06 January 2008

My Reading List: Or, Why I Should Not Buy Any Books for the Next Two Years At Least

Yuletide has ended, and now I have even more books that I'm "currently reading" (translation: currently keeping bookmarks in). I compiled a list of the the books I've started but have not yet finished. I left out reference books, as well as my best Christmas present: Susan got me a freakishly gigantic compilation of Little Nemo in Slumberland comic strips (by Winsor McKay). The book is so large that you don't read the strips so much as enter into them, in all their meticulous detail.

I also omitted any books that are best browsed rather than read cover-to-cover, for example, The Onion's new atlas, Our Dumb World (which is pretty hilarious).

Anyway, here's the list:
  • The Amber Spyglass by Philip Pullman. I read though the first two His Dark Materials books pretty quickly last month, but I seem stuck halfway through this one. One of the key things these books have going for them is a great main character, Lyra, and she hasn't been present much in this volume so far.
  • Cocktail Time by P. G. Wodehouse. I barely started it when Susan absconded with it.
  • Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed by Jared Diamond. I keep reading this in spurts and am currently a little over halfway through. Very interesting, although I prefer the author's Guns, Germs, and Steel so far.
  • The Complete Gospels ed. by Robert J. Miller. I'm not sure if I should include this or not. I did read The Gospel According to Mark in its entirety (and it turns out to be written in a much more colloquial style than more "orthodox" translations indicate) and skimmed the rest, but it seems better as a reference than something to read cover-to-cover. (And for that reason I should probably return it to the friend who loaned it and buy my own durn copy.)
  • Darwin's Dangerous Idea: Evolution and the Meanings of Life by Daniel C. Dennett. Almost done with chapter two — excellent read so far.
  • Did God Have a Wife? by William G. Dever. I started reading this while visiting Scott in Wyoming. Now I have my own copy so I can finish it.
  • The Elegant Universe: Superstrings, Hidden Dimensions, and the Quest for the Ultimate Theory by Brian Greene. Got two-thirds through and then forgot about it.
  • From Lucy to Language by Donald Johanson and Blake Edgar, principal photography by David Brill. Haven't really started reading this cover-to-cover yet, but I should.
  • The Great Human Diasporas by Luigi Luca Cavalli-Sforza and Francesco Cavalli-Sforza. I've read a bit, but it seems so far to be stuff covered by other Cavalli-Sforza books I've read (although going into more detail on African pygmies).
  • How We Believe: Science, Skepticism, and the Search for God by Michael Shermer. I seem to have gotten halfway through this one and then forgot about it. I really enjoyed the author's Why People Believe Weird Things.
  • The Impact of Science on Society by Bertrand Russell. Really excellent stuff so far — has aged surprisingly well.
  • The Inflationary Universe: The Quest for a New Theory of Cosmic Origins by Alan H. Guth. Stalled two-fifths of the way through.
  • The Life and Adventures of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman by Laurence Sterne. Let's face it, I'm never going to finish this one.
  • Lucy's Child: The Discovery of a Human Ancestor by Donald Johanson and James Shreeve. Haven't gotten too far, but so far it's pretty interesting. More about how discoveries have been made than about what discoveries have been made.
  • The Orthodox Corruption of Scripture by Bart D. Ehrman. I'm about a quarter through. Very interesting stuff.
  • Sociobiology: The New Synthesis by Edward O. Wilson. I've been "reading" this classic tome for years. (To be fair, it's pretty large.)
  • Species: New Interdisciplinary Essays ed. by Robert A. Wilson. I've read a few of the essays and wonder if I'll ever read them all. I probably should.
  • The Stuff of Thought: Language as a Window into Human Nature by Steven Pinker. This book caps off not one but two trilogies by the author, one on language and the other on mind. Having read and throughly enjoyed the four preceding books (The Language Instinct, Words and Rules; How the Mind Works, The Blank Slate), I figured I owed it to myself to check this one out. So far pretty good.
  • The Text of the New Testament: Its Transmission, Corruption, and Restoration by Bruce M. Metzger and Bart D. Ehrman. Very detailed, somewhat laborious but fascinating, account of what, exactly, our sources for the New Testament are.
  • Under the Banner of Heaven: A Story of Violent Faith by Jon Krakauer. I finished the first two chapters, which are so distressing that it's taken me a while to work up to reading the rest.
  • Using Language by Herbert Clark. Not far.
  • Voyage of the Beagle by Charles Darwin. I sort of inherited this one and will make it through some day....

I'm sure I left some stuff off, and I'm really sure I left some stuff off the next list: a list of the the books I haven't even started yet!

  • Annals of the Former World by John McPhee
  • The Autobiography of Charles Darwin by (duh) Charles Darwin
  • The Chicken Qabbalah of Rabbi Lamed ben Clifford by Lon Milo Duquette.
  • The Coming Global Superstorm by Art Bell and Whitley Strieber
  • The Evolution of Living Things by H. Graham Cannon
  • The Lucifer Principle by Howard Bloom
  • Sanksrit Grammar by Willian Dwight Whitney. This one'll probably end up more of a reference book, but I should read the first few chapters at least.
  • Scenes From Deep Time: Early Pictorial Representations of the Prehistoric World by Martin J. S. Rudwick.
  • Speeches That Changed the World by various authors.
  • Spook: Science Tackles the Afterlife by Mary Roach. The author's Stiff, about various topics to do with corpses, was quite good.
  • The Structure of Scientific Revolutions by Thomas S. Kuhn
  • The Rough Guide to Climate Change: The Symptoms, the Science, the Solutions by Robert Henson
  • Write It in Arabic by Naglaa Ghali. It's a workbook, actually, and I should start it sometime.

I really need to take a month or two off and just read, read, read. (Or get caught in a bank vault while an atomic bomb destroys Los Angeles ... time enough at last!)

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