Thursday, September 1, 2011

Summer Reading

Before we get stuck into the Presidential Election I thought I might round out the summer silly season by revealing what has been keeping me entertained over the summer.

The First Law Trilogy - Joe Abercrombie

Normally I try to go for slightly more high-brow stuff in reading Sci-Fi and Fantasy. I know, oxymoron if ever there was. But in this case it was exactly what I was looking for. Cheesy, sprawling epic with so much fighting you start to get bored. But with all the humour and self-referential moments I couldn't put the books down.

Triumph of the City - Edward Glaeser

An interesting read on why and how cities are economically and environmentally superior to other forms of living. This is a the books I picked up after seeing the author interviewed on The Daily Show (Jon Stewart, not RTE). While I tend to agree with his overall premise, he does seem a bit too lax on planning and zoning, with a strong belief in the market's ability to solve everything. I wonder if it could be put on a reading list for city and county councillors?

The Information - James Gleick

As a teenager, James Gleick's Chaos was the book that probably pushed me to study maths in college. Based on how that career ended up, that may not be a glowing reference but it was certainly a seminal book. So I was quite excited to see that after a long break, Gleick was back writing again. And what a book. Covering the history of computing, communication and coding with lots of entertaining anecdotes. All the usual heroes of the story are covered as are many names that I didn't recognize but whose contributions to technology are huge.

A Kingdom Besieged - Raymond E Feist

So I claimed my fantasy was usually a bit more high brow. Well this isn't it. Feist is my guilty please. He hasn't written a really good book in years (Shadow of a Dark Queen?) but I can't help but get sucked in every time a new book is published. And he's done it again with the start of another series in the Riftwar cycle. I couldn't actually tell you what happened in this book except the Kingdom gets invaded by Kesh. The rest is the same as in every other series but I'll keep reading them nonetheless.

Dave Gorman vs The Rest of the World

A highly entertaining read as Dave Gorman challenges the world to games of anything from ping pong, to laser-based boardgames of the 80s. Read this straight through in one day.

At Home: A Short History of Private Life - Bill Bryson

A room by room history of everything that happens in the home. As with all Bryson books, full of quirky little bits of information. But a hefty tome - you wouldn't want to be reading it while standing on the bus or train. Definitely one for the comfort of the couch.

A Dance with Dragons - George R.R. Martin

Amazing. Well worth the wait. Not going to say anything else for fear of spoilers!

Transition - Iain Banks

This on the other hand was pretty poor. Daft premise, irritating characters and disjointed story. Probably should have given up about half way through but fell for sunk cost fallacy.

The Ripple Effect - Alex Prud'homme

Another Daily Show suggestion. With all the recent talk about Dublin's water issues, both mains and sewage, along with the Shannon scheme, this was an interesting perspective on how the water issue plays out in the US. While it was a bit of a slog to read at times, there was a lot of information and useful lessons that could be learned. Another one for the politicians' reading list.

Surface Detail - Iain M. Banks

Still reading this, but it really shows that The Culture novels are where Banks really shines. Having the point-of-view characters die in both of the first two chapters is an interesting way to start a book. Can't help but love it.

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