Read Books This will provide a list of the books I've read with a brief review. Users are blocked, contact me for access. I welcome discussions, but I'm tired of spam.

December 30, 2009

1066: The Year of the Conquest by David Armine Howarth

Filed under: History — Randolph @ 10:43 pm

1066: The Year of the Conquest by David HowarthThis is a well-written book of the events in 1066 that ultimately lead to putting William the Conqueror on the throne of England. The book starts by chronicling the recent history leading up to 1066 and culminating with the death of King Edward.

We learn the life of a common thane, his values and the scope of his world. It then expands into the justice system, their decision-making process, and ultimately how they choose their kings.

The book then follows events for each of the major players, King Harold, Harald Hardrada of Norway, and Duke William of Normandy. Filling in their backgrounds, motivations, and actions as each interacts with, or nearly misses the others.

The author builds on a series of events, each which could have changed the course of history, but collectively, led to the conquest of England. In the end, he brings it back to the thanes, and how it affected his world.

The story is very well told, contains a wealth of information and was difficult to put down. It provides a new perspective and great insights into an area of history most of us know too little about.

December 29, 2009

Tyrannosaurus Sue by Steve Fiffer

Filed under: History,Science — Randolph @ 3:42 pm

Tyrannosaurus Sue: The Extraordinary Saga of Largest, Most Fought Over T. Rex Ever Found by Steve FifferThe book tells the story of Sue, from unearthing, preparing, and through the legal battle that determined her ownership.

The book got off to a slow start. It felt like a science text with too much information and too little story. Throughout the book, the author told historical stories of famous paleontologists, like Marsh and Andrews. Although the stories are interesting, they are not new to people familiar with the histories, and only lied loosely to the main plot. I felt they were more filler than information.

About half-way through the book, it improved. This started with the seizure of the fossils. Leading into the court case, the book improved as it detailed the different positions and justifications for actions and ownership, although many seemed only motivated by profit. Even outside of the scope of the court case, many paleontologists, and even the SVP (The Society for Vertebrate Paleontology) voiced in with their opinions.

The government was portrayed mostly in a poor light. They seized Sue, yet never used her in the actual case. One felt they were attacking Larson more to make an example of him than a just pursuit of a criminal. The reader feels his is guilty, but his actions were reasonable and justified. He didn’t deserve any prison time.

December 22, 2009

A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens

Filed under: Fantasy — Randolph @ 3:41 pm

A Christmas Carol by Charles DickensSince everyone knows the story, I’ll dispense with the usual plot and character analysis.

This book was on my to-read list for many years. I’m glad I finally read it. First, I was surprised how closely some of the movies follow the book. The only differences were some of the adventures with ghosts. For instance, the ghost of Christmas Past took Scrooge on a short trip to a ship at sea, which was never (as far as I know) portrayed in any movie. Many sections of the book take advantage of the written form to provide descriptions that couldn’t be provided in video. And a proper portrayal of the ghosts would require some interesting special effects.

I think that some of the extras provided by the films are good addition to the story. There is often an expansion of Scrooge’s relationship with Tiny TIm, who becomes more of a focal point than in the book.

Although the book is a good read, the story is well known enough that I think I would have gotten more value out of one of his others. But I’m still glad I read it.

December 14, 2009


Filed under: Uncategorized — Randolph @ 3:40 pm

This is a story of a man with multiple personality disorder. What makes it interesting, is that the personality dominantly portrayed in the book is from another planet and has vast insight into the human condition, as well as unexplainable and verifiable information on another world.

It isn’t clear whether this is a psychology book or science fiction. The reader is intentionally left hanging over the decision, as ever new data point clearly in one direction or the other.

I was drawn to this book after seeing the movie. Although I enjoyed the movie, it didn’t quite feel complete. The movie was fairly accurate to the book, but left out some details and the final chapter. The book explores several interactions with other patients of the psychiatric ward than the movie does, and provides a few new twists. It is worth reading even if you’re familiar with the movie.

*** Somewhat of a SPOILER follows ***

The book doesn’t give a clear answer to the questions raised – what is the truth of the patient? Is that a spoiler? I understand there is a sequel (or two even) which may provide clearer conclusions.

December 11, 2009

The Beasts of Tarzan by Edgar Rice Burroughs

Filed under: Uncategorized — Randolph @ 3:37 pm

The Beasts of Tarzan by Edgar Rice BurroughsThis is the third book in the Tarzan series. Tarzan and Jane’s son is kidnapped by Rokoff (from previous books) in an effort to seek vengeance against Tarzan. In this book, Tarzan tames Sheeta, the panther, and trains the apes to respond to his call.

It is good to read of Tarzan with his personal weaknesses, and his building relationships and skills that were used in the movies. This book is an adventure as Tarzan chases Jane and Rokoff, Jane chases her son and Tarzan while fleeing Rokoff, and occasionally their paths crossing unbeknown to each other.

December 9, 2009

Death Wish and Other Stories by Lawrence Block

Filed under: Mystery — Randolph @ 3:36 pm

Death Wish and Other Stories by Lawrence BlockThis book contains a collection of short stories by Lawrence Block. I wanted to like it. There are several short stories, each standing independently from the others. Each story starts an interesting mystery, they are well told. But the story stops just as the mystery is getting interesting. Nothing is resolved, no one gets caught, NOTHING. I had wondered if it was abridged and had a bad editor, nope, it wasn’t abridged.

This is a good one to skip.

December 7, 2009

Walking Shadow by Robert B. Parker

Filed under: Mystery — Randolph @ 3:35 pm

Walking Shadow by Robert B. ParkerAlthough I enjoyed this book, I’m still trying to sort it all out. There was a lot going on and I felt there should be a little more, yet all the ends seem to be tied up.

This book is one of a series involving a PI by the name of Spencer. He is a hard-boiled detective set in the present, along the east coast, but could be set anywhere. In this book, he is investigating the murder of an actor in a very bad play. The killer was present for a half hour, yet is not identified at the shooting. It made for an interesting twist. His investigation takes him into China town, where he runs into Tongs and deals with being an outsider.

The story is solid, he doesn’t make unsubstantiated intuitive leaps, nor lucky guesses. The characters are pretty well developed and are interesting, and the story is well told. The style reminded me of Ramond Chandler, a bit.

December 3, 2009

Heidegger and a Hippo Walk Through Those Pearly Gates: Using Philosophy (and Jokes!) to Explore Life, Death, the Afterlife, and Everything in Between by Thomas Cathcart, Daniel Klein

Filed under: Philosophy — Randolph @ 8:13 pm

Heidegger and a Hippo Walk Through Those Pearly Gates: Using Philosophy (and Jokes!) to Explore Life, Death, the Afterlife, and Everything in Between by Thomas CathcartThis is the third in a series of humor-focused philosophy books, this dealing with the matter of life and death. The authors use humor to drive points hope, with varying amounts of success. The book feels light, in spite of the weighty philosophical material. It is easy to read and digest, but I do question how much retaining power it has. It is an enjoyable and pretty fast read.

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