Category archives: Books


by Jan. 4, 2010 in Books, Fiction, Not Recommended

I remember when the movie Blindness came out a few years ago, I thought "what a fascinating idea - everyone in the world suddenly goes blind except for a single woman!"  Once I learned it was originally a book, I decided to forego watching the movie, and decided to just read the book it was based on.  It turns out I was right - it is a fascinating idea, if not repulsive.  Jose Saramago's vision of a society stricken blind is quite disturbing.

Unfortunately, while Blindness is a well-written, fascinating, disturbing book, it's simply annoying and unpleasant to read.  Saramago makes some stylistic choices (which I assume are meant to convey to the reader what it's like to lose one of your senses) that create an obnoxious reading experience.  Combine that with the disturbing content and it's officially not fun on all accounts.  With that said, however, if you love to see the depravity of the human spirit, and want a book structured so that it is purposefully difficult to read, Blindness is for you, and I recommend it with all confidence that you will "enjoy" it.  For the rest of us, don't bother.

"This is the stuff we’re made of, half indifference and half malice" (32).

What Video Games Have to Teach Us About Learning and Literacy

by Dec. 21, 2009 in Books, Nonfiction, Recommended

When I first received this book as a gift, I looked at the cover and thought "Cool, a book that will show how good and noble video games are!"  However, if I had read even the title a little more closely I would have realized that this isn't an apologist's book on video games.  It isn't meant to show how video games are good for us, and therefore should be played by everyone all the time (though they should).

So what is it?  Just as the title says, it's a book that looks at what video ...

Read more »

Chart: Measuring Genre Transitions

by Dec. 18, 2009 in Books

On my last chart post, I asked if there were any suggestions for other data graphics and Shawn mentioned the idea of showing the transitions between genres.  In other words, do I typically read Fantasy or Sci-Fi after Juvenile Fiction?

In order to present this graphically, I thought a step line graph might work best.  You will notice that each "step" is a single instance of a book being read.  There are scenarios where two books of the same genre are read in a row, but the first Sci-Fi instance should give you an idea of the size of a ...

Read more »

Recent books on CD (and why they aren't in the database)

by Dec. 16, 2009 in Audio Books, Books, Fantasy

I am constantly listening to books on cd in the car.  Literally, all the time.  I do not listen the news, music on the radio, or music on cd.  I don't sit it silence as I make my way to and from work.  There is always a book on, and there is always at least one in queue.  I didn't start keeping track when this book on cd endeavor began (Thanksgiving of 2007, on a trip to Dallas) but if my memory is correct, I have listened to 68 books on cd since then, with 69 and 70 ...

Read more »

Beyond the Blue Event Horizon (Heechee Saga)

by Dec. 10, 2009 in Books, Recommended, Science Fiction

Beyond the Blue Event Horizon is a sequel to Gateway which I read (warning - spoilers) at the beginning of the year.  Beyond follows the characters from the first but, if you haven't read the first, that probably doesn't help that much so I'll give a brief outline of the universe in which these books are set.

Humans made their way into space, where they discovered the remnants of an ancient, super intelligent civilization.   Gateway is an asteroid from which people can launch into space in hopes of finding even more technology and thus becoming extremely rich.  Unfortunately ...

Read more »

Chart: Pages per Day by Genre

by Dec. 8, 2009 in Books

One of the advantages of having a book database is that you can easily query statistical data in order to look at reading habits in a different way. It also allows for precision that would be extremely tedious otherwise.

After reading The Visual Display of Quantitative Information I realized that my existing selection of charts are, while not worthless, not as informative or useful as I would like them to be. Many of them have chart junk, they rely too heavily on pie charts, they are not focused on data-ink maximization and in some cases the information could be just ...

Read more »

The Visual Display of Quantitative Information

by Dec. 4, 2009 in Books, Nonfiction, Recommended

I had a dream about The Visual Display of Quantitative Information last night.  This isn't a normal occurrence.  What was most surprising, however, was that in addition to telling a coworker the title and author of the book, I also proceeded to accurately explain the book's main premise.  I even had some visual aids to help sell the argument.

I took all of this as a sign that I should add it as a featured book, even though I read it back in September.  Visual Display provides the reader with a clear, concise understanding of what it means ...

Read more »

Olive Kitteridge

by Dec. 3, 2009 in Books, Fiction, Recommended

I knew nothing about Olive Kitteridge before reading it except that it was a Pulitzer Prize winner and that my sister-in-law enjoyed it when she read it for her book club.  I enjoy going into books blind this way, and try to do it whenever possible.  That's part of the reason many of my descriptions and posts here will be pretty vague.  I don't want to give away anymore than is absolutely necessary to get you interested in the book.

With that said, I'm not going to tell you anything about Olive Kitteridge except that it is ...

Read more »

Grip of the Shadow Plague

by Dec. 2, 2009 in Books, Fantasy, Recommended

This is book three in the Fablehaven series. If you have read the first two, and are considering the third, it should come as no surprise that I recommend picking it up. So far each book has been exciting, imaginative, and non-stop entertainment.

If you haven't read any of the Fablehaven books and are wondering if you should start, I say yes. From the very beginning, I have been captivated by Mull's books. Plus, they are so quick and easy to read that, if you don't like the first one, it will only take you a day ...

Read more »


by Dec. 1, 2009 in Books, Recommended, Science Fiction

The first time I read Dune (this is the second), I remember it made me really thirsty. It also made me want to conserve water, so I stopped showering. I was in college at the time, though, so it was okay, no one noticed.

I didn’t suffer the same level of obsession over water this time through, but I definitely still enjoyed it. I also had a theory, in college, that a connection could be drawn between Dune and Plato’s Republic, but it didn’t come through for me this time. It’s probably still there, I just ...

Read more »