My Reading List

This is a list of books I've been reading. Since 2003 I've been reading lots of books in ebook format, since they have some good prices at Palm eReader, and I can take many books with me no matter where I go. I really like the convenience of being able to open a book while waiting in line. Digital audio books are similar, since the digital formats can also be used on the PC, PDA, or even burned to CD. Audible.com has a deal on these books, two a month for just US$ 20, considering many good audio books run US$ 30-40, this is a good deal (if you join, use my name "Clyde Warden" as referring you).

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Foundation's Chaos (Second Foundation Series #2)
Author: Greg Bear

2004 Fall

The second book in the post-Asimov foundation series is by one of my favoriteSF authors--Greg Bear. This book picks up after Gregory Benford's Foundation's Fear, but does not come chronologically right after the end of that book. Rather, what has been done in this new series is that spots not filled out by Asimov are now filled in, so Benford's work takes place just as the main character, Hari Seldon, takes the post of First Ministership, while Bear's book takes place after that time and what we were left to think was the decline and death of Seldon (that impression made in Asimov's Forward Foundation. Bear is really great at picking up a genre that is not his own (as I liked in his Star Trek and Star Wars novels). Foundation and Chaos is more like Asimov's style than Benford's, but Bear still manages to fill out some details not covered before, especially about political strive among the robots. The idea that the robots have differing opinions and political groups working against each other is really amazing. Loved it all.

Speed of Sound: Hollywood and the Talkie Revolution 1926-1930
(Unabridged)
Author: Scott Eyman
Narrator: Adams Morgan

2004 Fall

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A history of the transition from silent cinema to sound, this book was much better than I expected, mostly because Eyman spends a lot of time on the technical details, which of course I enjoy. My work in film/video production from the time I was a teen to the digital technology I use no for my class Websites, make me very aware of the most complex and troublesome of issues--synchronization. Eyman's book does of course go into the personalities of the transition, from the movie Mongols like Fox and the Warner brothers, but the book never sinks into gossip. I was most impressed with Eyman's grasp and appreciation of the film art form and how that was forever lost, replaced with talking that often explains rather than do. That criticism is true right up to today's Hollywood movies that spend so much of their time explaining!

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The Puppet Masters
(Unabridged)
Author: Robert A. Heinlein
Narrator: Dennis McKee

2004 Summer

This book is great. Even though the basic story has been copied and done a million times by Hollywood, there is no better than Heinlein. I really loved the detective story approach, which gave a bit of a dark story to the alien invasion idea. The characters are still true Heinlein, all totally cynical, but determined to do the right thing.

Minority Report and Other Stories
(Unabridged)
Author: Philp K. Dick
Narrator: Keir Dullea

2004 Summer

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This book brings together a number of Philp K. Dick's short stories. They are all good, but none of them are great. It is a great contrast to compare the hard-boiled approach of Dick with that of Heinline in The Puppet Master that I am reading now. Heilein is simply a better writer and uses many technology-based devices that can hold up decades later, but Dick's work feels stuck in the past.

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Have Space Suit, Will Travel
(Unabridged)
Author: Robert A. Heinlein
Narrator: Will McAuliffe and Full Cast

2004 Summer

A fun kid's oriented book by Heinlein. Classic 50's science fiction about a boy who wins a used space suit, fixes it up, and gets picked up by aliens. The cynical view of commercialism and social norms are here, but only on the peripheral (all of which Heinlein's later works put full center). This is just a fun book that all kids would like, my son and I had fun.

Children of the Mind
(Unabridged)
Author: Orson Scott Card
Narrator: Gabrielle de Cuir and John Rubinstein with more

2004 Summer

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This is the fourth and last Ender Series book. This may be the weakest of all the Ender books. I really hate using up a major part of a book to cover the details from earlier books in a series. Maybe this book wants to get readers in airports, but beside this group I don't know who would read this book without first reading at least the last book, and more likely all the Ender books. I was especially upset by this because the last book ended so abruptly and clearly was held up for this last book.

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Middlesex
(Unabridged)
Author: Jeffrey Eugenides
Narrator: Kristoffer Tabori

2004 Summer

In Vonnegut's Timequake the author mentions that he would have liked to write a novel about his German immigrant family, but concludes there are not enough interested people to read about Germans in middle America. Middlesex proves this point wrong, or maybe right. Middlesex is about Greek immigrants living in Detroit. The story is sweeping, going back a couple generations and then up into the 1980s. While this book has received much praise, including The Pulitzer Prize for fiction, I had a hard time sticking with this long book. Much of the imagery used is overly cute, such as TV images ("Now let's see all this in fast forward . . ."). This problem for me is that the reflexive narrative tools are too shallow and have little meaning of their own, but rather are just like candy thrown out to prove the book is post-modern. All that said, the book starts and ends with the interesting story of Cal, who is both male and female due to a genetic defect. What the reader ends up with is not this tempting story, but all the family history that has come together to create the genetic defect. This is a bit interesting. Eugenides uses the genetic defect to lead his story through all the details of the family members who own the DNA. Overall, this book is better after it done, with the wide view of Cal's family story, which is the story of many Americans.

Eragon
(Unabridged)
Author: Christopher Paolini
Narrator: Gerard Doyle

2004 Summer

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I listened to this kids fantasy book with Anastasia. It was her first audio book and a good choice, since the narrator is very good and the story perfect for young people. Eragon has been hyped a bit since Paolini is just 17 years old, and to be honest, it looks like the publisher has decided this book will be a big commercial hit, no matter what. That turned me off a bit, but the book does seem to work. As a formal D&D player, the book worked for me. Kind of a dumbed down Tolkien book; a book that can give you some detailed fantasy action. The story itself though, seems very much like a movie, rather than literature. It lacks the poetry of Tolkien and the deep meaning of Le Guin--both of which I have had a hard time to get the kids interested in, so maybe this book, and future Paolini books, is a good start.

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John Adams
Author: David McCullough

2004 Summer

I got this book while in the U.S. for the 2001 summer after hearing McCullough speak about the book on NPR. I started the book, got busy, and put it down until this week. Once I got back to it, I couldn't stop! McCullough brings out much detail about Adams without ever bring boring. What contributes to this, in a large part, is the never ending emphasis McCullough puts on the importance of the FIRST democracy in the world--the newness of it, the rise of rationalism, the huge risk taken by the leaders, and the sacrifice of those, like Adams, who gave their lives for the development of this new country that they truly believed would lead the world with its new political concepts. Because of that overarching energy and admiration McCullough's book left me seeing Adams, and other Founding Fathers, as human, but devoted to an ideal--freedom and self-government.

Timequake
Author: Kurt Vonnegut

2004 Summer

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In the same vein as Breakfast of Champions, this book is even more personal for Vonnegut. The Timequake is our universe contracting ten years, and then expanding again, while everyone must relive ten years of life. The reliving of life, however, is Vonnegut himself as he and his alter ego, Kilgore Trout review the last 80 years in America. I think this book is best described as a Fellini movie in print. Vonnegut works magic with words, phrases, and paragraphs that just shouldn't work. Not a happy book, yet so profound as to leave me in a daze, just like I felt after first watching Marcello Mastroianni wander through 81/2.

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Emma
(Unabridged)
Author: Jane Austen
Narrator: Victoria Morgan

2004 Summer

I want to read a new book by Karen Joy Fowler called The Jane Austen Book Club, so I thought I should actually finish a real Austen book first. Since Emma is the book first read in the fictional book club of the book, I though I would go with that. This is a long, slow book that is very much unlike the most writing we see today, but that really didn't put me off. At times the pace was so slow, but then Austen would come up with some dialogue that was just such a funny comment on the very rigid and formal social structure the story takes place in. I don't really know much about Austen's writing, and maybe I am reading too much into it, but it seems that she really skirts the edges of confronting many of the social issues of her day. I also very much liked the insight into English life and the historical sources of current English culture. Overall good, but now time to move onto Fowler's book.

Foundation's Fear (Second Foundation Series #1)
Author: Gregory Benford

2004 Summer

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Most everyone agrees that Asimov's early writing was great fun, but I came to appreciate his later work on the foundation novels, especially Forward the Foundation, which I think is his best. Asimov moved beyond simply repeating earlier writing and brought a level of maturity, reflection, and even pessimism. Contributing to an existing universe is not easy, and as readers we feel most comfortable with repeats of existing variables in slightly new variations. If that is what you want, take a look at the Robot books, Caliban, Chimera, or Aurora, where the context and writing style is comfortably familiar. Benford's Foundation's Fear strikes off in a different direction, which I at first found difficult, but then greatly appreciated. Yes, the story does seem quite different, the inclusion of the Sims is strange, and yes Seldon is a different person. But the alternative is a stale repeat, ala Star Trek, where after reading 50 books you come away with nothing that you didn't already see TOS. Flushing out just how Seldon came to power as First Minister is very interesting, and the political instability of the Empire, only referenced previously, is here flushed out in full detail. I also appreciate that Benford has written this book for those who really have already the whole series of Foundation books. Foundation's Fear does not start out by keeping secrets and fitting in to series, but simply starts out from where we all left off; it is like Benford is saying, Okay, we read all that, we know all about the Foundation and Seldon, now let's move on. The Foundation is a richer place after finishing Benford's book, just keep an open mind and stick to it.

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Breakfast of Champions
(Unabridged)
Author: Kurt Vonnegut
Narrator: Stanley Tucci

2004 Summer

Okay, another Vonnegut book, and as always, right from the prologue I was caught by the throat and then thrown into Vonnegut's world--but the scary part is that it is not his world, it is our world. I love the reflexive nature of this book, and I guess it could get boring after a bit, but Vonnegut handles it very well and always keeps us caring about the characters, of which Vonnegut himself is one.

The Birthday of the World: And Other Stories
(Unabridged)
Author: Ursula K. Le Guin
Narrators: Ursula K. LeGuin, David Birney, Scott Brick, and more

2004 Summer

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Le Guin fills out her Ekumen universe with six stories that are in the tradition of The Left Hand of Darkness--an almost anthropological approach. Sex roles play an important role in all the stories, which gives an interesting perspective on our current power structures in society. A great book.

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Plan of Attack

Author: Bob Woodward
Narrator: Boyd Gaines

2004 Summer

Woodward does a very good job of putting many stories together from the start of the Bush administration to the start of the Iraqi war. In many ways, this book is very much like Suskind's The Price of Loyalty, which centers on O'Neill's perspective. Plan of Attack includes many perspectives, and they really reinforce what O'Neill observed about Bush and the other participants. What Woodward has captured in this book is a much more complete picture of who Bush is, and I have to say it is a very scary profile. While many have commented that the book does not do enough analysis of what is reported, I couldn't disagree more. The analysis is right there, in the facts that are reported.

Xenocide
(Unabridged)
Author: Orson Scott Card
Narrators: Scott Brick, Gabrielle de Cuir, Amanda Karr, John Rubinstein, and Stefan Rudnicki

2004 Summer

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I've been waiting a while to get this book because I liked the direction Scott took in Speaker for the Dead. With Xenocide, that direction continues with much less action and much more thought. Now, that said, the story does tackle a few too many issues. Overcoming a virus that can kill everything, okay, sure--standard sci-fi fare. Solving the problem of faster-than-light-travel, I guess I can buy that. Answering the meaning of life by uncovering the "true" religion, ENOUGH ALREADY! Xenocide contains a sub-plot on a planet with all Chinese, in a kind of neo-Confucian political system centered on a religious system not unlike the Taoism practiced in Taiwan. This is yet another book from a big author using Chinese Characters and settings--I guess it is a trend. Out of all I've seen so far, however, Card's treatment of Chinese is most shallow, coming off with very few redeeming values in the end. Also, the audio book readers always read the Chinese characters' dialogue with very cheap Chinese accents, reminding me of Hong Kong movies that show Westerners always speaking with really bad Chinese accents--really a bad move that only adds to the kind of stupid image imposed on the Chinese characters. I don't think this is Scott's intention, though.

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Diffusion of Innovations
Author: Everett M. Rogers

2004 Summer

Although mostly a research book, Roger's text is generally interesting and his theories of diffusion can be used in so many areas. This edition is very up-to-date, with great examples. Not your everyday read, but not quite a dry academic work either.

Sin and Syntax: How to Craft Wickedly Effective Prose
Author: Constance Hale

2004 Summer

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This little book has a fun attitude toward grammar and the best part is how Hale shows good examples of how the rules can be used and effectively ignored. I read this while working on a big paper, and I think it has helped me to focus, especially on short clear sentences.

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(Unabridged)
Author: Margaret Atwood
Narrator: Campbell Scott

2004 Summer

This is a well written book about the near future, when everything has gone wrong. Global Climate change is a given, but the big screw up comes from genetic engineering let lose. The story is told from the perspective of young people, so I think I would have liked this book better as a teen, but of course as things go wrong, the characters grow up and in any case they are easy to relate to. Atwood has captured the male characters very well, in a way like Le Guin in many of her stories. This Oryx and Crake is very dark and ends very well, but things are not tied up and finished in a happy way--very close to the truth, making this a depressing read. I loved it.

Martian Time Slip

(Unabridged)
Author: Philip K. Dick
Narrator: Tom Parker

2004 Summer

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This is my first Philip K. Dick book and I am looking for my next one already. A really good science fiction read that treats science a bit like Heinlein, which means it is very dated while also using some fifties-type conventions. But, like Heinlein, it is the psychological story that maters, and for Dick this is lots more psychology. The story centers on residents of Mars as they struggle to get and come across the natives' ability to move through time--with results that are not so good.

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American Gods
(Unabridged)
Author: Neil Gaiman
Narrator: George Guidall

2004 Summer

This is my first book by Gaiman and I picked it up because it was a Hugo winner. At first it was hard to get into, but the reading is very well done, with Guidall giving great voice performances. The story picks up as the idea becomes clear that historic gods are taking a stand in America against the new gods, such as the TV and shopping mall gods. The main character, Shadow, gets involved with a god named Wednesday who is very similar to Heinlein's Lazarus Long. I like the Shadow character, who is very, very, laid back. As the story wraps up, it becomes clear that another movie/action ending is in store. Not very satisfactory at that stage, but still an interesting novel.

The Fabric of the Cosmos: Space, Time, and the Texture of Reality

(Unabridged)
Author: Brian Greene
Narrator: Michael Prichard

2004 Summer

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The title of the book tells it all, really ALL (the audio book is over 22 hours long). Brian Greene covers everything related to the history and up-to-date developments is cosmology. The topic is very interesting to me, but I think it would be a bit slow for those really interested. This is not because of Greene's writing. He has a very easy to read style and lots and lots of examples. Not the kind of examples only students of physics can get either. For example, about half of his examples use characters and locations from the Simpsons, making understanding much easier. The only difficulty for me was that Greene loves the examples so much that he often has more than three analogies to make a point, and after going through them all, finally says something like, "if you still don't get just how important this is, I have not done my job well." If it was me, I would just hit the reader over the head and move on!

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Star Trek: The Entropy Effect
Author: Vonda N. McIntyre

2004 Summer

Bought a bunch of STOS books on sale at Palm eReader, they were going for like two dollars a book. McIntyre's book is not bad and attempts to bring a bit more science into the story than is often normal, although the science component of ST is standard. What is most interesting is that this book is from 1986, but it reads almost exactly like one of the many Voyager episodes that include time travel. The effect is well done here, but of course some questions never get answered well. While not a Greg Bear book as far as the tightness of the story and the science goes, it is good fun.

DNA: The Secret of Life
(Unabridged)
Author: James Watson & Andrew Berry
Narrator: Dan Cashman

2004 Spring

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The man who discovered the structure of DNA covers the history of what is known about DNA as well as the future, at least a few small predictions. As part of my SARS research this book has been very helpful in understanding what viruses are made of (RNA) and how it is related to DNA. This is a very detailed book at times although never overly technical.

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Mostly Harmless
(Unabridged)
Author: Douglas Adams
Narrator: Douglas Adams

2004 Spring

This is the fifth in the Hitchhiker 's Guide Series and the last. Read by Adams himself, the audio book is enjoyable, but very confusing--which I think is the point. I see from cruising the Web that everyone was most surprised by the sudden ending, not to mention it was not exactly ended on a high note. A sequel seems to be set up at the end, but with Adams early death, well the end really is the end. Too bad.

The Diamond Age
(Unabridged)
Author: Neal Stephenson
Narrator: Jennifer Wiltsie

2004 Spring

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Reading more of Neal Stephenson, I moved on to what is a kind of follow up to snow crash . There is no continuation of the story here, but the approach is similar in the important role technology plays in the story (in this case that would be nano-technology). Stephenson brings the reader into a similar world as before where states have become fragmented into tribes, with the world dominated by three tribes, Nippon (Japanese), Han (Chinese), and New Atlantis (Neo-Victorian English). I found this to be great, since I am very interested in all three of these cultures. The story mostly centers on the Chinese and New Victorians, with the story taking place in costal China. I don't know how stephenson did it, but is portrayal of the Chinese is nearly right on (about 80% of the time), but to move his story ahead at times you get some Chinese characters occasionally say something like, "To be perfectly clear . . ." a statement that is kind of forced in order to move the plot forward.

If you like any of these cultures and if high tech turns you on, this book is for you. The story has a little bit less of the action and attitude of Snow Crash, and I think it is better for that lack, but the story does tend to slow down at times and then jumps into really big scenes, like large battles, which can be a bit disconcerting.

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Left Hand of Darkness
Author: Ursula K. Le Guin

2004 Spring

This book reads like an ethnographic study of an alien culture. Like her book The Dispossessed, Le Guin has detailed characterization along with detailed descriptions of the society where humans are neither male nor female in the middle of complex political battles. Another really great Le Guin story with 100% meaning and implications for the world we live in now!

Ender's Shadow
(Unabridged)
Author: Orson Scott Card
Narrator: Michael Gross

2004 Spring

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This is an interesting book that follows Ender's Game, and in fact tells the same story, only from another person's perspective (Bean). It seems really hard to write the same book twice and pull it off, and for this reason I really didn't like it. It may have been better to read this book first, and then read Ender's Game, but then the surprise ending would be ruined. Overall it seems like a way for the author to milk the genre he created.

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Star Wars: Rogue Planet
Author: Greg Bear

2004 Spring

Being a big fan of Greg Bear I like to read is attempts at different sci-fi genres. I liked his Star Trek novel, so I thought Star Wars might be worth while, even though I don't really like Star Wars (or anything Lucas did after THX 1138). I read this on the plane flying to the USA, so it was a nice distraction. Bear brings a bit of nice characterization to the story, but Bears science is left behind, in favor of Star War's fantasy universe.

The Earthsea Cycle
Author: Ursula K. Le Guin

2004 Spring & Summer

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I like Le Guin's science fiction so much, but I never really got into all her work until recently. When I found the Earthsea Cycle I wasn't real sure I would like it because I'm not a big fantasy reader. I'm glad I did get them because they are really very good. All the books are easy reads, and kids should be able to get a lot out of them also. I didn't like the lack of characterization which is usually very good in Le Guin's novels, with lots of dialogue. These are more descriptive generally and told from the perspective of a narrator, more like Lord of Rings, but without the details and poetry.

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The Plague
Author: Albert Camus
Translator: Stuart Gilbert

2004 Spring

As part of my SARS research, I wanted to find some literature that could tie into the Taiwan SARS event. After looking around, I found Camus book and it is so perfect. The great match to the SARS event is that emotional state of the people in Camus book, all residents of a small town where the plague breaks out. No one can enter or leave the town and slowly the plague spreads. The parallel to Taiwan's experience is really striking.

Viruses, Plagues and History
Author: Michael B. Oldstone

2004 Spring

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Part of my SARS research, this book has a great introduction to what viruses are and how they have played a role in modern history. This books starts out with viruses of the American Revolutionary War period and works up to AIDS.

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Snow Crash
(Unabridged)
Author: Neal Stephenson
Narrator: Jonathan Davis

2004 Spring

I liked Wright's The Golden Age so much, why not try out the author who started Cyberpunk sci-fi, I thought. So here it is. Stephenson has a very cool style that just makes you smile at nearly every sentence. He doesn't really have the depth of Wright's work, but it is a lot of fun. Lots of cyberspace stuff put on a conventional plot to save to world before high noon. The characters are all easy to dislike, they often see themselves as total losers, which is right in line with the post-modern world I guess we all live in. The politics of the book are very nicely done, with nearly all parts of nationhood taken over by commercial interest.

Whose Body? (A Lord Peter Wimsey Mystery)
(Unabridged)
Author: Dorothy L. Sayers
Narrator: Nadia May

2004 Spring

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As a fan of British mystery writing I got onto this book because of the narrator! Hearing Nadia May's reading of The Dream of Reason impressed me so much I wanted to get another book she has read, thus I got a mystery and a great reading. The detective here, Lord Peter Wimsey, from the 1920s, is an interesting contrast between Sherlock Holmes the characters in Dick Francis' books. Sayers' detective is an upper class gentleman who has time on his hands and lowers himself to actually doing something--that being detective work. Like Holmes, Wimsey finds the whole activity a mental exercise, but unlike Holmes, Wimsey is lowering himself to deal with these issues (Holmes couldn't care less about the whole class system and moves easily in the streets and is often uncomfortable in dealing with the upper class).

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Star Trek: Sarek
Author: A. C. Crispen

2004 Spring

I liked Crispens other two books about Spock so I just had to get more. This is just the kind of book I wanted to get my hands on so bad in the mid 1990s when I couldn't find anything good in Taiwan bookstores. A nice sci-fi to relax with and escape all the local pressures. But Noooo, the random selection and my own being too busy all worked against it. Well, at last, with ebooks I have no trouble getting what I want, and this is one I am glad I got. Crispen really does the best job yet of linking the original series with her story. There are a lot of characters in this story, and it gets a bit mixed up at times, but she pulls it off in the end through the central thread of Spock's mother, mostly seen through her own diary after her death early on in the book.

Dream of Reason: A History of Philosophy from the Greeks to the Renaissance
(Unabridged)
Author: Anthony Gottlieb
Narrator: Nadia May

2004 Spring


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At 16 hours of audio this was a long book but all I can say is WOW! Better than any university course, because most students wouldn't stand for a teacher covering so much and in such detail. Covering philosophy from early Greek to Galileo. Lots of the general points, the big names, I've heard, but Gottlieb has really taken a fresh look, and she often corrects earlier errors in translations. The additional benefit is a perfect narration by Nadia May.

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My Teacher Glows in the Dark
My Teacher is an Alien
My Teacher Fried My Brains
My Teacher Flunked the Planet
Author: Bruce Coville

2004 Spring & Summer

Anastasia is reading this on her Palm, so I wanted to read it too just to keep up with what she is reading. This kids sci-fi is actually a good little read. This kind of book can really show young people that reading is fun, not just all heavy meaning with lots of vocabulary to slug through. Fun with some political correctness, but living in Taiwan, I take what I can get.

Undaunted Courage: Meriwether Lewis, Thomas Jefferson and the Opening of the American West (Unabridged)
Author: Stephen E. Ambrose
Narrator: Barrett Whitener

2004 Spring

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A nice history book that summarizes Lewis' notes on the exploration of the American West. Ambrose is a clean writer who stays on target and keeps the book moving without a lot of extra unrelated stuff (but that may be due to this audio book being abridged, although it was still over five hours).

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Venus Prime Volume 1-6
Author: Paul Preuss, Arthur C. Clarke

2004 Spring

Love Clarke, so I was very interested to see these books offered as ebooks. Got a great deal for all six books and didn't know what to expect. Ends up the books contain short storiesfrom Clarke, some of them going back to the 1950s, but now a whole universe has been woven around them with the central character Venus Prime (a kind of super government X-woman) who has gone independent.

I'm still reading these.

The Second Coming of Steve Jobs
Author: Alan Deutschman

2003 Winter

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As you can see on my personal Website hobby page, I was an early adopter of Apple, with the Mac Plus. I was also one of the first to buy and use the Apple Newton PDA. But, that is not the reason I was interested in this book (I don't use any Apple hardware today). I love the story of Steve Jobs because it makes so many pop-business book writers and professors eat their words! Everyone was using Apple in the late 80s and early 90s as the archetype example of why firms need professional managers. Managers that don't really need to know anything about the specific product, but know how to run a business. This is part of the whole emphasis on strategy that grew our of Harvard Business School and didn't work very well in the Vietnam War! The fact is that managers need to not only know their business well, but they need to be passionate about it and be very close to the consumers who will buy and use the company's output. The idea of making a strategy-based business plan and that will then lead to success makes for books that sell well, but is total trash in the real business world. Strategic thinking is about having a great product that satisfies a need of consumers (as Steve Jobs would say, "insanely great"). This book shows these characteristics in Steve Jobs, but without praising him as if some god from Mount Olympus. Well written, with a bit of a negative emphasis (the personality thing).

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Zero: The Biography of a Dangerous Idea
Author: Charles Seife, Matt Zimet

2003 Winter

Sounds boring, but this book uncovers the history of the philosophy behind the number zero, which turns out to be very interesting. The down side of the book is that it goes off into the standardized scientific/social discoveries and then explains how zero is at the core of all the new action. I get a bit tired of hearing the exact same few scientific discoveries being covered in history books. I guess science historians all tend to cover these, like Newton, Einstein the expanding universe, etc., so that writers keep falling back on what is already out there. I actually found the first half of the book more interesting since it covered Greek thought on numbers and then Eastern ideas of zero. Of course you have to have some interest in science and/or mathematics to get into this book.

The Price of Loyalty: George W. Bush, the White House, and the Education of Paul O'Neill
Author: Ron Susking

2003 Winter

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This is the book Bushwhacked was not. Lots of detail from the inside of Bush's cabinet meetings. The Price of Loyalty covers O'Neill's entry and exit from the Bush administration. This really gave me a clear picture of just how out of control the Bush administration has been. It seems that even just two weeks into the new administration, maps of Iraq were out along with clear markings of oils fields. Susking'swriting is very clear, and he makes the book read like a work of fiction but the scary part is it is all true. Here is a man who has served in the U.S. government and was a "real" CEO, and was 65 years old upon being asked to serve in the Treasury Department yet Bush calls O'Neill, and other cabinet membrs, by made up nick names! Sounds like a great place to work, just like back home in Texas!

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Star Trek (The Original Series):Time for Yesterday
Author: A. C. Crispin

2003 Winter

This is Crispin's follow up to Yesterday's Son and a pretty good one. In this book Spock's son comes back into the story as Kirk, Spock and McCoy must travel back in time to when Zar has become leader of a group of people all living in a kind of Middle Ages time. Lots of swords and sorcery stuff makes this book very interesting and different for a Star Trek novel.

Cat's Cradle
Author: Kurt Vonnegut

2003 Winter

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A very strong start--the end of the world, is typical of Vonnegut's strong starts. This book is a comment on science and the scientist who divorce themselves of any ethical responsibilities. The characters of this book are almost like people in a circus, which is kind of the point.

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Enquiry (Unabridged)
Author: Dick Francis
Narrator: Geoffrey Howard

2003 Winter

Dick Francis' mystery novels are great because they often involve people with no special skills to solve a mystery except the fact that they have been wrongly accused. Since high school I've really liked Francis' books, which is kind of strange since his books are always set around horse racing--which I have no interest in at all. I think it is the professional level of those in the story, where they simply are very good at what they do, taking it very serious, and that just happens to be horse racing.

Slaughterhouse-Five or The Children's Crusade: A Duty Dance with Death (Unabridged)
Author: Kurt Vonnegut
Narrator: Ethan Hawke

2003 Winter

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In high school I read this book along with some other Vonnegut. My friend Nick recently mentioned that he just read it and so I got interested again. This time I listened to it, read by Ethan Hawke, and was very impressed. This is one of those great books that seems to have a clear statement (anti-war) and yet upon closer examination are not so simple. The main character slips through many different times of his life including World War II. With no linear structure on the surface the book ends up building slowly to a big climax. How does that work? Only Vonnegut knows--a true master of the story. Listen to Vonnegut himself read one of the best passages in the book.

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The Andromeda Strain
Author: Michael Crichton
Narrator: Chris Noth

2003 Winter

Saw the movie many years ago and thought I would try out the book. Crichton's writing is like Tom Clancy with a technology emphasis. It is all just a bit stiff and meaningless for me while also lacking any of the fun I have with Star Trek books. This topic is interesting though (a virus is set lose by accident from a government experiment and the technology well presented.

Bushwhacked: Life in George W. Bush's America (Unabridged)
Author: Molly Ivins and Lou Dubose
Narrator: Anna Fields

2003 Winter


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As the American presidential election heats up I've gotten a bit interested in learning more about the Bush administration. Since I've been in Taiwan politics has not interested me in the way it did when I was in the U.S. The issues of the government becoming more extreme in ideology and the war in Iraq have really made me wonder what the whole story is. This book gave me a lot of information about Bush's past and especially things like his failed businesses and how his family political connections are what his success is based on. The information aligns well with the Bush we often see, who seems to not have any education at all. The whole build up to the war was full of Bush saying just really stupid things about the Middle East and showed a total lack of historical context. Well, we can't expect everything from one person I guess, but the problem is, as this book shows, Bush does not seek any input from people who do know. He simply looks for those who hold an ideology even more extreme than his.
As to the writing of Molly Ivins and Lu Dubose, well I was not very impressed. To much of the book would turn off moderate readers. I wish the book could be written a little less in the kind of joking put-down manner it was and more based on the facts.

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In the Wake of the Plague: The Black Death and the World It Made (Unabridged)
Author: Norman F. Cantor
Narrator: Bill Wallace

2003 Winter

As part of my research on SARS's impact on shopping behavior, I got this book to understand the Plague's impact on the European Middle Ages economy, which is exactly what this book does. Cantor is not the best writer, but the book does seem well researched. There are numerous examples and the emphasis is always on how the Plague impacted economic issues. I especially liked how Cantor explained the workings of the economy during the 13th century, with many positive points and a special emphasis on how the economy fit the context of the time. Links from that time to today's economic and legal environment are all clearly pointed out. This linking even has Cantor often citing money in current value equivalents, and drawing parallels to current CEOs and billion dollar cash flow businesses. A bit risky for a historian I think, but perfect for my research which will attempt to use these history examples to draw parallels to SARS' possible economic impact.

Time Enough for Love: The Lives of Lazarus Long (Unabridged)
Author: Robert A. Heinlein
Narrator: Lloyd James

2003 Winter

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This was a long book with many small stories strung together. It all centers around Lazarus Long who has lived for a thousand years. In this book you get a very clear picture of Heinlein's social criticisms and how he sees what the world should be like. That is all very good, but at times it gets a bit long-winded. This may in part be due to the book being written in the 1950-60s, thus the social setting much more "conservative" so Heinlein spends a lot of time attacking those social behaviors. All the emphasis on open sex is a good example. This leads to the main problem I have with Heinlein's future history books in general, that is they tend to center on a main character who is long winded on social commentary but seems to have zero social productivity. What exactly is it that Lazarus Long does? He has access to spacecraft and powerful computers, but it seems he knows nothing about them, preferring to know how to repair automobiles. Well, after all, every few pages have a great sentence and occasionally a whole chapter is very tightly written and a joy to read. The book's ending, about the last third, is very good.

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Star Trek (The Original Series): Yesterday's Son
Author: A. C. Crispin

2003 Winter

I've never read Crispin's work before, but she has had many good reviews, so I recently picked up three of her original series books. This one was published in 1984 while she was just starting her writing career; originally Crispin was a Star Trek fan. The story is a follow up of the television episode "All of Yesterday's," which is a great story itself! Crispin handles dialogue fairly well, and I really liked how the story was personal, rather than saving the universe. Here, Spock finds he has a lost son, from the early episode's trip to the past, who he feels responsible for. Spock, Kirk, and McCoy rescue the boy, Zar, and soon get caught up in Romulan trouble, which actually is all part of a small scale misunderstanding on the Romulan's part. Many of the earlier Star Trek books seem to have this smaller scale emphasis--much more like the original television series.

Deadly Feasts:
Tracking the Secrets of a Terrifying New Plague
Author: Richard Rhodes

2003 Winter

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This book is a bit of a scare reading, (the sky is falling syndrome), warning that the Mad Cow epidemic has already spread to all farm animals and will take a huge toll on humans in the next ten year. I did not really like that aspect of the book so much, but from the very start of the book Rhodes showed a documentation style that I did enjoy very much and which links with my own general interest in research and publishing. Rhodes starts by finding the early and divergent research strands, and the researchers doing the work, that are all related to what has become known as Mad Cow disease. The competition for publishing, even targeting the Nobel Prize, are all central stage as are the details of how research designs were undertaken in order to discover a disease mechanism that takes years, and decades, to exhibit symptoms. Multiple scientific areas, including general medicine, virus research, anthropology, and even mathematics and chemistry all have played a role in finding out what causes this disease. In the last third of the book, the UK government's involvement makes it clear how huge the errors of the incompetent government's scientific panels were and lead to what amounted to a cover up which put beef eaters at risk for over ten years.

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Star Trek (The Original Series): The Last Roundup
Author: Christie Golden

2003 Winter

Christie Golden has mostly written Voyager stories, with this being her first Original Series book. Writing for the Kirk and the original crew is not easy, since so many books have been written and the whole Star Trek franchise has changed direction so much since first show aired in the late 1960s. Golden has done a great job here with some very good dialogue that really feels like the original show. The story takes place after the last film time frame (The Undiscovered Country), and has the core crew flying around space again in a Klingon starship, which lead to some funny lines (since they've been stuck on Klingon spacecraft since the third film). On the down side, I didn't like the core objective of the story was to save all of Starfleet (AGAIN!). While the dialogue was personal and warm, the story is some big mission, which seems to be the norm for many Star Trek books. I would much prefer some small-scale stories with small goals that may not mean much on the scale of the Alpha Quadrant, but mean a lot to the people involved.

The Golden Age:
A Romance of the Far Future
Author: John C. Wright

2003 Winter

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Set 10,000 years in the future, a utopian society is described by Wright that includes many social levels and lots of commercialism. Wright describes a cyber-world where social movements split into numerous levels of acceptance of technology that includes placing one's mind in a computer and living life completely through cyber-experiences. The technology descriptions are great and remind me of the first time I ever read Arthur C. Clarke's work. Wright steps much farther into the future, making the technology more like Greg Bear's writing, but Wright doesn't just stop there, he goes WAY into the future. The basic story, of Phaethon, leads us to question just how perfect this utopia is. Just the kind of story I like.

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Star Trek (S.C.E. #1): The Belly of the Beast
Author: Dean Esley Smith

2003 Winter

A little quick read for two bucks! Kind of like watching a television episode with some familiar characters and a bunch of new ones. The S.C.E. are Starfleet Corps of Engineers and in this first book we get introduced to what they do, which is explore alien technology. In this case, that means going inside a huge alien starship. The writing is okay and Smith has written a lot of the newer Star Trek books that introduce new groups of characters and new missions.

The Last Lone Inventor:
A Tale of Genius, Deceit, and the Birth of Television
Author: Evan I. Schwartz

2003 Winter

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Even though I took a degree in video art, I did not know much about television's invention. This book goes far to make up for that lack. It is a great history of the broadcast industry, while also supplying a good historical context. Schwartz starts out a bit harsh and seems to want to make a little man versus big corporation story, but by the end he is much more even handed. The story of Philo T. Farnsworth and how he lost his invention of television comes out as a story of a man who is a genius but doesn't have a solid grasp of the real world of business and politics. This is a great book to read in place of any self-improvement or get rich quick business book. People like these are who drive innovation today at companies, not the CEOs who take the credit and the publish a book to put another lie over on the public!

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Isaac Asimov's Caliban
Author: Roger MacBride Allen

2003 Winter

Well, Asimov isn't writing much these days, but I miss his robot universe. So why not try the next best thing. I was very pleased with Allen's writing, which was very much in line with the Master's mystery writing, while also including all the needed points of Asimov's robots. That said, the story was a bit simplistic, not to say Asimov's books were not. The problem is I got to like Asimov's work more and more as he got older and, I think, wrote better stories that involved much more human implications. This is the first book of three, and I will try the other two.

The Dispossessed
Author: Ursula K. LeGuin

2003 Winter

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I would have loved this book in high school since it definitely has a radical tilt. The story is of two planets (the people on each see the other as a moon). Shevek, a brilliant physicist is dissatisfied with his home government on Anarres, which is really no government at all, but a utopian anarchic social organization. The people on Anarres originally left their other planet, Urras, after a revolutionary movement against a form of capitalism. Shevek finds flaws in his home worlds socialistic order and expects to find something better in the still capitalistic world of Urras, but when he gets to Urras, he is surprised to find a class system that dispossess huge numbers of its own citizens, while an elite group have the good life. Sounds familiar.

Once again, I love LeGuin's world view. On both planets life is dirty, with man screwing up nearly everything he does! Shevek's bumping from event to event is also very much LeGuin's style of throwing away any illusions about control. A very good book.

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IBM and the Holocaust: A Strategic Alliance Between Nazi Germany and America's Most Powerful Corporation
Author: Edwin Black
Narrator: Edwin Black

2003 Winter

This is a well researched book detailing the relationship between IBM and the Nazi use of early computers in their military efforts. The specific center of attention looks at the vital role these machines played in organizing Hitler's final solution for the Jews and other undesirables. A great investigative reporting style combined with nice historical background. Read this book if you want to see just what companies (and that mainly means their top executives) will do when let lose on the world.

The Lathe of Heaven
Author: Ursula K. LeGuin
Narrator: Susan O'Malley

2003 Fall

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Read this first when I was in my last year of high school and remember being very impressed. The idea that George Orr's dreams can change reality is solid science fiction, but what I really liked about the story was the dark setting of the future. A future man has totally screwed up with pollution, racism, bad government, you name it. What's worse than all that? Even worse is trying to, and having the power to, change it.

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Stranger in a Strange Land (Unabridged)
Author: Robert A. Heinlein
Narrator: Christopher Hurt

2003 Fall

I was never into Heinlein's books when I was young, just busy with other books I guess. After reading Starship Troopers and The Moon is a Harsh Mistress a few years back, I realized what I had missed. This book is the story of an Earthling who returns to Earth from Mars as a Martian. There really is not very much science in the book, and what there is really dates the book and gives it more the feeling of 1950's science fiction. That is the down side. On the up side, the story is much more a social commentary, so those small details, in the end, don't really matter much. Heinlein's commentary on politics, religion, and social intolerance is right on target, and just as relevant today as ever.

An Hour Before Daylight: Memories of a Rural Boyhood
Author: Jimmy Carter
Narrator: Jimmy Carter

2003 Fall

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I've always liked Jimmy Carter and admire the work he has done. This book gives a great insight into the young life of President Carter. I especially liked getting the first hand account of life before and during the Depression. It is so different to get this kind of account than the dry textbook account of macro economics and market situations. A well written book,this could also be a great introduction for those looking to understand historical trends in American culture.

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The Anatomy of Buzz: How to Create Word-Of-Mouth Marketing
Author: Emanuael Rosen

2003 Fall

A soft marketing book covering the idea of how buzz (word of mouth) has been used in previous business success. This book is not very technical and does not offer much in the way of theory, but it does have a number practical examples and it is good for a reality check. Although not very academic, I enjoyed the consumer emphasis of the book. Rather than a formula for success, this book gave me some encouragement in the application of buzz in selling a product or service.

The Collected Stories of Arthur C. Clarke: 1937-1999 (Unabridged Selections)
Author: Arthur C. Clarke
Narrator: Arte Johnson, Stefan Rudnicki, Harlan Ellison, and more

2003 Fall

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Clarke has been my favorite science fiction (SF) author since about the time I was twelve years old. I've read most of his books, but this collection is his short stories, starting back in the 1940s. A perfect format for listening in the car while commuting.

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Understanding Artificial Intelligence
Authors: Editors of Scientific American

2003 Fall

This is a nice little collection of articles from the magazine Scientific American. A good overview of the state of the art and progress of artificial intelligence (computer intelligence). Each chapter is one article written by leaders in the field, with an emphasis on making the concepts easy to understand.
The conclusion I brought away from this book is that computers have already reached intelligence, and that trend will continue, but it is not the kind of intelligence humans exhibit. In the future, as computers gain intelligence, they may present us with many problems in understanding just what we have created.

Speaker for the Dead (Unabridged)
Author: Orson Scott Card
Narrator: David Birney, Stefan Rudnicki, and more

2003 Summer

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This story continues the Ender story from Ender’s Game (see the next book). I really didn't expect much from a sequel, especially after Ender had done his big thing in the last book. I couldn't have been more wrong. This book far surpasses the first one! Ender is grown and lives 3000 years in the future (the effect of traveling near the speed of light for many years). This story includes Ender and the pseudo religion he has created, a conflict with a Catholic order, and love. Again, the characterizations are very strong, and the audio format I really loved. This book goes on my favorite list!

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Ender's Game (Unabridged)
Author: Orson Scott Card
Narrator: Stefan Rudnicki, Harlan Ellison, and more

2003 Summer

I got this book for free by joining Audible.com. I'd never read any of Card’s books before and I was looking for something new, so this fit the bill. The story is about a boy who is trained to lead the Earth's defense against aliens. You really can’t get a more "typical" sci-fi plot than that, but the twist of using an eight year old boy, Ender, gives you a clue that Card is anything but typical.
The development of the characters, especially Ender and his sister, is outstandingly good. If you like strong characterization and you have a bit of anti-establishment attitude, this book is for you.

Fast Food Nation
Author: Eric Schlosser
Narrator: Rick Adamson

2003 Summer

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This is a critical look at the current situation of fast food industry in the United States. At first, the book spends a lot of time on the development of the industry, including the supporting/supply industries. This alone makes the book interesting, but after this it moves into details of exactly what the industry does to save money and maximize profit. It is not a pretty picture, and you may swear off eating at McDonalds ever again.

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A Short History of Nearly Everything
Author: Bill Bryson
Narrator: Bill Bryson

2003 Summer

This is a really good book that covers the history of science. Like the television program Connections, the author traces how different scientists and discoveries influenced the path of scientific progress in areas like physics, chemistry, biology, and geology. Very well read, this audio book was very entertaining since the author has a humorous style with which to approach such a big issue.

The Years of Rice and Salt
Author: Kim Stanley Robinson

2003 Summer

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After reading, and loving, the Mars series, I wanted more of KSR's work. This book is an alternative history book that describes a world where the plague in Europe rather than killing half of the population, killed 90 percent. In this history the world develops with two great powers, China and Islam. Robinson's approach is very interesting, and the book ends up being about two topics I'm very interested in, Chinese culture and Islamic culture. Although written before 9/11 this book is more relevant than ever in a post 9/11 world since it describes the other main cultures in the world, which the American government seems to have discounted.

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Star Trek: Best Destiny
Author: Diane Carey

2003 Summer

This Carey is one of my favorite Star Trek writers. She is very consistent in the quality of her writing and often comes up with original situations that explore the Star Trek characters in new and different ways. This book fits that description perfectly as it covers James T. Kirk as a rebellious teenager with a very bad attitude and a rocky relationship with his father.

The Influentials
Author: Ed Keller & Jon Berry

2003 Summer

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Full of descriptive statistics this book is mostly interesting is understanding the marketing trend of centering on customers and word of mouth. The idea of the book is really early adaptors of products or services, but takes a bit of different approach by trying to set this group up as very unique and deserving of special attention and treatment by marketers. There are no models of behavior nor any attempt to describe the behaviors the underlying causes or dynamics of the behaviors of the Influentials, but that is normal for commercial business books. At least this book attempts to include some numbers and identify some historical trends.

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Star Trek: Doctor's Orders
Author: Diane Duane

2003 Summer

Duane is another of my favorite Star Trek authors, who is able to center on characters in Star Trek other than just Captain Kirk. This book is an example, since nearly the whole book occurs while Kirk is away and Doctor McCoy has command of the Enterprise. A fun story, with some hard to believe plot setups, but I'll accept them in order to enjoy seeing the Doctor in command.

The Martians, Blue Mars, Green Mars, Red Mars
Author: Kim Stanley Anderson

2003 Summer

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Since I am a big fan of Arthur C. Clarke's brand of hard science fiction, I thought KSR's Mars series would be interesting. After starting the first book I was totally hooked! The science is good, but the characterizations are great in the book that tells the personal stories of many different characters with in the society built by the first one hundred humans to live on Mars.
The last book, The Martians, is simply a collection of chapters that got left out of the original three-book series, and probably were better left out. This last book was a disappointment and should be skipped over. I got the feeling that the book was pushed out just to take advantage of the Mars trilogy success.

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Darwin's Radio, Darwin's Children
Author: Greg Bear

2003 Summer

I read this just before SARS broke out. With his very detailed science, Bear scared me real good. The mixing of science, mystery and academics is just what I picture my boring life being.

 

The Heart of Islam
Author: Seyyed Hossein Nasr

2003 Summer

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With everyone in the U.S. going crazy from 9/11, I thought I really needed to learn something about Islam. This book gives a very detailed overview of the religion, its history, and its different social aspects. What surprised me was just how close the three religions, Islam, Christian, Jewish, really are.

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Star Trek: New Earth: Wagon Train to the Stars (books 1-6)

2003 Summer

My first big jump into Star Trek series books. This story is big, with a huge movement of settlers from the Federation moving to a new planet. The series has different authors, with Diane Carey starting and ending it. Lots of fun!

Reagan's War
Author: Peter Schweizer

2003 Spring

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Reagan is the American president I admire very much, although many of the innovations in political campaigning and administration that were developed during his time have come to be abused by politicians. I find Reagan's life most interesting, and one the main points of interest is his single mindedness in confronting the Soviet Union and restoring US confidence in world affairs. While I would agree that many of his domestic policies can be debated, he was part of the resurgence of capitalism in the West, he rode that wave for all it was worth. But the Soviet threat was totally his own issue that he stuck with since the 1950s.
I don't have any time for apologists for the communist. While millions were executed and the intellectual class sent to prison camps, liberal Americans like to compare one or two small cases of injustice to justify a kind of equality of injustice between all government systems. This book sets the facts straight by looking in KGB files from the Cold War showing clearly how the Soviet dictatorship planned to dominate world politics through military power. There was not before or since, a politician with the moral determination to the right thing in the face of so much opposition. This man single handedly ended the threat of the Cold War.
The world we live in not is not a very safe place, for sure, but at least we don’t live under the threat of Soviet domination and not all of our political decisions are twisted by the Cold War.

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Galileo's Daughter
A Historical Memoir of Science, Faith, and Love
Longitude
The True Story of a Lone Genius...
Author: Dava Sobel

2003 Spring

I read Sobel's Galileo's Daughter first, although it was published second. Both books are very good examples of history with a good thread running through, which almost gives the book a feel of fiction.