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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XXXXX (Unabridged)
Author: XXXXX
Narrator:

200X Fall

Tpstudies.

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Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom
Author: Cory Doctorow

2010 Spring

Doctorow's writing is in the spirit of William Gibson, and this book reads a lot like Gibson's early writing. I think Gibson has gotten a lot better in his later books, and I think Doctorow is following that path. What I really like about Cory's writing though is the ideas are cyber punk in spirit, yet very specific to the real world. Rather than a dark and dirty future, Doctorow presents a world that is kind of right now, with just a couple new inventions. The Disney setting is full of social commentary, lots of fun. Makers is a later book, and has a somewhat more developed writing style, but Down and Out is not as ambitious and is an easier fast read, yet retains a punch.

Makers
Author: Cory Doctorow

2010 Spring

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The ky idea in the book focuses on the oversupply of very cheap technology. With CPUs dirt cheap, and machines that can make machines everywhere, people would just produce more rather than seek it mass produced goods. Doctorow's perspective makes a lot of sense in that the mass production is the means of production, not the final product. Very cool idea. This concept is hung on a story of a couple guys at the cent er of the maker movement, a businessman/entrepreneur, and are reporter. It all makes for an nice story, some love triangle stuff, and a bit of action. Doctorow is not so hot with the dialog, the narrative, and stringing the story together (it all got very slow in the middle), but the ideas are great.

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VALIS
Author: Philip K. Dick

2010 Fall

Dick's books are all similar--they run hot and cold. At times the writing if fantastic, and at times it drags. VALIS is about observations from a psychotic mind, but the insights often make a lot of sense. In VALIS I see a lot of Pynchon, especially The Crying of Lot 49.

Anna Karenina (Unabridged)
Author: Leo Tolstoy
Narrator: Judy Franklin

2010 Winter

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I admit this is my very first Tolstoy book I was able to get to the end of. Of course in school we get the required War & Peace, but nothing is fun when it is required, especially a huge book. Anna Karenina was a big surprise for me. I found it to be fresh, easy to read, even page turning at times. Most importantly, I was addicted to the realism. Since I love realism in cinema, this book fits my values perfectly. The only problem is the book is very, very long, and at multiple times I thought of taking a break and going to another book. I stuck it out though, and in the end, it was worth it.

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Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea (Unabridged)
Author: Barbara Demick
Narrator: Karen White

2010 Fall

A detailed account of the demise of North Korea. Demick tells a great story by following two central characters. The story jumps off to numerous other side stories, all from defectors, and lining those all up with macro data on the country. This is a very moving and well done book.

Never Enough (Unabridged)
Author: Joe McGinniss
Narrator: Michael McConnohie

2010 Winter

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A reasonably detailed recounting of the Hong Kong murder case of Nancy Kissel. McGinniss has little doubt about Nancy's guilt. What I liked about the book the most was the very critical description of the expat community in Hong Kong. McGinniss really captured the cut off nature of the foreigners, and not just the rich ones.

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The Good Soldiers (Unabridged)
Author: David Finkel
Narrator: Mark Boyett

2010 Fall

Reading.

American Caesar: Douglas MacArthu (Unabridged)
Author: William Manchester
Narrator: Tom Parker

2010 Winter

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Reading.

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Candy Bombers (Unabridged)
Author: Andrei Chemy
Narrator: Jonathan Davis

2010 Fall

Reading.

When Everything Changed: The Amazing Journey of American Women from 1960 to the Present (Unabridged)
Author: Gail Collins
Narrator: Christian Moore

2010 Winter

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A well done history of the American womens' movement. Collins sets the scene well by showing just what the options were for women in the 1950s. One interesting aspect about Collin's writing is how she often covers women not part of the "mainstream." While it is easy to look at the USA in the 1950s and see that widely accepted stereotype of the peak of development, the reality was quite different. Only a faction of Americans lived that suburban life. Many people were excluded, and Collins tells the story of those women also..

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The Last Train from Hiroshima: The Survivors Look Back (Unabridged)
Author: Charles Pellegrino
Narrator: Arthur Morey

2010 Fall

Tpstudies.

The Bible Salesman (Unabridged)
Author: Clyde Edgerton
Narrator: T. Ryder Smith

2010 Winter

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Read this with my Mom. Did not like it much. A story that centers on life in the South in the late 1950s I guess. Seemed to go nowhere.

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The Mote in God's Eye (Unabridged)
Author: Larry Niven, Jerry Pournelle
Narrator: L. J. Ganser

200X Fall

Strong science fiction space opera here. Niven is of course always strong, and Pournelle is fun. The jump drives, super nova remains, all seem very similar to Antares Dawn, so I would suspect this book influenced McCollum. Lots of solid military action, good plot, and well covered science devices.

When China Rules the World (Unabridged)
Author: Martin Jacques
Narrator: Scott Peterson

2010

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I was cheering, jumping up and down with joy, when I read the first few chapters of Martin's Jacques' book! The start of this book is a very in-your-face observation of reality that he calls contested modernities. In short, it he tells the reader that there is a huge MODERN thing heading your way, and it is called Chinese culture--get used to it. I have been saying this for years that China is a train coming toward the West and everyone is looking the wrong way. When I tell this to people back in the West, they get offended and hold on to the idea that Western values are still the pinical of culture and Chinese are all becoming Western, moving towards the West--the dreaded world is flat idea.

Listen to my audio review here: http://ccc.qbook.tv/content/view/198/86/ Jacques has some great observational skill that aligns well with my decades of experience. There is a lot here for overall understanding of cultural assumptions and what Chinese modernity means. The analysis is more sociological and Marxist in nature, but rings true. For researchers at all interested in Greater China, this book is important because it shows exactly why all assumptions need to be thrown away. Chinese culture brings it own modernity, and that is not related to the West, no matter how many Starbucks you see in Shanghai.

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Pandora's Star (Unabridged)
Author: Peter F. Amilton
Narrator: John Lee

2010 Fall

Reading.

Mona Lisa Overdrive (Unabridged)
Author: William Gibson
Narrator: Jonathan Davis

2010 Winter

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Reading.

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Mars Life (Unabridged)
Author: Ben Bova
Narrator: Stefan Rudnicki

2010 Fall

Reading.

Behind the Scenes at the Museum (Unabridged)
Author: Kate Atkinson
Narrator: Susan Jameson

2010 Summer

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Reading.

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The Year of the Flood (Unabridged)
Author: Margaret Atwood
Narrator: Bernadette Dunne, Katie MacNichol, Mark Bramhall

2010 Fall

Reading.

The Poisonwood Bible (Unabridged)
Author: Barbara Kingsolver
Narrator: Dean Robertson

2009-2010 Winter

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Reading.

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SA Greater Infinity (Unabridged)
Author: Michael McCollum

2009 Fall

Reading.

Pebble in the Sky (Unabridged)
Author: Issac Asimov
Narrator: Robert Fass

2009-2010 Winter

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I have been looking for this book for about twenty years. Out of print for quite some time, and hard to find in books stores. At LAST, Audible.com produced it themselves are part of their science fiction production push. Reading this book means I have at last completed the Foundation series, which also means I have finished all the Asimov series. A sad moment. Asimov should have had at least twenty more years of fiction writing after he returned to fiction in the early 90. It is a sad statement on the human race that we are obsessed with Dancing with the Stars, fake and over produced talent shows, and ET-Tonight while real issues like science get pushed to the back. This book is very early in Asimov's carreer, and only losely fits into the later series, but the threads are there. After reading Pebble, I really appreciated Issac's growth and development as a writer. Asimov is really the best! RIP.

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When Genius Failed: The Rise and Fall of Long-Term Capital Managment (Unabridged)
Author: Roger Lowenstein
Narrator: Roger Lowenstein

2008-2009 Winter

This is a great detailed coverage of the personalities behind Long-Term Capital Management. Lowenstein does not stop there though. The blow by blow financial details as the firm loses everything is engrossing. Maybe this got me excited just because I am interested in finance, but Lowenstein really did a lot of digging on all the details.

Peace War
Author: Vernor Vinge

2010 Spring

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I was so impressed with A Fire Upon the Deep that I picked up another Vinge book. This story was more a straight forward action narrative. It was okay, but nothing near as interesting as I expected.

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A Fire Upon the Deep & A Deepness in the Sky (Unabridged)
Author: Vernor Vinge
Narrator:

2009-2010 Winter

Space opera, with way cool technology. Vinge actually has an original idea for science fiction, which at least I have never seen before. Different parts of the gallaxy cause different levels of mental ability. Sounds stupid, but it is actually way cool. The two books are only losely related but do exist in the same universe.

Scroogenomics (Unabridged)
Author: Joel Waldfogel
Narrator: Lloyd James

2009 Fall

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An economic analysis of how wasteful Christmas gift giving is. The result is that the Chinese approach of just giving cash is best after all..

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Antares Dawn, Antares Passage, Antares Victory (Unabridged)
Author: Michael McCollum

2009-2010 Winter

McCollum is an engineer who is also a writer. These stories have a very strong scientific basis. Space battles are very real, while the stories are kind of weak, especially the human side. These are like a Star Trek story, with much better science, and I really like that.

Return to Mars
Author: Ben Bova

2010 Spring

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Reading.

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Mars
Author: Ben Bova

2009 Fall

Very dated to the 1990s, but accurate to the science at the time. The story lacks the simplistic, and fun, evil and good characters Bova normally has. This story is more an detailed exploration of how a Mars mission would work.

The Road (Unabridged)
Author: Cormac McCarthy
Narrator: Tom Stechschulte

2009 Fall

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Very, very, very dark, but so very well written. Very impressed with the use of very short sentencesTs.

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FREE: The Future of a Radical Price (Unabridged)
Author: Chris Anderson
Narrator: Chris Anderson

2009 Fall

A good look at the different uses of free in marketing. The center of attention is on the Internet, but there is a bit of history also.

The Glass Castle (Unabridged)
Author: Jeanette Walls
Narrator: Julia Gibson

2009 Fall

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Ts.

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Stealing MySpace (Unabridged)
Author: Julia Angwin
Narrator: Paul Michael

2009 Fall

Tpstudies.

Airborn (Unabridged)
Author: Kenneth Oppel
Narrator: David Kelly

2009 Fall

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The ky ideas.

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World Without End (Unabridged)
Author: Ken Follett
Narrator: John Lee

2009 Fall

Reading.

Inherent Vice (Unabridged)
Author: Thomas Pynchon
Narrator: Ron McLarty

2009 Fall

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The ky ideas.

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The Drunkard's Walk: How Randomness Rules our Lives (Unabridged)
Author: Leonard Mlodinow
Narrator: Sean Pratt

2009 Fall

Tpstudies.

In Defense of Food (Unabridged)
Author: Michael Pollan
Narrator: Scott Brick

2009 Summer

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The ky ideas.

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The Hallowed Hunt (Unabridged)
Author: Lois McMaster Bujold
Narrator: Marguerite Gavin

2009 Summer

This is not a tight sequel to the other Chalion books, although it seems to be marketed as such. The universe is the same as Chalion, but the characters are different, with some references to the previous events covered in the other two books. The story centers on a swordsman and a damsel and the animals spirits that possess them. This book actually could be read before the other two, acting as an introduction to the spirit world Bujold has implemented. It is a kind of primer on the Chalion universe spirit world. As such, it feels a bit like a follow on book, but the story is still enjoyable, as Bujold is great at character studies.

The Road To Serfdom (Unabridged)
Author: F. A. Hayek

2009 Fall

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Clear economic ideas, centering on the importance of a free market for a strong democracy. Good stuff.

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Free Gift Inside
Author: Stephen Brown

2009 Summer

A critical analysis of marketing efforts, which asserts firms need to do something very different to get the attention of customers. A bit inconsistent in style, and not data driven.

Factory Girls
Author: Leslie T. Chang

2009 Summer

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Chang's book is almost an anthropological study of young women in China. The focus is just a couple women, while the context is the factories of Dongguan in Southern China. She covers lots of day to day activities, from getting/leaving a factory job, changing cell phones, taking an English language class, eating, traveling, etc. This approach is very refreshing, with the hang up being "almost an anthropological study." Ms. Chang still holds on to a bit of journalistic approach, by forcing a story on top of the observation and also by missing larger and wider meanings. For example, lots of the behaviors that seem so surprising, like how her subjects can just change their lives, their personas, in a day, is actually related to their young age--they are after all just girls, but also a fundamentally different way Chinese view the self as created from the outside in, rather than the standard Western perspective of the inside out.

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KFC in China: Secret Recipe for Success
Author: Warren Liu

2009 Spring

Pretty good details on KFC's growth in China.

Audio review here: http://ccc.qbook.tv/content/view/146/86/

The Black Swan (Unabridged)
Author: Nassim Nicholas Taleb
Narrator: David Chandler

2009 Spring

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Picked this up at the start of the economic crisis. Some interesting ideas about risk. At points, Taleb goes a bit off the deep end with his beleif in his being a modern day philosopher. Mostly, however, the theories covered are sound and a good reminder of how to view risk.

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Atlas Shrugged (Unabridged)
Author: Ayn Rand
Narrator: Christopher Hurt

2009 Fall

All my friends dismiss this book as conservative clap trap. Well, it does have that side, but the core point seems sound to me. The idea that the government can regulate improvement is just not valid. People who can actually create, will create, and those in government will always be tempted to satisfy their constituencies by grabbing the wealth created.

The Pillars of the Earth (Unabridged)
Author: Ken Follett
Narrator: John Lee

2009 Fall

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A thriller set in England, twelfth century, my daughter told me of this book. At times it is a bit long winded, but the historical emphasis, and attention to detail is well done. The book reads almost like a This Old House season on building your own Gothic cathedral, with a story thrown in. I liked it for that actually, and the writing skill of Follett, more a technical emphasis, is clear (the man knows how to write sentences).

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Ender in Exile (Unabridged)
Author: Orson Scott Card
Narrator: Stefan Rudnicki

2009 Fall

A new Ender book. That is enough to push me into buying this one. Card has made quite a number of small sequels, side stories, which I avoided after reading one of them. This book ties those side stories together and fills in the space after Ender's victory and before his new life in exile. Thus, this is a continuation of the main Ender story, and fits in well, with lots of plot twists, usually coming from Ender thinking up something the reader just does not expect. As such, I was getting a bit tired of Ender just being so smart. It seems he is always a step ahead--to the point that I suspect the author is just helping Ender out. It doesn't help that the I already know where Ender will end up after this adventure, so there is never any real risk that Ender will fail. Card does counter this problem though by making the story much more about Ender's sister.

Anathem (Unabridged)
Author: Neal Stephenson
Narrator: Oliver Wyman, Tavia Gilbert, William Dufris, Neal Stephenson

2009 Fall

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I had to take a break from the Baroque Cycle, so read this later book. How Stephenson pumps out so many words escapes me.

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Legacy of Ashes (Unabridged)
Author: Tim Weiner
Narrator: Stefan Rudnicki

2009 Summer

Details, details, details, that is what this book has lots of. What it does not have is an artificial narrative tacked on top of a history of the CIA. I actually like this, as I am a bit tired of reading histories that are told through stilted narrative stories. Weiner simply gets right down to work, with tons of documents he obtained through the Freedom of Information Act. The results are very depressing. Plenty of the issues have come out before, but here, we are told the details that the failures we may have heard of, were actually parts of long efforts screwed up from the very start. Everyone and every plan were totally off the wall, incompetent, unqualified, and worst of all, down right stupid. The main issue Weiner exposes is that the CIA efforts continuously fail because they lack any review and feedback mechanism, key for improvement. Because the CIA is "secret," however, such reviews are blocked, thus the organization gets stuck in a dysfunctional cycle, where employees become more concerned with keeping their jobs, expanding budgets, and going home to a niche DC suburb home, where there is a hot dinner, than actually gathering any legitimate intelligence from overseas locations, where the real threats to the USA lie. Overall, a very depressing book. I cannot remember a single CIA success. Weiner kept me interested, not least of all because each chapter includes little pieces of other history we know well. Now we find how CIA was tied into those periods, those people (mostly people in the executive branch), but I can see how readers might be bored with the constant drone of abysmal failure after failure. Rudnicki's narration is outstanding.

The Black Hole War: My Battle to Make the World Safe for Quantum Mechanics (Unabridged)
Author: Leonard Susskind
Narrator: Ray Porter

2009 Summer

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Some mud slinging going on here. So much scientific detail, this requires a couple listens.

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Case Histories (Unabridged)
Author: Kate Atkinson
Narrator: Susan Jameson

2009 Summer

After reading Atkinson's book, When Will There Be Good News, I wanted to read everything she has written. This stuff is just really good. For some reason, reading these mysteries takes me back to my love with Dick Francis when I was in junior high. These books are of course much better, centring totally on the human stories, while the mystery is on the side. Maybe it is like Dick Francis for adults??? Whatever it is, I just find Atkinson's voice to be very appealing.

When Will There Be Good News (Unabridged)
Author: Kate Atkinson
Narrator: Ellen Archer

2009 Summer

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Read this while I was in Scotland, which was so cool. Atkinson, a Scottish writer, tells a mystery story very well. The emphasis is on all the people touched by the mystery, rather than the mystery itself.

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The Bonesetter's Daughter (Unabridged)
Author: Amy Tan
Narrator: Amy Tan, Joan Chen

2009 Summer

I have been reading Amy Tan since college days, but didn't get to this book until eight years after its release. Well, this is the best she has ever written. It may be a bit too sentimental at times, but I do not think it is over the top. With my Chinese experience, I can say so many of these people and their stories ring very true.

The Crying of Lot 49 (Unabridged)
Author: Thomas Pynchon
Narrator: George Wilson

2009 Summer

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Nick turned me on to Pynchon, and I have been working to read some of his earlier work. Bordering on a comedy, Pynchon is very unique. The closest feeling I get to this book is reading Vonnegut and Philip K. Dick. As always, this is all made possible by Phnchon just being a great writer of words. He puts together sentences that as so interesting, so full if imagery, I just want to read the next one, and the next one.

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Quantico (Unabridged)
Author: Greg Bear
Narrator: Jeff Woodman

2009 Summer

A departure for Bear here, not a strong science fiction novel. The book is still hard science, but it is bordering on a CSI episode. Terrorists, injuries, forensic evidence, and so on, I could have skipped this one. I hope Bear gets back to the space stuff

City at the End of Time (Unabridged)
Author: Greg Bear
Narrator: Charles Leggett

2009 Summer

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This story is very far out. Something about multiple dimensions, colliding universes, and a failing society. The story is hard to follow because of a very disjointed style, which is reflecting the multiple dimension idea. Overall, this story was okay, but again, not Bear writing to his strengths. There is nearly no real detailed tech going on here, since the events are not well understood by the characters.

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Spin (Unabridged)
Author: Robert Charles Wilson
Narrator: Scott Brick

2009 Summer

A different approach to the classic aliens visiting Earth. The whole earth is encased in a time bubble, which is kind of silly. That is okay though, because the story centers on just a couple characters and their lives. This is less a science fiction book than a character study. I liked it.

Up Till Now (Unabridged)
Author: William Shatner, David Fisher
Narrator: William Shatner

2009 Spring

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As a Star Trek nut of course I am a fan of Shatner. He gets so much bad press from the other ST stars, but Shatner is the one who has gone on with numerous sci fi book series, including ST. Obviously Shatner is not doing the writing, but that is the interesting thing, the guy knows how to manage a career. I wanted to learn more about how and why he does all this, and this book goes a long way to speak to that.

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American Prometheus (Unabridged)
Author: Kai Bird & Martin J. Sherwin
Narrator: Jeff Cummings

2009 Spring

Well done history. Cummings writing stays interesting, and kept me listening through this long book. Lots of details, but never dry. Oppenheimer has always drawn a lot of attention, so there is some stuff here we have read in different places, but there was lots more detail and follow up.

Ladies of Liberty & Founding Mothers (Unabridged)
Author: Cokie Roberts
Narrator: Cokie Roberts

2009 Spring

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Cokie Robert reads these audio books, with the result that these books sound like extended NPR reports. That is good in so far as they are consistent in their quality and done well enough. On the other hand, the details is not there, nor is there a new insight. For solid history, there are better, for an easy read, and some learning, these are good.

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Polio (Unabridged)
Author: David M. Oshinsky
Narrator: Jonathan Hogan

2009 Spring

A well documented and detailed history of the cure for Polio. I found this book to be especially interesting because of the academic in fighting aspect. Research grants, lab work, claiming credit, etc. It is a good history and also a good insight to the reality of how these big discoveries are not just a sudden event but a result of decades of many people working and competing.

Group Genius (Unabridged)
Author: Keith Sawyer
Narrator: Jonathan Morosz

2009 Spring

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The key point here is that individuals take more credit than they should. Groups are the key to the best ideas and breakthroughs. Lots of examples and easy to read.

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The Future of Life (Unabridged)
Author: Edward O. Willson
Narrator: Ed Begley

2009 Fall

A hard hitting summary of the state of eco diversity on Earth. The writing is strong, and although the topic is not an interest of mine, I found the book hard to put down. A bit depressing, but worth while.

The Stuff of Thought (Unabridged)
Author: Steven Pinker
Narrator: Dean Olsher

2009 Fall

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A science book on how we think and feel, with a strong linguistic component. Nothing special here. Good to get some of the data, but not a very well written book..

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Richistan (Unabridged)
Author: Robert Frank
Narrator: Dick Hill

2008 Fall

Frank did a series of articles for the WSJ, and this book is a a follow up to those. Great details and stats on the luxury market but also a lot about the rich that do not spend on luxury. A solid business book and helpful to those who want to get a realistic perspective of what it takes to serve the rich and become rich.

eBoys (Unabridged)
Author: Randall E. Stross
Narrator: Eric Conger

2008 Spring

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Documenting the VC group, Benchmark Group, during the peak of the Internet Bubble, this book was completed just as that bubble burst. With some perspective now, and the VC market having changed a lot, this book is quite good. There are a few businesses cantered on, like eBay, and others just touched on. Some crashed and burned, which the book ends with the big success of eBay, which didn't do so well years later. A good business book if you can look at the post situation and see that businesses are much less about those VC guys and more about random chance and environment factors.

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Preserver (Unabridged)
Author: William Shatner
Narrator: William Shatner

2008 Spring

Only crediting Shatner as the author, that may explain why the story is weak. Well, mixing up the captains is kind of cool, and as always, this is just for fun.

Captain's Glory (Unabridged)
Author: William Shatner, Garfield Reeves-Stevens, Judith Reeves-Stevens
Narrator: William Shatner

2008 Spring

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More of the Shatnerverse. Fun stuff.

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Neverwhere (Unabridged)
Author: Neil Gainman
Narrator: Neil Gainman

2008 Spring

Another Gainman ghost/demi god story, this is a strange read. The characters are what keep the story going, but I always am on the edge of not liking Gainman's work. This book does not push me either way.

Northanger Abbey (Unabridged)
Author: Jane Austen
Narrator: Juliet Stevenson

2008 Spring

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On my mission to read all the Austen novels. Love them all, and this one is no different. In fact, I think Northanger is a bit different from the others. This story has more over the top romance, resulting in more humour. Really a fun read.

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The Vor Game (Unabridged)
Author: Lois McMaster Bujold
Narrator: Grover Gardner

2008 Spring

I read this a couple years back, when Michael Turton introduced Lois McMaster to me by loaning me this book. I got this audio copy for Antony, since we had been playing a Traveller RPG with a character I had created based on Miles Vorkosigan. Space opera is the best way to explain this series, but there is little emphasis on technology and lots of emphasis on character development.

Made to Stick (Unabridged)
Author: Chip Heath & Dan Heath
Narrator: Charles Kahlenberg

2008 Spring

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The Heath brothers wrote this book as a detailed exploration of the concept of sticky ideas raised in the Tipping Point. I found the tipping point to be a very shallow coverage of diffusion concepts already well researched and documented, but I guess every good idea needs its shallow book to get big in market. The Heath brothers are both professors and researchers, so their approach actually is very academic and somewhat rigorous (especially when compared the BS that fills Gladwell's lightweight magazine/book. What makes an idea sticky is well explored in this book, and I found it a good addition to existing diffusion theories--more like a practical guide to sticky ideas.

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The Origin of Species (Unabridged)
Author: Charles Darwin
Narrator: David Case

2008 Spring

This book always appears on science reading lists, and after reading it, I can see why. Rather than totally dry and difficult, Darwin's style is interesting and full of easy to understand examples. Most striking was the main issue Creationist use today to attack evolution were addressed in this book. I was totally blown away with the fact that Creationist have brought NOTHING new to the debate after more than 150 years. The first half of the book centers on the question of how species emerge, along with a lot of debating exactly what a species is, any way. This gives a good perspective on what science is about, how it operates, and just how crazy man-made labels can be. The second half of the book was more of a struggle, as Darwin tries to use logic and examples to explain inheritance without the benefit of gene theory. He seems to miss the mark on many points, and it was hard for me to concentrate on the book near the end.

Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency (Unabridged)
Author: Doublas Adams
Narrator: Dramatised

2008 Spring

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This is a BBC production I got from Audible and it is quite fun. As always, Adams is very inconsistent in his ability to tell a good story, but the references to popular culture and science alone make it worthwhile. Audible is so cool to have this kind of stuff. I really don't know how I survived the early 90s in Taiwan!

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World War 3.0: Microsoft and Its Enemies (Unabridged)
Author: Ken Auletta
Narrator: Robert O'Keefe

2008 Spring

A very detailed history of the US Government's case against Microsoft. Everything here is from the court case, so there is not a lot of back story of what was actually happening at Microsoft. It is most just the facts, and as such, Auletta does a good job. I got a very clear picture of the whole case, and how both sides were maneuvering to get what they wanted. Obviously, the book is critical of Microsoft, and straight out calls Bill Gates childish. So there is not a lot of pro business attitude, and a bit too much of "the judge is my buddy because he let me interview him . . . he is sooo smart, and he says Bill Gates is . . ." Keep in mind the judge doesn't even use email.

Spook Country (Unabridged)
Author: William Gibson
Narrator: Robertson Dean

2008 Winter

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GREAT, GREAT, GREAT. This book follows on to Pattern Recognition, and while it is not a direct sequel, it shares the same future (present?). Gibson has captured perfectly the future, which happens to be today. The narrative reads just like a science fiction thriller, but the science fiction devices are all things from our current world. Most importantly, everything is touched by marketing. This, of course, is why I love Gibson's recent work so much. The flavor is like PKD, there is a lot of cynicism here, with a much more consistent style. Gibson's big advantage is that he takes marketing as a key part of who everyone interprets the reality around them. Not a critical analysis of it, but a reality check--the future has arrived, and it is all about consumption.

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Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity (Unabridged)
Author: David Allen
Narrator: David Allen

2008 Winter

While I am not nuts over self improvement books, time management is something that does interest me. Allen has gotten a lot of hype going on around this book. That kind of turned me off, and all the people on Amazon.com writing how this book changed their lives also made me hesitate. I gave in after all, and cannot say I was disappointed was just as bad as I thought it would be. For me, the best book on time management is Covey's book The Seven Habits of HIghly Effective People. What that book had and Allen's does not is just how to use larger strategic orientation in order to make decisions about what exactly is actionable and not, what needs to go into a To Do list, etc. Allen spends almost all the book telling the reader to go buy folders and filing cabinets. As is normal for current business books, the author must mention how great he is and all the consulting he has done. This bothered me in a big way because of all the stories Allen told of "High Level" managers he had helped. It seemed they did not quite understand such concepts as putting projects into folders, rather then the floor, and of making schedules! WOW, that is the state of American management--they need to hire someone like Allen to tell them how to buy folders! On the other hand, if this book could be cut down to about 20 pages, the system of thoughts, lists, actions, and projects is useful. The program ThinkingRock seems to do all this very well.

The Culture Code: An Ingenious Way to Understand why People around the World Live and Buy as They Do
Clotaire Rapaille

2008 Winter

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Rapaille is a bit of a showman when you see him, and his book is much the same, but at the core of his Jung based psychology, Rapaille really has a good grasp of consumers and culture. In this book, Rapaille uses each chapter to tell what is "On Code" for American culture for topics such as food, sex, quality, etc. This approach is very similar to the ZMET research methodology I have used in a number of research projects. It really is powerful, and really works. Do not expect an academic book that lays out strong theoretical structures about culture though. Rapaille has simply gone his own way and made up some names that fit his data. This is more action oriented research. It is not very cross cultural, except for some random examples here and there, so it is not something you can cite in any research, but it is powerful stuff none-the-less.

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Quicksilver (Unabridged)
Author: Neal Stephenson
Narrator: Simon Prebble & Stina Nielsen

2008 Winter

Is it because I was fresh off Pynchon's Against the Day that Stephenson's work seems to be little more than a Wikipedia version of that book? Well, maybe. Gibson's Spook Country is a good contrast also, where each and every sentence is meaningful and well written. In Quicksilver, I often found myself wondering why soooo many meaningless and just not so well written sentences were on the page for me to slog through. That does sound strange though when Pynchon's ATD is anything but short, but ATD also is made up of sentence that I know I can read many times over, and each time get something out of it. Quicksilver simply seed to full of filler and it has two more books to go! I will move on as the Enlightenment period is well covered, there are good scenes, and I'm just hoping Stephenson has a good reason for all this.

CountryThe Genome War: How Graig Venter Tried to Capture the Code of Life (Unabridged)
Author: James Shreeve
Narrator: Grover Gardner

2008 Winter

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I have not read any of Shreeve's books before (he only has a couple others), but I will certainly read any new book he writes--he is a GREAT science writer! This story of the Genome race could have been shallow, but clearly Shreeve tracked down people (or was visiting them often during the events covered in the book) and the result is a triangulation of events through the eyes of many different people. While the story centers on Graig Venter, the science gets very detailed coverage. What I like the most about Shreeve's approach is that he explains the science in scientific terms, then he explains that a bit, then he comes up with an easy metaphor. Each and every science issue gets this treatment, meaning if you understand the science, then you got it, if not, hold on and Shreeve will help you get it. It comes through in the writing that Shreeve knows and likes the science.

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Woken Furies/Broken Angels (Unabridged)
Author: Richard K. Morgan
Narrator: William Dufris

2007 Winter

Takeshi Kovac novels that follow on to Altered Carbon. This is cyber punk with lots of noir. These two follow very similar formulas with similar results. The science is really weak and lots of the key devices in the books seem to raise more questions than are ever answered. The biggest device is the sleaving idea where human consciousness can be put into a new body at any time. If this were the case, however, I find it strange everyone is always avoiding being killed, sine one just resleaves (ala the new Cylons). Many questions are left open, and while the excitement level is high, the sex scenes are over done and a bit juvenile. In both these books, Takeshi is placed in impossible situations and uses his over the top Envoy trained skills to overcome. This device got a bit tiresome too. It seemed like no matter how deep the shit got, the author needed only write, "Drawing on Envoy training, Takeshi . . . " and like magic, the situation was overcome. Lots of the prose seem wasted and a bit bloated, but that may just be because I was just fresh from reading Gibson.

Seeing in the Dark: How Backyard Stargazers Are Guarding Earth from Interplanetary Peril (Unabridged)
Author: Timothy Ferris
Narrator: Timothy Ferris

2007 Fall

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A nice intro to stargazing, but not for the beginner. Ferris works hard to capture the awe of it all, but I suspect for anyone not interested, this just won't do much for them. I, on the other hand was inspiring to break out the telescope and look at the moon.

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To The Stars (Unabridged)
Author: George Takei
Narrator: George Takei

2007 Fall

Read by Takei, this book is much more about his own growing up and his family's experience during their internment during WWII. As such, the book is really well done. The writing is clear and to the point, and of course the Star Trek thing is in there too.

The Golden Transcendence: The Golden Age Volume 3
Author: John C. Wright

2007 Fall

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Took me a trip to the US to at last pick up a copy of Wright's concluding book (never came out in ebook format). After two books it is hard to be impressed with the very hard edge cyber world Wright has created, but the adventure, in the form a an inter star system war, helps by picking up the action. About two thirds in though, the battle becomes so totally based on logic and the two sides battling over words that the book slows to a crawl. I was getting frustrated, but by the end, Wright picks up all the pieces and draws them all together in a satisfying way.

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The Aftermath (Unabridged)
Author: Ben Bova
Narrator: Emily Janice Card, Babrielle de Cuir, Stephen Hoye, & Stefan Rudnicki

2007 Fall

This book centers on a single story of a family impacted by the Asteroid Wars. The tie in is really nice, and the very human story is a bit different from Bova's other Asteroid books. Here, there are no big bad businessmen taking over something. In fact, Dorik Harbin, a very big bad guy in previous books, is somewhat of a hero here. Because of this focus, I thought this is actually one of the better in the series.

The 34th Rule (Deep Space Nine)
Author: David R. George III
Armin Shimerman

2007 Summer

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This is my first Deep Space Nine novel. My son and I got into the series (which I totally missed in first run because of living in Taiwan) and I promised not to watch any episodes without him. To fill the gap, I thought why not try a book. The 34th rule of acquisition is War is Good for Business (keep in mind the 35th rule is Peace is Good for Business). In general DS9 does a lot that ST can't do, and the core of that difference is the many different people and cultures that are central to the station. This book centers are Quark and his brother Rom who seem to be caught up in some plan of the Grand Nagus. Too many threads are spun out and not enough detail is flushed out in the end. That is kind of the weakness of DS9 in general though.

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The Ghost Map (Unabridged)
Author: Steven Johnson
Narrator: Alan Sklar

2007 Summer

This is the story of Dr. John Snow and the development of modern epidemiology and germ theory. As a history of science read, this book is very good. It has lots of drama and reads like a mystery. I did learn about Snows research into anesthesia, something I didn't know about. Most of the book centers around the cholera outbreak in London and Snow's work to counter the generally accepted miasma theory. This is a great book for young researchers to see how prevailing paradigms can be completely wrong, yet generally accepted and even unquestioned.

All the Tea in China
Author: Jeremy Haft

2007 Summer

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There is a flood of really bad books on China and business. Most of them written by American journalist with only the slightest passing understanding of China. This book is very different. One of the most interesting things about this Haft is that he is not such a great writer. In fact, All the Tea in China is generally not laid out well, includes a very weak attempt at a narrative, and lacks any core point or even logic. While that all sounds negative, it actually is a positive because you know Haft is writing honestly, about something he knows--doing business in China. Haft is no academic, and he doesn't have deep theories about consumers or organizations, but he offers personal experiences that ring true. He is not afraid to show the risks of dealing with partners in China, the problems of trust, quality control, HRM issues, but he also is very clear about the benefits and opportunities for businesses moving into this market (not just using it for outsourcing).

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Against the Day (Unabridged)
Author: Thomas Pynchon
Narrator: Dick Hill

2007 Summer

This is a big book, but at least it is just one volume. In audio format, it is simply the longest book I've every listened to (53 hours). What is most surprising at the start is that this book is very accessible! I really didn't expect Pynchon to read this way, but his use of multiple styles, especially the turn of the century (19th to 20th) adventure genres made for a very enjoyable read. Of course there is a lot of strange stuff going on, and the sexual description gets very detailed, but these all fit into the story well. In the end, I didn't really have any feeling about story. Rather than a single point, it was the process, at times slow, and always very well read by Hill, that was most interesting. A large amount of early American capitalism is here, but always seeming to be a metaphor for our current time.

Ubik
Author: Philip K. Dick

2007 Spring

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As usual, Dick tests the boundaries between reality, and . . . something else. One reason I was really interested in this book is a research paper I was working on. The data came from my psychological interviews, using the ZMET method. In this type of consumer behavior study, we find that what people say and what they actually do are often very different. People even make up elaborate descriptions and explanations to justify their imaginary behaviors. Ubik really fits this context well, because here Dick references a consumer product called Ubik, that is everywhere. Everyone wants Ubik, but no one seems actually to obtain it.

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Mellon: An American Life (Unabridged)
Author: David Cannadine
Narrator: John H. Mayer

2007 Spring

A very detailed history of the Mellon family (lots of time spent on the father), but more importantly, this is a description of the rise of American-style capitalism. David Cannadine is a historian with obviously great research skills. This audio book tops 36 hours and I found every minute of it to be interesting. I'm so sick of journalist writing shallow books on topics they only have a passing interest in (and zero research ability beyond talking to someone who just so happens to want to sell something). Prof. Cannadine says the book was more than ten years in the making--I just wish we had more quality business history like this.

A Scanner Darkly
Author: Philip K. Dick

2007 Winter

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PKD is such a different kind of story teller. While lots of movies get made from his stuff, they don't really do justice to the paranoid view contained in his short stories and books. A Scanner Darkly is now a film, and it looks like it comes closer than the other adaptations of Dick's work, so I thought I better get this book out of the way before I see the film. A good story that feels like a surprise is going to jump out at the end, but it never does. Substance D ruins peoples' lives, yet seems to have an important role in society, keeping everyone diverted and giving the government something to do (spying on everyone). Although the story feels very much of the 1970s, the psychosis made me feel more than a bit paranoid while reading.

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The Demon Under the Microscope (Unabridged)
Author: Thomas Hager
Narrator: Stephen Hove

2007 Winter

A very well done history of the fight against bacteria, which led up to the magic bullet of sulfa. I especially liked the fact that Hager is a scientist turned writer rather than a journalist turned nothing. His grasp of science shows throughout the book, and this book has one of the best beginnings I've seen for a history of science book. The detail is amazing and always interesting, mixing large doses of big business, academics, science, and politics.

The Wal-Mart Effect (Unabridged)
Author: Charles Fishman
Narrator: Alan Sklar

2006 Winter

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While Fishman is clearly not a huge fan of Wal-Mart, he really does give the company lots of credit for its accomplishments. The history of the successes and failures are laid out clearly, unlike many other books that either go totally for the chearleading squad approach, or the end of the world approach. This book does do a very good job of showing the competitive advantage of Wal-Mart, and what weaknesses such an approach has, and unlike many others, Fishman actually digs through some academic research. I'm so tired of news reporters just throwing stuff together that Fishman surprised me with some pretty good research.

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Freakonomics (Unabridged)
Author: Steven D. Levitt & Stephen J. Dubner
Narrator: Stephen J. Dubner

2006 Winter

This book was surrounded with a lot of hype, but I didn't find it very interesting. Dubner goes on and on about Levitt as if he is a god. Well, this stuff is totally mainstream social science statistical work. Nothing is so surprising or shocking as Dubner makes it out to be. Basically, if you don't know anything about economics and statistics, this book will give you a good idea of how these tools are used in social science.

The God Delusion (Unabridged)
Author: Richard Dawkins
Narrator: Richard Dawkins

2006 Winter

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Dawkins takes on religion very directly in this book. The basic argument, and the one that really hits home, is presented very early in the book: Anyone else claiming to be an "expert" based on no ability to predict anything in the real world, claims received knowledge from scriblings from thousands of years ago, and directly refutes scientific facts (like the earth is more than 10K years old) would be simply called delusional and not taken serious. Yet religious followers do just that and in the US get treated as if they know some great secret. Dawkins doesn't pull any punches here and just slams Christianity and its more extreme followers. While there is really nothing new in this book, I think it is Dawkins' straight forward attitude that really attracts me to the book. Rather than running around in circles and bending over backwards to try to communicate with and not offend these people, why not simply apply the same rules society applies to everyone else? For example, if prayer works to heal people, then show the measurements, otherwise it is a total fraud and those who continue to preach it are hucksters.

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Persuassion (Unabridged)
Author: Jane Austen
Narrator: Nadia May

2006 Winter

I'm nearing the conclusion of my mission to read all of Austen's works. Started on the quest by one of my daughters, I've worked by way through to the more known works, or at least the ones that have gotten multiple BBC treatments. Of course, for Anastasia, all the stories were new because she had never seen those productions (Taiwan schools keeping kids to busy for anything like that). Persuassion didn't surprise in anyway then, because I knew the story, but listening to this book now, I was surprised by the writing. So many sentences I just wanted to write down and read again.

The Phoenix Exultant: The Golden Age Volume 2
Author: John C. Wright

2006 Summer

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This is the second installment of a trilogy. I kept waiting for the darn thing to come out in ebook format, but it never did, so I broke down and bought the dead tree version while in the USA (along with the third book). While this is cyber punk with all the dark side of humans included, the technology is WAY ahead of Morgan's Altered Carbon. In The Golden Age books supercomputers have come alive and new life forms have been engineered while existing life forms change themselves through genetic engineering. Politics are complex here, with numerous groups (often based on a way of life, like you can just choose which culture you want to join) but this second book also appears to involve a long lost group of humans who are returning as aliens to do something evil.

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Altered Carbon (Unabridged)
Author: Richard K. Morgan
Narrator: Todd McLaren

2006 Summer

Cyber punk with a cop in a dark city with a bunch of really pad people. Sounds pretty standard, but Morgan adds a few interesting twists. The universe he creates is along the lines of Blade Runner, but there is none of the really psychotic stuff of P. K. Dick. Instead, people can change bodies (sleeves) and this alone can cause quite a bit of confusion. Pretty good stuff from a guy who says he was and ESL teacher turned writer.

Mansfield Park (Unabridged)
Author: Jane Austen
Narrator: Maureen O'Brien:

2006 Summer

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This Austen book really seemed to be quite darker the the others I've read. It starts out pretty dark, with Fanny's situation of being sent to live with her rich uncle, and it seems like Fanny's whole life there is not a happy one. For some reason I felt a lot of tension, especially related to money, class, etc. Maybe that is what draws me to this, but while it seems many find Fanny in the end to be too weak, I see her as strong within the very confining context of her surrounding situation. Like Austen's books in general, Fanny has a very limited space to maneuver and she stands up for what she thinks is right in the end, although when compared with today, it seems like nothing. That is the point though. Austen does a great job of making the context clear, and context is everything.

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The Omnivore's Dilemma (Unabridged)
Author: Michael Pollan
Narrator: Scott Brick

2006 Summer

Readers of Fast Food Nation may be attracted to the topic of this book, but there are differences--all for the better. Pollan goes much more into the underlying macro sturctures of the food industry that have led consumers in the U.S. to the current supermarket situation. There is of course a lot of the assumptions that the situation as it stands is bad, but overall, Pollan really spends much more time on how the current food industry functions and how alternatives function.

Pride and Prejudice (Unabridged)
Author: Jane Austen
Narrator: Nadia May

2006 Summer

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This continues my interest in Austen. Of course this book is made a bit difficult by the numerous film and TV adaptations, which kind of leaves lots of pictures in my head which don't always match the book. Any way, a solid Austen book about love, hidden secrets, and sudden endings (kind of standard).

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Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell: A Novel (Unabridged)
Author: Susanna Clarke
Narrator: Simon Prebble

2006 Summer

Listened to this while on a long American road trip, and it worked well because the story is also a long journey. The story starts out fairly normal, slowly gets a bit strange, and then nothing much seems to happen. I was always waiting for some really weird event, but Clarke moves very slowly, creating a world where the magic being performed by Strange and Norrel seems quite normal. What we end up with is a story about relationships set in Victorian London that happen to have a bit of magic and darkness involved.

Titan (Unabridged)
Author: Ben Bova
Narrator: Gabrielle De Cuir, Stephen Hoye, Amanda Karr and Stefan Rudnicki

2006 Spring

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More of the same from Bova: space industry, big business, politics, the right wing religious nuts. I love it! Very well read by a cast of talented artists.

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Our Inner Ape: Power, Sex, Violence, Kindness, and the Evolution of Human Nature (Unabridged)
Author: Frans de Waal
Narrator: Alan Sklar

2006 Spring

Frans de Waal is a well published primatologist and this book shows that back ground with lots of very academic ideas about humans and their behaviors within the context of ape behavior. The main thesis of the book is that the assumption human violence comes from chimps is wrong because chimps are just as modern as we are, with both of us evolving from a common ancestor. Another ape to evolve from that common ancestor is the benobo, which not only have very different behaviors from chimps, but have created a culture based more on female power with a big emphasis on sex. De Wall's point is that we also have this potential in us, and it is silly to only see our violent chimp side. A really well argued point with lots of examples from his own research.

The Kite Runner (Unabridged)
Author: Khaled Hosseini
Narrator: Khaled Hosseini

2006 Spring

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This book got a lot of press I guess because of the war situation, but it isn't about the current war at all but rather the Russian invasion of Afghanistan and the displacement that caused. That is the setting, but the story is about a boy, Amir, who's father is a rich businessman, and his friend Hassan, who is the son of a family servant. Anastasia, my daughter, read this book along with me, and we both had a lot of difficulty with the first half of the book, because we just found it really easy to hate Amir. Knowing this is setting the reader up for some big surprise didn't make it much better. We both were doubtful the author could pull off the big change, and I really don't think he did. I found the characters hard to like and difficult to relate to, but the story was very rich and well worth the reading.

 

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Shakespeare: The Biography (Unabridged)
Author: Peter Ackroyd
Narrator: Simon Vance

2006 Winter

Vance does a great job of conceptualizing Shakespeare's life, and in turn, the writing. Always interested in history, I was very satisfied how Vance blew away silly questions about who Shakespeare was, or if he really existed by simply making the point that we have a lot more information about Shakespeare than many other people who lived at the same time, and who's existence we don't question. It wasn't exactly the information age. Lots of stuff here about contemporary issues and how they worked there way into Shakespeare's plays.

The Protector (Unabridged)
Author: Larry Niven
Narrator: Mark Sherman

2006 Winter

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Not having read Niven for about 15 years, I was very happy to get back to his hard science fiction style. This book, about an alien finding his way to our solar system starts out sounding like it can't really go anywhere, but Niven doesn't really tell that story. Rather, the Protector tells the story of evolution on a grand scale. Cool stuff with lots of speculative science and a great intersteller chase scene--of course it takes place at a REALLY slow pace.

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Andrew Jackson: His Life and Times (Unabridged)
Author: H. W. Brands
Narrator: John H. Mayer

2006 Winter

A very long book (over 18 hours), Mayer does a great job of adding context to Jackson's life by going over the surrounding events. I really liked how this book filled in my own history gap between the revolution and the civil war. The U.S. in transition, and Jackson is detailed in this book as very representative of the changes in U.S. democracy, foreign policy as well as domestic issues, such as monetary questions (as in the Central Bank).

Free Culture: The Nature and Future of Creativity
Author: Lawrence Lessing

2005 Winter

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Lessing does a good job of making this book an introduction to what copyright is all about. At times, however, I feel like things are made too simple and lack real details. More a conceptual approach, this book quickly moves into criticism of social trends leading to a lockdown of American culture. What makes the book rise above simple criticism is Lessing's honesty about his own role in the social process (rather than blowing his own horn, Lessing is very critical of his own actions). Overall, a very thoughtful book.

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One Billion Customers: Lessons from the Front Lines of Doing Business in China
Author: James McGregor

2005 Fall

Given my association with Chinese culture and business, I found this book to be quite good and accurate. McGregor was the first reporter stationed in Beijing from the WSJ and has many stories to draw on from the early and mid 1990s. The writing is quite good and the stories all interesting, but they all center on very large companies and read much like the WSJ itself. Occasionally, there is some insight on behavior and culture but these are usually stated in negative contexts, which McGregor always gets right, but risks activating readers' misunderstandings of Chinese culture in the business context. Overall, much like the WSJ, I felt good while reading, but a bit empty after finishing since I live in the small world of reality, not the CEO level of fantasy.

The Google Story: Inside the Hottest Business, Media, and Technology Success of Our Time (Unabridged)
Author: David A. Vise & Mark Malseed
Narrator: Stephen Hoye

2005 Winter

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A good introduction to Google, which tends to be hard to get information about. Most of the book focuses on the two founders, Brin and Page. The business info is not really deep and overall, the authors praise the Google founders to no end. I guess there is just not enough time to get perspective on the company nor to see the social/market context, but hay, it is an up-to-date kind of thing.

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The Anansi Boys (Unabridged)
Author: Neil Gaiman
Narrator: Lenny Henry

2005 Winter

This fiction reads almost like a Douglas Adams book at times. The humor is not centered on science fiction, but rather on spiritual mysticism. A follow up to American Gods, I was expecting a book that copied that one and carried on with the characters from that book, however, this is not really a related book at. The only similarity is that really strange stuff seems to be kind of normal. A fun read.

The Last Voyage of Columbus: Being the Epic Tale of the Graet Captain's Fourth Expedition, Including Accounts of Swordfight, Mutiny, Shipwreck, Gold, War, Hurricane, and Discover
Author: Martin Dugard
Narrator: Simon Jones

2005 Winter

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A good history about Columbus at the end of his career. This is very well written, and as the subtitle shows, lots of interesting stuff happened on that last voyage. Dugard paints Columbus as an expert seaman, but his mission of finding the passage to China was simply wrong. I liked all the details of the voyage, with lots of attention to the interaction with local indians.

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Errand of Vengeance
Author: Kevin Ryan

2005 Fall

A Klingon agent on the Enterprise lets us see events from the perspective of an ensign, rather than from the Captain's seat. Cool stuff.

Elizabeth
(Unabridged)
Author: David Starkey
Narrator: Robert Powell

2005 Fall

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Centering on the early life of Elizabeth, Starkey asserts that the political situations surround the young Elizabeth all had formative influences on her. There is a lot here I didn't realize about what a huge social change the reformation was and how much it was really about transferring power to the people, including the emphasis on having bibles that could be read by anyone and church service in the local language.

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The Johnstown Flood (Unabridged)
Author: David McCullough
Narrator: Edward Hermann

2005 Fall

As always, McCullough is great in combining the facts with the context while writing in a style that reflects the time he is describing. I didn't know much about the flood, so I learned a lot, but more important was seeing the life styles of of people in the late 19th century.

Paladin of Souls
(Unabridged)
Author: Lois McMaster Bujold
Narrator: Kate Reading

2005 Fall

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Lois McMaster Bujold is very strong in character development, and this book, a sequel to Curse of Chalion, has lots of great characters. What I really liked was the the main characters were all real adults, even a bit on the old side, experienced and tired of life. Although lots of characterization sounds like it might be boring, this book has lots of solid action, with some of the best descriptions of hand-to-hand combat I've read.

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Jupiter, Saturn, Mercury (Unabridged)
Author: Ben Bova
Narrator: Christian Noble, David Warner

2005 Fall

Lots of politics and solid science. Bova is not heavy on any social meaning, but he is really good at describing the way things in the future could really happen and all the troubles that go along with it all.

Born Losers: A History of Failure in America
Author: Scott A. Sandage

2005 Fall

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Reading this now. I've been reading a few books about the early development of capitalism in America, with Land of Desire (William Leach), Birth of a Salesman: The Transformation of Selling in America (Walter Friedman), and this book fits right in.

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State of Fear (Unabridged)
Author: Michael Crichton
Narrator: George Wilson

2005 Summer

I'm not a big fan of Crichton, who reminds me a lot of Tom Clancy, with stories including lots of testosterone. The men are always real men, and so are the women! This story asserts that the science behind global warming is not well done and is in fact manipulated by special interest groups more concerned with their own incomes than with real science (the action of the book are eco-terrorists). Okay, I guess so, but what the issue really concerns is risk management, and if we all wait for proof of a disaster, then the price will be too high. Crichton centers too much on an assumption that science can 'prove' something--it can't. It is the building of support from many sources that makes a hypothesis more strong than a competing one. Certainly constantly pumping carbon dioxide into a closed system will do something not good for life on Earth!

Pattern Recognition
(Unabridged)
Author: William Gibson
Narrator: Shelly Frasier

2005 Summer

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After enjoying Neal Stephenson's cyberpunk novels so much, I wanted to try the original originator of the genre but with a more recent book. To my great surprise, Pattern Recognition centers on marketing. A mystery story with lots of stuff about marketing, selling, buying, branding, wow--very cool. I could even make this an extra reading for marketing students since it technically is very right on and it has a very exciting plot. Things never get totally out of hand--no big killings, explosions or world threat. I appreciate that.

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Neuromancer
Author: William Gibson

2005 Summer

I missed the whole cyberpunk thing as I just moved to Taiwan at the time it broke. Time to catch up. Gibson's founding book of the genre is at times hard to follow, due to the jump-cut nature of the writing and no time taken to explain anything. I kind of like this, where the story assumes anyone living in the future would know all the basics already! The story and charcters are a bit bland though--very different from Pattern Recognition, which does have very good characterizaion.

Love Wife
(Unabridged)
Author: Gish Jen
Narrator: Linda Stephens, Ken Leung, Nancy Wu

2005 Summer

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This is a book I expected to hate. A story involving a mixed American/Chinese family with adopted children from China, sounds like it will be full of stereotypes. Well, I guess that is true, but the great attention to detail in this book, as well as very good experience of Chinese culture on the part of the author, really touched me. While my family situation details are not similar to the family in the book, many of the issues they face in trying to combine these two very different cultures I do deal with every day. Overall a very well written book that my daughter loved too!

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Sirens of Titan
Author: Kurt Vannegut

2005 Summer

Vannegut is very good in this second novel. I really loved the new religion CGUI (Church of God the Utterly Indifferent) as well as the Martian invasion of Earth that was planned with totally moronic assumptions. Throughout the book Vannegut uses very short, simple, and clear sentences that lack any form of excitement. At no time does the plot speed up, but rather it moves along a a slow speed as Niles Rumfoord romps all around the Solar system as a result of being stuck in a chrono-synclastic infundibulum (meaning he is all places at all times). This book is a bit more a comment on the overall social situation of humans, with their inability to take hold of their own future, but rather letting others decide everything in the name of religion or some other excuses.

Star Trek Ishmael
Author: Barbara Hambly

2005 Summer

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Another Star Trek book. Getting Spock back into late 19th century Earth was cool, since I'm doing a lot of reading about that time. An entertaining book that is more about the North West then the Federation. Some good writing and research on the part of the author gives the book an authentic feeling (strange for Star Trek).

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Conspiracy of Fools: A True Story (Unabridged)
Author: Kurt Eichenwald
Narrator: Robertson Dean

2005 Summer

What I expected to be a dry list of facts is rather an exciting story that includes both office politics while not skipping any of the financial, marketing, and strategy details. What I love most is how Eichenwald just lays out the reality that no one at Enron (and I think most companies) ever thought it was important to actually know the details of what they were doing, or ask someone who actually had 'real' experience. From the start, this is true. The best example is the company's name, with millions paid to a consulting company, and three months, the name Enteron was invented and trademarked. So many 'smart' people thought this was just great, but no one bothered to check the dictionary. From Wikipedia: "Initially, the company was to be named Enteron, chosen for the positive connotations of "enter" and "on," but when it was pointed out that the term meant "intestine" (which had other connotations for a natural gas company) it was quickly shortened." That sums it up so well. This book should be required reading in all MBA programs--ESPECIALLY at the 'top' schools.

The Case of the Colonist's Corpse
Author: Tony Isabella & Bob Ingersoll

2005 Summer

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Can't go too long without a Star Trek book, and this one is a bit different. Structured around a murder and the ensuing court case, this book only has Captain Kirk making a short appearance. A well written book by this team of authors from whom I hope to see more in the future.

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1776 (Unabridged)
Author: David McCullough
Narrator: David McCullough

2005 Summer

Listening to this now. So far, I of course love to hear McCullough read his own work and the writing, as always is first rate. McCullough uses lots of vocabulary from the era and a style that is right out of the 18th century at times. On the history side, I don't see anything hear that is not well covered in other books except a larger emphasis on letters and notes from all kinds of 'normal' people involved in the fighting. This makes the book interesting if not ground breaking.

Sense and Sensibility
(Unabridged)
Author: Jane Austen
Narrator: Jill Masters

2005 Summer

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At the start, or at least through the first half, I was really getting into this book. After Emma, I was interested in Austen's work but this only carried me so far. The complexity of the whole thing I think requires another go, but at this point I was getting tired out by the end. At times I feel Austen is so astute and makes such commentary on the social classes, but then at other times I feel this is all such silly fluffy stuff that it seems a total waste.

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/ (or Slant)
Author: Greg Bear

2005 Summer

Greg Bear's cyber punk novel that came out in the late 90s. One of the disadvantages to studying a Ph.D. is that you miss all the stuff going on in the world, thus it was I didn't even know Bear wrote this since it was the same year I started my Ph.D. studies. This is very solid Bear stuff, lots of nano technology, and the cyber punk is in there with a lot of online activity. The basic story is that everyone in the US is medicated to make them 'mentally healthy' and some Greens want to rip down that artificial world.

The Secret Life of Germs
Author: Philip M. Tierno

2005 Spring

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More of my SARS research. This book got me carrying around disinfectant and wearing my SARS mask on the train! A good overview of the importance and dangers of germs from a medical perspective. Tierno also presents his dislike for companies that accept 'low' level risks for their big profits, while the rest of us suffer. The best example is Toxic Shock Syndrome, a medical mystery which Tierno was the first solve and about which he clearly still has a bitter attitude.

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Land of Desire
Author: William R. Leach

2005 Spring

A perfect compliment to Birth of a Salesman, which ended on the the new supply of products from mass /standardized production and the problem of creating a consumption oriented culture out of the American culture that was not very consumption oriented. Friendman asserted that salesman made this happen, and Leach picks up on that with the role of department stores, 1880-1920. This book not only has a great social conceptualizing of the consumption culture that has become globalized, it also does a good job on the history.

The Precipice, The Rock Rats, The Silent War
(Unabridged)
Author: Ben Bova
Narrator: Scott Brick, Amanda Karr, & Cast

2005 Spring

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Not the best at characterization Bova here does at least have good science. The bad guys are really bad and the good really good and the story a bit weak, but I liked it any way (I've run into my share of bad guys who are really bad to buy into the story). The first book was the strongest, with the other two books spending way too much time reviewing what happened previously (there should be a law against that).

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On Intelligence (Unabridged)
Author: Jeff Hawkins, Sandra Blakeslee, H. S. Hawkins
Narrator: Stefan Rudnicki

2005 Spring

By the inventor of the Palm, Hawkins shows a lot of honesty--he comes out says he was rejected in his attempts to enter the academic circles of brain/AI research, but he struck out on his own to make money that could support his own research direction. Not a bad start. I also like that the book did NOT try to sell anything. I'm so fed up with the BS in almost all business related research books that are thinly veiled self-help scams with a heavy emphasis on the 'secret' or 'trade marked' method of the great and all mighty author! Hawkins' book has NONE of that. The science is good and the writing clear. Very good stuff for my marketing metaphor related research.

Inventing a Nation
(Unabridged)
Author: Gore Vidal
Narrator: Paul Hecht & Gore Vidal

2005 Spring

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I liked Vidal's book The Golden Age enough to try some of his history. This book is recent and seems built up from the extensive work he has done on the early Republic and its leaders. Again, Vidal makes nearly every other sentence cynical or ironic, or smartalecky. At first this put me off, but after a few chapter I got used to it. There is not really much here I didn't already know, as this book is kind of an introduction to the founding fathers (centering on Washington, Madison, and Jefferson). It is clear that Vidal stands in awe of these figures, even as he exposes their very human failings and contradictions. Hamilton gets a lot of coverage (mostly in his role as a British spy), and this has gotten my interest enough to consider looking into a book just on this topic. Vidal on the one hand makes clear Hamilton's founding of the American economy, but of course to Vidal this is not such a good thing.

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The Wild Blue: The Men and Boys Who Flew the B-24s Over Germany
(Unabridged)
Author: Stephen E. Ambrose
Narrator: Jeffrey DeMunn

2005 Spring

Ambrose centers on the WWII piloting career of George McGovern as he weaves the story of the strategic bombing campaign from Italy. This is a part of the war I had not known much about, since the 8th Air Force got all the publicity. While telling one man's story, the book touches on many other people, including the 99th Fighter Group made up of all black fighter pilots in P-51s escorting the bombers over Germany. Ambrose's telling of the story is not hyped or overly dramatic--in fact it seems at times that he purposely stays away from playing up the violence, but as the story goes on, this works to add to the book's drama. And to top it off, Ambrose adds into the fabric of the story a little tale that ends the book and could not have been written even in a work of fiction. This is real history that is better than fiction!

The Golden Age
(Unabridged)
Author: Gore Vidal
Narrator: Anne Twomey

2004-2005 Winter

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This is my first Vidal book and by the end I liked it. Vidal does history very well, seeming to get his facts all right while inserting fictional characters, including himself. This story really covers the social scene in Washington D.C. from just before WWII to the late 1950s. What I don't like is the cynical criticism of everything. Political leaders who are populist are portrayed as stupid and in need of visionary and intelligent leadership, while elite leaders are discounted from the population and do things totally in their own interest while fooling everyone else. I don't quite know what the resulting point is. Of course Vidal's point is that America's democracy was lost to a ruling class. This was a great book to follow on after Truman, since the time frame is exactly the same.

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The Giver
(Unabridged)
Author: Lois Lowry
Narrator: Ron Rifkin

2004-2005 Winter

This books seems to have gotten very popular in the US during the 90s because it is often used by teachers in schools for writing assignments. The story centers on a utopia that has its bad side, but compared to the dystopian stories I've read previously, the community in the Giver actually seems not so bad (especially when compared with the world we have now. My kids all listened to this one with me and I found the story to be perfect for younger ones, pre-teens.

Birth of a Salesman: The Transformation of Selling in America
Author: Walter A. Friedman

2005 Spring

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An outstanding review of the development of the door-to-door sales force in America. This book gives great context to the retailing market we have today by looking at how modern sales techniques grew with the American economy. Rather than ideas of "modern," Friedman is very good at showing how retailing channels change to fit the context of the times--a perspective I like very much and that I include in my own research.

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The City of Ember
People of Sparks
Author: Jeanne Duprau

2004-2005 Winter

These two books are really one story. I read this along with my daughter and they are great for young people. Along the lines of utopia/dystopia story line.

How Customers Think
Author: Gerald Zaltman

2004 Winter

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Zaltman presents marketing research on the metaphor use in consumer psychology. This is a very good direction and highly related to my own research. I very much like how Zaltman brings in many different research areas, such as anthology while playing down the quantitative traditional approaches of marketers, especially in surveying. What I don't like is the constant plugging of Zaltman's own "Registered and Copyrighted" research approach. I was under the impression that research methods should be open so that we can all use them an improve on them. So, once again a marketing researcher who is actually more interested in marketing himself then in actual advancement of the marketing field. Also, lots of what Zaltman seems very gogogaga over, and of course claims he has seemed to uncover, is nothing new. The idea that business owners need to actually use their own products, hang out with people who use them and understand the values their products represent . . . well I thought that was common sense! Okay, at least it is a break from the million get rich quick books that give easy formulas for business success. I just wish there was more (by the the way, Zaltman has published little in the research literature on the methods mentioned here--metaphor elicitation).

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Star Trek: The Eugenics Wars #1 & #2: The Rise and Fall of Khan Noonien Singh
Author: Greg Cox

2004-2005 Winter

A different Star Trek that does not involve the Enterprise crew (at least not much). Filling out the Khan story and the whole eugenics thing, mentioned in STOS, these two books do a good job. I really liked how Cox threw in lots of references to socially current events and trends from the 70s and 80s. I don't know how old Cox is, but he has some good memories of the 70s or he has done his homework (at one point he even references a character going out to see a Sajit Ray film, which also ties into the whole India link). Overall a couple smart novels with the normal Star Trek fun adventure feeling.

Caraline
Author: Neil Gainman
Illustrator: Dave McKean

2004 Winter

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I let my daughter pick any ebook to get started on, and we would both read it, so she found this one. After I turned on my palm and started in, I realized this is Neil Gainman (American Gods) who writes some strange stuff, but good strange stuff. Caraline is just that, good and strange. Winner of a Hugo, this story is hard to stop, but my daughter found it a bit too scary. I think that is mostly because she is afraid of what might come out in the next page, rather than what actually is in the book. The illustrations go far in creating that feeling.

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ENIAC: The Triumphs and Tragedies of the World's First Computer
(Unabridged)
Author: Scott McCartney
Narrator: Adams Morgan

2004 Winter

A nice history of the creator of the modern electronic computer, and perfect for anyone who doesn't know where computers come from (my university students once guessed that the first electronic computer was made in 1886). McCartney does the basic job of covering the start of the computer age in this book, but he never really gets very deep. What surprised me was how much the author felt the need to include explanations of contextual situations, as when he mentioned the supply of gas ration coupons--the whole reason for such rationing had to be explained. This always gave the book a feeling that its target audience is ten year old school kids. I also got the feeling that this ground has already been covered and it is so far from the event now that there is not much new to uncover.

Journal of the Plague Year
(Unabridged)
Author: Daniel Defoe
Narrator: Nelson Runger

2004 Winter

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Although fiction, Defoe investigated the facts of the 1665 London plague and wrote this story as if from a first person perspective. As part of my research on SARS, I found this story to be very interesting. Many details are covered, from macro economic impacts to the very detailed descriptions of individuals trying to cope with the epidemic. What I got out of this book was how universal human response is to an epidemic. The very issues Defoe struggles with, such as "locking up house" were just as controversial during the SARS outbreak in Taiwan (now called quarantine).

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The The Time Traveler's Wife
(Unabridged)
Author: Audrey Niffenegger
Narrator: Maggi-Meg Reed and Christopher Burns

2004 Winter

I knew this book was not going to be a hard sci-fi, but I wanted to check out how a popular book uses the idea of time travel. The story is about a man with a genetic problem that causes him to slip through time (forward and back, but mostly back to times he has already experienced). I couldn't help comparing this literary device to Vonnegut, but Niffenegger is not Vonnegut! There is little social commentary, and the whole time travel issue is really just a way to jump in and out of different micro-points in the relationship between the two main characters--Henry and Clare. Thus, what we have here is a love story that gets very sentimental from early on. In this way, the story is much more like Heinlein's later work. Niffenegger is good at describing details, but she often gets a bit snobbish. I'm not at all sure Henry and Clare are easy to relate to outside of their love (which is continually emphasized) since Clare is from a rich family and Henry from famous musical parents. After The Jane Austin Book Club , this book was a bit of a let down. I wish Niffenegger spent more time on the hardships of Henry's and Clare's life caused by the continual disappearing (the only hardship in this storybook love affair is Clare's pregnancy, which is made hard due to the baby's time traveling genes).

Reefer Madness: Sex, Drugs, and Cheap Labor
(Unabridged)
Author: Eric Schlosser
Narrator: Eric Schlosser

2004 Winter

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This book does not live up to the standard Schlosser set in Fast Food Nation, which I read last year. Made up of three essays, one on Marijuana one on illegal immigrant labor, and one on the porn industry. The premise of the book is that Schlosser will describe the underground economy of which these three topics play a major role. But the essays actually tell nothing about economics and right away get into political topics on which Schlosser is not at all shy in stating is own preference. In each topic, Schlosser actually uses one or two case studies, but the overall point of these case studies is not at all clear. By far, the most interesting topic is the porn industry, if only because this topic is just not covered much. Rather than an economic study, it should be relabeled a history of the porn industry. Even here, though, the material is not really a complete history, but rather a couple cases that Schlosser has followed up on, and the central topic is the government's war against porn producers. Schlosser's own reading is also uninspiring, but I think that is really just a result of material that is neither academically rigorous nor exciting or relevant as investigative reporting (which is what Schlosser is really aiming at).

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Foundation's Triumph (Second Foundation Series #3)
Author: David Brin

2004 Winter

David Brin winds up the Second Foundation Series very well. Everyone from the previous books, and a few new characters, all come together here. There is even a bit of action along the lines of the original Foundation's space opera format. I really liked the details brought to the robots and the ever growing number of factions and political intrigue. Seldon is at the center of it all as he is thrown all around the universe by robots all seeking is approval for their own factions. Brin keeps up a good quality of writing and follows on Greg Bear's novel well. While I'm glad to be back in Asimov's universe, I miss the master.

Truman
(Unabridged)
Author: David McCullough
Narrator: Nelson Runger

2004 Winter

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This book is over one thousand pages long while the audio is fifty-three hours long. The reason quite simply is that McCullough goes into great detail, often week-by-week and day-by-day. What is amazing is that it never gets boring! McCullough has emphasized Truman's own perspective, totally cutting out the middleman. There was a lot here I never really understood well, especially the importance of Truman as the paradigm for the second half of the 20th century was forming.

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Star Trek: S.C.E. #17, #18, #19: Foundations: Book One, Two, & Three
Author: Dayton Ward, Kevin Dilmore

2004 Fall

Some more Star Trek. These are short books in the SCE series. Ward and Dilmore are interesting authors who stay very close to TOS. Fun Books that pick up where a couple of the old episodes left off.

Curse of Chalion
(Unabridged)
Author: Lois McMaster Bujold
Narrator: Lloyd James

2004 Fall

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Like Le Guin, Bujold works well both in science fiction and fantasy genres. Bujold's Vorkosigan Saga books are high science fiction with a big emphasis on characterization--the hero of those books is only four feet tall and has brittle bones. After reading this book though, I find I like her fantasy much better. The Curse of Chalion does have good and evil in it, but the main emphasis is on how the characters choose to act. There are no armies of bad orcs, who just kill and burn because of their nature, bur rather the book is full of people trying to make decisions on limited information and uncertain outcomes. Few characters enter the story without being fleshed out in detail, giving the reader a real feeling for the complexity of the Chalion world.

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Chain of Command
(Abridged)
Author: Seymour M. Hersh
Narrator: Peter Friedman

2004 Fall

Chilling!

The Jane Austen Book Club
(Unabridged)
Author: Karen Joy Fowler
Narrator: Kimberly Schraf

2004 Fall

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A story of a book club that only reads Jane Austen's novels, Fowler's book turns out to be very enjoyable. I had a very strong feeling when finished that this book needs a number of readings along with re-readings of the Austen books, which are represented one for each chapter. In addition to changing the Austen novel each chapter, Fowler chooses a different person in the club to focus on with scenes from the character's past. Clearly the overall emphasis on social interaction is very much like Austen's emphasis, but this book is of our time, and I found it very touching, making me often smile. Not a supper serious book with any action, but rather a story of normality.

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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 favorite SF 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 is 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 former 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 Isla
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 Summer

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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.

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