By Dwip February 24, 2013, 5:07 pm Comments (0) RSS Feed for this post

So, here’s a project I’ve been thinking about for a while: making a note of every book I read this year. Not something I’ve ever done, and while I’m not reading anything like what I used to, I still read a fair bit more than most, so there’s probably enough going here for a, say, monthly feature. Make a note of a book, say a few words, give an Amazon link or an ISBN or something on the decidedly off chance somebody decides to pick it up. Could be cool, dunno, we’ll see.

January/February log after the jump:

12/28/12 William L. Shirer, The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich (1990 Touchstone trade paperback, 1250 pages – Personal collection, c. 2007)

Technically from last year, but it’s the book that got me thinking about this project, so it’s in. As I talked about in this post, this one took me a long damn time to finish. Originally started it back in 4th-5th grade or so (I was a precocious reader as a kid, you might say[1]), but that kind of fell through. I picked up another copy rather later – my memory tells me this is either a 2007 Powell’s purchase along with other awesome books like Jane’s American Fighting Ships of the 20th Century, which replaced one of the most badass books of my childhood, or it’s from a slightly later time frame when Sarah and I went to Strand in NYC. Either way, it took me a long time to finish. Worth it just for the beginning few chapters on the rise of the Nazi Party, though the swastika cover art is going to be a conversation starter.

[1] – Somewhere around that same time, I somewhat randomly asked our grade school librarian why our library didn’t have a copy of Hitler’s Mein Kampf, which I also wanted to read because hey, World War II was something of a thing for me at the time. Back in the late 80s and early 90s when the supermarket paperback distribution chain actually still existed for publishers and the country had a massive hankering for the war because of the 50th anniversary of everything, you used to be able to pick up Edwin P. Hoyt paperbacks at Safeway, and mom used to do so to keep me busy on the long car and train trips we took to California to visit my grandparents. Instead of yelling “Are we there yet!?” I was reading The Glory of the Solomons, Raider 16, The Jungles of New Guinea, and more besides. I probably knew more about World War II in grade school than most people ever know, and while I’ve sadly forgotten a lot, I used to be able to talk pretty intelligently about things like island hopping and the high and low points of carrier aviation in the Pacific War.

Yeah, I was that kid. I was so very much that kid.

1/15/13 Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson, A Memory of Light (2013 Tor hardcover, 912 pages – Personal collection, 2013)

Used to be, once upon a time, that on the release of a new Wheel of Time book I would go to the bookstore on release day and pick the thing up (or dad would go to the bookstore), and then I would read it in a night. This was a pretty feasible idea when I lived in Corvallis and Corvallis had a Borders, but Borders is no longer a thing, and while New Haven had a lot of bookstores, they mostly sucked and driving downtown is basically Ragnorok with cars. So these days I pre-order off Amazon and read it in a night when the book shows up. Which is what I ended up doing.

Actually reviewing the 15th book in a series that I’ve been reading since 1994 is basically pointless, so I’m not going to. I’m just going to point out that The Eye of the World was and remains one of the seminal works of my life as a fantasy reader, the source of a major obsession in my teenage years, and the start of almost 20 years spent with the same group of characters. It’s been worth it for me.

1/29/13 Myke Cole, Shadow Ops: Control Point (2012 Ace Kindle edition, 400 pages, Personal collection, 2012)

1/30/13 Myke Cole, Shadow Ops: Fortress Frontier (2013 Ace Kindle edition, 400 pages – Personal collection, 2013)

Not deep reading by any means, Cole’s Shadow Ops series is sort of what you get when you cross magic with all those military action thrillers I was reading in grade school (no, seriously, I was that kid). It’s easy, it’s action-packed with some nice ominous mystery, it’s got a really cool magic system, and while not as intellectually stimulating as 1200 pages of Nazi conquest, I’m enough of a fan to have picked up the second book on release day.

Of note, I did so on Kindle. I’m trying to do this for all of the stuff I used to buy in paperback – I already have no shit 5 bookshelves of paperbacks already, and while there are a number of authors I’m going to keep buying in hardcover (mainly people I already have series by), I’m starting to transition a lot of my book purchases over to the Kindle to save space. I already gave my impressions of the time I had Jason’s Kindle, and I’m fairly fond of my own Kindle Touch. Light, easy to use, long battery life, very portable, reads about like a real book. The only downside is that, unlike a shelf of real books, if I stick it on my Kindle, any given book doesn’t look at me from atop the shelf, pleading at me silently to pull it down and read it because seriously dude, you stuck me up here like 5 years ago and I’m collecting dust so get on with it would you.

Readers, you know how it is.

2/8/13 Mark Bowden, The Finish: The Killing of Osama Bin Laden (2012 Atlantic Monthly Press hardcover, 266 pages – Corvallis Public Library)

Picked this up from my library after going to see Zero Dark Thirty in January. As with any given Bowden book it’s well-written and interesting though heavily lacking in detail compared to some of his better works like Black Hawk Down or Guests of the Ayatollah. Interestingly, it paints a somewhat different picture of events than Zero Dark Thirty, though from my understanding the movie gets the CIA involvement basically correct whereas I thought Bowden better at portraying some of the other aspects of the thing. As I said about the movie, one of these days somebody’s going to put together a truly comprehensive account of how the entire manhunt went down, but that time is not yet. Bowden’s book and Zero Dark Thirty work well enough as companion pieces, and there are other pieces of information floating around in articles if you’re really invested in the topic (and like with so many topics I apparently was for a brief moment), but we do not yet, and probably cannot yet have the post-9/11 version of The Looming Tower.

2/12/13 Jared Diamond, Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies (1999 W.W. Norton trade paperback, 496 pages – Personal collection, c. 2008)

I actually owned a copy of this back in the day when it first won the Pulitzer and people were talking about it, and I loaned it out to somebody in 2003 or 2004 or something and never got it back (whichever of you jackasses has my book, you have my book, damn it). Fast forward to what my memory tells me is Christmas 2008 or 2009, when Sarah got annoyed enough at me ranting about somebody taking off with my copy of this book that she went out and bought me another one. Of course, then it sat on my shelf for a few years staring at me accusingly, but like I just got done saying, you guys know how it is. I’d like to get around to reading Collapse one of these days because full bookshelf, so I figured I’d reread this first.

And I dunno. I mean, the first time I read it, back when I was just hitting my stride as a history major, this book was kind of a big deal to me because it confirmed a lot of the things I was thinking – terrain, climate, flora, fauna, geography, these all matter in the development of a civilization; competition oft times drives innovation, and it’s probably no accident that the great wars of the past few centuries have given us extreme follow on benefits technologically; and isolation usually completely stifles a society from any forward progress. I think all of these important concepts, well worth visiting for the person just starting to think about these issues, but the second time about I was more or less left saying “Duh!” a lot because I’d already internalized the message.

Your milage may vary, I think.

2/24/13 Tameichi Hara with Fred Saito and Roger Pineau, Japanese Destroyer Captain (2011 US Naval Institute Press trade paperback, 336 pages – Personal collection, 2011)

This one was an Amazon order in October of 2011, which isn’t bad for something like this. I read Mitsuo Fuchida’s Midway about the same time, after one or other of the naval blogs I read talked about both. Might have been CDR Salamander, might have been Information Dissemination. Don’t remember. Either way, I was supposed to read this after I read Midway, as part of a larger project I’ve had going for years to read other perspectives on wars I’ve already read the American side of plenty of times, except in this case I got distracted by Skyrim or something and never got around to it, because hey, dragons.

And that’s kind of a shame, really, because it’s a well-written (or perhaps well-translated would be more accurate, Hara wrote the original in Japanese) book that well establishes how destroyers operated in World War II, and the sort of mentality you develop when you’re one of the best guys on the losing team, and the sort of mentality you develop when you’re on the losing team period. The Imperial Japanese Navy had a hard time of it in the Pacific War, and Hara’s pretty forthright about that. He’s less interested in successes (and he had a few, including famously running down a young JFK) so much as he is about pointing out flaws in everyone’s performance including his own, and trying to deconstruct the battles he was involved in. I can see why professionals read this book, as there’s a lot there for them, but as a novice I learned a lot from this book (Hara’s a good instructor, though he apparently hated teaching), and if you ever wanted to learn about destroyer combat this is probably your book.

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