Sunday, February 23, 2014

2013 Book Review

Photo copyright K. Smokey Cormier, used with permission

Only 50 books this past year! I'm so ashamed. I plead special circs. I had way too much stuff to do, most of it (literally) shitty. Also too, tomatoes.

  1. 7 Habits of Highly Effective People - Stephen R. Covey
  2. Srsly, wut was I thinking, looking to that shiny-headed Maroon for information? This book is for corporate drones. Wut a waste of time.

  3. Among the White Moonfaces - Shirley Lim
  4. Growing up straight female and Chinese in Singapore in the 1950s. Frankly, the writer could have made this a lot more interesting.

  5. Being Wrong - Kathryn Schultz
  6. The author examines the decision-making process in the human brain, in the most fascinating way. Informative and thought-provoking.

  7. Best American Movie Writing 2001 - John Landis, ed.
  8. For film buffs, a fascinating collection of writing about film.

  9. Beyond Basic Photography - Henry Horenstein
  10. An indispensable addition to the photographer's library.

  11. Breathless - Jean-Luc Goddard
  12. Don't care how much I've read, heard, or seen about him. I *still* don't like Jean-Luc Goddard. OK, Alphaville I could tolerate.

  13. Broken Harbor - Tana French
  14. Tana French is a good writer, and her mysteries always seem earth-shattering. Until you get to the end. Then it all feels like a giant letdown, like the time you dated that person who said they were totally wild to jump in bed with you, but then they do, and fall asleep right away. Yaknow?

  15. Brother Enemy - Nayan Chanda
  16. Nayan Chanda was right there in Southeast Asia when all that shit went down, with the collapse of Saigon and the rise of the Khmer Rouge, and the fall of the Khmer Rouge, and ALL that shit, and he writes about it in such compelling (yet complex, and politically well-informed) language that you feel like you're right there. How often have you really, really wanted to read a book about shit like death and war and militarism? So, if you want to know what went down, especially from the Asian standpoint, get this damn book and fucking READ IT. You won't be sorry. Might be awful mad, tho.

  17. Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter - Tom Franklin
  18. Another mystery. Not bad, and set in the South, so a nice face-on look at the pervasive racism, but in the end it seemed less a mystery than a somewhat aimless recounting.

  19. Daybooks of Edward Weston -
  20. A very good reason for every photographer to keep them. What a brilliant photographer.

  21. Death to Dust - Kenneth V. Iserson, M.D.
  22. A book about what happens to human bodies at, during, and after death, written by a medical doctor who did his research and writes in an amusingly grim, dark, thoroughly entertaining style. Indispensible for mystery writers, writers in general, ghouls, readers of horror and mystery, and nitpickers, in general.

  23. Designing A Photograph - Bill Smith
  24. Another indispensable addition to the photographer's library. A concise and well-illustrated manual explaining, and showing, the basic rules for good photographs. Sure, you've read them a million times, but do you remember them?

  25. Escape From Tyranny - Zulkifli Ahmed
  26. I expected a tale of harrowing events. It's hard to feel too much sympathy for someone complaining he has to sell his expensive Mercedes luxury vehicle to pay a fine.

  27. Film Theory Goes To The Movies - Jim Collins, Ava Preacher Collins, Hillary Radner
  28. I often wonder if one should read about film theory at all, rather than just reading about/making film. This is one of the books that answers that question. Read it.

  29. Five Screenplays - Harold Pinter
  30. Is anyone in doubt that Pinter is one of the greatest masters of screenwriting? Read the book, dudes.

  31. Hitchcock - Francois Truffaut
  32. Truffaut interviews Hitchcock, one of my favourite filmmakers. A fascinating look at the innards of the great director. Although Truffaut should've shut up a bit and let the Great Man talk.

  33. How To Get Control of Your Time & Your Life - Alan Lakein
  34. This is probably THE best book you have/will ever read about time management. If you only want to read a single book on the topic, this is the one to read and to keep. Had it for decades and reread it every other year, and always will.

  35. J. Paul Getty Photo Collection -
  36. The NICE thing about money is, it can even rehabilitate people like Getty. A beautiful collection in a coffee-table book with high-quality stock. Nice print job, dood.

  37. Motion Studies - Rebecca Solnit
  38. Everybody should read at least one book by Rebecca Solnit in their lifetime. The woman knows how to get into her topic, she always picks a complex and fascinating topic, and she can write your fucking socks right off. This is about Edweard Muybridge and his studies in motion and contributions to the field of photography.

  39. Mucho Sol - Manuel Alvarez Bravo
  40. Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful. Photography as she is meant to be displayed/enjoyed.

  41. Photography, 4th Ed - Barbara London Upton & John Upton
  42. Much of the information in this book was for photography as it used to be back when I was doing it. SLR cameras and printmaking and darkroom practices and manual lenses. But there's also a wealth of information for the modern photographer, most of it painstakingly culled from years of experience and research. A worthwhile tome.

  43. Primitive Art - Frank Boas
  44. An interesting, if highly technical, analysis of the roots of art, and the symbolism and language of primitive art. Who better qualified?

  45. River of Shadows - Rebecca Solnit
  46. This was every bit as interesting as Motion Studies, although it did seem overly reminiscent of that book. Similar material.

  47. Singapore Studies - Basant Kapur
  48. For the serious scholar of Singapore; a reference of all studies performed.

  49. So Much Pretty - Cara Hoffman
  50. Not so much a mystery as an excellent, if horrendously creepy, novel. You'll be picking pieces of it out of your brain for at least a year, if that's a recommendation (we think it is).

  51. Stolen Glances - Boffin & Fraser, eds.
  52. No. Seriously. It's a book on photography, but just no.

  53. Switch - Chip & Dan Heath
  54. You know how difficult it is to change your habits? Two experts in creating and changing patterns explain why and how you can do it anyway. Seriously worth a read if you're planning on changing your life (isn't everyone?).

  55. The City & The City - China Mieville
  56. China Mieville is always worth reading, though this is surely not his best work. Very good, but you'll spot the (minimal) flaws soon enough. Fascinating book.

  57. The Concerned Photographer - Cornell Capa, et al
  58. A painful yet brilliant, beautiful, engaging compilation of some of the bravest people ever -- the photographers who cover the deadly conflicts worldwide of hunger, war, genocide. A MUST-SEE. We should ALL be so fucking concerned.

  59. The Devil Finds Work - James Baldwin
  60. Loved this beautiful analysis of American contemporary culture through the eyes of one banished to its fringes. James Baldwin speaks for me.

  61. The Fine Print - Fred Picker
  62. Very interesting although no longer applicable in the age of digital cameras and photography. (Sob!)

  63. The Gift - Lewis Hyde
  64. Lewis Hyde explores the possibility of a gift-based economy in this wonderful, inspiring, optimistic little book. Highly recommended.

  65. The Hand of Nature - Ettore Sottsass Jr./Patrick Gries
  66. Incredible photographs of insects in stunning colour and detail. The Hand of the Photographer had plenty to do with making bugs so beautiful.

  67. The Light On Her Face - Joseph Walker, ASC, & Juanita Walker
  68. An auto(?)biography of lighting techniques used in film in the early to mid-20th century.

  69. The Mother Tongue - Bill Bryson
  70. Y'all know who Bill Bryson is. It was an interesting enough read, but not enough for a re-read.

  71. The Political Economy of Social Control in Singapore - Christopher Tremewan
  72. An excellent classical analysis of Singapore, its social organization, economy, politics, and (somewhat) current affairs. Lacking or not necessarily correct in a couple of trivial details, but an excellent scholarly work.

  73. Turn of Mind - Alice LaPlante
  74. A very interesting murder mystery about a woman who is losing her mental faculties. How can you tell if you committed a murder, or if you're covering up for someone else who might have, if you can no longer remember who you, or they, are?

  75. Wikileaks - David Leigh & Luke Harding
  76. These two are the Guardian journalists who worked with Julian Assange to bring Wikileaks to its public state. If anyone knows Wikileaks, and Assange, it would be these two, and the portrait they paint is not overly flattering. A highly recommended read.

  77. Your Future, My Faith, Our Freedom - Chee Soon Juan
  78. This ought to be recommended reading for all Singaporeans and anybody who has any fondness for the tiny island-nation or its inhabitants. A cri de coeur for Singaporeans to be more involved with their national politics and policies. The author is a brilliant neuropsychologist with an obvious and deep love for his country. Regrettably, its current government chooses not to return that love.

  79. Time Bombs in Malaysia - Lim Kit Siang
  80. One of Malaysia's leading politicians (though not, one should add, one currently enjoying any sort of power or even, possibly, liberty) speaks from the heart of problems inherent in the creation of Malaysia that threaten its continued democratic existence.

  81. The Unmaking of Malaysia - Ahmad Mustapha Hassan
  82. An interesting look at UMNO, Malaysia's current governing party, from its foundation to (roughly) the present. It's an insider's perspective, with all the insider stories that entails.

  83. Unmasking Najib - Lim Kit Siang
  84. Veteran Malaysian politician dissects current Malaysian prime minister and his history of duplicity and corruption.

  85. The Indonesian Revolution and The Singapore Connection - Yong Mun Cheong
  86. An excellent historical reconstruction of the role of Singapore in the revolution against the Dutch undertaken by Indonesian freedom fighters seeking to liberate their nation.

  87. Gangsters and Revolutionaries - Robert Cribb
  88. Sheds light on a little-known chapter in Indonesian history, when the street gangs of Java assisted revolutionaries seeking Merdeka for the homeland. Fascinating, if somewhat lengthy.

  89. Indonesian Confrontation - Gabriel Tan
  90. An account of Konfrontasi between Indonesia and the newly formed Malaysia, by a journalist from the Malaysian side of the border. Only of interest to someone interested in the Malaysian Government's viewpoint of the altercation.

  91. The Sculpture of Indonesia - Nat'l Gallery of Art
  92. Art in any more fragile form rarely survives the rigors of the tropical climate, which is why this tome on the sculpture of Indonesia is such a valuable record of artistic and cultural influences of the vast and diverse Indonesian archipelago. Beautiful.

  93. Women Creating Indonesia: The First Fifty Years -
  94. Academic papers from a conference on women in Indonesia; somewhat lacking in Indonesian women participants.

  95. A Nation in Waiting - Adam Schwartz
  96. An interesting, if sometimes confusing, account of the recent political history of Indonesia post WW II; written by someone who spent a good part of their life in that part of the world, covering the events described in the book for various media outlets.

  97. Fighting Spirit of East Timor - Rowena Lennox
  98. Thought this was going to be about the politics or history of East Timor, but it's just a hagiography of a rather unremarkable and colonialist Catholic priest. What a waste of time.

  99. Indian Art - Philip Rawson
  100. A very handy little volume about the art of India pretty much from prehistoric times to the present.

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