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Bob's Reading List

You don't have to burn books to destroy a culture. Just get people to stop reading them. - Ray Bradbury

Last updated October 7, 2017

Ongoing reading - Story/Essay Collections:

Currently Reading:
Le Morte D'Arthur - Keith Baines, re-telling Thomas Malory
Hawaii - James Michener

Latest Books Read

* Designates book read with child / children
For Notes (1) see bottom of page.


  1. December 2007 - I've decided to start adding notes on an occasional basis. I will add various notes to old entries as well - so note numbers may jump around quite a bit.
  2. This is a terrific book. First read it mid- to late 70's, and again about 6 - 8 years ago. Now to work up the nerve to tackle Gravity's Rainbow again :)
  3. Books listed below this point are not in sequential order. When I first began this list, I included a number of 'significant' books I had read in the fairly recent past.
  4. I was amazed to find at my public library two "new" Heinleins, given that he died some 19 years ago (see also the following note). This was an early work he never published, although he did 'mine' some of the contents for other published works (rolling roads etc.) Found in his papers after the death of his widow, Virginia, and recently published. Kind of a mixed bag.
  5. Another "new" Heinlein. A book he started in outline in the 1950's, and set side and never got back to; recently fleshed out and completed by spiritual descendant Spider Robinson. And a darn fine job he did, too!
  6. This was my first Heinlein, bought by my older brother in the 7'th or 8'th grade from Scholastic Books. He didn't appreciate it. To be fair, the description tried to sell it as slam-bang space opera, whereas the collected stories are highly people- as well as adventure-oriented, sold to the slick magazines in the 1940's. I was hooked. A marvelous book, worthy of much wider recognition than it has - the title story is a gem.
  7. I first read this book in early high school. It is a gem, worth re-reading regularly. I rebegan it this time on Tuesday, March 18, 2008, only to hear later in the day of Clarke's death. He will truly be missed.
  8. William Gibson tends to write his books in loose trilogies. This one shares (at least) one main character with his most recent previous book, Pattern Recognition. One more to come?
  9. A first for me: a non-paper-based book. Cory Doctorow allows all of his books to be downloaded free from his website I downloaded it and read it on my home machine as a PDF file. Doctorow writes interesting stuff - this one wasn't my favourite, but still kind of nifty.
     9b. Re-read on Sony eReader. On looking up this note, I was quite surprised by the ho-hum earlier review - I thought it was a hoot this time around! (Maybe reading sitting at a computer takes something from it?)

  10. Man, I never thought I'd say this about something written by OSC, but this one's a stinker. I hope we can blame this Johnston guy. "Quandoque bonus dormitat Homerus" - but still...
  11. I bring a book to read at lunch at work, so pick up something off my shelf small enough to fit in my lunch bag. As far as I recall, I'd only read this one once before, quite some time ago, but remembered the basic theme. What I'd forgotten is what a terrific book it is! The man could really write.
  12. Incredible book (although steep learning curve to understand it), incredibly inventive writer (don't even ask about the lobsters). Cyberpunk on acid and/or steroids. I had never heard of this guy before, just stumbled on the book. Reviewer's notes repeatedly compare him to William Gibson and/or Bruce Sterling, whose collaborative Steampunk tour de force The Difference Engine I semicoincidentally picked up to reread simultaneously. Couple of amazing books to blow your mind.
  13. Pretty terrific book. This is probably my third reading (not counting dippings-in-to), but not for some years. Reading simultaneously with first real re-read of Pynchon's Gravity's Rainbow - quite a combo.
  14. Marvelous fantasy, marvelous adventure, marvelous romance. Easily one of my top 10 books of all time, probably top 5.
  15. What can one say about Gravity's Rainbow? This is my first re-read (first read it in '79). Inventive and insane, does anybody really know what it's all about?
    Approaching the end, I found myself slowing down - both not wanting to be done, and recalling how apparently a meaningless ending it has. Simultaneously a masterwork and a complete and utter sham. I love it!
  16. An intriguing book. Published in 1961, best novel Nebula award 1962, bestseller and 1960's hippie/cult classic. The manuscript was edited/cut by 25% of it's original size for publication, for length and material deemed objectionable at the time. I first (and last, until now) read it in high school - I was really too young.

    There's a confusing naming situation - Heinlein's widow, Virginia, had the uncut manuscript published in 1991 as another edition. This is now referred to as the "original" version, (30 years after the version as first published!) Haven't yet read this edition - from what I hear, opinions are mixed as to which version is "better".

    I've just reread the 1961 version, in a 1986 paperback edition I was somewhat surprised to find on my shelf - I probably bought it in '87 or thereabouts, and had more or less forgotten about it. (Frequently when I buy a book, it's after I've already read it - my wife thinks I'm weird this way.) I'll maybe take a look at the '91 edition (read? skim?) - not sure whether to look it up soon while this read is fresh, or wait a while.

  17. Asinine. Perhaps more note to follow
  18. Interesting book - set in 12th century England, plenty of sex, religion and politics. Dang, I wish I had read this before I visited cathedrals last summer.
  19. Stephenson is an amazing writer, and this is a terrific (if somewhat flawed) book. A tour de force.
  20. A tremendous resource and great book. I haven't actually finished it, maybe never will, but this is an ongoing project.
  21. Stephenson is an incredibly inventive and ambitious writer. Having read most of his later works, I'm starting on the earlier ones. This one starts off great - terrific near-future cyberpunk parody, great language, great lines. When I enjoy a book, I tend to read uncritically, but about two-thirds of the way in, little jarring notes and bits of illogic started creeping in, tapering off into a weakish ending. Still worth a read though. Also: this book is listed as one of Time Magazine's ALL-TIME 100 Novels (English language, 1923 - 2005). I guess they read the first half.
  22. A truly great book. Perhaps best known as the great body of mythos lying behind The Lord of the Rings, this is the greater book, near-Biblical in the its range and scope. Edited and published by Tolkien's son Christopher after his death, it is the body of myth and legend Tolkien spent most of his life creating, in multiple and not always compatible forms.

    I recently saw a slogan somewhere, to the effect: "The Silmarillion: For those who who think The Lord of the Rings is for wimps." I don't want to be snooty about it, but I kind of liked that!

  23. Re-reading this one now for two reasons. 1) Pynchon has a new book out (haven't read it yet) (see note 24 below), also written in more-or-less contemporary voice - thought it might be interesting comparison. 2) Recently read Neal Stephenson's Snow Crash, which several reviewers likened in parts to Vineland. I don't really see it so much. This book is considered by many to be one of Pynchon's weaker efforts. It's told mainly in multiple flashbacks and multiple levels of flashback; the reader is expecting something of a big climax when everything comes back together towards the end, but it all kind of fizzles. An interesting book, worth reading more for the journey than the destination.
  24. Kind of a nifty book - the latest in Pynchon's reflections on mid-to-late '60's California. Another fascinating exercise in paranoia (or is it paranoia if they're really after you?) All the usual Pynchon earmarks: convoluted plot, loads of wackily-name characters, assorted silly songs/poems (maybe a bit weaker than in some of his other books). On the other hand, the plot actually all comes together in the end, and wraps up with a satisying and understandable conclusion.
  25. This one's been sitting on my shelf since I first read it in '91 or so. A difficult book, but ultimately highly rewarding, it combines dense occult/hermetic scholarship with wicked satire. A beautiful counterpoise to the current Dan Brown silliness; three scholars working from numerous arcane histories and the works of assorted crackpot theorists spin out a yarn of a secret-organization / conspiracy history of the world to outdo them all, only to see it being swallowed as gospel by the true believers. From an interview with the author,

    Q: I am wondering if you read Dan Brown’s “Da Vinci Code,” which some critics see as the pop version of your “Name of the Rose.”
    A: I was obliged to read it because everybody was asking me about it. My answer is that Dan Brown is one of the characters in my novel, “Foucault’s Pendulum,” which is about people who start believing in occult stuff.

    Q: But you yourself seem interested in the kabbalah, alchemy and other occult practices explored in the novel.
    A: No, in “Foucault’s Pendulum” I wrote the grotesque representation of these kind of people. So Dan Brown is one of my creatures.
  26. A valiant if not entirely successful attempt to step into the very large shoes of the late, lamented Douglas Adams. Colfer tries a little too hard, including over- / mis-using the word froody. Lots of Adamsesque humour on the short scale, but overall, hard to read too much of at a time. And another thing, Eoin ... the word is expatriate, not ex-patriot - I've seen that from journalists, but from a writer? :) Still, a pretty decent book.
  27. An epic, an American Odyssey. It may be a cliche, but this book has passages to make you cry and passages to make you laugh out loud. Incredibly memorable characters and dialogue. McMurtry is a storyteller of the highest order.
  28. Written as a sequel to Lonesome Dove, is now ordered as 3 of 4 in the completed cycle, and last chronologically.
    I'm not generally a great reader of Westerns, but McMurtry transcends the genre. I found a few parts early on to be a bit slow-going, developing what I thought were minor characters - but in McMurtry's fiction, there are no minor characters. Another masterful work. CORRECTION TO ABOVE: The "ordering" of the series is chronological, thus this book is fourth of four.
  29. Classic early Gibson. The title story in particular is a winner.
  30. And so we come to the end of the Lonesome Dove saga, and what a ride it has been, ending on a truly elegiac note (the second book chronologically, this was the last written). Memorable characters, subtle (and not-so-subtle) humour, human drama. (A grumbling aside: I found three glaring typographical errors in the last two pages of the book, two in one paragraph; I don't look for these things, but don't recall seeing any others in the entire four books. It actually spoiled the mood of the conclusion. Did the editors/proofreaders punch out early?)
  31. Margaret Atwood does science fiction - terrific speculation, beauty and tragedy. I can't believe how so much of this reminds me of Vonnegut, while blacker (!) and funnier (!!).
  32. One of my top two Heinleins (probably second, after The Moon is a Harsh Mistress).

  33. Sequel to Oryx and Crake. Is this a trilogy? That ending was still pretty open-ended.
    UPDATE July '13: "MaddAddam" is coming out in September, completing the "MaddAddam Trilogy" along with Oryx and Flood.
  34. A pretty good book by Robert Sawyer. Sawyer collaborated on this year's television series of the same name; it takes the same central premise, but is otherwise much different. I watched it for a bit, but gave up. Anyway, as noted above, I give the book a qualified "pretty good" (among other things, I'm still trying to figure out if the ending made any sense.)
  35. Charles Stross writes books that completely blow me away, but can be initially hard to follow at times. I'm doing something unprecedented here - I'm re-reading the book immediately.

  36. Another Rutherfurd multigenerational, multicentury (multimillenial actually) epic. Nifty stuff.

  37. Book two in Sawyer's "WWW" trilogy, to be completed next year (Wake was number 1). The man comes up with some incredibly interesting ideas, along his own bit of social analysis. He gets in some wicked commentary on Canadians vs Americans in the voice and blog of his 16-year-old Texas-born heroine, now living in Waterloo, Ontario. One cute bit: an English teacher insisting that Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale isn't science fiction - her fallback position being that "if it were, we wouldn't be studying it" - Ouch!

  38. A terrific (and prescient and scary) book worth re-reading from time to time. And no, in spite of what my local library system insists, it is not a sequel to Brunner's Stand on Zanzibar - the two are entirely unrelated dystopic versions of a frighteningly-near future.

  39. It's become something of a tradition in recent years for me to take two new (library) books along when I go on vacation. The two noted are both historical novels, quite different from one another.

    Croker's To Make Men Free is a fairly scholarly approach to the American Civil War in 1862, focusing mainly on the Battle of Antietam - including battle diagrams. Cool stuff if you're into it, and I am.

    Bernard Cornwell is a prolific writer of historical fiction, but I hadn't previously read any of his work. I got started on the wrong foot with his Azincourt (the French spelling of Agincourt) - I was tempted to class it as "trashy" historical, along the lines of the work of John Jakes, the American soi disant "Godfather of the historical novel". Cornwell is much beyond this - it was the level of violence that initially tweaked me the wrong way, but the Middle Ages were violent times. (Jakes also uses great wads of explicit and gratuitous sex.) The descriptions here in the battle scenes reminded me at times of the Iliad. And my, Cornwell and his characters have a head for delicious invective:

    Sir John:
    "That's how you do it!" he shouted at the archers. "You rip their bellies open, shove blades in their eyes, slice their throats, cut off their bollocks, drive swords up their arses, tear out their gullets, gouge their livers, skewer their kidneys, I don't care how you do it, so long as you kill them! Isn't that right Father Christopher?"

    Father Christopher:
    "Our Lord and Saviour could not have expressed the sentiment more eloquently, Sir John."

  40. John Calvin Batchelor writes (wrote) odd, quirky, yet engaging books. I read several of them a number of years ago, and picked The Further Adventures of Halley's Comet off my shelf (one of two I bought of his, and only one still owned) - odd, quirky &c. This was his first novel, in a paperback edition I bought on from the cheap sell-off shelf; I've seen a re-released edition, with "By the author of Father's Day" on the cover - he obviously was becoming better known.

    I enjoy his writing - read three of books back when. It struck me that I hadn't seen or heard of him in some time, so looked him up (Wikipedia) - it turns out that Father's Day (1994), which I also read, was his next-to-last published work, with one more non-fiction piece in 1996. It turns out that he's now a conservative radio-talk-show host! Go figure.

  41. This is going to be a bit of a rambling note. I bought this book last May or June (2010), and have been reading it off or on ever since - great stories (if you've read this page, you know my opinion of Card's writing). Just taking my time - the stories are so varied, it's best not to read too many in a row. I actually have one or two more to read.

    So why write this now, you ask? A confluence of things. One story, Feed the Baby of Love, is a riff on Ray Bradbury's (semi-autobiographical) Douglas Spaulding. And Bradbury's name just came up in another, entirely different context.

    I'm always torn when I come across something both absolutely hilarious and utterly filthy - who can I show it to? I came across something flagged in BoingBoing - a video, F*** me, Ray Bradbury - you're going to have to look it up yourself, I'm not going to link it here - and
    here is Bradbury's reaction on being forwarded it. Happy 90th Birthday Ray, August 22.

  42. No Zombies. Just had to write that.

  43. This is a combined note for Pride and Prejudice and Pride and Prejudice and Zombies; I thought I had written a note for the latter, and was surprised to find I had not.

    I saw British adaptions of a number of Jane Austen's works on PBS a couple of years ago, including a multi-part version of P&P, and enjoyed them, but had never read any of her works. My wife, knowing (odd) sense of humour, saw and bought me a copy of P&P&Z, which I found to be an absolute hoot - but made me also see how much I would enjoy the original.

    What can I say about Austen's prose? Marvellous characters and dialogue, wicked sense of humour. The Zombies version keeps most of what is best about Austen, though trimming down some of the longer passages. The addition of zombies, ninjas and "balls" jokes is inspired. If a book like this one can attract more readers back to the originals (as it did me), more power to it.

  44. This book contains the source material for both the early 60's Disney animation The Sword in the Stone and the Lerner and Lowe musical Camelot.

    Hard to praise it too much. A (mock)-history, a fantasy, a comedy, an epic, a romance, a tragedy, a farce. Lessons on war-making, peace-making, love-making. Deserves re-reading regularly - I have read it before, it can be found on this list - but I don't know where my head was when I last read it - I find it hard to believe how much I'd forgotten to the point of not even remembering having read before. Marvellous, marvellous book.

  45. The presumed end of the Bigend cycle, after Pattern Recognition and Spook Country (See note 8). I say "cycle" rather than "trilogy" as these aggregations are rather loose and it's hard to say that it's really over - his groupings have been trilogies in the past, however. Spook Country in particular I found somewhat less than memorable, but this one much better - more coherent plotline, actually seemed to be going somewhere.

  46. I've read a number of Vonnegut's books from high school until recently, yet have somehow never read Slaughterhouse-Five, probably his best-known. I've seen the movie version in part several times, but never complete. Finally! A short book, well worth the read - the "black" humour that Catch-22 so miserably fails at. And, the day I completed it, I saw that the movie was being broadcast that evening on TVOntario, commercial-free. (Knowing I'd be interrupted, I've taped and not yet seen it). (Later note re the taped movie: it was pretty good, and probably as faithful to a Vonnegut book as you can get.)

  47. Northanger Abbey was Jane Austen's first-sold and last-published novel (posthumously, along with Persuasion). It is among other things a parody of the late seventeenth / early eighteenth century "Gothic" novel. It is also enormously funny and entertaining - the final chapter in particular is an absolute hoot.

  48. A powerful and highly imaginative book by writer I am not yet otherwise familiar with. I'm going to have to look him up.

  49. Ray Bradbury's still writing 'em, and writing them great! This book comprises two novellas, Now and Forever and Leviathan '99. The first might baffle someone unfamiliar with his work, but is amazing - the man writes poetry in every sentence of his prose. As for the second, only Bradbury can get away with rewriting Melville in space!

  50. Dune is hailed as a classic, a masterpiece of science fiction, with rave jacket commentary by Clarke, Heinlein and who knows who else. I've considered reading it off and on for years, but have never had a real drive to do so; finally I've done so. While Frank Herbert has created a marvellous invention in his universe's religions, politics, cultures and ecologies, somehow I just am not moved by it. It took much longer to read than I expected; for me it just dragged. While I found it more impressive towards the end, I doubt that I'll ever read more of the series.

  51. This list hasn't been updated for a bit, mainly because I've been reading The Winds of War. I first read it in high school, and then a second time a number of years ago; I remembered the broad themes, but was surprised by what details I didn't recall - I suspect the second reading may have been skimming a bit. A good book. I will probably re-read the sequel War and Remembrance a bit down the line, perhaps not right away; concentrating so much on the Holocaust, I find it rather depressing.

  52. What a roller-coaster of a book! Jane does it again, a terrific read, with complex, fascinating characters. I love her ending, as she goes into her epilogue chapter talking directly to the reader in first person, wrapping things up in a satisfying, happy-as-can-be ending. Oh, and now we know where the name of the obnoxious cat in the Harry Potter books came from.

    A watershed: I began this book in the big complete-Jane-Austen paper book, and completed it on e-reader.

  53. I first read Tom Sawyer many years ago as a child, too young to appreciate much of it - this is the first read since then. It's surprising to see how much I remembered and how much I didn't. I've never read Huckleberry Finn, though know the general plot and have seen one movie version many years ago - have been meaning to read it for some time. Soon.

    Note: First book to be read entirely on Kobo e-reader.

  54. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is a good book. As mentioned in my note on Tom Sawyer, I had read that book as a child, but never this one. I thought I knew most of the plot, but while I did know the main theme of Huck and Jim rafting down the Mississippi, it seems I didn't know the actual plot much past the halfway point. I did find myself rather frustrated by some chapters in the latter half, and the plot in at least one point hinges on a rather outrageous coincidence, but the book overall remains marvellous.

    One note: again, as mentioned in the Tom Sawyer note, I did see a movie version as a child (or, I now suspect, perhaps the first half of it). On reading the book, a memory came to mind: In a fairly early scene, after Huck has run away and faked his own death, he disguises himself in dress and bonnet as a girl and goes into town to learn of the reaction. He takes shelter in a woman's home: she suspects him to be a boy on seeing how clumsily he tries to thread a needle, and verifies her suspicion by tossing a ball of yarn into his lap, and seeing how he claps knees together rather than trying to catch it in his skirt. I knew all of this was going to happen: on watching the movie with my late father, I recall him telling me he remembered this scene from having read it in the book as a child. A poignant memory.

  55. I first read Hooking Up a number of years ago - mostly a number of essays reprinted, along with an extended fiction piece. Great content - but the the ebook version is incredibly amateurish. Hard to believe they didn't have an electronic version, but this one was apparently done by scan and OCR from the print version, and converted with absolutely no proofreading or editing - a ridiculous number of misread characters - yecch!

  56. The Red Badge of Courage is a masterful work - a study in the psychology of cowardice, courage and combat. If Crane hadn't died so young, who knows what other great works he might have produced.

  57. I'm not sure what audience Jack London wrote White Fang and The Call of the Wild for - adults/young adults? - they work well for either. I've read Call several times a number of years ago, probably first as a teenager, but never Fang before - a couple of terrific books, two sides of the same coin.

  58. No connection to the Hitchcock movie, a series of cynical short detective stories set in 1920's (or so), with an unsavoury tinge of xenophobia and anti-semitism.

  59. One of the last Austen books I hadn't yet read, and a stunner. Much darker at times than a great deal of her work, yet at other time straying perilously close to farce on the order of The Importance of Being Ernest. It's hard to believe the rabbit-out-of-hatting she does to pull off the ending, and yet it works marvellously. Wow!

  60. A couple of bizarre long stories by a terrific combination of writers - a definite bit of Douglas Adams influence at times, including the odd shout-out. Wicked! Update: I've recently learned that these two have been grouped together under the title The Rapture of the Nerds.

  61. Very early Stephen King (late Seventies), and one of my favourite books of his.

  62. Wow. What else can one say about Moby-Dick? Again: Wow.

    Okay, I guess I should say more: 1) I read a highly-abridged "youth" version 'way back in grade school. 2) I started (at least twice) trying to read it in an edition my mother owned, but never got very far. That version was a rather thick paperbook, even though it was abridged! On finally re-reading "the real thing", I have to wonder if they abridged all the colour out of it - the author is incredibly discursive, but fascinating.

  63. Neal Stephenson writes intriguing books, to the point that I jump to read anything new he has written. A writer of brilliant imagination, I sometimes find his books to have some significant flaw: here, major plot lines that appear from nowhere, and others that fade away with little more than a whimper. Still, a great read.

  64. Wicked is an amazing book - an adventure, an epic, a philosophical discussion of good vs. evil and free will vs. predestination, and a backhand spin on The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, a (minor?) classic much less well known than the movie based upon it.

    The book is a minor e-book milestone for me: the first book I've purchased electronically without having previously read it. I've been meaning to read the book for years: have looked for it periodically in my local public library, but apparently not so much as to put a hold on it. I've recently learned that is the first book of the now-complete "Wicked Years" cycle, wrapped up by the book Out of Oz, published less than two weeks ago as I write this. Interestingly, the last three of the four books were published three years apart each, while ten years lapsed between Wicked and the continuation of the series. At the moment I have mixed thoughts on the remainder of this series: one part of me seems to think that any follow-up books will be a letdown; and yet this is obviously a powerful writer. We shall see.

  65. Nowadays The Moonstone is mainly the answer to a trivia question: it is frequently described as the first detective novel (in English at least, I suppose). This is a shame - it's still a terrific book, and managed to set in place a great number of the standard mystery/detective novel conventions. (And if it's the first, why does the police detective, in admitting he arrived at a false conclusion, say "It's only in books that the detective never makes a mistake"? ;-)

  66. A nasty, unsettling little book - I loved it! In reading Margaret Atwood' In Other Worlds I came on a section discussing The Island of Doctor Moreau; I read a couple of pages before deciding I should read the Wells before coming back to Atwood, and was well rewarded. (Her commentary and observations on it were pretty interesting as well.)

  67. The Wonder is the conclusion to Robert J. Sawyer's WWW trilogy (after Wake and Watch). I have very mixed feelings about Sawyer; he comes up with ingenious ideas and plot lines, and writes well, but... I'm Canadian, and we provincial types sometimes enjoy seeing Canadian references in books, but does he have to continually hammer us over the head with them? And some of his far-left stuff I can do without; and call me a prude, and yes, I know it happens, but I don't really need to read material that celebrates chronologically / emotionally / socially young teenagers having sex. What can I say? - he's not Card.

  68. Flipping through the public domain material on my Kobo a little while back, I hit on A Tale of Two Cities as something to try - haven't read much Dickens, loosely know the story (or at least how it ends) - next day, found the author all in the news, with the 200th anniversary of his birth coming up in a couple of weeks. Anyway, I find I'm not really a Dickens person (read Oliver Twist in grade school waaay back, not much since). I'm not sure what it is with his writing style that puts me off - not that it's dated, as anyone who's read these notes knows how much I love Jane Austen - anyway, I plugged through it, and it did get somewhat better. Not planning to read a lot more in the near future though.

  69. This book has so much going on, on so many different levels, it bears re-reading regularly - finally bought it, 20th anniversary edition ebook.

  70. Sunshine Sketches of a Little Town is a book recognized to be a Canadian humour classic which nobody reads anymore - which is truly a shame. I have to admit I've never previously read it, aside from one excerpt back in grade school and which I didn't appreciate at the time. Truth be told, I've always found the title a bit cloying, and had pegged the book as something that was probably "good for you". While I did find the epilogue to be a bit sappy, the work has passages that are laugh-out-loud funny, as well as some really wicked satire. I should have read this one a long time ago.

    As a side note, I was reading this at the same time as Les Misérables - don't try this at home, kids, it can lead to some nasty whiplash ;)

  71. Les Misérables note to be added.

  72. First time readingThe Wind in the Willows. I was vaguely familiar with the characters involved if not the plotlines, and believe I saw part of an animated Disney version many years ago, but was very pleasantly surprised by the book. Truly sweet pastoral passages alternate with epically silly farce. (Toad-sized Mr. Toad doesn't drive a toad-sized motor-car; he drives a full-sized motor-car. By putting on a washerwoman's dress and bonnet he can pass himself off as her in order to escape from prison. And so on.)

  73. A Princess of Mars is the first book in Burroughs Mars series, and was recently filmed as John Carter. A number of years ago I found and purchased a very old copy in a used bookstore (originally published in October 1917, pencilled note on flyleaf by seller indicates this was a 1918 reprint). Not a great book, with quite a dated feel, but still a fun read.

  74. It's amazing how reading leads to reading. As I've remarked elsewhere in these notes, Charles Stross is one awesome writer, and this book only makes me repeat the fact. This collection includes a 'sequel' to 1984, so naturally I had to follow up reading it by re-reading the original, and am glad to have done so. TOAST also has a quasi-sequel to Lovecraft's At the Mountains of Madness, which I hadn't previously read, and was pleasantly surprised to find that my son had a copy of - so naturally I had to read that first. The 'sequel' was a hoot - the original, not so much: I guess I'm not a Lovecraft person. I couldn't read it while lying down, or would go to sleep - and finally just skimmed the last quarter or so to get the gist of it as a foundation for A Colder War, Stross's sequel.

  75. Yippee-ki-yay! It's Western Week at the Thompson household, as I'm simultaneously reading Riders of the Purple Sage by Zane Grey, and re-reading Larry McMurtry's second (chronologically) entry in the Lonesome Dove cycle, Comanche Moon.

  76. Ok, it's technically The Princess Bride: S. Morganstern's Classic Tale of True Romance and High Adventure, The "Good Parts Version", Abridged by William Goldman.

  77. Scratch Monkey is another piece of Charles Stross post-singularity awesomeness.

  78. Podkayne was one of the first Heinleins I read, when I was getting into him in high school in the '70s, and I haven't re-read it since. I was considering purchasing it in e-form for my Kobo, when I saw a copy for a buck at Value Village - vintage '70s-era cover as well, matching a couple of other volumes in my collection. As far as content, not my favourite of his, even from this era, but still a good book.

  79. I was once into Barth in a major way - my shelves contain copies of just about everything he published, up to Once Upon A Time - checking out the last, I can hardly believe it was from 1994! I didn't so much turn away as drift away from him. I found The Development, from 2008, on the Kobo store. An older writer now, he's still very much into the postmodernist tricks he's noted for. This book is a collection of connected short stories, some fairly conventional, some tied in knots of self-referential circularity. Still fun, Barth is perhaps a bit of an acquired taste.

  80. Over one hundred years ago, Mark Twain wrote a hilarious essay titled Fenimore Cooper's Literary Offenses, which I love. Foolish me: Having been reading a number of older works lately, I attempted Last of the Mohicans, to my regret. Twain had it right: Cooper is nearly unreadable. Set in the days of what Americans call the French and Indian War, Cooper obviously has trouble with the fact that the crack British army ("hirelings") are on the same side as his doughty colonials. It only goes downhill from there. I gave up, an extremely rare thing for me with any book.

  81. Nasa in the title should be NASA, of course. A modestly-interesting biography, the edition I read was a British republication of an American original, with editorial additions: clarification that "pants" means "trousers" for example. Some amendment of quotations went a little beyond the pale, for instance, when an American speaks of a "pickup lorry" :)

  82. E-book milestone: my first public library ebook download (Richmond Hill Public Library - recently learned that they now support ebook lending).

  83. Rudy Rucker somewhere came up with an awesome idea: put some of his books out on the web for *FREE* as ebooks. This is how I discovered him, and wish I had done so much earlier. He's a writer of incredible imagination.

  84. I love Tom Wolfe's non-fiction. I love his first novel, The Bonfire of the Vanities. I've read his various novels since, and have generally been disappointed. Oh, they're ok, just not great. For what it's worth, Wolfe's previous novel I Am Charlotte Simmons was voted an award for "worst sex scene". I think he was proud of that, and in Back to Blood has tried for a repeat.