Ralph's Book List

I keep track of notable books I've read here for your edification, and also to jog my memory and recall the works I've enjoyed the most. Many works I read are available for free from ManyBooks.net. Also, feedbooks.net.

My next readings may include:
"The Technologists, Matthew Pearl".

Title, Author Date of Reading Review Favorite Paragraph(s)
2011 TRSF: the first annual anthology of original science fiction stories from MIT’s Technology Review 2013-02-18
My second purchased e-book, this time through Amazon and the kindle reader on my DROID2 smartphone.
"The Celestial Omnibus and other stories", E.M.Forster 2012.11.12
2013-02-18 I was attracted to his writing from "The Machine Stops", and this collection of short stories is uniquely rewarding in that each story is about changes in perception.
"Frankenstein: a Modern Promethius", Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley 2012.06.23
A style of writing quite different than typical of today. Seething emotional self-reflection, wallowing in agonizing pain. Also a different pace of time, as events unfold over months and years. But I am a blasted tree; the bolt has entered my soul; and I felt then that I should survive to exhibit what I shall soon cease to be--a miserable spectacle of wrecked humanity, pitiable to others and intolerable to myself.
If the study to which you apply yourself has a tendency to weaken your affections and to destroy your taste for those simple pleasures in which no alloy can possibly mix, then that study is certainly unlawful, that is to say, not befitting the human mind.
Wealth was an inferior object, but what glory would attend the discovery if I could banish disease from the human frame and render man invulnerable to any but a violent death!
"The Machine Stops", E.M. Forster 2012.06.10
Remarkably precient extrapolation. Reminded me of elements from "City of Ember" and "WALL-E" mixed together. Writtem in a manner that lets you imagine todays technology in the story even though it was written in 1909! "The Machine has been most merciful."
"I prefer the mercy of God."
"The Programmers' Stone", Alan and Colston 2012.03
I read this back in 2010 or so, and wanted to approach the material again.
"The Hunger Games", Suzanne Collins 2012.01.01
An excellent book recommended to me by my daughter. I enjoyed the main characters' approach to challenges. I was reading fast and didn't bookmark anything this time. The gogole book reader didn't have a bookmarking feature.
"A Princess of Mars", Edgar Rice Burroughs 2011.08
Disney is bringing out the movie "John Carter" based on this classic old science fiction series. I'm reading the book first for a change. An exciting and imaginative tail, and entertaining to see how social assumptions of male and female characters have changed over time. "Her face was oval and beautiful in the extreme, her every feature was finely chiseled and exquisite, her eyes large and lustrous and her head surmounted by a mass of coal black, waving hair, caught loosely into a strange yet becoming coiffure. Her skin was of a light reddish copper color, against which the crimson glow of her cheeks and the ruby of her beautifully molded lips shone with a strangely enhancing effect."
"The chill of the Martian night was upon us, and removing my silks I threw them across the shoulders of Dejah Thoris. As my arm rested for an instant upon her I felt a thrill pass through every fiber of my being such as contact with no other mortal had even produced; and it seemed to me that she had leaned slightly toward me, but of that I was not sure. Only I knew that as my arm rested there across her shoulders longer than the act of adjusting the silk required she did not draw away, nor did she speak. And so, in silence, we walked the surface of a dying world, but in the breast of one of us at least had been born that which is ever oldest, yet ever new."
"I verily believe that a man's way with women is in inverse ratio to his prowess among men. The weakling and the saphead have often great ability to charm the fair sex, while the fighting man who can face a thousand real dangers unafraid, sits hiding in the shadows like some frightened child."
"Fahrenheit 451", Ray Bradbury 2011.05
An excellent work that changes the way you view society and the media. I can't believe I hadn't read it long ago. "When I was a boy my grandfather died, and he was a sculptor. He was also a very kind man who had a lot of love to give the world, and he helped clean up the slum in our town; and he made toys for us and he did a million things in his lifetime; he was always busy with his hands. And when he died, I suddenly realized I wasn't crying for him at all, but for all the things he did. I cried because he would never do them again, he would never carve another piece of wood or help us raise doves and pigeons in the backyard or play the violin the way he did, or tell us jokes the way he did. He was part of us and when he died, all the actions stopped dead and there was no one to do them just the way he did. He was individual. He was an important man. I've never gotten over his death. Often I think what wonderful carvings never came to birth because he died. How many jokes are missing from the world, and how many homing pigeons untouched by his hands. He shaped the world. He DID things to the world. The world was bankrupted of ten million fine actions the night he passed on."
"I Robot", Cory Doctorow 2011.03
A nice work for me since it is kind of a father-daughter story. Brings a nice counterpoint up about the control of robotics, but also makes the assumption of highly compact power sources that we may not have for a long time... None.
"Down and Out in thr Magic Kingdom", Cory Doctorow 2011.01
Very enjoyable since I know my way around Disney World and the author is very familiar with the place. I also enjoy this kind of technical sci-fi. "This was a good fight, one we could have a thousand times without resolving. I'd get him to concede that Whuffie recaptured the true essence of money: in the old days, if you were broke but respected, you wouldn't starve; contrariwise, if you were rich and hated, no sum could buy you security and peace. By measuring the thing that money really represented -- your personal capital with your friends and neighbors -- you more accurately gauged your success."
"Anthem", Ayn Rand 2011.01
I followed a hyperlink at the end of the Benjamin Franklin autobiography to discover this work. I enjoyed the extreme treatment of the distopian world, and its a short read. It ended a bit abruptly, but perhaps intentionally to make one think. I intend to read "Atlas Shrugged" to approach Rand's more famous work. "It is my eyes which see, and the sight of my eyes grants beauty to the earth. It is my ears which hear, and the hearing of my ears gives its song to the world. It is my mind which thinks, and the judgement of my mind is the only searchlight that can find the truth. It is my will which chooses, and the choice of my will is the only edict I must respect."
"2 B R 0 2 B", Kurt Vonnegut 2011.01
Short and memorable, with Vonnegut's flair for ... I shouldn't say. None.
"The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin" 2010.05
Of unexpected content. Different sections seem to shift styles, as Franklin ages, and it ends abruptly almost as an unfinished work. However, I was enthralled, as I was surprised to find a kind of kindred spirit in Franklin. Our mutual use of logical approaches to problems and ever after self improvment in measurable ways. I had set out many passages of note, but a change from a PalmOs reader to an Android reader caused me to lose them (I read electronically). Quotes not available due to a lossage from the PDA reader I was using. A real shame, since he has so many great quotes. I plan to peruse this book again.
Captains Courageous
Rudyard Kipling
A lighter version of Moby Dick with my favorite kind of seagoing swashbuckling. Chapter 4 - She might have been the very Flying Dutchman, so foul, draggled, and unkempt was every rope and stick aboard. Her old-style quarterdeck was some or five feet high, and her rigging flew knotted and tangled like weed at a wharf-end. She was running before the wind--yawing frightfully--her staysail let down to act as a sort of extra foresail,--"scandalized," they call it,--and her foreboom guyed out over the side. Her bowsprit cocked up like an old-fashioned frigate's; her jib-boom had been fished and spliced and nailed and clamped beyond further repair; and as she hove herself forward, and sat down on her broad tail, she looked for all the world like a blouzy, frouzy, bad old woman sneering at a decent girl.
Treasure Island
Robert Louis Stevenson
2008 A classic to be sure, and easy reading. It had special meaning to me as I chartered a sailing vessel in the British Virgin Islands. Chapter 7 - Mr. Trelawney had taken up his residence at an inn far down the docks to superintend the work upon the schooner. Thither we had now to walk, and our way, to my great delight, lay along the quays and beside the great multitude of ships of all sizes and rigs and nations. In one, sailors were singing at their work, in another there were men aloft, high over my head, hanging to threads that seemed no thicker than a spider's. Though I had lived by the shore all my life, I seemed never to have been near the sea till then. The smell of tar and salt was something new. I saw the most wonderful figureheads, that had all been far over the ocean. I saw, besides, many old sailors, with rings in their ears, and whiskers curled in ringlets, and tarry pigtails, and their swaggering, clumsy sea- walk; and if I had seen as many kings or archbishops I could not have been more delighted.
And I was going to sea myself, to sea in a schooner, with a piping boatswain and pig-tailed singing seamen, to sea, bound for an unknown island, and to seek for buried treasure!
Moby Dick
Herman Melville
A wild combination of adventure and encyclopedia of whaling. Chapter 36 - "Advance, ye mates! Cross your lances full before me. Well done! Let me touch the axis." So saying, with extended arm, he grasped the three level, radiating lances at their crossed centre; while so doing, suddenly and nervously twitched them; meanwhile glancing intently from Starbuck to Stubb; from Stubb to Flask. It seemed as though, by some nameless, interior volition, he would fain have shocked into them the same fiery emotion accumulated within the Leyden jar of his own magnetic life. The three mates quailed before his strong, sustained, and mystic aspect. Stubb and Flask looked sideways from him; the honest eye of Starbuck fell downright.

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