§ The Cigarette by Sarah Milov
Added: 09.02.2020 / Started: 31.12.2019 / Finished: 26.01.2020 / Times read: 01

Too much dry detail, but nevertheless entertaining. I'd say informative but it's no surprise it's a dirty industry with a suitably dirty history.

§ On the Beach by Nevil Shute
Added: 09.02.2020 / Started: 05.01.2020 / Finished: 13.01.2020 / Times read: 01

A decent novel that aged poorly. Probably a very powerful read during the height of the Cold War, but today it's just a clumsy story that goes nowhere.

§ The Big U by Neal Stephenson
Added: 30.12.2019 / Started: 15.12.2019 / Finished: 30.12.2019 / Times read: 01

He says he's not proud of his first novel, and that the only reason it was reprinted was because the only thing worse than people reading it is reading it by paying a lot of money for rare, used copies. I assumed he was wrong and just being excessively modest. He wasn't.

§ Spam Nation by Brian Krebs
Added: 15.12.2019 / Started: 10.12.2019 / Finished: 14.12.2019 / Times read: 01

I love Brian Krebs's blog, but the book is a disaster. Most of it is hard to follow (he said, then he said, then he said) and the rest of it felt like it was written to appeal to a technically illiterate audience looking for something new to be scared of once they get bored of terrorism or swine flu.

§ Reamde by Neal Stephenson
Added: 15.12.2019 / Started: 21.11.2019 / Finished: 08.12.2019 / Times read: 01

I probably wouldn't have read it based on the description, but Seveneves was so good that I'm happy to read anything by Neal Stephenson. It's a page turner (1000+ pages in 18 days), even if it was sometimes inconsistent and contrived. A very good time.

§ The First Muslim and After the Prophet by Lesley Hazelton
Added: 08.12.2019 / Started: 05.11.2019 / Finished: 21.11.2019 / Times read: 01

It seemed like a good idea to read the pair in a row. There are some segments in the beginning of the second book copy-pasted from the first book, clearly intended for someone who hadn't read the first. It's not a big deal, but it was a bit tedious to re-read what I had just read in the same evening. I enjoyed both books and struggled to put either one down; informative, yet very entertaining.

§ Eternity Road by Jack McDevitt
Added: 17.11.2019 / Started: 09.07.2019 / Finished: 05.11.2019 / Times read: 01

Apt title; reading it felt like being on an infinite, unending road. The setting is fascinating (1,700 years after our society collapses from a plague) but that's about all that's enjoyable about the book.

§ The Caliph's Splendor by Benson Bobrick
Added: 08.07.2019 / Started: 02.07.2019 / Finished: 08.07.2019 / Times read: 01

Entertaining, informative, and well written. Popular history at its best.

§ Gomorrah by Roberto Saviano
Added: 03.07.2019 / Started: 26.06.2019 / Finished: 02.07.2019 / Times read: 01

I doubt much of it is actually non-fiction. Still, aside from the frequent melodramatic, metaphor-filled outbursts and the generally sloppy writing, there are plenty of entertaining stories and anecdotes. The topic have been better served with a clear, concise, and structured style.

§ Saddam by Con Coughlin
Added: 21.05.2019 / Started: 27.04.2019 / Finished: 10.05.2019 / Times read: 01

A great look at Saddam Hussein's life and his role in Iraq's modern history. I do wish it was more neutral, as the tone of moral superiority was very grating at times. Still, it's a great balance between a dry chronological biography and entertaining non-fiction.

§ Without You, There Is No Us by Suki Kim
Added: 04.05.2019 / Started: 14.04.2019 / Finished: 27.04.2019 / Times read: 01

A very entertaining and beautifully written account of the author's experiences teaching English in North Korea.

§ Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow by Yuval Noah Harari
Added: 28.03.2019 / Started: 10.03.2019 / Finished: 27.03.2019 / Times read: 01

As much as I enjoyed 'Sapiens' I was hesitant about reading 'Homo Deus'. Futurology is risky, and Harari turns out to be terrible at it. Harari's crisp, direct writing style is present, but the good bits of the book are recycled 'Sapiens' material. The rest is awful. He bashes monotheism at every turn, like a teenager that just discovered atheism, and makes wild future predictions without understanding current technology.

§ Violence of Action by Marty Skovlund Jr. (and others)
Added: 10.03.2019 / Started: 26.02.2019 / Finished: 10.03.2019 / Times read: 01

Reasonably enjoyable. It took me a while to get used to the style. The writing is loaded with awful platitudes and many stories are poorly written and full of basic errors (like using 'break' instead of 'brake' and 'personal' instead of 'personnel'). But it is what it is; primary source material from people who have a lot of interesting things to say.

§ Seveneves by Neal Stephenson
Added: 26.02.2019 / Started: 01.02.2019 / Finished: 26.02.2019 / Times read: 01

Really good science fiction. I was worried it would run out of steam and drag on like many long novels do, but it really doesn't. It deserves its length. Sure, part three was sometimes overly dense and hard to follow but it was certainly never boring.

§ Convenience Store Woman by Sayaka Murata
Added: 15.02.2019 / Started: 30.01.2019 / Finished: 31.01.2019 / Times read: 01

A pleasant, short read.

§ Saxon (3 of 3): The Pope's Assassin by Tim Severin
Added: 30.01.2019 / Started: 24.01.2019 / Finished: 30.01.2019 / Times read: 01

I couldn't put it down. A thrilling conclusion to an epic trilogy.

§ Saxon (2 of 3): The Emperor's Elephant by Tim Severin
Added: 24.01.2019 / Started: 09.01.2019 / Finished: 24.01.2019 / Times read: 01

A fantastic adventure. Tim Severin's writing is vivid, detailed, yet unpretentious and easy to read. I'm looking forward to seeing what happens in the final chapter of Sigwulf's story.

§ Saxon (1 of 3): The Book of Dreams by Tim Severin
Added: 02.01.2019 / Started: 10.12.2018 / Finished: 02.01.2019 / Times read: 01

Historical fiction that brings the past to life. Love it. I read Tim Severin's 'Viking' trilogy years ago and 'Saxon' is just as good.

§ The Atlantropa Articles by Cody Franklin
Added: 13.12.2018 / Started: 03.12.2018 / Finished: 09.12.2018 / Times read: 01

An interesting premise, but poorly written, with nonsensical characters, awful dialog, and a plot that goes nowhere. Fortunately, it's a well paced short read that doesn't overstay its welcome.

§ An Englishman in Madrid by Eduardo Mendoza
Added: 07.12.2018 / Started: 03.11.2018 / Finished: 03.12.2018 / Times read: 01

Considering it's a translation of a Spanish novel originally written in 1936, it's still remarkably readable. It's not a page-turner, as the plot is often implausible and absurd and all of the characters are poorly written. Additionally, there are plenty of tedious parts where characters are hijacked to serve as the author's soapboxing platform, going on long, rambling, unrelated monologues. Combined with similar monologues on obscure art history, my patience was frequently tested. And yet I enjoyed it; it had a charm that I can't quite explain.

§ Galatea by Madeline Miller
Added: 02.11.2018 / Started: 02.11.2018 / Finished: 02.11.2018 / Times read: 01

A short story from the author of The Song of Achilles; her writing style is so entertaining.

§ Noble Savages by Napoleon A. Chagnon
Added: 02.11.2018 / Started: 19.09.2018 / Finished: 01.11.2018 / Times read: 01

Anthropologist spends over two decades studying the Yanomami, an indigenous people living in the Amazon rain forest. The findings he shares in the book are fascinating, and definitely changed my perception of our species. However, Chagnon keeps coming back to something somewhat irrelevant to the topic.

As I understand it, starting in the 1960s anthropologists began to split. On one hand, there are the scientific anthropologists like Chagnon. They see our species as an animal, and study indigenous people to better understand the species. They're the sort of people who gather data on things like number of people a male has killed and the average number of wives he has (unsurprisingly, men who kill more tend to be better warriors and therefore have more wives). On the other hand are the anthropologists who abandoned the scientific method in favor of political activism. There are references to the schism all throughout the book, but towards the end Chagnon devotes two chapters to the topic. I enjoyed Chagnon's writing style; it's very dry and matter-of-fact. So it was surprising and very uncharacteristic when he shared how much pain the scandal caused him; at one point he collapsed and had to be hospitalized due to the stress of it. I don't begrudge him the need to write about it, but this book is targeted at a curious layperson wanting to read about an indigenous tribe in the Amazon jungle. Page after page of "he said, she said" between anthropologists is incomprehensible to the target audience. It doesn't seriously detract from the book, but it could have been left out.

§ Smaller and Smaller Circles by F.H. Batacan
Added: 22.09.2018 / Started: 30.08.2018 / Finished: 19.09.2018 / Times read: 01

A simple, enjoyable thriller with a lot to like. The strength of the book is its premise; two priests hunt down a serial killer targeting children in a Filipino slum. That's badass. However it really needed a much better editor to clean up the drawn out slump in the middle where nothing really happens. The ending also needs a lot of work, because it's underwhelming and anticlimactic.

§ Blood, Sweat, and Pixels by Jason Schreier
Added: 11.09.2018 / Started: n/a / Finished: n/a / Times read: 01

A fascinating read; I didn't want it to end.

§ Eagle in the Sky by Wilbur Smith
Added: 28.08.2018 / Started: 15.07.2018 / Finished: 28.08.2018 / Times read: 01

Shortly after starting the novel I ran into surprising casual racism and sexism. That's when I found out the book was first published in 1974 and the author was born in 1933 Rhodesia. It's also an adventure novel targeted at a male audience. Knowing these facts, I tried my best to avoid presentism. It wasn't too hard as the racism and sexism are unintentional; they're just a reflection of the era. Misogyny and racism aside, I was absolutely lost in this novel. It's beautifully written by a writer at the top of his form. It covers a wide spectrum of human experience; youth, love, hope, anger, loss, and redemption in a most beautiful way.

§ Touch by Claire North
Added: 16.07.2018 / Started: 14.06.2018 / Finished: 14.06.2018 / Times read: 01

This book has an intriguing, very clever concept, but little else. It started off strong but fell flat after about the first quarter. It's incredible how little actually happens in its 426 pages. There's little character development, and the plot is a thin excuse for the awful action scenes. Most were hard to follow and with some, I still had no idea what actually happened even after several re-reads.

It feels like it was written with little planning or editing. Tedious and long-winded.

§ The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller
Added: 10.06.2018 / Started: 19.05.2018 / Finished: 10.06.2018 / Times read: 01

A love story between Achilles and Patroclus, beautiful despite its tragedy. I came to the book familiar with the characters but never having actually read the Illiad. It took Madeline Miller ten years to write it. After the first five, she started afresh in a struggle to perfect Patroclus's voice. It shows. Patroclus was able to make me leave my world and bring me into his, despite its ancientness. Only the best historical fiction can do that.