Book Reviews

2014

Fiction

(+)The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt.  I shied away from reading this book because it was so long, but it was worth every minute I spent reading it.  A superb story and very well told from start to finish.

(+)The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion.  I loved this book about a man with Asperger’s and his quest to find love.  His observations and musings made me laugh and it was one of the most enjoyable books I have read in a long time.

(=)The Cairo Affair by Olen Steinhauer.  This spy thriller started out strong but got a little convoluted and boring in the last 1/3.

(-)The Fever by Megan Abbott.  It was absolutely terrible from start to finish in every respect.  Will probably never read another book she writes again.

(=)The Son by Jo Nesbo.  The story about a boy avenging his fathers death was good, but uneven, as some parts were really exciting and other parts extremely boring.

(+)I Am Pilgrim by Terry Hayes.  This is the way a thriller should be written.  It was engaging from start to finish and definitely worth a read.

(+)Where’d You Go Bernadette by Maria Semple.  Written through emails and letters from Bernadette’s life as her daughter searches for her when she goes missing.  It is lighthearted and funny.

(=)Missing You by Harlan Coben.  I liked the author’s writing style, but the plot wasn’t that great and the characters a bit blase.

(=)To Rise Again at a Decent Hour by Joshua Ferris.  The first part of this novel was so good, that it almost overtook the long biblical quotations that made the second part so brutal.

(+)Those Who Wish Me Dead by Michael Kory ta.  This suspense story was a good page turner.  The author did a great job of making me feel connected to the characters and made me root for them.

(-)Life of Pi by Yann Martel.  I don’t understand how this book won awards since it was like pulling teeth after the first third of the book.  Thankfully, it was short.

(-)The Circle by Dave Eggers.  He is a masterful storyteller and I was able to get through most of the book before I realized that nothing had happened and the story was terrible.  I preferred Hologram for the King, though not much happened there either.

(+)Me Before You by JoJo Moyes.  The author brought depth and emotion to the characters and I found the story moving.

(=)The Book Thief by Markus Zusak.  Another book that I found well written, but I didn’t particularly enjoy the story.  Not sure how this is a young adult book or suitable for a movie.

(-)The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman.  Terrible from start to finish.  Don’t want to relive it.

(+)First Phone Call From Heaven by Mitch Albom.  It was a good and quick read.  Not his best work, but pretty fast moving and entertaining.

(+)The Interestings by Meg Wolitzer.  One of the best books I have read in a long time, following a group of friends over the course of their lives.  The writing was superb and the story was excellent.  I look forward to reading the rest of her writing soon.

(+)The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach.  A superb book about a college baseball player that captivated me from beginning to end.  Another must read.

(+)Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline.  I enjoyed this book about the life of a girl who was orphaned in New York City in the early 1900′s.  It was well written and the main character was well developed.

(+)Sycamore Row by John Grisham.  I have liked most of his fiction works and this one was no exception.  This book is another story with the same A Time to Kill main character and is a good, fast read.

(+)The Lowland by Jhumpa Lahiri.  I like books about different cultures and the author did a good job taking you inside the Indian culture.  The story was excellent and moving as well.

(=)Cuckoos Calling by Robert Galbraith(aka JK Rowling).  I don’t think she is as talented in the adult fiction arena as in the children’s.  It was a ok, but nothing special.

(+)Silent Wife by A.S.A. Harrison.  I like well written fiction with a twist and this is good.  This book is similar to the books written by Gillian Flynn.

Non-Fiction

(+)The boys in the Boat by Daniel James Brown.  The story about a gold medal winning 1936 Olympic crew team was good and the writing was excellent.  The author did a superb job of weaving together the characters stories so that it was exciting, even when I knew the ending.

(=)Becoming a Supple Leopard by Dr. Kelly Starrett.  This book is about how to become a better athlete by a doctor who owns Crossfit gyms.  I founds it interesting and the illustrations were helpful, but the book was a bit repetitive.

(+)How Not to Be Wrong by Jordan Ellenberg.  This is a math focused book that taught daily applications of mathematical principles.  It was interesting for such a dry subject matter and could be helpful to a lot of people.

(+)Fading Hearts on the River by Brooks Haxton.  I read this book because author’s son is a well known high stakes poker player.  However the book was very well written and engaging(even for people not in the poker scene) and Haxton, who is a poet, should really write more nonfiction.

(+)The Sports Gene by David Epstein.  Epstein discussed what makes elite athletes perform better than regular people and the possible reasons for excellence by groups in specific sports.  He touched on a lot of subjects and made them come together in a cohesive way.

(+)The Art of Choosing by Sheena Iyengar.  I was engaged from start to finish as the authors storytelling is excellent and she made what could have been a very boring book extremely informative and entertaining.

(+)No Place to Hide by Glenn Greenwald.  I didn’t know much about Edward Snowden and his reasons for revealing classified information before reading this book.  Greenwald, who wrote the original stories, makes a case for why we need more transparency.

(-)Uganda Be Kidding Me by Chelsea Handler.   Not sure why I keep reading comics literary attempts to be funny that alwasy seem to fall flat.  No more of her books for me.

(+)Guts by Kristen Johnston.  She skipped over most of the boring parts that encompass many memoirs and included only the funny childhood stories and dealing with her addiction which made the book a short, but good read.

(+)Will Not Attend by Adam Resnick.  This book was entertaining and an easy read, but there were no laugh out loud moments.  I can see how his humor would translate well to TV.

(+)Think Like a Freak by Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner.  I love everything they write and while this book was not groundbreaking as Freakanomics and SuperFreakanomics, it is still definitely worth a read.

(=)A Curious Man by Neal Thompson.  Thompson is a good storyteller but I just didn’t find the story of Robert Ripley of “Believe it or Not” fame that compelling.

(+)Empty Mansions by Bill Dedman and Paul Clark Newell Jr.  I thought the story of Hugette Clark was compelling and well told.  The stories were woven together well, especially given the reclusive and unhelpful nature of the main character.

(+)Flash Boys by Michael Lewis.  Lewis is a great storyteller and this book was no exception.  Upon first glance, the subject matter isn’t so interesting, but Lewis makes it relevant and entertaining.

(-)Floating City by Sudhir Venkatesh.  He does interesting sociological work but there was no cohesiveness and the book was boring and difficult to read.

(+)The Power of Negative Thinking by Bob Knight.  I love Bob Knight and think he has done a great job molding and teaching basketball players who are scholars as well as athletes.  Though the book was not brilliant, I was very interested in his point of view.

(+)Let’s Explore Diabetes with Owls by David Sedaris.  I am generally negative about humorous memoirs, but this one was well written and entertaining.

(-)Made To Stick by Chip Heath and Dan Heath.  A poorly written book with information that has been much better explained elsewhere.  Habits by Charles Duhigg is a much more preferable.

(=)You’ll Know at the Finish Line by Joe Desena.  It’s a promotional ebook for Spartan Race, but the discussion of diet and exercise regimens is good.  It also has a section of recipes in the back of the book.

(-)I Wear the Black Hat by Chuck Klosterman.  This book discusses TV heroes that are dark and in morally gray areas.  I was excited initially, but it quickly became boring and uninteresting.

(+)Endgame by Frank Brady.  A very good look at Bobby Fischer’s rise and fall.  The author made him very captivating and gave the reader a good look inside his mind and the reasons behind some of his bizarre behavior.

(+)The Reason I Jump by Naoki Higashida.  A look inside the mind of a 13 year old boy with autism.  It is the first book of its kind and the author did a good job of conveying his daily life to the reader in a meaningful way.

(+)Double Down by Mark Halperin and John Heilemann.  It was a great look inside the 2012 election and perhaps even better than their first book, Game Change.  The authors do a great job of weaving together the stories in a cohesive and entertaining way.

(+)David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits and the Art of Battling Giants by Malcolm Gladwell.  Though this book is a bit weaker and less groundbreaking than his previous ones, he is an excellent writer and this one is probably still worth a read.

(+)Dad is Fat by Jim Gaffigan.  Pretty much the same review as Let’s Explore Diabetes with Owls.  Fun, lighthearted, but not enough laughs for me.

(+)Five Days at Memorial by Sheri Fink.  A look inside the war zone like situation in a Katrina devastated hospital.  I thought it was a little preachy about morality in the latter half, but the situations they had to deal with were extreme.

(-)Happy Happy Happy by Phil Robertson.  I wanted to read it since I had never watched Duck Dynasty.  I was not a fan of him or his writing, to put it mildly.

(=)Orange is the New Black by Piper Kerman.  The book that became a TV series.  The TV show is better than the book.

(=)Eleven Rings by Phil Jackson.  A look inside the mind of the Zen Master and one of the winningest coaches of all time.  There were a few interesting stories, but nothing spectacular.

(+)Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls.  The writer had a very tough childhood and tells the stories in a very moving and humorous way.  I will probably read the rest of her books.

Poker

(+)Secrets of Professional Tournament Poker by Jonathan Little.  The author did a great job of explaining medium advanced concepts in an understandable way and covered a lot of ground.  I am interested to read his cash game book.

(-)The Pot Limit Omaha Book by Tri Ngyuen.  The book was very basic and poorly written, especially for such a high price.  There is similar material available cheaper and better explained.

(-)How I Made My First Million from Poker by Tri Ngyuen.  Another poorly written book with some basic advice, but also some terrible advice thrown in.  I dislike these types of books immensely because it will be difficult for a novice to be able to tell the good advice from the bad.

(+)Expert Heads Up No Limit Hold’em by Will Tipton.  This book goes in depth on heads up theory using complex math, ranges, and graphs.  It is superb for people looking to play game theoretically optimally and will probably require additional readings to understand it all.  A fantastic work.

(+)Analytical No Limit Holdem by Thomas Bakker.  This is also an excellent book that talks more about optimal ranges for 6-max no limit.  It should be mandatory reading for anyone playing those games.

2013

Non-Fiction

(+)My Mother Was Nuts by Penny Marshall.  Though I generally shy away from comedy writers biographies, this one was insightful and funny and worth a read.

(+)Escape from Camp 14 by Blaine Harden.  An eye opening book about North Korea, their work camps and a look into the minds of its citizens.  The main character is one of the few people to have ever escaped from their work camps.

(-)Lean in by Sheryl Sandberg. I read this book because it was so highly touted and I was appalled by its lack of insight from someone who is trying to lead a movement. The book says nothing and is poorly written and is probably one of the worst books to have made it onto the bestseller list.

(-)No Angel by Jay Dobyns.  Dobyns went undercover with Hell’s Angels, but did a poor job in writing and describing his work, making the book very difficult to read.

(+)Argo by Antonio Mendez.  The book gave good insight into the decision making process for rescuing the 6 Americans trapped in Iran and was much more descriptive than the movie.

(-)Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? by Mindy Kaling.  As with many books of this genre, there were some funny anecdotes, but a lot of dead space too.

(-)In the Garden of Beasts by Erik Larson.  It was supposed to be an historic novel, but it read more like a history textbook.  It was not nearly as good as his other books, which I thoroughly enjoyed.

(=)Fooling Houdini by Alex Stone.  This book is about the authors experiences with magic and his adventures in the upper echelons of the magic world.  It was interesting to me(since I used to do a bit of magic) but probably not interesting to most readers.

(+)The Presidents Club by Nancy Gibbs.  A look at the complex relationships between the Presidents.  It was a good walk through the history of the US, using the relationships between the Presidents as a guide and many of the stories were probably not mainstream knowledge until this book was published.

(-)Quiet by Susan Cain.  I liked the premise of the book and there were some parts that were very interesting, however the authors writing was not engaging and it made it very difficult to read at certain points.

(+)Against Medical Advice by James Patterson.  This book was very moving and gave insight into Tourrette’s Syndrome and the struggles of individuals with the disease and their families.  As my wife knew the family personally, it was especially poignant for me to read about it and I was happy to hear that the main character has come a long way in overcoming his struggles.

(-)Eat and Run by Scott Jurek.  I thought this book was terrible because the author was more interested in speaking of his successes and promoting vegetarianism than in speaking to the readers and telling his story.  The end of every chapter had a vegetarian recipe for god sakes.

(+)Adult Children of Alcoholics by Janet Woititz.  This book does a very good job in describing the emotional problems that children of alcoholics experience as a result of their parents’ addictions.  Since my wife works in the field of addictions, I found it very interesting to learn about the background of some of the people she treats.

(+)Shaping the Skyline: The World According to Real Estate Visionary Julien Studley by Peter Hellman.  I have played a lot of poker with Julien and was very interested in hearing his life story.  Though I found the background and stories interesting, the book was very disjointed and probably not of interest to someone without a personal connection.

(=)Building Your Ideal Private Practice: A Guide for Therapists and Other Healing Professionals by Lynn Grodzki.  This book provided some overview on common issues that arise in starting a private practice.  It was good general advice, but would have been significantly better with more specifics tailored to a broader range of problems.

(+)The Secret Race:Inside the Hidden World of the Tour de France: Doping, Cover-ups and Winning at All Costs by Tyler Hamilton and Daniel Coyle.  This book was a great in depth view of what it takes to be a world class cyclist, including cheating. The author was very forthright about his mistakes and was humble about his successes and did not attempt to blame others or to throw anyone else under the bus.

(=)Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood and the Prison of Belief by Lawrence Wright.  This was a stunning look at Scientology from the beginning until today, including all of its various levels.  Since not much media attention is given to what happens inside Scientology, the book was very insightful, however, there were parts that were very boring that brought down the book as a whole.

(+)Soccernomics by Simon Kuper and Stefan Szymanski.  I thought that it was a good look at the history and underlying reasons why some soccer teams were successful over time and others were not.  I think the book would be a great read for any soccer fan.

(+)Game Change by John Heilemann and Mark Halperin.  This was a superb look at the 2008 primaries and presidential race.  Intertwining good reporting, humor and a good storyline, this book was an easy read that was very engrossing.

Fiction

(+)The Thief by Fuminori Nakamura.  I loved this book about a thief who gets caught up in the criminal world. The writing and storytelling were excellent, especially given that it was a Japanese translation.

(+)A Thousand Spendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini.  I was reluctant to read this book because I thought Kite Runner was overhyped and not worthy of its praise.  However, I thought this book was written much better and much more engaging than his previous work and is a must read.

(=)Wool: Omnibus Edition by Hugh Howey: Volumes 1-7.  This science fiction series set in the future started out great and was very well done.  Unfortunately the last few in the series have trailed off and have been less interesting.

(+)A Hologram for the King by Dave Eggers.  I loved this book and it was a fast read.  The writing was great and I look forward to reading his other works.

(+)The Racketeer by John Grisham.  I enjoyed it thoroughly and am glad the author went back to writing legal fiction.  His storytelling is great and I especially enjoy books that leave you guessing about the ending.

(-)Tenth of December by George Saunders.  I did not think the stories were engaging and I was bored about halfway through the book.

(+)The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald.  The book is a classic and was as good as I remembered it.  I understand why it is an American classic and was a great accompaniment to the movie.

(+)The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein.  Told from a dogs’ point of view, this book was funny, insightful and full of emotion.  Probably the best book I read this year.

(=)Dare Me by Megan Abbott.  I thought this was great “beach reading.”  It was entertaining, a quick read, but written a bit like a teen novel.

(+)Every Day by David Levithan.  The narrator wakes up in a different person’s body each day and the author gives excellent description his thoughts and feelings.  Another excellent book that should go to the top of your reading list.

(+)Defending Jacob by William Landay.  An excellent thriller that was well written and kept me on the edge of my seat.

(+)Miss Peregrines Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs.  The idea for the book was excellent and it was fun to read.  Though it was a bit boring in the middle, it is written like the first in a series, and I look forward to reading the rest.

(+)What We Talk About When We Talk About Anne Frank by Nathan Englander.  This book of short, Jewish oriented stories, was well written with many surprise endings.  It made me want to read his other works.

(=)The Last Policeman by Ben H. Winters.  A mystery about a policeman trying to catch a killer before the world ends.  It was decent, but fell flat in the end.

(=)The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey. The book is about an Alaskan family who finds a “snow child.”  I was a bit torn about this book since I enjoyed the author’s writing, but did not enjoy the story as much as I had hoped.

(+)Dark Places by Gillian Flynn.  I like that the author conceals gigantic surprises and you never know when you will uncover one in her description of the characters.  This book flowed better than Gone Girl, though the story was much darker.

(=)The Middlesteins by Jami Attenberg.  The book was well written and engaging, but I wasn’t a big fan of the central theme of the book.  That made it a bit difficult to read, though I did enjoy the author’s style.

(-)Why We Broke Up by Daniel Handler.  I did not think the author did a good job of keeping the reader continually engaged.  While I thought the premise was good, the execution was so poor that it made the book unreadable at parts.

(=)The Fault in Our Stars by John Green.  The author did a good job of making the characters fun and moving while dealing with a very difficult subject.  The only reason I didn’t give this book a positive review is that a)the subject matter is very difficult and b)there was a boring portion of the book that was very difficult to get through.

(+)Mr. Penumbra’s 24 Hour Book Store by Robin Sloan.  This book was entertaining and kept me interested throughout.  It was not a great work of fiction, but it was a good read.

Poker

(+)Secrets of Professional Tournaments: Volume 1 by Jonathan Little.  His discussion of what to do with different stack sizes is excellent but his play with deep stacks is flawed.  However, his reasoning is very good and thorough and this book is definitely a great read for someone looking to help their tournament play.

(+)The Mental Game of Poker 2 by Jared Tendler.  This book is excellent for poker players working on their mental game.  It teaches you how to better get into the zone and stay there and is as good as his previous book.

(+)Reading Poker Tells by Zachary Elwood.  I am not a big believer in the applicability of tells, but this book is excellent with respect to how to read them and what to look for.  It definitely helped me when playing in person.

(+)No Limit Hold’em Theory and Practice by David Sklansky and Ed Miller.  This book teaches a good foundation for how to think about no limit hold’em.  The skills they teach are necessary, but I am always concerned about people applying them in the correct situations and in the correct proportions and this book does not answer that important concern.

(+)How to Read Hands at No-Limit by Ed Miller.  Another book by Ed Miller and another success.  I don’t think this book was quite as good and applicable as Playing the Player, however if you are trying to understand what it takes to be a successful player, this book is an important building block.

(+)Ship It Holla Ballas! by Jonathan Grotenstein and Storms Reback.  This book describes a crew of internet poker players  and because I have lived a similar (poker) life, I related well to the book.  The book was extremely well written and entertaining, as I have played with many of the people in the book and have heard some of the stories before.  Definitely not a strategy book, but well worth a read.

(=)Phil Gordon’s Little Gold Book by Phil Gordon.  The no limit part of this book was excellent because it teaches you the right questions to ask to be able to be successful.  It only received an = rating from me because I thought the pot limit omaha and question and answer section were so bad, and gave such poor advice that readers should not even read it.

(-)Peak Performance Poker by Travis Steffen. This might have been the worst book I have ever read since the author basically wrote one sentence(“exercise and good eating will help your poker game”) without extrapolating and relating it to poker and created a book.  The book did not even offer anything but general, well known advice in those two areas.

(=)Hole Card Confessions by Owen Gaines.  The first part of the book was very general and not useful to most readers, however when the author reviews hands, he has good insight and listening to his thought process is very informative.  It is a good book for beginners for that reason.

2012

2012 Non-Fiction

(+)No Easy Day by Mark Owen.  The author is humble and insightful about being a SEAL and being involved in the Bin Laden Raid.

(+)The Signal and the Noise by Nate Silver.  His book was not as easy to read and entertaining as I had hoped, though it was very good.  That said, he is someone I respect immensely(and have written about in this blog) and it was on a topic I enjoy reading about.

(=)Imagine by Jonah Lehrer.  The book was about how to be more creative and increase imagination, but I had read most of the book in other places.

(-)Mortality by Christopher Hitchens.  I expected some insight or philosophy, but it was just a collection of disjointed thoughts.

(+)We Are Anonymous by Parmy Olson.  It was a good look inside the hacking world of Anonymous and its history, but even though I enjoyed it, it would probably not interesting to most people.

(=)The Amateur by Edward Klein.  The author spoke to high level people with personal knowledge of the President who said negative things about the President.  Much of it has  been written before and although it was interesting, I am usually skeptical of people with a clear agenda.

(+)10 Minute Toughness: The Mental Training Program by Jason Selk.  I thought his discussion and exercises were very good and useful for someone who has a job with a lot of stress.

(-)The Devil’s Highway by Luis Alberto Urea.  The story was interesting, but the author did not captivate the readers.

(-)American Sniper:The Autobiography of the Most Lethal Sniper in US Military History by Chris Kyle.  I hated this book because the author was an egomaniac without regard for the people he killed.  Reading No Easy Day reminded me of how terrible this one was.

(=)Assholes Finish First by Max Tucker.  Another in this series of lewd but entertaining tales by this author.  Was readable, but definitely not for everyone.

(=)The Big Short by Michael Lewis.  It was a good book about the recent market crash but was not as good as some others on the same topic.

(+)Boomerang by Michael Lewis.  A very well written and interesting book about market collapses in different countries.  Far better than The Big Short.

(=)Bossypants by Tina Fey.  There were some humorous moments in the book which saved it, but it was dull in a lot of parts

(-)50/50 by Dean Karnazes.  I like running books and his story was interesting, but the book was far too repetitive and uninteresting.

(-)Chelsea Chelsea Bang Bang by Chelsea Handler.  Similar to Assholes Finish first, and not particularly good.

(+)The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot.  The author did a good job of blending the current story with Henrietta’s history and made the book very easy to read and get into, despite the fact that the topic was only mildly interesting

(=)The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch.  His advice was sound and I enjoyed reading his story but it was a bit depressing(obviously) and not that inspiring.

(-)Moonwalking with Einstein by Joshua Foer.  I am not sure that the author’s story could have been interesting in the best of circumstances and he didn’t do a great job of capturing the reader and taking him through his journey.

(+)Naked Economics: Undressing the Dismal Science by Charles Wheelan.  I like these types of books that discuss economics and its applicability to everyday life.  This book has more relevant information then Freakanomics, but is not as entertaining.

(=)The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg.  The author did a good job of condensing a lot of material about habits and trying to teach the reader how to improve their habits and better their life.  However the book wasn’t that well written or engaging.

(+)Scorecasting by L. Jon Wertheim.  It was similar to Moneyball, but addressed different areas in sports and misconceptions.  It was a very good read.

(+)Sex on the Moon by Ben Mizrich.  I think this would appeal to many people as the author has a good writing flow that keeps the reader entertained.  Plus, the story was interesting and probably unknown to most.

(-)Sh*t My Dad Says by Justin Halpern.  It was a collection of uninteresting and not so funny tales.

(-)Unorthodox by Deborah Feldman.  A description of her life and the reasons she left the Jewish Satmar community.  It didn’t really resonate or interest me.

(+)What the Dog Saw:And Other Adventures by Malcolm Gladwell.  A superb, life changing  book that will change your view of the world.  A must read.

(-)Why Do Men Have Nipples? by Mark Leyner and Billy Goldberg.  Q&A’s about random questions that wasn’t that interesting.

(=)The Best Advice I Ever Got by Katie Couric.  I forget what I thought about it, but it was a very fast read.

(+)Back to Work by Bill Clinton.  It is superbly written and reasoned as to why the government should proceed in the manner he lays out.  He writes the way he speaks and is incredibly rational in his discussion.  I liked it a lot.

(+)If It Was Easy, They’d Call the Whole Damn Thing a Honeymoon by Jenna McCarthy.  The book is a series of relatable stories and humorous commentaries on married life.

(+)Born to Run by Christopher McDougall.  I enjoyed reading about natural ultra marathon runners and the author did a good job of making it relatable and entertaining

2012 Fiction

(+)Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn.  The author keeps the reader in suspense and the character development is very good.

(+)Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford.  A very moving historical fiction about a Chinese and a Japanese family in America during World War II.

(+)Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn.  Well written with lots of twists and suspense.  It was good enough to make me want to read her other two books, which were both very well received.

(=)The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky.  I read the book after seeing the movie, and the book included a lot background and important information.  It was ok, but nothing special.

(=)Beautiful Disaster by Jamie McGuire.  Kind of a trashy, implausible book that was a page turner, but not particularly good.

(-)Perfume by Patrick Suskind.  The main character was not particularly engaging, nor was the book gripping.

(+)The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time by Mark Haddon.  It was written from the point of view of an autistic boy and was phenomenal.  Moving and captivating, you root for the main character very hard.

(=)Drown by Junot Diaz.  I like the authors unique style, but it was similar to the other books he has written, and I preferred The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao.

(=)This is How You Lose Her by Junot Diaz.  It was better than Drown and but not as good as The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao

(=)The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson.  It is historical fiction in Chicago in the 1890′s which was entertaining, but got a bit long winded and boring in some parts.

(+)Before I Go to Sleep: A Novel by S. J. Watson.  Gripping book about a woman trying to figure out why she lost her memory.  Reminded me of the movie Memento without the violence.

(-)Blindness by Jose Saramago.  The book was almost unreadable as the story was boring and the characters did not entertain the reader at all.  Not sure how it got made into a movie.

(=)This is Where I Leave You by Jonathan Tropper.  I was entertained, but I thought it was nothing special or unique.

(+)The Power of One by Bryce Courtenay.  A fantastic book where you feel in sync with the main character and root for him continuously.  The authors writing is incredible.

(+)Tandia by Bryce Courtenay.  The sequel to The Power of One and was equally good, though a bit long(900 pages) for most people.  I enjoyed every page and it was as good as the previous book.

(=)Darkly Dreaming Dexter by Jeff Lindsay.  The basis for the show Dexter, which I love.  I did not think the book developed the characters or made me want to follow through with the rest of the series.

(-)Fifty Shades of Grey by E. L. James.  I did not think it was particularly good and don’t know what all the fuss was about.  Was extremely glad to finish and not read the next two in the series.

(+)The Hunger Games 1,2,3 by Suzanne Collins.  The first book was good and made me want to read the others.  Unfortunately, in the next two books the author was struggling to come up with a plausible way to add a sequel and did not entertain me.

(+)American Assassin by Vince Flynn.  It was a page turner about an American spy.

(+)Kill Shot by Vince Flynn.  One in the above series that was also excellent.

(=)The Litigators by John Grisham.  I thought it was medicre, especially for him.  It wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t particularly enthralling either.

(=)The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides.  I had a lot of trouble getting into the story, though I thought it was well written.

(=)The Street Lawyer by John Grisham.  I thought this book was ok, but certainly doesn’t compare to the Grisham of old.

(-)The Tiger’s Wife by Tea Obreht.  I tried really hard to like the story but the writers style and the story made it nearly impossible.

(+)We Need to Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver.  This was a very different book about a different subject, but I liked the way it was done and the author kept me involved in the book.

(+)Room by Emma Donoghue.  I liked different perspective that the author wrote from and she really stimulated my mind.  I enjoyed the whole book overall.

2012 Poker

(+) Playing the Player by Ed Miller.  A superb book that is great for middle stakes no limit players looking to improve.  I am very tough on poker books, but I think this one was excellent.

(=) Exploiting Regulars by Tri Nguyen and Tom Marchese.  The book is well written and probably cutting edge in its time, but I don’t think it is particularly applicable to today’s online games and not good for live play.  It doesn’t do a great job of teaching you to think, like Playing the Player, and is more about specific hands.

(+)Small Stakes No Limit Hold’em by Ed Miller, Sunny Mehta and Matt Flynn.  Good book for beginning no limit players.

(-)The Poker Blueprint by Aaron Davis and Tri Ngyuen.  The hands and concepts were ok, but it did a poor job of teaching applicability, which is where most players go wrong.

(+)PLO8 Revealed by Dan Deppen.  The book is the only book about PLO8 on the market and does a good job of teaching the basics, which is enough.

(+)Let There Be Range by Tri Ngyuen and Cole South.  This was one of the first expenive poker ebooks written and still stands the test of time.  It is no wonder why Cole crushed the games and you seeing his thought process is great.

(+)The Mental Game of Poker by Jared Tendler.  The author has intricate knowledge of what is necessary to improve the mental game and does a great job of explaining it.  He is very descriptive about player types and goes through exercises to help in the future.

(=)A Rubber Band Story and Other Poker Tales by Tommy Angelo.  I didn’t think this book was as good as his other ones but it was entertaining as the author has a knack for captivating the readers.

(+)Advanced Pot Limit Omaha Volumes 1, 2, 3 by Jeff Hwang.  There isn’t a lot of good material on PLO, and his is among the best out there.  3 and 1 were considerably better than 2 though.

(+)Every Hand Revealed by Gus Hanson.  His explanations about why he does certain things can be useful to every type of player.  Though his advice might not be directly applicable to anyone, seeing his thought process in tournaments was very insightful.

(-)Treat Your Poker Like a Business by Dusty Schmidt.  I disliked this book because the author assumes that because his way of playing poker works, it is applicable to business, in which he has no experience.  Aside from that, the book gives general advice that is in no way unique or special, even as directed towards poker players.

(=)High Low Split by Ray Zee.  It was and probably still is the best book on 7 card stud, but the advice is basic and probably will not help even a medium stakes player all that much.

(+)Raiser’s Edge by Bertrand “ElkY” Grospellier.  He advocated a completely different style of play that is explained well and can be applied to all games.  While there is some very useful information in the book, there is a lot that might not work for most people.

(-)Winning Poker Tournaments One Hand at a Time: Volume 2 by Eric Lynch, Jon Van Fleet and Jon Turner.  I disliked this book because I thought that 2 of the 3 authors played  terrible in the hands they describe.  To people who cannot discern the difference between good and bad play, this will lead them down the wrong path.

 

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