Ask The Pilot

Patrick Smith


This is a collection of articles with nice chapter beginnings from Patrick Smith's "Ask The Pilot" column from Salon.com. There's a lot of cool information about travelling the world or the US via air and i would heartily recommend this book for anyone who is afraid to fly or even just a little nervous about it.

Lisa Latham gave me this book for xmess '04. Thanks Lisa!

Hell or High Water

Peter Heller


This book is in a way a follow-up to "The Last River" (see 2001). This is about another kayaking attempt on Tibet's Tsangpo Gorge, this time in the middle of winter when the river was at its lowest. While the river-running was interesting, the bulk of this book is about the trials encountered by both the kayakers and the support crew as they dealt with water, rocks, snow, each other, and rebelling porters. It gives an interesting reporters-eye-view of who these kayakers are and why they felt the call to run this powerful river.

The Hollow Chocolate Bunnies of the Apocalypse

Robert Rankin


Once you get used to the terse stacatto style of dialog writing (which is amusing and shows a nice love of language) this is essentially a murder mystery wrapped in a bit of theology in a blanket of nursery rhymes. Say what? It's as good as.

Stupid White Men

And Other Sorry Excuses for the State of the Nation

Michael Moore


This book started out pretty good, but then sorta devolved into a somewhat disconnected series of ideas loosely held together by the title. I bit into this resolved to take it with a healthy dose of scepticism, but for the most part, Mike writes what he sees, hears, and feels. And you do get the sense that he's frustrated with how the people with money and power are controlling the government, a feeling that i pretty much share. Now i kinda want to read "Dude Where's My Country?" to see if it's better or at least more on target.

Touching The Void

Joe Simpson


I already knew this story before reading it, but it was a gripping read even so. Joe Simpson and his climbing partner Simon Yates scale a peak in the Andes, Joe falls and breaks his leg, Simon lowers him thousands of feet down the mountain until he falls down a cliff into a crevasse on a glacier. Left for dead, he finds a way out of the glacier and crawls back to base camp 6 miles away, arriving near death. Amazing tenacity and will to survive, and powerfully written in first-person.

Dude, Where's My Country?

Michael Moore


This book is definitely more focused than "Stupid White Men", but it's pretty much chapter 2 of Mike being aggravated that big corporations run the politicians who run our country. Like him or not, at least he's getting out there and complaining in a true American way.

Dave Barry Turns 40

Dave Barry


I was browsing through the Wallingford library and i came across this book. Since i'm 40, this seemed like a good book to read. It's a bit outdated, being written in about 1991, but most of the references carry through. It varies between OK and laugh-out-loud funny (like really, i was ACTUALLY laughing out loud!), especially a part about skiing.

Fast Food Nation

Eric Schlosser


This book really made me realize WHY voting for republicans in the current state of the nation is a bad idea. The book is an in-depth look at the corporations who have risen from humble hot dog stands to huge multinational institutions, with a long side trip into the current state of the meat packing industry (McDonald's is the #1 purchaser of beef in the world). Here's a quote from the book which hits the nail on the head:

"Over the past twenty years the United States has swung too far in one direction, weakening the regulations that safe-guard workers, consumers, and the environment. An economic system promising freedom has too often become a means of denying it, as the narrow dictates of the market gain precedence over more important democratic values."


James Bradley


In early 1945, 9 US Navy pilots and crewmen were shot down at various times over the island of Chichi Jima and survived to land on or near the island. One pilot landed in the water and was rescued by a US submarine. Most of the rest were executed by their Japanese captors. If you want to know what people can do to other people in the name of war, read this book. The atrocities committed by both the Japanese and the US are, in hindsight, unforgivable, but the human race should know about it all and vow never to do it again, regardless of what "war" propaganda governments ram down our throats.

This book is a near-complete story of the men who perished on Chichi Jima, why they enlisted, and how their final days after being shot down were spent. There's brief bits about the pilot picked up by the submarine too, which gave me a fuller understanding and a deeper appreciation of the guy, one Mr. George H. W. Bush. Too bad his son didn't grow up in his mold.

Blind Man's Bluff

The Untold Story of American Submarine Espionage

Sherry Sontag & Christopher Drew


I dunno, there were a couple of good stories in here about US subs sneaking around Soviet subs, but a lot of it was the repeated refrain of secrecy and the fears that someone would authorize a nuclear first-strike. It's weird to think that people really believed that that might happen. But it's an interesting look at the money poured into the submarine spy missions around the Soviet Union from the 50s to the early 90s when it all ended. I never knew that the ship the Glomar Explorer was actually commissioned by the CIA to recover a sunken Soviet sub in the middle of the pacific.

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

J. K. Rowling


Beautiful, tense, heartbreaking... I yearn to have Harry really start studying and practicing so he can become the great wizard he's destined to be.

I was the only person in the 17768 zip code to get one of these books shipped on its release date.

This Game Of Ghosts

Joe Simpson


This is a memoir of sorts. Joe writes a bit about growing up and dangerous things he did, eventually leading to his desire to climb mountains. There are some gripping stories of danger, accidents, and death in here and Joe contemplates on the page about why people climb when friends are dying from it. Overall an up-and-down read, some good parts, some parts kinda slow.

Seldom Disappointed - A Memoir

Tony Hillerman


Eh... good book. Well, OK, i'll say more than that. I think i actually learned a bit about concise writing from reading this book. Mr. Hillerman grew up on a meager farm in Oklahoma, went to war, shot a German soldier, got blown up by a land mine, came home, started in journalism, then turned to writing mysteries set in my quasi home-space, New Mexico (and Arizona... and other places). Sounds like a nice guy, but i'm a spolied prep-school kid with no ambition, so i'm not the sort that he holds in high regard. Oh well.


Two Diehard Boston Red Sox Fans Chronicle the Historic 2004 Season

Stewart O'Nan & Stephen King


Since the Red Sox (yes, i've been a fan since grade school) fell to that other-colored-Sox team this year, i relived last year's season (which i largely ignored), playoffs (heart-stopping excitement), and World Series (seemed anti-climactic) through Steve and Stew's day-by-day diary of the whole thing from first picth to last out. What made this book so interesting is that they wrote it as the season went along, so they had no idea that the Red Sox would win their first championship since 1918 (oh sorry, did i give it away?).

Jonny Magic and the Card Shark Kids

How a Gang of Geeks Beat the Odds and Stormed Las Vegas

David Kushner


I wouldn't call it a storm so much as a progression. This is about kids who play the game "Magic: The Gathering", and how some of them (focusing on one in particular) turned their skills in school to skill at Magic and eventually to skill at poker. Some of them entered high-stakes tournaments and came out winning and others turned to card-counting at casinos, raking in thousands of dollars per year. Pretty cool look at both Magic and card-counting. I never really realized how those two things worked.

Masters of Doom

How Two Guys Created an Empire and Transformed Pop Culture

David Kushner


Inspired by the last book i read, i went out and got this one. It's a really good story of John Carmack and John Romero, the two computer-gamer-nerd programmers who pushed the boundaries of computer games way forward and invented the games "Doom" and "Quake". These guys grew up programming about the same time and on the same kinds of machines that i did. Pretty cool.


William Hoffer, Marilyn Mona Hoffer


This story (about a 767 running out of fuel and gliding to relative safety) could have been told in about 8 pages. I felt like i was reading a Hallmark movie-of-the-week. Blech.


Peter DeLeo


Impressive survival story (13 day hike out of the Sierra Nevadas in winter with broken bones after a plane crash), but there wasn't enough reason given for the crash, other than "wind shear". It was a gripping read, but i got a sense that Mr. DeLeo was an inexperienced pilot who crashed by his own mistakes. There's a very good review of this book on Amazon.com which explains about the NTSB reports on the crash. Still kept me turning the pages though.