Reading List

Here’s where I keep track of all the books I have been reading lately. This is mostly for my own personal benefit so that I don’t forget what I have read.

2021

From Russia with Love
by Ian Fleming

7/10
Bond travels to Istanbul to meet with a rogue Russian agent who claims to be in love with him. The first quarter of the... more

Junkie!
by Jonathan Craig

8/10
This was a PlanetMonk Kindle reprint of a 50s pulp novel. I was expecting tons of scary drug use but the whole “junkie” thing... more

Death in the Clouds
by Agatha Christie

7/10
Poirot on a plane, a blow dart, and many suspects all with reasons to kill the old hag. I was sure I knew whodunnit... more

Murder on the Orient Express
by Agatha Christie

9/10
I read this knowing the ending but I still think it is a top-tier Poirot mystery. The confined setting means there isn’t any jumping... more

Three Act Tragedy
by Agatha Christie

6/10
A mostly Poirot-free Poirot novel. It was okay, I guess, but pretty forgettable. What was I talking about?

The Stranger
by Albert Camus

7/10
A short, quick read that goes by even faster because of the blunt writing (or blunt translation as the case may be). A guy’s... more

Lady of the Lake
by Andrzej Sapkowski

7/10
The final Witcher book is a solid conclusion to the series but doesn’t quite stand up to the previous two entries. When it’s focused... more

Wood Engraving: The Art of Wood Engraving & Relief Engraving
by Barry Moser

9/10
There are very few books detailing the technical aspects of wood engraving out there. This is about as close to one that I have... more

Piranesi: The Complete Etchings
by Luigi Ficacci

4/10
I bought this on a whim when I saw the price dropped to $20. Kudos for the completeness and, if all you want is... more

Resurrection
by Leo Tolstoy

7/10
In the 1960s Fritz Eichenburg illustrated many classics as part of the Heritage Press series of books. This one contains around 17 excellent wood... more

Diamonds Are Forever
by Ian Fleming

7/10
James Bond #4 pits Bond against the mob in America. I’m surprised at how little actual spy-craft takes place in these novels. The stakes... more

The Tower of the Swallow
by Andrzej Sapkowski

8/10
After a very Geralt-centric novel, this fourth book in The Witcher series returns to the Ciri being the primary focus. She’s finally starting to... more

Baptism of Fire
by Andrzej Sapkowski

9/10
The third book in The Witcher series brings the story back to the quality that was shown in the short story volumes. There really... more

Ravilious: Wood Engravings
by James Russell

8/10
A nice collection of works by Eric Ravilious. This isn’t too text heavy, but each print gets a few sentences of copy. Much of... more

The Iliad
by Homer

8/10
This is the sort of book that I feel like I have read already but that is mostly because we devoted a class or... more

Freezer Burn
by Joe R. Lansdale

7/10
Well, this is why I write these reviews. I got about a quarter the way into this book and realized I had already read... more

Words on the Move: Why English Won’t – and Can’t – Sit Still (Like, Literally)
by John McWhorter

8/10
While it’s almost structured as a defense of the “misuse” of words such as literally and like, McWhorter’s book is a very thorough investigation on how and... more

We
by Yevgeny Zamyatin

4/10
A dystopian novel that predates Orwell’s 1984 by a decade or two and was banned in Russia until the 80s. Unfortunately, I found this... more

South and South and South
by Landon Knepp

8/10
The second book in this series moves along nicely as the various characters continue to do the things they were doing. We still don’t... more

2020

Hans Baldung Grien: Prints and Drawings
by James H. Marrow

9/10
An excellent catalog of graphic artworks by this famous student of Dürer. A good chunk of this deals with how Baldung’s work relates to... more

Lord Edgware Dies
by Agatha Christie

7/10
A perfectly serviceable Poirot mystery involving the most despicable kind of people on earth. That’s right, theater people.

The Time of Contempt
by Andrzej Sapkowski

8/10
The Witcher continues with more of Geralt not fighting monsters. There’s a conclave of sorcerers, a double-crossing, a big battle then lots of Ciri.... more

Scene Through Wood: A Century of Wood Engraving
by Anne Desmet

9/10
While wood engraving was the method of illustrating books for at least a century, there doesn’t seem to be many books about the great... more

Mario Bava: All the Colors of the Dark
by Tim Lucas

10/10
This book is massive. Over a thousand pages filled with colorful photos, poster art and columns upon columns of content. It weighs in somewhere... more

Lives of the Artists: Volume I
by Giorgio Vasari

5/10
I started reading this thinking it would cover the techniques and materials of the Renaissance masters. Apparently, that’s another Vasari book (unsurprisingly) called, “Vasari... more

Blood of Elves
by Andrzej Sapkowski

8/10
The first official book in The Witcher series is not as jam-packed with action as the short story volumes were. The plot mainly is... more

Sword of Destiny
by Andrzej Sapkowski

9/10
The second collection of Witcher short stories is actually the first or something like that. You’ll need to Google the series in order to... more

The Last Wish
by Andrzej Sapkowski

8/10
I’ve played the games, watched the television show, and now I am going to work my way through the books. This first book in... more

The Cave and the Light: Plato Versus Aristotle, and the Struggle for the Soul of Western Civilization
by Arthur Herman

7/10
This is yet another summation of Western philosophical thought. In this case it’s presented as a perpetual oscillation between the spiritual ideas of Plato and the... more

The Chiaroscuro Woodcut in Renaissance Italy
by Naoko Takahatake

9/10
One of the best looking books on printmaking I’ve seen. Printed on a think matte stock, with over 100 catalog images and equally as... more

Mediocre Saviors
by Landon Knepp

8/10
This was an enjoyable fantasy about a world that’s been turned to blight everywhere except a single kingdom which seems to be protected by... more

1917: Lenin, Wilson, and the Birth of the New World Disorder
by Arthur Herman

8/10
In the past (“the past” get it… oh, wait you haven’t read the next bit yet), I have tried reading history books (see, history, past,  har... more

The Coddling of the American Mind
by Jonathan Haidt & Greg Lukianoff

7/10
I did not like this nearly as much as The Righteous Mind, but there are a handful of decent insights here about so-call “outrage” culture... more

Mystery of the Blue Train
by Agatha Christie

8/10
It’s been years since I read me some Poirot and it was refreshing to dive back in. I am a better mystery reader now, and I... more

Pillars of the Earth
by Ken Follett

8/10
The historical fiction version of A Feast for Crows with the church versus the crown. It’s a thick but quick-paced read with a lot of detailed... more

Man and the State: The Political Philosophers
by Various Authors

8/10
A good collection of political writings spanning from Hobbes to Marx. Hobbes and Locke lay down a nice foundation for what follows. “On Liberty” remains... more

Mysteries of the Unknown: Mystic Places
by Time-Life Books

9/10
So far, my favorite of the MOTU series. I think I liked this one because there is some grounding in reality. The pyramids exist,... more

The City and the Stars/The Sands of Mars
by Arthur C. Clarke

4/10
Why do I do this to myself? I am always disappointed with classic science fiction. This stuff is so boring. Of the two books, The... more

2019

The City of Gold and Lead
by John Christopher

8/10
Ok. I may have goofed on the first book in The Tripods series earlier, but these are actually pretty fun reads. It’s not the deepest work of science... more

Prey: The Drovers, Book 1
by John D. Brown

7/10
Looks like I am ending the year on a YA fiction kick. Prey is the story of a young boy (aren’t they all) who takes a... more

The White Mountains
by John Christopher

7/10
Young adult fiction about giant three legged machines that transform children into mindless teenagers when they turn thirteen. So basically not much different than... more

Dance of Death: A Graphic Commentary on the Danse Macabre Through the Centuries
by Fritz Eichenberg

8/10
Filled with art featuring death (for the most part that means a skeleton… spooky, no?) taunting the living. The reproductions vary in quality from... more

Mysteries of the Unknown: Mysterious Creatures
by Time-Life Books

7/10
The first chapter about sea creatures is probably the best part of this book. Lots of great illustrations of ships being attacked. There is... more

Mysteries of the Unknown: Transformations
by Time-Life Books

8/10
Transformations is divided into three main sections: native American shapeshifters, werewolves and vampires. The shapeshifters chapter is filled with interesting images of masks and totems. The... more

Public Opinion
by Walter Lippmann

4/10
I agreed with many of his main points on stereotyping, democracy, propaganda, and the inability for a potential voter to actually understand beyond their... more

Tales of the Peculiar
by Ransom Riggs

6/10
I went into this book knowing nothing of the many Mrs. Peregrine books/movies/after-dinner mints. Unless Shirley Temple is the main character, I’m not one for reading... more

The New Right: A Journey to the Fringe of American Politics
by Michael Malice

9/10
Malice takes a break from trolling to clarify what exactly “The New Right” is. The dear readers are guided through the intellectual roots of the movement, meme... more

The Gay Detective
by Lou Rand

7/10
A short, fun read with a simple plot and one-dimensional characters, but that should go without saying for just about any vintage pulp from... more

21 Lessons for the 21st Century
by Yuval Noah Harari

4/10
Apparently everything is going to kill us. There are a handful of insights among the doom and gloom, but mostly this is a litany of... more

Liberalism
by Ludwig von Mises

6/10
Short overview of the basics of classical liberalism with nary a reference to praxeology.

The Wood and the Graver: The Work of Fritz Eichenberg
by Fritz Eichenberg

9/10
My copy was bought used and man-o-man does it smell musty. The odor is, at best, like a stack of old newspapers in the... more

Shirley Temple and the Screaming Specter
by Kathryn Heisenfelt

5/10
This is a strange old book. It’s a Nancy Drew style mystery but the main character is a teen-aged Shirley Temple. Characters in the book... more

A History Of Wood Engraving
by Albert Garrett

6/10
The title of this one is a bit deceptive. The book is actually a history of British wood engraving. It starts out at the very beginnings... more

Presto! How I Made Over 100 Pounds Disappear and Other Magical Tales
by Penn Jillette

7/10
Penn details his weight-loss journey and his wacky diet. It’s an interesting take on how we view food and there are elements of his... more

The Divine Comedy
by Dante Alighieri

6/10
I primarily have this book because I am interested in the spectacular Gustave Doré wood engravings. The text is a deep and thoughtful meditation... more

The Pool of Fire
by John Christopher

8/10
The final book the The Tripods trilogy delivers a satisfying conclusion to the story. I picture the aliens looking like Sigmund the Sea Monster and it all... more

Anthem
by Ayn Rand

5/10
Having read her other books, I felt obliged to read this novella. It’s a fairly literal take on individualism that would have benefited from... more

2018

Swap Clubs
by William and Jarrye Breedlove

8/10
Published in 1964, this book presents itself as a scientific analysis of swinger culture. The opening chapters are filled with various statistics about the numbers... more

Mysteries of the Unknown: Ancient Wisdom and Secret Sects
by Time-Life Books

8/10
The chapters on Free Masonry and The Golden Dawn were pretty informative. I think my big takeaway about these sects was not so much... more

The Naked Sun
by Isaac Asimov

5/10
A murder mystery on a sparsely populated planet where each person lives isolated from everyone else and all the work is done by robots.... more

A Renegade History of the United States
by Thaddeus Russell

6/10
The premise here is that the outsiders and the misfits, by rejecting puritanism and pushing the limits of what is acceptable, are the real driving... more

Against Empathy: The Case for Rational Compassion
by Paul Bloom

7/10
I think it’s telling that throughout this book the author in constantly having to backtrack and clarify what he means by empathy. Compassion and caring... more

Mysteries of the Unknown: Witches and Witchcraft
by Time Life Books

9/10
I enjoyed this one a lot more than Phantom Encounters. The historical accounts are more fact-based rather than anecdotal and the modern accounts had more... more

In the First Circle
by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

8/10
Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn brings us more thrilling tales from the gulag! This is his fictionalized account of life in the Marfino prison where the inmates... more

Mysteries of the Unknown: Phantom Encounters
by Time Life Books

4/10
This book is a collection of anecdotal tales of various people from the olden days being visited by spirits. The stories go as follows:... more

Evidence of Love: A True Story of Passion and Death in the Suburbs
by John Bloom & Jim Atkinson

8/10
Outside of Helter Skelter, I have not read much true crime literature. I picked this one mainly because is was co-written by John Bloom (and it’s... more

Caliban’s War
by James S. A. Corey

7/10
This the second book in The Expanse series. It felt like a bit of a retread but with less interesting characters. The T.V. show is better.

Skin in the Game: Hidden Asymmetries in Daily Life
by Nassim Nicholas Taleb

8/10
Another rambling philosophical tome from Taleb. It expands on the idea that good policy emerges from the participants having skin in the game. I’m... more

Leviathan Wakes
by James S. A. Corey

8/10
I’ve been watching The Expanse lately and wanted to get a taste of the novels that the show is based upon. This was a good read,... more

Discrimination and Disparities
by Thomas Sowell

7/10
Sowell is always an interesting read. However, I find that he can be a bit repetitive in his points from book to book’I get... more

The Raft
by Robert Trumbull

8/10
The harrowing true life account of three airmen who are adrift in a rubber raft for thirty-four days following an emergency landing in the... more

The Gulag Archipelago (Vol. I & II)
by Aleksandr I. Solzhenitsyn

7/10
This massive book has been sitting on my shelf taunting me for twenty-plus years. Ages ago it was recommended to me (by my art... more

No Holds Barred
by Barry Devlin

6/10
The ridiculous plot of this pulp trash novel is as follows: disgraced big city reporter winds up in small town; proves his investigative reporting... more

Bullies: How the Left’s Culture of Fear and Intimidation Silences Americans
by Ben Shapiro

4/10
I generally like the various Ben Shapiro “Destroys” videos I come across on the webs. He is an excellent debater and can take down... more

Kill All Normies
by Angela Nagle

7/10
This is a pretty good overview of the roots of (mostly) right-wing Internet subcultures and trolls with a little fair-and-balanced lip service given to... more

The Mandibles: A Family, 2029-2047
by Lionel Shriver

8/10
Apocalyptic dystopia from a libertarian perspective. Biases confirmed! In this story it’s not war, plague or environmental catastrophe that brings the end times, it’s... more

Based on a True Story
by Norm MacDonald

8/10
He starts off with a typical comedian’s memoir and, after about three pages, Norm gives up and go total autofiction. There’s a grain of... more

Friday
by Robert A. Heinlein

4/10
Even as an audio book, this was a chore to get through. It’s a tale of a future with super human artificial persons (the... more

The Cosmic Computer
by H. Beam Piper

7/10
Pulpy science fiction about a remote planet on which the inhabitants are convinced exists a super-computer that could solve all their problems. The characters... more

2017

To Build a Castle: My Life as a Dissenter
by Vladimir Bukovsky

7/10
A memoir of what living in The Soviet Union was like in the 60s and 70s. Bukovsky spent most of that time in prison... more

The Secret History of Twin Peaks
by Mark Frost

6/10
I listened to the audiobook version which features many of the original cast members reprising their roles. The book itself is somewhat of a... more

Food: A Love Story
by Jim Gaffigan

7/10
An entertaining read that pretty much says everything funny that can be said about food. I’ve read a couple of these books by comedians... more

You’re Better Than Me
by Bonnie McFarlane

8/10
Another comic’s memoir, but this time it’s actually funny. The first half is really is much better, in which she details her life in... more

Two Years Before the Mast
by Richard Henry Dana

5/10
This is a memoir of life aboard a merchant vessel in the early 1800’s. It is also noteworthy as a glimpse California before the... more

Happy Endings
by Jim Norton

6/10
Norton is usually a very entertaining guest on whatever chat show on which he appears. However, I’ve watched his stand-up and it never really... more

Coolidge
by Amity Shlaes

6/10
This was a fawning look at Coolidge’s life and tenure as the 30th President. It was okay up to a point, but there’s something about... more

Snow Crash
by Neal Stephenson

8/10
This was my first cyberpunk novel (if you don’t count getting stuck in Neuromancer on the IIgs). I thought it was pretty good but the middle... more

Antifragile: Things That Gain from Disorder
by Nassim Nicholas Taleb

8/10
Another big book about risk from Taleb filled with math, anecdotes, history and Fat Tony. This time it’s all in service of his idea... more

Marxism
by Thomas Sowell

4/10
I got this as an audiobook, hoping to get a decent overview of what Marxism is without having to actually read Marx himself. Even... more

Eccentric Orbits: The Iridium Story
by John Bloom

9/10
Eccentric Orbits is the history of the rise, fall, and eventual rebirth of the world’s first (and only) global satellite phone system. This is not... more

Connecticut Privateer Samuel Smedley
by Jackson Kuhl

7/10
A short book about a lesser known hero of the American revolution. As the captain of a Connecticut privateer vessel, Smedley captured a dozen or... more

The Secret Knowledge: On the Dismantling of American Culture
by David Mamet

7/10
Mamet’s political coming out book doesn’t offer much new insight into conservatism. Instead it cribs a lot from Thomas Sowell and other prominent conservative... more

Black Rednecks & White Liberals
by Thomas Sowell

8/10
A collection of six lengthy essays on race, history and misconceptions. The “Black Rednecks” essay is probably the most important of the lot. In... more

The Seven Deadly Virtues
by Jonathan V. Last

8/10
A compilation of humorous essays by eighteen conservative authors in which each tackles the merits and faults or various virtues. Overall it was a... more

2016

Progress: Ten Reasons to Look Forward to the Future
by Johan Norberg

8/10
Johan Norberg wrote one of the clearest accounts of the 2007 financial meltdown and, after that dismal tale, he’s back with a more uplifting story. Politicians... more

The Righteous Mind: Why Good People are Divided by Politics and Religion
by Jonathan Haidt

9/10
Required reading for anyone who is sick of the political name calling and soft bigotry that permeates every single political post on social media.... more

Bad Penny
by John D. Brown

7/10
I enjoyed his fantasy series, so I thought I’d try out Brown’s crime thriller series. This is the story of an ex-military/ex-con who gets caught... more

The Wave
by Todd Strasser

5/10
This short novel tries to show how it was possible for normal German’s to just sit back and let the Nazi’s take over. Apparently... more

The Almost Nearly Perfect People: Behind the Myth of the Scandinavian Utopia
by Michael Booth

8/10
Billed as a travelogue, this book covers the culture, politics and history of the Nordic countries from the perspective of a British ex-pat. While... more

2015

Heart of Darkness
by Joseph Conrad

5/10
I read this mostly because I am an admirer of Apocalypse Now. It sorta lost me by the end so I really didn’t enjoy this.