Books I Read in 2013

neuromancerNeuromancer by William Gibson

The first book I finished in 2013 was the first book to win the science fiction “Triple Crown” winning the prestigious Nebula Award, the Philip K. Dick Award, and the Hugo Award. Neuromancer is a wonderful sci fi book with a rich world. It features unchecked artificial intelligences using humans as pawns in their grand schemes. The complexity and recklessness of these AIs is a joy to read and something humans should always keep in mind as we inch closer to a future where technology catches up with science fiction.

Ringworld by Larry Niven

Another science fiction classic, this novel follows 200 year old Louis Wu as he joins an expedition to explore the mysterious Ringworld. When they arrive, they find a highly technologically sophisticated planetary system that is no longer home to the original builders. What follows is great mystery, clashes with the locals that are left, and all around fun adventure.

pride and prejudice
Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

According to Goodreads, I started this book on February 19th, 2013 and finished it on April 26th, 2013. It was one of those “If I want to be a writer, I should probably read this classic” moments. Unfortunately, I didn’t enjoy it as much as other people who absolutely adore it. I just couldn’t identify with the characters and their “problems”. I did finish it though. That has to count for something.

Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman

I remember burning through this book in college and not being able to put it down and then not finishing it. I don’t what happened but something super important (probably finals) must have come up to make me not finish it. Cut to 2013 after I reread it and finished and I’m glad all of my great memories of this book were spot on. This is a wonderful urban fantasy book with memorable characters and an intriguing plot.

Attempting Normal by Marc Maron

I’ve been a big fan of Marc Maron ever since I stumbled upon his podcast. The man is deep, hilarious and probably a genius, but he has flaws like we all do and that makes him a very compelling person to follow. Most of the stories in his book are retreads from his podcast and his standup acts, but there’s enough new material for a fan to make it a worthwhile read. For anyone who is familiar with Marc, this book is a great intro.

the traveler
The Traveler by John Twelve Hawks

I think the most interesting thing about this book is the author whose true identity is unknown even to the publisher of the book. Sure the book has very relevant messages and warnings about governments spying on citizens, but who is the author?? I had more fun reading all of the theories on his true identity than I did reading this book.

Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut

I was helping my girlfriend move some boxes in her room when this book fell out and landed on the floor, front cover facing up. What a moment of good fortune. This book has so much going on that as I write this it’s hard to even remember it all. There’s war and love and insanity and time travel and space aliens. Vonnegut says a lot of war and life in this book and it’s clear why it’s considered a classic.

the engines of god
The Engines of God by Jack McDevitt

Browsing through the sci fi shelves of the local used bookstore how could I not pick up a book with that title. This is the first book in McDevitt’s Academy Series that follows tough space pilot Priscilla Hutchins as she carts around xenoarchaeologists to various dead planets. This book has some great action and surprisingly deep philosophical moments, but the ending is a bit of a letdown.

Supercapitalism: The Transformation of Business, Democracy, and Everyday Life by Robert B. Reich

Robert Reich has increasingly been showing up in the public eye because of his active use of social media and his ideas on how to make America an even playing field again. His book is a great read on how politics and business have become so entangled that politics no longer serve their original function of serving the people.
Deepsix by Jack McDevitt

The second book in Jack McDevitt’s Academy Series. This book has one of the most awesome rescue attempts I’ve ever seen/read/heard. It also has a xenoarcheology subplot of two alien civilizations and how they interacted in this past. McDevitt is a master at dropping little nuggets like this that your imagination takes and runs with.
Chindi by Jack McDevitt

The third book in his Academy series (There are five total). This book has another ridiculous rescue attempt full of science and inventiveness. A little more attention is paid to developing the main character and her story and in this book she really shines as a bad ass. Better than the first book, but not as good as the second one.
the everything store
The Everything Store: Jeff Bezos and the Age of Amazon by Brad Stone

This book chronicles the rise of founder and CEO of Amazon Jeff Bezos. From the company’s humble beginning in a garage to its current quest to take over the world, this book shows the man behind it all, the good and the bad. He’s brilliant, motivated and decisive, but ruthless, arrogant and unforgiving. A good read for anyone at all interested in business.
calculating god
Calculating God by Robert J. Sawyer

I picked this book off the shelf based on the title alone and when I read the copy on the book I was hooked. An alien lands in front of a museum and she and a paleontologist discuss life, death, God, and the other big mysteries. Unfortunately, this is more of an essay than a novel. The arguments are intriguing, but the narrative elements that are present are just not that interesting.

My Purchase from Better World Books

A few weeks ago I came across a website called Better World Books. I found a few books I wanted, placed an order and received my bundle a few days later. Call me old fashioned, but I still like the feel of a physical book in my hand. I know I’ll have to get an eReader one day, but let me have my fun for now.

A few goodies

The company has a great selection of used and new books at great prices and all of their books ship for free, but the kicker is that with every purchase, Better World Books donates books to those in need by funding literacy projects around the world. According to their website, by collecting from schools and libraries they have converted 58 million used books into over $10 million in funding for literacy and education programs, diverting 40,000 tons of books from landfills in the process.

In this day and age of online shopping where price is everything, it takes a strong differentiator to persuade a customer away from the Amazons of the world. With Better World Books, you’re getting great books at great prices, and you’re making a difference in the world.

I highly recommend checking them out.

Mass Effect 3

*don’t worry. No spoilers here

I used to be a huge video game freak, but work and writing has really limited the amount of free time I can devote to gaming. As pressed for time as I am, I just couldn’t pass up playing Mass Effect 3.

At first I thought I might be able to ignore the game. First, for us PC people, it was released on EA’s horrible proprietary distribution platform instead of Steam where I bought the first two games. Second, the game had gotten a considerable amount of bad press for the ending. However, when I noticed that Amazon was running a daily deal that had the game at half off, I just had to jump at it.

I haven’t finished the game so I don’t know what to expect from the ending, but I imagine it can’t be that bad. So far, in my opinion, it has lived up to and possibly exceeded the expectations set by the previous two games.

Regardless of what happens in the ending, the Mass Effect series will go down as an extraordinary achievement. A brilliant marriage of storytelling and gameplay, it is truly a game of epic proportions that does a hell of a job of engrossing you and getting you to buy in to the universe. The space opera story, the wonderfully loveable and deep characters, the action, the choices (and their consequences), and everything, really, is worth celebrating not only as a video game, but as an experience.