My Reading List:

  • "The Art of Learning" by Josh Waitzkin
  • "The Greatest Generation" by Tom Brokaw
  • "In Spite of the Gods" by Edward Luce

Monday, September 3, 2007

Rogue Warrior

Most (auto)biographies that I have read are a staid affair. This autobiography of a decorated Navy SEAL on the other hand, reads like a Tom Clancy novel. It starts off by pitting the reader directly into the middle of an ongoing SEAL mission. Then it rolls back and starts at the beginning. The time period of the action extends from a little before the Vietnam war and extends all the way up to the beginning of Desert Storm in Iraq. It takes the reader from the dangerous battles in the jungles of Vietnam, to the equally dangerous political battles in the Navy bureaucracy.

Richard Marcinko a real life action hero with a passion for life is brutally honest about his successes and his failures, his adventures and his misadventures. He gives an insight into the stresses a military life can have on a family, the inadequacies of a by-the-book military that were apparent in Vietnam, and are just as stifling and paralyzing in the current day battles against terrorism, and the unfortunate truth about the real qualifications that are required to succeed in the US (or maybe any) military.

Also included at the end is a Glossary of the maddeningly long and complicated abbreviations used by the US Navy, some of which have as many letters as the word abbreviation! The only caveat I have for a discerning reader is the extensive use of foul language in the book, which after the first few chapters come across as rather juvenile. But then like I said Richard Marcinko is completely honest about his failures. If you like military fiction (which this is not) and you can read past the profanity (of which there is abundance) this book is definitely worth your time.

Title: Rogue Warrior
Author: Richard Marcinko with John Weisman
# Pages: 373
Published by: Pocket Books (New York)
Year: 1993
ISBN #: 0-671-79593-1

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

New Spring The Novel

This book is a prequel to the Wheel of Time (WoT) series of books. The subtitle of the book is The Wheel of Time: In the Beginning. Not having read the actual series I don't know how the time line of this book fits into the larger scope of the story arc defined by the WoT stories.

Nevertheless, this book stands quite well on its own. It does a great job of describing the setting, people, and conflicts that the WoT stories are based around. The two main characters in this story are two women Moiraine and Siuan who have been discovered to have the ability to cast magic "saidar." The story starts with the two being "Accepted" or sorceresses in training and continues through their test and success at being full sorceresses "Aes Sedai." In this world only women have the power of magic. Men who display such talents are broken and cleansed or destroyed, because they have dark magic that can cause much grief.

Woven through these events is a grave foretelling of the birth of a savior/destroyer, a boy child with magic who under the wrong tutelage could cause the end of the world. The Aes Sedai are sent out to find this child and take him into custody to prevent the catastrophe. But strange accidental deaths start happening to the searchers and the Aes Sedai leadership culminating in a great plot twist and revelation at the end of the book. The plot lines and characters are very well developed and the book moves along at a very rapid pace.

The only complaint I have with the book ( and the only time the book slows down ) is when characters are described in great detail, never to be found in the book again. In some cases insight into the background and motivations of a tertiary character are justified, but the author spends time and ink on many characters that have no relevance in the story and don't further the plot in any way. This was annoying at times.

Overall the book is recommended for any fantasy reader. It is a great read whether you have read ( or plan to read ) the other WoT books or not.

Thanks to my friend Phil Knight for recommending I read it and lending it to me!

Title: New Spring The Novel (The Wheel of Time: In the Beginning)
Author: Robert Jordan
# Pages: 334
Published by: Tom Doherty Associates (New York)
Year: 2004
ISBN #: 0-765-30629-8

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Side Effects

Frankly if I were to give a one line review, I would say "Don't waste your time."

Most of the stories in this collection of short stories have one or two laugh-out-loud moments.
Some of the stories are even OK ( The Kugelmass Episode ), just OK.
But a good number of them are just meaningless and incohesive drivel.

You can definitely find many other books much more worthy of your time.

Title: Side Effects
Author: Woody Allen
# Pages: 149
Published by: Random House (New York)
Year: 1975
ISBN #: 0-394-51104-2

Tuesday, February 27, 2007


Two things before I start the review...
1> Oh my God!
2> I can't wait for the third book to be published!!

OK, now that I've got that off my chest...

This is an awesome next helping of the trilogy that will complete Christopher Paolini's saga about a farm boy that gets embroiled in a war of the races living in the fictional world called Alagaƫsia. The first book titled Eragon (for the title character) describes how Eragon gets involved in this epic battle and the effect that it has on the people around him. His flight from forces of evil trying to capture him and arrival in the rebel stronghold. The first book ends with a major victory for the rebel forces but at a high cost and Eragon on the cusp of real training and new adventures that will allow him to realize his full potential.

This book continues from where the first one ended and quickly pulls you in and along for the ride as Eragon leaves with the elves and with a protective contingent of dwarves to the homeland of the elves to continue his training. A serious wound that he recieved during the battle at the end of the last book threatens to severely limit the extent to which he can progress. The story continues and interleaves on three separate fronts; Eragon's training, trials and tribulations, the path the group of human rebels (the Varden) take under their new leader; and the hardships that befall the people of Eragon's village due to his involvement with the struggle at large. All the stories culminate in yet another epic battle towards the end of this book. At the very end a stunning piece of information is exposed that adds a whole new dimension to the story.

From a more general perspective, this is a very well written book; unfortunately it suffers from the typical second in the series pitfalls. It is a trifle longer than it needed to be. Some parts of the book really hit the doldrums with unnecessary details that slow down the narrative too much. But these parts are not pervasive enough to make the book boring at any time. A few new characters are introduced and explored and some old characters are given more space to become familiar, still more old characters disappear only to appear later and mix things up.

A final note; almost till the end of the book the title, "Eldest," did not make any sense to me. Then in the last three chapters it became crystal clear; like night turning to day with light from a huge lightning bolt! Then the book ended and all is dark again and I can't wait for the light to arrive with the next book.

Definitely a Must Read!

Title: Eldest
Author: Christopher Paolini
# Pages: 668
Published by: Alfred A Knopf (New York)
Year: 2005
L.C. Control #: 2005009325
ISBN #: 0-375-82670

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Best American Poetry 2005

Part of the Best American Poetry series (published since 1988), this is a collection of nice, strange, and bizzarre poems by contemporary American poets.

It features a total of 75 poems, many of which I found hard to appreciate. Of course that does not mean they are bad poems, just that they did not touch me in any way.

One of the poems that I really liked was A.R. Ammon's "In View of the Fact," a touching poem about aging and loss. "Seesaws" by Samuel Hazo is another poem that struck a chord with me. A short poem pointing out life's yin and yang nature, this one keeps you thinking well after you have finished reading it.

I must mention a couple of bizzarre and witty poems that stood out before I close, so here goes. "A Big Ball of Foil in a Small New York Apartment" by Matthew Yeager and "Urban Myth" by Jamey Dunham are interesting reads.

There are other poems that I liked, "Ants" by Vicki Hudspith and "Some Words Inside of Words (for children and others)" by Richard Wilbur for example, but I don't want to ramble on.

Overall this book is definitely worth a few hours of your time over the course of a week or two. I recommend that you sip it like wine enjoying a poem or two now and a few more later.

Me, I'm going to go look for the other books in this series at the library.

Title: The Best American Poetry 2005
Author: Various
Guest Editor: Paul Muldoon
Series Editor: David Lehman
Foreword: David Lehman
# Pages: 207
Published by: Scribner Poetry (New York)
Year: 2005
L.C. Control #: 2005049982
ISBN #: 0-7432-5738

Monday, January 15, 2007

Louis Pasteur by Pasteur Vallery-Radot

Part of the "A Great Life in Brief" series, this is an old book that I found in the library while looking for inspiring biographies. Written by the grandson of the great French chemist Louis Pasteur ( his daughter's son ) this is a very well written book after the first few of chapters; I'll explain shortly.

Printed in 1970, the copy I read definitely had an old bookshop feel and smell to it. The book starts off a little before Louis Pasteur's birth detailing the youth of his father a tanner and soldier. The first part of the book involves a lot of French history, and I was a little lost in the confusing details of the tumultuous latter half of the 18th century French history.

Once the narrative exits this era and focuses itself on Louis Pasteur it really hits it's stride and makes for a very interesting read. It details the education and rise of Louis Pasteur as a prominent scientist in France. Trained as a chemist who gained prominence with his study of crystalline structure of chemicals, Pasteur went on to make significant and world changing discoveries in the fields of fermentation, vinegar making, beer brewing, wine making, silkworm breeding, and of course infectious diseases. A man of total dedication, scientific integrity, utmost humility, and very little patience for scientist of his era who did not base their work and criticisms on rigorous and thorough scientific study, Pasteur was definitely an inspiring person.

If not this particular book, I would highly recommend reading some biography of Louis Pasteur for anyone interested in biographies. On the other hand, this book having been written by his grandson has a very personal feel to it, and I would recommend that you read this one even if you have read another biography of Louis Pasteur.

I'm sure you have heard of "Pasteurisation", if you had not made the connection to this great scientist, now you know!

Title: Louis Pasteur A Great Life in Brief
Author: Pasteur Vallery-Radot
Foreword: Pasteur Vallery-Radot
Translator: Alfred Joseph (from French)
# Pages: 197
Published by: Alfred A Knopf Publisher (New York)
Year: 1970 (5th Printing)
L.C. Catalog #: 58-5828