Posts in: books

Finished reading: Slow Productivity by Cal Newport.

What a spectacular book for post-pandemic white-collar knowledge work. Partly philosophical and partly actionable, Newport says maybe we should step back from the cliff of minute-to-minute “pseudo-productivity” and consider the contribution of our entire lives or careers.

The hardest part for me is that I recognize everything he says in my workplace but I’m concerned about how radical even the lightweight suggestions he gives would be. I guess that’s an indication I should start implementing. 📚

Finished reading: Hangman’s Gate (War of the Archons 2) by R.S. Ford

This world of forgotten gods where prayer and worship actually affect their powers continues to fascinate me, but unfortunately the writing doesn’t measure up to the story. Too many threads opened without closure, as if the author assumes you can just open the next book. It’s possible to do this well in a series, and many authors have—just not this one.

Enjoyed the read, and I’ll probably pick up the next one, but I wish it had a better editor.


Finished reading: The Sunlit Man by Brandon Sanderson

Apparently Sanderson’s fiftieth novel, and the last of the four Kickstarter books. Directly impacts the Cosmere, and the first of these weird ones where having read everything Cosmere really helps enrich the story.

A swashbuckling adventure—seriously. But of course with magic and mystery you expect.

My only complaint is that so much of the mystery of the early books is gone—we know so much now about Investiture and such that I’m no longer dazzled by it.

Still, a fun read. 📚

Finished reading: A Demon in Silver (War of the Archons) by R.S. Ford

Magic is creeping back into the world. Some parts think they’re ready; others have no idea; almost nobody’s prepared for what actually happens.

A fun read, with disparate threads that you just know have to fit somehow, but I wished for a little more sense of purpose rather than piling on more worldbuilding. 📚

Finished reading: The Law by Jim Butcher.

A fairly weak entry in the series, maybe intended as a palate cleanser after Battle Ground. We see a little of Dresden’s psyche, but not much. A short return to the early novels’ PI theme, but with Dresden as a far more powerful, and more broken, wizard. 📚

Finished reading: Heroes by Stephen Fry.

A fantastic addition to Mythos. Fry picks some of the best-known Greek heros (and one not-so-well-known) and brings them and their complete stories to life. He tells complete stories, bringing in all the crazy background and mythological history and real history. You get modern geography and philosophy and demography alongside Theseus and Perseus.

I have no nits to pick, except that again the audiobook, while delivered excellently by Fry himself, is mastered poorly, so keep your volume knob handy. 📚

Finished reading: Mythos by Stephen Fry.

Excellent retelling of the classic Greek myths. Plus some I’ve never heard. If you ever read (or refused to read) Edith Hamilton’s Mythology, you owe it to yourself to read this one. Fry brings the characters and stories to dramatic life, truly retelling rather than just reciting.

The audiobook was absolutely worth it—Stephen Fry reads it himself and is engaging and hilarious as always—although the dynamic range is incredibly high, so be careful with your volume. 📚

Finished reading: Last Argument of Kings by Joe Abercrombie. An epic end to an epic trilogy. Disappointing in all the best ways. One smidge darker than I’d hoped, but you have to be realistic about these things. 📚

Finished reading: Before They Are Hanged by Joe Abercrombie. Even better than the first. Characters you want to know better, mysteries abound, swords and sorcery and sex and what else do you want from a book? 📚

Finished reading: The Blade Itself by Joe Abercrombie. Dirty, but not dark. Cynical, but leavened with hard work. Clichés and anti-clichés. Excellent, not stereotypical fantasy. 📚

Finished reading: Yumi and the Nightmare Painter by Brandon Sanderson. Fun as usual; kind of a fantasy/mystery/romance. I didn’t love the storytelling device, but the story itself, the world, and the magic were all top-notch Sanderson. 📚

Finished reading: Legends & Lattes by Travis Baldree. Spectacular, sweet fairy tale in fantasy clothing. Deserves its accolades. Highly recommended. 📚

Finished reading: The Kaiju Preservation Society by John Scalzi. Fun, quick romp through a particular many-worlds hypothesis. A little too cute in places, and far too embedded in the real-world time (including soon-to-be-obscure Trump jokes), but a very enjoyable read. 📚

I’ve lived in San Antonio for twelve years, and today I got my first library card.

(I’ve read dozens of books on Libby over the years with what was apparently a “temporary” card, and I finally had to go get a real one to keep reading.) 📚

Finished reading: Thirty Questions by Timothy C. Tennent. Structured like a catechism but with answers far too long to memorize. Not a bad introduction to Christian doctrine, but fits better as a study: Tennent clearly expects you to do some of the work on your own. Fortunately, he gives chapter-and-verse starting points. 📚

Finished reading: The One Hour Bible by SPCK. Edited by Philip Law. A great idea—not paraphrasing or summarizing but eliding: using the actual words of the New Living Translation to tell the story of God in fewer words.

Unfortunately, while this treatment works well for the Old Testament and most of the Gospels, they abridge Acts too much, and the rest of the New Testament disappears until Revelation 22. I know it doesn’t fit the format, but ironically one of the elided verses (2 Timothy 3:16) says, “all Scripture is useful.” 📚

Finished reading: For the Body by Timothy C. Tennent. A critical exposition of the need for the modern church to develop and espouse a positive theology of the body rather than the decades of pure negative theology: “don’t do that; that’s wrong.”

A great starter book on the topic, although the last two chapters are aimed squarely at pastors, not laypeople (they still have value, but not as much).

My primary takeaway is that developing a positive, holistic theology of the body allows us to see our sexuality, our bodies, and ourselves in the context of the complete gospel, not by the light of a few specific verses that mostly just make people angry regardless of what they believe. 📚

Finished reading: Senlin Ascends by Josiah Bancroft. Tremendously dissatisfying. A chaotic run through a fascinating world, but the plot was so contrived to prevent progress as to frustrate me with every page turn.

Not recommended. If you want a weird world, go read Piranesi instead. 📚

Finished reading: Moving Pictures by Terry Pratchett. Like “Pyramids”, an excuse for Pratchett to make a billion pop culture jokes in a row. Tons of fun. 📚

Finished reading: Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik. Wow, what a fun novel. I had no idea what was going on or what was going to happen. Definitely better than her Uprooted. Thanks to @jsonbecker for saying exactly that and giving me the recommendation. 📚

Finished reading: The Wise Man’s Fear by Patrick Rothfuss. I’ve never read a book so full of hints but so devoid of answers. Also with such a powerful, but dumb, protagonist. I want Denna’s story so badly… which I guess puts me in good company. A book practically made for Reddit. 📚

Finished reading: The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss. Late to the party on this one. One of the most beautiful fantasy books I’ve ever read. Incredible command of language and myth and character. Also frustrating; I knew that going in, but I didn’t know just quite how. 📚

Finished reading: Eric by Terry Pratchett. Just fun. Less effort than previous books, but more entertaining. Plus: Rincewind! Only problem is it’s very very short. 📚

Finished reading: League of Dragons by Naomi Novik. Probably my favorite of these, which is nice because it’s last. Pacing worked out, some growth arcs concluded, and the inevitable future is hinted but not written. 📚

Finished reading: Blood of Tyrants by Naomi Novik. I will never get used to the pacing of these books; and especially the ridiculously abrupt endings. Not even cliffhangers, just endings. 📚

Finished reading: Crucible of Gold by Naomi Novik. Fantastic adventure in the Andes devolves to more boring British politics by the end. Novik loves the history of the Napoleonic wars too much, and it weakens the stories. 📚

Finished reading: Tongues of Serpents by Naomi Novik. Unexpectedly appropriate for my long layover in Sydney. I like Laurence better as an explorer than soldier. More adventure, less British politics. 📚

Finished reading: Victory of Eagles by Naomi Novik. Pacing finally feels good, and as a result I enjoyed this one more than the previous four. Feels like the world is changing, which is fun to watch. 📚

Finished reading: Tress of the Emerald Sea by Brandon Sanderson. Tremendous effort and tons of fun. Lots of Cosmere elements together, and the joy of Hoid everywhere. I just wish he hadn’t tried so hard to sound like Terry Pratchett. (Recommended by @manton) 📚

Finished reading: Guards! Guards! by Terry Pratchett. Probably my least favorite of the series so far. So many moving parts, and the jokes didn’t land for me. 📚

Finished reading: The Lost Metal by Brandon Sanderson. I absolutely tore through this book. As usual, Sanderson’s organization awes me, although I couldn’t help but feel he tossed a little too much Cosmere lore at us in one book to prepare us for what’s coming. 📚

Finished reading: Empire of Ivory by Naomi Novik. More like a log of adventure than a novel. Temeraire and Laurence finally have a hard decision to make, although their expressed value system removes the tension entirely for the reader. Still a fun adventure though. 📚

Finished reading: Throne of Jade by Naomi Novik. Seemingly totally independent from the first novel except the characters, another exploration into a world where dragons are rare but natural. The pacing is again weird, but the world entertaining enough to make up for it. 📚

Finished reading: His Majesty’s Dragon by Naomi Novik. Learning a new world is always fun, and Novik launches in as if England and France have always used dragon fleets in their wars. The climax is too long in coming though, and too short; similarly, the denouement is precipitous. 📚

Finished reading: Pyramids by Terry Pratchett. Long train rides make these books fly by. Another one, like Wyrd Sisters, where Pratchett clearly enjoyed himself with puns and satire and camels. 📚

Finished reading: Wyrd Sisters by Terry Pratchett. The first Discworld novel that actually made me laugh out loud. The Discworld is the same glorious place, but the words—powerful things—tickled me just right. I suspect I missed a lot more literature references than I got. 📚

Finished reading: Sourcery by Terry Pratchett. The self-consistency of Discworld, despite the total lack of logic, amazes me every time. All of its legends and myths and prophecies are true, just never in ways the reader expects, yet somehow always in ways that blend comfortably with the overall chaos. 📚

Finished reading: Mort by Terry Pratchett. Death hires an apprentice so he can take some time off and experience life, and maybe find a husband for his daughter. All of those things happen, but as is common on Discworld, not exactly in the expected fashion. Rincewind cameo. 📚

Finished reading: Uprooted by Naomi Novik. Starts as a twist on a fairy tale, ends as high fantasy. The finale is a bit more chaotic than you’d wish, but the whole thing is a good time. 95% for children, but very much meant for grown-ups. 📚

Finished reading: The Golden Enclaves by Naomi Novik. I absolutely devoured this book. It pays off the first book’s cliffhanger better than the second even tried to, and while the writing got a little cheaper the story exploded into awesome. 📚

Finished reading: The Last Graduate by Naomi Novik. More fun in the Scholomance. Cliffhanger from the previous novel doesn’t pay off, but a great read anyway. 📚

Finished reading: A Deadly Education by Naomi Novik. Clearly written for the Harry Potter set, but profoundly different and exciting and, helpfully, well-written. Immediately a favorite young adult novel. 📚

Finished reading: The Bands of Mourning by Brandon Sanderson. Concludes as expected, a surprisingly similar scene to Hero of Ages. I wish we’d seen Hoid more, but the tease of Kelsier at the end was worth it.📚

Finished reading: Shadows of Self by Brandon Sanderson. Beautiful, tragic, ending. Harsh cliffhanger, but didn’t leave me desperate for more Cosmere like most of this series does. 📚