Archive for the ‘Books’ Category

From Cocktail Party Physics, via Pharyngula comes another book meme, this one about popular science books. The rules are:

  1. Highlight those you’ve read in full
  2. Asterisk those you intend to read
  3. Add any additional popular science books you think belong on the list
  4. Link back to the great pop-sci book project

  1. Micrographia, Robert Hooke
  2. The Origin of the Species, Charles Darwin
  3. Never at Rest, Richard Westfall
  4. Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman, Richard Feynman
  5. Tesla: Man Out of Time, Margaret Cheney
  6. The Devil’s Doctor, Philip Ball
  7. The Making of the Atomic Bomb, Richard Rhodes
  8. Lonely Hearts of the Cosmos, Dennis Overbye
  9. Physics for Entertainment, Yakov Perelman
  10. 1-2-3 Infinity, George Gamow
  11. The Elegant Universe, Brian Greene
  12. Warmth Disperses, Time Passes, Hans Christian von Bayer
  13. Alice in Quantumland, Robert Gilmore
  14. Where Does the Weirdness Go? David Lindley
  15. A Short History of Nearly Everything, Bill Bryson
  16. A Force of Nature, Richard Rhodes
  17. Black Holes and Time Warps, Kip Thorne
  18. A Brief History of Time, Stephen Hawking
  19. Universal Foam, Sidney Perkowitz
  20. Vermeer’s Camera, Philip Steadman
  21. The Code Book, Simon Singh
  22. The Elements of Murder, John Emsley
  23. Soul Made Flesh, Carl Zimmer
  24. Time’s Arrow, Martin Amis
  25. The Ten Most Beautiful Experiments, George Johnson
  26. Einstein’s Dreams, Alan Lightman
  27. Godel, Escher, Bach, Douglas Hofstadter
  28. The Curious Life of Robert Hooke, Lisa Jardine
  29. A Matter of Degrees, Gino Segre
  30. The Physics of Star Trek, Lawrence Krauss
  31. E=mc², David Bodanis
  32. Zero: The Biography of a Dangerous Idea, Charles Seife
  33. Absolute Zero: The Conquest of Cold, Tom Shachtman
  34. A Madman Dreams of Turing Machines, Janna Levin
  35. Warped Passages, Lisa Randall
  36. Apollo’s Fire, Michael Sims
  37. Flatland, Edward Abbott
  38. Fermat’s Last Theorem, Amir Aczel
  39. Stiff, Mary Roach
  40. Astroturf, M.G. Lord
  41. The Periodic Table, Primo Levi
  42. Longitude, Dava Sobel
  43. The First Three Minutes, Steven Weinberg
  44. The Mummy Congress, Heather Pringle
  45. The Accelerating Universe, Mario Livio
  46. Math and the Mona Lisa, Bulent Atalay
  47. This is Your Brain on Music, Daniel Levitin
  48. The Executioner’s Current, Richard Moran
  49. Krakatoa, Simon Winchester
  50. Pythagorus’ Trousers, Margaret Wertheim
  51. Neuromancer, William Gibson
  52. The Physics of Superheroes, James Kakalios
  53. The Strange Case of the Broad Street Pump, Sandra Hempel
  54. Another Day in the Frontal Lobe, Katrina Firlik
  55. Einstein’s Clocks and Poincare’s Maps, Peter Galison
  56. The Demon-Haunted World, Carl Sagan
  57. The Blind Watchmaker, Richard Dawkins
  58. The Language Instinct, Steven Pinker
  59. An Instance of the Fingerpost, Iain Pears
  60. Consilience, E.O. Wilson
  61. Wonderful Life, Stephen J. Gould
  62. Teaching a Stone to Talk, Annie Dillard
  63. Fire in the Brain, Ronald K. Siegel
  64. The Life of a Cell, Lewis Thomas
  65. Coming of Age in the Milky Way, Timothy Ferris
  66. Storm World, Chris Mooney
  67. The Carbon Age, Eric Roston
  68. The Black Hole Wars, Leonard Susskind
  69. Copenhagen, Michael Frayn
  70. From the Earth to the Moon, Jules Verne
  71. Gut Symmetries, Jeanette Winterson
  72. Chaos, James Gleick
  73. Innumeracy, John Allen Paulos
  74. The Physics of NASCAR, Diandra Leslie-Pelecky
  75. Subtle is the Lord, Abraham Pais

PZ Meyers felt there wasn’t enough biology and so added these:

  1. Basin and Range, John McPhee
  2. Beak of the Finch, Jonathan Weiner
  3. Chance and Necessity, Jacques Monod
  4. Dr. Tatiana’s Sex Advice to All Creation, Olivia Judson
  5. Endless Forms Most Beautiful, Sean Carroll
  6. Evolution: The Triumph of an Idea, Carl Zimmer
  7. Genome, Matt Ridley
  8. Guns, Germs, and Steel, Jared Diamond
  9. It Ain’t Necessarily So, Richard Lewontin
  10. On Growth and Form, D’Arcy Wentworth Thompson
  11. Phantoms in the Brain, VS Ramachandran
  12. The Ancestor’s Tale, Richard Dawkins
  13. The Case of the Female Orgasm: Bias in the Science of Evolution, Elisabeth Lloyd
  14. The Eighth Day of Creation, Horace Freeland Judson
  15. The Great Devonian Controversy, Martin Rudwick
  16. The Man Who Mistook His Wife For A Hat, Oliver Sacks
  17. The Mismeasure of Man, Stephen Jay Gould
  18. The Triple Helix: Gene, Organism, and Environment, Richard Lewontin
  19. Time, Love, Memory, Jonathan Weiner
  20. Voyaging and The Power of Place, Janet Browne
  21. Woman: An Intimate Geography, Natalie Angier

And I’ll chuck in a few suggestions of my own to bring it to a round one hundred.

  1. Cosmos, Carl Sagan
  2. Life: An Unauthorized Biography, Richard Fortey
  3. The Dinosaur Heresies, Robert T. Bakker

A few weeks ago SFX published a SF and Fantasy Books Special which contained a top 100 Favourite SF and Fantasy authors of all time decided by popular vote. The list shows the perils of popular votes… But lets turn it into a meme anyway.

Bold any authors who you have read; italicise any authors who are sitting on your current to-read pile (not literally I hope); strike through any authors you plan to never read/read again.

  1. Terry Pratchett
  2. JRR Tolkien
  3. Neil Gaiman
  4. Douglas Adams
  5. George RR Martin
  6. Isaac Asimov
  7. Iain M. Banks
  8. Philip K. Dick
  9. HG Wells
  10. Robert Rankin
  11. Ursula K. LeGuin
  12. David Gemmell
  13. Peter F. Hamilton
  14. Frank Herbert
  15. Robert Heinlein
  16. JK Rowling
  17. Robert Jordan
  18. Arthur C. Clarke
  19. Ray Bradbury
  20. Stephen King
  21. Robin Hobb
  22. Philip Pullman
  23. John Wyndham
  24. Diana Wynne Jones
  25. CS Lewis
  26. Guy Gavriel Kay
  27. William Gibson
  28. Steven Erikson
  29. Anne McCaffrey
  30. Roger Zelazny
  31. Lois McMaster Bujold
  32. Raymond E. Feist
  33. China Mieville
  34. Gene Wolfe
  35. Stephen Donaldson
  36. Orson Scott Card
  37. Alan Moore
  38. David Eddings
  39. Michael Moorcock
  40. Trudi Canavan
  41. Kurt Vonnegut
  42. Tad Williams
  43. Jim Butcher
  44. Clive Barker
  45. Neal Stephenson
  46. Alastair Reynolds
  47. Jules Verne
  48. Mervyn Peake
  49. H.P. Lovecraft
  50. Sherri S. Tepper
  51. Robert E. Howard
  52. J.G. Ballard
  53. Octavia Butler
  54. Jasper Fforde
  55. Harlan Ellison
  56. CJ Cherryh
  57. Mercedes Lackey
  58. Jennifer Fallon
  59. Stephen Baxter
  60. Richard Morgan
  61. Terry Brooks
  62. Elizabeth Haydon
  63. Dan Simmons
  64. Richard Matheson
  65. Marion Zimmer Bradley
  66. Harry Harrison
  67. Jack Vance
  68. Katharine Kerr
  69. Alfred Bester
  70. Larry Niven
  71. Stanislaw Lem
  72. Susanna Clarke
  73. Robert Silverberg
  74. Edgar Rice Burroughs
  75. Julian May
  76. Charles de Lint
  77. Samuel R. Delany
  78. George Orwell
  79. Simon Clark
  80. Joe Haldeman
  81. Joe Abercrombie
  82. J.V. Jones
  83. Theodore Sturgeon
  84. Kim Stanley Robinson
  85. Jacqueline Carey
  86. M. John Harrison
  87. David Weber
  88. Scott Lynch
  89. Jonathan Carroll
  90. Christopher Priest
  91. Jon Courtney Grimwood
  92. Michael Marshall Smith
  93. Olaf Stapledon
  94. Ken MacLeod
  95. Brian W. Aldiss
  96. Terry Goodkind
  97. Charles Stross
  98. Sara Douglass
  99. Gwyneth Jones
  100. James Herbert

The Big Read (or the BBC, depending on which source you read, but actually The Guardian) reckons that the average adult has only read 6 of the top 100 books they’ve printed.

  1. Look at the list and bold those you have read.
  2. Italicize those you intend to read.
  3. Underline the books you LOVE.
  4. Strike out the books you have no intention of ever reading, or were forced to read at school and hated.
  5. Reprint this list in your own blog so we can try and track down these people who’ve read 6 and force books upon them

  1. Pride and Prejudice – Jane Austen
  2. The Lord of the Rings – JRR Tolkien
  3. Jane Eyre – Charlotte Bronte
  4. The Harry Potter Series – JK Rowling
  5. To Kill a Mockingbird – Harper Lee
  6. The Bible
  7. Wuthering Heights – Emily Bronte
  8. Nineteen Eighty Four – George Orwell
  9. His Dark Materials – Philip Pullman
  10. Great Expectations – Charles Dickens
  11. Little Women – Louisa M Alcott
  12. Tess of the D’Urbervilles – Thomas Hardy
  13. Catch 22 – Joseph Heller
  14. Complete Works of Shakespeare
  15. Rebecca – Daphne Du Maurier
  16. The Hobbit – JRR Tolkien
  17. Birdsong – Sebastian Faulks
  18. Catcher in the Rye – JD Salinger
  19. The Time Traveller’s Wife – Audrey Niffenegger
  20. Middlemarch – George Eliot
  21. Gone With The Wind – Margaret Mitchell
  22. The Great Gatsby – F Scott Fitzgerald
  23. Bleak House – Charles Dickens
  24. War and Peace – Leo Tolstoy
  25. The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy – Douglas Adams
  26. Brideshead Revisited – Evelyn Waugh
  27. Crime and Punishment – Fyodor Dostoyevsky (I’ve read about a third, but a long time ago so I really should start again)
  28. Grapes of Wrath – John Steinbeck
  29. Alice in Wonderland – Lewis Carroll
  30. The Wind in the Willows – Kenneth Grahame
  31. Anna Karenina – Leo Tolstoy
  32. David Copperfield – Charles Dickens
  33. Chronicles of Narnia – CS Lewis (I’m sure I’ve read some other than TLTWATW but I’m not sure how many)
  34. Emma – Jane Austen
  35. Persuasion – Jane Austen
  36. The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe – CS Lewis (Why is this separate to 33?)
  37. The Kite Runner – Khaled Hosseini
  38. Captain Corelli’s Mandolin – Louis De Bernieres
  39. Memoirs of a Geisha – Arthur Golden
  40. Winnie the Pooh – AA Milne
  41. Animal Farm – George Orwell
  42. The Da Vinci Code – Dan Brown
  43. One Hundred Years of Solitude – Gabriel Garcia Marquez
  44. A Prayer for Owen Meaney – John Irving
  45. The Woman in White – Wilkie Collins
  46. Anne of Green Gables – LM Montgomery
  47. Far From The Madding Crowd – Thomas Hardy
  48. The Handmaid’s Tale – Margaret Atwood
  49. Lord of the Flies – William Golding
  50. Atonement – Ian McEwan
  51. Life of Pi – Yann Martel
  52. Dune – Frank Herbert
  53. Cold Comfort Farm – Stella Gibbons
  54. Sense and Sensibility – Jane Austen
  55. A Suitable Boy – Vikram Seth
  56. The Shadow of the Wind – Carlos Ruiz Zafon
  57. A Tale Of Two Cities – Charles Dickens
  58. Brave New World – Aldous Huxley
  59. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time – Mark Haddon
  60. Love In The Time Of Cholera – Gabriel Garcia Marquez
  61. Of Mice and Men – John Steinbeck
  62. Lolita – Vladimir Nabokov
  63. The Secret History – Donna Tartt
  64. The Lovely Bones – Alice Sebold
  65. Count of Monte Cristo – Alexandre Dumas
  66. On The Road – Jack Kerouac
  67. Jude the Obscure – Thomas Hardy
  68. Bridget Jones’s Diary – Helen Fielding
  69. Midnight’s Children – Salman Rushdie
  70. Moby Dick – Herman Melville
  71. Oliver Twist – Charles Dickens
  72. Dracula – Bram Stoker
  73. The Secret Garden – Frances Hodgson Burnett
  74. Notes From A Small Island – Bill Bryson
  75. Ulysses – James Joyce
  76. The Bell Jar – Sylvia Plath
  77. Swallows and Amazons – Arthur Ransome
  78. Germinal – Emile Zola
  79. Vanity Fair – William Makepeace Thackeray
  80. Possession – AS Byatt
  81. A Christmas Carol – Charles Dickens
  82. Cloud Atlas – David Mitchell
  83. The Color Purple – Alice Walker
  84. The Remains of the Day – Kazuo Ishiguro
  85. Madame Bovary – Gustave Flaubert
  86. A Fine Balance – Rohinton Mistry
  87. Charlotte’s Web – EB White
  88. The Five People You Meet In Heaven – Mitch Albom
  89. Adventures of Sherlock Holmes – Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
  90. The Faraway Tree Collection – Enid Blyton
  91. Heart of Darkness – Joseph Conrad
  92. The Little Prince – Antoine De Saint-Exupery
  93. The Wasp Factory – Iain Banks
  94. Watership Down – Richard Adams
  95. A Confederacy of Dunces – John Kennedy Toole
  96. A Town Like Alice – Nevil Shute
  97. The Three Musketeers – Alexandre Dumas
  98. Hamlet – William Shakespeare
  99. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory – Roald Dahl
  100. Les Miserables – Victor Hugo

ObHTML: I managed to resist the temptation to add <cite> tags to every title. If I had an editor open with better RegEx support…


The following is a list of Hugo, Nebula and World Fantasy Award winning novels (not including retro-Hugos)
Bold the ones you’ve finished
Italicise the ones you’ve started but not finished
Underline the ones were you’ve seen the film/tv show

  • …And Call Me Conrad (aka: This Immortal) by Roger Zelazny
  • A Canticle for Leibowitz by Walter M. Miller, Jr.
  • A Case of Conscience by James Blish
  • A Deepness in the Sky by Vernor Vinge
  • A Fire Upon the Deep by Vernor Vinge
  • American Gods by Neil Gaiman
  • The Antelope Wife by Louise Erdrich
  • Ash: A Secret History by Mary Gentle
  • Barrayar by Lois McMaster Bujold
  • Bid Time Return by Richard Matheson
  • The Big Time by Fritz Leiber
  • Blue Mars by Kim Stanley Robinson
  • Boy’s Life by Robert R. McCammon
  • Bridge of Birds by Barry Hughart
  • The Children’s War by J. N. Stroyar
  • Collaborator by Murray Davies
  • Cyteen by C. J. Cherryh
  • Declare by Tim Powers
  • The Demolished Man by Alfred Bester
  • The Diamond Age by Neal Stephenson
  • The Dispossessed by Ursula K. Le Guin
  • Doctor Rat by William Kotzwinkle
  • Doomsday Book by Connie Willis
  • Double Star by Robert A. Heinlein
  • Downbelow Station by C. J. Cherryh
  • The Dragon Waiting by John M. Ford
  • Dreamsnake by Vonda McIntyre
  • Dune by Frank Herbert
  • Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card
  • The Facts of Life by Graham Joyce
  • The Family Trade, The Hidden Family and The Clan Corporate by Charles Stross
  • Forever Peace by Joe Haldeman
  • The Forever War by Joe Haldeman
  • The Forgotten Beasts of Eld by Patricia A. McKillip
  • Foundation’s Edge by Isaac Asimov
  • The Fountains of Paradise by Arthur C. Clarke
  • Galveston by Sean Stewart
  • Gateway by Frederik Pohl
  • Glimpses by Lewis Shiner
  • Gloriana by Michael Moorcock
  • Godmother Night by Rachel Pollack
  • The Gods Themselves by Isaac Asimov
  • Green Mars by Kim Stanley Robinson
  • Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by J.K. Rowling
  • Here Gather the Stars (aka: Way Station) by Clifford D. Simak
  • Hominids by Robert J. Sawyer
  • How Few Remain by Harry Turtledove
  • Hyperion by Dan Simmons
  • Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell by Susanna Clarke
  • Kafka on the Shore by Haruki Murakami
  • Koko by Peter Straub
  • Last Call by Tim Powers
  • The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. Le Guin
  • Little, Big by John Crowley
  • Lord of Light by Roger Zelazny
  • Lyonesse: Madouc by Jack Vance
  • Making History by Stephen Fry
  • The Man in the High Castle by Philip K. Dick
  • Mirror Dance by Lois McMaster Bujold
  • The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress by Robert A. Heinlein
  • Mythago Wood by Robert Holdstock
  • Neuromancer by William Gibson
  • Nifft the Lean by Michael Shea
  • Ombria in Shadow by Patricia A. McKillip
  • Only Begotten Daughter by James Morrow
  • The Other Wind by Ursula K. Le Guin
  • Our Lady of Darkness by Fritz Leiber
  • Paladin of Souls by Lois McMaster Bujold
  • Pasquale’s Angel by Paul J. McAuley
  • Perfume by Patrick Suskind
  • The Physiognomy by Jeffrey Ford
  • The Plot Against America by Philip Roth
  • The Prestige by Christopher Priest
  • Rainbows End by Vernor Vinge
  • Rendezvous with Rama by Arthur C. Clarke
  • Replay by Ken Grimwood
  • Resurrection Day by Brendan DuBois
  • Ringworld by Larry Niven
  • Ruled Britannia by Harry Turtledove
  • The Severed Wing by Martin J. Gidron
  • The Shadow of the Torturer by Gene Wolfe
  • The Snow Queen by Joan D. Vinge
  • Soldier of Sidon by Gene Wolfe
  • Song of Kali by Dan Simmons
  • Speaker for the Dead by Orson Scott Card
  • Spin by Robert Charles Wilson
  • Stand on Zanzibar by John Brunner
  • Starship Troopers by Robert A. Heinlein
  • Startide Rising by David Brin
  • Stranger in a Strange Land by Robert A. Heinlein
  • The Summer Isles by Ian R. MacLeod
  • They’d Rather Be Right (aka: The Forever Machine) by Mark Clifton and Frank Riley
  • Thomas the Rhymer by Ellen Kushner
  • Thraxas by Martin Scott
  • To Say Nothing of the Dog by Connie Willis
  • To Your Scattered Bodies Go by Philip José Farmer
  • Tooth and Claw by Jo Walton
  • Towing Jehovah by James Morrow
  • The Uplift War by David Brin
  • The Vor Game by Lois McMaster Bujold
  • Voyage by Stephen Baxter
  • The Wanderer by Fritz Leiber
  • Watchtower by Elizabeth A. Lynn
  • Where Late the Sweet Birds Sang by Kate Wilhelm

Saw The Lord of the Rings musical courtesy of work and the producers. It’s not really fair to call it a musical as it barely contains more songs than the books do, though the fight scenes are superbly choreographed to music. The producers prefer the term ‘spectacle’ and it fits that label very well. The design element is superb – Black Riders, Ents, Shelob, the Balrog are all achieved on stage in innovative but effective ways that you probably wouldn’t imagine. The use of crutches and prosthetics to distinguish the orcs may not be very politically correct but it does convey the twisted and deformed nature of their creation.

It’s quite long but still has to compress the story somewhat. The first act follows the first book reasonably closely (no Tom Bombardil, though he does get namechecked at the end, no Barrow Wights, no Glorfindel, and the Nazgul attacks on the Prancing Pony and Weathertop are combined), but after the interval things start to diverge rather more. I was starting to get suspicious when Boromir kept on talking about “The Kingdom of Men” rather than Gondor and it turned out that they had indeed combined Rohan and Gondor – and hence Theoden and Denethor, and Helm’s Deep and Pelennor Fields. Whilst this moved the plot along quite quickly it removed some of the subtlety from the story and a lot of “fan favourite” characters and scenes – no Eomer, no Eowyn, no Faramir, no Palantír, no Wormtongue, no Paths of the Dead, no Witch King. On the plus side they do, briefly, include the Scouring of the Shire.

The performances ranged from the very good to the very camp but even Malcolm Storry as an excellent Gandalf suffers somewhat in comparison with Ian McKellan in the films. In fact the hardest thing to keep in mind when reviewing or just watching the stage version is that it’s an independent adaptation of the book not the film. It aims for a very different feel – more mythic, more rooted in fairy tales, rather than the “realistic” fantasy of the films. In this sense it’s perhaps a little truer to the spirit of Tolkein even if it taks much bigger liberties with his story.

Via just about everyone. The 106 books most often tagged as unread on LibraryThing. Bold the ones you’ve read. Add an asterisk to the ones you’ve read more than once. Italicise the ones you’ve started but not finished. Strikethrough the ones you hated. Underline the ones on your “to read” list.

  • Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell
  • Anna Karenina
  • Crime and Punishment
  • Catch-22
  • One Hundred Years of Solitude
  • Wuthering Heights
  • The Silmarillion*
  • Life of Pi: A Novel
  • The Name of the Rose
  • Don Quixote
  • Moby Dick
  • Ulysses
  • Madame Bovary
  • The Odyssey
  • Pride and Prejudice
  • Jane Eyre
  • The Tale of Two Cities
  • The Brothers Karamazov
  • Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies*
  • War and Peace
  • Vanity Fair
  • The Time Traveler’s Wife
  • The Iliad
  • Emma
  • The Blind Assassin
  • The Kite Runner
  • Mrs Dalloway
  • Great Expectations
  • American Gods
  • A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering enius
  • Atlas Shrugged
  • Reading Lolita in Tehran: A Memoir in Books
  • Memoirs of a Geisha
  • Middlesex
  • Quicksilver
  • Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West
  • The Canterbury Tales
  • The Historian: A Novel
  • A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man
  • Love in the Time of Cholera
  • Brave New World
  • The Fountainhead
  • Foucault’s Pendulum
  • Middlemarch
  • Frankenstein
  • The Count of Monte Cristo
  • Dracula
  • A Clockwork Orange
  • Anansi Boys
  • The Once and Future King*
  • The Grapes of Wrath
  • The Poisonwood Bible: A Novel
  • 1984
  • Angels & Demons
  • The Inferno
  • The Satanic Verses
  • Sense and Sensibility
  • The Picture of Dorian Gray
  • Mansfield Park
  • One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest
  • To the Lighthouse
  • Tess of the D’Urbervilles
  • Oliver Twist
  • Gulliver’s Travels
  • Les Misérables
  • The Corrections
  • The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay
  • The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time
  • Dune*
  • The Prince
  • The Sound and the Fury
  • Angela’s Ashes: A Memoir
  • The God of Small Things
  • A People’s History of the United States: 1492-Present
  • Cryptonomicon
  • Neverwhere
  • A Confederacy of Dunces
  • A Short History of Nearly Everything
  • Dubliners
  • The Unbearable Lightness of Being
  • Beloved
  • Slaughterhouse-Five
  • The Scarlet Letter
  • Eats, Shoots & Leaves
  • The Mists of Avalon
  • Oryx and Crake: A Novel
  • Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed
  • Cloud Atlas
  • The Confusion
  • Lolita
  • Persuasion
  • Northanger Abbey
  • The Catcher in the Rye
  • On the Road
  • The Hunchback of Notre Dame
  • Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything
  • Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry into Values
  • The Aeneid
  • Watership Down
  • Gravity’s Rainbow
  • The Hobbit*
  • In Cold Blood: A True Account of a Multiple Murder and its Consequences
  • White Teeth
  • Treasure Island
  • David Copperfield
  • The Three Musketeers

Conclusions? I’m way behind on my Neal Stephenson reading, and I haven’t read many ‘classics’ but nor have a lot of other people.

I was tagged by Jack on the grounds that I’ve “not done a meme for a while”.

Total Number of Books Owned

According to my LibrayThing profile, 858. I know I have at least one more to add to that list and I’d also need to subtract the 27 tagged as !borrowed or !sold. So 832. Minimum, as there may be more hiding somewhere that I haven’t added yet.

Last Book Bought

A couple of out of print role playing games from eBay. Last ‘real’ book would appear to be Clarissa Oakes by Patrick O’Brian which I found in a bookshop in Amsterdam and made Lettice buy because I’d only just bought something else there and the shop assistant was a bit on the scary side.

Last Book Read

I finished re-reading Human Nature this morning. I’ve been wanting to refresh my memory since the TV version came out. The book is bloodier and does a better job of creating the historical context. However it does have a number of elements that are really superfluous and which the TV version correctly ignored.

Five books that mean a lot to me

In reverse chronological order in my life:

  1. Life by Richard Fortey

    I bought this whilst on holiday in Tennessee visiting and so it reminds me of a great time as well as being a great book. Fortey takes a look at the history of life on Earth from the moment if started to the dawn of human history. Richard Dawkins did the same trip backwards in The Ancestor’s Tale but for me Fortey’s book is more engaging.

  2. Ships of the Star Fleet, Volume One

    Very, very geeky. But as well as being one of the best Treknical fandom works ever it’s also the first book I bought online.

  3. Thieves’ World

    I could have listed several works of fantasy or science fiction that I read during my adolesence – The Lord of the Rings, Dune, the Pern novels and The Colour of Magic prime amongst them, but this collection of low fantasy stories set in a seedy city at the arse end of an empire is the one that stuck in my mind the most.

  4. The Warlock of Firetop Mountain

    I was the pefect age for this when it was first published. And from this book sprung my interest in RPGs and wargames. It has a lot to answer for.

  5. Read About Me and the Yellow-Eyed Monster

    A childhood treat – a book with me and my family and my friends in it.

Four People You’re Tagging With This Meme


On Saturday I bought a song from iTunes by Drill Queen, one of whose members I know in real life.

On Monday a package from Amazon arrived for me, I didn’t remember ordering anything but thought that I might have done when I set up work as a delivery address (Amazon’s courier company is totally incapable of delivering to home). Today I checked the delivery note and discovered that someone else had bought it for me off my wishlist.

I didn’t recognise the name and so checked my Gmail archive to see if it was anyone who had ever spoken to me. It was, a little while ago he had sent me this e-mail:

Hi there, you responded to one of my messages on Usenet, full details here.…

I was wondering if you could please remove it from Google’s archives (you can do this by creating a Google Groups Account, looging in, finding the message and pressing remove).

I’m just not keen on having that URL on the Internet now that it’s used for something different.

Thank in advance,

Used for something different means not used for an escort site anymore. (I’d answered a technical question about the site coding not anything related to the content.) Anyway, today I sent back the message

Bribery worked.

Nice to know that after all these years of giving free advice on Usenet I’m finally getting some reward.

It’s likely that the new series of Doctor Who will start of Saturday 26th March. That gives you six weekends between now and then. Here’s a way to spend five of them. Watch one of the following stories (main picks are all available on DVD) each weekend to get yourself in the mood for the new series.

The Dalek Invasion of Earth

The second Dalek story and featuring one of the most iconic moments of all – the Dalek emerging from beneath the surface of the river Thames. London would see many alien invasions over the next two decades but this was the first and most striking – the Daleks had already conquered and subdued the earth before the story began. The brainwashed Robomen and scruffy resistance fighters made the parallel between the tin pot dicatators and the Nazis clearer than it would be in any story until “Genesis of the Daleks”.

Alternative William Hartnell pick – “An Uneathly Child”, forget the cavemen stuff in parts two to four, just watch the opening episode.

The Tomb of the Cybermen

This story gave Peter Davison nightmares as a kid and the scene of the Cybermen silently awakening and emerging from their ‘tombs’ is another prime iconic moment. By this time the “base under seige” format had been done to many times but the extra twists used her and sheer quality of the whole production raise it above all the others.

And ask yourself – how much does the Doctor know what’s happening in advance and consequently how much is he manipulating events? It’s a theory more often applied to the seventh Doctor rather than the second, but…

Alternative Patrick Troughton pick – “The Mind Robber”.

Alternative Jon Pertwee pick – “Spearhead from Space”.

The Ark in Space

Featuring one of the most embarrassing monsters in a long line of embarrassing monsters (it’s bubble wrap painted green!) this may seem like an odd choice. But it highlights all the nobility, compassion and courage in the human race – all the qualities that inspire the Doctor to love and protect Earth and its inhabitants so much.

Homo sapiens. What an inventive, invincible species. It’s only a few million years since they crawled up out of the mud and learned to walk. Puny, defenceless bipeds. They’ve survived flood, famine and plague. They’ve survived cosmic wars and holocausts. And now, here they are, out among the stars, waiting to begin a new life. Ready to outsit eternity. They’re indomitable.

Alternative Tom Baker pick – “City of Death”.

The Caves of Androzani

The fifth Doctor was the gentlest and most compassionate (and as one fan put it – the only one you’d feel safe taking round to your mum’s for tea) and here he gives his life to save the life of a single human – compare with the fourth Doctor who died to save the whole universe.

Alternative Peter Davison pick – “Kinda”.

Alternative Colin Baker pick – “Timelash”, the new series will always look good in comparison no matter what.

Remembrance of the Daleks

Encapsulating everything that was wrong with 1980s Doctor Who (more then anything an over-reliance on continuity) and everything that was starting to come right in the last two years (epic storytelling, a more alien Doctor) this tends to be either your favourite Dalek story or your least favourite.

Alternative Sylvester McCoy pick – “Damaged Goods”, a novel by new series supremo Russel T Davies that places SciFi horror side by side with the horror of life on a council estate in Thatcher’s Britain.

Alternative Paul McGann pick – “Alien Bodies”, I can’t say why it’s brilliant without spoiling a dozen things. This book kick-started the new mythology that has driven the novel line for the past few years, the series will almost certainly ignore that mythology but read it anyway ‘cos it’s great.

And what should you do with the remaining weekend? Watch some more of course!

I’m very pleased to see that The Discontinuity Guide has been republished by Monkey Brain Books. Along with the forthcoming updated edition of A History of the Universe from Mad Norwegian Press this is splendid news for Doctor Who fans.

Top five non-fiction Doctor Who books

  1. A History of the Universe by Lance Parkin
  2. The Discontinuity Guide by Paul Cornell, Martin Day, and Keith Topping
  3. I, Who by Lars Pearson (all volumes counted as one)
  4. License Denied by Paul Cornell
  5. The Television Companion by David J Howe & Stephen James Walker