Booklist

A list of all the books I've read while in Lesotho, with the most recent at the top1). If the book/series made a particular impression on my I'll leave a short little summary/recommendation. Check for updates when you're bored, there should be one a week or so.

Note : I changed it to a numbered list so I could see totals, but newest is still first.

Note 2 : Series usually only merit one entry. Number in parens indicates number of books in series finished.

  1. The Year of Living Dangerously, Christopher Koch : a book with a mediocre plot, and interesting setting. Set in the expat community in Indonesia in 65, in the midst of a revolution.
  2. In The Garden of Beasts, Erik Larson : the ambassador and his family in Berlin right before the onset of WWII. Great inside look at the rise of Hitler and the formation of the Third Reich. And how people can rationalize most horrors, if they happen slowly enough.
  3. At The Mountains of Madness, HP Lovecraft : you know Lovecraft. Creepy scary weird old stuff in the antarctic.
  4. The Road, Cormac McCarthy : good 'ol depressing Cormac. Enjoyable though.
  5. Into Thin Air, Jon Krakauer : why not to climb everest. 1 - $65,000. 2 - Highway. Jon climbs with an expedition. Everybody dies. The end. Still interesting to read though, if you're into mountaineering sort of stuff.
  6. The Bed Of Procrustes, Nassim Taleb : a collection of aphorisms.
  7. The Practicing Mind, Thomas Sterner : a small self-help volume about being present. Worth reading. Nothing spectacular, but helps spell out some obvious truths.
  8. Dune, Frank Herbert : better the second time around.
  9. Desert Solitaire, Edward Abbey : another book about loving the desert. Also Utah. Better than 'The Way Out'. Read if you love nature. Or if you want to love nature. Also some good rants about the national parks and dams.
  10. The Way Out, Craig Childs : a book about loving the desert, specifically in the Utah canyonlands.
  11. For Us The Living, Robert Heinlein : Heinlein exposing some really weird economic theory, for the most part.
  12. King Leopold's Ghost, Adam Hothschild : super interesting look at how King Leopold of the Belgians managed to conquer the Congo without an army.
  13. Catalina, Somerset Maugham : not his best.
  14. This House Of Sky, Ivan Doig : kinda strange writing style, but fascinating story of his childhood growing up in Montana.
  15. State of Fear, Michael Crichton : great. Questions all the 'science' behind global warming in an extremely informed way.
  16. Sphere, Michael Crichton : not great.
  17. True Grit, Charles Portis : kind of a silly little spaghetti western. Mildly enjoyable.
  18. The Horse and His Boy, CS Lewis : you know, Narnia.
  19. Crime and Punishment, Fyodor Dostoyevsky : love good 'ol Fyodor. Great read, once you get into it.
  20. The Poisonwood Bible, Barbara Kingsolver : great little novel about a missionary family living in the congo right before it left control of the belgians.
  21. Moby Dick, Herman Melville : you know, Moby Dick. Overrated, IMHO. If you left out his (completely wrong) blathering about the nature of whales (and whether their spout is water or mist…), it'd be a quarter the length.
  22. Antifragile, Nassim Taleb : this book…wow. Talk about a paradigm-shifter. A mind-blower, if you will. If you read nothing else on this list, read this. It's possibly one of the most practical books I've ever read, and explodes a lot of myths about our modern world - most notably our illusion of our powers of understanding the vast complexity of it. The basic premise of the book is that there are fragile things , that are harmed by variability, and there are anti-fragile things (not just robust) that actually thrive on variability - the human body for example.
  23. Daughter of Time, Josephine Tey : an odd little book about a hospitalized detective, who makes use of his time by investigating Richard III alleged crimes against his nephews. Makes an excellent argument in favor of Richard. The biggest impact that it had on me, was to make me question the good of universal education, especially on 'soft' subjects such as history. Universal education is only good if correct, but things like history are always being updated and accepted views changed. Furthermore, it makes people assume they know the truth, when really they only know what they've been told - two very different things.
  24. Innocents Abroad, Mark Twain : the first three-quarters was funny and enjoyable, but after that it lagged. A lot of fun to see tourism in the 1800s through Twain's eyes.
  25. The Prince, Niccolo Machiavelli : if you wanted to conquer Italy in the 16th century, here's the manual. It seems odd how much he was reviled for writing this; he doesn't seem evil at all, just practical to a fault. Although, I do think he tends to over-rationalize the problems of ruling, and underestimates the complexity of the multitude of factors that can come into play.
  26. The Story of San Michele, Axel Munthe : a beautiful (The writing is wonderful, and so is the story. Very poetic.)) story about a doctor working in Paris, with a dream of owing a certain piece of land on the italian island of San Michele. Really wortht the read if you're wondering what to read next.
  27. Eating the Dinosaur, Chuck Klosterman : a collection of pop, music, and sports culture essays. I enjoy his style, but wow there were a ton of sports essays. The most interesting thing is to see how little I know about something that others know so much about.
  28. Dracula, Bram Stoker : I've been on a Dracula kick lately, so fun stuff. Also saw the 1920 'Nosferatu', which is the oldest movie I've seen (I think), and was an experience in and of itself.
  29. Blue Like Jazz, Donald Miller : sort of a wishy-washy modern 'Christianity' personal essay collection. Not bad, but not great.
  30. Abolition of Man, CS Lewis : A short, fascinating look at the effects of education on morality. Highly recommended.
  31. The Metamorphosis, Franz Kafka : a bug story. A guy wakes up as a bug, and dies. I'm sure it's a metaphor for something…
  32. Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, Jonathan Safran Foer : extremely stream of consciousness is more like. Not my favorite. The story of a somewhat bratty child who lost his father in the 9/11 attacks. I honestly skimmed most of it.
  33. My Uncle Oswald, Roald Dahl : a rather silly book about a young lech (think Don Giovanni x 10) who gets rich by selling what's essentially viagra in Paris. I expected more from Dahl. Still, it wasn't graphic or anything. The fellow was really quite the capitalist.
  34. War and Peace, Leo Tolstoy : this was…um…a slightly long book. Even the epilogue (which was about how there is no free will) was longer than most other books. The story of the invasion of Russia by Napoleon, with a mixing of fiction and nonfiction. Absolutely fascinating and informative. The peace part concerns itself with Moscow and Petersburg high society, and how they manage to almost completely ignore the war that claimed millions of lives. I think I would have enjoyed it more had I not been so aware of my ever-growing to-read list.2)
  35. All Things Wise and wonderful, James Herriot : an old favorite of mine; the memories of a vet in northern England while he joins the RAF. Full of the little things of life. -Cannery Row, John Steinbeck : the life of a little coast town. The minutia, from gophers digging holes, to a party for the local scientist. The lives of the non-normals; the people who fall in between the cracks. Similar to 'Of Mice and Men', in that sense.
  36. The Dresden Files(15), Jim Butcher : a really really fun series about a wizard who operates in a PI-like style in Chicago. Think film-noir + Harry Potter + witty protagonist. There's fifteen books in the series (I've read all of them, just rereading), and I can't wait for the next installment.
  37. Of Mice and Men, John Steinbeck : this touched me much more now than it did when I read it way back when. I take this to mean I'm more in touch with human emotion now than previously. Or something. Really though, a beautiful story.
  38. Israel/Palestine a 4000 Year History, Ian Carroll : one of those history books I consider mind-blowing, if you will. I literally had to put the book down to deal with all the new information entering my head. No wonder no one can resolve the situation in that tiny little strip of land. Everybody's a little right, and a little wrong. Not about religion at all, just about land. To many of you I suppose this is a `duh' sort of thing, but I hardly pay any attention at all to international affairs.3)
  39. The Architecture of Happiness, Alain de Botton: an interesting little tome that puts forth in the most concrete terms that I've seen (not that I've seen that many) our relationship with architecture, and why it means so much, and yet so little to us. He goes into why beauty touches us, and why taste differs so much from person to person, and age to age.
  40. Flowers for Algernon, Daniel Keyes : fantastic little novel about a retarded man who wants to become smart, and succeeds.
  41. The Worm Ouroborous, E.R. Eddison : I feel like Tolkien must have read this, the high (almost archaically so) seems similar. A high fantasy set on Mercury of the downfall of the Lords of Demonland, and their glorious rise against mighty Witchland. Definitely worth the read if you can get into the language.
  42. The Hobbit, JRR Tokien : for the second time since coming here. Can't seem to help myself.
  43. The Horus Heresy(4), Various : a fantasy-scifi series set in the far future about the Horus the Warmaster turning traitor against the Emperor of Mankind and plunging the galaxy into a bloody civil war costing billions of lives. Full of Space Marines and chainswords and planetary invasions. Not for everyone, but I really enjoyed it. This was what I read during training.
  44. Shantaram, Gregory David Roberts : a fascinating (almost true, and extremely long) story about an escaped convict making a life in the mafia of Bombay. Based on the life of the author. This is one of those books that provides an insight into a life you would never even have imagined.
  45. Lost in The Cosmos, Walker Percy : I absolutely loved this book; witty, interesting, insightful, and enormously fun to read - I think I had a grin on my face the entire time. Sort of a philosophical parody of American post-everything culture in the form of a parody of a self-help book, full of realistic scenarios and thought experiments with no answer. I recommend this book to anyone who has ever felt lost in this bizarre world of ours.4)
  46. Marina, Carlos Ruiz Zafon : a slightly mediocre, but enjoyable, paranormal thriller set in Barcelona. I hear he has some really good novels, but I don't think this is one of them. Part of the problem is I read it in English (he writes in Spanish), and I had a feeling the whole time that I should have been reading in Spanish. Some phrases just sound weird in english.
  47. Till We Have Faces, CS Lewis : a retelling of the myth of Cupid and Psyche (the human soul and love), that asks, and attempts to answer the question “If God is real, why doesn't he show himself?” Or, as Lewis much more eloquently puts it “Why must holy places be dark places?” If you read it, I highly recommend Peter Kreeft's podcast on it, with the same title. Great analysis.
  48. The Idiot, Fyodor Dostoevsky : much easier to read than I foresaw. A story of a Prince (one of the dime-a dozen kind, not the politically important kind) who is deemed an idiot by society because he's not good at hiding his real thoughts and speaks his mind. So, somewhat socially an idiot. A story of his brief return to Russia (and russian mid-level society in the late 1800s), and the people he meets. A great read, the characters are excellent caricatures of people we all know, almost eerily so.
  49. El Circulo, Mario Escobar : a pretty bad thriller. Only read it to brush up on my spanish - it almost wasn't worth it. Except at the end everybody dies, so that was a nice twist, a change from the terrible predictability of the rest of it.
  50. The Children of Hurin, JRR Tolkien : the tale of the children of the greatest Man of the 1st age of Middle-Earth, cursed by Morgoth. Told in part in The Silmarillion, in full here. Beautiful language, of course, and a no less terrible story.
  51. Orthodoxy, GK Chesterton : a personal story from Atheism to Christianity. Sort of along the lines of Mere Christianity, but much more personal and emotional. He makes some interesting arguments, though is at times given to unsupported statements. Definitely worth a read if you enjoyed MC.
  52. A Briefer History of Time, Steven Hawkings : kind of disappointing, nothing terribly new or original. Decent overview of the current (established) state of physics, if not much else.
  53. Phantastes, George Macdonald : a fairy-tale in the purest sense. As in actually about a guy who wakes up in Fairyland. Along the lines of Alice in Wonderland, but leaning more towards King Arthurain legend.
  54. Ringworld(2), Larry Niven : great standard sci-fi. A giant ring (a partial Dyson Sphere) is discovered in space, three different sentient species go to explore.
  55. Mere Christianity, CS Lewis : a great argument for Christianity, though I think a few of his starting points are rather shaky, at least he doesn't provide as much evidence for his premises as I'd like. But after that it's brilliant. Clear language. At the very least, it gives you something to think about.
  56. Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End Of The World, Haruki Murakami : another slightly weird (in the best way) fiction. Bizzaro, futuristic, Japan (though it could really be anywhere). Scattered themes such as the mystery of subconscious/conscious interaction, and value of school.
  57. The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, Mark Twain : only the best boys book of all time. Everybody should read, boys to know what they aspire to, and everybody else to get a glimpse inside the mind of young boys - especially the troublesome kind.
  58. Cadillac Desert, Marc Reisner : incredibly interesting, about the history (until 1992) of water development the dry western states. A story of thousands of worse-than-useless dams, poor management, and incredibly expensive government projects. Water flows towards money and power. Makes me curious as to what the state of things are now.
  59. Huckleberry Finn, Mark Twain : You know. The story of a boy and a slave drifting down a river. Harder to read now than when I was younger, oddly enough; I think because of the dialects.
  60. Lord Jim, Joseph Conrad : a beautifully written work about a guy, Jim, who can't forget a mistake he made one time. As I said, beautiful language, but the way he writes from the perspective of somebody talking, made it somewhat hard for me to follow who was saying what sometimes. Also, I feel like he gets carried away with his eloquence and forgets where he was going with things. At least, I forget haha. Still, a worthwhile read if you can get into his language.
  61. The Martian, Andy Weir : an great, great read about an engineer stuck on mars. Mostly an account of how he solves various technical challenges, but that's why I enjoyed it so much.
  62. Alchemist, Peter James : sort of a cross between King and Crichton. Evil genetics company, Satanism, etc. You know. Certainly entertaining, at least. I actually read this by accident, I thought it was The Alchemist. Entirely different book as it turns out.
  63. Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency(2), Douglas Adams : Same wonderfully ridiculous Douglas, but in a PI-ish setting. If you like DA, you're set.
  64. Breakfast at Tiffany's, Truman Capote : A bit more serious than the movie; reads a bit like Hemingway. Very short.
  65. Four Loves, CS Lewis : I highly recommend anything by CS Lewis.5) This is an essay on the four words for love in ancient Greece and their application in the modern world. Great read, makes you think.
  66. Timeline, Michael Crichton : Time travel into medieval France. Nothing special. Read if you like Crichton and need something fluffy to read. kept me entertained while I waited for 3 hours for a taxi to fill up so it would leave.
  67. Kristin Lavransdatter(3), Sigrid Undset : A very, very, very long trilogy, that I read as one book. It's taken me since October to finish. Anyways, it's the life of this girl, Kristin, as she grows up and gets married (against her fathers will), and then years of her stressing because her husband isn't everything she wanted him to be. Lots of emphasis on the historical setting of medieval Norway, which is interesting, but overly detailed at some points. For example “Then the youngest of the sons of Trond, Ivar and Haavard…sold their shares of the Vaage estates to Sir Sigurd, who was their cousin as well as the cousin of the daughters of Lavrans. sigurd's mother, Gudrun Ivarsdatter, was the sister of Trond Gjesling and Ragnfrid of Jorungaard. Ivar Gjesling moved to Ringheim at Toten..” Yeah…But still, if you skim over that sort of stuff, the plot is quite good. And Kristen is a great, extremely real character.
  68. In Defense of Food, Michael Pollan : Highly recommended to anyone that cares about their diet or health.6) A bit alarmist at some points, and has a mild inconsistency towards the end, but nothing that invalidates his arguments. I thought it was just going to be a fear-mongering thing against processed food because chemicals are scary, but his arguments seem to be well-founded. It's a lot of words for a simple point that everbody already knows : eat lots of veggies, don't eat processed food. Duh. Though, he gives a lot of good reasons for why.
  69. Wind-up Bird Chronicle, Haruki Murakami : if Stephen King is 'The Scream', this guy is 'Son of Man'. A surreal, slightly vague book on the disappearance of a guys wife. Super fun to read if you're in the right mood; great use of language. Highly recommend if you're looking for something off the beaten path.
  70. The Giver, Lois Lowry : about a society with only shallow emotions and no memories of their past. One guy remembers everything for everybody, and passes on his knowledge to a new chump.
  71. Congo, Michael Crichton : an expedition into the Congo encounters weird gorillas. Fun, little substance. You learn interesting things about the Congo and the rainforest though.
  72. Marathon Man, William Goldman : thriller about Nazis and a guy who wants to run a marathon. Fun, short read. Great movie, too.
  73. Heart of Darkness, Joseph Conrad : A journey on an African river, very surreal and focused on human psychology - whatever may lie under the facade imposed by society. Only read if you want a surreal, vague reading experience.
  74. At Home, Bill Bryson : A really great look at (mostly) English history through the last 200 years or so, as told through the development of different rooms in a home.
  75. Mistborn Series(4), Brandon Sanderson : Good high fantasy, people can control metals by ingesting different metals. Good storytelling, good plot. A page turner for sure; I was hooked on the series for a few days until I finished.
  76. Superfreakonomics, Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner : You probably have heard of this; basically sociology with more data. Required reading for the government, I wish.
  77. In Siberia, Colin Thubron : I've never read a travelogue before (that I remember), but this one is amazing. He journeys through Siberia, mostly by rail, and has glimpses into the many different cultures there. As an added bonus, he is writing in '99, so you get to see all sorts of influence of the Soviet Union.
  78. Oryx And Crake, Margaret Atwood : Typical post-apocalyptic stuff, with an emphasis on genetic modification run rampart. Typical, but good.
  79. The Time Machine, HG Wells : Much shorter than I remember. A fun little read if you need to kill a couple of hours.
  80. Why the West Rules (For Now), Ian Morris : Instantly became a favorite of mine. An overview of world history through the development of eastern and western cores, with a focus on archaeology and social development - the ability of a society to influence its surroundings. I really, really liked this one. Never before has the incredible depth and scope of history, the lives of the millions who came before, been so close to my heart.7)
  81. Dies The Fire(2), SM Stirling : Post-apocalyptic; electricity and gunpowder don't work - the lack of good explanation of this is the worst part. Other than the weird Wiccan stuff. Still, a good read, particularly if you enjoy craftsmanship - It goes into some detail about recreating old-fashioned weapons and such. Edit : Now reading the sequel, more of the same. Too much Wiccan.
  82. Lay Down my Sword and Shield, James Lee Burke : A book of the south to its core, a real pleasure to read. Basically, an alcoholic congressman-to-be destroys his life for the sake of a girl. Read it!
  83. Maze Runner Series(3), James Dashner : Typical Post-apoc, Young Adult stuff, meh. First book was the best.
  84. Thinking, Fast and Slow, Daniel Kahneman : Dry, but very, very interesting. A good look at how much humans suck at analyzing risk and making logical decisions. READ! - It might take a while though, I recommend having it in the background and going back to it at intervals.
  85. The Ultimate Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy(5), Douglas Adams : Funniest books I've ever read. Sci-fi Nonsense.
  86. LOTR Series(3), JRR Tolkien : Only the greatest books ever written. Such beauty.
  87. City of Endless Night, Milo Milton Hastings : My dad put me onto this one. In essence, Germany is not defeated during WWII, but is confined to Berlin. Interesting look into the human psychology of an intensely regimented society.
  88. Finn the Wolfhound, AJ Dawson : Technically not read in Lesotho, but as it was the last book I read in the States, and very few people have heard of it, I'll mention it. Another one my dad put me on to. One of the finest wolfhounds ever bred is kidnapped, and goes through trials and tribulations before ending up the head of a dingo pack in Australia. Enjoyable and worth reading.
1)
In theory
2)
It's soooo long. I can't even make a dent.
3)
Or national, for that matter.
4)
I tried to be more inclusive, but couldn't.
5)
Especially his Sci-fi Trilogy and Mere Christianity.
6)
So, everybody?
7)
Or the lump of stone I call my heart.
lea/booklist.txt · Last modified: 2018/03/06 08:59 (external edit)
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