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A running list of books I've finished

Tempo - timing, tactics and strategy in narrative-driven decision-making

by Venkatesh Rao

Finished on 09/09/19

I really should have read this years ago but I really enjoyed this piece. The core ideas around tempo of interactions, narrative time and that the kitchen is the best way to think about time will all stick with me for a while. Recommended.

Conversation - How Talk Can Change Our Lives

by Theodore Zeldin

Finished on 09/04/19

A delightful little book that was a gift from my friend Brian. A little meditation on conversations, how important they are and some of the explicit and implicit ways they can go wrong. At first I thought this was going to offer solutions and ideas but mostly it just offers poetry and provocations. I think it'll stick with me for a long time though - and the art from the author scattered through the book makes a lovely little object. Thanks Brian!

Recursion

by Blake Crouch

Finished on 9/3/19

A fast-paced, high-action read. A fun time-travel romp with some great characters. Ultimately I thought the premise was smart and the writing handled it well but the whole novel felt a little shallow. There were some really meaty ideas about identity and family wrapped up here that kind of got sidelined for the sake of the technology-driven plot and I thought that was a shame. Fun read though.

Way Station

by Clifford D. Simak

Finished on 8/25/19

Lovely vintage sci-fi recommended by Chris Butler. There's aliens, teleporting and... magic? But nothing flashy happens - it's an incredibly human story. This is a really thoughtful and fresh story. Highly recommended.

Idiots First

by Bernard Malamud

Finished on 8/15/19

The opening line of Idiot's First is a masterpiece. 'The thin ticking of the tin clock stopped'. Loved a few of the other stories but some were definitely forgettable. I'd recommend dipping your toe in and at the very least reading the title story Idiots First.

The Scar

by China Miéville

Finished on 08/06/19

Ah what delicious sludgy, dark, human texture. China Miéville's descriptive language and world building is unparalleled. This is book two (after reading Perdido Street Station last year). These books are long and luxurious so perhaps not the best entry point if you're new to his writing but if you like this kind of thing there's nothing better. My only quarrel with this book was the ending... It felt somewhat unsatisfying, or rather unfinished - where a typical book resolves this felt like the open sea was still in front of you? But it's a very minor comment as mostly the strength of this book was that every page told a lifetime of texture. Definitely going to read book three of this trilogy after a break.

Last Night

by James Salter

Finished on 07/14/19

After reading All That Is I had to wash my palette and get back to some of his delicious writing. This was much more in line with Light Years and contained some lovely moments. None of the short stories will linger with me too long but it's a short read and I'd recommend it.

Emissaries Guide to Worlding

by Ian Cheng

Finished on 7/8/19

The core idea of the masks - the cartoonist, the director, the hacker and the emissary - is wonderful and a new lens to look at the world through, so overall I'd recommend the book. But there was also an incredible over-indulgence from the author to live inside his own worlds (which feels very finite game like, not infinite game like). And the lack of people anywhere in his worlds is also problematic. That said - the book as an object is beautiful and wonderfully designed.

The Prisoner

by Thomas M. Disch

Finished on 7/7/19

I really enjoyed this - a delightfully British story of being trapped, like a combination of Kafka and PG Wodehouse. The plot derailed itself in a few places and there was a whole Shakespere reference that kind of went over my head but the writing was wonderful. Recommended.

Oval

by Elvia Wilk

Finished on 6/24/19

I really loved this. Distinctive, fresh writing that captures so much of the present weirdness in society while also somehow feeling timeless. The middle third dragged slightly for me but the descent into ecological weird towards the end is just wonderful and reminds me of the Annihiliation series by Jeff Vandermeer. Oh and the whole book centers on this premise of artists becoming 'consultants' which is magnificent. Recommended. Verdict- 👍🌲

All That Is

by James Salter

Finished on 06/09/2019

A wildly disappointing read. Not that it was so bad but that having recently read Light Years I was expecting so much more. There were moments of brilliance in the writing and some of the scenes will linger with me overall the book didn't really make me feel anything. Definitely read Light Years instead.

Borderless

by Eliot Peper

Finished on 5/20/2019

Book two of the Analog series. Overall I connected less with the main character in this one but connected more with the overall premise which is very thought provoking. It feels today that we are actively living through the end (or at least a phase transition) of sovereignty. Compelling and a quick read.

Bandwidth

by Eliot Peper

Finished on 5/13/2019

I completely devoured this book. The characters and pace keeps it flowing but the ideas will stick with me - it's grounded in a very near future and the concepts are well thought through. Excited to keep diving into Borderless next.

The Gone Away World

by Nick Harkaway

Finished on 5/07/2019

A majestic feat of imagination - whirlwind story of a gong-fu epic in a world gone mad. Definitely feels like it needed better editing or structuring and was about 100 pages too long but the strength of imagination and grasp of poetry really captivated me. Picked this up off the street on the way home from kung-fu training (approriate!). I'll be reading more of his work.

Light Years

by James Salter

Finished on 4/12/2019

This book completely destroyed me. The writing is dense and poetic like almost no one I've ever read. Did you know glass is a liquid and slowly 'flows'? This book operates on a time horizon and 'flows' through lives in a deeply transformative way. Found via Phil Gyford

Delirious New York

by Rem Koolaas

Finished on 3/18/2019

It's architecture writing but lyrical, magical and opinionated. A tour de force through New York's history with tons of interesting characters, ideas, explorations and more. Ideas include congestion as an organizing principle of the city, and every block being an archipelago. Wonderful and highly recommended.

Tomorrow In The Battle Think On Me

by Javier Marias

Finished on 2/17/2019

Abandoned. I think somewhere in this book is buried a wonderful treasure. The looping self-aware story is fundamentally interesting and new but the language that wraps around it chokes it to death. Abandoned about half way through.

Summerland

by Hannu Rajaniemi

Finished on 1/21/2019

A wonderful original work - full of interesting characters. Ghosts! Spys! Old London! Really enjoyed this and tore through it super fast.

Finite & Infinite Games

by James Carse

Finished on 1/10/2019

Great unique book, wonderful analogy to finite and infinite writing....

The Power

by Naomi Alderman

Finished on 12/30/2018

Provocative premise but I felt it squandered an opportunity at a deeper political and/or emotional exploration of what would happen if teenage girls gained a new incredible power. Somehow it resorted to.... fucking and fighting?

Perdido Street Station

by China Mieville

Finished on 12/01/2018

A staggering, creative, filthy, engrossing tour through a world with such magical and rich depths. No one can build worlds like China.

Satin Island

by Tom McCarthy

Finished on 03/21/2018

William Gibson meets Kafka. A corporate strategy consultant / ethnographer ponders the meaning of life and searches for the Great Report.

The Dark Dark

by Samantha Hunt

Finished on 02/15/2018

Tender, oozing, lyrical, dark, DARK stories of being human. Did I mention they are dark? What writing though! What imagination!

!&
@tomcritchlow