45 Books I Like More Than a Little
Write what you know. In this case, what I know about is being a geek. Over the next few days I’ll be suggesting things that I liked. I’ll be giving ball-park prices (in Canadian dollars) and at the end of each post I’ll include a link to where you can find all of the items on Amazon.
This time around I cover some of my favorite novels.
Books – Non-fiction
Postsecret: Extraordinary Confessions from Ordinary Lives (CDN$ 22.02) – Frank Warren
The first in my list of books based on websites, PostSecret is one of the most unique sites on the Internet.
It all began with an idea Frank Warren had for a community art project. He began handing out postcards to strangers and leaving them in public places — asking people to write down a secret they had never told anyone and mail it to him, anonymously. The response was overwhelming. The secrets were both provocative and profound, and the cards themselves were works of art — carefully and creatively constructed by hand. Addictively compelling, the cards reveal our deepest fears, desires, regrets, and obsessions.
Found: The Best Lost, Tossed, and Forgotten Items (CDN$ 15.33) – Davy RothbartThe second in my list of books based on websites, Found is a collection of found things that offers a window to the people who have lost them.
Discarded valentines. Ransom notes. To-do lists. Diaries. Homework assignments. A break-up letter written on the back of an airsickness bag. Whether they are found on buses, at stores, in restaurants, waiting rooms, parking lots, or even prison yards, these items give readers an uncensored, poignant, and often hilarious peek into other people’s lives. Davy Rothbart has bewitched the nation with a surprising window into its heart and soul and turned his many readers into an army of sharp-eyed finders.
If Chins Could Kill : Confessions of a B Movie Actor (CDN$ 14.56) – Bruce CampbellAny teenage geek from the early nineties foundly remembers Army of Darkness, this is the autobiography of its’ star. He chronicles growing up with Sam Raimi (before Hercules and Spider-man directorial fame) and offers an amusing view into an interesting life.
Books – Fiction
The Catcher in the Rye (CDN$ 9.99) – J.D Salinger
A classic that I somehow missed in high school, it would be an excellent gift for an older adolescent or young adult.
“If you really want to hear about it, the first thing you’ll probably want to know is where I was born and what my lousy childhood was like, and how my parents were occupied and all before they had me, and all that David Copperfield kind of crap, but I don’t feel like going into it, if you want to know the truth. In the first place, that stuff bores me, and in the second place, my parents would have about two hemorrhages apiece if I told anything pretty personal about them.”
His constant wry observations about what he encounters, from teachers to phonies (the two of course are not mutually exclusive) capture the essence of the eternal teenage experience of alienation. Holden, knowing he is to be expelled from school, decides to leave early. He spends three days in New York City and tells the story of what he did and suffered there.
The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay (CDN$ 16.06) – Michael ChabonThis is *the* novel for comic book geeks, Pulitzer Prize and loved by the fictional “Seth Cohen” character on the O.C. It tells the stories of two fictional Jewish writers who started writing comic books in World War 2.
It pursues the most important questions of love and war, dreams and art, across pages brimming with longing and hope. Samuel Klayman–self-described little man, city boy, and Jew–first meets Josef Kavalier when his mother shoves him aside in his own bed, telling him to make room for their cousin, a refugee from Nazi-occupied Prague. It’s the beginning, however unlikely, of a beautiful friendship. In short order, Sam’s talent for pulp plotting meets Joe’s faultless, academy-trained line, and a comic-book superhero is born. A sort of lantern-jawed equalizer clad in dark blue long underwear, the Escapist “roams the globe, performing amazing feats and coming to the aid of those who languish in tyranny’s chains!” Before they know it, Kavalier and Clay (as Sam Klayman has come to be known) find themselves at the epicenter of comics’ golden age.
But Joe Kavalier is driven by motives far more complex than your average hack. In fact, his first act as a comic-book artist is to deal Hitler a very literal blow.
Microserfs (CDN$ 14.56) – Douglas CouplandThe original blog. Read my full review here.
Narrated in the form of a Powerbook entry by Dan Underwood, a computer programmer for Microsoft, this state-of-the-art novel about life in the ’90s follows the adventures of six code-crunching computer whizzes. Known as “microserfs,” they spend upward of 16 hours a day “coding” (writing software) as they eat “flat” foods (such as Kraft singles, which can be passed underneath closed doors) and fearfully scan the company email to see what the great Bill might be thinking. Seizing the chance to be innovators instead of cogs in the Microsoft machine, this intrepid bunch strike out on their own to form a high-tech start-up company in Silicon Valley.
Jpod (CDN$ 14.85) – Douglas CouplandLife inside of a video game development house. Read my full review here.
A lethal joyride into today’s new breed of technogeeks, Coupland’s forthcoming novel updates Microserfs for the age of Google.
Ethan Jarlewski and five co-workers whose names start with J are bureaucratically marooned in jPod. jPod is a no-escape architectural limbo on the fringes of a massive Vancouver game design company. The six workers daily confront the forces that define our era: global piracy, boneheaded marketing staff, people smuggling, the rise of China, marijuana grow ops, Jeff Probst, and the ashes of the 1990s financial tech dream. jPod’s universe is amoral and shameless. The characters are products of their era even as they’re creating it.
Cryptonomicon (CDN$ 10.00) – Neal StephensonSlow in places, this is story follows two parallel threads between the modern day and the importance of cryptography in World War 2 and the Enigma machine. It earns bonus points because the appendix includes some simple perl scripts for cryptography.
Cryptonomicon zooms all over the world, careening conspiratorially back and forth between two time periods–World War II and the present. Our 1940s heroes are the brilliant mathematician Lawrence Waterhouse, cryptanalyst extraordinaire, and gung ho, morphine-addicted marine Bobby Shaftoe. They’re part of Detachment 2702, an Allied group trying to break Axis communication codes while simultaneously preventing the enemy from figuring out that their codes have been broken. Their job boils down to layer upon layer of deception. All of this secrecy resonates in the present-day story line, in which the grandchildren of the WWII heroes–inimitable programming geek Randy Waterhouse and the lovely and powerful Amy Shaftoe–team up to help create an offshore data haven in Southeast Asia and maybe uncover some gold once destined for Nazi coffers.
Slaughterhouse-Five (CDN$ 10.79) – Kurt Vonnegut Jr.World War 2 anti-war/sci-fi mash-up by one of America’s greatest writers.
Kurt Vonnegut’s absurdist classic Slaughterhouse-Five introduces us to Billy Pilgrim, a man who becomes unstuck in time after he is abducted by aliens from the planet Tralfamadore. In a plot-scrambling display of virtuosity, we follow Pilgrim simultaneously through all phases of his life, concentrating on his (and Vonnegut’s) shattering experience as an American prisoner of war who witnesses the firebombing of Dresden.
The Time Traveler’s Wife (CDN$ 16.06) – Audrey NiffeneggerNYT Bestseller and a great read.
It is the story of Clare, a beautiful art student, and Henry, an adventuresome librarian, who have known each other since Clare was six and Henry was thirty-six, and were married when Clare was twenty-three and Henry thirty-one. Impossible but true, because Henry finds himself periodically displaced in time, pulled to moments of emotional gravity from his life, past and future. His disappearances are spontaneous, his experiences unpredictable, alternately harrowing and amusing.
Choke (CDN$ 15.33) – Chuck PalahniukI haven’t read this one, but I should.
Victor Mancini, a medical-school dropout, is an antihero for our deranged times. Needing to pay elder care for his mother, Victor has devised an ingenious scam: he pretends to choke on pieces of food while dining in upscale restaurants. He then allows himself to be “saved” by fellow patrons who, feeling responsible for Victor’s life, go on to send checks to support him. When he’s not pulling this stunt, Victor cruises sexual addiction recovery workshops for action, visits his addled mom, and spends his days working at a colonial theme park.
Fight Club (CDN$ 13.30) – Chuck PalahniukI don’t think I need to explain this one. The first rule about fight club is you don’t talk about fight club, unless you’re writing about it on your blog.
Things My Girlfriend and I Have Argued About (CDN$ 10.94) – Mil MillingtonThe third in my list of books based on websites, Things My Girlfriend and I Have Argued About is a humorous tale of a University IT worker trying to balance his work life with his unbalanced German girlfriend. Not the best book in the world, but I still liked it (mostly because it’s British and anything British is funny).
Good Omens (CDN$ 10.79) – Neil Gaiman, Terry PratchettAbsurdist humour. It’s been one of my favorites for years upon years.
According to the Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter–the world’s only totally reliable guide to the future–the world will end on a Saturday. Next Saturday, in fact. Just after tea…
Unadulterated Cat (CDN$ 13.83) – Terry PratchettI haven’t read this one yet, but seeing as how I have a picture of my cat on the blog I feel it’s necessary to include it.
The Unadulterated Cat is becoming an endangered species as more and more of us settle for those boring mass-produced cats the ad-men sell us – the pussies that purr into their gold-plated food bowls on the telly. But the Campaign for Real Cats sets out to change all that by helping us to recognise a true, unadulterated cat when we see one. For example: real cats have ears that look like they’ve been trimmed with pinking shears; real cats never wear flea collars . . . or appear on Christmas cards . . . or chase anything with a bell in it; real cats do eat quiche. And giblets. And butter. And anything else left on the table, if they think they can get away with it. Real cats can hear a fridge door opening two rooms away . . .
American Gods (CDN$ 9.89) – Neil GaimanWhat ever happened to the gods of old mythology? Turns out they’ve integrated with society.
Books – Sci-fi
The Hitchhiker Trilogy Boxed Set (CDN$ 22.02) – Douglas Adams
When the movie came out last year I was confronted with one horrible fact: there are people out there who had never read the novels. Some of them are better than others (consider that the third book was original written as a Dr. Who episode that never aired), but the series is a must have.
Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? (CDN$ 15.33) – Philip K. DickI haven’t read this, but it’s the inspiration for Bladerunner.
By 2021, the World War had killed millions, driving entire species into extinction and sending mankind off-planet. Those who remained coveted any living creature, and for people who couldn’t afford one, companies built incredibly realistic simulacrae: horses, birds, cats, sheep. . .
They even built humans.
Emigrees to Mars received androids so sophisticated it was impossible to tell them from true men or women. Fearful of the havoc these artificial humans could wreak, the government banned them from Earth. But when androids didn’t want to be identified, they just blended in.
Rick Deckard was an officially sanctioned bounty hunter whose job was to find rogue androids, and to retire them. But cornered, androids tended to fight back, with deadly results.
Dune (CDN$ 9.89) – Frank HerbertClassic must read. The series goes downhill after the first book.
Neuromancer (CDN$ 9.89) – William GibsonRead about the Internet from before anyone had ever used it. This is the book that coined the term “cyberspace”, and while it isn’t the best writing in the world, it did help spearhead the cyberpunk genre.
Snow Crash (CDN$ 15.33) – Neal StephensonAbsurdist humour about a ninja pizza-delivery man. The writing is not Stephenson’s best, but the introduction is worth it alone.
The Mote in God’s Eye (CDN$ 9.99) – Larry Niven, Jerry PournelleOldie but goodie. I just finished reading it for the first time. It’s the best “first contact” story I’ve ever read.
This is the first collaboration between Niven and Pournelle, two masters of hard science fiction, and it combines Pournelle’s interest in the military and sociology with Niven’s talent for creating interesting, believable aliens. The novel meticulously examines every aspect of First Contact, from the Moties’ biology, society, and art, to the effects of the meeting on humanity’s economics, politics, and religions. And all the while suspense builds as we watch the humans struggle toward the truth.
Ender’s Game (CDN$ 9.99) – Orson Scott CardWinner of the Hugo and Nebula Awards. Favorite of pretty much everyone I know.
In order to develop a secure defense against a hostile alien race’s next attack, government agencies breed child geniuses and train them as soldiers.
Beyond Ender’s Game Boxed Set (CDN$ 20.77) – Orson Scott CardThe three sequel’s of Ender’s Game collected as a boxed set.
Books – Fantasy
The Princess Bride (CDN$ 10.79) – William Goldman
Great movie, better book.
What happens when the most beautiful girl in the world marries the handsomest prince of all time and he turns out to be…well…a lot less than the man of her dreams?
War Of The Flowers (CDN$ 9.89) – Tad WilliamsI was disappointed with Otherland but Tad wins me over again with the War of Flowers. It’s “Modern Fantasy” where a human crosses over to the world of Faerie.
The Ice Dragon (CDN$ 12.37) – George R.R. Martin, Yvonne GilbertI haven’t read it, but I’ve loved GRRM’s work since the first Wild Cards book. This is illustrated and aimed towards children.
Colour of Magic (CDN$ 10.79), Light Fantastic (CDN$ 10.79) – Terry PratchettTerry Pratchett is a prolific writer of hilarious fantasy fiction. His Discworld series is a wonderful satire on the fantasy genre. If you like Hitchhiker’s Guide, you’ll like Discworld.
On a world supported on the back of a giant turtle (sex unknown), a gleeful, explosive, wickedly eccentric expedition sets out. There’s an avaricious but inept wizard, a naive tourist whose luggage moves on hundreds of dear little legs, dragons who only exist if you believe in them, and of course THE EDGE of the planet…
The Farseer Trilogy – Robin HobbWorst book titles meets best fantasy writting. Robin Hobb has three trilogies and they’ve become my favorite fantasy novels. MUST READ for fantasy fans. Almost as good as George RR Martin. I’ve read them all twice.
The Liveship Traders series – Robin Hobb
The Tawny Man series – Robin Hobb
Song of Ice and Fire series – George R.R. MartinFour books so far. This is the series I use to try and show Robert Jordan fans what good writing looks like.
Loosely Christmas Themed Books
The Stupidest Angel: A Heartwarming Tale of Christmas Terror (CDN$ 14.56) – Christopher Moore
I haven’t read this, but I’ve enjoyed other books by Christopher Moore. Same vein as Terry Pratchett / Douglas Adams.
‘Twas the night (okay, more like the week) before Christmas, and all through the tiny community of Pine Cove, California, people are busy buying, wrapping, packing, and generally getting into the holiday spirit.
But not everybody is feeling the joy. Little Joshua Barker is in desperate need of a holiday miracle. No, he’s not on his deathbed; no, his dog hasn’t run away from home. But Josh is sure that he saw Santa take a shovel to the head, and now the seven-year-old has only one prayer: Please, Santa, come back from the dead.
But hold on! There’s an angel waiting in the wings. (Wings, get it?) It’s none other than the Archangel Raziel come to Earth seeking a small child with a wish that needs granting. Unfortunately, our angel’s not sporting the brightest halo in the bunch, and before you can say “Kris Kringle,” he’s botched his sacred mission and sent the residents of Pine Cove headlong into Christmas chaos, culminating in the most hilarious and horrifying holiday party the town has ever seen.
Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ’s Childhood Pal (CDN$ 12.78) – Christopher MooreI wouldn’t necessarily get this for a religious friend, but this book covers the 30 years or so of Jesus’ life that was left out of the Bible.
The birth of Jesus has been well chronicled, as have his glorious teachings, acts, and divine sacrifice after his thirtieth birthday. But no one knows about the early life of the Son of God, the missing years — except Biff, the Messiah’s best bud, who has been resurrected to tell the story in the divinely hilarious yet heartfelt work “reminiscent of Vonnegut and Douglas Adams”
I’ve made a list of all these books in one place at Amazon. Looking at the product description on Amazon.ca will bring you to the Amazon for your country.
- Introduction – Some personal stories of what the holiday experience is usually like for me.
- Gifts.com – I go through one of those gift suggestion websites and try to pick out the good from the bad. TIP: these sites suck.
- Gamers – A list of what I think is good for the Xbox 360, Nintendo DS and PC video gamers.
- Comic Books – My favorite comic books available in trade paperbacks.
- Programming/Tech Books – Top ten recommended books for programmers, managers and anyone working in high tech.
- Books – 45 of my favorite books (non-fiction, fiction, sci-fi, fantasy, humour).
- Movies – 81 of the best DVD recommendations.
- TV series on DVD – some shows I like.
- T-shirts – 100+ geek t-shirts that I like.
- Last Minute Suggestions – waited to long and need a gift in a hurry? Try these.