A low-fi list of books I've read over the last 20 years or so. Books are listed in reverse order - from the ones I've read most recently, backwards - so the ones at the top are the ones I'm reading right now. These entries are the books I particularly liked.

Jump to...2014 2013 2012 2011 2010 2009 2008 2007 2006 2005 2004 2003 2002 2001 2000 1999 1998 1997 1996 1995 1994
home button


The Rise & Fall of Athens: Nine Greek Lives by Plutarch
The stories of Theseus, Solon, Aristides, Pericles, Lysander and ... some less-memorable chaps.

Men at Arms by Evelyn Waugh
Very funny.

The Summing Up by W. Somerset Maugham
Thoughts on writing, mostly. "Anything is better than not to write clearly."

The Quarry by Iain Banks
"We get back into Hol's little faded red Polo and drive off."
And that's it.

The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet by David Mitchell
A little inconsistent, but from around halfway onward an exciting read.

MacBeth by William Shakespeare
I'd meant to read this for a long, long time but the time was right. Loved it.

Civilisation: Twenty Places on the Edge of the World by Steve Braunias
A gift from a lovely pair of authors, who know my taste for the offbeat peculiar corners of NZ. Braunias has a good eye and a lovely touch with the pen. Lovin' the places I've been of course (Hicks Bay, Apia, St Bathans, Moerewa) but more-so the people he draws and occasional playful touches like: "Wanganui... a city about to be brought to you by the letter H".

Theories of the Universe by Milton E. Munitz
From Babylonian mythology thru Plato, Kepler right up to Einstein and the expanding Universe: how our ideas about the way our universe works have changed thru time. Essays early on, but from Lucretius on it's almost all in the writers' own words (so you can see how playful Galileo was, how pretty a writer Mr Copernicus, cf Messers Newton and Einstein).
I read this at the same time as working my way thru Professor Charles Bailyn's Yale astrophysics course online, including his elegant explanation of 'scientific fables' (eg, the fable of the Ptolomeic epicycles, the 'moral' of which is that simple theories are better, and the shittest theories are those that must become more and more complex the more measurements/observations we make). Nice wrap-in here with the Flat Earth book below too.
Babylonian Genesis, Ionian Cosmology, Pythagorians, Lucretius, Plato, Aristotle, Ptolemy, Medieval Cosmology, Cusanus, Copernicus, Bruno, Digges, Galileo, Kepler, Newton, Huygens, Wright, Kant, Lambert, Herschel, Einstein, Hubble, De Sitter, Eddington, LemaƮtre, Milne, Robertson, Gamow, Bondi, Sciama, Hoyle.

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
Nth time thru. The first page or two still packs the same KAPOW as the first time I ever read it. A Top Five book. Atticus pic wiki

Billy Budd by Melville
Short, tho still not to the point.

A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius by Dave Eggers
The title is a bit of a gimic (in fact the whole book's a bit of a gimic), but also very true. wiki

Run Rabbit by John Updike
Slow-moving novel.

The Stories of Eva Luna by Isabel Allende
Short stories

Slaughterhouse 5 by Kurt Vonnegut Jr.
Funny, and jarring too. "Dear Margaret - we are leaving for Dresden today. Don't worry. It will never be bombed." And so it goes.

Cities of the Plain by Cormac McCarthy
Third in the Border Trilogy.

Mapping History: Classical World by Ian Barnes
Maps + classic Greek/Babylonian/etc culture = happy. Visual displays make it much more 'real': the sudden expansion of Alexander T.G.; Genghis, etc.

Typee by Herman Melville
A considerably better read than that one about the bloody whale, even by the time we got to Nukuhiva. Still, as in that other one, whole chapters devoted to Not Much Going On.

Once While Travelling by Tony & Maureen Wheeler
After nearly 15 years working for the Planet, it was time to read some of the stories behind. Loved it.

Consider Phlebas by Iain M Banks
Thought I might revisit this first Culture novel, given this year's sad news.

For Whom the Bell Tolls by Hemingway
Not a word wasted.

The Hydrogen Sonata by Iain M Banks
Fun high-tech Culture scifi with a typically Banksy 'low-key' plot.

Flat Earth by Christine Garwood
Since finding the latest incarnation of this ancient society recently (and signing up!) I've been fascinated by their take(s) on life, science, the universe. This is an extremely well-researched and well-written guide to the full shebang right thru from the the first crazy charlatans of the 1800s to some sadly deluded chaps at the very end of the 20th century. Great myth-busting about Columbus and the religion-versus-science "story" too. Loved it!

The Secret History of Lucifer by Lynn Picknett
I was already sure I was going to love this, then to top it off found that not only is the author a writer of slightly offbeat (ok, a little crackpot-esque of tone) religious texts, she's seemingly also a bit of a fan of Lucifer himself! Brilliant. Where do I sign up?
Also has to be said it's incredibly well researched (if not always incredibly well written). Found some great stuff here from literature, mythology, pop culture and Christian texts.

The Return of Tarzan by Edgar Rice Burroughs
Arghghghgghgggggggggggg ahhhhhhhhhh eeeeeeeeeooooooooooo arghhhhhhh

Beatrice & Virgil by Yann Martel
Sweet little story that goes wrong very quickly.

How Did it Begin by Drs R. & L. Brasch
Customs, Superstitions and their Romantic Origins. A bit light on, truth be told.

Wonder Boys by Michael Chabon

Zeus by Tom Stone
A study of the Mr Big of the Greek Pantheon

Wicked by Gregory Maguire
A brilliant revisionist prequel to Oz - the life of the Wicked Witch of the West before Dorothy dropped in. wiki

Rum Diary by Hunter S Thompson
Novel. Not his best.

She by Rider S Haggard
The original Lost-World romp. Plenty of silliness.

Aotearoa Whispers: the Awakening by Gonzalo Navarro
Maori mythology graphic novel.

My Name is Red by Benim Adim Kirmizi
Spectacular novel out of Turkey. Playful + thoughtful. (He got a Nobel. I think he might be quite good.) wiki