Wednesday, December 31, 2014

- Reading Bingo 2014 Complete -

I just finished Random House Reading Bingo Challenge 2014 - right on the very last day of 2014:

Book Summaries

Xenocide (More Than 500 Pages) - Ender spends a second book (of three books) attempting to help an alien planet. Even though this was a hefty book, this and "Children of the Mind" should've really been one. Not the first time an author's decide to chop a book into two due purely for length.

Treasure Island (Forgotten Classic) - Standard pirate story. Until I realized this was the original pirate story. So much hype for Long John Silver but he felt a weak antagonist.

The Shining (Became a Movie) - This is the second Stephen King book I read, and the second where bad magicky things happen. This time in a hotel. I guess that's his style.

Goings (Published this Year) - Increasingly incoherent ravings of an egomaniac about really mundane things like shopping.

59 Seconds (Number in Title) - Slick psychological toolbox that make yourself more happy, creative, persuasive, etc in under a minute

The Call of the Wild (By Someone Under Thirty) - Out of the dozen books I breezed through in the last few days, this one stuck in my head. The main dog doesn't speak a single word (since he's a dog), but you feel his mind becoming increasingly feral. Can't believe Jack London wrote this around my age.

Children of the Mind (With Non-Human Characters) - another example of how good sci-fi can become gibberish metaphysics when drawn out. See: Hyperion, Battlestar Galactica

The Importance of Being Earnest (Funny Book) - I don't get old British humour. I don't get the fixation on Ernest-the-name either. It's not that great of a name. Apologies to all Ernests out there.

The Complete Tales of Lucy Gold (Female Author) - the growing-up-in-suburbia plot jumps around a lot with Lucy Gold narrating. Hard to follow until you realize it's Lucy Gold's fault.

The Big Sleep (Mystery) - standard hardboiled detective story with pretty women, gun violence, tailing cars and heavy rain.

Pygmalion (One Word Title) - Cinderella story if Cinderella had a backbone, the prince was kinda a jerk, and the glass slippers was good grammar. Like Cinderella, this also got turned into a movie. I watched "My Fair Lady" as a kid so the story was already familiar.

Tao and the Art of Being a Badass (Short Stories) - Exhibit A of why you shouldn't trust a single anonymous redditor saying a particular book changed their life. The book is a series of obviously-good-traits backed by a single anecdote of how that trait is hot.

Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep (Free Square) - a day in the life of bounty hunter on a desolate Earth. I think rogue robots would be much more intelligent than depicted, but their personalities felt spot on. I say "felt" because I have no idea what a real robotic personality would be like.

Ender in Exile (Different Continent) - aka Ender kicking ass on random planets. It's too bad he died in the previous book; let's write another one about his back story for the fans !

Our Final Invention (Non-Fiction) - really convinced about how dangerous human-level AI is. Like species extinction dangerous. Read it and be worried.

A Song for Lya (First Book by a Fav Author) - Whereas "A Song of Ice and Fire" is set in some medieval backdrop, "A Song for Lya" is set in the future where interplanetary travel is possible. Our psionic human protagonists investigates a local cult and makes you question life.

Mindfulness in Plain English (Heard About Online) - /r/meditation recommendation. For everyone that's wanted to get into meditation without the religious aspects. The most helpful guide I've read. That's for free, anyway.

What If? (Bestseller) - xkcd's author takes in ridiculous questions, crunches the numbers and answers them. Now I know how much energy is needed to destroy the moon.

Brain Rules (Based on True Story) - We don't know much about the brain, but this author summarizes what we do know and makes it fun to read. Stuff like sleep and exercise being good for your brain - that's fairly common sense. But it's nice to see studies to back that up.

The Bad Beginning (Bottom of Reading Pile) - My first encounter with Lemony Snicket and came out feeling depressed. I guess that's the point of his series of unfortunate events. There wouldn't be much story if those kids just remained awesome without stuff thrown at them.

The Lies of Locke Lamora (Book my Friend Loves) - Locke is a younger, less cool, fantasy-setting version of Captain Jack Sparrow. With his own crew. And outwits against overwhelming odds. This one's been sitting on my reading list for around ten years now.

Devil Inside (Scares You) - Meh. I've read stuff on /r/nosleep that was scarier. Standard demon possession story in an urban setting.

Breakdown of Will (More than 10 Years Old) - potentially the driest book I've ever read for fun, but his idea of how willpower works was interesting. Explains why breaking tasks into smaller chunks helps getting it done.

Speaker for the Dead (Second Book in Series) - the first of three books where Ender tries to save a planet. The author believes this was his better book, but I - and likely many others - preferred Ender's Game.

Kanban and Scrum (Blue Cover) - read it for work. Talks about differences between two agile software development methods. Good read if you want to know exactly that. Otherwise no point reading.

If you're looking for recommendations, pick "Call of the Wild" and "Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep" for fiction; and "59 Seconds" and "Brain Rules" for non-fiction.


1) If you are taking on this challenge next year, I recommend picking out the books first. Took me several hours to find the right books for the right square. I haphazardly read about a dozen books throughout the year, hammered into into a square and then looked up the rest.

2) I can't read French. Well, I can. Basic stuff. But when it came to reading "L'Aviateur" - my original pick for First Book by a Fav Author - I realized I was missing out on all the nuances. It's impossible to truly understand what you're reading while you're trying to translate half the book. So I put "L'Aviateur" down and picked up an English book instead.

3) I need uninterrupted quiet time to read effectively. Sounds obvious, but I let myself get interrupted by parents, friends, phone and didn't make much headway until it was night time.

Finally, I likely won't take this challenge again. While it was fun breaking personal records, my reading list is already long enough without introducing new books for arbitrary genres.