Books and book-a-likes thread for 2020 ⬇

1/ The Knowledge Illusion: Why We Never Think Alone by Steven Sloman. Useful discussion of knowledge scope and storage: We think in groups, and we store information in our surroundings and in others. Changed how I think about information and about grief.

2/ Lord Peter Views the Body by Dorothy L. Sayers. Good collection of Lord Peter Wimsey short stories, including some very intense ones, and one that is hilariously playful.

3/ The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell. Alien life is discovered, and the Jesuits make First Contact because they have their shit together. Well-told with strong characters. Humanoid aliens 🙄 and anything re:sexuality was predictably disappointing.

4/ Strong Poison by Dorothy L. Sayers. Another Lord Peter Wimsey mystery. As always, meh plot, but brilliant character writing. This one introduces Harriet, leading up to several books of fun.

5/ HTTP/3 explained by Daniel Stenberg. An overview over HTTP/3 by the developer of curl. Fairly short and informative, and includes a helpful amount of history and reasoning. A good way to find out if and where you want to dive deeper into the topic.

6/ Clouds Cannot Cover Us by Jay Hulme. A collection of modern poems. Some were not for me at all, but one or two dropkicked me in the feelings. Imo the best possible outcome of reading a selection of poems.

7/ The Five Red Herrings by Dorothy L. Sayers. The tedious Lord Peter mystery – focused on a very boring plot, little in terms of dialogue and characters. Only people fishing and painting, forever.

8/ Have His Carcase by Dorothy L. Sayers. I went on a bit of a mystery streak here. This one is mostly character building for Peter and Harriet and their interactions. Good to read through a historian's lens, because holy gender role batman.

9/ The Songs of Distant Earth by Arthur C. Clarke. A calm, optimistic story of the last humans leaving Earth, visiting another human settlement. Infuriatingly it left out everything I wanted to hear more about, and was lovely nevertheless.

10/ Bloodchild by Octavia E. Butler. Short story that could not be more Octavia Butler: Aliens and humans being wildly different, but cohabitating, in a functional yet gross way.

11/ Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro. Excellent dystopian storytelling. Not loud, not ostentatious, not yelling "THIS IS A DYSTOPIA, GETIT?!". Strong narration, slow burn. Didn't feel depressing despite the bleak theme.

12/ Come Tumbling Down by Seanan McGuire. I want to like the Wayward Children series more than I actually like them. This one felt just a bit too formulaic, too quippy, too designed to be quotable.

13/ Clockwork Boys by T. Kingfisher. Excuse me, a ninja assassin and an anti-stereotype paladin? Light cost, but fun, with good dialogue and more than decent characters in a well-rounded world and an extremely over-the-top plot.

14/ How to Do Nothing: Resisting the Attention Economy by Jenny Odell. I didn't finish this book. Extreme tech pessimism ("kids these days don't talk to each other" basically) is not something I'm ever in the mood for.

15/ Hangman's Holiday: A Collection of Short Mysteries by Dorothy L. Sayers. Short story collection. Very mixed bag, rather skippable.

16/ SSH Mastery: OpenSSH, PuTTY, Tunnels and Keys by Michael W. Lucas. Teaches both implicit cultural knowledge and exciting obscure details about OpenSSH in a concise and fun way. I rewrote many configs after reading this.

17/ Gaudy Night by Dorothy L. Sayers. Objectively, this book is around 3.5-4 stars, but the romance broke my heart and the banter moved me to tears. 5/5, and I probably won't shut up about this one for a while.

18/ Tiamat's Wrath by James S.A. Corey. Another easy 5/5 rating. There's no way I can describe this book without spoilers, so I'll just say that despite all odds and fears, the Expanse series just keeps improving.

19/ Busman's Honeymoon by Dorothy L. Sayers. At some point, Dorothy Sayers figured out that her forte was characters and dialogue, not plot, and this book delivers. It's a honeymoon with a murder, and who even cares about plot beyond that.

20/ A Time to Reap by Lynne M. Thomas. Very solid time travel short story, probably even better for people from the rural US. Extremely strong on the atmosphere.

21/ For He Can Creep by Siobhan Carroll. This short story is for the cat lovers. Lovingly combining stereotypes and then going just a bit beyond.

22/ I (28M) created a deepfake girlfriend and now my parents think we’re getting married by Fonda Lee. Exactly what's on the tin.

23/ Gideon the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir. Hm. The first third was slow and muddled, and while it got MUCH better, it feels like Grimdark Flippant Protagonist no 23 has been done to death. It's a good setting, but setting isn't everything.

24/ Complex PTSD: From Surviving to Thriving by Pete Walker. Says a lot of true things. Not immediately useful for me, but still recommended if you want to learn about cPTSD/PTSD/trauma.

25/ Don We Now Our Gay Apparel: Gay Men's Dress in the Twentieth Century by Shaun Cole. This book is a treasure. It explores gay history and culture by following clothing trends from Oscar Wilde to the 90s. Easy to read, well-sourced, incredibly in-depth.

26/ The Warlock in Spite of Himself by Christopher Stasheff. Really good setting. That's it, that was the good part. Apart from that, strong 60s sexism, blatant propaganda, self-insert hero. Not my kind of thing.

27/ Silver in the Wood by Emily Tesh. Fairytale-style romance, very English. I enjoyed the (queer) characters and the writing, even though the standard hurt/comfort arc was maybe a little low on substance.

28/ Striding Folly by Dorothy L. Sayers. Three short stories. One fun, one meh, one whatever. Worth it for the fun one only if you're already invested in the universe.


29/ The Goblin Emperor by Katherine Addison. Fun, well-written Fantasy with strong characters and actual development. A bit predictable maybe, but the setting and writing make up for it.

30/ To Say Nothing of the Dog by Connie Willis. As good as advertised – even a bit better, it's in part targeted at people who had their heart broken by Gaudy Night, which I read just two weeks earlier. Dry humour, real characters and delightful banter.

31/ The Hierophant's Daughter by M.F. Sullivan. Dystopian cannibal vampires. Stopped reading a third of the way in due to the mix of unsympathetic characters, bleakness, and sudden infodumps.

32/ A Study in Winning by Jupiter_Ash. A Sherlock Holmes fanfic in … current day competitive tennis? I was following a personal recommendation and while it was formulaic, it executed the formula well.

33/ A Study in Doubles by Jupiter_Ash. I'm still confused about competitive tennis Sherlock Holmes, but apparently it worked well enough to read the second part.

34/ FINDING HIMSELF by Minisinoo. Still on a fanfic binge. Decent Harry Potter fanfic where Harry is not an idiot all the time. Might've been good if it hadn't clung to the romance arc.

35/ Digging for the Bones by paganaidd. Fanfic's like junk food. It's not great, but it's food, it's easily accessible, and it's easy to start a habit. This one's not bad, I just wish I'd space them out a bit.

36/ A Year Like None Other by Aspen in the Sunlight. Reading more recommended fan fiction. This one is interesting because of the absurd amount of words spent on processing emotions, as if balancing several lives of repression.

37/ A Summer Like None Other by Aspen in the Sunlight. Like the previous part, only that it doubles down on the excessive processing in unprecedented ways. Is this going somewhere?

38/ The Steerswoman by Rosemary Kirstein. I found my way back to real books, and what a relief! Excellent characters and worldbuilding, an eye for details, okay plot. Loved the mostly-female order of scientific truth seekers in a Fantasy world.

39/ A Family Like None Other by aspeninthesunlight. Indulged and finished the series. No, it was not going anywhere.

40/ Harleen by Stjepan Šejić. I don't tend to read graphical novels, but Stjepan Šejić is brilliant and this story of Harley Quinn is extremely well done – both the artwork and the story itself.

41/ Get Together: How to build a community with your people by Bailey Richardson. Not what I expected – it's focused on "communities" for corporate entities. Contains impressive collection of examples, but only positive ones, so yay for survivor bias.

42/ The Just City by Jo Walton. Plato fanfic gently mocking the Republic for being unrealistic. Ironically felt very cerebral, nearly clinical, and I wanted to like it more than I actually liked it.

43/ The Courage to Be Disliked by Ichiro Kishimi. Excellent content semi-obscured behind impressive degrees of obnoxious writing. Punchable, yet useful. One of the most important books to me this year.

44/ All About Love: New Visions by bell hooks. This was me reading up on bell hooks. I'd have guessed a much earlier publication date. Good discussion of oppressive structures, but I did some heavy skipping around the Jesus parts.

45/ Tao Te Ching by Lao Tzu. The Ursula K. le Guin rendition of the Tao Te Ching was an excellent read.

46/ How to Solve It: A New Aspect of Mathematical Method by George Pólya. Good first 10%, and then more good advice hidden among neverending examples.

47/ The Inner Game of Tennis by W. Timothy Gallwey. Surprise Zen book! Excellent insight into dealng well with competitive situations. Also, good cues for anything that's a physical activity.

48/ Where Good Ideas Come from by Steven Johnson. tl;dr: Be playful, be prolific, facilitate accidents and clashes. Full with anecdotes that make no good arguments for the points the book tries to make, but are very enjoyable regardless.

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@rixx Thanks. I’ll take it back up again. The obnoxiousness did put me off. I mean... I was kinda appreciating it with that certain morbid fascination... but I recognized it as a red flag.

@rixx It felt like a combination of asimov and a too boldly written cheap self-improvement book. Like sun-tsu’s lessons to managers but with the arbitrary and futile constraints of the three laws that asimov imposed on his writing that lead to obvious and boring-to-tell goal conflicts which he laid out in far too many words without actually getting somewhere interesting.

(yes, my disapproval of asimovs writing goes deep)

@nblr Ha. Yeah, I'm very much not over how incredibly full of itself this book is. Wtf, man.
It's somewhat a case of "right book, right time", but it told me some things I needed to hear, and it said them in a way that stuck. It's very much in a "I can't recommend this to anybody, but it was great for me" box. This box is big.

@nblr But my tolerance for bullshit is really high if I can extract some value on the side. I just finished "Existential Kink", where the author just assumes that you're into modern wiccan stuff (I'm emphatically not), and her writing is comically bad especially in the first half – but the premise is interesting and she also says true things, so I kinda laugh at the absurd parts and take what I like.

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