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Books and stuff

Here are some books and other works I've enjoyed, along with some remarks on them. Some of the books are what are considered classics. Read them anyway (if you haven't already).

I will (hopefully) update this list from time to time.

The Brothers Karamazov, Fyodor Dostoevsky
I've read it three times, and each time I found it both more impressive and more delightful. I can't say that about any other book. If you read one book in your life, read this. (paperback edition is currently priced higher than the hardcover)

Coming into the Country, John McPhee
McPhee not only captures the mystique of the Alaskan wilderness, he humanizes it, shining a warm and illuminating light on the character of both the land and the people who have made their homes there. (hardcover edition)

Calvin and Hobbes: Sunday Pages 1985-1995, Bill Watterson
Equal parts comic and art — at least a 95 percent/95 percent split. All the Calvin and Hobbes books are worth having, but I'll settle for recommending this one, along with the last of the series, and the first.

The Worm Ourobouros, Eric R. Eddison
A fantasy novel to end all fantasy novels.

The Climb, Anatoli Boukreev
What really happened on Everest one tragic summer, as told by a true climber (and not a self-excusing, rationalizing reporter). And a great book, besides. (full-size paperback edition)

A Mathematician's Apology, G. H. Hardy
Hardy's reflection on how to live (written when he felt his life was already over) is more about life than mathematics, but reveals more than a little about both.

Demons, Fyodor Dostoevsky
Of Dostoevsky's books, I enjoyed this one most on first reading. It's a gripping (and shocking) conspiracy tale and social commentary. And it's brilliant. This translation reads very well, also — though it does use the word "maunder" three times. (hardcover edition)

Ludwig Wittgenstein: The Duty of Genius, Ray Monk
A superb biographical text, and one that would be compelling even if a whole century's worth (so far) of scholars hadn't prostrated themselves before Wittgenstein's famously impenetrable body of work. (Monk's two-volume (I, II) biography of Bertrand Russell also makes for good reading, but seems unduly harsh on Russell, and is less compelling a biography.)

Mathematics: From the Birth of Numbers, Jan Gullberg
This tome is not for the faint of heart, but rewards its readers very well indeed. Get out the scrap paper and prepare yourself for some good, challenging problems: You'll learn a thing or two.

The Discoverers, Daniel J. Boorstin
Clumsily written, but awesome in its scope. A history book relating both broad themes and apt anecdotes, and insights into each. (hardcover edition)

The Sun Also Rises, Ernest Hemingway
I like Hemingway. He writes with style. You should also read For Whom the Bell Tolls; it is good, too. (hardcover editions: The Sun Also Rises, For Whom the Bell Tolls)

Winter's Tale, Mark Helprin
Very much a fantasy, though set in the world we think we know. A beautiful and comic telling of a glorious tale. (hardcover edition)

The War of Don Emmanuel's Nether Parts, Louis De Bernieres
A fantastic romp, in the best senses of both words.

Death of a Salesman, Arthur Miller
A true thing, simply and efficiently expressed, makes for very powerful stuff.

Dog Talk, John Ross
A dog book, you ask? Yes, indeed. Worth reading for anyone raising one.


The Incredible Adventures of Wallace and Gromit (DVD)
Comic genius, I tell you. Comic genius.

Fishing with John (DVD)
John Lurie satirizes fishing shows and hangs out with such notable pals as Tom Waits, Jim Jarmusch, Matt Dillon and Dennis Hopper. One of those things you'd never imagined possible — which is why you must own this DVD, in case you have to remind yourself again, later.

Ikiru (VHS)
The most affecting film I have ever seen. Directed by Akira Kurosawa.

The Big Sleep (DVD)
Humphrey Bogart, Lauren Bacall, and one hell of a mystery/thriller. See if you can figure it out. (VHS)


My Life in the Bush of Ghosts, David Byrne and Brian Eno
I don't have any context to put this album in. One of the first to use sampling, this is a studio album that, perhaps, lets you hear just how much fun the artists had recording it.

Action Packed: Best of the Capitol Years, Richard Thompson
Thompson's poetic wit and clever guitar complement a sometimes melancholy tendency to great effect.

Ravel: Works for piano, violin & cello, Maurice Ravel
The first piece on this 2-disc set, the trio, is one of my favorites. Simply beautiful.

Anthology, A Tribe Called Quest
Brilliant rhythms, beats and verses. Isn't that what music's about?

Call of the West, Wall of Voodoo
You've heard "Mexican Radio," even if you don't recognize the title. The whole album is strong — quirky, dry, witty and, as all music should be, moving — and Wall of Voodoo's distinctive style was never used to better effect.


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