YYYY-MM-DD (approximate read date)

Scale: 1-10. 
1=Miserable, painful (did I even finish it?) 
5=Neutral (I'm no better or worse off for having read it)
10=Mind bogglingly good

Red Mars
Kim Stanley Robinson

This book had some real potential, and made good on about half of it.
I don't think Robinson quite decided what the book was about: was it
about this wonderful new world of Mars, to be explored, or was it
about these intense interpersonal relationships of the first 100
settlers? The result at the end is that I felt unsatisfied, as though
the book didn't reach closure. Perhaps that's natural, considering
there are two sequels, but based on other Robinson books I've read, I
suspect he has trouble providing closure. 

I also wish it was more clear which charateristics of Mars were
factual, and which were invented. I'm grotesquely bothered by the
notion that wind-powered-heat generators would provide any net
terraforming effect.

Rating: 6

Krakatoa - the day the world exploded
Simon Winchester

I started into this book, and voraciously consumed the first hundred
pages or so. Now, I find the book back on my shelf, unfinished. The
story, unlike the volcano, evidently "fizzled". I may pick it up again
at some point, though.

The Science of Cooking
Peter Barham

The Years of Rice and Salt
Kim Stanley Robinson

A bit slow and unfocused. Starts off very interesting, but over the
many reincarnations of the characters, it was hard to stay interested.

Rating: 4
Eagle's Cry
David Nevin

Historical fiction, a recounting of 1800-1803, the death of
G. Washington through the Lousiana Purchase. It took me a long time to
get through it, but ultimately it was a good read. Well timed for my
visit to New Orleans.

Rating: 6

First Meetings in the Enderverse
Orson Scott Card

A collection of short stories involving characters in the Ender
universe. Very large print, and took me only a couple of hours to
finish. Card's usual appealing writing style (clear and without
pretentious adornments) was present and it was entertaining to fill in
backstories that are neglected in his longer-format works.

Rating: 7

A Traveler's Guide to Mars
William K. Hartmann

A fairly interesting description of geology, geography, and
meteorology on Mars. Includes many wonderful images from rovers and
explorers. Unfortunately, the book predates Spirit and
Opportunity. This book might not have much appeal to most, but for
space affictionados, it's wonderful.

The Bear and the Dragon
Tom Clancy

He's so long winded it's amazing. Nothing happens for hundreds of
pages. He's name-dropping incessantly, I guess in an attempt to lend
"authenticity" and "realism", but it's just annoying.

Rating: 3	

Out of Gas: The End of the Age of Oil
David Goodstein

An interesting analysis of the rate of consumption and discovery of
oil, well written and with convincing evidence to support its
conclusions. In essence, the argument is that we are discovering oil
at a rate lower than our consumption (our rate of "production", he
points out, is not a good figure-of-merit for the long-term viability
of the fuel supply.) 

The only down side is that I think the book was a bit overpriced, even
for the paperback edition.

Rating: 7

Neil Stephenson

This book came highly recommended to me, but I found it incredibly
tedious. 900+ pages in which numerous storylines are conjured up,
followed, traveling through numerous changes in voicing (one chapter
is written in screenplay format, another as excerpts from a
protagonist's secret journal)... here's the rub: by page 850 or so, it
becomes painfully obvious that none of these story lines are going to
be resolved. The literary promise of fulfillment (even partial
fulfillment-- I knew this was merely volume 1 of a 3 volume "cycle")
was betrayed.  And, gosh darnit, I hate it when alternative histories
name drop, such as in the first chapter where the scraggling young lad
who helps the protagonist happens to be Benjamen Franklin. That's just

Rating: 3

Stumbling on Happiness
Daniel Gilbert
A cognitive psychologist describes our brain's mechanisms and
shortcomings with regard to predicting and recalling experiences. It's
pretty well written-- lots of neat summaries of psychological
experiments to think about, with a light and often humorous writing
style. At page 200 of its 240 pages, I think he started to run out of
new things to say, and it dragged a bit, but I'd have to recommend it
based on its first 200 pages.

Rating: 7

Beyond Fear
Bruce Schneier

I enjoy his newsletter, in which he is typically insightful regarding
matters of security. I figured I'd like his book. The book has its
merits-- more of the analyses that make his newsletter interesting,
but it takes such a preachy and insultory tone that I found it hard to
stomach. He constantly defines terms, both pre-existing terms and
made-up terms, with the evident intention that we should be
underlining that portion in the book--to bask in his unquestionable
masterhood. His writing style also leaves something to be desired;
it's overly verbose, and his attempts at humor just don't seem to
work.  It's perhaps worth a read if the subject is right up your
alley, but I was disappointed anyhow.

Rating: 3

The Soul of a new machine
Tracy Kidder

A documentary of the development of Data General's MV/8000 (Eclipse
Eagle) CPU, from a non-technical journalist's perspective. It's
fascinating to read about the internal struggles, management
conflicts, technical problems, etc. I simultaneously empathize with
their experiences based on my own trials, yet given the objectivity
afforded by not being directly involved, wonder how they could suffer
and worry about things that really aren't the important things in
life. (This has obvious implications regarding my own trials!)

From a technical stand-point, it's fascinating to hear them speak
excitedly about their CPU-- an old CISC machine that would muster
4.5MHz, and the innovation of "PALs". I built a rather similar machine
in my undergrad laboratory, using almost the same technology (PAL
22v10s), that ran at 10MHz. Mine had a fraction of the features, but
it made the technical story very palpable to me.

Rating: 8