You & a Bike & a Road

In 2016, Eleanor Davis documented her bike tour and then published part of it as You & a Bike & a Road. Anyone who does a long-distance bike ride will relate to parts of her story: the sore knees, the relentless headwinds, the road-side sights.

Ms. Davis’s journey was a bigger ride than I have ever done. She loaded up her bike in Tuscon, headed home across the southern United States to Athens, Georgia.

Along the way, she discovers, her own strength, helpful strangers, and the weirdness that comes from spending day after day on a bike.

The book itself is a recreation of the illustrations in her journal of the bike ride. You can see when she had good days and optimistic days. The pages are full of detail and motion and story. The bad days are stark and bare.

If you’ve ever done a long bike ride, you will enjoy this book.

Holy Spokes

“There is always an unexplored neighborhood somewhere in the city.
There is always more of the infinite mystery of the Holy to explore.
There is always a new road to ride.”

Reverend Laura Everett captures the joys, challenges, and inspirations for a Boston bike commuter in Holy Spokes.

Being a fellow bike commuter in Boston, who attends church semi-regularly, this book is targeted right at me. Her writing connected with me on many levels.

The delightful Rev. Everett uses the parts of the bike as a metaphors for her inspiration and spirituality. Then, she weaves her own memories into context.

Bike commuting is not without its challenges. But it also comes with great rewards. You get a connection to the city that you can’t appreciate when you’re trapped in 3,000 pounds of steel and blocked by traffic. Unlike walking, you get the wind in your hair and the speed to beat traffic. You get exercise. Light if you pedal slowly, and heavy if mash the pedals to power to your destination.

I’ve met Rev. Everett a few times. The first time was at a ghost bike ceremony for a cyclist killed on the roads. She has had to perform too many of those ghost bike ceremonies. Hopefully, road conditions and driver performance will change for the better so she will have to perform fewer of those.

If you’re a cyclist or are thinking about cycling, this is a great book to add to your reading stack.

Book Riot’s Read Harder Challenge 2017

As an avid reader with a large stack of books to read, I find a reading challenge to be a great way to help prioritize that stack and read books that I might not otherwise read.

This year I took on Book Riot’s Read Harder Challenge 2017. I managed to complete all 24 categories in about half the year.

Cover Title Author My Rating Category
The Mountain: My Time on Everest The Mountain: My Time on Everest Viesturs, Ed 1. Book about sports
Lola

 

2. Debut novel
Fangirl

 

3. Book about books
One Hundred Years of Solitude
4. Book set in Central or South America, written by a Central or South American author
Behold the Dreamers
5. Book by an immigrant or with a central immigration narrative
March (Trilogy Slipcase Set)

 

6. All-ages comic
The Call of the Wild
7. Book published between 1900 and 1950
Wind, Sand and Stars

 

8. Travel memoir
Of Mice and Men

 

9. Read a book you’ve read before
The Last Policeman (Last Policeman, #1)

 

10. Book that is set within 100 miles of your location
The Winter Over

 

11. Book that is set more than 5000 miles from your location
The Fifth Season (The Broken Earth, #1)

 

12. Fantasy novel
Hidden Figures: The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Mathematicians Who Helped Win the Space Race

 

13. Nonfiction book about technology
The Sleepwalkers: How Europe Went to War in 1914

 

14. Book about war
George

 

15. YA or middle grade novel by an author who identifies as LGBTQ+
Animal Farm

 

16. Book that has been banned
Invisible Man

 

17. Classic by an author of color
Thor, Volume 1: The Goddess of Thunder

 

18. Superhero comic with a female lead
Underground Airlines

 

19. Book in which a character of color goes on a spiritual journey
Carry On

20. LGBTQ+ romance novel
Holy Spokes: The Search for Urban Spirituality on Two Wheels

 

21. Book published by a micropress.
Thunderstruck & Other Stories

 

22. Collection of stories by a woman
For the Living and the Dead: Poems and a Memoir
No rating

 

23. Collection of poetry in translation on a theme other than love
Lagoon

 

24. Book wherein all point-of-view characters are people of color

My 2016 Year in Books

It was a big year in books for me in 2016. My goal was to read one book per week. I smashed through that goal and ended up with 87 books “read” for the year.

I say “read” because of those, I consumed 47 as audiobooks. I found it to be a great way to read some extra books while doing housework, yardwork, walking the dogs, walking to the train and riding the bus. I found extra time for reading.


Best Book I Read in 2016

The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead

This was a tremendous work following an escaped slave from Georgia. Mr. Whitehead crafts the escape route from a metaphor into physical existence, with engineers and conductors operating a secret network of physical tracks and tunnels beneath the Southern soil.

The book is a brutal look as race in America.


K2, The Savage Mountain by Charles S. Houston
Odd and the Frost Giants by Neil Gaiman
Coup d'Etat by Ben Coes
Cockroaches by Jo Nesbø

Lights Out by Ted Koppel
H is for Hawk by Helen Macdonald
Echo Burning by Lee Child
Find Me by Laura van den Berg

The Ledge by Jim Davidson
A Canticle for Leibowitz by Walter M. Miller Jr.
The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams
The Widow by Fiona Barton
Dark Matter and the Dinosaurs by Lisa Randall
Meeting Tom Brady by Richard J. King
The Thousand-Dollar Tan Line by Rob Thomas
It by Stephen King
Bird Box by Josh Malerman
True North by Bruce Henderson
As Good As Gold by Kathryn Bertine
Five Billion Years of Solitude by Lee Billings
Lumberjanes, Vol. 1 by Noelle Stevenson
The Sixth Extinction by Elizabeth Kolbert
The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson
The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman
Lumberjanes, Vol. 2 by Noelle Stevenson
The Only Game in Town by Mohamed El-Erian
The Giver by Lois Lowry
American Gods by Neil Gaiman
The Fishermen by Chigozie Obioma
The Unquiet Dead by Ausma Zehanat Khan
The Girl With All the Gifts by M.R. Carey
We the People by Juan Williams
Yes Please by Amy Poehler
Red Rising by Pierce Brown
Little Pink House by Jeff Benedict
Storm Front by Jim Butcher
Political Animals by Rick Shenkman
Without Fail by Lee Child
The Fever of 1721 by Stephen Coss
Persuader by Lee Child
Frozen in Time by Mitchell Zuckoff
Cartwheel by Jennifer duBois
The Lightkeepers by Abby Geni
Armor by John Steakley
Flex by Ferrett Steinmetz
Bluff by Anjum Hoda
Console Wars by Blake J. Harris
Survivor by Chuck Palahniuk
Before the Fall by Noah Hawley
RELIGION by Zach Weiner
Fool Moon by Jim Butcher
Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad
Pilgrim Spokes by Neil M. Hanson
Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz
How to Pay a Bribe by Alexandra Addison Wrage
Rise of the Warrior Cop by Radley Balko
A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess
The US Private Equity Fund Compliance Guide Volume III by Charles Lerner
The Book of Air and Shadows by Michael Gruber
Weapons of Math Destruction by Cathy O'Neil
Don't You Cry by Mary Kubica
The Fireman by Joe Hill
The Regional Office Is Under Attack! by Manuel Gonzales
The Upside of Irrationality by Dan Ariely
The Last Refuge by Ben Coes
The Girl with the Lower Back Tattoo by Amy Schumer

Eye for an Eye by Ben Coes
Independence Day by Ben Coes

The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey
Foreign Agent by Brad Thor
13 Hours by Mitchell Zuckoff
War Dogs by Guy Lawson

Nimona by Noelle Stevenson

American Heiress by Jeffrey Toobin
The Fall Guy by James Lasdun

One Shot by Lee Child
The Race Underground by Doug MostThe Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley
We Eat Our Own by Kea Wilson
Grunt by Mary Roach
Welcome to Deadland by Zachary Tyler LinvilleThe Man in the High Castle by Philip K. Dick
The Second Life of Nick Mason by Steve Hamilton
Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss
The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead
Star Wars by James Luceno

Middle-Aged Men Who Are Officially Obsessed With Superstar Tom Brady Hits the One Million Mark

That is the headline given by Richard J. King to himself in Meeting Tom Brady. Mr. King is a lecturer in Literature of the Sea with the Williams College at Mystic Seaport Maritime Studies Program and the author of scholarly articles. He does not seem like the typical stalker of Tom Brady.

The book traces Mr. King’s efforts to meet Mr. Brady and come up with interesting questions for him. This includes hanging out in Boston’s South Station with a sign saying asking “What would you ask Tom Brady?” And yes, his solicitations work and people stop to tell him what they would ask.

meeting tom brady

Mr. King’s efforts take place during the 2013 football season. The ups and downs of the season are mixed with the ups and downs of Mr. King’s quest.

I won’t spoil the questions you are asking “Does he meet Tom Brady and what does he ask him?”

I’m a devoted Patriots fan, so I took a copy of the book when the publisher offered me a copy for review.

I’m not sure the book will appeal to anyone but Patriots fans. If you are a Patriots fan, it’s a fun book to read.

Newtonville Books 2015 Reading Challenge – Third Quarter update @newtonvillebks

Or: Something Fun to Get You Out of Your Comfort Zone

Newtonville Books published a 2015 Reading Challenge. I read and I’m up for a challenge. So here is my current tally.

27 out of 39 so far. I’m falling behind.

I’ve been doing a lot of bike commuting which has cut dramatically into my reading time. I did most of my reading on the train or bus. It’s hard to read while riding a bike.

Item Book Read
A book that became a movie: Argo: How the CIA & Hollywood Pulled Off the Most Audacious Rescue in History
Argo: How the CIA & Hollywood Pulled Off the Most Audacious Rescue in History
by Antonio Mendez
An Oscar-Winning movie
March 27
A book with non-human characters:
Ancillary Justice
by Ann Leckie.
Set in an alien world where spaceships and soldiers are run by artificial intelligence. The protagonist is a ship’s AI.
January 2
A book with a one word title:

Wool
By Hugh Howey
One word title, six word description: Civilization trapped in an underground silo.

April 6
A book of short stories: Tenth of December: Stories
Tenth of December: Stories
Saunders, George
 August 30
A book from a small press: Dark Tide: The Great Boston Molasses Flood of 1919
Dark Tide: The Great Boston Molasses Flood of 1919
by Stephen Puleo
Published by Beacon Press
September 21
A book based on a true story:  Dead Wake  To Read
A book more than 100 years old:
A book based entirely on its cover: Deep Down Dark: The Untold Stories of 33 Men Buried in a Chilean Mine, and the Miracle That Set Them Free
Deep Down Dark: The Untold Stories of 33 Men Buried in a Chilean Mine, and the Miracle That Set Them Free
by Héctor Tobar
Saw this one on the table at Newtonville Books
March 31
A book you’ve pretended to read:
A book you can finish in a day:  Dept. of Speculation
Dept. of Speculation

by Jenny Offill
I didn’t finish it in a day, but you can.
January 23
A book set somewhere you’ve always wanted to visit:
On the Beach
by Nevi Shute
The book is set in Australia.
March 31
A book in translation: Galileo's Telescope: A European Story
Galileo’s Telescope: A European Story
by Massimo Bucciantini, Michele Camerota, Franco Giudice;
translation by Catherine Bolton
May 18
A graphic novel: The Walking Dead, Vol. 22: A New Beginning
The Walking Dead, Vol. 22: A New Beginning

It’s a TV show, but it’s a graphic novel series first
March 24
A book you own but have never read:
A book by an author with your initials: Went the Day Well?: Witnessing Waterloo
Went the Day Well?: Witnessing Waterloo
by David Crane
DC just like me
Currently reading
A play:
A banned book: The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time
Mark Haddon
Picked this one up from the Newton Library’s Banned Book Week display
Currently Reading
A book you previously started but never finished: Lost in Shangri-La: A True Story of Survival, Adventure, and the Most Incredible Rescue Mission of World War II
Lost in Shangri-La: A True Story of Survival, Adventure, and the Most Incredible Rescue Mission of World War II
By Mitchell Zuckoff
To Finish Reading
A Pulitzer Prize-winning book: The Goldfinch
The Goldfinch

by Donna Tartt
2014 winner of the Pulitzer Prize
April 23
A book by a Nobel Prize-winner:
A book that takes place in the area where you grew up:
A book by an author you’ve never heard of: In the Kingdom of Ice: The Grand and Terrible Polar Voyage of the USS Jeannette
In the Kingdom of Ice: The Grand and Terrible Polar Voyage of the USS Jeannette
by Hampton Sides
May 6
A book written by an author under 30:

The Beginner's Guide to Bicycle Commuting
The Beginner’s Guide to Bicycle Commuting

by Mathias Rechtzigel

September 30
A book written by an author over 70:
A book of poetry:
A young adult book: Wonder
Wonder
by R.J. Palacio
A recommendation from my son.
March 21
A book set in the future or in a different world: Lock In
Lock In
by John Scalzi
Fifteen years from now, a new virus sweeps the globe.
February 24
A book your mom or dad loves/loved: Boston Strong: A City's Triumph Over Tragedy
Boston Strong: A City’s Triumph Over Tragedy
by David Wedge and Casey Sherman
Written by my cousin so the whole family loves it
September 4
A Newtonville Books staff pick: Ship Breaker
Ship Breaker
by Paolo Bacigalupi
One of Nicolle’s picks
September 2
A signed book: Independence Day  To Read
A bestseller:
The Girl on the Train
by Paula Hawkins
‘The Girl on the Train’ is a runaway hit in USA Today
January 20
A book with an animal on the cover: Authority (Southern Reach, #2)
Authority

by Jeff VanderMeer
See the bunny
February 18
A library book: Disclaimer: A Novel
Disclaimer: A Novel
Borrowed from the Newton Free Library
June 6
A book with a color in the title Red Notice: A True Story of High Finance, Murder, and One Man's Fight for Justice
Red Notice: A True Story of High Finance, Murder, and One Man’s Fight for Justice
June 1
A book you then discuss in a bookclub
I Am Pilgrim
by Terry Hayes
Discussed in a Goodreads group
January 29
A book that came out the year you were born: The Third Policeman
The Third Policeman
by Flann O’Brien
Published in 19…..
April 13
A book with magic: The Magicians (The Magicians, #1)
The Magicians
by Lev Grossman
A Harry Potter knock-off
March 3
A book by an author that lives in Boston: Power Down (Dewey Andreas, #1)
Power Down
by Ben Coes
Wellesley is Greater Boston
June 14
A book set in a different country: The Diver's Clothes Lie Empty
The Diver’s Clothes Lie Empty
by Vendala Vida
Morocco
August 31

Visit www.newtonvillebooks.com for a blank copy of the list.

Hand in your completed (just do your best!) copy between Dec 1st and Dec 10th, 2015 to be entered into a raffle for a $100 gift certificate.

Update on my Newtonville Books Reading Challenge @newtonvillebks

Or: Something Fun to Get You Out of Your Comfort Zone

Newtonville Books published a 2015 Reading Challenge. I read and I’m up for a challenge. So here is my current tally.

20 out of 39. That leaves me just ahead of schedule.

Item Book Read
A book that became a movie: Argo: How the CIA & Hollywood Pulled Off the Most Audacious Rescue in History
Argo: How the CIA & Hollywood Pulled Off the Most Audacious Rescue in History
by Antonio Mendez
An Oscar-Winning movie
March 27
A book with non-human characters:
Ancillary Justice
by Ann Leckie.
Set in an alien world where spaceships and soldiers are run by artificial intelligence. The protagonist is a ship’s AI.
January 2
A book with a one word title:

Wool
By Hugh Howey
One word title, six word description: Civilization trapped in an underground silo.

April 6
A book of short stories:
A book from a small press:
A book based on a true story:
A book more than 100 years old:
A book based entirely on its cover: Deep Down Dark: The Untold Stories of 33 Men Buried in a Chilean Mine, and the Miracle That Set Them Free
Deep Down Dark: The Untold Stories of 33 Men Buried in a Chilean Mine, and the Miracle That Set Them Free
by Héctor Tobar
Saw this one on the table at NewtonVille Books
March 31
A book you’ve pretended to read:
A book you can finish in a day: Dept. of Speculation
Dept. of Speculation

by Jenny Offill
I didn’t finish it in a day, but you can.
January 23
A book set somewhere you’ve always wanted to visit:
A book in translation: Galileo's Telescope: A European Story
Galileo’s Telescope: A European Story
by Massimo Bucciantini, Michele Camerota, Franco Giudice;
translation by Catherine Bolton
May 18
A graphic novel: The Walking Dead, Vol. 22: A New Beginning
The Walking Dead, Vol. 22: A New Beginning

It’s a TV show, but it’s a graphic novel series first
March 24
A book you own but have never read:
A book by an author with your initials:
A play:
A banned book:
A book you previously started but never finished:
A Pulitzer Prize-winning book: The Goldfinch
The Goldfinch

by Donna Tartt
2014 winner of the Pulitzer Prize
April 23
A book by a Nobel Prize-winner:
A book that takes place in the area where you grew up:
A book by an author you’ve never heard of: In the Kingdom of Ice: The Grand and Terrible Polar Voyage of the USS Jeannette
In the Kingdom of Ice: The Grand and Terrible Polar Voyage of the USS Jeannette
by Hampton Sides
May 6
A book written by an author under 30:
A book written by an author over 70:
A book of poetry:
A young adult book: Wonder
Wonder
by R.J. Palacio
A recommendation from my son.
March 21
A book set in the future or in a different world: Lock In
Lock In
by John Scalzi
Fifteen years from now, a new virus sweeps the globe.
 February 24
A book your mom or dad loves/loved:
A Newtonville Books staff pick:
A signed book:
A bestseller:
The Girl on the Train
by Paula Hawkins
‘The Girl on the Train’ is a runaway hit in USA Today
January 20
A book with an animal on the cover: Authority (Southern Reach, #2)
Authority

by Jeff VanderMeer
See the bunny
February 18
A library book: Disclaimer: A Novel
Disclaimer: A Novel
Borrowed from the Newton Free Library
June 6
A book with a color in the title Red Notice: A True Story of High Finance, Murder, and One Man's Fight for Justice
Red Notice: A True Story of High Finance, Murder, and One Man’s Fight for Justice
 June 1
A book you then discuss in a bookclub  
I Am Pilgrim
by Terry Hayes
Discussed in a Goodreads group
 January 29
A book that came out the year you were born: The Third Policeman
The Third Policeman
by Flann O’Brien
Published in 19…..
April 13
A book with magic: The Magicians (The Magicians, #1)
The Magicians
by Lev Grossman
A Harry Potter knock-off
March 3
A book by an author that lives in Boston: Power Down (Dewey Andreas, #1)
Power Down
by Ben Coes
Wellesley is Greater Boston
 June 14
A book set in a different country:
On the Beach
by Nevi Shute
The book is set in Australia.
March 13

Visit www.newtonvillebooks.com for a blank copy of the list.

Hand in your completed (just do your best!) copy between Dec 1st and Dec 10th, 2015 to be entered into a raffle for a $100 gift certificate.

My 2014 Year in Books

As you can see below, it was a big list of books for me in 2014. My goal was to read one book a week. I smashed through that goal and ended up with 75 books read for the year. There were a few great ones, most were good, but there were a few duds.

Best Book I read this year

Station Eleven

Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel

It’s hard to describe what you should expect about this novel. The writing is great and the story links between people around the time a global pandemic disrupts society. The main protagonists are a Hollywood actor performing in a Toronto play and a traveling band of Shakespearean actors and musicians performing at human settlement along he shores of Lake Michigan.

GoodReads versus LibraryThing

I’m still tracking my books in two parallel systems. Library Thing has a superior platform for cataloging books. GoodReads has a better platform for interacting with other readers, sharing reviews, and sharing booklists. That’s the way I use them.

Now I’m looking for reading suggestions for 2015. Do you have recommendations?

Have you joined GoodReads?

The full list:

The Children of Men Year Zero: A History of 1945Ponzi's Scheme: The True Story of a Financial Legend Soon I Will Be InvincibleValley of Bones (Jimmy Paz, #2)A Giant Cow-Tipping by Savages: The Boom, Bust, and Boom Culture of M&AIngenious: A True Story of Invention, Automotive Daring, and the Race to Revive AmericaThe Undercover Economist Strikes Back: How to Run-or Ruin-an EconomyDefending JacobTour de France 100Wheelmen: Lance Armstrong, the Tour de France, and the Greatest Sports Conspiracy EverInflux
Sycamore Row (Jake Brigance, #2)The Escape (Snowpiercer, #1)My Dog: The Paradox: A Lovable Discourse about Man's Best FriendThe Book ThiefDetroit: An American AutopsyDoctor Sleep (The Shining #2)Old Man's War (Old Man's War, #1)Long KnivesMagic for BeginnersThe Maze Runner (Maze Runner, #1)Snowpiercer, Vol. 2: The Explorers (Snowpiercer, #2)Best Practices under the FCPA and Bribery ActBomb: The Race to Build--And Steal--The World's Most Dangerous WeaponHolesI, ZombieThe MartianThe Walking Dead, Vol. 20: All Out War Part 1Private Equity at Work: When Wall Street Manages Main StreetThe Sea and Civilization: A Maritime History of the WorldThe Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar WaoBorder Insecurity: Why Big Money, Fences, and Drones Aren't Making Us SaferDragon's Triangle (The Shipwreck Adventures #2)Fierce Patriot: The Tangled Lives of William Tecumseh ShermanEnder's GameA Time to Attack: The Looming Iranian Nuclear ThreatWe Were LiarsCity of StairsI Am LegendBusted: A Tale of Corruption and Betrayal in the City of Brotherly LoveThe Walking Dead, Vol. 21: All Out War Part 2Flash Boys: A Wall Street RevoltCaliforniaCapital in the Twenty-First CenturyThe Massive, Vol. 1: Black PacificAccidents in North American Mountaineering 2014: Know the Ropes: Snow ClimbingThe Handmaid's TaleGaza: A HistoryAnthem's FallHouse of Debt: How They (and You) Caused the Great Recession, and How We Can Prevent It from Happening AgainPredator: The Secret Origins of the Drone RevolutionAttachmentsTimebound (The Chronos Files, #1)Little BrotherThe Skies Belong to Us: Love and Terror in the Golden Age of HijackingI Am Number Four (Lorien Legacies, #1)Countdown to Zero Day: Stuxnet and the Launch of the World's First Digital WeaponThe Map Thief: The Gripping Story of an Esteemed Rare-Map Dealer Who Made Millions Stealing Priceless MapsKilling Floor (Jack Reacher, #1)Trapped Under the Sea: One Engineering Marvel, Five Men, and a Disaster Ten Miles Into the DarknessWar of the Whales: A True StoryDoing ComplianceDie Trying (Jack Reacher, #2)Stories of Your Life and OthersAll You Need Is KillThe SonKidding Ourselves: The Hidden Power of Self-DeceptionDead World ResurrectionMy Sister's GraveStation ElevenThe Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin OlympicsOn Such a Full SeaTripwire (Jack Reacher, #3)Book de Tour: Art of the 101st Tour de France

Ghost: The Paradox

ghost my dog the paradox

Matthew Inman, author or The Oatmeal, wrote a tribute to his dog, Rambo. My Dog: The Paradox

It’s a meditation on the reckless, impulsive, and completely lovable mortality of man’s best friend.  It’s funny and touching.

That’s Ghost, my paradox. A 150 pound beast who is afraid of pugs and cats. He fell asleep while guarding the house from people walking past our house.

 

Influx by Daniel Suarez

influx by daniel suarez

Imagine that there is a sinister Bureau of Technology Control that has been suppressing technology advances. Nuclear fusion? Perfected in 1985. Cancer? Cure discovered in 1998. “Immortal DNA strand segregation”? Accomplished in 1986. Control gravity? Now (at least in Influx by Daniel Suarez).

The Bureau kidnaps the revolutionary scientists that have developed these breakthrough technologies and is withholding their discoveries. The Influx hero has developed a “gravity mirror” that controls gravity. The Bureau deems it disruptive and kidnaps him.

I had very high hopes for Influx. The Wall Street Journal thought that Influx could be Suarez’s “breakout book and propel him into the void left by the deaths of Tom Clancy and Michael Crichton”.

It’s good. I ripped through it quickly, wanting to see where the story went. But setting the bar as high as Clancy or Crichton is too high.

I mostly got hung up on the futuristic technology. It was too advanced. I bought the gravity mirror. But I couldn’t put my belief in a fusion reactor the size of a softball. That ultimately distracted me from the rest of the story.


Wheelmen

wheelmen

Lance Armstrong was one of the best cyclists in last 20 years. But his wins were built on a foundation of illegal doping and performance enhancing drugs. It’s not about the bike; It’s all about the needle.

I first came to road cycling during the rise of Mr. Armstrong. His story as a cancer-survivor coming back to win the biggest race in the world was an inspiration. But, it was all built on lies. The United States Anti-Doping Agency has stripped him of all of his cycling wins since his recovery from cancer.

Reed Albergotti and Vanessa O’Connell write a devastating tale of Mr. Armstrong’s rise and meteoric crash. Wheelmen is very well-written and well-researched. We only saw Lance on his bike. The book takes us through what was happening on the team bus and hotel.

I remember watching his epic battles with Ullrich, Mayo, Beloki, and himself. Lance answered all the challenges during his seven Tour de France wins in a row. His team was stacked with great riders: Hincapie, Hamilton, Landis, Eki, Heras, Leipheimer, and many others. The team was run by a Bruyneel, a master tactician. Those great riders and those tactics were reliant on a widespread campaign of illegal doping.

It’s clear that most of the top cyclists during the Armstrong era were also doping. There are no Tour de France winners during those years because the men next to Armstrong on the podium most years have also been implicated in doping. It begs the question of whether Armstrong was the best cyclist or merely the best doper. Or perhaps a combination of the two.

I was sadly disappointed when the charges came out against Armstrong. Given that he had faced death, I did not think he would risk his health by doing.

“Armstrong said he wouldn’t be stupid enough to take drugs after cancer. ‘I’ve been on my deathbed,’ he said.”

I was wrong; He was lying.

The doping was not the worst part. It was that Lance Armstrong had viciously attacked anyone who tried to tell about his doping. He wrecked the careers of people merely trying to tell the truth and clean up cycling.

Wheelmen is great book to read if you have an interest in cycling or Lance Armstrong.

My 2013 Reading List

2013 reading challenge

My goal this year was to finish reading a book every other week. (For the math or calendar challenged, that’s a goal of 26 books.) I’m happy to say that I smashed through that goal. I ended up with 44 books on my Read in 2013 shelf during the year.

A-Z Challenge
You can see the cover for each and every book just below. If you look closely, you will see that the books are in alphabetical order. If you look even closer, you will see that each letter in the alphabet is represented.

I responded to a challenge on Goodreads to do so. It helped clear a few items that had been loitering on my to-read list, based solely on the first letter of the book’s title. As you might expect, the letters Q, X, Y, and Z have very limited choices.

GoodReads versus LibraryThing

I’m still tracking my books in two parallel systems. Library Thing has a superior platform for cataloging books. GoodReads has a better platform for interacting with other readers, sharing reviews, and sharing booklists. In the past I’ve treated them equally, but GoodReads is becoming my primary platform with LibraryThing as an afterthought.

It was a big effort to get all of the books into my LibraryThing collection in 2009. I was disappointed that GoodReads couldn’t add most of the very old books I have sitting on my shelf. They predate ISBN designations which GoodReads relies upon. As a result, LibraryThing has 1432 of my books, while Goodreads only has 1099.

As I’ve been bringing the kids to the library more, I’ve also been borrowing more books from the library. I’ve been more focused on the books I read, than the books I own. That tilts towards Goodreads strength.

I’ve also started winnowing out my library and giving away books. 1432 books take up a lot of space. If I still want LibraryThing to be an accurate catalog of my books, that means deleting the books as they leave the house. That adds an extra effort that I’m not sure is worth it.

Now I’m looking for reading suggestions for 2014. Do you have recommendations?
Have you joined GoodReads?

2013 Reading List:
2312Act of Congress: How America's Essential Institution Works, and How It Doesn'tAntifragile: Things That Gain from DisorderBunker Hill: A City, a Siege, a RevolutionCaught Stealing (Hank Thompson, #1)Comic Books and the Cold War, 1946 to 1962: Essays on Graphic Treatment of Communism, the Code and Social ConcernsThe Dog StarsEmpty Mansions: The Mysterious Life of Huguette Clark and the Spending of a Great American FortuneFoundation, Foundation and Empire, Second FoundationThe GunHigh Performance with High Integrity  The Infiltrator: My Secret Life Inside the Dirty Banks Behind Pablo Escobar's Medellín CartelJoylandThe King's Best Highway: The Lost History of the Boston Post Road, the Route That Made AmericaLucifer's HammerA Manual of Style for Contract DraftingMastering SnowboardingMortal Bonds (Jason Stafford, #2)The Most Memorable Games in Patriots History: The Oral History of a Legendary TeamMr. Penumbra's 24-Hour BookstoreMy Beloved Brontosaurus: On the Road with Old Bones, New Science, and Our Favorite DinosaursNocturnalThe Ocean at the End of the LaneOctopus: Sam Israel, the Secret Market, and Wall Street's Wildest ConThe Orphan Master's SonThe Ponzi Scheme Puzzle: A History and Analysis of Con Artists and VictimsThe Quick and the DeadReady Player OneRedshirtsThe Remaining: Aftermath (Remaining, #2)The Remaining: Refugees (Remaining, #3)SCIENCE: Ruining Everything Since 1543The Signal and the Noise: Why So Many Predictions Fail - But Some Don'tSomeone Could Get Hurt: A Memoir of Twenty-First-Century ParenthoodThe Theory That Would Not DieUnbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and RedemptionThe Vast Unknown: America's First Ascent of EverestThe Walking Dead, Vol. 17: Something to FearThe Walking Dead, Vol. 18: What Comes AfterThe Walking Dead, Vol. 19: March to WarX-Men OriginsYear ZeroYear ZeroZone One

The Tale of the Boston Post Road

kings best highway

If you have driven along Route 20 in Weston or Sudbury you may have noticed the name of the road is “Boston Post Road”. Most people probably ignore it as merely a moniker tapped to prevent you from getting lost. Perhaps you, like me, thought there might be more of a story behind it. There is a bigger story and Eric Jaffe tells it in The King’s Best Highway.

Jaffe’s interest started in New York, questioning why there was a road called Boston in the Bronx. I traveled the Charles River in my red kayak; Jaffe drove the Boston Post Road in his red Mini Cooper.

The Post Road started out in colonial times as a rugged trail, barely passable by horse. As the colonies united and the revolutionary fires grew, the link between Boston and New York became even more important. Intrepid riders would ride from tavern to tavern with wax-sealed letters. The trek would take at least a week.

The Boston Post Road was actually two separate routes. There was the inland route that ran west from Boston to Springfield, then south to Hartford and New Haven, before turning to New York City. The coastal route ran southwest from Boston to Providence, then hugged the coast as it met up with the inland route in New Haven.

The linking of cities was initially not about transportation. It was about communication. It was a key route for communication between two important hot spots of the revolution.

The road eventually improved in places and coaches began moving passengers, slowly, between the cities and points in between. Then roads moved back towards disrepair as railroads blossomed. Even today, the Amtrak lines follow the paths of the Old Post Road, with an inland route through Springfield and the coastal route through Providence.

It was bicycles that revived the roads. Recreational riders were looking for the best roads to reach the countryside. The Good Roads movement was supported by the bicycle riders groups and bicycle manufacturers.

Then, the manufacturers tried putting engines onto bicycles and the age of the automobile began and its thirst was roadways was insatiable. By the 1940s the Boston Post Road was an illustration of the inadequacy of road-building. The expressway era was about to begin and emerge as the national system of interstate highways.

The King’s Best Highway is a great tale of transportation in the Boston-New York corridor. Jaffe wanders off the road a bit when he over-emphasizes the importance of the road. I found the segment on President Lincoln’s pre-election travels to be a traffic jam. The books ends with Jaffe’s delightful telling of his own travels on the old road. It was no longer the “narrow slit of poorly groomed earth” from the colonial times. It was mostly a “gluttonous commercial wild.”

Clearing Out Zone One

zone one

How do you like your zombie stories?  If your answer is moody, atmospheric, and oozing with metaphors then add Zone One to your reading list.

Colson Whitehead tells the story of Mark Spitz, a sweeper working for the cleanup of lower Manhattan, designated Zone One. Once they clear out the zombies in that area, they can move to Zone Two, Midtown South.

The Marines have already been through Zone One and cleared out the rampaging hordes. Spitz and his unit are cleaning out stragglers who got trapped behind locked doors and barricades. They also have to deal with the small set of zombies who seem to be stuck in time reliving some moment from their pre-zombie life. One sad creature is still trying to run the office copy machine.

Instead of the mortal terror of being killed by zombies, there is much more fear of the loss of humanity and the loss of civilization. Of course, there is some biting and zombie hordes. Spitz flashes back to his life before the Last Night and his journey from survivor camp to survivor camp.

This is much more of a literary novel than a page-turning thriller. The story is light, but the prose is deep.

The Vast Unknown

vast unknown

Go America! Climb the tallest mountain!

But the Brits and Swiss have already made the summit?

Yeah, but we beat the Soviets to the top!

According to Broughton Coburn in his latest book, The Vast Unknown: America’s First Ascent of Everest, that was the main motivation for the American expedition to Mount Everest in 1963. And if not the main motivation for the climbers, it was a motivation for many of the expedition’s sponsors.

I used to dabble in mountaineering so I understand the motivation for climbing and facing the danger. In a complicated world, it’s a simple goal. Go as high as you can, the summit if possible, and get back down safely.

By all pragmatic standards climbing mountains is “useless.” That, indeed, is one of its glories: that it needs no end or justification beyond itself – like a sunset, a symphony, or like falling love.
– James Ramsey Ullman in Americans on Everest

Ullman already wrote a classic account of the massive American team assault on Mount Everest in 1963. In addition, Thomas Hornbein wrote about his assault on the mountain’s West Ridge during that same expedition in Everest: The West Ridge.

I enjoy a good book on mountaineering. The Vast Unknown was not going to tell an untold story. So it would have to stand on its own quality of writing and illumination into the climbers.

When the publisher offered me a copy to review, I was sure it be worth reading. It was just a question of whether it was a good adventure story or a great one. It was merely good. It is a good celebration of the 50th anniversary of the expedition.

The climbers come across flat and it’s difficult to distinguish one from the other as they attack the mountain with an army of Sherpas and tons of supplies.  The storytelling does not create a heightened sense of danger that the great adventure books create. As a result the book falls a bit flat.

Can You Master Snowboarding by Reading Mastering Snowboarding?

mastering snowboarding

Ever watched snowboarders in the Olympics and wanted to pull some of the same tricks they make look so simple? Did you think you could read a book to learn how? If so, Mastering Snowboarding may be the book for you.

I grabbed a promotional copy of the book from LibraryThing’s Early Reviewer’s program. My snowboarding skills have greatly diminished since having kids and spending less time on the slopes. But, The Boy is a budding snowboarder, so maybe we could share the resources in the book.

It’s hard to argue with snowboard lessons from Hannah Teter, a two time Olympic medalist and winner of a multitude of elite snowboarding competitions. Of course being a champion does not mean you can write well, so Teter teamed up with veteran snowboard writer Tawnya Schultz to compile the lessons in the book.

They try to tackle it all: history of snowboarding, equipment, clothing, first-time riding, big mountain riding, and tricks. That’s a lot to pack into one book.

I agree with many of their seven truths of snowboarding:

  1. You are going to fall. Everyone falls.
  2. You are going to feel uncoordinated. Everyone feels uncoordinated when learning something new.
  3. Feeling embarrassed is optional and will not improve your performance.
  4. Visualizing helps. So does trusting your body.
  5. You may love or hate snowboarding right away. Either way, you’ll get better with practice.
  6. If you are optimistic and focus on having fun, you will enjoy the ride.
  7. You are going to be sore by the end of the day

I started out snowboarding in 1995 and left the mountain very sore, but wanting more. My first mistake was trying to learn without a lesson. I had just missed the morning lesson time and had two hours to kill until the next lesson. My second mistake was trying to get up the bunny slope before that lesson on a tow rope, a difficult uphill transport for a snowboard.

Reading this book would have helped avoid those mistakes. It my have even given me a better starting point. Attempting to cover the breadth of snowboarding subjects is inherently going to mean that most topics are not covered in depth. The only subject covered in depth are tricks which take up 60 of 189 pages in the book.

The Most Memorable Games in Patriots History

the-most-memorable-games-in-patriots-history-the-oral-history-of-a-legendary-team

If you remember 15 years of losing to the Dolphins in the Orange Bowl, you will love this book. If you enjoy reading about the history of the National Football League, you will enjoy this book. If you think the Patriots begin and end with Tom Brady, you may be disappointed. If you hate the Patriots, you will want to burn this book.

Jim Baker, a regular contributor to ESPN.com’s “Page 2” and Bernard M. Corbett, author of The Only Game That Matters: The Harvard/Yale Rivalry compile the history of the New England Patriots franchise by using 10 key games as the tentpoles. Besides the game descriptions, the book is full of player recollections, trivia, and stats.

The Patriots started off as one of the top teams in the American Football League. Then the team’s success ebbed and flowed with an ownership that usually lacked the capital to compete. After a few years of turmoil in the front office, Robert Kraft positioned the team for its current run of success.

The authors interviewed dozens of players, including Raymond Berry, Troy Brown, Steve Grogan, John Hannah, Steve Nelson, Dante Scarnecchia, Patrick Sullivan, and the late Mosi Tatupu. Those interviews are added to add great color to the stories about the franchise and the individual games.

The team’s current success can be attributed to a strong owner, a great coach and a great quarterback. You will not find any meaningful quotes from those three in the book. Besides Bill Belichick, Tom Brady, and Robert Kraft, Drew Bledsoe is also missing from the list of interviewees.

What are the ten games? Of course the three Super Bowl wins are in there. There is the win over the Giants in 2007 to go 18-0 in the regular season. You should buy the book and discover the six others.

The publisher was kind enough to send me a copy of this book for review.

Surviving the Aftermath of Lucifer’s Hammer

lucifer's hammer book review

It’s dated but I enjoyed the apocalyptic Lucifer’s Hammer. As the Hamner-Brown comet approaches Earth, politicians, criminals, journalists, and scientists deal with the anticipation of its passing and possible impact. That uncertainty is main stumbling point that dates the book 30 years after its publication.

It’s disconcerting to have part of the plot be reliant on the uncertainty of a big, bright comet hitting Earth. Today we enough space observation and computing power to calculate an object’s orbit. We are even tracking the orbit of near-miss asteroids for decades in the future to determine whether they will hit or miss. Then, while reading the book, a massive meteor hits Russia. So maybe…

One science aspect that does resonate is the perspective of the astronauts. They are trapped in the period between the end of the Apollo program and the start of the space shuttle program. They don’t have a ride into space, much like the astronauts of 2013.

Where the book succeeds in overcoming its 1980s roots is the sage of the survivors in Southern California. Everyone is clawing for survival and a few are thinking about how to rebuild civilization.

My 2012 Book Reading List

2012

The Goal

One of my recurring annual goals is to finish reading at least 26 books for the year. In 2012, I managed to finish 36. Although, 6 of those were lighter reads. So maybe I should discount those and bring it down to 30. In any event, I exceeded my goal. The full list is below.

Reviews

Some of the titles will look familiar since I gave them a longer write up here. I also mentioned a few on Wired.com’s GeekDad and on Compliance Building. There are links that will take you to my reviews.

GoodReads versus LibraryThing

I’m still tracking my books in two parallel systems. Library Thing has a superior platform for cataloging books. GoodReads has a better platform for interacting with other readers, sharing reviews, and sharing booklists. Each has their strengths and weaknesses. I’d like to jettison one of them to quit duplicating efforts. So far, neither one has made a compelling move to improve and elbow the other out of the way.

2012 Reading List

Title Author Rating
How: Why How We Do Anything Means Everything
Dov Seidman ***
Review
Defending Jacob: A Novel
William Landay ****
Review
The Big Roads: The Untold Story of the Engineers, Visionaries, and Trailblazers Who Created the American Superhighways Earl Swift ***
Review
Ten Tea Parties: Patriotic Protests That History Forgot Joseph Cummins **
A Dance with Dragons: A Song of Ice and Fire: Book Five George R.R. Martin ****
Why the Law Is So Perverse
Leo Katz **
Review
The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business
Charles Duhigg *****
Review
A Visit from the Goon Squad Jennifer Egan *****
The Richer Sex: How the New Majority of Female Breadwinners Is Transforming Sex, Love and Family
Liza Mundy ****
Review
Eden on the Charles: The Making of Boston
Michael Rawson ****
Review
The Walking Dead, Book 7 Robert Kirkman *****
Ruin Nation: Destruction and the American Civil War Megan Kate Nelson ****
Catching Fire (The Hunger Games, Book 2) Suzanne Collins **
Mockingjay (The Hunger Games, Book 3) Suzanne Collins **
Show Time
Phil Harvey **
Review
The First Tycoon: The Epic Life of Cornelius Vanderbilt
T.J. Stiles ****Review
Cutting-Edge Cycling Hunter Allen ****
Gone Girl Gillian Flynn *****
Pines Blake Crouch ****
Amazing Gracie: A Dog’s Tale Dan Dye ***
The Age of Miracles Karen Thompson Walker ****
Sharp Objects Gillian Flynn ***
Already Gone John Rector ***
Nine Steps to Sara Lisa Olsen **
The Walking Dead, Book 8 Robert Kirkman *****
The American Alpine Journal 2012 John III Harlin ****
Moby-Duck: The True Story of 28,800 Bath Toys Lost at Sea and of the Beachcombers, Oceanographers, Environmentalists, and Fools, Including the Author,Who Went in Search of Them Donovan Hohn ****
Apocalypse Z: The Beginning of the End Manel Loureiro ***
The Dead Room Robert Ellis ***
Make Magic! Do Good!
Dallas Clayton *****
Review
xkcd: volume 0 Randall Munroe *****
Save Yourself, Mammal!: A Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal Collection Zach Weinersmith *****

The Physics of Wall Street: A Brief History of Predicting the Unpredictable
James Owen Weatherall ****
Review
The Most Dangerous Game: A Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal Collection Zach Weinersmith *****
The Remaining D.J. Molles ***

No-Man’s Lands: One Man’s Odyssey Through The Odyssey
Scott Huler *****
Review

An Odyssey Exploring The Odyssey

no mans lands

How meta: an odyssey exploring Homer’s The Odyssey. Scott Huler has a baby on the way and one last adventure in his soul. Picking up a copy of the epic poem, he connects with it in a way that he didn’t when he first read it decades earlier.

He sets off, travelling lightly and cheaply, to visit each of the main stops on Odysseus’s troubled journey home. Or at least the places that most closely resemble the mythological places.

In No Man’s Lands Huler sums up the lessons of The Odyssey: the perils of ambition, the emptiness of glory, the value of love, the failure of self-glory, and the importance of family. He learns to fully appreciate the central theme: the greatest adventures of all are the ones that bring us home to those we love.

The book is part travelogue and part critical reading of The Odyssey, with a mix of personal self-realization thrown. To me, the key signal of my enjoyment of this book is that it made we want to blow the dust off the edition of The Odyssey from my college days and really read it this time.