Ontogeny and Phylogeny - Stephen Jay Gould
The introduction to this book is rather scary - I read it through twice and still didn't understand it all. However, if you plow through to the first chapter, it gets a lot easier right away. This is a really cool book with a good overview of the history of the idea that animals go through the adult stages of ancestral evolution during their own development. It's pretty technical, and I found myself using the glossary extensively at the beginning, although I got better at it as I went along. Very entertaining, and a good, scholarly overview of the subject.
The Sunday Macaroni Club - Steve Lopez - Fiction
I heard this author on West Coast Live! one Saturday morning. He was funny, and his book is likewise. The characters are beautifully drawn, and the plot is neat. I found myself up until 2:00 am with this one. It was one of those "read it out loud" and "laugh out loud" books, too. Paid full hardback price for this, and it was worth every penny.
Robertson Davies - Fiction
Generally regarded as his best work, the Deptford Trilogy is mesmerizing. All three novels in the trilogy are fascinating,and I missed the characters severely when it was all over. The first novel, Fifth Business was been the most compelling of the three, probably because I liked the main character the best, although the literary device used in the second novel, The Manticore was so brilliant that I had to read passages aloud to Steve so as to savor them more than once. I would love to hear these unabridged as audio books. I don't know what it is about Davies's writing style, but I have no trouble relating to his characters even when they have virtually nothing in common with me. And his plots, even though they are often about mundane lives, take on an importance not unlike the importance we attach to our somewhat mundane daily lives. I have had to stop myself from buying every one of his books and reading them all non-stop. Simply amazing books. I am on a crusade to get all my friends to read them!
The Ants - Bert Hölldobler and Edward O. Wilson - Entymology
For those of you with a scientific bent, this is a great book. It took me 4 months to get through it (630 coffee table-sized pages with tons of information), but it was well worth it. Now that the dent in my stomach has decreased somewhat (don't try to read this book in bed without assistance), I am ready to start it again. I can't believe how much we know about ants, but more interestingly, how much we don't know. They are fascinating creatures, and now that I've read the book, I notice them around a lot more than I used to. As a matter of fact, we are being invaded by the little guys as I type, due to the extraordinarily wet winter we are having thanks to El Nino. I am amazed at the patience and care that goes into learning about these guys. For an easier starter into the world of ants, read Journey to the Ants by the same authors. It's much less scientific, but it is a great introduction to the subject. I'm nearly ready to go study myrmecology!
Alfred Bester - Science Fiction
We experienced something of a revival of this guy's works recently, and I'm glad of it. I would never have read his stuff otherwise, and it is really intriguing. I particularly liked The Demolished Man, one of those novels that leaves you with a real sense of unease, like you've understood what was going on but not really. It's a book that really makes you think about our culture and where it might go in the not-so-distant future. I'll be reading this book again, no doubt, and I look forward to starting on the book of his short stories that I picked up yesterday.
Iain Banks - Player of Games - Science Fiction
If you never read any other Banks book, read this one. I read it for a second time and was really glad to find it just as good the second time as the first! GREAT concepts, wonderful universe that he's created, and brilliant writing. His other books are really good, too, especially Feersum Endjinn and Excession .
David Eddings - Fantasy
Again, another author who just sucks you into his universe and holds you there until the book is over, or in this case, the books. His first series, which I discovered while I was in New Zealand in 1986, is The Belgariad, a set of 5 books with intriguing characters, some seriously evil types, and a more realistic "hero" than might be expected. I've read the series twice and enjoyed it both times. He has lots of other books out now, as well, and after reading Belgarath the Scorcerer, I had to go back and re-read The Belgariod to fit everything back into context. Fun stuff, even if it is fantasy.
The Cobweb - Stephen Bury - Fiction/Thriller
Read this book!!!! Stephen Bury is a pseudonym for Neal Stephenson, author of Snow Crash, another superior cyberpunk novel. He is an incredible author, and this book is a real nail-biter with incredible description thrown in for good measure. I was up until four in the morning finishing it, and only an author with Brury's chutzpah could come up with such a deux ex machina at the ending and still earn the forgiveness of the reader based on the sheer audacity of the book as a whole. Kind of like Snow Crash with a main character named (are you ready for this?) Hiro Protagonist. Definitely a "laugh out loud" author with a ferocious sense of humor and an uncanny aptitude for drawing characters.
James Alan Gardner - Science Fiction
All of the four published books by this author are great. Expendable, Commitment Hour, Vigilant and Hunted are all excellent. We buy books by this author as soon as they are published. This is another author who is in the process of creating a galactic society and develops characters within the framework of his creation, a bit like Iain Banks but a little less "in your face" violence.
An Instance of the Fingerpost - Ian Pears - Fiction/Mystery
Another book that kept me up until 4 in the morning. Brilliantly written from four different points of view, the book revolves around a death (or is it a murder?) in Oxford during Cromwell's time. It's fascinating to see how Pears feeds his readers different pieces of information that start fitting together bit by bit as you go through the same story four times from completely unrelated perspectives. Don't be put off by the size of the book - it's riveting.