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bkinetic -- 2018 75-Book Challenge

75 Books Challenge for 2018

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Jan 1, 2018, 2:36pm Top

I completed the 75-Book Challenge last year for the first time and am back again this year. I found that the challenge broadened the range of books I read, partly due to the necessity of picking up whatever book is handy in order to keep pace. The group reads were also helpful in maintaining and channeling my progress. Thanks to everyone for their comments and encouragement during 2018!

Edited: Dec 28, 2018, 3:35pm Top

Books Read in 2018


1. Foods for Men With Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia ***** by M. Ward Hinds
2. Old Filth ***** by Jane Gardam
3. Neanderthal *** by John Darnton
4. Fanny Hill ***1/2 by John Cleland
5. Riders of the Purple Sage*** by Zane Grey
6. No Logo: Taking Aim at the Brand Bullies ****1/2 by Naomi Klein
7. Pay Any Price****1/2 by James Risen


8. The Orphan Master's Son *** by Adam Johnson
9. Listening to Whales: What the Orcas have taught us ***** by Alexandra Morton
10. Tao Te Ching (trans: Thomas H. Miles) ***** by Lao Tzu
11. Chuang Tzu: The Inner Chapters (trans: David Hinton) **** by Chuang Tzu
12. The Aquatic Ape Hypothesis ****1/2 by Elaine Morgan
13. Tao Te Ching: Annotated and Explained (trans: Derek Lin) ****1/2 by Lao Tzu
14. Tao: The Watercourse Way **** by Alan Watts


15. The Importance of Living **** by Lin Yutang
16. Let Me off at the Top: My Classy Life and Other Musings ***1/2 by Ron Burgundy
17. Spanish Verb Tenses ****1/2 by Dorothy Richmond
18. World Without Mind: The Existential Threat of Big Tech ****1/2 by Franklin Foer
19. The Taoist Body **** by Kristofer Schipper
20. Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind **** by Yuval Noah Harari


21. An Ideal Husband ****1/2 by Oscar Wilde
22. Verax **** by Pratap Chatterjee
23. The Basic Income Imperative ***1/2 by Steven Shafarman
24. Skin in the Game ***** by Nassim Taleb
25. In the Shadows of the American Century **** by Alfred McCoy
26. Raspberry Pi: A Step by Step Guide for Beginners ***1/2 by Leonard Eddison


27. The Black Swan **** by Nassim Taleb
28. Inside Iran **** by Medea Benjamin
29. Struck by Lightning ***1/2 by Jeffrey Rosenthal
30. Lady Windemere's Fan ***1/2 by Oscar Wilde
31. Anarchism and Other Essays **** by Emma Goldman
32. On Anarchism **** by Noam Chomsky
33. Anarcho-Syndicalism **** by Rudolph Rocker
34. Socialist Fun: Youth, Consumption, and State-Sponsored Popular Culture in the Soviet Union, 1945–1970 **** by Gleb Tsipursky


35. Media Control: The Spectacular Achievements of Propaganda **** by Noam Chomsky
36. Homage to Catalonia ***** by George Orwell
37. Pleasures in Socialism: Leisure and Luxury in the Eastern Bloc **** by David Crowley (Ed.)
38. Collusion: How Central Bankers Rigged the World **** by Nomi Prins
39. A People's History of the United States **** by Howard Zinn
40. The Potent Self *** by Moshe Feldenkrais
41. The Conscious Self **** by Dean Radin


42. The Miracle of Dunkirk **** by Walter Lord
43. How not to Die ***** by Michael Greger
44. Supernormal **** by Dean Radin
45. Democracy in Chains **** by Nancy K. MacLean
46. Reporter ***** by Seymour Hersh


47. My Beef with Meat ***1/2 by Rip Esselstyn
48. Change the Story, Change the Future *** by David Korten
49. Uncivil Agreement: How Politics became our Identity **** by Lilliana Mason
50. The Dispossessed ****1/2 by Ursula LeGuin


51. The Death of Expertise: The Campaign Against Established Knowledge and Why it Matters **** by Thomas M. Nichols
52. Skyfall *** by Harry Harrison
53. The Poetics of Prose **** by Tsventan Torodov
54. The Death of Expertise: The Campaign Against Established Knowledge and Why it Matters **** by Thomas M. Nichols
55. A Wizard of Earthsea ***** by Ursula K. LeGuin
56. Fear: Trump in the White House **** by Bob Woodward
57. The Seventeen Traditions **** by Ralph Nader
58. The Death of Truth ***1/2 by Michiko Kakutani
59. The Healing Code of Nature ***1/2 by Clemens G. Arvay
60. The Tombs of Atuan **** by Ursula K. LeGuin


61. Practicing History: Selected Essays **** by Barbara W. Tuchman
62. Dog Company: The Boys of Pointe du Hoc **** by Patrick K. O'Donnell
63. Human Communication as Narration ***1/2 by Walter R. Fisher
64. Somatics: Reawakening the Mind's Control of Movement, Flexibility, and Health **** by Thomas Hanna
65. What is History? ***1/2 by Edward Hallett Carr
66. The Farthest Shore **** by Ursula K. LeGuin


67. Tropics of Discourse: Essays in Cultural Criticism ***1/2 by Hayden White
68. Narrative Means to Therapeutic Ends ***1/2 by Michael White
69. Maps of Narrative Practice *** by Michael White
70. Concepts and Categories ***1/2 by Isaiah Berlin
71. The Ozone War **** by Lydia Dotto
72. Ozone Diplomacy **** by Richard Elliot Benedick
73. Merchants of Doubt **** by Naomi Oreskes


74. Ninety-Nine Stories of God ****1/2 by Joy Williams
75. The Politics of Petulance ***1/2 by Alan Wolfe

Jan 1, 2018, 2:47pm Top

Happy reading in 2018, Lyle!

Jan 1, 2018, 7:00pm Top

Welcome back!

Jan 2, 2018, 12:00am Top

Hope you 2018 is filled with great reads!

Jan 2, 2018, 12:55am Top

Happy New Year
Happy New Group here
This place is full of friends
I hope it never ends
It brew of erudition and good cheer.

Jan 2, 2018, 10:20am Top

Happy New Year! I wish you to read many good books in 2018.

Jan 7, 2018, 10:36pm Top

2. Old Filth *****1/2 by Jane Gardam

A delightful life-span character study that explores how a young boy negotiates an emotionally impoverished childhood, grows up, and deals with further adversities later in life. Due to some fortuitous encounters he becomes a conventional success within his profession, yet echos of his toxic past continue to reverberate even into old age. The story makes a plausible case that one or two capable and compassionate people can overcome the debilitating effects of both apathy and brutality.

Edited: Jan 12, 2018, 9:26pm Top

3. Neanderthal *** by John Darnton

Could an isolated tribe of Neanderthals have survived into the modern era? What would they be like? What would their discovery be like? These ideas could form the basis of an interesting plot. In this attempt though most of the really interesting facets of Neanderthal survival and discovery are left unexplored. Instead the author turns the story into more of a cowboys-and-Indians melodrama. The entire narrative is male-centric. None of the major characters is a female Neanderthal or a Neanderthal child. Wild para-psychological elements are added to the plot but these just detracted from an intelligent reconstruction of Neanderthal life and culture. Even with these flaws it held my interest, but I continued have a sense of unrealized potential.

Jan 17, 2018, 10:06am Top

4. Fanny Hill *** by John Cleland

In my early teens I recall discussing Fanny Hill with a close friend after we saw a copy on the rear deck of a car as we bicycled past on our way to our paper routes. He said he would have taken it had the car been unlocked. I therefore have been curious about it and have finally read it. I enjoyed the expressive language and Cleland's descriptions, which must have sometimes been intended to be funny.

By concentrating on only one aspect of humanity, erotica generally cedes any means of saying something about us and our world beyond the narrow interests of the uni-dimensional characters. At the beginning of the "Letter the Second" the narrator, Fanny, acknowledges one of these limitations, writing that the there is "no escaping a repetition of near the same images, the same figures, the same expressions" and the reader is apt to become tired of the content. So there is a self-awareness here of the nature of the genre. There is also no honest portrayal of the fate of women lured into prostitution. Here it becomes a means of upward socioeconomic mobility.

Jan 22, 2018, 8:19pm Top

5. Riders of the Purple Sage *** by Zane Grey

In several instances the characters act in an overly theatrical fashion that made me think of the exaggerated affect of characters in silent movies. Relatedly, there are also some plot devices that are cloying, going overboard playing on the reader's sympathies. There are a few undeveloped characters that are bumped off like the expendable crew on Star Trek. Who were they? Some of the scenes went on long after they had served their purpose.

In spite of all these problems there was a strong plot line that maintained my interest. In addition, the main character's struggle to break free from the dysfunctional obedience of a stern religious upbringing was interesting. I also liked the description of the Utah landscape.

Edited: Jan 26, 2018, 8:06pm Top

6. No Logo ****1/2 by Naomi Klein

Modern corporate avarice takes many different forms and all are brought into the light of day in No Logo. Naomi Klein illustrates how corporate entities have ceased to be factories that make things and have instead transformed themselves into brands they slap on outsourced materials. Klein gives many examples of the way in which advertisers condition people to respond favorably to brand labels by associating those labels with positive stimuli, such as music, concerts, sports events, and sports venues. This results in the brands themselves becoming cherished symbols of delight, worn on clothing, transforming people themselves into advertising media. She gives many examples of how corporations have shut factories in North America and opened vastly lower-paying sweatshops in impoverished countries. She shows how companies have increasingly ceased paying anything close to a full-time living wage, forcing people to give up searching for work or accepting low-paying part-time work. She also covers grass-roots movements that have risen up to challenge these forms of corporate exploitation. No Logo is now 18 years but remains an eye-opening catalog of what has gone wrong in corporate America and how to begin to solve these problems.

Edited: Jan 30, 2018, 12:17pm Top

Ilgar Jafarov CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

This is from Kara Karayev's ballet, Seven Beauties.

Edited: Jan 31, 2018, 12:45am Top

7. Pay Any Price****1/2 by James Risen

James Risen is a former New York Times reporter who had the difficult task of covering the intelligence agencies. In this book he reports on stories he investigated. The stories are very different in content, but united by the U.S. government's active efforts to suppress them because they would embarrass high officials. Risen details the cases of whistleblowers whose attempts to expose wasteful spending and illegal spying have been repeatedly thwarted by their superiors.

A subtext of the book is that the United States has put itself in permanent state of war. For-profit war contractors have established lucrative companies that depend on continuing international armed conflict. As a result there is no strong advocate for peace among these government contractors, whose share of the defense budget and influence on policy has grown exponentially. This has left whistleblowers and investigative journalists without much help in achieving peace and curtailing intrusive domestic spying. Like many spy stories, there are many instances of suspense, betrayal, and personal sacrifice.

Feb 16, 2018, 1:34pm Top

9. Listening to Whales: What the Orcas have taught us ***** by Alexandra Morton

Marine mammals captivated the author during her youth. With pluck and intelligence she created opportunities to study dolphins and whales without any significant institutional funding. What emerges is a fascinating portrait of a citizen-scientist who made a set of lifelong discoveries mainly about Orcas or killer whales. Along the way the reader learns about how and why whale captivity, fish farms, and marine noise sources are all harmful to many species. The author found for herself why these modern phenomena are undesirable, allowing the reader to share her analytical insights as they transpired. Alexandra Morton is also a fine writer and the book could have stood alone as a memoir of family life in a beautiful remote marine habitat apart from the wealth of information about whales.

Feb 17, 2018, 3:29pm Top

10. Tao Te Ching (trans: Thomas H. Miles) ***** by Laozi

Laozi's set of 81 brief chapters sets forth the philosophy of Taoism. The author cautions the reader that words alone cannot faithfully describe his subject, the Tao or the way of the universe, which in our time has led some to dismiss this perspective due to its ambiguity. Enigmas and apparent contradictions appear frequently, which compelled me to pause to contemplate what Laozi was trying to convey. The necessity of pausing and reflecting makes reading this material fulfilling, especially when I felt I moved closer to understanding.

I found the three jewels of Taoism appealing: Compassion, frugality (also translated as restraint and moderation), and humility (or not seeking to be first). Laozi is also persuasive in advocating selective gradual change rather than confrontation.

This book is not for the been-there-done-that crowd, who see the ideal life as episodes of serial consumption. Instead the truths here are intended to be revealed though a combination of experience and contemplation. Some have wisely recommended memorizing some of the chapters, allowing the enigmas and puzzles to remain with us and perhaps to be solved later on with the help of experiential and contextual diversity.

The edition I read was translated by Thomas H. Miles and his students. It served my purpose well, though at times I would have appreciated some additional commentary to supplement the helpful existing guidance. Miles' translation also has some useful introductory material in which key terms are defined, insofar as that is possible within Taoism. I intend to read other translations to get a better idea of the range of interpretations.

Edited: Feb 22, 2018, 6:53pm Top

12. The Aquatic Ape Hypothesis ****1/2 by Elaine Morgan

This book makes the case that humans evolved in watery environments and our physical characteristics reflect this heritage. These characteristics include our relative absence of hair, bipedalism, relatively high body fat percentage, nose shape, location of the larynx, and possibly even our present-day affinity for lake shores and seashores, among others. The author, Elaine Morgan, examines the arguments for and against the proposition that these morphological features were due to selective adaptation to aquatic environments. Along the way she provides evidence against the savannah theory, the idea that humans evolved due to adaptation to grassland. She makes a persuasive case for the aquatic ape hypothesis. I admired her attention to detail, readiness to discuss alternative hypotheses, and ability to weigh the evidence dispassionately. I learned many fascinating aspects of comparative human physiology.

Mar 3, 2018, 4:22pm Top

13. Tao Te Ching: Annotated and Explained (trans: Derek Lin) ****1/2 by Lao Tzu

One of the difficulties in reading the Tao Te Ching is its enigmas and paradoxes. Derek Lin translated Lao Tse's work and supplemented it with extensive commentaries. These comments are included on the pages opposite to the chapters, making it convenient to read the original material and then to switch and read Lin's interpretations. I found Lin's comments helpful in partially solving the enigmas and understanding the paradoxes. There were some instances in which I though Lin may have gone too far in adding surplus meaning, but even in those cases I thought his interpretations were interesting as a legitimate way to understand the chapters.

The Tao Te Ching can be like a Rorschach test in which the reader can impose their own meanings. This happens to some extent with all literature, but the Tao Te Ching is especially susceptible to this due to its ambiguities and enigmas. The challenges of translating the original material, written in ancient Chinese, add to this problem. For example Lin translated the word "conservation" from the Chinese, yet in another translation it becomes "frugality", and in a third it is "simplicity". The differences in meaning are of course substantial.

Mar 8, 2018, 7:30pm Top

14. Tao: The Watercourse Way **** by Alan Watts

I have been reading different translations of the Tao Te Ching and found some of the chapters difficult to understand. Alan Watts has a Western perspective on the material, so in this book he was able to lead me to comprehend the Tao Te Ching better. For example he relates the Tao Te Ching's advocacy of an inert and non-interventionist government to something akin to Western political philosophy of anarchism. In this way, he explains the Taoist philosophy in terms of concepts Westerners know, and I found this helpful in confirming some of my tentative hypotheses about the meaning of the Taoist ideas. This isn't perfect because the Taoist ideas likely lose something when translated as Western concepts, but it at least brings the Western reader closer to understanding.

This was apparently Alan Watt's final book and he was not able to finish it. Al Chung-liang Huang assembled the material and added some helpful explanations of his own.

Mar 10, 2018, 5:43pm Top

17. Spanish Verb Tenses ****1/2 by Dorothy Richmond

I began work on this self-study workbook months ago, doing a few exercises almost each day. I finally finished. Dorothy Richmond packed this with lots of practice exercises, to the benefit of her students. My background is in educational psychology and I belong to the school that believes that practice is the key to learning, so this approach is ideal. I have to admire the author for her superb work in constructing all the exercises. As long as it took me to complete them, I know that writing them was longer and harder work than doing them. Hail Dorothy Richmond!

Edited: Jun 25, 2018, 1:31am Top

31. Anarchism and Other Essays **** by Emma Goldman

Emma Goldman portrays anarchism as a profoundly liberating philosophy that challenges people to think for themselves, express opinions freely, and avoid the blandness of conventional wisdom. On the opening pages, she exhorts us to cease seeking peer social approval and begin forming independent ideas and perspectives. On the subsequent pages she exemplifies independent thought.

The chapters cover diverse ground. In one chapter, she seeks to persuade the reader not to judge acts of anarchist violence harshly, but to understand them in the context of a corrupt and repressive society. Surprisingly, in another chapter she argues against giving women the right to vote, but only because she saw elections as meaningless. The last chapter is an interesting review of plays, such as those of Ibsen, that reveals the deficiencies in our culture in a more effective way than polemics.

Edited: May 30, 2018, 3:22pm Top

31. On Anarchism **** by Noam Chomsky

Chomsky makes a good case for anarchism. A highlight is the autobigraphical section detailing how he came to be an anarcho-syndicalist.

A significant part of the book is a reinterpretation of the history of the Spanish civil war in which the communists undermined the anarchist's work in estabilishing their economic system and in defending Spain against Franco's facist forces. Chomsky believes that existing liberal histories of the war incorrectly diminish the contributions of the anarchists, and he seems to make a good case for this view. Spain during their civil war is pretty much the only place where anarchism has been put into practice on a large scale, so it remains prominent in the anarchism literature, despite the horrible conditions under which it tried to flourish.

A chapter on language and freedom is less compelling. Chomsky believes that people have an innate language generator within us, making it difficult to reconcile freedom with a supposed biological determinism of thought and speech. Language plays important roles in both facilitating and denying freedom, but these topics are not covered here.

Edited: Jun 1, 2018, 2:16pm Top

34. Socialist Fun: Youth, Consumption, and State-Sponsored Popular Culture in the Soviet Union, 1945–1970 **** by Gleb Tsipursky

The author examines how the Soviet Union shaped the leisure activities of its citizens over time. The main concern is with changes in the strategies the state used to channel musical and other artistic behavior during different eras. I found this material interesting and involving, especially when I got a sense of what it was like to be a Soviet youth under the Stalin, Khrushchev, and Brezhnev regimes. The author suggests that the Soviet Union may have fared better had it been less oppressive with top-down ideological requirements for leisure and gave people the freedom to make their own choices and the material support to follow their interests.

Although the book is admirably researched and interesting, it sometimes lapses into repetition of previously established points. Fun is also narrowly defined as music, dancing, poetry reading, etc., and excludes sports, exercise, and games like chess, etc., so a full picture of socialist fun is lacking. This is nonetheless a valuable work that sheds light on the state's role, or even a labor union or church's role, in making and failing to make leisure time more fulfilling and well, fun.

Jul 13, 2018, 1:22am Top

43. How not to Die ***** by Dr. Michael Greger

In all his work Dr. Michael Greger takes basic research in nutrition, much of it difficult to interpret, and presents it to his readers in a clear and understandable form. This approach is what differentiates him from so many other diet- and nutrition-book authors, who lack a thorough command of the nutritional data. He writes with humour and flair as well.

Some of the other reviews describe his positions as biased, but I was baffled at this. His prescriptions for good health are all based on specific studies and meta-analyses that support his recommendations. He cites these studies in building his case. So his approach is evidence-based. He does advocate a vegan diet, based on the research he cites, which is going to be difficult for many people to accept because this runs counter to traditional dietary practices.

We live in an era in which powerful processed food producers and pharmaceutical companies control media outlets and the diet recommendations governments issue, all in the interests of boosting corporate profits at the expense of human health. It is encouraging to see Dr. Greger oppose this trend simply by advocating what the research literature is telling us.

Sep 13, 2018, 5:41pm Top

52. Skyfall *** by Harry Harrison

At times this seemed like a parody of overcooked space adventure fiction. There were several things that seemed added for humor value, like sending a nuclear reactor into Earth orbit, astronauts having sex in space while they are about to die upon reentry into the atmosphere, the NASA ground crew making full use of their well stocked liquor cabinet during an all-out space emergency, and government officials attempting to destroy a manned spacecraft by attacking it with a nuclear missile. All this made it entertaining after a fashion, but I'm not sure in the way that it was intended.

Oct 7, 2018, 8:05pm Top

62. Dog Company: The Boys of Pointe du Hoc **** by Patrick K. O'Donnell

I had read about the difficult D-Day assault of Pointe du Hoc before, but here O'Donnell provides greater detail. Perhaps due to the film, many are left with the impression that the Rangers took the Pointe on the first day after scaling the cliffs, but as it turns out the Axis troops counterattacked repeatedly. The author also follows Dog Company in other battles later in the war. The stories are all well researched and make for gripping drama.

Oct 16, 2018, 11:55am Top

64. Somatics: Reawakening the Mind's Control of Movement, Flexibility, and Health **** by Thomas Hanna

It's difficult to write an honest and fair review of Somatics because giving the system a proper evaluation entails having some time to practice the recommended exercises. The theory, which can be acquired from reading alone, seems sound, based on relearning healthy movement alternatives to maladaptive postures and movements. Some readers have complained about the robot-like illustrations, but I didn't mind them and thought they were helpful in more clearly showing the required spinal movements, which would not be apparent using photos of real people. Videos on the Internet are available as well to illustrate many of the exercises.

Dec 28, 2018, 3:29pm Top

Thanks Anita!

Dec 28, 2018, 3:29pm Top

Thanks. I appreciate your help!

Dec 28, 2018, 3:31pm Top

Thanks, the 2018 reads turned out well!

Dec 28, 2018, 3:31pm Top

Thanks Paul I appreciate your support!

Dec 28, 2018, 3:32pm Top

Thanks Rachel for your encouragement!

Edited: Dec 30, 2018, 4:03pm Top


Dec 31, 2018, 4:27am Top

Congratulations on reaching 75, Lyle!

Dec 31, 2018, 10:36am Top

>34 FAMeulstee: Thanks Anita. I squeaked in this year. Best wishes in 2019 to you and your family.

Dec 31, 2018, 11:36am Top

Group: 75 Books Challenge for 2018

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