the Forsaken doing something horrible. *grumps*
037. The Essentials of Hinduism by Swami Bhaskarananda (1995)
An excellent introduction to Hinduism. I read it for my Religions of India class and recommend it for anyone even remotely interested in the subject. It's very clearly and simply written, and puts even the hard concepts in ways easier to understand for Westerners.
038. Immortal by Traci L. Slatton (2008)
My boyfriend got this and loved the philosophy in it, so I had to read it. It's about a boy in medieval Italy who is immortal for some reason and befriends a bunch of famous figures, including the Medici family, a bunch of painters, and Leonardo da Vinci. It was an entertaining read, but quite frankly, the immortal boy is a Gary Stu...so it's not really that great.
039. The Number of the Beast by Snoo Wilson (1982)
This is a play about Aleister Crowley, the magician and very strange guy. I can't imagine actually seeing this as a play performed, but it was a somewhat interesting read.
040. Wisdom of the Buddha: The Unabridged Dhammapada trans. F. Max Muller
I'm not particularly fond of Buddhism, but this was fairly interesting. I liked the metaphors best.
041. The Illuminatus! Trilogy by Robert Shea and Robert Anton Wilson (1975)
Great book and my second read of it. Rather more confusing than last time, but still good.
This is the textbook for my Religions of India class. We were only supposed to read half of it - the parts about Hinduism, Jainism, Buddhism, and Sikhism - but I read the rest of it as well, about Zoroastrianism, and the Abrahamic religions' presence in India. I wish the articles were a little more consistent with one another, but on the whole it was a pretty good book for the class and I would recommend it for anyone wanting an introduction to the religions of India.
043. Authentic Fakes: Religion and American Popular Culture by David Chidester
This book has a long story behind it. I checked it out of the library about two years ago to use it for a folklore paper on Discordianism, but only read the relevant parts, which wasn't much. Being as it's the ONLY published work even remotely relating to joke religions (which is what my thesis is about), I resolved to read the rest of it, but never got around to it, even for my thesis. Finally, a few weeks ago, I decided I HAD to read the whole damn thing, finally, and stuck to it.
I was somewhat disappointed, having expected it to be more about joke religions. Instead, most of the book is about serious American culture and its unusual intersections with religion, such as the religion of money, Ronald Regan's and Jim Jones's sacrificial religious philosophies, and only one chapter is about virtual religions. That one chapter is quite good, though - Chidester approaches the classifications and definitions I came up with, but he didn't quite make it. All the same, the book is a fascinating read and was pretty much the basis for my thesis.
044. Stone of Tears by Terry Goodkind
This is the second book in the Sword of Truth series, which is the basis for the TV show, Legend of the Seeker. And I loved it! The show is great, but the books have their own special (and violent and gory) charm. I loved the plot and the desperation of Richard and Kahlan and meeting the new characters ♥ and. *flaily glee* :D
045. Oblomov by Ivan Alexksandrovich Goncharov
A little-known nineteenth-century Russian novel about a man who does nothing all day, every day. I have the same tendency, so it hit a little close to home. The ending was fairly disappointing though.
046. God by Alexander Waugh
Definitely not a book I would recommend, although it should be. This is supposed to be a biography of God as he appears in the Bible, but the author doesn't seem to realize that the Bible was written by scads of different people, all of whom had different conceptions of God. Well-researched but rests on very poor premises.
047. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince by J.K. Rowling
048. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling
I had to read these last two again in preparation for HBP (the movie) coming out soon. Enjoyed them very much. :D
049. The Occult Tradition: From the Renaissance to the Present Day by David S. Katz
Katz's definition of the occult, which includes Mormonism and other things one wouldn't normally consider occult, is far too broad. Other than that, it was quite an interesting book and useful for my thesis work.
050. The Planets by Dava Sobel
Beautifully written and researched. I very much want to read more by her.
051. Give Me That Online Religion by Brenda E. Brasher
Such a 90's attitude towards cyberspace! This book made me LOL, but not in a good way.
052. Holy Madness by Georg Feuerstein
Possibly the most important book ever written in the field of religious studies. Feuerstein defines enlightenment and the tradition of the guru in the Western world, and makes it relevant to just about everything. Everyone should read this.