BOOKS I'VE READ in 2017

Tracking, updating, grading. Inspired by many of you.
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  2. 2.
    Spook Country by William Gibson
    B+ ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ Second reading; sourced from my bookshelf. Swell novel about a journalist for a mysterious new magazine, a young man specializing in data transfers, a junkie translator, various retired Cold War era spies, virtual reality, hackers and artists. Plus: A mysterious cargo. Near future speculative fiction as I like (although now 10 years old, so fun to read again with new real world context ....).
  3. 3.
    Late in the Day by Ursula K LeGuin
    B- ⭐️⭐️⭐️ Sourced from library. Recent poems from the sci-fi legend who I didn't know published poetry. "Science describes accurately from outside, poetry describes accurately from inside," she says in the Foreward. Yes. Those kinds of poems.
  4. 4.
    Descender I: Tin Stars by Jeff Lemire and Dustin Nguyen
    A- ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ Graphic novel sourced from Santa Claus. The first volume of the space opera about a young android waking to find robots have been outlawed after planet-sized robots have attacked human settlements, only to find his machine DNA may hold the secrets to rescue humankind, making him a wanted boy. Note: Santa got this excellent recommendation from @SpaceCase
  5. 5.
    Descender 2: Machine Moons by Jeff Lemire and Dustin Nguyen
    A- ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️Graphic Novel, sourced from Santa, about the continuing cosmic adventures of TIM-21's struggles to stay alive in a universe where all androids have been outlawed... watercolor artwork is beautiful.
  6. 6.
    Punk Tees: The Punk Revolution in 125 T-Shirts by Martin Popoff
    C- ⭐️⭐️ Library. "...writing the history of punk rock through its T-shirts is a very punk rock way to act." Also v superficial and only moderately interesting. Takeaway: coffee table picture books aren't very punk rock.
  7. 7.
    All These Worlds Are Yours: The Scientific Search for Alien Life by Jon Willis
    A+ ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ Sourced from library. Fascinating and up-to-date exploration of astrobiology and the possibilities of locating life off Earth, with details about findings from very recent space missions and five possible scenarios where/how we'll find life elsewhere: Subsoil ice on Mars? Two water-ice moons of Jupiter? Exoplanets circling every star you can see at night? Saturn's moon Titan's atmosphere concealing a surface with bodies of liquid lakes and rivers? SETI radio signals? Exciting!
  8. 8.
    Introducing The Planets and their Moons by Peter Cattermole
    D+ ⭐️ From the library, inspired by previous book. Random and chaotic, jammed with science facts and figures seemingly without reason or purpose, this textbook-like effort reads like a poorly edited Wikipedia article four years out of date. It really could have used a good editor. Title is accurate though: it does have information about the planets and their 180+ moons.
  9. 9.
    Descender Vol. 3: Singularities by Jeff Lemire and Dustin Nguyen
    B ⭐️⭐️⭐️ Bookstore, continuing the space saga (see above). This volume is still great to look at but serves mostly as backstory for all our main characters, showing how they moved from their previous lives in a stable world to the "present" day where scrapers are seeking the outlawed robots and the robots are seeking to survive. I'm looking forward to whatever happens next in Vol. 4, whenever it may arrive...
  10. 10.
    Archeophonics by Peter Gizzi
    B ⭐️⭐️⭐️ From the library. This book of poems is a finalist for the National Book Award for poetry for 2016. The poems are full of rhythm and sound, and are about sound and time. I didn't really connect with them. Could probably benefit from a second reading... but they don't really speak to me. Onward!
  11. 11.
    The Return of the Honey Buzzard by Aimée de Jongh
    B ⭐️⭐️⭐️ Graphic novel found at the library. This is a cinematic and psychological story about a grown man seeing a current day tragedy and coming to terms with a childhood tragedy. This is Aimée de Jongh's first graphic novel, translated from Dutch into English for the first time. The artwork powers this original story of loss and recovery with hints of magical realism.
  12. 12.
    The Abridged History of Rainfall by Jay Hopler
    B+ ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ Poetry, found at the library. Descriptive images, sight and sound poems about loss, living, the death of the author's father, birds, Rome, Florida, and the sometimes struggle of keeping on when calamity strikes. This book is also a finalist for the 2016 National Book Award for poetry. I liked it quite a bit.
  13. 13.
    B ⭐️⭐️⭐️ Nonfiction from the library after I saw it in bibliography of the Jon Willis book above. A defense of Darwin's natural selection evolution against so-called "Intelligent Design" in fairly technical detail. Very well argued and interesting; however it was first written in 1986 so throughout I was curious to know the latest science.
  14. 14.
    Growing Up In Public by Ezequiel Garcia
    A- ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ Graphic Novel found at the library. A wonderful slice of life story of a cartoonist and his artist/musician/activist friends set in 2006-2010 in Buenos Aires. Reaffirmed my belief that artists and creative types need to stick together and stand up for what's right in the world.
  15. 15.
    Whiplash: How To Survive Our Faster Future by Joi Ito and Jeff Howe
    A ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ Nonfiction; from library. A couple of brainiacs discuss nine trends (or organizing principles) that they say are shaping the future, which is as complex and volatile as ever and only getting more so, and they offer advice for people and organizations that want to become more adaptable to navigate and survive the next 50 years. Solid, fascinating and important, and it feels like all of our current institutions (governments, schools, businesses, etc) are frighteningly unprepared.
  16. 16.
    George Washington by Adam Fitzgerald
    B- ⭐️⭐️⭐️ Poems, from the library. A young (age: 32) poet's second collection includes a few standout poems I really liked and a bunch of others. The best are jammed with mixed up memories of a pop culture '90s childhood, history and the overwhelming cacophony of modern media overload; the others just rambling (and, to me, random, meaningless) collections of advertising tv internet related words.
  17. 17.
    Madwoman by Shara McCallum
    B- ⭐️⭐️⭐️ Poems, library. A collection of poems to and from the 'Madwoman,' an alter ego of the author, and related topics of life from girl to woman, with memories of a childhood in Jamaica, growing up, and sorrow. I really liked the ones about places and geography (as I tend to) and was less connected to her personal poems around loss and grief.
  18. 18.
    Ayoade on Ayoade: a cinematic odyssey by Richard Ayoade
    B+ ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ From the library after seeing the availability of the American edition on the author's feed. I agree with the Guardian's blurb: "Surreal and hilarious." Sketches and self-interviews and appendices that are often laugh-out-loud funny but also really just bits of deadpan humor and sometimes feel like leftover gags. Not autobiography; not essays; not how-to. Just short funny parody pieces of actors and cineastes. If you like him on quiz and panel shows, I predict you will love this.
  19. 19.
    Hemingway's Chair by Michael Palin
    B+ ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ Novel found at my local used book store from ex-Python Michael Palin. A well-told, well-written little story about a British postal employee and Hemingway fan caught up in modernization and (1995-era) telecommunications threatening his job and life. Swell debut novel; wish he'd write more (I'm a huge fan of his published diaries and his travel TV shows, in addition to his comedy). Extra bittersweet with 20+ years of technological changes in our mirrors.
  20. 20.
    Fight Club by Chuck Palahniuk
    D ⭐️ Novel from library. I didn't like it very much. An engaging style, and a small mystery (who are these guys?), but to me it felt like being inside the brain and thoughts of a 4chan-living, Pepe-avatar using, white-power Trump-voting grievance monster. Probably didn't help to read it during the early days of the Trump administration.
  21. 21.
    Zero K by Don DeLillo
    A ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ Novel; library. A mysterious compound, the Convergence, is a science project and/or spiritual movement whose mission revolves around preserving life through cryonic freezing. This novel is a long existential thought on life and death, dysfunctional fathers and sons, and the near future. It is also cold, harsh and the first half especially, numbing, and probably not for everyone. 2nd half: 💯. It is also brilliant, at least to this old guy who gets closer with every passing night.
  22. 22.
    An Astronaut's Guide To Life On Earth by Chris Hadfield
    B+ ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ From the library after seeing it in @macnchz's lists. I liked the memoir parts the best and his stories with details about going to and returning from space and living on the ISS for five months are excellent. I also wanted to like the "guide to life on earth" parts of the book, but I think it would have been better served in a separate, more focused advice book (which would've made the memories even stronger). Overall: pretty good space autobiography, slightly less good advice book.
  23. 23.
    The Beats: A Graphic History by Harvey Pekar and many others
    B- ⭐️⭐️⭐️ Comic non-fiction from library. This is a well-executed basic intro to the Beats, with a main focus on Kerouac, Ginsberg and Burroughs (2/3 of the book) and smaller 2- and 4- page spreads on the many other Beat poets and writers. As a fairly well-read fan of the west-coast Beats, it was all 'old news' for me (hence a lower grade), but if you want a general intro history to the Beat writers and their crowd, I would recommend it.
  24. 24.
    Beat Atlas: A State By State Guide to the Beat Generation by Bill Morgan with photos by Allen Ginsberg
    B+ ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ a travel guide history from the library. This is a weird book to read straight through (which I, ahem, did), but it is jammed with history of the Beats and their many (many) travels. Each state has an entry, and within each state are stories from cities and towns that have some connection (occasionally central, more often obscure) to the whole Beat gang. It is a companion volume to other guides Morgan wrote describing Beat history in NY and San Francisco (which I now must find).
  25. 25.
    The Back Country by Gary Snyder
    B+ ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ Poems, found/purchased at my local used book store. Inspired by reading about the Beats (see above), I wanted to read poems from my favorite Beat. This 1968 collection is from before, during and after his 12 years in Japan studying Buddhism, and includes, classic descriptive narrative poetry about people and mountains and nature, just like I like 'em. Last bit includes Snyder's translations of 18 of Miyazawa Kenji's poems. A swell collection.
  26. 26.
    Moon Cop by Tom Gauld
    A ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ Graphic Novel. From library after seeing it on a 'best of' list. Perfectly charming. Near perfection. Highly recommend.
  27. 27.
    Goliath by Tom Gauld
    A- ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ Graphic novel, from library, sought and found after thoroughly enjoying Moon Cop. An endearing retelling of the David v Goliath story, with Goliath being very good at admin work and not a great swordsman, and something of a pawn in a captain's hare-brained plan. A winner.
  28. 28.
    Pacific : Silicon Chips and Surfboards, Coral Reefs and Atom Bombs, Brutal Dictators and Fading Empires by Simon Winchester
    A ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ Nonfiction. Owned. Excellent, long-form journalism about topics - historical, scientific, political - related to the Pacific Ocean by one of my favorite writers. Chapters of 30-40 pages dig into atomic bomb testing, microchips, surfing, North Korea, the rise of China, global warming and weather, Australia's place, plate tectonics and the Ring of Fire, environmental concerns, and China's flexing its new naval powers. Like all his books: readable + filled with interesting stories.
  29. 29.
    You're All Just Jealous of My Jetpack by Tom Gauld
    B+ ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ Interlibrary loan! Collected Guardian cartoons remind me of a very literate Gary "The Far Side" Larson. Clever, book-loving with charming art. Recommend!
  30. 30.
    Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman
    B+ ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ Borrowed from my wife, to whom I gave it for Valentine's Day 😬 Excellent retelling of the Viking myths. The adventures of Thor, Loki, Odin, Freya and the gang benefit from Gaiman's efforts.
  31. 31.
    The Acts of King Arthur and His Noble Knights by John Steinbeck
    B ⭐️⭐️⭐️ Suggested by @cinderstina and @dreadpiratemama Steinbeck's retelling of the Arthurian legend, gets progressively better. I almost gave up in the early stories (due to boredom!) but I stuck with it and by the Lancelot story I felt like I was reading a long-lost Steinbeck book. It's an incomplete, unfinished book he worked on for about three years in the late '50s, and it was published several years after he died. If you are a Steinbeck fan or an Arthurian legends fan, check it out.
  32. 32.
    Smoke Gets In Your Eyes & Other Lessons from the Crematory by Caitlin Doughty
    A+ ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ Essays. Suggested by @eijafayaya This is a brilliant book about death rituals, with a perfect mix of personal (often humorous) stories of her first years working in the American death industry and her well-researched and insightful info about the history of the death rituals of various cultures. Highly recommend if you've never thought about your own death; however this is not for those who do not wish to read realistic descriptions of dead bodies, because there is a lot of that.
  33. 33.
    Bad Astronomy by Philip Plait
    B ⭐️⭐️⭐️ from the library. An early (2003) compilation of the science bloggers columns/blog posts in which he debunks bad science and takes down dumb ideas. Amusing, sound and a bit dated (now, 15 years later). Still has many high points: thanks to @marceline for the tip.
  34. 34.
    The Inkblots: Hermann Rorschach, His Iconic Test, and the Power of Seeing by Damion Searls
    B+ ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ From library upon @cvlop61's suggestion. I know very little about psychology, but this book was both excellent and (slightly) boring. The first two thirds about Rorschach himself, his life, his career, how he came to develop and use the Inkblots was excellent; parts of the last third that delve into the battles between competing schools of thought about the use of the inkblots was less interesting. Has made me want to read more about the development/history of psychology, though!
  35. 35.
    Girls to the Front: The True Story of the Riot Grrrl Revolution by Sara Marcus
    A ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ suggested by @marceline I loved this well-researched and well-written you-are-there history of the women at the center of the short-but-influential radical (book's word not mine) feminist uprising of young women in the DIY punk band and zine scene of 1989-1994. I was struck too by how isolated we were just 25 years ago, pre-internet, and how the urge to speak that produced zines easily became blogs and social media. Must read for feminists (and Riot Grrrl band fans) everywhere!
  36. 36.
    The Aliens Are Coming! The Extraordinary Science Behind Our Search For Life in the Universe by Ben Miller
    A+ ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ Found at library. Fantastic, up-to-date, readable and enjoyable overview of all the science (cosmology, physics, chemistry, biology, linguistics) involved in the search for extraterrestrial life. By understanding how life developed on earth, he writes a compelling story of what we might come across, if/when humans find evidence of life off our planet.
  37. 37.
    The Feud - Vladimir Nabokov, Edmund Wilson and the End of a Beautiful Friendship by Alex Beam
    B- ⭐️⭐️⭐️ Library. Promising idea. I liked the biography bits and the story of their friendship, and clever literary put-downs are always slightly amusing, but the tit-for-tat meat of the feud was about nothing but ego, and thus very boring to read.
  38. 38.
    Disrupted: My Misadventure In The Start-Up Bubble by Dan Lyons
    B- ⭐️⭐️⭐️ Suggested by @shadowman Liked; didn't love. A fish out of water story, with both light comedy and light tragedy. An over-50 journalist embeds in a pre-IPO tech company and survives to write about it. As an old guy, I emphasize with his comic struggles to work among a bunch of 20-somethings; as a veteran minion of corporate America, I found his sunrise and outrage at the thousand small cuts to his dignity a bit eye-rolling. But maybe I've been drinking the Kool-Aid for too long?
  39. 39.
    The Longest Day of the Future by Lucas Varela
    B- ⭐️⭐️⭐️ Graphic Novel (or, rather, Silent Film.) Loved the artwork, the plots left me disappointed (There are no words). Super detailed and gorgeously illustrated (see above) retro-futuristic tale about a world where competing food corporations spy on each other via a couple of unfortunate, hapless dupes. Bonus: robots.
  40. 40.
    The One Hundred Nights of Hero by Isabel Greenberg
    A ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ Graphic novel. A wonderful collection of feminist myths of all sorts. The stories are all about women just trying to do what they want and the patriarchy and religion that stands in their way. Illustrations look like old woodcuts. Picked it up on a whim and now I think it should be required reading for all 10-12 year old American girls.
  41. 41.
    The Wonder Trail by Steve Hely
    A ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ Travel stories. Recommended by @jessknuckey And @jpbateson and written by @helytimes. Well written and often amusing tales about places and light adventures undertaken by a TV writer who journeys from LA to Patagonia. Reminds me how much I love travel books. Fast, fun read. Recommended.
  42. 42.
    Hominids by Robert J Sawyer
    B+ ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ Sci-fi novel from library and suggested by @jennifergster A fun story about Neanderthal physicists who build a quantum computer and then open a gate into a parallel universe: ours. Confusion and study ensues.
  43. 43.
    Unfaithful Music & Disappearing Ink by Elvis Costello
    A- ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ Thick and comprehensive memoir by one of the great songwriters of his generation. Not chronological, Elvis tells stories about his family, his musical influences and his life. Must read for any fans; it's also interesting to those of us who like his early work but aren't necessarily fans. He's a good writer and spins a solid tale.
  44. 44.
    A Man On The Moon by Andrew Chaikin
    A ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ Thorough, thick and well-researched history of the Apollo space/moon missions. Fascinating for me, as I clearly remember watching carefully all the manned moon flights as a boy. Suggested by @marceline
  45. 45.
    To Be A Machine: Adventures Among Cyborgs, Utopians, Hackers and Futurists Solving The Modest Problem of Death by Mark O'Connell
    A- ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ A journalist visits and interviews interesting people who are trying to merge humans with machines, upload our consciousness to robots or otherwise live forever. Fascinating, well researched, and entertaining, but not necessarily a comprehensive review of the many fingers of transhumanism.
  46. 46.
    Machines of Loving Grace: The Quest for Common Ground between Humans and Robots by John Markoff
    A- ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ A NYT journalist writes a fairly broad long-form history of Silicon Valley's people and companies who have been working on both sides of the AI vs IA divide, as in, are they designing the machines to replace humans (AI) or to augment, assist and extend our expertise (IA). He argues that AI/IA and robots will change our world as much in the next 20-30 years as PCs, the internet and social media have over the past 30 years.
  47. 47.
    Our Robots, Ourselves: Robotics and the Myths of Autonomy by David Mindell
    B- ⭐️⭐️⭐️ A scientist shares his experiences using remote sensing submarine "robots" and various autopilot functions for airplanes and space ships. He argues for having humans "in the loop" of so-called autonomous robots.
  48. 48.
    What to Think About Machines That Think, edited by John Brockman
    A+ ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ If you only read one book on the current state of AI (@BWN_7, @jennifergster, @jessknuckey), this is the one to read. Nearly 200 wide-ranging experts, thinkers and smart people write very short essays (1-3 pages) about where we are and where we are headed. Easy to read, easy to put down and pick up again, both optimists and pessimists provide a great glimpse of where we are headed from a diverse group.
  49. 49.
    Astrophysics for People In A Hurry by Neil deGrasse Tyson
    B+ ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ Solid overview of the state of our knowledge of the universe in a collection of short, very readable essays by a popular internet scientist. (Note: MoPOP admission sticker is a special addition to my edition.)
  50. 50.
    Descender 4: Orbital Mechanics by Jeff Lemire and Dustin Nguyen
    A- ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ Graphic Novel. Continuing robots-in-space saga (see way above). And I think Book 5 comes out next week!
  51. 51.
    Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson
    B+ ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ Reread, sourced from my bookshelf (and autographed by the author!). The adventure sci-GI virtual world romp that got me hooked on Neal 25 years ago, on my list of all-time favorite books, re-read due to curiosity to see how it held up after all these years. The story is still fun, the world is still engaging/amusing even if the tech predictions are 50% prescient and 50% wrong.
  52. 52.
    Carsick: John Waters Hitchhikes Across America by John Waters
    C- ⭐️⭐️ The title is epic and perfect and the book he wrote doesn't live up to the expectations hyped by the title. Only a third of the book is the nonfiction account of his "hitchhiking" I-70 and I-80 across America, and that he spends a lot of those pages waiting for rides alternatively hoping/worrying he'll be recognized as a celebrity. There are also two novellas written before hand (one imaging a perfect trip, the other the worst case scenario).