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Reading Diary for 2000

  and earlier
"Dealers of Lightning"
by Michael Hiltzik
Dealers of LightningA tight, well-written history of the Xerox Palo Alto Research Center, better known as PARC – the birthplace of the modern PC, computer fonts and the laser printer. Dispels many of the myths surrounding PARC (window-based computer desktop-style operating systems were invented prior to PARC, for instance, as was the mouse), yet still maintains that romantic air of digital exploration.

"Common Courtesy"
by Judith Martin
Common CourtesyMiss Manners explains, well, manners – or at least the contemporary loss of them and what those of us who believe in a certain sense of social grace can do to fight back. Politely, of course.

"Just Six Numbers"
by Martin Rees
Just Six NumbersMartin Rees is Astronomer Royal for Great Britain, and a solid author of popular science books like Before the Beginning. In this book, he looks at the six basic values that define the nature of our universe – the values that make life possible.

"Jazz: The First Century"
Edited by John Edward Hasse
Jazz: The First CenturySo I get this book to review, and I'm looking at the "essential listening" lists in the back, thinking to myself, "What kind of pompous jerk what even consider compiling such a list?" Oh ... hmmm, yes, that would be me in the "contributors" list ... never mind ... (See full review.)

by Sam Shepard
SimpaticoA dark, dreary little tale – not unlike Hemingway's Nick Adams stories. A play, of course, so not like reading prose – but still easy to follow.

"Harry Potter & the Goblet of Fire"
by J.K. Rowling
Harry Potter & the Goblet of FireThe best book in the Harry Potter series yet – two other schools of wizardry send their all-star teams to Hogwarts for a wizards' tournament. Of course, Harry is chosen to participate, and of course He Who Must Not Be Named shows up. Good stuff, all ...

"The Transparent Society"
by David Brin
The Transparent SocietyThis book started off as a series of lectures popular sci-fi novelist David Brin gave on what he feels is an over-emphasis on privacy and threats to it. It's an interesting, often compelling argument – and bonus points for one of those early lectures being given at the Computers, Privacy and Freedom conference! (Read my interview with Brin.)

"True at First Light"
by Ernest Hemingway
True at First LightApparently the last book we'll ever get from the pen of Ernest Hemingway, this one was published in 1999 after substantial paring by son Patrick Hemingway of the original but unfinshed manuscript. Not Hemingway's best, perhaps – but still a wonderful read, and fully true to Hemingway.

"Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban"
by J.K. Rowling
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of AzkabanThe Harry Potter books keep getting better. The plots get wilder, yet, with the way Rowling is constructing them, still stay unbelievably believable. Well, at least for a world populated by wizards and witches. Still, it was more fun hating Professor Snape than kind of feeling sorry for him ...

"Frank Sinatra: An American Legend"
by Nancy Sinatra
Frank Sinatra: An American LegendOkay, not the most objective of authors, but still provides more insight into the private man than anyone else could give, and is surprisingly critical of his personal shortcomings, especially the womanizing.

"The Way You Wear Your Hat: Frank Sinatra and the Lost Art of Livin'"
by Bill Zehme
The Way You Wear Your Hat: Frank Sinatra and the Lost Art of Livin'A loving paean to the larger-than-life Sinatra. Not a bio, instead a collection of snippets about Sinatra drinking, Sinatra singing, Sinatra in love.

"Northern Lights" ("The Golden Compass" in the U.S.)"
by Philip Pullman
Northern LightsMy mom got my daughter this book while on vacation in England. I was looking it over to make sure it was age appropriate and, well, got sucked right in. It's got the kind of magic that "The Neverending Story" had, or "Watership Down." Unfortunately, the two sequels display an increasingly vicious anti-Catholic bigotry that destroys the magic of the first book. Why some hatreds are still socially acceptable is beyond me. (Interestingly, while Pullman fans bristle at any description of his books as bigoted and dismiss his critics as "censors" – as if giving would-be buyers more information could possibly be censorship! – it was Pullman himself who tried to have the "Narnia" film banned in England for its Catholic underpinnings.)

"Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone"
by J.K. Rowling
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's StoneWe read this, the first book in the series, second. Took some of the suspense out, since the second book referred to some of the happenings in this book, but the kids (and, okay, I) really loved it. And I think Ron has a secret crush on Hermione ...

"The Painted Word"
by Tom Wolfe
The Painted WordWolfe pokes delicious fun at art snobs – especially modern art snobs. Mocks their pretensions, ridicules their hauteur, and does it all with the absolute confidence of one who's taken the time to learn about what he's exposing as fraud.

"History of Europe"
by J.M. Roberts
History of EuropeA dry, British look at Europe from the time of ancient Greece through the present. Took me over a year to finish this (kept reading other books at the same time), but worth the effort.

"Values of the Game"
by Bill Bradley
Buy it now from
Values of the GameA warm reminiscence of his basketball-playing days, and how those values relate to other aspects of life. Written as a campaign book ahead of his presidential run. (See full review.)

"Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets"
by J.K. Rowling
Harry Potter and the Chamber of SecretsMy kids got this for me for Father's Day last year, and I read it aloud to them. Starting the series with the second book was a bit confusing, but Rowling has created a magical little world that's just scary enough to keep the kids excited. Actually worth all the hype.

"The Talented Mr. Ripley"
by Patricia Highsmith
The Talented Mr. RipleyI re-read this after seeing the Matt Damon film – and still think the book is far superior. Making Ripley overtly gay in the movie completely undermined his basically psychopathic nature; what was a wonderfully twisted psychological study of an amoral killer becomes just another story of a rejected lover. Sigh ...

"Citizen Soldiers"
by Stephen Ambrose
Citizen SoldiersThis history of the post D-Day European War is told from the viewpoint of your average American GI. It's both heartbreaking and inspiring – just typical kids stuck in a horrendous situation, coping as best they could.