56. Wintersmith – Terry Pratchett, read by Stephen Briggs
This is a Tiffany Aching book. I didn’t care for this one as much as the previous Tiffany books, but I still really enjoyed it. I think the problem with the Tiffany series is that none of the Big Bads have been as compelling as the original big bad, though she’s gotten more compelling. It’s sort of like Buffy in that way. In fact, I think the Tiffany Aching series would make for good TV.
57. Making Money – Terry Pratchett, read by Stephen Briggs
This is a Moist Von Lipwig book and I really do love Moist, so I enjoyed it. I think the first one was a little better, because there was a lot more conflict inherent in Moist vs. the Patrician. I think this one sort of fell apart towards the end, but it was still very enjoyable.
58. Unseen Academicals – Terry Pratchett, read by Stephen Briggs
This is the last of the Pratchett Discworld audiobooks that I have available to me. There is, I think, one more Discworld book that I don’t have on audiobook, that is the next in the Tiffany Aching series. This one was fun and funny and it was nice to go back to the university, which I think hadn’t been the focus for a long while. I don’t think the wizards can really hold up a whole book, and I think Pratchett agrees with me because he focused just as much on a B plot about 4 young people who were all sort of outsiders. It was quite good. I think he’s gotten much better with plotting over the years — his characters have always been spot on, his humor is brilliant, and his writing style catchy and fun, but plot he can be a bit off on.
59. Coraline – Neil Gaiman, read by Neil Gaiman
I haven’t seen the movie yet. I was surprised by this book, it was somehow lighter than I thought it would be. Neil Gaiman’s books are often quite heavy on lore and complicated worlds, but this was very much a book for children with no need, I guess, for the explanations that often come with parallel universes. I didn’t honestly like this nearly as much as The Graveyard Book. I think it’s definitely suited to younger children, though.
60. Good Omens – Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett, read by Martin Jarvis
I now own three copies of this book, the hardcover, the paperback, and the audiobook. I have owned two earlier copies of the book which disappeared into the ether when I loaned it out. And I always loan it out knowing it may never return. It’s like the Gideons, I kind of want people to keep passing it on because it’s such an awesome book. It was interesting listening to this after having listened to so many (37) of Terry Pratchett’s other books this year, as well as having read almost all of Neil Gaiman over the years. This book seems to have been entirely written by Terry Pratchett, and entirely plotted by Neil Gaiman. I say this based on the number of times the word “conspiratorially” is used. I have a bad habit of overusing this word so every time I hear it, it grates a little bit, and Sir Pratchett loves it. I wonder if I picked it up from reading this book. Point being, this is one of my favorite books of all time and it was pretty good on audiobook.
Working in an office, doing paperwork, so lots of time to listen to audiobooks. I dunno what I’m going to listen to when I’m done with Terry Pratchett. (It’s week 41)
51. The Wee Free Men – Terry Pratchett, read by Stephen Briggs
This is the first of the Tiffany Aching books, which are theoretically young adult books, but are really great reads no matter how old you are. They are related to the witches but about the 9 year old Tiffany Aching, who is good at making cheese. I quite like these. Also, they have the Nac Mac Feegles who are just awesome… their swords glow blue in the presence of lawyers.
52. Monstrous Regiment – Terry Pratchett, read by Stephen Briggs
This is a stand alone book that reminds me a lot of Equal Rites, in terms of the them. Basically it’s a group of women fighters and they’re all pretending to be men because they want to fight for their own reasons. I enjoyed it, though it was more serious than a lot of the books.
53. A Hat Full of Sky – Terry Pratchett, read by Stephen Briggs
This is the second Tiffany Aching book. I didn’t like it as much as the first one. The plot was just less interesting. But it was still a great book.
54. Going Postal – Terry Pratchett, read by Stephen Briggs
I started reading this series because someone I know posts a lot of drawings and thoughts about this book. I felt like I couldn’t just read it without knowing the Discworld first, so I got through 33 books so I could get to this one. It was worth it, great book.
55. Thud! – Terry Pratchett, read by Stephen Briggs
I must say that Terry Pratchett does seem to be getting better with age, his books are just cleverly plotted and funny and fun and great. This one was fantastic.
It’s all over! 50 books in 39 weeks. What’ll I do now?
46. Right Ho, Jeeves – P.G. Wodehouse
In the last year or so, I watched all of Jeeves and Wooster, starring the delightful Fry and Laurie. It should be noted that I am in love with both Stephen Fry and Hugh Laurie, and therefore also in love with P.G. Wodehouse. Wodehouse is also one of Christopher Hitchens’ favorites, so there’s that connection as well. I did really enjoy the book, though I must say that I’m not sure I enjoyed it more than watching Jeeves and Wooster. I think it does the show great credit that there was nothing jarring at all about reading the books, I felt like I’d already done so.
47. The Last Hero – Terry Pratchett, read by Stephen Briggs
This was a pretty funny story about a bunch of old heroes trying to bring about the end of the world by “returning fire to the gods” in the form of a giant bomb. It also had Rincewind, Leonard of Quirm, the librarian and the patrician trying to stop them. It was a solid adventure story.
48. The Amazing Maurice and his Educated Rodents – Terry Pratchett, read by Stephen Briggs
This is hands down the best book of the Discworld series. It’s stand alone and I highly recommend it to anyone who has any interest in Terry Pratchett, fairy tales, young adult fiction, or hilariousness. It’s like a cross between the pied piper, the rats of NIMH and Terry Pratchett’s general awesomeness. This may be my favorite book I’ve read all year.
49. Soccernomics – Simon Kuper and Stefan Syzmanski
This book is exactly what you think it is, basically a statistical approach to soccer analyzing what makes a good soccer team, not from the perspective of who is a good player, but what elements it takes for a country to field a good national team. It’s really interesting if you’re nerdy and like soccer, since it’s soccer with a lot of numbers. I enjoyed it.
50. Night Watch – Terry Pratchett, read by Stephen Briggs
I actually stopped listening to the audiobook and read the last third of this book because I wanted to get through it faster. This is a sort of alternate dimension, going into the past story, but I quite liked it because it offered some background on all of the older characters. In particular, it was nice to see the Patrician as a student. I love the patrician. If you like the other books about the watch, then you’ll probably like this one, I did.
5 Books left!
It is the end of week 37, and I have just finished book 45. I feel like I should continue reviewing books I finish after the fifty, keep counting to see how many I finish, because 50 is now basically inevitable. Maybe my challenge for next year will be to try to finish more than this year, rather than 50.
41. The Atheist’s Introduction to the New Testament – Mike Davis
Asimov’s New Testament book sits heavily on my shelf, waiting impatiently for me to rally the nerve to throw myself into reading it. I find the Old Testament a lot more interesting than the New Testament, mostly because it’s way more mythological and hardcore, and it’s more a history of an entire people than just like this one guy.
As a kid, I always thought Jesus was both kinda creepy and really boring — like Ned Flanders. There was just something about the image of this weird hippie guy with long hair always hanging out with kids and lambs that I found unsettling in a “don’t get in the van” sort of way. And the New Testament, when I read it, never made that feeling go away. So I’m just sort of predisposed not to be terribly interested in the NT, but I feel like I should be, since I dislike Christianity so much. It just gives me the heebie jeebies.
All of this being my way of saying that I read this because it was way shorter than Asimov’s book and I hoped it would make me more interested. It did and it didn’t. I find the story of how the NT came to be (eg Bart Ehrman’s work) a lot more interesting than anything in the NT, and this book certainly feeds into some of that. It’s a very very interesting read, and I’d obviously recommend it to any curious believer. I think this book is a slightly easier read that Bart Ehrman, but not nearly as exhaustively well-informed.
42. Lyra’s Oxford – Philip Pullman
This was a short book that was not nearly as good as the books it is a sequel to, His Dark Materials. Basically, it was just way too short and tacked on, very little there.
43. LSAT Logic Games Bible – David Killoran
I really like logic and logic games so I did actually enjoy reading this book and solving the problems in it. But I’m a huge nerd, so I’m not sure that you should just accept that. Unless you’re taking the LSAT, obviously, in which case you should like this too.
44. The Truth – Terry Pratchett, read by Stephen Briggs
Not to be confused with The Truth (with Jokes) by Al Franken, of course. I enjoyed this book, it’s basically about the invention of/introduction of newspapers to Ankh Morpork, but it was hardly anything to write home about. A solid B. It’s basically a stand alone novel, with only bit parts for characters in the city that have featured in other Discworld novels. I didn’t particularly care for any of the main characters, which sort of made the whole thing less interesting.
45. Thief of Time – Terry Pratchett, read by Stephen Briggs
I enjoyed this quite a bit. It has one of my favorite Discworld characters, Susan, and touches on some of the same apocalyptic themes as Good Omens. I think this will end up being one of my favorites, one that I may try to read some time again in the future. It involved chocolate saving the day by blowing people up because it was so delicious.
Even with nougat you can have a perfect moment.
Extra: I tried to read Freethinkers by Susan Jacoby and I got about 200 pages into it before being too bored to continue. When faced with the dilemma of finishing it before I had to return it to the library or not… I chose not. My intense disinterest in the history of America after 1865 probably didn’t help.
Welcome to Week 34, I’m through 40 books, so doing well. Just 10 left to meet my goal.
36. Searching for Dragons – Patricia C. Wrede
This is the second novel in the Enchanted Forest Chronicles, and I enjoyed it quite a bit. I find it interesting that the books are all written from a different character’s perspective. It’s a neat trick, and I think it works particularly well for the children’s literature genre. You get to see the characters you love, but since you already know how they think, you get to spend time in other people’s head as they go along. Anyway, I highly recommend these books if you like children’s lit at all.
37. To Kill a Mockingbird – Harper Lee
People are very surprised that I never have read this book and never had to in school. Considering I grew up in the south, this is doubly surprising. I moved around a fair amount and I think it was just assigned for one grade in one school district and another in a different one, and so I missed it by switching districts. In any event, I watched the movie this past year at some point and I really enjoyed it, and I’d listened to some NPR stories about its fiftieth anniversary, so I bought it and read it in a night. Fantastic book, and it made me all the more impressed with the movie. I am not generally a fan of Southern Gothic literature, I find it oppressive and kinda icky (I know, technical term) because it’s generally so depressing and twisted. It usually makes me want to take a scalding shower and spend the rest of my life in a heavily air-conditioned, sterilized and dehumidified bubble. But I really liked To Kill a Mockingbird, it strangely reminded me of some of the good things about the South, not the least of which is that there are many more Atticuses now than there were then.
38. The Prop 8 Report – David Fleischer
Wow, 500 pages of analysis of the Prop 8 campaigns. It was a lot to read, and I’m sort of including the Prop 8 decision in this too, since I did read that as well. Basically, the lesson I got from this is that we really need to get the word out that gay marriage helps children. The Prop 8 Proponents put out the whole “the children are gonna be destroyed” message and that alone basically lost gays the right to marry. So, how do we educate people that gay marriage helps children? I dunno, but it’s really important that we do so. The fact is that there are children being raised by same sex couples and that those children would benefit from their parents being able to marry. So, we should encourage a real discussion about children, because the facts are on our side. And we should stop being surprised that the Anita Bryant tactic of 30 years ago still works.
39. Flim Flam! – James The Amazing Randi
I actually didn’t enjoy this book as much as I thought I would. I love Randi, he’s a great speaker and an all around cool guy, so I thought I’d enjoy the book. But I just didn’t find it all that interesting. The book basically debunks a bunch of different woo things like ESP and UFOs and the Bermuda Triangle — you know, National Enquirer stuff. And, I guess there’s a place for that and all, but I find the whole thing rather tedious. To me this is like debunking Cinderella or Superman, I guess there are people out there who believe it, but I tend to think they’re people who just need a fairy tale of some kind in their life. Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s really retarded (it’s satire!) for people to believe a lot of that stuff, but so long as they aren’t hurting anyone, I don’t really care. Like, homeopathy, that’s something to rail against. The Bermuda Triangle? I just can’t be bothered. Maybe this is why I identify more as an atheist than a skeptic.
40. The Fifth Elephant – Terry Pratchett, read by Stephen Briggs
Stephen Briggs has a much different reading style than Nigel Planer, and I admit I like Planer better. Mostly because I don’t like the voices Briggs uses for the watch in this book. He’s not bad, not at all, I’m probably just used to Planer. I think all the rest are read by Briggs so I suppose I should get used to him. OK, that aside, I did quite enjoy this book. It’s about Vimes, who I like, and it has vampires fighting werewolves. It was strangely not as funny or tongue-in-cheek as most of the Discworld books, it felt like an almost straight detective adventure novel. The plot may be the best constructed of his books so far, though plot has never been the main reason I read his books.
It is week 30!
31. Hogfather – Terry Pratchett, read by Nigel Planer
I saw the BBC version of Hogfather and I loved it and it’s a large part of the reason I decided to actually read (listen to) the Discworld series. I love Susan, she’s an excellent character. Half Mary Poppins, half Death. I loved this book.
32. Jingo – Terry Pratchett, read by Nigel Planer
In general, I like the books about the watch, but this one really didn’t do it for me. The book is basically satirizing war and nationalism and that sort of behavior, but I just didn’t find it that compelling for whatever reason.
33. Last Continent – Terry Pratchett, read by Nigel Planer
This book is about a continent that is not Australia. I didn’t much care for this one either. It’s a Rincewind book. The best part was the drag queens.
34. Carpe Jugulum – Terry Pratchett, read by Nigel Planer
Yay! A witches book. This one had vampires and was pretty fun to read in light of all the modernization of vampires lately. Because these are old world vampires in the old world trying to evolve beyond being subject to people’s superstitions. I also really like all the witches.
35. Dealing with Dragons – Patricia C. Wrede
This is a re-read, haven’t read this book in ages, but I loved this series as a younger person. I can’t recommend them strongly enough. I imagine the rest of the books will appear throughout the year, if I can find them at the library. I like what she does with the series, each of the four books has a different main character, but they interact closely with the characters you already know and love. Third Person Limited FTW!
It is the fate of all banisters worth sliding down that there is something nasty waiting at the far end. — Terry Pratchett
We are coming to the end of Week 24/52 and I’ve read 30/50. I suspect it will be even slower from now on, I may start posting individually when I finish books so I don’t forget.
26. Soul Music – Terry Pratchett, read by Nigel Planer
I wanted to like this book more than I actually did. I quite like the main character, Susan the granddaughter of Death, who eventually becomes a sort of badass Mary Poppins. I liked her character, but the rest of the book was just sort of OK. I’ve found I don’t actually like the Death centered books that much. Anyway, I saw the Hogfather BBC movie and I really enjoyed Susan et al there, so I’m looking forward to getting to it.
27. Interesting Times – Terry Pratchett, read by Nigel Planer
The return of Rincewind, haven’t heard from him in a while. I didn’t much care for this book, it wasn’t terrible or anything, it just wasn’t terribly compelling.
28. Maskerade – Terry Pratchett, read by Nigel Planer
I think how much you like this book is dependent on your relationship with the Phantom of the Opera, which is to say if you are both familiar and mildly contemptuous of it, while retaining a special place in your heart for it, then you’ll very much enjoy this book. I think this is a book you could very easily read independently of the series without losing anything. Have some quotes that will explain this to you.
After you’d known Christine for any length of time, you found yourself fighting a desire to look into her ear to see if you could spot daylight coming the other way.
“Well, basically there are two sorts of opera. There’s your heavy opera, where basically people sing foreign and it goes like “Oh oh oh, I am dyin’, oh, I am dyin’, oh, oh, oh, that’s what I’m doin'”, and there’s your light opera, where they sing in foreign and it basically goes “Beer! Beer! Beer! Beer! I like to drink lots of beer!”, although sometimes they drink champagne instead. That’s basically all of opera, reely.”
29. Asimov’s Guide to the Old Testament – Isaac Asimov
Oh my God I finally finished this. It took ages. It’s nearly 700 pages of historical analysis of the Old Testament. It’s very well written, it’s just that some parts of the Old Testament (aka the early bits) are way more interesting than the other parts (the prophets). I really enjoyed what I learned, but after I got through the fun stories it was a bit more difficult. Still, I enjoyed reading the explanations of all the prophecies and how they were related to the history of the local civilizations.
Since there are some stories attached, I’ve now got a decent timeline in my head of Syria, Assyria, Babylonia, Persia, and anything else ending with ia that I’m forgetting. I guess I’m one of them atheists that likes to be able to know holy texts better’n the religious and since I live where the Judeo-Christians dominate, the Bible is what I like to be able to tear apart.
Also, as a complete political junkie, understanding the very earthly political motivations driving a lot of what is said in the book is very enlightening. I recommend this for anyone looking to be literate in the historical study of the Bible, but who doesn’t like boring people. Because, even when the material is dry, Asimov has an enthusiasm and sense of humor that makes it readable. And, at 700 pages, it really is exhaustive. Plus, lots of maps.
30. Feet of Clay – Terry Pratchett, read by Nigel Planer
I know this list is mostly Terry Pratchett, but the Asimov book took me some weeks and I wouldn’t allow myself any other readable books til I got through it. This is the best one of the bunch, I think. I really really like the guards stories, and if you’re into Dirty Harry, crime solving, hijinks, or really like Severus Snape, I would recommend the guard books in the Discworld series.
21. Godless – Dan Barker
I thought his personal journey from being an Evangelical preacher to being an atheist was really interesting and compelling, but the second half of the book focused on arguments for why he was atheist that were very familiar to me. I think this would be a great book to give to someone who was interested and knew nothing about atheism, particularly because Barker is very sensitive to the Christian mindset.
22. Men at Arms – Terry Pratchett, read by Nigel Planer
I like the Guards a fair amount, so I enjoyed this story. Not as much as the witch stories, but I love Carrot and Vimes and the Patrician, and they all featured pretty heavily. I was less interested in the parts that were about the impact of a gun on the society. I also love Detritus the Troll. And how British people say Troll.
23. The Beekeeper’s Apprentice – Laurie R. King
I had listened the BBC Radio adaptation of this and was really interested in reading the whole book. It’s about a girl who becomes Sherlock Holmes apprentice, but it’s a fairly adult sort of story. I’ve only ever read one or two of the Holmes tales, so I don’t know how faithful it is, but I enjoyed it enough to finish in a night and start the next one the next day.
24. A Monstrous Regiment of Women – Laurie R. King
I think the first one is a little more compelling than this tale was, but then I’m not really interested in Christian Feminist movements and find them weird. The developing relationship between Russell and Holmes was handled very deftly and quite enjoyable.
25. The Good Man Jesus and the Scoundrel Christ – Philip Pullman
This book was a very quick read and I can’t say I honestly recommend it. Maybe it’d be more interesting to people who aren’t familiar with any biblical scholarship. The premise being that Jesus and Christ were twins, Jesus being the radical and Christ being the realist. It’s no Dark Materials.
It’s week 22, so I’m ahead of the game. So maybe I’ll actually finish the Asimov book. Or I’ll do what I did yesterday, and buy another 12 books because now I’m interested in Sherlock Holmes…
Oh, and also halfway there.
16. The Ordinary Princess – M.M. Kaye
This is a children’s book and a great deal shorter than most of the other books on my reading list. I say it makes up for those Asimov books which are long and dry. Of course, I haven’t finished those yet. This is sort of similar to Ella Enchanted. It’s about the youngest princess in the family and her fairy godmother grants her the gift of being ordinary, and so she’s not as pretty, or blond, or dainty as the other princesses and she runs away and has adventures and falls in love with an ordinary king. Love it 🙂
17. Snow White, Blood Red – Edited by Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling
This is a collection of stories that are re-tellings of fairy tales, but fairly adult. I read them originally when I was pretty young, 14ish, and it was the first thing I read that was at all naughty and grown-up. There is a retelling of Rapunzel in here that had morphed and grown into something totally different in my mind, it was interesting to go back and read it over a decade later. My mind version is better, by the way.
18. Witches Abroad – Terry Pratchett, read by Nigel Planer
One of my favorites, I love the witches. This is a send up of all fairy tales sort of mashed into one, plus some voodoo and New Orleans style magic. A very fun <del>read</del> <i>listen</i>.
19. Small Gods – Terry Pratchett, read by Nigel Planer
This one was OK. I found myself having to make a very concerted effort to pay attention. It’s not that I didn’t like the ideas, and parts of it were quite good. This is set many, many years before the main events of the discworld series, and in that sense it was interesting. But it’s basically a buddy movie of a guy and his pet God.
20. Lords and Ladies – Terry Pratchett read by Nigel Planer
Back to the witches yay! This may be my favorite book so far. The story is more fully realized and well-plotted than the others. The characters are just as well done as before, but the story is strictly fantasy, there’s no technological invention driving it. It’s spoofs Midsummer Night’s Dream a bit, and it’s basically a reflection on youth, age, and lives not lived. But… it’s Terry Pratchett, which is to say it’s done so with a lot of jokes, and people who can’t be having with that sort of nonsense.
OK, so this is now caught up to where I am. It’s week 21, and I am currently reading books 21, 22 and 23, so I’m in a good place. Since there are 52 weeks in a year, there’s basically 2 weeks of buffer built in, and I’d like to get to the place where I’m 2 weeks ahead anyway, because it’s going to take me a long time to get through both those Asimov books. They’re not just long, they’re dry!
Build a man a fire, and he’ll be warm for a day. Set a man on fire, and he’ll be warm for the rest of his life. — Terry Pratchett
11. Tricks of the Mind – Derren Brown
Amazing book. Derren Brown, and you really should look into him if you’re unfamiliar, is sort of the British version of Penn & Teller. I say sort of because his tricks are less illusions and more mentalist, but he is super skeptical and very honest about the fact that it’s all tricks. He’s also the best cold reader I’ve ever seen. And I hate that stuff when it’s played for serious, but he plays it as memory tricks and intuitivity and he’s kind of a dick.
12. Guards! Guards! – Terry Pratchett, read by Nigel Planer
I really liked this one, I think if you were just starting the series this would be one you could start with. It stands alone quite well. It delves into a lot of characters that I quite love the Librarian, who is an ape, Vimes, who is Dirty Harry basically, Sybil Ramkin, who is one of those crazy, not terribly attractive, flawed and delightful women characters, and the Patrician, who is evil in an efficient and good sort of way. The Patrician was originally intended to be played by Alan Rickman, in Mr. Pratchett’s mind, but was ultimately played by Jeremy Irons. We find that this suits our Gruber sensibilities.
13. Faust Eric – Terry Pratchett, read by Tony Robinson
Didn’t really care for this one.
14. Moving Pictures – Terry Pratchett, read by Nigel Planer
This is a really good one if you’re into movies. A lot of what the Discworld books do is introduce modern technology into a magical world, and that technology is based on magical innovation rather than technical innovation. In this one, someone discovers how to magically record moving images, and the rise of Hollywood happens in a few weeks, culminating in the epic film about the civil war “Blown Away”. I enjoy all the references to things that are familiar with slightly bizarre names. Banged Grains instead of Popcorn, Clicks instead of Flicks. Also stand alone, if you’re a movie person looking to get into the Discworld series, start here.
15. Reaper Man – Terry Pratchett, read by Nigel Planer
Not my favorite. I like Death a lot, but there was something less than compelling about his story.