just a place to keep track of my current and recently read books

And give you a chance to Amazon them up if you like

Over the years, I often regret not keeping better track of the books I read. I'm trying once more with this, my 2008 Booklist. I hope you won't hold my eccentric tastes against me, and would love to hear what you are reading as well!


A special note . . . I've gone through times where I LOVED reading my Bible, and times when I was "tired of it". I have to say I started 2008 "tired of it". Some people read the Bible and say "Oh! I never remember reading that story before." That doesn't happen to me. I've read it cover-to-cover, over and over again, and usually I remember what I read very well anyway. Towards the end of 2008 I started something new that honestly has caused the Bible to open up for me again. I'm doing the Daily Audio Bible podcasts, usually in the car on my way to work in the morning. Maybe its the fact that audio books are so much slower than I normally read, maybe its that someone else is doing the reading while I listen. Maybe its the music in the background. For whatever reason, I'm really enjoying the Bible in a way I haven't in years. Its also got me reading the Bible on my phone quite a bit more. I'll hear something in the Audio that will remind me of something, and I'll be pulling out my phone to read more. On your phone? Yeah - I use the Laridian Bible software. I prefer to read NASB, but still like having the KJV, because its what I did most of my childhood memory in, and I like having the NIV as well, so I carry all three versions, full-text searchable, on my phone with me. (Palm, Windows Mobile, iPhone, and Blackberry versions are available)

Jump to Section:

SciFi, Action and Thrillers, Politics, Poetry, Assorted Non-Fiction, Computers, Business, Religion / Philosophy

Science Fiction Books / SciFi Books

Mars Life (The Grand Tour) by Ben Bova
Vagabond (The Grail Quest, Book 2) by Bernard Cornwell OK, this certainly doesn't belong in "Science Fiction", but I don't want to have a Historical Fiction "section". Its technically not "Fantasy" either, although its placed in medieval times. Vagabond continues the story of an English archer, Thomas of Hookton, taking part in the conquest of France during the Hundred Years' War while questing for the Grail, and falling on the wrong side of the Inquisition. Fascinating read.
Children of Dune (The Dune Chronicles) by Frank Herbert
Dune Messiah (Dune Chronicles) by Frank Herbert
Probability Sun (Probability Trilogy) by Nancy Kress
Probability Sun (Probability Trilogy) by Nancy Kress By introducing a brilliant but eccentric physicist, Kress's return to the characters from Probability Moon takes a new twist as she asks "What would happen if we REMOVE 'Shared Reality'" from this society who grew up in it?"
Enemy of God (The Arthur Books 2) I've mentioned before that I'm not a "fantasy" reader, but Cornwell really has me hooked. His Arthur is a mix of the same historically accurate study that makes Cornwell the king of Civil War fiction, but with a few of the traditional mythic elements sprinkled in.
Dune (Dune Chronicles, Book 1) by Joe Haldeman This was a one evening read, which clearly declared its own ending early in the book and tread down an enjoyable but predictable path to the ending. Haldeman tells the story in an untraditional and enjoyable way, but leaves quite a few questions answered.
Dune (Dune Chronicles, Book 1) by Frank Herbert As I was reading some of the recent publications about the history of Wahabiism, I kept flashing back to my experience reading Dune as a boy in the seventh grade. Obviously at age 13, I wasn't familiar with Jihad, or with the history of Imperial England and their problems with the natives of Afghanistan and the religious-feuled revolutions that they faced from time to time. I found Dune an entirely different book when I read it as an allegory of Imperial India. Give it a try yourself!
Mars Crossing by Geoffrey A. Landis How do you keep a story interesting when the plot is "let's drive across a desert for the next 200 pages"? Landis does an amazing job using two techniques -- first, having his very interesting collection of astronauts constantly flashing back to their stories of how they were chosen for the last great Mars mission -- and secondly, by borrowing the Gregory Benford technique of being an expert on the science which serves as a platform for his speculative novel. When he's not writing science fiction, Landis is a scientist at the John Glenn Research Center where he works on developing concepts and technology for future space missions. Landis received the Locus award for "Best First Novel" for this piece, which is no surprise.
WebMage (Ravirn, Book 1)by Kelly McCullough Many of my "scifi" friends are actually "scifi/fantasy". With rare occasion, I just don't enjoy fantasy, but I have to admit this was one for me. The hero of the book is a modern day college-aged sorcerer, who travels mythological realms by having his goblin (who he created and who doubles as his laptop) enter the "MTTP://" address of the place they want to travel to. Not an amazing book, but a great airplane read.
The Silent War : Book III of The Asteroid Wars (The Grand Tour; also Asteroid Wars) by Ben Bova Book three of "The Asteroid Wars". If I'd known how this one ended, I probably wouldn't have read books one and two. Finished under obligation, but with this nagging feeling that I just wasted 800 pages of reading.
Manifold: Spaceby Stephen Baxter: Baxter is an amazing visionary. In Manifold Space we rewind Manifold Time as if it didn't happen, and amazingly, Reid Malevant has an even more amazing adventure than in the last book! The Blue portals from Manifold: Time reappear, and this time Malevant and others use them to fast forward thousands of years into the future to solve the Paradox: If there were intelligent life in the universe, why don't we see it? ***** of *****
The Precipice (Asteroid Wars) by Ben Bova The asteroids have been opened up in Book One, and the surviving members continue The Asteroid Wars, seeking to make a life for themselves in the asteroids while all hell breaks lose back at home. Bova's "paid by the word" short story background sometimes annoys me. Gar to Ben: I don't need a complete description of every piece of clothing of every person in every scene in your book! Or was that the extra touch that drew me in to the characters and made me rush out and get Book Three so I could see what happens next?
American Godsby Neil Gaiman Gaiman asks the question, what happened to the gods that various people have brought with them "from the Old World" to the United States. His protaganist, Shadow, is one of the best characters I've read in recent years. This was another "airport book" for me. I had read and enjoyed Gaiman's Anansi Boys a couple years ago on another trip. Both of these remind me of Douglas Adams' Long Dark Tea Time of the Soul.
The Precipice (Asteroid Wars)by Ben Bova By a strange coincidence, I ended up reading two "Global Warming has destroyed our planet, the Asteroid Belt has the resource to save us all" books in the same library visit. The Precipice, to which the title refers is a Global Warming cliff which the world has fallen over, and now is suffering a landslide of increasingly devastating effects as polar icemelt flooding is just the beginning of a global economic collapse.
Manifold: Timeby Stephen Baxter Reid Malevant is a worth-while protaganist. An ex-astronaut who dares, like so many of Baxter's readers, to ask the question "Why did we give up on space?" Throw your imagination open and let Baxter take you for an amazing ride!
Spook Country (Blue Ant)by William Gibson I have to admit that I love Gibson's view of the future, but feel that his best story-telling lies far in the past. In Spook Country Gibson revisits in a very loose way some of the characters from Pattern Recognition. Main storylines involve a Cuban family practicing their KGB-inherited Trade Craft and a former musician who has been asked by Blue Ant's founder to write a story on Geolocation-sensitive Virtual Reality art for a non-existent tech magazine. Sound strange? Well, you did see the author's name, right? He brings it all together nicely at the end, and like with Pattern Recognition and even Idoru, at the end I was left wondering if I had wasted my time on the story, but kept going back to play with Gibson's concepts of the future over and over in my mind. Gibson is still a BRILLIANT futurist who struggles to find a story worth reading to relay his vision.

Thrillers / Action Books / Spy Books

Moscow Rules (Gabriel Allon) by Daniel Silva My mother-in-law is the heavy reader in our family. She has told me for years how much she enjoyed the character of Gabriel Allon, an Israeli spy and art restorer who works with the Vatican in many of his books. This time she insisted that I read the Moscow Rules, and I'm so glad I did. In this one Allon comes out of retirement to deal with a Russian Arms Dealer whose wife has had enough.
by W.E.B. Griffin another "Presidential Agent Novel" by W.E.B. Griffin. This time Charley is looking for a kidnapped DEA agent in South America.
The Warlord's Sonby Dan Fesperman Fesperman puts together an amazing and plausible story of a journalist trying to recapture the glory of his wartime correspondent career in today's Afghanistan, and his unlikely partnership with the Western- educated son of a heroin thug turned Taliban supporter. Detailed and accurate, its clear that Fesperman is writing from a realistic picture of Pakistan, with its corrupt ISI and its impoverished refugee camps.
The Bancroft Strategy: A NovelRECENT: Robert LudlumI picked this one up at the airport because I accidentally checked my book with my bag! Hadn't read a lot of Ludlum other than the required Bourne series. This one has my interest!

Political Books / World Politics

Never Again: Securing America and Restoring Justice by John Ashcroft This book starts out very "religious right", but tempers as it goes and ends with heartfelt patriotism as you have to admire the service and challenges that John faced trying to turn the Department of Justice around from the disastrous Clinton years while struggling to bring FBI computers to the modern age and deal with the artificial "wall" between Intelligence and Law Enforcement that hindered us so when facing the challenge of Al-Qaeda. Recommended by my friend and InfraGard-partner Stephen Adwell. Thanks, Steve!
The Terrorist Watch: Inside the Desperate Race to Stop the Next Attack by Ronald Kessler Just received this one. An InfraGard friends sent me a link to an audio interview with the author, and I had ordered the book before the interview was over. One of the chapters deals with FBI Special Agent George L. Piro, who spent several months in 2004 befriending the imprisoned Saddam Hussein as a means of interrogation. I'll update once I've read the book.
God's Terrorists: The Wahhabi Cult And the Hidden Roots of Modern Jihadby Charles Allen Charles Allen traces the history of the Wahhabi and the rather amazing fact that we've played this game all before. He reminds us that Pakistan and Afghanistan were both part of Imperial India, and that the Wahhabi's have banded together around their ideology to throw the Westerners out of the East before. With amazing details from the personal journals of the British soldiers serving in the area from the 1850s until India's independence, Allen reveals the formation of the Wahabi, and their eventual coming of power in the House of Saud, right through the current situations with Bin Laden and Iraq.
Getting Away with Murder: The Real Story Behind American Taliban John Walker Lindh and What the U.S. Government Had to Hide by Richard D. Mahoney. This book is really a collection of three intersecting mini-biographies. The subjects are Mike Spann, an Alabama native who chose a career in the CIA that put him in harm's way in Afghanistan, John O'Neill, a boisterous FBI agent whose disrespect for the System caused him to be largely ignored despite his great instincts regarding the terrorist threat, and John Walker Lindh, a screwed up California youth whose loner searchings lead him to Yemen, and eventually Afghanistan, in a search for a purer religion. While they were interesting character sketches, Mahoney fails to make any convincing argument.
Ataturk: The Biography of the Founder of Modern Turkeyby Andrew Mango After borrowing this one through Inter Library Loan, I had to get my own copy. Its not possible to understand the political climate in Turkey without understanding the life and career of this man. Mustafa Kemal Ataturk came up through the Sultan's armies and helped to form the Secular nation of Turkey after the fall of the Ottoman Empire. He has both national hero and cult figure status in Turkey today, both by those who remember him faithfully, and those who are twisting his image into a device for their own purposes.
The Nuclear Jihadist: The True Story of the Man Who Sold the World's Most Dangerous Secrets...And How We Could Have Stopped HimDouglas Frantz This is the story of A.Q. Kahn, from the time he was a patriotic metallurgist studying in Germany until his rise as the head of Pakistan's nuclear armaments program, and the supplier of nuclear know-how to North Korea and the Islamic world.
1000 Years for Revenge : International Terrorism and the FBI--the Untold Storyby Peter Lance OK, not a recommended book, but this list is about what I'm reading, not what I'm liking. Clearly Mr. Lance has an agenda which differs from my own, but any writing about terrorism that is well researched is of interest to me.
Leaderless Jihad: Terror Networks in the Twenty-First Centuryby Marc Sageman I actually decided 1000 Years for Revenge was not an airport book and took Leaderless Jihad instead. Sageman's book is probably going to be the primary book I recommend to people for understanding where we are in the current Jihad, which he rightly calls "the third wave". Strong central jihad is over. How does the process of radicalization occur among those who may never come face to face with "Al Qaeda Central"? Why does our presence in Iraq serve as such a great recruiting poster for this third wave? And why is the arrest rate of potential terrorists nearly 40 times higher in Europe than in the US? Sageman avoids speculation and builds his case on solidly accepted principles of the Social Sciences.
Collusion: International Espionage and the War on Terrorby Carlo Bonini / Giuseppe D'Avanzo Bonini and D'Avanzo are Italian journalists who have gone to all the right people and asked point-blank about the Nigerian-Iraqi Uranium "intel" and other topics. This is what investigative journalism is all about. I really enjoyed their presentation of what they learned in those interviews.

Haiku Books / Poetry Books

Poet's Choiceby Edward Hirsch Hirsch's previous book, "How to Read a Poem", was a great help to me in understanding some of the poems that I previously read and said "I don't get it." This new book takes a favorite poem from 130 different authors and puts the poem in context historically, literally, and in Hirsch's personal experience.
Einstein's Century : Akito Arima's HaikuAmiko Miyashita and Lee Gurga Miyashita and Gurga combine as the translation team to bring the English speaking haiku world access to the poems of one of the most popular haiku group leaders in Japan.
Jim Kacian and the Red Moon Editorial Staff : dust of summers: The 2007 Red Moon Anthology of English-Language Haiku Jim and his crew continue to find some of the very best English-language haiku. If you've missed a single year of this anthology series, please do yourself the favor of going back and catching up. I've discovered some great new poets this year that I would have missed altogether if not for the work of Red Moon Press! Buying through the Red Moon Press website was not hard to use at all and the book arrived very quickly.
To Hear the Rain: Selected Haiku of Peggy Lylesby Peggy Lyles I have no idea why I didn't already have this book in my collection. Surely I've meant to buy it before! Regardless, it was a pleasure to reflect on the poems of such a great haiku poet, excellently arranged and produced in a nice hard cover edition by Brooks Books. (Thank you, Randy!)
Almost Unseen : Selected Haiku of George Swedeby George Swede I find it necessary now to go buy several more collections of "Brooks Books". There are certain poets that you see reading the main haiku magazines and every time you see them, you feel a connection, if only because of the frequency of their name. How refreshing to finally get the time to "know" George Swede better by reading an entire volume of work dedicated to his poetry. Often when I'm reading a book or magazine of haiku, I'll use a strip of notebook paper as a bookmark, and copy my favorite poems onto the strip. After filling a first and second strip, I gave up with Swede's poems and realized that to read my favorite haiku I would just need to re-read the book again. So many wonderful haiku! (Thank you, Randy!)
The Haiku Apprentice: Memoirs of Writing Poetry in JapanAbigail Friedman I wish that I could meet Abigail Friedman and personally thank her for this book. As a diplomat in Japan, Mrs. Friedman met haiku as a stranger, and embraced the haiku club concept, at first as a way of exploring the culture and meeting people, but eventually because of a love of haiku poetry. Her careful recollections of each phase in her personal haiku journal unmask this Japanese poetry form in its native environment better than any book I have read to date. If you only buy one haiku book this year, this one should be it. It will change the way you think about haiku.
1020 Haiku in Translation: The Heart of Basho, Buson and Issa Translated by Takafumi Saito and William R. Nelson Technically, this was a 2007 book. But I still keep going back to it over and over, so I'm going to list it at the bottom of my 2008 Booklist as well. Anyone who is interested in classical haiku needs to have this book. Each poem is placed by its season, and given in English, kanji, and romanji, allowing the reader to experience the sound and rhythm of the original poem, even to some extent if he or she lacks Japanese altogether. Topics have been given for the poems in a catalogue fashion, and the dates, where known, are also included.

Assorted Non-Fiction Books

The Singularity Is Near: When Humans Transcend Biologyby Ray Kurzweil The keynote speaker at last month's TechMixer University talked about several books that revolutionized his thinking on the IT market. This was one of them, so I thought I'd check it out.
At Large: The Strange Case of the World's Biggest Internet Invasionby David Freedman An interesting story from the history of Cyber Crime, including information about the real agents who formed the initital FBI Cyber Crime task force back in the early 1990s while investigating the Masters of Deception and Legion of Doom! Sad ending,
The Wild Trees: A Story of Passion and Daringby Richard Preston A fascinating book about a world where very few have ever ventured - the tops of the 350+ foot tall Coastal Redwoods
Fair Play: The Moral Dilemmas of Spying by James M. Olson This was one of the most thought-provoking books I read LAST year (yes, its another left over from 2007. I read it in December though, so it was CLOSE to 2008). Olson, a former executive with the CIA, now a college professor, puts the morality of spying in historical and philosophical perspective, and then presents 50 "case studies", all anonymized but based on actual CIA operations, and poses each question to various commentators, including students, faculty, former intelligence analysts, and various political and religious leaders, to explain why they do or do not believe the case is ethical. The author then shares his opinion, and his experience as a member of The Game.

Computer Books / Computer Security Books / Network Security Books / Hacking Books

Real Digital Forensics: Computer Security and Incident Responseby Keith Jones, Richard Bejtlich, and Curtis Rose Looking forward to this one, as the examples go beyond lab work to "live world" forensics such as an investigator might be using BEFORE the bad guy is known. Too often "Forensics" implies what the agents brought you "bagged & tagged" after they caught the criminal. Forensics is not just courtroom prep - its part of the investigative process!
Internet Forensics: Using Digital Evidence to Solve Computer Crimeby Robert Jones I like the fact that there are Perl scripts included to automate several types of queries . . . the book is small and "felt" introductory. Would love to see more depth from the same author.
PostgreSQL (2nd Edition)by Korry Douglas The bigger the UAB Spam Data Mine gets, the more I need to know about PostGres. I have a feeling I'll be coming back to these PostGres books over and over in the near future.
Virtual Honeypots: From Botnet Tracking to Intrusion Detectionby Niels Provos / Thorsten Holz Another book I'll be keeping close at hand as several of the Birmingham InfraGard packet ninjas, and myself and my students start using VMWare environments for more of our security investigations.

Management Books / Leadership Books / Business Books

The Art of Woo: Using Strategic Persuasion to Sell Your Ideasby G. Richard Shell and Mario Moussa : The Art of Woo: Using Strategic Persuasion to Sell Your Ideas Thought provoking . . . haven't finished this one yet. Too busy having Ideas . . .
Thinking for a Change: 11 Ways Highly Successful People Approach Life and Workby John Maxwell Maxwell is a great role model to me in the way he collects useful bits of information, catalogues them, and shares them back with us. I read five or six of his books last year. These aren't great intellectual challenge books - more like a gentle warm-up before heading out for a run. The day just seems to go better if I've reminded myself to be purposeful in the way I go about my business. Maxwell's books are great for that!

Religion / Philosophy / Spiritual

A Glimpse of Jesus: The Stranger to Self-Hatred by Brennan Manning
The Purpose Driven Life: What on Earth Am I Here For? by Rick Warren
The Divine Conspiracy: Rediscovering Our Hidden Life In God by Dallas Willard Dallas is probably my favorite living theologian. Placing a mirror in front of the American church, Willard accuses us of being too concerned with brand-awareness and marketing plans and less concerned with imitating Christ.

Renovation of the Heart: Putting On the Character of Christ (Designed for Influence) This one is actually in my "read soon" pile right now . . . probably going to move it to the 2009 Book List since it doesn't look like I'm going to finish it in 2008.

The New Manby Thomas Merton one of my favorite spiritual books by a "contemplative" monk.

The Alchemistby Paulo Coelho This book was loaned to me by a friend, and I have to admit that I really got into it at the beginning. I could relate to "the life closely examined", which seemed to be a theme of the book. While this book "feels" like a book of wisdom or spirituality, Coelho's watered down "all gods being equal" version of religion ended with all the significant revelation of a good Dr. Seuss book.