Category: books

Cat Man

by Edward Hoagland

A novel from my teenage years. Cat Man is a novel of running off to join the circus. The protagonist finds work caring for the cats: lions and tigers. He becomes more obsessed with the great cats with each chapter. But it is not the protagonist’s disastrous fixation that makes the book, it is the sumptuous detail in the operation of a mid 20th century circus.…

Pennsylvania Coal Mine Tipples

by Bernd and Willa Becher

This is the oddest and loveliest of the Becher’s volumes of architectural typologies.

You can have your blast furnaces, I love the coal mine tipples. I love the way you can see the structure, the bracing, usually made of nailed together boards, all creaky and improvised. The shabby landscapes, shot plain as day in the soft light of winter when there are no leaves on the trees, nothing to obscure the grandeur of wooden towers for coal shafts.…

Iron Horses

by E P Alexander

A sweet vintage book consisting of profiles of steam locomotives.. if you are into such things.

I used it as a reference for designing railroad themed board games.…

American Pictures

Jacob Holdt

I’ve always admired Jacob Holdt’s achievement in this book. With the most curious of cameras he made a photographic journey through America, and always took the time to visit, eat with (and for some reason usually sleep with) the poorest people he met. A really beautiful book.…

Sons Of Sinbad

by Alan Villiers

This book was introduced to my childhood home by my uncle Jerry (who lived in the Sausalito hippy houseboat community) and it was read by my parents and myself and my siblings at various times. We all used to quote its slogan “Allah’s winds are free, therefore his faithful use them”. It is a really beautiful book on so many levels: the exquisite photography by the author, the ethnographic details of beduin society, and most of all the accounts of the working of an wooden arab sailing cargo vessel, a dhow.…

King Solomon’s Ring

by Konrad Lorenz

I read this natural history book as a kid and it inspired me to keep a variety of pets. The illustrations by the author, and the chapters on aquariums are especially wonderful.…

Guns, Germs and Steel

by Jared Diamond

It is not often that I read a book that makes me think: Wow, this explains everything!” Jared Diamond’s book did exactly that, in a literal sense. The entire tapestry of global civilizations is explained in this book.…

Corelli’s Mandolin

by Louis de Bernières

This is the sort of novel that transports the reader to an extraordinary time and place. Vivid, passionate, and erudite, it is lovely writing. If the vocabulary of the first chapter doesn’t make you sit up and get out the dictionary (i.e. computer) then you are more literate than I.

The essential subject is that the horror of the second world war intrudes on the paradise of Greece.…

The Mammoth Book of Chess

by Graham Burgess

This is a little of everything in terms of chess, but my favorite thing about it is Graham Burgess’ enthusiastic conversational style. I like the simplistic way he covers openings, and his annotation on the attack and defense chapter.…

Capricornia

epic novel by Xavier Herbert.

Perhaps Herbert saw himself as Australia’s Dostoyevsky. Capricornia rolls along like a massive, tragic steam powered freight train through northern Australia’s early history. Herbert sees the central issue of Australia being race, and particularly the “half-caste” offspring of aboriginals and white immigrants.

This is a wonderful epic set in a corner of the globe that even Aussies don’t visit that often.  And yes, there are steam locomotives in the tale.…