Books I've read (old posts, page 3)

A Walk in the Woods: Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail

Back in America after twenty years in Britain, Bill Bryson decided to reacquaint himself with his native country by walking the 2,100-mile Appalachian Trail, which stretches from Georgia to Maine. The AT offers an astonishing landscape of silent forests and sparkling lakesand to a writer with the comic genius of Bill Bryson, it also provides endless opportunities to witness the majestic silliness of his fellow human beings.

For a start there's the gloriously out-of-shape Stephen Katz, a buddy from Iowa along for the walk. Despite Katz's overwhelming desire to find cozy restaurants, he and Bryson eventually settle into their stride, and while on the trail they meet a bizarre assortment of hilarious characters. But A Walk in the Woods is more than just a laugh-out-loud hike. Bryson's acute eye is a wise witness to this beautiful but fragile trail, and as he tells its fascinating history, he makes a moving plea for the conservation of America's last great wilderness. An adventure, a comedy, and a celebration, A Walk in the Woods has become a modern classic of travel literature.

Anvil of Stars (Forge of God, #2)

Greg Bear's The Forge of God described the destruction of Earth itself by self-replicating robots, Von Neumann machines designed to use the planet's mass to create more robotic creatures and spread throughout the Galaxy. In Anvil of Stars, only a few humans have survived, aided by a mysterious alien race known only as "The Benefactors", who arrived at Earth too late.

Now the small group of human survivors is determined to track down the criminal race who launched the planet killers. Humanity is given a starship by The Benefactors, and driven only by revenge they set out to find the unknown beings who are responsible for the destruction of Earth, and many other worlds.

A Short History of Nearly Everything

In Bryson's biggest book, he confronts his greatest challenge: to understand—and, if possible, answer—the oldest, biggest questions we have posed about the universe and ourselves. Taking as territory everything from the Big Bang to the rise of civilization, Bryson seeks to understand how we got from there being nothing at all to there being us. To that end, he has attached himself to a host of the world’s most advanced (and often obsessed) archaeologists, anthropologists, and mathematicians, travelling to their offices, laboratories, and field camps. He has read (or tried to read) their books, pestered them with questions, apprenticed himself to their powerful minds. A Short History of Nearly Everything_ _is the record of this quest, and it is a sometimes profound, sometimes funny, and always supremely clear and entertaining adventure in the realms of human knowledge, as only Bill Bryson can render it. Science has never been more involving or entertaining.

Transition

There is a world that hangs suspended between triumph and catastrophe, between the dismantling of the Wall and the fall of the Twin Towers, frozen in the shadow of suicide terrorism and global financial collapse. Such a world requires a firm hand and a guiding light. But does it need the Concern: an all-powerful organization with a malevolent presiding genius, pervasive influence and numberless invisible operatives in possession of extraordinary powers?

Among those operatives are Temudjin Oh, of mysterious Mongolian origins, an un-killable assassin who journeys between the peaks of Nepal, a version of Victorian London and the dark palaces of Venice under snow; Adrian Cubbish, a restlessly greedy City trader; and a nameless, faceless state-sponsored torturer known only as the Philosopher, who moves between time zones with sinister ease. Then there are those who question the Concern: the bandit queen Mrs. Mulverhill, roaming the worlds recruiting rebels to her side; and Patient 8262, under sedation and feigning madness in a forgotten hospital ward, in hiding from a dirty past.

There is a world that needs help; but whether it needs the Concern is a different matter.

Against a Dark Background

Sharrow was once the leader of a personality-attuned combat team in one of the sporadic little commercial wars in the civilization based around the planet Golter. Now she is hunted by the Huhsz, a religious cult which believes that she is the last obstacle before the faith's apotheosis, and her only hope of escape is to find the last of the apocalyptically powerful Lazy Guns before the Huhsz find her.

Her journey through the exotic Golterian system is a destructive and savage odyssey into her past, and that of her family and of the system itself.

Consider Phlebas (Culture, #1)

"Dazzlingly original." -- Daily Mail
"Gripping, touching and funny." -- TLS

The war raged across the galaxy. Billions had died, billions more were doomed. Moons, planets, the very stars themselves, faced destruction, cold-blooded, brutal, and worse, random. The Idirans fought for their Faith; the Culture for its moral right to exist. Principles were at stake. There could be no surrender.

Within the cosmic conflict, an individual crusade. Deep within a fabled labyrinth on a barren world, a Planet of the Dead proscribed to mortals, lay a fugitive Mind. Both the Culture and the Idirans sought it. It was the fate of Horza, the Changer, and his motley crew of unpredictable mercenaries, human and machine, actually to find it, and with it their own destruction.

The Great Shark Hunt

Originally published in 1979, the first volume of the bestselling "Gonzo Papers" is now back in print. The Great Shark Hunt is Dr. Hunter S. Thompson's largest and, arguably, most important work, covering Nixon to napalm, Las Vegas to Watergate, Carter to cocaine. These essays offer brilliant commentary and outrageous humor, in signature Thompson style.

Ranging in date from the National Observer days to the era of Rolling Stone, The Great Shark Hunt offers myriad, highly charged entries, including the first Hunter S. Thompson piece to be dubbed "gonzo" — "The Kentucky Derby Is Decadent and Depraved," which appeared in Scanlan's Monthly in 1970. From this essay a new journalistic movement sprang which would change the shape of American letters. Thompson's razor-sharp insight and crystal clarity capture the crazy, hypocritical, degenerate, and redeeming aspects of the explosive and colorful '60s and '70s.

Snuff (Discworld, #39; City Watch #8)

According to the writer of the best-selling crime novel ever to have been published in the city of Ankh-Morpork, it is a truth universally acknowledged that a policeman taking a holiday would barely have had time to open his suitcase before he finds his first corpse.

And Commander Sam Vimes of the Ankh-Morpork City Watch is on holiday in the pleasant and innocent countryside, but not for him a mere body in the wardrobe. There are many, many bodies and an ancient crime more terrible than murder.

He is out of his jurisdiction, out of his depth, out of bacon sandwiches, and occasionally snookered and out of his mind, but never out of guile. Where there is a crime there must be a finding, there must be a chase and there must be a punishment.

They say that in the end all sins are forgiven.

But not quite all...

A Hat Full of Sky (Discworld, #32)

The second in a series of Discworld novels starring the young witch Tiffany Aching.

Something is coming after Tiffany. . . .

Tiffany Aching is ready to begin her apprenticeship in magic. She expects spells and magic—not chores and ill-tempered nanny goats! Surely there must be more to witchcraft than this!

What Tiffany doesn't know is that an insidious, disembodied creature is pursuing her. This time, neither Mistress Weatherwax (the greatest witch in the world) nor the fierce, six-inch-high Wee Free Men can protect her. In the end, it will take all of Tiffany's inner strength to save herself . . . if it can be done at all.

Carpe Jugulum (Discworld, #23)

Unthinkingly inviting Uberwald's undead, the Magpyrs, into Lancre to celebrate the birth of his daughter, King Verence makes a big mistake. Really big. Because once they're ensconced within the castle, these wine-drinking, garlic- eating, sun-loving modern vampires have no intention of leaving. Ever. And only an uneasy alliance between a nervous young priest and the argumentative local witches can save the country from being taken over by people with a cultivated bloodlust and bad taste in silk waistcoats. As the Lancre living are about to discover, there's only one way to fight. Go for the throat, or as the vampyres themselves say ... carpe jugulum!