I was thinking it might be nice to have a record of the books that I have read over the year. It could help me to make sure that I am at least reading something. I do plenty of reading online but those are usually shorter pieces and not complete novels and such. It also might be of interest to friends and family or for anyone wondering what to read. I will try to keep this list updated as the year progresses.
21/06/2017 Added two books to the list.
16/07/2017 Added two books to the list and included covers for finished books.
24/09/2017 Added two books to the list.
07/01/2018 Added the final book to the list.
On Liberty (1859) by John Stuart Mill
I don’t really have too much to say about this one. As any reader of my blog should know, I am very much in favour of free speech. Quotes from John Stuart Mill often crossed my path when reading about the topic and, eventually, I decided I just had to read his work. I was not disappointed.
It’s written with the overly long and complicated sentences that are characteristic of older writing but they don’t hinder comprehension. Other than that, the arguments he raises and the thoughts that his work inspires are still very relevant. He makes a strong case for individual liberty and free speech, against which I have not heard any particularly convincing arguments – for example those by Osita Nwemvu.
On Liberty is fairly short and well worth reading You don’t even have to buy the book to read it, it is available for free through Project Gutenberg!
Leonardo (2004, updated 2011) by Martin Kemp
Leonardo Da Vinci is well-known as one of the greatest geniuses of all time and I didn’t know too much about him. This was supposed to be my chance to learn about his life and what he really did from a leading Da Vinci expert. However, the book was not quite what I expected…
It is about Leonardo Da Vinci and I did learn some things from it but what I had really been hoping for was a biography that would follow Leonardo’s life; showing where he went, what he did and when it all happened. This book chooses instead to look at Leonardo through a set of themes that united his works. It’s not a bad approach but it’s not what I wanted and didn’t really satisfy me.
The book also focusses a lot on his art, which is understandable, but I was more interested the entirety of Leonardo. Plus, I have an inherent distrust of art criticism that tries to look for symbols in works. I’m not denying that certain motifs are used for symbolic reasons but I think that unless the artist has disclosed his use of symbols then there is a large risk of reading too much into it. That’s fine at times, it’s probably one of the things that lets paintings mean different things to different people, but I do not like it when presented as fact.
Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde (1886) by Robert Louis Stevenson
This one probably needs no introduction. It is a classic story that everyone has no doubt heard of even if they do not know the original. I, too, was only aware of the concept behind it rather than the actual story. In fact, I had the story wrong!
The only complete story of Jekyll and Hyde that I was aware of actually came from listening to the soundtrack of the musical by Frank Wildhorn. The musical is amazing and I would love to see it live, although I believe a lot of the concept album got cut, including the beautiful song Girls of the Night.
As it turns out, the musical took more than a few liberties with the story but I think it improved it. They have expanded the motivations of Doctor Jekyll and added a lot more character (and characters) to everything. I’m still glad to have read the original but I imagine it used to have a lot more impact before the big reveal was common knowledge. That is probably why it was necessary to take liberties with the story for the musical adaptation, apart from making it a bit longer.
You can also read it for free on the Project Gutenberg website or enjoy this incredible performance from the musical’s concept album.
Rigor Mortis (2017) by Richard Harris
This is a really good book. It describes the various causes of sloppy science, the motivations for them and even some of the solutions (which are often ignored). It’s really informative and entertaining to read even though it’s also extremely depressing.
There are multiple issues with the way that science is done and surprisingly little motivation to address them. There are lots of reasons for this and they have been written about at length in both the scientific and popular press. Sometimes it’s to do with money, sometimes it’s do with image and sometimes it’s to do with incentives. In the end, it just means a huge amount of time and money is wasted and that alone should be a reason for anyone interested in science to care about it.
I would highly recommend that everyone with an interest in science reads this book but it should be mandatory reading for everyone that works in research. While people will disagree on the scale of the problem, there is undeniably a problem and we need to be aware of it and make some sort of effort to address it.
Daring Do and the Forbidden City of Clouds (2014) by A. K. Yearling (G. M. Berrow)
The Daring Do stories are actually from My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic but, when I heard that there were three actual books, I decided I should give them a read. This is the first one I tried and I was able to finish it in very little time (unsurprising considering the target audience), so perhaps I will read the other two quite soon.
It’s been quite some time since I read something aimed so young so I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect. It didn’t start out very well but it did actually improve towards the middle, though the ending was a bit of a disappointment. In the show, the books are supposed to be filled with action and/or puzzle solving but this one had neither. It had a couple of cool ideas but suffered from poor motivation, a lack of character development and a lack of any real conflict. I suppose it’s better for its age group or for fans of the show. Hopefully the others will offer more.
Tough Sh*t (2012) by Kevin Smith
This one was lent to me for the duration of the convention by one of the other attendees because he said it was funny and that I might enjoy it. It seemed like a bit of a leap but it was well written and quite amusing. As the autobiography of a director (and not one I’d heard of) it was certainly not something I would normally read. I’d heard of some of the films and actors that feature in it but there were few that I’d seen or had any familiarity with. Despite that, it was engaging enough even as an outsider.
There’s no point in recounting his life story here but I can share some of the messages that he emphasises at various points in the book. He warns that being original and unique means you will have to sacrifice the safety of a traditional life. He uses Wayne Gretzky quite often, both to illustrate the importance of assisting others to achieve their goals and to plan for what will happen instead of just reacting to what has happened. Perhaps the most useful bit of advice is to not just wish for something but to do it. If you want to write a book, just starting writing it. If you want to make a film, you have a phone which can film. If you don’t actually do it, time will just tick away and nothing will change.
Tough Sh*t is filled with entertaining anecdotes and genuinely good lessons. It has emotional depth too. I laughed at many parts and I teared up at some too. It’s a good book. It’s a crass book but it’s good. If you are a fan of films or, especially, a fan of Kevin Smith then you should absolutely read it. If you’re not but you’re looking for something to read, it’s not a bad choice.
Daring Do and the Marked Thief of Marapore (2014) by A. K. Yearling (G. M. Berrow)
This is similar to the other Daring Do book in that it has its good points but usually fails to deliver well and build up the world. Still, it’s enjoyable and this one perhaps has more action than the previous one I read. One nice thing is that it has a proper antagonist, although it is still neither Caballeron or Ahuizotl. For children or MLP:FiM fans only.
The 120 Days of Sodom (1785 (first published 1904), this edition + translation 2016) by The Marquis de Sade
A highly-controversial book which has been banned at various times – it’s still, I hear, illegal to display Sade’s works in shop windows in France. Even if the name of the book isn’t familiar, the name of the author should be. The Marquis de Sade is the man from whose name we get the term “sadism.” He was a French Nobleman and a libertine who followed his passions without concern for others. This led him through a number of scandals over his sexual behaviour and eventually saw him imprisoned.
While in prison, he wrote The 120 Days of Sodom, whose manuscript was only re-discovered and published decades later. The story details four libertines who, with a cast of boys, girls, young men and old ladies, seclude themselves in a Swiss castle to indulge in their most base urges. In the narration it is described as “the most impure tale ever written.” It certainly lives up to that name and there would be very few people not shocked by some of the content which includes paedophilia, bestiality, scat, watersports, rape, torture and snuff. I think one of the footnotes by the translators gives a taste of what it is like in the later chapters.
8. they crush his two balls: Sade makes an error here: Narcisse’s testicles have already been cut off (see above, p. 380).
That also hints at one of the other problems with the book; it’s unfinished and unedited. Sade only completed part 1 while parts 2-4 are seldom more than a series of points he wants to describe. With Sade having been dead over 200 years, we will never see them fleshed out which does make it easier to read.
I am not entirely sure what Sade was aiming to accomplish with the book. It’s not an erotic read, he actually seems to try to repulse people. It’s not trying to convince people to see things his way (or if it is then it fails completely). It doesn’t even make much of an effort to explain the characters views. There are occasional times where the characters will discuss their philosophy and those are usually interesting but they are too few and far between. It could just be a list of his own fantasies but many things he describes are just too similar to one another.
In the end, I can’t really recommend reading it. It pales in comparison to Venus in Furs by the Austrian author Leopold von Sacher-Masoch, source of the term “masochism.” Venus in Furs is better written, complete and delves deeper into the character’s psychology.
Daring Do and the Eternal Flower (2014) by A. K. Yearling (G. M. Berrow)
This is the final one of the three Daring Do books (at least in the order I read them) and I can say that it is the best one. Not only do we do we have a proper villain but we get both Caballeron and Ahuizotl making an appearance. There is also action, adventure and puzzle solving with some new characters deception and weird magical effects. It is still aimed at children and the detail level is the same as the others but this one manages to pack a lot more in than the previous books did. This is what I expected when I got the Daring Do books.
Intimate Little Secrets (2017) by Rechan
This one’s a little different from the others as it is a collection of short stories. I guess in that way it’s similar to Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde which was also a short story in a collection but in that case I only read the eponymous story. Another difference is that this one is not quite as mainstream and is instead published by FurPlanet, one of several furry publishing houses.
All the stories revolve around sex in one or another fashion although the role it plays varies from pure erotica to merely being mentioned in the context of a fur needing her ex’s sperm because her current partner is incompatible for producing children. That is due to the furry nature of the stories which includes anthropomorphic characters of a variety of species, all of which are given individual traits.
With sex as a central facet of life and one with many personal and societal implications it is used here to provide the drama that the characters need to react to. And their reactions are always interesting and unique. The strongest part of the stories is the excellent characterisation of all the participants even in a very short space of time and even for minor characters. While my own interest in each story did vary, in all of them I found the characters to be well formed and I was always eager to see what would happen next.
Honourable Mention: Murky Number Seven (2012 – 2016) by Fuzzy
This one is is a fan fiction which expands on the world of Fallout Equestria, written by Kkat. Fallout Equestria itself is a fan work which combines My Little Pony Friendship is Magic with the Fallout series of video games. It is set ~200 years after a magical war (In an alternate timeline after season 2 of the show) devastates the world and leaves it as a barren wasteland. The original Fallout Equestria inspired many other stories, a printed book for fans (I have ordered a copy), audio books, a radio play adaptation and countless pieces of fan art and videos. See the video below for examples of some artwork inspired by Fallout Equestria and the expansions done by others.
Murky Number Seven is the story of Murky Number Seven, usually shorted to Murky or Murk, who was born as a slave in the wastelands and eventually sold to a massive slave city run by one of the primary antagonists of the original Fallout equestria. There, Murky has to band together with friends, find a way to survive in a city where everything is set against him and hopefully win his freedom.
It is long but well-written with a very tangible world, complex characters, deep morals and many emotional scenes. The majority of the story is, unsurprisingly, dark and depressing. It also starts off slow but once it begins to pick up pace then it becomes utterly compelling reading. And, despite all the heartache that happens, there is one moment in the story which makes all the suffering you share with the characters (Don’t expect to get through this without crying at least once) worth it.
It can be read from this page.
As promised, my suggestions for further reading:
Aldous Huxley – Brave New World (yes, the classic)
Margret Attwood – Oryx and Crake:
Both of them are exploring “quo vadis biotechnology” (and human society with it) in clever ways, but told in very differently.
And two more if you have not read them:
Anthony Burgess – A clockwork orange:
It is just unique in it’s style and compelling
Since you seem to be interested in old literature:
Mary Shelly – Frankenstein (the orignal):
That one almost traumatised me – i still get a cold shiver when i hear “Ingolstadt”
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