Books I finished in January, 2016

Some friends are keeping logs of everything they read in 2016, and I joined the club. These are just books I finished, with one exception, so I don't have to keep adding the same books in progress month after month.

The Well Of Lost Plots

Something Rotten

First Among Sequels

Jasper Fforde (all from his Thursday Next series)

Both rereads. Absurd comedy, but with surprising amount of drama - this world of coin-operated Shakespeare machines, genetically engineered pet dodos, and Welsh cheese smuggling isn't any funnier to its inhabitants than our world is to us. Which isn't to say it's not funny to us. I just wish there was a spin-off about the Toast Promotion Board.

The Best of Margaret St. Clair

Golden-age SF writer, perhaps best remembered for "Brightness Falls from the Air". "Horrer Howce" terrified me as a kid - and traumatized my brother for years when I recounted the plot to him. Highly recommend to people with little brothers.

Proven Guilty

White Knight

Jim Butcher (both from his Dresden Files series)

What I like best about Butcher is that no matter how tangled his plots get, every revelation fits perfectly with what's come before. Nothing feels tacked on; nothing feels like a last-minute addition.

The downside is that some of his books are mostly setup for what will come later. Oh, and Butcher spends a lot of time quoting famous movies without adding any twist of his own. "Remember that thing you like? Yeah, I remember it too."

Horror on the Orient Express, vols. I – V

Several hundred pages detailing out a continent-spanning, tabletop RPG horror adventure. Deserves its own posts and will get them.

Fate Core System

The Fate Toolkit

Orient Express is written for the Call of Cthulhu rules, but I'm going to run it using Fate, which I've come to prefer.

Being Colloquial in Esperanto: A Reference Guide

David K. Jordan

The world needs more foreign language books like this one. It's intended for people who already know Esperanto to some extent and discusses hundreds of common mistakes (especially frequently-confused words) as well of typical expressions and constructions that you'd expect to hear among Esperantists with different first languages. And the examples are witty; "I wanted to answer your letter, but worms ate my pencil." ("Mi volis respondi al via letero, sed vermoj formanĝis la krajonon.")

Honor compels me to point out that the author has put the whole book up for free online.

Alice in a World of Wonderlands

The Annotated Alice

An exception to my "read the whole book before listing it" rule: Alice in a World of Wonderlands is three enormous volumes, one of which is a list of all known translations. No one except perhaps the editor will ever read this cover to cover. The other two volumes discuss translations of the Alice books into ONE HUNDRED AND SEVENTY-FOUR different languages. There are essays comparing every Alice translation into a given language; there are essays discussing how various approaches to translation have been applied to Alice over the years; there are in-depth examinations of how specific translators have approached the wordplay and cultural references.

These are wonderful books to sit down with and flip through, reading about how languages you know and languages you'll never know have handled the Mad Tea Party - but I doubt I will read everything here in my lifetime.

It did, though, inspire me to re-read the Alice books. The Annotated Alice has the original text and illustrations, plus copious notes in the margins by mathematician Martin Gardner - who's happy to point out any Victorianism the original readers might have taken for granted, or include the full text of the poems Carroll mocks.

Think Twice: Harnessing the Power of Counterintuition

Michael J. Mauboussin

Non-fiction about cognitive illusions - those times when we believe we're thinking logically, but we're just fooling ourselves. And we usually don't notice.

Written on February 5, 2016