Sunday, January 09, 2011

My 2010 reading list

For no particular reason here is a list of stuff I read in 2010.


  • 'Salem's Lot. My first Stephen King book. It was OK, but not enough to make me into an instant fan.
  • Fragile Things. A collection of Neil Gaiman short stories. Mostly pretty good.
  • American Gods. Another Gaiman, the longest one I've read of his. It's pretty good.
  • The Name Of The Rose. I was curious to read this for ages. It's good, although more interesting for the historical exposition than the whodunnit.
  • The Confusion and The System Of The World. These are the last two books of Neal Stephenson's Baroque Trilogy. I can't praise them highly enough, easily my favourite read of the year and one of the few books I've ever read that I can say I would instantly read again.
  • The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, The Girl Who Played With Fire and The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet's Nest. Almost everyone has probably already read these. Personally i found them entertaining page turners, particularly the latter half of the second book, but these will not be classics for the ages.
  • Pirate Latitudes. A farewell to the author I have been most faithful too as a reader. It's typical Crichton fare, but without the opinionated ranting of his latter offerings.


  • Bad Science. Most of you will already be familiar with Ben Goldacre's stuff, but this was a good read and I did learn a bit about medical science.
  • Life: An Unauthorised Biography. This was part of my bookmark liberation resolution. I started reading this back as an undergrad a decade ago. I don't know why I stopped, it's very well written and despite covering so much stuff I should already know, entertaining and informative.
  • Undaunted Courage. My first book of the year and a Christmas present. I wanted to read this as my 2009 US road trip followed a similar route to this biography of the Lewis and Clark expedition. It's interesting stuff.
  • Fearless Symmetry. This is a maths book about the proof for Fermat's Theorem. It's pretty well written, although I can't claim to grasp it all I did come away with a better understanding of why it eluded a solution for so long. Of course it still doesn't answer the question of whether Fermat really did have a proof, but it seems unlikely it was the same one.
  • Theology And The Scientific Imagination. Another bookmark liberation tome. This is tough stuff, a lot of untranslated Latin and Greek quotes. No doubt a more informed reader would get more out of it, but nevertheless it contains some interesting ideas.
  • The Palaeobiological Revolution. This was a review copy so I should just refer you to what I wrote in the PalAss newsletter.
  • Love All The People. I read this after watching American: The Bill Hicks Story. It's basically just transcripts of his shows plus some other bits and bobs. Apart from a lot of repetition it was good to relive some of his material.
  • The Prehistory Of The Mind. Probably my first venture into human origins popular science reading. He has some interesting ideas, but I'm still skeptical about how testable such anthropological/archaeological ideas are, but then perhaps I'm just a scientific snob.

Comics/Graphic Novels

2010 was marked by my getting into comics/graphic novels in a big way. Previously I'd basically only read Calvin and Hobbes and The Far Side, plus a little Manga. However, I decided I wanted to reread Tintin and Asterix from my youth as well as explore Batman, a character I've always loved.

  • The Complete Maus. Recommended by a friend who hadn't even read it. This is an important book and grown up enough to be the obvious go-to when ignorant people tell you comics are for kids. (I should point out that its subject matter is the holocaust.)
  • Adventures Of Tintin (Vol. 1). The first three Tintin stories. This is the only book I've read that comes with a special red sticker warning you of its racist content (referring to the Congo story). Although the Russia story is more historically interesting as clear anti-communist propaganda.
  • Asterix The Gaul and Asterix And The Golden Sickle. The first two Asterix books. It's interesting to revisit these as I haven't read them since I was a kid. Sadly despite my many years of education since I still don't get all the Latin jokes.
  • Batman: The Killing Joke. The first Batman I read. It's a pretty good story and I liked the art.
  • Batman: Year One. Although top of most people's Batman lists I wasn't that impressed by this. Mind you having learnt a lot more about the character since it's probably worth revisiting.
  • Batman: The Dark Knight Returns. I liked this story, although I'm not a fan of the art. It's always fun to see Batman take down Superman.
  • Batman: The Dark Knight Strikes Again. Again I liked this follow up story, but not the art.
  • Batman: Dark Knight Dynasty. This is the only 'Elseworlds' tale I've read and I hated it. The whole what-if-Batman-existed-at-other-times-and-places thing is not for me.
  • Batman: Strange Apparitions. My only taste of 70's Batman. It's not for me, things have definitely improved, although having read the first few stories they likely took a turn for the worse before they got better. So far the best stories are from the early 2000's.
  • Batman: The Wrath. Not so good, basically this is a what-if parallel tale of a guy with a similar history and resources to Batman that became a bad guy.
  • Batman: Death And The City. I liked the art, particularly Scarface and his new 'handler', but the story wasn't great.
  • Batman: The Bat And The Cat. I really liked this, easily the funniest Batman I've read (although he barely appears in it). The jokes are in both the writing and the visuals. Recommended. (Just don't read it on the bus/train.)
  • Batman: New Gotham 1: Evolution. This was mostly confusing for me as it follows up the much longer No Man's Land story arc. The art is from a very restricted colour palette and didn't really work for me.
  • Batman: Contagion. The first issue of this is the worst Batman art I've seen, I honestly think I could do better. However, it improves and it's a good story that precedes Cataclysm and No Man's Land.
  • Batman: No Man's Land 1 and Batman: No Man's Land 2. These are the first two of five volumes. I really like them, the story is great and so is some of the art. Probably the best story arc I've read so far.
  • Batman: Arkham Asylum. The best selling Batman story, but undeservedly so in my opinion. Morrison's writing is unbelievably pretentious and although the art is technically amazing, it's not for me. I especially hate the pointy-shouldered Batman.
  • Batman: Deathblow. Again, the art here is technically impressive, but I think this more photo-realistic approach actually works against the believability of it all. This story is also a bit too gritty for my (Batman) tastes and besides there wasn't enough Batman anyway.
  • Batman: War Games Act 1, Batman: War Games Act 2 and Batman: War Games Act 3. This is a pretty good story arc with some good art and includes a character death. (Unfortunately I still haven't encountered this character much so it's a bit lost on me who they are.)
  • Batman: The Long Halloween. A very different feel to much of the Batman I've read, but this whodunnit is a really good story and includes a Two-face origin to boot.
  • Batman: Dark Victory. Follow up to the latter and best read that way. This is just as good if not better, I certainly prefer Sale's art on this one - I particularly think his Selina Kyle/Catwoman has improved between the two. This also contains the only decent Robin (Dick) origin story I've read.
  • Batman: Bruce Wayne: Murderer?. The first volume in a what may turn out to be my favourite story arc so far. What if Bruce Wayne got arrested for murder? How can he be Batman from in prison? Did he do it or was he framed? If he was framed, was it Bruce Wayne's enem(ies) or Batman's?
  • Batgirl: Silent Running and Batgirl: A Knight Alone. The first two collections of the Cassandra Cain Batgirl. She's an interesting character and has turned up in several other story arcs I've read. I find her costume the scariest of the batman 'sidekicks'.
  • Robin/Batgirl: Fresh Blood. Art a bit too cartoony for my tastes and the story felt too much like a segue rather than a stand alone.
  • Robin: Year One. The story here is OK, but it was the art I really liked as it has a cool retro feel.
  • Huntress: Year One. A cool albeit peripheral character from the Batman universe that I wanted to read more of. I mostly liked the story and the art.
  • JLA/Titans: The Technis Imperative, JLA: Pain Of The Gods and Titans: Titans East. This is my attempt to try out some JLA and Titans stuff. It's not for me. I can't be doing with superheroes with superpowers. I'm just waiting for Batman to show up.
  • Iron Man vs. Whiplash. My only flirtation with Marvel. This was probably a bad choice as it's basically a rubbish spin off from the second film. However, I like the character so might try again in the New Year.

Some additional link blogging for Batman is here:

Audio Books

Finally here are some audiobooks I listened too for free from

  • Alice In Wonderland
  • From The Earth To The Moon and Round The Moon
  • My Man Jeeves
  • War Of The Worlds


Oops, forgot some:

  • Batman: Hush. How could I forget this? Definitely the prettiest comic I've read, Jim Lee's art is amazing. The story is pretty good too, although there is a bit too much exposition re: Batman's back story. However, this does kinda make this ideal for a first Batman comic if you're thinking of getting into these things.
  • Batman: Under The Cowl. Not a story arc, but a collection of different issues where, for many and eclectic reasons, the guy under the cowl isn't Bruce Wayne. To be expected I liked some and not others, but there is an amusing gem in here.
  • Watchmen. Moore's opus magnum. This is really good, although it no doubt improves the deeper into comics you get. Another one I can't believe I forgot!

Sunday, October 03, 2010

Bibliophile links

Just some link-blogging this time.

Here is yet more library porn, and I have now discovered bookshelf porn (more here).

No discerning bibliophile can be without these awesome bed sheets.

I'm not sure if i agree with this list of authors and the people who read them.

Here is a useful web app to help you read at speed.

Here is a bibliophilic origin for a theological construct!

An interesting video diary of a disappointed book.

I feel rather embarrassed that I never knew about the story of Hay-on-Wye.

Here is the coolest ever library information desk.

The book as technology.

Finally here are not one, but two important pieces of advice. (I can honestly say I've adhered to the latter, I'm probably safe from the former.)

Well that's it for now, but I am looking forward to a bibliophilic pilgrimage I have planned for next month with The Oregon Trail to the world-famous Powell's. I have wanted to go there for at least a couple of years and will finally be proximal enough with a post-GSA trip.

Tropical Zoo

We couldn't find Cynthia...

...but here's Elvis

Yesterday I went with a friend to Brentford. It's pretty dull round there, but if you know where to look there is a cooler place hidden away inside: The Tropical Zoo.


This isn't a normal zoo though. Firstly because it is populated to a large degree by animals seized by UK customs and donations, often of exotic pets that got too much for their owners. However, what really makes it cool is the interaction they offer.

They have a lot of African Greys

We saw two of their shows, the first being reptile-dominated with various lizards, a couple of snakes and finally a caiman crocodile being brought ought by the keepers. The second was a flying demonstration with an Asian Eagle Owl. However, unlike a normal show the audience is invited to touch and even hold some of the animals. It was pretty cool to feel the heft of a massive constrictor and stroke a crocodile although I wasn't brave enough to hold the tarantula.

A jealous cockatoo

All in all this was a pretty cool experience for a (cheap for london) £6.50 entry so I am duly recommending it to all you Nodnol residents. It is worth a trip before health and safety regs step in and such things become impossible. Also, due to development they are about to lose their present home and need the money to fund the cost of their new site.

We weren't brave enough to check what the label meant

Thursday, August 05, 2010

Drunky Monkey

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

About Me

My photo
Currently I am founding member, president elect and entire membership of SWEMP (the Society of Wonky-Eyed Macroevolutionary Palaeobiologists). In my spare time I get paid to do research on very dead organisms and think about the really big questions in life, such as: What is the ultimate nature of reality? Why is there no room for free will in science? and What are the implications of having a wardrobe that consists entirely of hotpants?