So I managed to read ten books in 2014. I’m still loving my Kindle Keyboard, but I may have just about worn it out. Something is rattling around inside, and occasionally I have to reboot it. I read six books on the Kindle. I read one on the new Kindle Fire that I won at Hack4Reno because it was a PDF tech book with lots of formatting and just not great on the e-ink display. Three were good old dead tree books. If a book is not available for my Kindle though, I will seriously just consider reading something else. I still have a hellova backlog. Here’s what I read in 2014:
King Harald’s Saga
The original biography of King Harold Hardrada, one of history’s most interesting characters. The story of his exploits, generally regarded as true, are absolutely shocking. You should at least read his wikipedia page.
The Dream Cycle of H.P. Lovecraft
Just a step to the left of Lovecraft’s better known horror stories are, I think, his best works. They all have a pervasive mood of unease, because, I think, you can still sense something horrible is just offstage. But they are, you know, dreamy. I’ve found myself rereading my favorite, the 9 page, “Strange High House in the Mist,” at least yearly since high school. It’s lyric and beautiful and a just short of scary.
David Foster Wallace
But so yeah, this is how I spent my summer. 1100 pages, like 200 pages of end-notes – some chapter-long that themselves have dozens of end-notes. Crazy, encyclopedic references on dozens of subjects; Hamlet, etymology, drugs, cinema, tv, advertising, tennis, rehab, Canada, etc, on and on. This thing was insane and wonderful. It was the best book of the year. But so then, you know how you get to that last chapter of a mystery novel where the detective gathers everyone in the parlor and cuts through all the hints and misdirections and reveals the murderer? This book is like that with the last chapter missing. You just wake up on the beach with a bad hangover wondering what happened to your summer, and you have to puzzle it out for yourself.
The Strangest Town in Alaska: The History of Whittier, Alaska and the Portage Valley
Great book for anyone who grew up in Whittier. I learned a ton of stuff I didn’t know. My favorite bit of trivia was that when Columbus first landed in the new world, Whittier was still under about a mile of glacier. That’s crazy, but I look at Portage Glacier on Google Maps now, and it’s just about gone, and I guess I can’t doubt it.
Stars of the New Curfew
Down and out in West Africa. It’s fun to peak into other worlds.
This was a fun collection of short of vigenettes of imaginary cities, as told to Kublai Khan by Marco Polo. It has that fairy tale feel of Lord Dunsany. Very enjoyable read.
If on a Winter’s Night a Traveler
This was a strange and difficult and wonderful post-modern book about… well about reading books. A man begins to read a book but there is a problem, and he can’t continue. He reads books alone, with a friend, out loud, a manuscript, a journal, letters, in translation, examining how those are all different experiences, always starting but but never getting to finish them. It has a little romance, a little intrigue, ten (10) first chapters of ten very compelling books, a lot of talking to the fourth wall, and it actually all comes together in the end. I highly recommend this!
The Autobiography of Malcolm X
Malcolm X and Alex Haley
Politics aside, this is a fantastic and vivid biography. There’s a lot of detail missing from the popular image of Malcolm X.
A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again
David Foster Wallace
DFW’s editor sends him to report on things chosen to make him maximally uncomfortable.
Developing Backbone.js Applications
I love that Backbone is a very general library, and not overly-opinionated about how JS apps should be structured, but gawd it’s idiosyncratic! I can follow it, but how well can I write it? It seems like your choice of JS client frameworks is still a head-or-gut proposition. I’m going to keep practicing, anyway.