Books

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I've always been a reader. The first word I remember being able to read was the word "AND", which my 1st or 2nd grade teacher wrote on the chalkboard. After my mother died I lived with my great grandmother for a time, until my dad remarried, and she liked to read to me from the Bible. While living with her I was given many children's books, including a number of the Little Golden Books.

TawnyScrawnyLion.jpg

My favorite children's book was "Tawny Scrawny Lion"! It starts out:

"Once there was a tawny scrawny lion who chased monkeys on Monday—kangaroos on Tuesday—zebras on Wednesday—bears on Thursday—camels on Friday—and on Saturday, elephants!"

Very elementary, yes, and now that I think about it, it occurs to me that this lion couldn't have chased kangaroos on one day and then zebras the next, since these two types of animals lived about 8,000 miles apart! Never mind. By the time I was in 3rd grade I was reading material normally given to junior high pupils. I was mainly interested in scientific subjects, such as astronomy and dinosaurs. I really didn't care for the "Dick sees Sally run. Sally sees her dog run." that was on offer at that age. I was so disinterested in that drivel that my teacher thought I couldn't read well enough to be advanced to 4th grade, so was going to fail me. But my stepmom came with me to school for a conference about this, and brought one of my favorite science books, about astronomy. She had me read out of the book to the teacher, which apparently surprised her, and so I went into the 4th grade.

How many different books have I read? No way to tell. The following shows the categories of books I have read and am still reading.

Fiction

General Fiction

I'll confess that "general" fiction mostly bores me. People get all excited about such famous authors as Joyce Carol Oates, Ken Follett, and Dan Brown, but while I recognize their names (seen mostly at book stores) I have never been very interested. I tried reading Prince of Tides by Pat Conroy once (yes, they made it into a movie, which I didn't see), but couldn't even finish the first chapter. On the other hand, military fiction does catch my eye and I have read at least one famous author in that subgenre: Tom Clancy. There's another author, undeservedly quite minor, whose work I have enjoyed, and that's David Sherman. Sherman's work has been primarily been in science fiction (with his friend and co-author Dan Cragg), but he has also written in the military fiction genre.

Tom Clancy

I haven't read Tom Clancy's entire ouerve, but what I have read I have liked. Of course, Clancy's first book was Red October (which was made into a movie, one that I did see, and enjoyed), and I read it about the same time it came out. I loved it! I followed the entire Jack Ryan and associated John Clark series.

David Sherman

  • The Night Fighters Series - this is a series of six books about a US Marine unit in Vietnam, part of the Combined Action Platoon program. Since Sherman served in such a unit as a Marine in that war, he had some experience with the program. Of course these are about a fictional CAP unit, and the adventures are likewise fictional. I found the books to be very interesting.
    • Knives in the Night - "KNIVES IN THE NIGHT introduces the Marines of Combined Action Platoon Tango Niner and the Popular Forces of Bun Hou village somewhere deep in "Indian Country." The Marines and Vietnamese soon find themselves pitted against Major Nghu, a sadistic North Vietnamese Army officer dedicated to wiping out the Marines and subjugating the South Vietnamese peasants."
    • Main Force Assault
    • Out of the Fire
    • A Rock and a Hard Place
    • A Nghu Night Falls
    • Charlie Don't Live Here Anymore

Science Fiction

Science Fiction has always interested me, mainly because I am fascinated by science, technology and the future. And science fiction deals with all of these things, and other things besides. I've mostly read novel-length SF, but short works have been read by me as well.

Short Science Fiction

As I said, short SF was not a big thing with me. The first time I ran into a short-story anthology I was completely confused. I still remember the title of the book: R is for Rocket. It was a short story collection by American writer Ray Bradbury, but I thought it was a novel. I got past what I thought was chapter one, but the next chapter had nothing to do with the first. I thought that perhaps it was just another aspect of the novel that would be joined up with the first chapter later, but when I hit the third chapter and it was more of the same, I got frustrated and put the book back on the shelf -- I had been reading at a public library at the time. It wasn't until years later that I discovered that it was an anthology! I never twigged upon the fact that each "chapter" was a conclusion in itself.

More to my speed in short SF was the science fiction magazines. While I stopped reading SF magazines decades ago, I was a long-time subscriber to two magazines, namely Analog Science Fiction and Fact and Isaac Asimov's Science Fiction Magazine (now known as Asimov's Science Fiction). For a time I also subscribed to Aboriginal Science Fiction. And finally, I occasionally picked up copies of The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction and Galaxy Science Fiction. My favorite SF magazine was always Analog, however.

When I was about 18 I submitted a short story to Analog. Of course it was rejected! For one thing, it was awful. For another, it was terrible.

Authors Whose Novels I Have Read

In most cases, listed with the novel or series I consider their most memorable.

  • Piers Anthony - The Xanth Series
  • Isaac Asimov - The Robot Novels
  • Robert Asprin - A Fine Myth
  • Stephen Barnes (co-author with Jerry Pournelle)
  • Greg Bear - The Forge of God Series
  • James Blish - Greybeard
  • David Brin - The Uplift War
  • Terry Brooks - Magic Kingdom For Sale -- Sold!
  • Lois McMaster Bujold - The Vorkosigan Saga
  • Edgar Rice Burroughs - John Carter of Mars
  • Orson Scott Card - Xenocide
  • C J Cherryh - Wave Without a Shore
  • Arthur C. Clarke - 2001: A Space Odyssey
  • Hal Clement - A Mission of Gravity
  • Rick Cook - Wizardry Series
  • Gordon R. Dickson - Dorsai!
  • Stephen R. Donaldson - The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant, the Unbeliever - I got thoroughly fed up with the protagonist/anti-hero of this series. The setting of the novel series was brilliant, but the character Thomas Covenant annoyed me greatly. I got so angry at an early scene in the first novel, Lord Foul's Bane, that I tore the book in two at that point and threw both parts into the trash! It stayed there for a few days until I cooled down enough to retrieve the book and resume reading it. I managed to make it to somewhere around the midpoint of the third volume of the trilogy, but stopped reading and never resumed it. Donaldson wrote two more series in the same Universe, making a total of ten novels in two trilogies and one tetralogy. Busy man!
  • David Drake - Ranks of Bronze
  • Philip Jose Farmer - Riverworld
  • Michael Flynn - Fallen Angels (with Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle)
  • Allen Dean Foster - With Friends Like These - This is actually a short story, not a novel, and I read it a collection called by the same name. This is one of the only short stories in this list. The author is a novelist, but I have read none of his novels. This short story was extremely memorable.
  • Hugo Gernsback - Ralph 124C 41+ - Gernsback was not much of a writer but he was a publisher. The novel mentioned was a hack effort, and I am pretty sure I never finished reading it (it was painfully written), but he is the person after whom the Hugo Award is named after. His fame is due to his promotion of science fiction in its early days in the 20th century. He also created the term "science fiction", though he preferred the term "scientifiction".
  • Parke Godwin - The Snake Oil Wars: or Scheherazade Ginsberg Strikes Again
  • Tom Godwin - The Survivors
  • Roland J. Green - Janissaries Series (with Jerry Pournelle)
  • Joe Haldeman - The Forever War
  • Harry Harrison - The Stainless Steel Rat
  • Robert A. Heinlein - The Moon is a Harsh Mistress
  • Frank Herbert - Soul Catcher - Yes, I know he wrote Dune and other things (and I did read Dune), but Soul Catcher was my favorite novel of his. It isn't science fiction, per se, though it might be fantasy.
  • Aldous Huxley - Brave New World
  • Keith Laumer - The Retief Series
  • Barry B. Longyear - Enemy Mine
  • Ann McCaffrey - Dragonriders of Pern
  • Larry Niven - Ringworld
  • Andre Norton - Beast Master
  • Alan E. Nourse - Star Surgeon
  • George Orwell - Animal Farm
  • H. Beam Piper - Lord Kalvan of Otherwhen
  • Jerry Pournelle - The Janissaries Series
  • Terry Pratchett - The Discworld Series
  • Ayn Rand - Atlas Shrugged - Not sure I would call this science fiction, but it kind of is.
  • Alastair Reynolds - House of Suns - Haven't finished this yet. It got a bit boring, sorry.
  • Spider Robinson - Variable Star (with Robert A. Heinlein)
  • Eric Frank Russell - Dear Devil - I've not read any of his novels, but his short story Dear Devil made a profound impact on me.
  • Fred Saberhagen - The Berserker Series
  • Robert Silverberg - Majipoor Series
  • Clifford D. Simak - Way Station
  • L. Neal Smith - Tom Paine Maru
  • Norman Spinrad - The Solarians
  • Dennis E. Taylor - The Bobiverse
  • Harry Turtledove - Worldwar / Colonization Series - The King of Alternate History
  • A.E. van Vogt - The Weapon Shops of Isher
  • Vernor Vinge - Realtime/Bobble series

Non-Fiction

Biography

History

Economics

I haven't read many books on economics, but I've found it a fascinating subject.

  • Basic Economics by Thomas Sowell. As of February 2020 I am currently reading this surprisingly fascinating economics textbook. I assume it's a textbook, anyway. The first chapter, on Price Theory, is very eye-opening. I kind of already had a grasp on this, but Sowell makes it even more understandable. The book was published in 2015, and it is already on its fifth edition, so this 600+ page book on "the dismal science" seems to have hit a nerve somewhere.
  • The Law by Frederic Bastiat - "The Law was originally published as a pamphlet in 1850 by Frederic Bastiat (1801-1850). Bastiat wrote most of his work in the few years before and after the French Revolution of 1848. The Law is considered a classic and his ideas are still relevant today."
  • Economics in One Lesson: The Shortest and Surest Way to Understand Basic Economics by Henry Hazlitt - this book is written from the perspective of the Austrian School of economics, which is a libertarian perspective. Hazlitt (1894-1993) was the founder of the Foundation for Economic Education, an organization I have in times past been a follower of.
  • The Economy of Cities, by Jane Jacobs - I don't know what attracted me to this book, but as I read it many many years ago I found it very interesting. What was it about? From the books blurb at Amazon: "In this book, Jane Jacobs, building on the work of her debut, The Death and Life of Great American Cities, investigates the delicate way cities balance the interplay between the domestic production of goods and the ever-changing tide of imports. Using case studies of developing cities in the ancient, pre-agricultural world, and contemporary cities on the decline, like the financially irresponsible New York City of the mid-sixties, Jacobs identifies the main drivers of urban prosperity and growth, often via counterintuitive and revelatory lessons."

There've been others, of course.

Science and Technology

I'm mostly into hard sciences.

Theology

As a Christian, my interest in theology should be obvious, but I am also interested in non-Christian religions. It is a good idea to understand how other people believe (or don't believe, in the case of atheists).

My great grandmother read to me out of the Bible and told me Bible stories when I was around 7 to 8 years old, and sent me to her local Sunday School (she couldn't go herself, due to health issues). So I got my initial grounding in Christianity from her.

Comparative Religion

Cover of a recent edition

My general grounding on comparative religion came to me via a book by a Charles F. Potter, called "The Faiths Men Live By". I wrote a short review of this book for Amazon:

I had a copy of this book years and years ago, probably around 1963 when I was in my early teens. I read it all the way through, being fascinated with what people believed and how their lives were affected by their beliefs. The author left aside his own opinions and wrote apparently as objectively as he could, finding positive things to say about each faith he wrote about. The book is probably still relevant today, since religious faiths tend to remain and there are very few new ones under the sun -- or at least few new ones that remain relevant over time. Naturally, recent historical events are out of its ken, and if Potter were writing today he might have more to say in some cases, but I'd guess he'd not have much to add.