Books which used to be "recently read" but which I didn't like enough to call "excellent":
Mr. White's Confession, Robert Clark
The story of a man suspected of a crime who can't quite remember whether he's guilty. I liked this book, but it didn't make a deep impression. It is an interesting character study, a mystery, and an investigation into the meaning of truth and memory. Buy it.
Cryptonomicon, Neal Stephenson
One of the finest new science fiction talents of recent years (of Snow Crash and The Diamond Age), in this work Neal Stephenson weaves together the tale of software engineers and entrepeneurs of the present with spies and cryptographers of World War II into an engaging tale. While I have a particular affinity for the cryptographic nature of this book, (and the cryptography and technology is all quite authentic and convincing,) I greatly enjoyed the story and writing. If Tom Clancy-esque novels are a guilty pleasure, I think you'll like this book. Buy it.
Learned Pigs & Fireproof Women, Ricky Jay
This compendium of fantastic showmen, sideshow acts, frauds, entertainers, and other bizarre personages is written by a man who is a true expert and an excellent showman himself. While I always love stories of the strange but true, and I think Ricky Jay an incomparable performer, I found this book somewhat unsatisfying. While it is complete and authentic, and provides great detail on a large number of different oddities and amazements over the years, the treatment of each performer can be a little too plainly descriptive to really give narrative closure. Still, this is a complete and authoritative work and is essential reading for anyone interested in (as the cover says) the "unique, eccentric and amazing entertainers: stone eaters, mind readers, poison resisters, daredevils, singing mice, etc., etc., etc., etc." Buy it.
High Fidelity, Nick Hornby
A very funny book and an entertaining story with well-drawn, convincing characters. Buy it.
Stalingrad, The Fateful Siege: 1942-1943, Antony Beevor
A complete and detailed history of the World War II battles in and around Stalingrad. Stalingrad wasn't as much a siege as it was a battlefield, and the atrocities of both the Germans and the Russians armies are appalling, in addition to the horrible conditions the soldiers faced. Stalingrad is where the Germans were turned back on the East and a decisive battle in their defeat. This work is authoritative and complete, but not as engaging as I had hoped it would be. Buy it.
The Quark and the Jaguar, Murray Gell-Mann
A discussion on the simple and the complex: the quark, while perhaps difficult to comprehend, is a very simple thing; the jaguar is somewhat more obvious in form, but dramatically more complex. Dr. Gell-Mann, a winner of the Nobel Prize for Physics, connects these two and the rest of the universe in a discourse on information theory, quantum mechanics, and more, with insights into the nature and probability of life. This book was quite readable and enjoyable, although I had to go over a few of the paragraphs on quantum mechanics several times to get the concepts settled in my head. Buy it.
A Deepness In the Sky, Vernor Vinge
Vernor Vinge is a master of the "hard" science fiction novel, and I enjoyed this book, set in the same universe as A Fire Upon the Deep. He does a fine job of creating very alien worlds and histories that are deep and engaging enough to allow suspension of disbelief. Buy it.
Bringing Out the Dead, Joe Connelly
A detailed and disturbing story of a paramedic in New York's Hell's Kitchen who can't leave his job, despite its dangers and strains, even though it is destroying his relationship, his life, even his sanity. This is the author's first novel; he spent nine years as a New York City medic. While I found the the subject entertaining and the writing evocative, it left me somewhat unsatisfied at the end. I felt the book lacked the narrative structure I would have liked for it to have left me with a comprehensible whole. Buy it.
The links on the page take you to an online bookstore, where you can buy the books, if you so wish. The bookstore will then pay me a kickback. While I don't expect to even a trivial sum of money, I couldn't see any reason not to sign up; I'm just a pawn on the board of the new economy. In order to earn this pittance, the folks at the bookstore in question require me to say: "In association with Amazon.com".
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