Monday, July 30, 2012

2011 Read Book List

The series of short takes on books I did so far, raises eventually the odd eyebrow whether I plan to do only that in this space. As a feeble reassurance, here is a list of books I read — or attempted to and succeeded in most cases — in 2011, for which, I don’t foresee writing a review/opinion piece/personal memoir in the near future, at least, not in this space.

From experience while exposing such lists in blogs, let me add two things. Yes, its only my vanity that exposes such a list. What other primary reason a blog is for? Secondly, the list here doesn’t include the ‘technical stuff’ one gets enamored by and endures with, during ‘office hours’. That would be an overkill, even by the narcissist standards of an academic.

Now for the list, beneath the fold...

  • The Alchemist — Paulo Coelho
  • Slaughterhouse Five — Kurt Vonnegut
  • Bagombo Snuff Box — Kurt Vonnegut
  • The Dante Club — Mathew Pearl
  • The Uncommon Reader — Alan Bennett
  • Telling Tales: World Short Stories — Ed. Nadine Godimer
  • Immortals of Meluha — Amish
  • The Secret of the Nagas — Amish
  • Coyote Blue — Christopher Moore
  • The Clicking of Cuthbert — P. G. Wodehouse
  • A Wodehouse Miscellany — PGW
  • Nonsense Novels — Stephen Leacock
  • Mere Anarchy — Woody Allen
  • Candy is Dandy, Best of Ogden Nash — Ogden Nash
  • Cyberspace — Dave Barry
  • Money Matters — Dave Barry
  • Her Royal Spyness — Rhys Bowen
  • Buried for Pleasure — Edmund Crispin
  • Death of a Cozy Writer — G. M. Malliet
  • Death at Charity’s Point — William Tapply
  • Death of a Squire — Maureen Ash
  • Burglars Can’t be Choosers — Lawrence Block
  • Complete Sherlock Holmes — Arthur Conan Doyle (re-read)
  • Complete Father Brown — G. K. Chesterton
  • Complete Hercule Poirot Short Stories — Agatha Christie (re-read)
  • Cards on the Table — Agatha Christie
  • Third Girl — Agatha Christie
  • Taken at the Flood — AC
  • Evil under the Sun — AC
  • A Man Lay Dead — Ngaio Marsh
  • Enter a Murderer — Ngaio Marsh
  • South Indian Music vol. 1 – 7 – Prof. S. Sambamurthy
  • Shaping of an Ideal Carnatic Musician through Sadhana – Pantula Rama
  • South Indian History and Culture vols. 1 and 2 – Chithra Madhavan
  • On Writing — Stephen King
  • The Net Delusion — Evgeney Morozov
  • Misreadings — Umberto Eco (re-read)
  • How to Travel with a Salmon — Umberto Eco (re-read)
  • Turning Back the Clock — Umberto Eco
  • Never Push when it Says Pull — Guy Browning
  • Your Hate mail will be Graded — John Scalzi
  • You are not Fooling Anyone when You Take Your Laptop to a Coffee Shop — John Scalzi
  • How to Write a Lot — Paul J. Silvia
  • Write to the Top! — W. Brad Johnson & Carol Mullen
  • How to Talk about Books You haven’t Read — Pierre Bayard
  • Mother Tongue — Bill Bryson
  • Your Brain at Work — David Rock
  • Bounce — Matthew Syed
  • Outliers — Malcolm Gladwell
Science Fiction
  • Halting State — Charles Stross
  • Tehanu — Ursula Le Guin
  • Complete Short Stories — Arthur Clarke
  • Coraline — Neil Gaiman
  • Anathem — Neal Stephenson
  • The Dog Said Bow Wow — Micahel Swanwick
  • Best of Frederick Pohl — Frederick Pohl
  • Smoke and Mirrors — Neil Gaiman
  • Caravan to Vacarres — Alistair Maclean
  • Way to Dusty Death — AM (re-read)
  • Satan Bug — AM (re-read)
  • When Eight Bells Toll — AM
  • Breakhart Pass — AM
  • Goodbye California — AM
  • Golden Gate — AM (re-read)
  • Golden Rendezvous — AM (re-read)
  • Circus — AM
  • A Devil’s Chaplain — Richard Dawkins
  • The Greatest Show on Earth — Richard Dawkins
  • The Oxford book of Modern Science Writing — Ed. Richard Dawkins
  • Pale Blue Dot — Carl Sagan
  • Demon Haunted World — Carl Sagan
  • Mathematics: A Very Short Introduction — Timothy Gowers
  • Just Six Numbers — Martin Rees
  • The Eerie Silence — Paul Davies
  • Mathematics in Nature — John A. Adams
  • On the Past Present and Future — Isaac Asimov
  • Concepts of Modern Mathematics — Ian Stewart
  • From Calculus to Chaos — David Acheson (more technical)
  • Nanoscience — Gabor L. Hornyak et al. (more technical)
  • Scaling Analysis in Modeling Transport and Reaction Processes — William B. Krantz (technical)


  1. Suresh said...

    Such lists inevitably bring me back to this excerpt from one of Edward Shils' classic works on the Indian intellectual from more than 50 years back:

    Just after the Second World War, a South Indian publisher arranged a symposium on Books That Have Influenced Me. His contributors included some of the more eminent
    academic and political notabilities of the then older generation. They were predominantly liberal in political tone
    but included a veteran Congressman like Rajagopalachari, first Indian Governor-General of independent India, Mr. G. C. Chagla, the present Indian Ambassador to the United States, Rajkumari Amrit Kaur, the Christian who later became Health Minister, and Professor Sir C. V. Raman, the sole Indian Nobel Prize Laureate in a scientific subject. Here are some of the influential authors: Wordsworth, Shelley, Keats, Byron, Tennyson, Browning, Dickens, Carlyle, Emerson, Thoreau, George Eliot, Shakespeare, Burke, J. S. Mill, Morley,
    R. L. Stevenson, Hardy, Ruskin, Plato (above all, The Trial and Death of Socrates), Meredith, Balzac, Dumas, Victor Hugo, Anatole France, Tolstoi, Edward Arnold (The Light of Asia), James Martineau, Herbert Spencer, James Frazer, Tyndall, T. H. Huxley, Renan, Shaw, Ibsen, etc. The twelve symposiasts mentioned about one hundred and eighty individual authors of books like the Iliad or Robinson Crusoe. Only about one-fifth of the books or authors cited were Continental or Indian (of these approximately half were Indian---only three were modern Indian literary figures, the others being religious classics or modern religious-social reformers). All the rest were authors in the English language, the overwhelming majority British and an inconsequential minority---Emerson, Thoreau and Upton Sinclair---were American.

    Shils notes that It is almost as if this older generation had taken as their guiding star, Macaulay's lightly uttered assertion of the superiority of a shelf of books of Western literature and science to whole libraries of Oriental works. He also notes that for the younger Indian generation (as of 1959), the distribution of books and authors had changed though it still remained overwhelmingly English/American.

    I give this extensive quote not to score any cheap points -- please note I belong to this same class -- but rather to wonder at ourselves. I find it remarkable that while the country has changed a lot over the 60 odd years since independence, in this particular aspect, it seems to have not changed at all.

    After I came across Shils' work, I began noting the year-end book lists organised by magazines like Outlook and one can note the same tendencies that Shils noted more than 50 years back. The only person who, in recent years, has paid attention to this aspect of our intellectual life is Ramachandra Guha -- I seem to recollect an article by him on the "bilingual intellectual" but notably there has been no follow-up to that by him or anyone else.

    I know my comment is off-topic (feel free to delete) but this has been troubling me which is why I took the liberty to post. Apologies in any case.

  2. Arunn said...

    Suresh: Thanks for the comment and concern. It has and has been troubling me since the day I started doing Science only in English.

    There are several related points but I shall touch upon only a few.

    Firstly, the list is of books in English more because the blog is in English. A similar list of my Tamil readings are here in my Tamil blog.

    Secondly, I am bilingual, if not an intellectual. Modern or otherwise, 'Indian literary figures', at least the ones I adore, don't write in 'English'. If at all, they only get badly translated in it. Even the C. Rajagopalachari who appears in your quote, I prefer to read in Tamil. So, I usually go for Indian writings in other vernacular translated in Tamil rather than in English.

    So one doesn't normally find many 'Indian authors' in my 'English' book list. (Ramachandra Guha -- Indian after Gandhi -- will appear in my 2012 list though ;-)

    I know you are talking about a malady in a larger context, but I can defend only myself.

    To end, apart from the two I already made in the second paragraph, 'only English' is the third ryder I should now remember to add to my future lists :-)