Monday, January 2, 2012

Year-end Book Review 2011

Photo copyright K. Smokey Cormier


It's the first day of 2012, and time for the annual Book Review and Book List.


I started off with 189 books on the list, which I thought was ridiculously high, even for a no-longer-painfully-employed person with a gimpy leg requiring lots of icing and elevation. Before the year was out, the list had swelled to 305 books. After Dad and Zingiber both died, I couldn't read for a long time. I had expected I could get through 60 books at best, what with all my own projects (none of which got off the ground this year, so I don't want to hear NOBODY bitching, OK? I started. I made the effort. It's ongoing. They'll happen. Now lea'me 'lone).


I ended reading 85. Still means I have a shitload of reading to do, but at least these books are done, read and to be returned to friends, library, etc., as applicable. Most important: there are no longer enormous piles of books everywhere. That's the goal. To read everything I find interesting and want to and can, to keep up with my interests by reading all the current stuff in teh fields various, and to get rid of anything I won't use again. I'm getting old enough that I have to think about whoever's going to have the unenviable task of shoveling my shit, just like I shoveled my parents'. When I pop my clogs, I want to go with two sets of clothing, my bed, and a few books, and not much else.


And right now, the fact that 305 books is an infinitesimal fraction of the number of books in this house is something to consider.


No more lengthy reviews. Everything's linked if you want more info, and feel free to ask if you want/need. For those who've been complaining that I read too much depressing shit, please note that I read a shitload of fluffy stuff. :P Everything marked with a florid pink star is something I'm currently reading. Blame that crazy Canuck for this bad new habit of reading a few pages here and there and then picking up something else. I won't do it no more, I promise.


  1. Adam Bede - George Eliot Very very so worth the reading.
  2. Birdsong - Sebastian Faulks Eh. Novel.
  3. Blackwater - Kerstin Ekman Weird, interesting murder mystery (?), skilled writer, complex situation.
  4. Buddhism in Vietnam - Minh Chi, Ha Van Tan, Nguyen Tai Thu Interesting mainly to students of one or the other of the title topics.
  5. Chinese Carving - Craig Clunas Beautiful, fascinating, informative.
  6. Darkly Dreaming Dexter - Jeff Lindsay Fluff.
  7. Deadheads - Reginald Hill Very well-written semi-fluffy fluff.
  8. Dearly Devoted Dexter - Jeff Lindsay So the fluff.
  9. Dexter by Design - Jeff Lindsay I had a thing for Dexter, momentarily.
  10. Dexter in the Dark - Jeff Lindsay Also.
  11. Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant - Anne Tyler Powerful writer. Makes it look easy.
  12. Fables in Slang - George Ade Landmark work in the field.
  13. Foreign Correspondence - Geraldine Brooks Interesting, worth reading, not a keeper.
  14. From Bush to Bush - Don Novello He's still hilarious.
  15. From Caligari to Hitler - Siegfried Kracauer Seminal work on early German film.
  16. From Colony to Nation - Singapore History Museum Primer, only of interest to those with an interest in the history of the country.
  17. Ho Chi Minh: A Journey - Lady Borton Interesting. Very interesting.
  18. Ho Chi Minh On Revolution - Bernard Fall, ed. In Nguyen Ai Quoc's own words.
  19. In Pursuit of Mountain Rats - Anthony Short Outdated, incorrect in parts, doctrinaire, an apologist for colonialism, mostly.
  20. Justice Hall - Laurie King Not worth reading.
  21. Life - Keith Richards Fan of Keef's music, but his life, not so much.
  22. Lo t'o Hsiang Tzu (Rickshaw) - Lao She Not sure I liked the translation so much, but it's one of the first Chinese literary works that revolves around a poor peasant character.
  23. MacArthur Strikes Back - Harry A. Gailey Military history. Interesting look at the war in those parts.
  24. Midnight Fugue - Reginald Hill I can't find enough words of praise for Reginald Hill, even when he's writing fluff.
  25. Minorities of the Sino-Vietnamese Borderland - Maurice Abadie Fascinating snapshot in time of the border tribes living in/between Vietnam and China.
  26. Murder and Mayhem in 17th Century Cambodia - Alfons van der Kraan Not for the tender of heart or mind. Most annoying, van der Kraan talks about how important it was for the Dutch to "punish" the "savage" monarchs of various nations whose wealth the Dutch desired. Ugh. The blood boils.
  27. Offerings: The Ritual Art of Bali - Francine Brinkgreve Beautiful. Beautiful. Beautiful.
  28. On Beulah Heights - Reginald Hill OK, it was fluff, but rather depressing fluff.
  29. On The Road - Jack Kerouac Greatly overrated.
  30. People's War, People's Army - Vo Nguyen Giap Giap's notes for speeches he gave and articles he wrote. Interesting, but limited.
  31. Porcelain From The VungTao Wreck - Sverker Hallstrom Fascinating/mixed description of an excavation of a shipwreck revealing the nature and aspects of trade between China and VN.
  32. Pump Six - Paolo Bacigalupi Fluff.
  33. Random Acts of Senseless Violence - Jack Womak Er ... bloody fluff.
  34. Rastafarian Theology - Imani Nyah No. Just no.
  35. Rickshaw Coolie: A People's History - J. Francis Warren Interesting look at the historical facts of life for poor working people in colonial Singapore.
  36. Sandakan: A Conspiracy of Silence - Lynette Ramsay Silver Yet another senseless tragedy of WW II
  37. Selves/Jati Diri - Kwok Kian Woon, T. Sasitharan, Arun Mahizhnan, eds. Interesting
  38. Sexual Behaviour of Women in Singapore - V. Aputharajah Dated. Informational. Useful.
  39. Shakespeare Wrote For Money - Nick Hornby Another delightful writer.
  40. Shirin Fozdar, Asia's Foremost Feminist - Rose Ong Why is so little known about this fascinating woman?
  41. Shit My Dad Says - Justin Halperin Fluff. Brian ought to know.
  42. Silas Marner - George Eliot Good. Great. What a writer.
  43. Signal to Noise - Sinclair Fluff.
  44. Singapore:Journey Into Nationhood Limited interest.
  45. Singapore & The Many-Headed Monster - Joe Conceicao Memoirs, really. Of dubious interest.
  46. Singapore's People's Action Party: Its History, Organization and Leadership - Pang Cheng Lian Reads like a poli sci major's thesis. And inadequate, at that.
  47. Start-up - Jerry Kaplan Very interesting.
  48. Stories of Your Life - Ted Chiang Interesting.
  49. Stuff on My Cat Total fluff, but enjoyable.
  50. Sunset Limited - James Lee Burke Fluff. Interesting.
  51. Suspicious Death Scene Investigation - Anthony Busuttii, Peter Vanezes, eds. If this book weren't so expensive, I'd want it. It's a professional manual for people who actually do this shit for a living. Fascinating.
  52. The Birth of Vietnam - Keith Weller Taylor For students of VN history. Really excellent, too.
  53. The Book of Salt - Monique Truong A very impressive first work.
  54. The Clock Winder - Anne Tyler She's a damn good writer.
  55. The Death of the Heart - Elizabeth BowenHow ignorant I am, to only just have discovered this writer!
  56. The End of The Affair - Graham Greene Way overrated.
  57. The Golden Gate and The Silver Screen - Geoffrey Bell The SF Bay Area and the movie industry. Fascinating.
  58. The Gone-Away World - Nick Harkaway Fluff.
  59. The Haunted Screen - Lotte Eisner A classic of film history and German Expressionism.
  60. The Ho Chi Minh Trail - Hoang Khoi Interesting. Wish I'd kept my copy, now.
  61. The Illustrated Communist Manifesto - Delightful.
  62. The Imp - Yes.
  63. The Japanese Occupation:Singapore 1942-1945 - Singapore Archives & Oral History Dept Depressing.
  64. The Jews of Singapore - Joan Bieder Fascinating.
  65. The Life Cycle of Software Objects - Ted Chiang Fluff.
  66. The Penang Po Leung Kuk - Neil Khor Jin Kiong Limited interest: Chinese women in Southeast Asia, prostitution, social ailments and response.
  67. The Peranakan - Fascinating snippets of Peranakan history and culture
  68. The Rice Birds: Folktales from Thailand - C. & K. Velder Very interesting
  69. The Seed Finder - John Jeavons & Robin Leler For serious gardeners. Getting dated, though.
  70. The Singapore Council of Women and The Women's Movement - Phyllis Ghim Lian Chew Limited interest.
  71. The Singapore House - Edwards Limited interest.
  72. The Syonan Years I - Lee Geok Boi Japanese occupation of Singapore. Extremely depressing.
  73. The Syonan Years II - Lee Geok Boi See above.
  74. The Tragedy of Wanit - Benjamin Batson & Shimizu Hajime Thailand in WW II
  75. The Violent Bear It Away - Flannery O'Connor Not fluff. Very depressing.
  76. The Warden - Anthony Trollope Not fluff, but not depressing, either.
  77. The Wha Chi Memoirs - Liang Shang Wan, Jian Hua Resistance guerillas in the Philippines.
  78. The Wood Beyond - Reginald Hill Priceless.
  79. This Is Not Civilization - Robert Rosenberg Interesting, if sometimes cynical and dreary.
  80. Vietnam & America: The Most Comprehensive Documented History of the Vietnam War - Gettleman, et al For historians and scholars.
  81. VietNam Cultural Window - A contemporary magazine about VN culture and modern VN
  82. Warsaw of Asia: The Rape of Manila - Boni Escoda Interesting, but in desperate need of an editor.
  83. We The Animals - Justin Torres What an excellent opus!
  84. When Elephants Dance - Tess Uriza Holthe Just watch the movie, it'll hurt less.
  85. Wuthering Heights - Emily Bronte I'm still amazed at the power of this young girl's book.
  86. *7 Habits of Highly Effective People - Stephen R. Covey I'm reading this because my time management skills suck ass, OK? Ditto for the others in this vein.
  87. *50 Stories - Kay Boyle Been meaning to read her forever, and I'm glad I finally did.
  88. *A House in Gross Disorder - Cynthia B. Herrup Fascinating but complex and now I can't remember what it's about. Law and power. I know that much.
  89. *A Spy's Revenge - Richard V. Hall Urgh. A spy scandal, but I don't remember when.
  90. *Among the White Moonfaces - Shirley Lim Peranakan feminist's memoirs
  91. *Don Quixote - Cervantes
  92. *Dubliners - James Joyce
  93. *Finnegan's Wake - James Joyce
  94. *Getting Organized - Stephanie Winston
  95. *Hero And Deity - Pham Quynh Phuong Fascinating, but I put it down to go read more VN history.
  96. *Lempriere's Dictionary - Lawrence Norfolk It's good, I don't know why I put it down.
  97. *Middlemarch - George Eliot It's nearly a thousand pages, but I already know I'm going to love it.
  98. *Outwitting the Gestapo - Lucie Aubrac Fascinating.
  99. *Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man - James Joyce
  100. *Prometheus Rising - Robert Anton Wilson Not sure I want to read this.
  101. *The Canterbury Tales - Chaucer It's always good to reread things you once enjoyed.
  102. *The Last Emperor - Edward Behr Re-reading this now that I'm filling in gaps in Chinese history
  103. *The Rise & Fall of the Knights Templar - Gordon Napier Much more interesting than Dan Brown.

1 comment:

Dr. kold_kadavr_flatliner, MD said...

God blessa youse -Fr. Sarducci, ol SNL (when SNL used to be funny; now, completely whorizontal). Your choice. Our demise.