Looking Back at September 2013

It’s been another slow month for me in regards to posting here on the blog, but that doesn’t mean I haven’t still been reading some good books. I tackled my first non-fiction book of the year as well as my first biography (possibly ever) this past month. I also got to read the newest book by my favorite author and finish a book I really wasn’t very interested in finishing.

So, it seems that the past month was all over the map for me in regards to my reading choices. I don’t know if October will be the same way or not, I guess we’ll just have to wait and see if I do the same or do something else.

Here are the books I read in September:

I was really impressed by the two Brandon Sanderson books I read. They were quality work that I’m used to seeing from him. Steelheart was a little on the short side for my preference, but I could understand that it needed to be given how it’s being marketed as a YA novel and part of a trilogy.

Reading Fast Food Nation certainly taught me a few things about how the fast food industry came to be and where it is probably going in the future, but it also spent an awful lot of time trying to convince me that McDonalds is the devil incarnate. By the time I was finished I had learned some things but I wasn’t really compelled to stop enjoying my chicken nuggets whenever I get the hankering.

The Still was the book I really had a hard time with. The story was interesting enough but the main character Rodrigo was annoying as all get out. By the time I was halfway through the book I really didn’t want to finish. Rodrigo was just so hard to get through and the author was really hammering his bratty attitude home over and over again. The biggest problem is that The Still is the first book in a duology and the last 50 pages of the book sort of made me want to forgive the previous 600 pages and read the second book anyways. I’m really going to have to think about whether I want to read that second book and even if I do it will probably be a while before that happens.

In October I’m looking to get past Stephen King’s Under the Dome in a timely fashion so I can then get around to finishing off a couple of series that I’ve left hanging for far too long. There are also a couple of new books I’ve been hearing lots of great press about that I really want to get my hands on as well.

Up Next: “Steve Jobs” by Walter Isaacson

Steve JobsI really don’t read many books that aren’t science fiction or fantasy in some fashion, so for me to decide I want to read something like a biography, it’s a pretty big departure from my usual reading habits. As a matter of fact, I don’t think I’ve actually read an honest to goodness biography at any time in my life that I can remember.

However, Steve Jobs was a rather intriguing figure in the world and I’ve heard nothing but great things about this book. As a fan of Apple products myself I thought it might be a good place to start my dive into biographies. Who knows, if I like this one I might follow it up with Isaacson’s biographies of Benjamin Franklin and Albert Einstein at some point. I’m sure those would probably be just as interesting.

This is a pretty heavy book though, and I’m borrowing a print copy from a close friend instead of downloading it to read on my Kindle. I’ll probably work my way through this one at a genteel pace, a few pages a day or a chapter or two a week on the side while reading my more usual fare. It seems like the kind of book I might want to digest in smaller, more manageable chunks.

Based on more than forty interviews with Jobs conducted over two years—as well as interviews with more than a hundred family members, friends, adversaries, competitors, and colleagues—Walter Isaacson has written a riveting story of the roller-coaster life and searingly intense personality of a creative entrepreneur whose passion for perfection and ferocious drive revolutionized six industries: personal computers, animated movies, music, phones, tablet computing, and digital publishing.

At a time when America is seeking ways to sustain its innovative edge, and when societies around the world are trying to build digital-age economies, Jobs stands as the ultimate icon of inventiveness and applied imagination. He knew that the best way to create value in the twenty-first century was to connect creativity with technology. He built a company where leaps of the imagination were combined with remarkable feats of engineering.

Although Jobs cooperated with this book, he asked for no control over what was written nor even the right to read it before it was published. He put nothing off-limits. He encouraged the people he knew to speak honestly. And Jobs speaks candidly, sometimes brutally so, about the people he worked with and competed against. His friends, foes, and colleagues provide an unvarnished view of the passions, perfectionism, obsessions, artistry, devilry, and compulsion for control that shaped his approach to business and the innovative products that resulted.

Driven by demons, Jobs could drive those around him to fury and despair. But his personality and products were interrelated, just as Apple’s hardware and software tended to be, as if part of an integrated system. His tale is instructive and cautionary, filled with lessons about innovation, character, leadership, and values.

My Office Book Club

In June my company decided to relocate our offices into downtown Salt Lake City. As a result I got sweet new digs such as a new desk, fancy cubicle, a new desk chair, etc. Also as a result of the move the people I am sitting by on a daily basis are much different from before. At the old office it was simply myself and my good friend Matt sitting in our adjoined cubicles sort of tucked into a back corner all by ourselves. At the new downtown location the cubicles are much more open and Matt changed jobs, so he no longer sits next to me.

The end result of all that change is that I now sit right next to the internal development team and when they hired a new user experience guru he was assigned to sit in the seat next to mine. As it turns out, we both are big on reading and happen to like a fair amount of the same type of books. Clearly we hit it off in that regard.

Shortly after that, Mike, the head of internal development began to join in on our book discussions from time to time and the book club was born. We’ve read a handful of novels over the past few months and have talked about them fairly extensively. We don’t have any sort of formal meeting process, mostly we just start talking about the books when the moment strikes us. Although sometimes we head to the local Barbacoa for  more structured discussion.

Books we’ve read so far as part of our group:

We recently added another member to our little group of book club folks, Brad, another of the internal development programmers. Now we stand at 4 members in total and I like to think we’ve had some pretty good discussions. Mike doesn’t like much of what the other three of us pick to read though, but that’s alright, he fits into his own category when it comes to what he likes. As he likes to say, “I’m really not ever going to be anyone’s target audience.”

So, the four of us recently came up with a list of 12 books to read for 2013, one per month or so, with selections from each of us for the most part. Here’s the list as it currently stands (although it is subject to random and unannounced change):

Obviously looking at that list we’ve got a pretty good mix of books. There is some science fiction, hard science fiction, horror, mystery, non-fiction, a biography, and a little bit of other stuff too. I think it’s going to be fun to see what the four of us have to say about these books as we make our way through the list.

I like having this small group of friends at the office with which to discuss books. Each of us comes at reading with a very different approach and it means that no book seems to be quite the right fit for all four of us at the same time. Needless to say, that makes the discussions about the book incredibly dynamic and exciting.

Top 10 Tuesday: Books on My Fall TBR List

I’ve just recently reached my goal of reading 50 books for the year, so for the next couple of months I’m going to be reading a lot of stuff that will help me decide what to read next. That means I intend to read the first book, maybe the first two books if I’m feeling excitable, in a whole bunch of different series’ that I have been putting off for a long time. I figure if I can get one book under my belt with them then I’ll know for sure if I really want to read all the rest of them or not and can go from there moving forward.

So, here are the books I’m going to tackle this Fall:

A Princess of Mars by Edgar Rice Burroughs
The Barsoom series is made up of a bunch of books that really aren’t all that long, but after watching the John Carter movie not that long ago I became enamored with the story of a man traveling to Mars and becoming a sort of hero to the people there. Even better is that all of these books are free, so I can save a little money while reading some good books. I’ve heard that A Princess of Mars is a little bit different from the movie but that the main plot points remain pretty stable between the two.

Seventh Son by Orson Scott Card
My brother-in-law recommended the Alvin Maker books to me a long time ago, at least a few years back and I’ve never had the chance to start them. Orson Scott Card is a good author and there are several books that follow this one. I’ve read up a little on the concept behind the stories and I think they’ll be pretty cool.

Gardens of the Moon by Steven Erikson
The Malazan Book of the Fallen series is one I really, really need to read. As a fan of epic fantasy it’s probably one of the biggest holes in my reading experience. I have a feeling I’m going to devour this book when I get to it and I hope I can get through some other material before I pick up the second one. My biggest worry is that I’ll like Gardens of the Moon so much I won’t be able to read anything else until I finish the series up to where it stands now.

Dune by Frank Herbert
Dune is another one of the classics in science fiction that I just haven’t read yet. I need to read it to fill that gap in my reading experience but also so I can decide if I want to pick up the rest of the books that follow as well.

Our Sacred Honor by Ron Carter
I read this book years ago and liked it quite a bit. The trouble is I can’t remember anything about it other than I liked it and historical fiction is a genre I don’t have a lot of experience with. I figure a re-read is in order to see if I want to finish the series because at the time of my first reading I remember thinking I wanted to read the others but then got caught up in other things.

The Dark Tower: Gunslinger by Stephen King
King is an author I’ve never read and people tell me that The Dark Tower is an excellent series. A co-worker recently lent me a copy of the first couple books so I figure now is as good a time as any to give it a try to see if I like it.

Red Mars by Kim Stanley Robinson
I’ve found a bit of a secret love for hard science fiction lately and Red Mars is the first in a fairly well acclaimed trilogy in that genre.

Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson
I told myself I would read a biography at least once before the year was done and I think this is the one I want to tackle. I’m a fan of Apple products and always thought Steve Jobs was a pretty interesting/intense individual.

The Stormlight Archive: The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson
Finishing this book for the second time is integral to keeping my BRICK series running smoothly so it’s on the list so I make sure I don’t get behind on it. Of course, it’s a great book, so I don’t mind needing to finish it again in a timely manner.

The Mortal Instruments: City of Lost Souls by Cassandra Clare
I’ve read the first four books, and this one just recently became available. I would like to keep up with the series so I might as well get this one knocked out before the end of the year as well.