All posts made in Dec. 2008:

I completed reading 104 books in 2008 (I also completed 104 in 2007). There are individual monthly lists: January; February; March; April; May; June; July; August; September; October; November; and December.

Those lists have links too. Here I just want to pull out my favourites. I made it a rule to recommend one book a month--I've highlighted those in bold, and put together those 12 make an incredible package.

  • Impro: Improvisation and the Theatre, Keith Johnstone (27 Jan.)
  • Science in Action, Bruno Latour (16 Feb.)
  • t zero, Italo Calvino (19 Feb., r.)
  • Essential Cell Biology, Alberts, Bray, Hopkin, Johnson, Lewis, Raff, Roberts, and Walter (26 Feb.)
  • The Rubaiyyat of Omar Khayaam, Robert Graves and Omar Ali-Shah (translators) (13 March, r.)
  • A Lover's Discourse, Roland Barthes (15 March)
  • The Worst Journey in the World, Apsley Cherry-Garrard (20 March)
  • 253, Geoff Ryman (30 March)
  • Arcadia, Tom Stoppard (1 April)
  • Exploits & Opinions of Dr. Faustroll, Pataphysician, Alfred Jarry (13 April)
  • Michael Rosen's Sad Book, Michael Rosen and Quentin Blake (15 April)
  • World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War, Max Brooks (20 April)
  • Foucault's Pendulum, Umberto Eco (5 May, r.)
  • Wild Palms, Bruce Wagner and Julian Allen (7 May, r.)
  • From Atoms to Patterns, Lesley Jackson (17 May)
  • Understanding Material Culture, Ian Woodward (30 May)
  • Annals of the Former World, John McPhee (31 May)
  • From Counterculture to Cyberculture, Fred Turner (20 June)
  • Stars in My Pocket Like Grains of Sand, Samuel R. Delany (22 June)
  • The Periodic Table, Primo Levi (29 June)
  • Stand on Zanzibar, John Brunner (26 July)
  • 101 Things I Learned in Architecture School, Matthew Frederick (31 July)
  • Ways of Seeing, John Berger (20 Aug.)
  • Envisioning Emotional Epistemological Information, David Byrne (23 Aug.)
  • The Compass Rose, Ursula K. Le Guin (23 Aug., r.)
  • How Buildings Learn, Stewart Brand (26 Aug.)
  • Three Men in a Boat, Jerome K. Jerome (10 Sept.)
  • John von Neumann and Norbert Wiener: From Mathematics to the Technologies of Life and Death, Steve J. Heims (18 Sept.)
  • Riders of the Purple Sage, Zane Grey (22 Sept.)
  • On the Road, Jack Kerouac (1 Oct.)
  • The Collapse of Complex Societies, Joseph Tainter (20 Oct., r.)
  • Pale Fire, Vladimir Nakokov (27 Nov.)
  • Welcome to Mars, Fantasies of Science in the American Century: 1947-1959, Ken Hollings (18 Dec.)
  • A Humument: A Treated Victorian Novel, Tom Phillips (31 Dec.)

Some common themes: last man on earth and journeys; stories that emerge only through the motion of the reader through the book; post-war history; alternatives to the cause and effect model; frontiers and open vistas; the big picture.

I'm not reading to a target next year. I don't have such a long commute any longer and I'd like to watch more films. I don't mind saying that a good deal of 2008 has been pretty eventful, and between that and some of the excellent books I've encountered, I'm slowly developing new ways of thinking and talking about myself, the world and how things happen in it. I'd like to take time to explore those ideas in 2009, and shape and fold them myself.

As a final curious constraint, I'm going to recommend three books from my 2008 reading, ones that I hadn't read before and now I think you definitely should if you haven't already (though really I would choose a different three from those highlighted 12 each time I picked): Impro, Keith Johnstone; Annals of the Former World, John McPhee; On the Road, Jack Kerouac.

Books read December 2008, with date finished:

I've also read a few sci-fi novellas using Stanza on my phone (One-Shot, James Blish; Invaders from the Infinite, John Campbell; The Colors of Space, Marion Zimmer Bradley) but for some reason, being texts and not books made out of paper, I don't feel they belong here. I am capricious with my list of books read.

I'm not feeling too wordy today, so let's keep it brief.

The Holocene: scale, the big picture like Annals of the Former World (read May this year), nature and culture as a single thing, the tortuous paths of cause and contingency, the planets and its natureculture and geological structures and histories as metaphor mines: the planet as self.

Hollings: a collage mixing facts and facts of fiction, a portrait of post-war America (it's my favourite period), the back-drop to cybernetics, flying saucers and suburbia.

A Humument: a text found in the pages of the novel A Human Document, each page a painting, a play between text where we are trained to silently ignore everything but the encoded information, and the visual surface where every position, colour, reference, juxtaposition, quality is important, and to ricochet between these two. Poetry.

You should read Welcome to Mars, def.

So here's what happened today fourteen years ago (now twenty years, two-thirds of a lifetime away). Let's add the other parenthesis: my first memory is about brown cows. Between those two dates I am strung taut like a string on a violin, and my original note played; my harmonics and tones since then emerging, recombining, gaining texture, depth and power; resonating and causing resonance, folding in and over, unique rhythms and vibrations arising and overlaying, until now when I have become a full, rich, individual note. But the pure, simple first harmonic is present still and - the entire stretch of my memory of him - those seven years are deep inside me, my spine, valuable, and appreciated.

What I remember is walking unhurried down an unsurfaced road, all bright white pebbles and patches of dirt and grass in a strip running down the middle, and the trees - which I can smell too, that is vivid - curving over the road so that the sun comes through in tiny pieces between the overlapping leaves and branches, shingling the shingles, and the road curving around to the left and slightly downhill passing through woods filled with bluebells while there is a gate on the right that I do not use, and then the trees thin and I step into a patch where I can see the clear, clear azure sky, and the sun amazes me, and I take a deep slow breath, drinking the beauty, and what I remember then is the whole history of the photon hitting my retina and so my consciousness stretches out, back across time, back through space to the surface of the sun where once upon a time I fought in the goblin wars, our feet hooked in magnetic loops to avoid falling off and spinning into the heliosphere, wading through heaps of putrefying corpses tens and hundreds of kilometers deep, mulching and over millennia decomposing and recombining and autocatalytic loops of goblin proteins arising which we would harness, picking and restitching the cycles and matter flows of their autopoiesis with the tips of our swords such that over ten thousand years spaceships would evolve, the tips of our swords that were so sharp they were the resolution of superstrings and we would carve our names into the fabric of the cosmos itself whenever we made a kill, so the surface of the sun, our sun, is a trillion billion names, and it glows with these inscribed names, the interaction of the light and the power of the nuclear reactions of the sun combining with the semiotic density to make the currents on which our ships would ride, which would arc and tumble and dogfight like whales in heat, whales dancing in tangos, but multidimensional dances with a complexity never imagined on Earth; and from that vantage point, diving into the heart, I see the birth of my photon and its siblings, the ones that were nursed together in the heart of the star and I ride these brother and sister particles of light out to all their destinations simultaneously: and my consciousness becomes a ball of awareness expanding at the speed of light, now wider than the orbit of Jupiter, now passing the wavefront where the matter of the solar system collides with the matter of the galaxy and when I hit that I take the entire galactic disc in instantly, a giant deep breath that fills my lungs, a giant gulp that fills my stomach for I am a giant, and the Milky Way turns into a colossal eye, my eye, the black hole in the centre my new retina that absorbs light released at the beginning of the universe and so I am witness to the very first moments of time and also, therefore, the entire map of history which is laid out in-front of me... into which map I dive and follow paths and alleyways and circuit traces of consequences and rivulets of chance back to this moment, this path, these trees, this exact same blue sky, this intake of breath, this moment, this very moment, which I hold; and then I breath out because here I have all the universe inside of me and I hold the power to transcend and all it needs is for me to choose the right time and just for the moment I want to stand here, on this road, near the shelter of these green trees, in the brightness, in the brightness, in the brightness, in the brightness, in the brightness under our sun.