Sunday, December 21, 2014

Magnetic Memory Podcast

Anthony Metivier was good enough to interview me over at Magnetic Memory Method Podcast. We talked about Giordano Bruno, memory palaces, and how you can improve your techniques for learning and memory.

So, if you've enjoyed seeing me burble on in print, now you can get the definitive audio experience as well. Hope you enjoy.

Monday, December 08, 2014

Best Books of 2014*

The Peripheral William Gibson
Multidimensional shennanigans, in which a possible future outsources work to a possible past, culminating in a series of capers.

Nothing is True, Everything is Possible Peter Pomerantsev Nonfiction that reads like fiction. A postmodern horror story about the changes in Russian society in the 21st century, featuring the PR flacks who run the media and opposition parties for the Kremlin, filmmaking gangsters, architectural historians, entrepreneurs hounded out of their own companies and country, and Vladimir Putin. America is exactly half as crazy as the Russia of this book, in many of the same ways.

Deathless Catherynne M Valente
Fiction that reads like the true history of 20th century Russia. Koschei the Deathless, Tsar of Life, marries Marya Morevna. This is the story of their marriage and their war with the Tsar of Death, set against the rise of communism and two world wars. Luxurious, funny and sad. Any book recommended to me by three people is a must read; this book was recommended by many, many more than three.
Redeployment Phil Klay
Short stories about soldiers in or returning from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. There are no protocols or etiquette to govern much of the modern experience of war, resulting in a lot of anxiety, restlessness and improvisation. If these stories are collectively about anything, they're about that.

One day, while driving though rural Indiana, I heard a Pentecostal call-in show in which a listener called to ask for an exorcist, because demons were attacking her house right that minute. The hosts of the show promised to send someone over shortly. Apparently, this sort of thing went on a lot around there. Demon Camp describes that same sort of high-intensity, near hallucinatory religious experience among a group of people for whom PTSD, alcohol or sex addiction are caused by demons and healed by ritual.
Afghan Post Adrian Bonenberger
Bonenburger joined the military after graduating from Yale. This memoir in epistolary form describes an education before, during and after his wars. Like Jarhead in the previous generation of war memoirs, it's a search for meaning in experience, and for the meaning of one's experiences that drives the book.

The Goldfinch Donna Tartt
This was on everyone's Best List when it came out at the end of last year, and deservedly so. Starts with an art heist and kicks into high gear when Boris shows up. One perfect Tartt novel a decade is about right, but I don't know how she can hold herself back from writing faster.

The Bone Clocks David Mitchell
There's always one of the linked novellas in any Mitchell book that make me want to throw the book across the room. Here, its the fourth section, which focuses on the intrigues of a writer who unknowingly writes books about the supernatural conspiracy underlying the other sections of the book. Holly Sykes and Marinus, however, the two main characters throughout, are full people, and worth the read. It's rare to find characters who change over the course of their life as believably as Holly does, or across their multiple lives, as Marinus does. Also on a lot of Best lists this year.

Excellent advice on thinking big and building things that matter. Occasionally slips into Randian sermons, but otherwise one of the better books on entrepreneurship that's out there.

Capital in the Twenty-First Century Thomas Piketty
The most important book on economics in the past year, even if you don't agree with it. The concentration of wealth in the OECD economies will present a huge challenge over the coming decades, and understanding the history of the issue is a good first step to working our way out.

Derek Jarman's Sketchbooks Derek Jarman
Gay punk filmmaker Derek Jarman made movies of astonishing beauty and invention on a microscopic budget, and in the process turned his entire life into art. Here's what the inside of his head looked like.

What Makes This Book So Great Jo Walton
Literary criticism at its best. This book will remind you why you liked all of those science fiction and fantasy books you read as a kid, and how those informed your life & writing. At least, it did this for me.

The Magician's Land Lev Grossman
Brilliant conclusion to the trilogy. Quentin Coldwater grows up at last, and all of the women wronged in the course of the books end up getting justice. Worlds end, worlds are born, and we find out who's the greatest magician alive today, this side of the Neitherlands.

*Read, not necessarily published, in 2014. This post was originally sent out to my mailing list. To subscribe, enter your email in the form located to the right of this page.