Category Archives: Book Reviews

Book review: The Midnight Library

Book cover for The Midnight Library by Matt Haig

Are you living the life you want? If you could make different choices in your life, would you? If you could see how your choices turned out, would you want to experience your ‘alternate’ life to see if it was everything you thought it would be?

That’s the premise of The Midnight Library by Matt Haig. Here’s the summary as written on his website:

Between life and death there is a library, and within that library, the shelves go on forever. Every book provides a chance to try another life you could have lived. To see how things would be if you had made other choices . . . Would you have done anything different, if you had the chance to undo your regrets?

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Book review: Afterparty

Book cover for Afterparty by Daryl Gregory

My reading list suffers from shiny object syndrome. I get bombarded with recommendations from friends, as well as my arch nemesis – Amazon. If it looks good, I’ll let it jump the queue. So one of my reading goals this year was being more disciplined and reading through some titles that had been on my list for a long time, in some cases two years, three years, or more.

So far, I’ve done a pretty good sticking to plan. Fat Chance, Lexicon, The God’s Eye View, Permutation City, Luna, and (R)evolution were all books that were added to my reading list in 2018, or earlier. The latest book I can check off this list is Afterparty by Daryl Gregory.

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Book review: The Diet Myth

Book cover for The Diet Myth by Tim Spector

One of my primary reading genres is books about health and nutrition. I feel it’s vitally important that we’re aware of what we’re feeding our bodies. I typically make it a point to read at least one book from this group every year, although I wouldn’t mind reading more. Unfortunately, I’d gotten away from reading in this area over the last year or two with the last good book I read about nutrition being The Complete Guide to Fasting by Dr. Jason Fung back in in 2019 (which I would highly recommend, by the way).

One of the challenges with reading health and nutrition books is identifying books based on solid science. There are so many books on the subject that it can be hard to separate the wheat from the chaff. Depending on the quality of the book, suggestions can be life changing for the better, or, if not researched properly and supported by quality data, they can have negative effects on one’s health, potentially even hazardous outcomes in the extreme.

Fortunately, one of my favorite blogs, A Learning a Day, made a strong recommendation for a nutrition book, The Diet Myth by Tim Spector. Given the good experiences I’ve had with previous recommendations from the blog, I added it to my (lengthy) reading list and finally got around to reading it.

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Book review: (R)evolution

Book cover for (R)evolution by PJ Manney

I’ve been doing a little better this year sticking to my reading list. I’ve also been doing a better job of reading books that have been languishing on my reading list for some time. The latest example was (R)evolution by PJ Manney.

I’m not exactly sure when I first discovered the book, but it first showed up on my 2019 reading list at #35. Since I usually read about 25-30 books a year, it’s highly unlikely that I’ll read any books below #20. So it took a couple of years to get to this one.

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Book review: How We’ll Live on Mars

Book cover for How We'll Live on Mars by Stephen L. Petranek

At our core, I feel like humans are natural explorers. That nature led our ancestors to spread across the face of the Earth. It drove our desire to visit the moon. And it is currently driving us to explore Mars.

There are all sorts of reasons why we might want to live on Mars, but curiosity is probably the biggest. People just want to know what it would be like. It’s a blank slate, a new opportunity.

However, there are some big questions that need to be answered before a human sets foot on Mars. In fact, there are a lot of questions and issues that need to be addressed before someone even attempts the trip. It’s those questions and issues that Stephen Petranek explores in How We’ll Live on Mars.

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Book review: Stillness Is the Key

Book cover for Stillness Is the Key by Ryan Holiday

I’ve been reading books related to Stoicism and ancient Stoic philosophers for a few years now. I can trace my interest to Brad Feld’s blog, which is one of few that I still follow regularly. He wrote a book review about The Daily Stoic by Ryan Holiday and Stephen Hanselman at the end of 2017. I was intrigued.

I had heard of Ryan Holiday. His book, Trust Me, I’m Lying: Confessions of a Media Manipulator, transformed the way I view mainstream media and popular news websites. Little would I know that reading The Daily Stoic during 2018 would change my outlook and approach to life.

Since then, I’ve continued my exploration of Stoicism. I’ve read additional books related to Stoic philosophy, including other Ryan Holiday books such as Ego Is the Enemy and Stillness Is the Key, which I recently finished.

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Book review: Selected Stories – Theodore Sturgeon

Book cover for Selected Stories by Theodore Sturgeon

I’m not afraid to admit that I’m a short story junkie. Between novels, I like to read a short story or two to break things up. The format is, well, different. It’s hard to explain, but a good short story captivates me. I enjoy how the characters are developed, and I really enjoy a short story with a strong plot twist. It’s especially satisfying when just enough is left unresolved that I get use to my imagination to complete the story.

I also find that short stories are a good way to explore different authors. If I like their short stories, then there’s a good chance I’ll enjoy their longer form writing too. That’s why I decided to read Selected Stories by Theodore Sturgeon. I had never heard or ready any of his works, so I figured it would be best to start with a collection of his short stories.

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Book review: Luna – New Moon

When you have a reading list with over 200 books on it, some are going to get lost on it. It’s inevitable, especially when I’m adding 20-30 new titles every year. Luna: New Moon by Ian McDonald is a great case in point.

I added the book when I saw it on Gizmodo’s list of The Very Best Science Fiction And Fantasy Books Of 2015. Yes, that’s right 2015. The list was posted on December 21, 2015. And yes, you are correct, I’m writing this post on July 14, 2021.

It’s not that I didn’t want to read Luna. It’s just that other books kept getting in the way. I finally prioritized the book by putting in on my 2020 reading list. When I didn’t get to it last year, I moved it higher on my 2021 reading list.

So after nearly 6 years, I finally read it, which begs the question, was it worth the wait?

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Book review: Meditations

Book cover for Meditations (Amazon Classics) by Marcus Aurelius

Over the past couple of years, I’ve developed an interest in ancient philosophies. More specifically, I’ve found Stoicism, which I was introduced to through Ryan Holiday’s writing and The Daily Stoic, to be particularly intriguing. It has shown me that the things humans do in our daily lives has evolved a lot throughout history, and it continues to change rapidly due to technology. However, the character traits of being a good person have not changed. The same values and principles that made up good character over two thousand years ago are still applicable today. What humans do has changed, but human nature has not. It reinforces the adage – “the more things change, the more they stay the same.”

When reading Stoic philosophies, it is impossible to avoid references to Marcus Aurelius’ Meditations. Aurelius was Emperor of Rome from 161 AD – 180 AD, and Meditations is a collection of writings from his personal journals that reflect his thoughts during his time as emperor. Since most of my reading of Aurelius’ writing were excerpts from and interpretations of passages from Meditations, I felt is was best to read it on my own, to get it from the horse’s mouth.

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Book review: Permutation City

Book cover for Permutation City by Greg Egan

I’ve read a few books on the topic of neuroscience and how the brain functions. I’ve also read a few science fiction books about artificial intelligence, robotics, and simulating human behavior. A few of these books have went as far as portraying the concept of uploading the contents of the brain to a computer. It begs the question, what is human conscience, and can it be portrayed in software? It’s an ambitious and complex topic, and one that Greg Egan tackles in Permutation City.

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