… Is we talk about books.
Back in the day when people had personal websites and other people looked at them, I had a couple of pages listing my favorite books, my favorite CDs, and my favorite movies. At the bottom of each of those lists, I had a “trade one for one” offer, which I’d like to reiterate here.
If you send me a book, I’ll send you a book in return. If you send me a CD, I’ll send you a CD in return. If you send me a movie I’ll send you a movie. Or you can tell me, here, what I should read and if I haven’t read it yet I almost certainly will or I’ll tell you why not (i.e: if you suggest “Atlas Shrugged” I will explain that I’ve tried that one a dozen times and usually wind up facedown in my plate)
Anyway, feel free to drop suggestions here (I may retaliate with my own) or email me – my contact info is on the left bar. Also, feel free to drop postings of “these are my favorite books” or just “here’s what I am reading right now.”
Originally I thought I might start this thread by posting some pictures of my book shelves, but I’m kind of embarrassed: my library is not what it used to be; I had about 3x as much space in the library in my house in Maryland, all full of books. When I moved to the farm I got rid of 4 suburban-loads of books to the local library. I’m not as bad as my dad’s old colleague at Johns Hopkins, who bought a row-house, had it gutted, and installed floor to ceiling shelves everywhere, then added chairs and tea-making gear. Around the time he filled that house the one next door came on the market, so he bought that one too, made doors at each floor, and turned the other house into a library, too! When he died he left the whole thing to the university, which presumably has someone full-time clutching their head trying to figure out what to do with it.
Some favorites, in no particular order:
|Charles Mann||1493||Brilliant and fascinating. If you liked “Guns, Germs, and Steel” you’ll love this book. It describes some of the global impact of the discovery of the Americas, from a “big picture” perspective. Initially, it’s a bit hard to wrap your brain around the idea that slavery in the USA was chosen as an alternative to indentured servitude (or just plain employment) because of European colonists’ susceptability to malaria. The book is chock full of amazing nuggets like that. I’m going to probably re-read it once a year for the next decade – it’s that dense.|
|G.K. Chesterton||The Man Who Was Thursday||A wild and irreverent poke at the mind of the law enforcer. An idealistic young policeman sets out to infiltrate the secret central committee of anarchists. And discovers that he’s running in circles.|
|John Stevens||Sword of No-Sword: Life of the Master Warrior Tesshu||Tesshu was a fascinating character and a great martial artist. Definitely a “running against the wind’ kind of guy.|
|Lois McMaster Bujold||Cordelia’s Honor||It’s a space opera! It’s a romance novel! It’s a romance novel and a space opera! I’m unashamed. I love the entire Miles Vorkosigan saga and sometimes even get the sniffles when I read it.|
|Edgar Rice Burroughs||The John Carter of Mars series||The uber-granddaddy of swords and sorcery. The men are all manly. The women all tough and womany – except for where they become weak pawns to drive the plot forward. The bad guys are dastardly. Through the series is an interesting hint of anti-religiousity that shows just how far ahead of himself ERB really was. I read these when I was a kid, attracted by the lurid (and beautiful) covers by Frank Frazetta. I know that these books, along with Kurosawa’s “7 samurai” had a profound effect on me.|
|E.E. Doc Smith||The lensman series||The uber-granddaddy of space opera. The men are all manly. The women all tough and womanly. The bad guys are dastardly. It’s just great stuff!!! There is a lot of eugenics-inspired reasoning which is … interesting. Fortunately he avoided outright racism.
|Baron de Marbot||Memoirs||The memoirs of Baron de Marbot, one of Napoleon’s cavalry officers, are an amazing inside view of the Napoleonic wars. All the cool stuff that happened during the wars – Marbot appears to have been in the middle of it. Amazingly, these tales of derring-do are all true. Some of Marbot’s gear (his pelisse from the duel with the Englishmen in Spain) is in the French army museum in Paris. The French weren’t always so lame on the battlefield!|
|E.D. Swinton||The Defense of Duffer’s Drift||A classic military manual. Follows Leftenant Backsight Forethought through a series of blunders during the Boer War, until he finally learns how to defend a static position. (Outdated tactics)|
|John Antal||Armor Attacks||Antal’s entire series of modern tactical warfare books is excellent. They’re done as a flow-chart so you can see how you fare as a modern armored company commander. Good luck! Very accurate rendering of modern mechanized warfare.|
|Joe Haldeman||The Forever War||An interesting view of warfare across time and space. In later sequels to this book Haldeman has quite ruined the premise. This was a ground-breaking novel when it was published.|
|Tim Powers||Last Call||Creepy and weird – Tim Powers takes Las Vegas and turns it into the battleground between sorcerors, gamblers, and corpses. Utterly creative and “out there” Powers’ writing is delicious.|
|Robert Littell||The Company||Based on a lot of truth, this is a very well done novel of the CIA. Larger than life characters like James Jesus Angleton and William King Harvey (in the book thinly hidden as “the sorceror”) walk the pages of this delightful romp through the cold war.|
|Connie Willis||Bellwether||Researching fads and sheep, a couple of young scientists have some strange adventures. A light-hearted romantic comedy about bureaucracy and science.
My farm is named “Bellwether Farm” – though I have no sheep, I’m leader of my own little flock.
|John Steakley||Armor||What “Starship Troopers” should have been. When you talk about fighting aliens, what if they’re really alien? And there are a lot of them. As in – a planet full? Steakley’s other book “Vampire$” was made into a mediocre movie by John Carpenter – avoid the movie but you might enjoy the book.|
|Darrell Huff||How to Lie With Statistics||An accessible (no need to be a statistician) and charming explanation of how people manipulate statistics to create false impressions. Great illustrations, too!|
||The Jack Aubrey/Stephen Maturin series
||Keep an eye on his paragraph lengths!
|George MacDonald Fraser
||The Flashman series / The MacAuslan Tales /
Quartered Safe Out Here
|The MacAuslan stories are some of the best military humor, ever. The Flashman books are what made me fall in love with historical fiction and military fiction as a kid. Fraser writes beautifully and with a great deal of dry wit. And if you can read “The Sheikh and the Dustbin” or “Johnny Cope in the Morning” and not shed a tear, you’re tougher than you should be.
|Robert E. Howard
||The Sowers of the Thunder
||The author of Conan does historical fiction. It’s turgic! It’s dramatic! It has gorgeous illustrations. It’s a paen to toxic masculinity! Glorious death everywhere.
The “Book Club” soap was produced from a master cut in polypropylene for me by Scott Conti on a CNC machine; I then made silicone soap molds around Scott’s master object. To make the soap bar look I didn’t use actual soap, I poured resin with white and red pigment – the resin “soap bar” holds up better than an actual soap one. Shot in my kitchen sink with hipstamatic and a variety of grunge filters.
Anyone want a “Book Club” resin soap bar prop? It takes about 2 minutes for me to make one and they are more or less indestructible. Let me know if you want one and I’ll whip one up for you. Also available: stainless steel donuts, bronze cookies, Fight Club prop bars, and commie pinkos. My commie pinkos collection is a set of pink resin statues of Marx and Lenin.