JUL 9
2013
Hyperion ***** : All four books in this serious are "big" science fiction: society, government, military, time and space travel, religion; it covers it all! (I read these last year but forgot to review them until now.)


tags: book-reviews science-fiction
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JUL 5
2013
Room **** : Touching and creatively-written story of a mother and son's love for each other in a horrible situation.
tags: book-reviews fiction
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NOV 6
2012
Player of Games ***** : Culture series, book 2. Even better than the first! About a master player in a game that determines who becomes emperor.


tags: book-reviews science-fiction
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AUG 18
2012
Consider Phlebas **** : Great space opera with thorough backstory a la David Brin's Uplift series.
tags: book-reviews science-fiction
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AUG 27
2011
Tunnel in the Sky **** : Classic Heinlein space-cowboy, coming-of-age, young-adult fiction.


tags: fiction science-fiction bookshelf-project
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AUG 14
2011
Under the Dome ***** : Stephen King at his best, describing small-town America with a full cast of interesting characters.


tags: book-reviews fiction
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OCT 12
2010
Born to Run *** Compelling story of how humans were made for jogging. Documents the Tarahumara, a tribe of Mexican Indians who run ultramarathons almost barefoot. But extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof and, unfortunately, this book completely fails in providing references or sources for any of its claims. I found at least one glaring factual error: the author claims that humans are the only animal whose principal method of heat dissipation is sweating. Not true--horses sweat profusely! Serious mistakes such as these beg the question of how many other errors there are.

(Thanks to some detective work from Beeman, here are pictures from the race and a conversation with Caballo Blanco in which he expresses his displeasure with the book.)

tags: book-reviews running non-fiction
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OCT 6
2010
Accidental Billionaires: The Founding of Facebook *** : The story is of questionable veracity, but it is quick and fun, albeit poorly written.
tags: book-reviews non-fiction facebook
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AUG 28
2010
Handmaid's Tale ***** Dystopian feminist novel in which fertile women become the property of the state. Dark premise that is brilliantly executed with clean, elegant prose.
tags: book-reviews everymans-library fiction
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NOV 19
2009
Borders of Infinity **** : Continuation of story line from Vor Game.
tags: book-reviews science-fiction
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SEP 2
2009
New Moon *** : Book 2 of Twilight Series. Enter the werewolf.
tags: book-reviews fiction
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AUG 2
2009
Anathem ***** : Science "monks" sequester themselves from the rest of the world for 1, 10, 100, or 1000 years at a time so that they can solve interesting problems in peace. Takes place on another planet with a whole new vocabulary to learn and enjoy. Based loosely on the Clock of the Long Now.
tags: book-reviews science-fiction
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MAR 15
2009
Sunshine *** : Makes me nostalgic for 2001: A Space Odyssey. Well filmed, but impossible physics and some ridiculous plot gyrations cost this movie a star.


tags: movie-reviews science-fiction
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SEP 16
2008
Twilight *** : In the world of books-for-teenagers-that-adults-read-too, first there was Harry Potter, then the Golden Compass, now there's Twilight. To be sure, Twilight is not forged from the same rich lode as its predecessors, but it's a decent enough modern vampire novel.
tags: book-reviews vampire fiction
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SEP 3
2008
4-Hour Work Week *** : I have a fundamental issue with this book's premise that you can simply farm out all of your labor, sit back, and profit. If everybody in the world had this approach, there wouldn't be anybody producing real work! Nevertheless, there are numerous productivity-enhancing recommendations offered that make this a worthwhile speed-read.


tags: book-reviews self-improvement productivity non-fiction
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AUG 28
2008
Warlock in Spite of Himself *** : More of the same from Escape Velocity author. Part of the Warlock series.
tags: book-reviews bookshelf-project science-fiction
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AUG 23
2008
Earth Abides ***** : Another classic sci-fi novel that I somehow never read until now. A disease kills almost everybody on Earth and the survivors live off the remains of civilization. Epic and thought-provoking!
tags: book-reviews science-fiction
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AUG 12
2008
Amber Spyglass ***** : Outstanding conclusion to the Golden Compass series.
tags: book-reviews fiction
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AUG 9
2008
Escape Velocity *** : Political sci-fi set in a medieval context. A little trite in spots, but better than I expected!
tags: science-fiction bookshelf-project book-reviews
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AUG 3
2008
Vor Game **** : Obviously part of a much larger series (which I haven't read), but good by itself. Socio-political emphasis.
tags: book-reviews bookshelf-project science-fiction
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JUN 15
2008
Three Cups of Tea ***** Very important book that everybody needs to read. Guy gets lost after climbing K2. Pakistani village nurses him to health. He pledges to build them a school, starting life-long mission to build schools for girls in Pakistan and Afghanistan. By the end of the book, I was convinced that this is the only long-term solution to stopping terrorism.
tags: book-reviews nonfiction
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MAY 12
2008
Subtle Knife **** Sequel to the Golden Compass. Quantum mechanics (many-worlds theory) in a children's novel!
tags: book-reviews fiction
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APR 20
2008
Good Earth **** Simple yet enticing story of rural life in pre-revolutionary China.
tags: book-reviews fiction
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APR 7
2008
Lost World *** : Jurassic Park Part 2. Standard Chrichton, well written, nothing extraordinary, good read.
tags: book-reviews fiction
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MAR 2
2008
Golden Compass ***** : Well written, inventive, engaging, and bound to annoy a lot of people!
tags: book-reviews fiction fantasy
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FEB 20
2008
Sushi Economy ***** : Fascinating tale of Japan, sushi, economics, global trade, and one of the world's most expensive and shortest-shelf-lived commodities, bluefin tuna.
tags: book-reviews nonfiction economics japan fishing
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JAN 21
2008
The Chamber ** : Reads fine, Grisham is a competent writer, but no fireworks. Flawed by too many 180 degree shifts in character personality throughout the story.
tags: book-reviews fiction vacation-reads
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JAN 20
2008
Better ***** : From one of my favorite New Yorker authors, Atul Gawande. Excellent essays on health care, including malpractice, cystic fibrosis, obstetrics, third world health care, and more.
tags: book-reviews nonfiction medicine
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JAN 12
2008
Stardust ***** : I loved the movie, and the book is even better! Beautiful, mellifluous writing and gorgeous accompanying illustrations. One of Neal Gaiman's best works.
tags: book-reviews fantasy fiction vacation-reads
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JAN 7
2008
Venus Prime 1 *** : Better than I expected and an enjoyable end to my sci-fi reading blitzkrieg while on vacation in Costa Rica.

To Sail Beyond the Sunset ** : Heinlein is either a genius provocateur or just a dirty old man. Either way, this book didn't take for me.

Revolt in 2100 *** : Classic Heinlein space opera pulp fiction. Overly simplistic and unrealistic solutions to social problems, but it's fun reading.


tags: book-reviews science-fiction vacation-reads
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SEP 23
2007
Flowers for Algernon ***** : Another oldie-but-a-goodie that I had never read until now. Great soft scifi.
tags: book-reviews science-fiction
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AUG 16
2007
A Random Walk Down Wall Street ***** : Let's face it, investing books are not exactly page turners and you definitely don't want to read one when you're sleepy. Nevertheless, this is a must-read for anybody interested in maximizing their investments over the long haul (20+ years). Which should be everybody!

The book pretty much fortifies the investing axioms that I have been following for the past several years, but presents a ton of data to back up the claims, which are:

  • The ability to consistently beat the market average is rare.
  • The only way to get higher returns is to take higher risks.
  • Diversification smooths out the volatility inherent in risky investments.
  • The semi-strong efficient market hypothesis is the most credible of all the market theories.
  • Your life stage defines your risk tolerance (with younger people able to handle more risk).

For persons under 40, the book recommends the following portfolio:

  • 5% cash. Or cash equivalent, interest bearing (of course).
  • 20% bonds. Three-quarters comprised of zero coupon treasury or no-load bond funds. The rest inflation-protected (TIPS). Put in tax exempt account if possible, otherwise try and use tax-exempt funds.
  • 65% stocks. Two-thirds comprised of total stock market (Wilshire 5000), the rest international and emerging markets.
  • 10% real estate. No-load REIT fund.

For persons between 40 and 50, it's basically the same as above, but move 10 percent from stocks to bonds.
tags: book-reviews investing nonfiction
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AUG 16
2007
Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time **** Innovative first-person novel about an autistic 15-year-old who attempts to solve the mystery of the neighbor's dog's death. Provides great insight into the curse and the blessing that is autism.
tags: book-reviews fiction autism
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JUL 15
2007
On Dragonwings **** : This is actually three books bound into one: Dragonsdawn, Dragonseye, and Moreta. All part of the Dragonriders of Pern series by Anne McCaffrey. An interesting blend of scifi and fantasy crossing nearly 2000 years.
tags: book-reviews science-fiction fantasy
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APR 7
2007
Man Behind the Microchip **** : Known as the "Father of the Silicon Valley", I always knew Robert Noyce commanded respect, but I never knew why. This excellent biography lists the many accomplishments of this amazing man. Required reading for anybody in the high-tech industry.
tags: book-reviews biography nonfiction
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NOV 5
2006
Space **** : Another worthy tome from Michener. Unlike his typical novels (which often span millennia), Space covers "only" 50 years :) I was impressed with the prescience displayed by the last 50 pages, in which Michener predicted almost 25 years ago the entire "intelligent design" morass our society faces today.
tags: book-reviews historical-fiction
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OCT 28
2006
American Gods *** : Inventive and provoking... one of the more original books I've read recently, but not really a page-turner.
tags: book-reviews fiction
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SEP 23
2006
Day the Earth Stood Still ***** : One of the best scifi films ever made, over 55 years old and going strong! This is my third time watching it and I still love it.
tags: movie-reviews science-fiction
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SEP 13
2006
Triad *** : Finally read this book after 15+ years on my bookshelf. First contact sci-fi novel with a linguistic twist. Not bad, but disappointing ending.
tags: book-reviews science-fiction
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AUG 9
2006
Left Hand of Darkness *****: Outstanding novel full of rich social commentary and complex character development. I can't believe I waited so long before reading it!
tags: book-reviews science-fiction
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JUL 28
2006
China Study *** by Colin Campbell: Recommended by my friends Bruce and Karen, a thought provoking read that, in the end, fails to hold up to scientific scrutiny. I am giving it a three star rating because, despite its flawed conclusion, it is worth reading, if for no other reason than to fortify your knowledge of disease and nutrition.

The book's central premise is that diets with a large percentage of animal-based protein are conducive to cancer, heart disease, diabetes, multiple sclerosis, and many other diseases. The solution to avoid cancer and disease? Go vegan.

The author reaches this conclusion by using data from the China Study to compare the "affluent" diets of western countries (US and Europe) with those of poorer countries (China), which are primarily plant-based. The China Study was a large research effort conducted over twenty years in which the author was principally involved.

This is all well and good, but unfortunately, the book fails to establish causality between disease and diet. Epidemiology is a complex and difficult discipline, and if preventing disease were as easy as simply not eating animal protein, it stands to reason that medical science would have figured this out by now. Indeed, by his own admission, the author is an outcast from the conventional medical establishment, a fact that should raise alarms in the reader's head. Additionally, at times the book's tone takes on an almost religious fanaticism as the author rails against animal-based protein. By the final pages, it seems that Campbell's faith in the vegan lifestyle has tainted his view of the China Study data.

As some critical web sites detail, the China Study makes no statistically significant correlation whatsoever between diet and disease. (See Blog of Brad from an organic farmer, and Beyond Vegetarianism, a pro-vegetarian web site that disagrees with Campbell).

Clearly the author has found religion, but until his theories are tested through double blind clinical trials, the establishment is wise to remain skeptical of the claims in this book.

tags: book-reviews nonfiction health nutrition
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JUL 28
2006
Hawaii *****: Epic novel. When you finish a Michener novel, you feel like you've really accomplished something. A tremendous read for anyone interested in the Hawaiian islands. (Fittingly enough, I read this while on vacation in Maui.)
tags: book-reviews hawaii historical fiction
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JUL 16
2006
Marching Powder ****: True life story of an Englishman caught drug trafficking and sent to a Bovilian prison where inmates have to buy their own cells, have cable TV and kitchens, and make cocaine.
tags: book-reviews nonfiction autobiography
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JUL 3
2006
Bringing Down the House **** : MIT students take Vegas for millions. Fast-paced with big money, action, adrenaline--just like Sin City. I read this in a single reading on a flight from Boston to Denver.


tags: book-reviews nonfiction
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JUL 3
2006
Freakonomics **** : A University of Chicago economics professor analyzes statistics to challenge popular beliefs. Co-written by a newspaper/magazine author, and thus a bit light on the math and watered down for mainstream acceptance, but a thought stimulating read.

Some of the interesting topics discussed/proven in this book:

  • How teachers cheat by altering their students' standardized test scores
  • How sumo wrestlers cheat by throwing matches when it doesn't affect their overall ranking and will help their opponent's ranking
  • How a children's radio show and free information flow mortally wounded the Ku Klux Klan
  • Why real estate agents don't have anything to gain by helping you get a better deal
  • How and why people lie about themselves on online dating services
  • How little drug dealers really make and why they still live with their moms
  • The effect that legalized abortion had on crime rates in the 1990s
  • How your child has a greater chance of dying if she plays at a friend's house where there is a swimming pool rather than playing at a friend's house where there is a gun present
  • How parents focus their energy on safer cribs and child car seats and how they are, at best, nominally helpful in preventing child deaths, along with child-resistant packaging, flame-retardant pajamas, car airbags, and safety drawstrings no clothes (the cumulative deaths from all of these causes is significantly less than swimming pool drownings for children).
  • How "good parenting actions" have very little effect on the educational success of children (the following had no correlation with academic success: having a stay-at-home parent; being read to them every day; going on museum trips or being enrolled in Head Start; not watching TV)
  • The socioeconomic effect of a person's name


tags: book-reviews nonfiction economics
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