Books I Read in March 2008

Another month, another list of books read. I know how much you all love reading these lists.

number9dream – David Mitchell
I started this at the end of February. And, surprisingly, found it all a bit of a struggle. I say “surprisingly” because I’ve loved the previous two David Mitchell books that I’ve read – Cloud Atlas and Black Swan Green. This (earlier) novel just didn’t seem to work as well for me. I didn’t find the story engaging and the characters all seemed a bit one-dimensional.

Managing Software Development with Trac and Subversion – David J Murphy
Like January’s Catalyst, this is a book that I was sent to review by the publishers, so a longer review will appear elsewhere in the next couple of weeks. All I’ll say now is that it’s a completely pointless book and you would be wasting your time reading it.

Unweaving the Rainbow – Richard Dawkins
It’s only in the last three or four years that I’ve started reading books by Richard Dawkins. I’ve read the most recent ones and now I’m gradually going back through the older ones. Unweaving the Rainbow addresses the idea that by studying the universe in depth we remove the mystery and wonder. Unsurprisingly, Dawkins thinks this is complete nonsense and in the book he presents a compelling case for the opposite point of view – that an understanding of science increases the feeling of wonder he gets when contemplating the universe. This would be a great introduction to the works of Richard Dawkins as it doesn’t concentrate on evolutionary biology the way that some of his other books do.

The Man in the High Castle – Philip K. Dick
This was this month’s book club book. I read a lot of Philip K Dick twenty or thirty years ago, but for some reason I didn’t get round to this one. Which is a bit strange given that it’s generally considered his masterpiece. Perhaps the “future history” aspect wasn’t science fictiony enough for my younger self. Anyway, I’m glad that I’ve now corrected this omission as this is one of the best books I’ve read for a long time. It’s one of those books that is deceptively easy to read, but which you find yourself thinking about for some time after finishing it. Dick obviously worked out the history of his new future meticulously and I’m pretty sure it’s the kind of novel which will be well worth rereading.

The Steep Approach to Garbadale – Iain Banks
I’ve been a big fan of Iain Banks (not so much Iain M Banks) for many years. But, to be honest, his last few books have been a bit disappointing. Things like Whit, The Business and A Song of Stone seemed a little formulaic to me (even though they were all very different to each other). His last novel, Dead Air, was a lot better and with this novel I think he has returned completely to form. This reads a bit like a cross between The Business and The Crow Road and is exactly the kind of novel that I enjoy reading. If I had to make one criticism, it would be that the ending was a little too neat, but after almost four hundred pages of great writing I can forgive him that.

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