Villa Incognito - Tom Robbins
Old roommate M gave this to me for christmas last year. First Tom Robbins book I've read. I enjoyed it but it didn't leave me craving more.
Never let me go - Kazuo Ishiguro
Bought off of Theophile Escargo's review. Worth the read.
Rainbow's End - Vernor Vinge
An easy, near future plot, same sort of thing that Gibson did with Pattern Recognition a few years ago. I wish Vinge would write more epic space opera.
Down and out in Paris and London - George Orwell
I read most of this while I was in London to serve as a contrast to all the wealth that surrounded me in central London. As far as the book itself, it's strictly average.
The Emperor's Children - Claire Messud
I try to keep my consumption of books about neurotic, privileged, navel gazing, self-important New Yorkers doing the stuff that such people do to near zero, but this book was worth it. Very well written.
One Hundred Years of Solitude - Gabriel Garcia Marquez
This book drags on as many people complain, but as a fatalist obsessed with chaos, I absolutely loved how the people and the town faded into the background noise of the universe. Creation, life, and destruction. Awesome.
The African Safari Papers - Robert Sedlack
I think Blixco recommended this one a few years ago and I randomly pulled it off my amazon wish list. Good read. The main character is much too self aware for a teenager and serves as a clear vehicle for the author's cleverness, which does hurt it a bit.
Paris 1919: Six Months That Changed the World - Margaret Macmillan
History text on the post WW1 peace conference in Paris. I think Tony Judt put it this way - "after WW1 they moved the borders, after WW2 they moved the people." Very interesting account of all the various characters looking for land for their respective countries and the often hilarious reasoning presented. Gives a good overview of how the nonsensical borders of the modern middle east came to be.
Planet of Slums - Mike Davis
My favorite leftist academic strikes again. The thing that struck me reading this is how little account there is of how people in the slums actually live and how so many people have been forced into that way of life, since he does an actual analysis. The normal analysis is simple emotional blackmail. "Look at these people living on a garbage dump, isn't it terrible?"
The Omnivore's Dilemma - Michael Pollan
My favorite book of the year based on the first third of the book alone. He eviscerates industrial agriculture and provides the best example driven critique of capitalism I've read in a long time. As someone put it on eurotrib (paraphrased) "it demonstrates the bizarre and perverse excursions capitalism goes out on in search of profits." He also demonstrates how agribusiness has completely rigged the game at the expense of both the farmers and the consumers. Of course most of us just blame the farmers. I've heard this all before...
Renewable Energy Policy - Paul Komor
Great little handbook on the various policies that have been tried around the world to promote renewable energy use. Presents the pros and cons of all of them, and is thankfully non-political.
Shaping Things - Bruce Sterling
I bought this based on boingboing pimping it, so draw your own conclusions. Anyone interested in tech and "reads the internets a lot" isn't going to get many new ideas here.
Wind Power - Paul Gipe
Handbook for what I want to do when I grow up.
Beyond Oil: The View from Hubbert's Peak - Ken Deffeyes
As the title implies. One of the good things it does is debunk the myth that new technology will enable us to find ever growing amounts of oil, as Deffeys actually talks about the technologies that have been developed in the past few decades rather than leaving the the concept as an abstract.
The Selfish Gene - Richard Dawkins
Despite having little background in evolutionary concepts (I think? maybe I have learned more from the internets than I assume I have), I found that I already knew the vast bulk of the material presented here. Dawkins isn't the greatest writer, either.
The Collapse of Complex Societies - Joseph Tainter
Another book promoted by the peak oil crowd, although it wasn't written from that viewpoint. Using Rome, the Mayans, and a few other societies that have collapsed, his ultimate argument is that "declining marginal returns on investment" have historically always caused collapse, and he makes a very good case. In the process he (worryingly) demonstrates why we're unable to live in harmony with our surroundings. Amusingly, he presents evidence that we're on the same track to collapse just like every society that has come before us, but then simply declares that it won't happen at the end of the book. Presumably he can't emotionally handle the heavy weight of his own research.
The Red Queen - Matt Ridley
Finishing this book right now, and I found it at the right time. Its main purpose is to investigate why lifeforms often reproduce sexually rather than asexually, but what the author also does (purposefully) is to beat on the leftist academic concept that the universe is egalitarian and that deviations from this are caused entirely by man's desire to control his fellow man which ends up codified in culture and institutions.
Now that I'm starting to understand humanity's problems at a more fundamental level I'm recognizing this idea to be just as outmoded and unable to deal with said problems as religious or conservative ideology. It seems that ideology cannot, by definition, transcend man's own ego and his many myths of greatness. It took me 29 years to go from the myth that "we are god's perfect children" which I grew up with to a near complete melting away of the collective unconscious human ego. There is no compelling reason that we need to be here, no tragedy if we cease to exist.
My life certainly improved this year, but my world view got much, much darker. Peering into the core seems to do that.
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