Category: Books

1954, Books, Fiction

The Two Towers (1954, JRR Tolkien)

The Two Towers has many of the same issues of its predecessor, but is also a superior read, just from an entertainment point of view. So though my rating at Goodreads is the same, it’s actually half a star higher because I found Books 3 and 4 to be much more of the page turner …

1954, Books, Fiction

The Fellowship of the Ring (1954) by JRR Tolkien

Full disclosure: I am not a fantasy fan. I don’t know that I can tell you how many fantasy novels I’ve read in my life. Off the top of my head, I know The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe was read to me when I was young, but I’m not sure I’ve read anything …

2004, Books, Non-Fiction

A Short History of Nearly Everything (2004, Bill Bryson)

This is a super readable and entertaining layman’s overview of the state of scientific knowledge about the universe and humans as of 2004. If you don’t feel like you know enough about science in general, or you’re looking to get more familiar with various fields you’e never paid attention to, I can’t imagine there are …

2017, Books, Music, Non-Fiction

Cover Me: The Stories Behind the Greatest Cover Songs of All Time (2017) by Ray Padgett

This is not “The Stories Behind the Greatest Cover Songs of All Time.” I don’t know how you would figure out what songs those were and it’s really entirely subjective.

1972, Books, Non-Fiction, Philosophy

Jumpers (1972) by Tom Stoppard

My favourite philosopher, Hannah Arendt, believed that space exploration, particularly manned space exploration, created a new paradigm for human beings. For the first time in history, humans could physically see what astronomy and math had only proved before, namely that we were just animals on a little planet in some little corner of the universe. …

1998, Books, Non-Fiction, Travel

A Walk in the Woods (1998) by Bill Bryson

Ever since I first heard about it, I’ve wanted to hike the Appalachian Trail. I know I likely won’t so now I say “If I win the lottery, I’ll hike the Appalachian Trail.” Regardless, this is a dream. So I’m very happy to read a book about someone who tried to do it.

2017, Books, Non-Fiction

Killers of the Flower Moon (2017) by David Grann

This book is an eye-opening story that is part true crime, part history and part investigation into one of the worst parts of American history, a story that has seemingly been mostly forgotten, due to the ethnicity of the victims and how it violates American national myths. It is an awful story, but it is …

2018, Books, Non-Fiction

Bad Blood (2018) by John Carreyou

This is a real page turner about how a startup deceived and defrauded investors, conned business partners and the public, and hounded former employees into not discussing the company’s problems. For someone like me, who pays little attention to Silicon Valley, it was an eye-opening read, as well as being impossible to put down. Carreyou …

2013, Books, Non-Fiction

The Boys in the Boat (2013) by Daniel Jams Brown

All I know of the 1936 Olympics is Olympia and Jesse Owens. So this story, the story the American Gold medal-winning 8 man crew, their coxswain, their coach and their boat builder (yes, even him) was completely new to me. I don’t even remember the rowing scenes in Olympia very well. This is an exciting …

1966, 1968, Books, Fiction

Cancer Ward (1966, 1968) by Alexander Solzhenitsyn

I have no idea why it took me so long to finish this one. It’s not that I didn’t enjoy it, but something about it turned into a slog for me. (It also happened that I was listening to podcasts when I supposed to be reading, which was a problem.) Anyway, the time it took …

2013, Books, Music, Non-Fiction

Respect Yourself: Stax Records and the Soul Explosion (2013) by Robert Gordon

This book tells the story of Stax Records, but it isn’t just a the story of Stax the record label, as it also places the story in the context of Memphis and the civil rights movement, and there are some very interesting parallels between the rise and fall of Stax and other American businesses.

2008, Books, Economics, Non-Fiction

Predictably Irrational (2008) by Dan Ariely

This is a fascinating and sometimes amusing exploration of behavioural economics through descriptions of experiments that the author has conducted, and some he’s read about. It’s a pretty good introduction to behaviourial economics and social psychology. A number of these experiments were unfamiliar to me and some of them are really illuminating. I’m particularly interested …

2018, Books, Non-Fiction, TV

All the Pieces Matter: The Inside Story of the Wire

Note: This is an oral history of how The Wire got made. You should only read this if you have seen The Wire in its entirety. The spoilers in this review concern the show, not the book.

2004, Books, Fiction

The Plot Against America (2004)

This is a flawed but near-great alternative history of the United States in the first years of World War II that manages to be incredibly compelling and affecting even while you suspect the premise might be slightly implausible. However, Roth is such a good writer that you kind of stop caring and if his handling …

2014, Books, Non-Fiction

The Human Age (2014) by Diane Ackerman

This is an endlessly fascinating book about how human beings are currently shaping the world through technological innovation, and how we have shaped the world in the past. Though the back might convince you it’s about how humans are fighting climate change, it’s really about much more than that, as the climate change section is …

1960, Books, Fiction

The Caretaker (1960) by Harold Pinter

This is my first Pinter and I should mention that I had no idea what I was getting into before I read it. I suspect that it would have made more of an impression on me had I seen it, rather than read it, simply because some of the tone of one of the characters …

2016, Basketball, Books, Non-Fiction, Sports

Boys Among Men (2016) by Jonathan Abrams

This is a pretty excellent narrative history of the one and only generation of NBA stars to come directly from high school. Though I have one minor quibble, I got over it and, for the most part, it’s probably the definitive book about this topic.

2013, Books, Non-Fiction

The Meaning of Human Existence (2014) by Edward O Wilson

This is a weird book, which doesn’t exactly live up to its title. It’s a book of philosophy by a biologist, who spends his time telling us where evolutionary biology is in 2013, what he thinks about aliens and getting mad at “The Humanities” for ignoring science. I can’t say I really enjoyed it all …

1995, Books, Fiction

A Fine Balance (1995) by Rohinton Mistry

Every day, but especially days in December, I see someone in Canada or the US on Facebook or YouTube or Twitter who is complaining about how awful our world is. If it’s not an individual, it’s an article or other post about something terrible happening. And this really drives me crazy because I know that …

2012, Books, Non-Fiction, TV

The Revolution Was Televised: The Cops, Crooks, Slingers and Slayers Who Changed TV Forever [Updated] (2012) by Alan Sepinwall

Sometime while I was making my way through The Wire and Deadwood for the first time, I had an idea for a book. It would be about how a bunch of HBO shows, and a few other select shows, altered the nature of fictional TV series (drama but also comedy) forever, finally bringing TV to …

1968, Books, Non-Fiction

The Revolution of the Saints (19968) by Michael Walzer

Many years ago, I read a history of ideas about radical/left-wing politics, Main Currents of Marxism by Leszek Kolakowski, which felt to me like the definitive statement on the religious origins and nature of ideologies. The only thing lacking with that book, to my mind, was its scope was limited to the left; whereas liberalism …

1969, Books, Fiction

Runaway Horses (1969) by Yukio Mishima

All of us approach anything new from our frame of reference. And so I cannot help but liken this novel, the second part of a tetralogy the rest of which I haven’t read, to Dostoevsky’s The Possessed (aka Demons). It’s been years since I read it, but I felt strong echoes of it in this …

2013, Books, Non-Fiction

Amsterdam: A History of the World’s Most Liberal City (2013) by Russell Shorto

When I was in high school and even when I was in university we learned liberalism like this: The Magna Carta invented “responsible government” Thomas Hobbes invented the liberal constitution but his king had too much power John Locke took the Hobbesian constitution and paired it with better institutions and gave us liberalism Then the …

1982, Books, Fiction

Space (1982) by James Michener

The older I get the more I seem to be winning the battle – or at least not losing the battle – with my completist streak. I am writing a review of this flawed novel after having read only 470 pages as a celebration of defeating my completist impulse yet again. I do not need …