Book List – July 2011

Late? I don’t know what you’re talking about.

The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, by Arthur Conan Doyle, © 1892. Audiobook. Finished July 25.

Unsurprisingly, a collection of Sherlock Holmes short stories. Less unsurprisingly, a couple of the stories seemed vaguely familiar — I’m not sure whether I’ve read them before a long time ago, or if (being in the public domain and all), the core of the plots of some of them got transplanted into other works. Surprisingly, Holmes doesn’t manage to win in all of them. More surprisingly, in one of the stories Holmes goes up against the KKK.

The Picture of Dorian Gray, by Oscar Wilde, © 1890. Audiobook. Finished July 25.

I came away from this one somewhat disappointed. A lot of the dialogue felt a bit contrived to fit in a bunch of witticisms, and there’s hardly a likable character to be found. OK sure, the reprehensibility of the titular character is sort of the point, but still.

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Book List – April 2011

Oh yeah, I still have this blog, don’t I? I guess I might as well post about April’s books:

Earth (The Book): A Visitor’s Guide to the Human Race, by Jon Stewart et al, © 2010. Finished April 9.

A mostly comprehensive summary of human civilization, for the benefit of any aliens who happen across our planet after our inevitable demise. Sadly, I’m not sure they’ll have the context necessary to catch most of the humor. Hopefully they will, because then they’ll understand an awful lot more about us. Also, here’s how you can be sure I’m a nerd: on page 223, I readily noticed both that the chess board is improperly set up (the black king and queen are swapped), and that the box art for Metroid II: Return of Samus is improperly paired with a screenshot of the original Metroid, in the section awkwardly explaining to the alien reader about how many of our video games were about us killing them.

The Sign of the Four, by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, © 1890. (Audiobook) Finished April 18.

The second Sherlock Holmes novel, and works better as a single cohesive story than its predecessor. In this one you get to see Holmes actually working, instead of somehow figuring out the whole thing right away but not telling anyone else until the last chapter or two.

Through the Looking-Glass, by Lewis Carroll, © 1871. (Audiobook) Finished April 18.

The sequel to Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, though if your only exposure to the Alice stories is through the various adaptations of them, you might not realize that this is a separate story, since pretty much every adaptation takes things from Looking-Glass Land and throws them into Wonderland. I’m looking at you, Tweedledum and Tweedledee.

The Tragedy of Pudd’nhead Wilson, by Mark Twain, © 1894. (Audiobook) Finished April 30.

A slave woman tries to secure a better future for her infant son by secretly swapping him with her master’s infant son. As one might infer from the title, things don’t go quite so well as expected. Today the Chekhov’s Gun established early on is painfully obvious, though given the time the book was written and the time the story takes place, perhaps it wasn’t originally so. Definitely my favorite Twain story thus far.

Book List – March 2011

It’s that time again!

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, by Lewis Carroll, © 1865. (Audiobook) Finished March 18.

Good, but I strongly urge you to avoid the above-linked Librivox audiobook version. Unlike the others I’ve listened to before, here almost every chapter is read by a different narrator, and one of the narrators who does two chapters is absolutely horrible. He speaks as though reading to a two-year-old, with the style of someone who thinks kids are just dumb little adults. Cadences rarely match sentence structure, delivery is excruciatingly slow, and emphasis is extreme and all over the place. It’s bad enough to make those two chapters unlistentoable. Also, the audiobook is in dire need of volume normalization.

A Study in Scarlet, by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, © 1887. (Audiobook) Finished March 20.

This is the first Sherlock Holmes novel. Unexpectedly, I thought the second half of the book, primarily told from a different character’s point of view and where Holmes and Watson don’t even appear again until near the end, was far more interesting a story than the murder mystery surrounding it. I wonder if that means I’d prefer reading Doyle’s other works more than the rest of the Sherlock Holmes series?

HTML5: Up & Running (published online as Dive Into HTML5), by Mark Pilgrim, © 2010. Finished March 29.

A good introduction of the new features of HTML5, aimed at people already familiar with HTML4 and JavaScript. It provides lots of examples of how to use the features, but doesn’t cover all of them, and doesn’t go into significant depth for any. Some of the sections, particularly on <video> and microdata, drag on as examples are driven into the ground — I don’t need to see how half a dozen different tools can be used to encode video, thank you. A good overview, but don’t try to use it as a reference.