Tag Archives: Lists

2020 FAVORITES

The pandemic freed up time, so I read 40 titles in 2020, 14 more than last year. I won’t make too much promises about what I’ll read in the coming months, but I will continue my reread of the Dune series – God Emperor should be the next review I post. I’ll also continue to explore Greg Egan’s work, and the work of Antwerp author J.M.H. Berckmans.

As for art books, I’m still reading on Picasso & Rembrandt – we’ll see if that gets translated into posts. I’ll try to squeeze in some of the Becher, Turrell and Twombly I promised last year, but I also want to read books on Jean Fouquet and Hockney. I’ll continue to read other non-fiction too, I’m currently tackling Contingency and Convergence – Toward a Cosmic Biology of Body and Mind by Russel Powell, a joy so far. Should be of interest to any hard SF authors imagining alien life.


A bit of blog stats for those of you who might be interested in such a thing. I’ve had a significant increase of traffic, with 22.971 views in 2020, and 13.032 visitors – about 8.000 and 4.300 more than in 2019.

The most successful post of 2020 was about Dune Messiah, garnering 675 views. Children of Dune comes in second with 501 views. The Ministry for the Future – posted only 2 months ago – closes the top 3 with 363 views.

Most read reviews so far are those for Recursion (2.124 views since published), The Dosadi Experiment (1.212 views) and New York 2140 (1.097 views). Also still going strong (+800 views) are posts on The Wandering Earth, Green Earth, The Algebraist and Uprooted. There are 23 posts with over 500 views in total now, 6 of which are about Frank Herbert books.

A big thank you to everyone who has read, liked, commented or linked. All the best to you and yours for 2021.


As for the actual favorite book list: below are the titles I’ve given a 5-star rating on Goodreads in 2020, 6 in total. If I had to pick one, I’d go for Radiance by Carter Scholz.

Honorable mentions for The Day of the Triffids, Solaris, The Sunken Land Begins to Rise Again and How History Gets Things Wrong: The Neuroscience of Our Addiction to Stories, all more than excellent reads, well worth your time.

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LONG FORM FICTION ANALYSIS


This is a list of longer articles of a more scholarly nature, some are +5000 or even +10,000 words. Most touch on philosophical matters.


Frank Herbert

On Paul as a tragic hero, and determinism as the foundation of Dune, amongst other things.

A comparison between Dune & Dune Messiah, a part on Nietzsche’s eternal recurrence in relation to Messiah, and how that ties into Paul being a tragic hero and not an Übermensch. I end with a discussion on determinism & free will in Messiah.

For starters Alia as tragic figure, and a discussion about an important thing that remains unclear: Paul’s relationship to the Golden Path. After that, 4 specific subjects: how I think ‘change’ is the central concept of this book, the prevalence of a Nietzschean Amor Fati, the book’s relationship with Nietzsche’s morality beyond good & evil, and finally, free will and its relation to Leto II’s specific version of prescience. Over 10,000 words in total.

Starts with a regular review, and after that examines Leto as the most tragic character of the series & the conceptual knot. Also examines the nature of the supposed cautionary tale Herbert meant to write and the introduction of non-mechanical world building in the series, contrasting with its central theme of the absence of free will. Other topics are the mechanics of no-room shielded prescience, the Golden Path, change & creativity, and it takes a critical look at various inconsistencies in the novel. Over 8,700 words in total.

11,600 words. Among other things, the text looks at Herbert’s narrative bluff, and examines the Bene Gesserit’s motivations. It discusses love, heresy and variation as themes in the novel, and looks at how the book’s characters are permutations of those of Dune. I try the explain why I liked this book the most of the sequels, even with all its shortcomings. The most important focus of the analysis is on a major shift in the series, as in Heretics, under the influence of Einstein and quantum theory, Herbert casts prescience not as something passive, but as an active, shaping force. This sea change alters the ontology underlying the series drastically. I also look at an underlying principle Herbert uses: perception shaping reality.

Yoon Ha Lee

On the morality of writing & enjoying violent fiction.

Hilary Mantel

On the conflict between the two world views underlying the novel: pragmatism vs. Plato, and a wee bit on free will.

Kim Stanley Robinson

A lengthy, analytic review backed by lots of fragments from recent KSR interviews.

W. Olaf Stapledon

On the conceptual & philosophical content, and its science fictional relevance.

J.R.R. Tolkien

A detailed exploration of LOTR‘s most basic problem: its internal contradictions viz. free will, and Tolkien’s own messy thinking on the subject.

Gene Wolfe

5500 words on a reread of TBotNS, focusing on the narrative trap Wolfe has set, and my theory that his literary sleight of hand serves a religious/mystical goal, much more than it is the supposed puzzle for the reader to unravel. There’s also a short section on free will, and it ends with my overall appraisal of the book’s enduring appeal.

Not as long, but with a coda that is a response to Wolfe’s delusional reactionary politics as he expressed them in a 2001 essay on Lord of the Rings.

 


Consult the author index for all my reviews, the index of non-fiction & art book reviews, or my other lists.

NON-FICTION & ART BOOK REVIEWS

First a list of all my non-fiction reviews, after that a list of my art book reviews.

NON-FICTION REVIEWS

David Adger – Language Unlimited (2019)

Adam Becker – What Is Real? The Unfinished Quest for the Meaning of Quantum Physics (2018)

Thomas Boraud – How The Brain Makes Decisions (2020)

Noam Chomsky – What Kind Of Creatures Are We? (2016)

Lisa-Ann Gershwin – Jellyfish: A Natural History (2016)

Kenneth L. Davis & Jaak PankseppThe Emotional Foundations Of Personality: A Neurobiological And Evolutionary Approach (2018)

David F. Lancy – The Anthropology Of Childhood (2014)

Brian Olewnick – Keith Rowe: The Room Extended (2018)

Russell Powell – Contingency And Convergence: Toward A Cosmic Biology Of Body And Mind (2020) (The Vienna Series in Theoretical Biology)

Alex Rosenberg – Darwinian Reductionism, Or, How To Stop Worrying And Love Molecular Biology (2006)

Alex Rosenberg – How History Gets Things Wrong: The Neuroscience of Our Addiction to Stories (2018)

Larry W. Swanson (ed.) – The Beautiful Brain: The Drawings of Santiago Ramón y Cajal (2017)

Michael Tomasello – Becoming Human: A Theory Of Ontogeny (2019)

Pierre L. Van den Berghe – The Ethnic Phenomenon (1981)

Peter Williams – Jellyfish (2020)

 

Some shorter non-fiction reviews can be found in my list of favorite non-fiction.


ART BOOK REVIEWS

BASQUIAT

Hans Werner Holzwarth Jean-Michel Basquiat and the Art of Storytelling (2020)

BREUGEL

Leen HuetPieter Bruegel: De Biografie (2016)

Manfred SellinkBreugel In Detail (2014)

DÜRER

Christof MetzgerAlbrecht Dürer (2019)

HOCKNEY

Hans Werner Holzwarth, David Hockney & Lutz Eitel – David Hockney. A Chronology. (2020)

Martin Gayford & David Hockney – Spring Cannot Be Cancelled: David Hockney in Normandy (2021)

PICASSO

Christopher LloydPicasso And The Art Of Drawing (2018)

REMBRANDT

Jonathan Bikker & Gregor J.M. WeberRembrandt: The Late Works (2014)

Volker ManuthRembrandt. The Self-Portraits (2019)

Jan Six Rembrandt’s Portrait Of A Young Gentleman (2018)

Ernst van de WeteringRembrandt: The Painter Thinking (2016)

JAMES TURRELL

Michael Govan & Christine Y. Kim James Turrell: A Retrospective (2013)

James Turrell: Extraordinary Ideas – Realized (2018)

DENNIS TYFUS

Nico DockxNico Dockx Talks With Dennis Tyfus – I Know This Sounds Quite Ridiculous, But I Just Follow The Line (2018)

VAN GOGH

Rainer MetzgerVincent Van Gogh: The Complete Paintings (1989)

 

Some shorter art book reviews can be found in my list of favorite art books – a list that is tilted much more towards contemporary art.

 


Consult the author index for all my reviews, or my other lists.

2019 FAVORITES

I might have to change the subtitle of this blog, as only 8 of the 26 books I read in 2019 were science fiction, and 3 were fantasy. I’m not sure if that trend will continue. We’ll see what crosses my path, or what grabs my attention from the stack pictured a few scrolls down. I’ll continue with a few art books in the mix though: titles on James Turrell, Bernd & Hilla Becher and Cy Twombly are in the queue.

For now, a genuine thank you to everyone who has read, liked, linked or commented. All the best to you and yours for 2020!

The new year should see a review of The Lord Of The Rings – I’ve finally started that, it’s great so far – and the massive Kolyma Stories by Varlam Shalamov, a book I started last January, digesting it in small doses. I had hoped to finish it before the second volume of translations comes out this month, but I won’t manage that. I also plan to write on Intermediary Spaces, the Éliane Radigue interview book by Julia Eckardt. I will also continue my rereads of the Dune series. (Update 26/02: my LOTR review turned out to be a massive 7000+ words, so enter at your own risk…)


A few blog stats for those of you who might be interested in such a thing… There were 14,913 views in 2019, and 8,719 visitors – a bit more than in 2018. The review I wrote the past year that was most successful was Destination: Void with 255 views. The most read reviews so far are those for New York 2140 (979 views since published), The Dosadi Experiment (957 views) and The Wandering Earth (768 views). Also still going strong (+500 views) are reviews for Green Earth, Death’s End, Last And First Men, What Kind Of Creatures Are We?, The Algebraist, Uprooted and Whipping Star. Most of these keep on getting views every couple of days. Herbert, Cixin Liu and KSR always seem to be do well, but I have no quick explanation for the success of my texts on Stapledon, Chomsky or Novik.


As for the actual list: below are the books I’ve given a 5-star rating on Goodreads in 2019, only 4 in total. Gibson’s Pattern Recognition, Darwinian Reductionism: Or, How to Stop Worrying and Love Molecular Biology and Vincent Van Gogh: The Complete Paintings each got 4 stars, and are all highly recommended too.

I might not have had that many perfect reads last year, but I enjoyed all the more music. If you scroll down, you’ll see that I’ve written a whole lot more about albums as I did the previous years – 2019 has been great on that front.

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2018 FAVORITES

As life continues to happen, this year’s posting ratio again slowed down a bit, but still the reader base keeps expanding if I have to believe WordPress stats. As always, a genuine thank you to everyone who has read, liked, linked or commented. My best wishes for 2019!

I’ve started 31 titles in 2018, a bit more than last year, but I DNFed 4 of those – a bit more than usual as well. I added more art books into the mix, and that trend will probably continue. I tend to read books on art a bit differently than regular fiction, more in small doses, a few pages each time, so it takes me a lot longer to finish them. I’m reading 2 at the moment: the treasure trove that is Nico Dockx Talks To Dennis Tyfus and Metzger & Walther’s Van Gogh, The Complete Paintings – which includes a detailed artistic biography drawing heavily from the letters. I would included both of those in my best of list below if I had finished them this year. Books on James Turrell, Bernd & Hilla Becher, Cy Twombly and Picasso are in the queue.

Anyhow, below are the books I gave a 5-star rating on Goodreads in 2018 – only 5 in total – in no particular order. For starters Blindsight though – which I gave 4 stars, yet I feel it still belongs in my year-end list. Click on the covers for the review.

After the books, music and some television.

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2017 FAVORITES

My 2017 posting ratio is about half of what it was last year, as life continues to happen, but the number of readers on Weighing A Pig keeps rising slowly but steadily. A big thank you to everyone who has read, liked, linked or commented. My best wishes for 2018!

I’ve read 29 titles in 2017, and reviewed 26. Below are the ones I gave a 5-star rating on Goodreads, 8 in total, in no particular order. Click on the covers for the review. After the books, music & art.

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FAVORITE ART BOOKS

A couple of months ago I moved the bulk of my art book collection to another room. I decided to keep a small part, favorites, on my regular shelves. I’ve written a bit on each of those 20 titles below – 20 being just a coincidence by the way.

It is very much intended as a book list, not a list of favorite artists, as that would include a lot more names. The titles are mainly from established contemporary artists, with just three older painters – three big ones, yes.

Click on the covers to be taken to the publisher’s website or some other resource – with more extensive text on the book and the artist.

I’ve included images of artworks too: click those to enlarge.

Here’s an index of all my other art book reviews, most of which are not included in this list.


KADER ATTIA – The Repair from Occident to Extra-Occidental Cultures
Greenbox, 2014, 176 pages

Kader Attia cover

In 2012, my visit to dOCUMENTA (13) would have been a bit of a disappointment if it weren’t for two artists. One of those is Kader Attia. His installation The Repair From Occident to Extra-Occidental Cultures was jaw dropping, the highlight being slides showing repaired African statues and the likes next to the mended faces of mutilated soldiers from the First World War. The book has all slides, and more. A beautiful edition, full of the uncanny.

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2016 FAVORITES

First up: I want to express my gratitude to everyone who has read, liked, linked or commented. Thank you. My best wishes for the new year!

I’ve read 54 titles in 2016, and reviewed 52. Below are the ones I enjoyed most, in no particular order. Click on the covers for the review. After the books, music.

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FAVORITE NON-FICTION BOOKS

My reading of non-fiction books has plummeted the last 2 years. Today, I tend to only read articles. Nevertheless, I think the listed titles will continue to have an appeal in the foreseeable future. This list excludes philosophy books, as those will get a favorite list of its own someday. 

Books are listed by publication year, youngest first – but check below for younger additions I made to this list after it was first published. Click on the covers to go to the Goodreads page for the books.

Here is an index of all my other non-fiction reviews, mostly books not included in this list.

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FAVORITE SCIENCE FICTION BOOKS

Alphabetically on author. Reviewed books are hyperlinked. Non-reviewed books will get a reread & review somewhere in the future. I’ll limit this list to 25, so if I add a book, I bump another title out.

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FAVORITE FANTASY BOOKS

Alphabetically on author. Reviewed books are hyperlinked. Non-reviewed books will get a reread & review somewhere in the distant future.

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LIST INDEX

I will add more lists in the future…

BOOKS

favorite science fiction
favorite fantasy
favorite non-fiction
favorite art books

YEAR-END LISTS

2020
2019
2018
2017
2016
2015
2005-2014 (music)

REVIEWS

list of non-fiction & art book reviews
list of long form reviews of a more scholarly nature

2015 FAVORITES

First and foremost, let me start with a big thank you to all who read, liked, shared or commented since I started this whole thing in October. My best wishes for 2016!

I’ve read 52 books this year, and reviewed 50. Below are the 10ish best. Click on the covers for the review.

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MUSIC YEAR END LISTS 2005-2014

Below are year-end lists I posted on the great I Hate Music forum. As is the case for a lot of message boards, it isn’t very active anymore, as most of the discussion has moved to Facebook and elsewhere, but its archives are still a treasure-trove for the adventurous music lover…

I’ve edited a bit here and there, but mostly these lists are like I posted them initially, and they serve as snapshots of an evolving taste. As you’ll see there’s lots of Erstwhile Records releases in the lists. The consistency of that label’s output is truly amazing, and probably unique in the world of progressive, experimental music.

The lists focus on experimental – improvisational, “post-Cageian”, abstract, taomud, what have you – music on the one hand, and metal on the other, plus the occasional alternative, jazz or pop album.


2014

albums of the year
Michael Pisaro – Continuum Unbound (Gravity Wave)
Manfred Weder & Toshiya Tsunoda – Detour (Erstwhile Records)
Sammath – Godless Arrogance (Hammerheart)

top 2
Nicked Drake (Gareth Dickson) – Wraiths (Scissor Tail)
Utah Kawasaki & Ju Sei – U As In Utah (Meena)
Laurence Crane – Chamber Works 1992-2009 (Another Timbre)
disc 2 of Jürg Frey & Radu Malfatti – II (Erstwhile)
Intergalactic Lovers – Little Heavy Burdens (Warner Music)

top 3
Ryoko Akama – Code of Silence (Melance Edition)
Jürg Frey – Pianist, Alone (performed by R. Andrew Lee) (Irritable Hedgehog)
Lucio Capece – Factors Of Space Constancy (Drone Sweet Drone)
Jason Lescalleet – This is what I do vol. 2 (Glistening Examples)
Jason Lescalleet – This is what I do vol. 3 (Glistening Examples)
Morton Feldman – Two Pianos and other works 1953-1969 (played by John Tilbury & Philip Thomas) (Another Timbre)
Domains – Sinister Ceremonies (The Sinister Flame)


2013

record of the year
Lucio Capece – Less is Less: Music for Flying and Pendulating Speakers (Intonema)

runners-up
Michael Pisaro – Closed Categories in Cartesian Worlds (Gravity Wave)
Michael Pisaro – The Punishment of the Tribe by its Elders (Gravity Wave)
Toshiya Tsunoda – ο κόκκος της άνοιξης (Grains of Spring) (edition.t)
Toshiya Tsunoda – The Temple Recording (edition.t)
Toshiya Tsunoda & Haco – TramVibration (Skiti)

metal album of 2013
White Medal – Guthmers Hahl (Legion Blothan / Aphelion Productions)

other metal
Profanatica – Thy Kingdom Cum (Hells Headbangers)
Imprecation – Satanae Tenebris Infinita (Dark Descent)
Suffocation – Pinnacle of Bedlam (Nuclear Blast)
Fanisk – Insularum (Darker Than Black)
Vastum – Patricidal Lust (20 Buck Spin)
Prosanctus Inferi – Noctambulous Jaws Within Sempiternal Night (Nuclear War Now! Productions)
Zealotry – The Charnel Expanse (Memento Mori)


2012

top album (without a shadow of a doubt, desert island stuff)
Tsunoda & Michael Pisaro – Crosshatches (Erstwhile)

runners-up
Propagandhi – Failed States (Epitaph)
Keith Rowe – September (Erstwhile)
Michael Pisaro – Fields Have Ears (6) (Gravity Wave)
Christian Wolfe & Keith Rowe – ErstLive 010 (Erstwhile)

discovery of the year would be the choral work of Schubert, the 7 disc set of his sacred works by Wolfgang Sawallisch is a gem of utter delight (EMI)

best live performances
Anthony Braxton, alto saxophone solo – AMUZ, Antwerp, 10/2
Agustí Fernández, piano solo – Follow The Sound, De Singel, Antwerp, 10/25
John Zorn, Milford Graves & Bill Laswell – Jazz Middelheim, Antwerp, 8/16
Alexander von Schlippenbach Trio – De Singer, Rijkevorsel, 12/12

favorite metal records, in no order
Krallice – Years Past Matter (self released)
Demoncy – Enthroned Is The Night (Forever Plagued)
Profanatica – Sickened By The Holy Ghosts / Grand Masters Session (Hell’s Headbangers)
Lycus – MMXI (lp issue of 2011 demo) (Flenser)
Blut Aus Nord – What Once Was… Liber II (Debemur Morti Productions)
Tukaaria – Raw To the Rapine (reissue of 2011 cassette) (Profound Lore)
Drawn & Quartered – Feeding Hell’s Furnace (Nuclear Winter)


2011

metal
Cruciamentum – Engulfed In Desolation (Nuclear Winter)
Krallice – Diotima (Profound Lore)
Botanist – I: The Suicide Tree / II: A Rose From The Dead (tUMULt)
Liturgy – Aesthetica (Thrill Jockey)
Absu – Abzu (Candlelight)

greatest pop single
Jay-Z & Kanye West – Niggas in Paris (Roc-A-Fella)


2010

top 3
Joanna Newsom – Have One On Me (Drag City)
Annette Krebs & Taku Unami – Motubachii (Erstwhile)
The Fall – Your Future Our Clutter (Domino)

runners-up
Michael Pisaro & Barry Chabala – Black, White, Red, Green, Blue (Voyelles) (Winds Measure)
Michael Pisaro & Greg Stuart – ricefall (2) (Gravity Wave)
Michael Pisaro & Greg Stuart – A wave and waves (Cathnor)
Graham Lambkin & Jason Lescalleet – Air Supply (Erstwhile)
Michael Pisaro & Greg Stuart – July Mountain (Engraved Glass)
Taku Sugimoto – Musical Composition Series 1 (Kid Ailack Enterprise)
Taku Sugimoto – Musical Composition Series 2 (Kid Ailack Enterprise)
John Cage & Terry Jennings (perfomed by John Tilbury & Sebastien Lexer) – Lost Daylight (Another Timbre)
Deathspell Omega – Paracletus (Norma Evangelium Diaboli)


2009

in no order
Propaghandi – Supporting Caste (Smallman Records / G7 Welcoming Committee)
Night Control – Death Control (Kill Shaman)
Drudkh – Microcosmos (Seasons Of Mist)
Radu Malfati & Klaus Filip – Imaoto (Erstwhile)
Christof Kurzmann & Burkhard Stangl – Neuschnee (Erstwhile)
The Jesus Lizard reissues (Touch And Go)

most listened to in 2009
English (Joe Foster/Bonnie Jones) & Toshimaru Nakamura – One Day (Erstwhile)

best live show
Oneida – Ekko, Utrecht, The Netherlands, 8/15


2008

number one
Earth – The Bees Made Honey In The Lion’s Skull (Southern Lord)

right behind that
Chris Watson – Cima Verde (Fondazione Edmund Mach & LoL Productions)
Keith Rowe – ErstLive 007 (Erstwhile)
Keith Rowe & Taku Unami – ErstLive 006 (Erstwhile)
Jason Lescalleet & Graham Lambkin – The Breadwinner (Erstwhile)
English (Joe Foster/Bonnie Jones) & Toshimaru Nakamura – One Day (Erstwhile)
The Magic I.D. – Till my breath gives out (Erstwhile)
Sebastian Lexer & Seymour Wright – Blasen (Another Timbre)
Skepticism – Alloy (Red Stream)

reissue
Faraquet – The View From This Tower (Dischord)

live show
Propagandhi – Joc de Nartist, Temse, 8/5


2007

Keith Rowe – The Room (Erstwhile)
Mimeo – Sight (Cathnor)
Shellac – Excellent Italian Greyhound (Touch & Go)
Profanatica – Profanatitas de Domonatia (Hell’s Headbangers)

That would be about it. Not really thrilled (anymore) about anything else.


2006

Joanna Newsom – Ys (Drag City)
[N:Q] – November Quebec (Esquilo)
Keith Rowe & Toshimaru Nakamura – Between (Erstwhile)
Jason Lescalleet – The Pilgrim (Glistening Examples)
Chris Corsano – The Young Cricketer (Hot Cars Warp/Family Vineyard)
Christof Kurzmann & Ami Yoshida – a s o (Erstwhile)
David Tudor & Gordon Mumma – David Tudor & Gordon Mumma (New World)


2005

Anthony Braxton – Quintet (London) 2004 (Live At The Royal Festival Hall) (Leo)
Fantômas – Suspended Animation (Ipecac)
Joëlle Léandre – Concerto Grosso (Live at Gasthof Heidelberg) (Jazz’Halo)
Nile – Annilation Of The Wicked (Relapse)
John Coltrane – One Down, One Up (Life At The Half Note) (Impulse!)