1998 Reading

Here are the books I finished reading in 1998.

At Home in the World: A Memoir by Joyce Maynard
I found out about this book, famous for the section about the author's affair with J.D. Salinger, completely by accident, and then found when I told friends about it that they all knew about it already. I didn't want to pay $25 and the libraries didn't have it in yet, so I started reading pieces of it, not necessarily in order, during visits to the nearby bookstore. Very interesting and quite well-written so far. (10/27/98)
Sometime around the end of last year I finally was able to check this out from the library and really read it. I liked it less and less the more I read, losing all sympathy for Maynard and feeling a bit sorry for Salinger by the end. (4/11/99)
Chuzaiin fujin no diipu na sekai by Mori Rie and Saike Hibari
My wife loves to read as well, but completely different books than what I read. In particular she likes essays, which I normally can't stand. But she thought I might enjoy this account of the world of Japanese wives living abroad, told in parallel via manga (comics) and essays. Indeed it is pretty interesting reading. (10/27/98)
Finished sometime last month. It got more dull as it went on, unfortunately, but overall was worth reading. (12/22/98)
The Kiss by Kathryn Harrison
When I mentioned At Home in the World to a friend she mentioned she was reading this book, which is primarily about the author's love affair with her father, during visits to bookstores. I had no trouble finding a copy in a library here and read the book in a couple days. I'm rather ambivalent about it, as the style is at times very simple and nice, and at other times too literary, trying hard to be profound. But overall worth reading. (10/27/98)
Where Love Goes by Joyce Maynard
I read this since I found it at the library and thought since At Home in the World was interesting that this would also be worth reading as quasi-autobiographical fiction. Unfortunately while Maynard is good at autobiographical narrative she is terrible at fiction, especially dialog, and this book was painful to read from beginning to end. Amazingly I did stick it out and read the whole thing, just because I'm a sucker for books about romantic relationships. (10/27/98)
Fermat's Enigma: The Epic Quest to Solve the World's Greatest Mathematical Problem by Simon Singh
As excellent as Aczel's book is bad. A wonderfully written account of the event's leading to Wiles' proof of Fermat's Last Theorem.
Read around the beginning of the month. (10/27/98)
Fermat's Last Theorem: Unlocking the Secret of an Ancient Mathematical Problem by Amir D. Aczel
An absolutely terrible book, very poorly written with much of the content having little relation to Fermat's Last Theorem, and not at all worth reading when the enormously better Fermat's Enigma is available. About the only material here and not in the latter is information about the controversy surrounding the naming of the Taniyama-Shimura Conjecture.
Read around the beginning of the month. (10/27/98)
My Brain Is Open: The Mathematical Journeys of Paul Erdos by Bruce Schechter
A fairly interesting but ultimately disappointing portrait of Erdos. It spends too much time on the standard mathematical puzzles that seem to be present in every popular mathematics book and not enough on Erdos himself. I've yet to read The Man Who Loved Only Numbers.
Read around the beginning of the month. (10/27/98)
The Alchemist: A Fable About Following Your Dream by Paulo Coelho
A coworker lent me this and I read it in a couple hours. Too slow paced for a fable, rather poorly constructed, and I found the simplistic philosophy irritating. For modern fables, Redonnet's works are infinitely superior. (9/20/98)
88 Keys: The Making of a Steinway Piano by Miles Chapin and Rodica Prato
Essentially a big advertisement for Steinway, so you'd almost wish they'd give the book out for free, but I found this at the library. The text and illustrations are very nicely done and it's quite interesting. (9/20/98)
Piano: A Photographic History of the World's Most Celebrated Instrument by David Crombie
An excellent overview of pianos with plenty of photographs. My only complaints are that the layout is a bit haphazard and some of the photographs, particularly those trying to show how the action works and so forth, are a bit small and it is difficult to figure out the details. In a way drawings would be better, but those can be found in other books, so its nice to have the pictures here. (9/20/98)
The Piano Book (Third Edition) by Larry Fine
An indispensible book for someone interested in buying a piano or who already owns one, but enjoyable just to read for anyone interested in pianos. I found the section on the manufacturers to be especially fun to read. (9/20/98)
How to Play Popular Piano in 10 Easy Lessons by Norman Monath
The title makes it sound like ripoff mailorder course, and the author actually originally intended to release it as a mailorder course (!), but this is actually a very good book. The basic idea is to play the melody with the right hand (and if you play melodies you know you don't need to really bother to read music) and chords with the left, and so the book is mainly about how to form chords for popular music. This kind of information is actually difficult to find summarized in a well-written book, and I've only found one other book previously on the subject, which I seem to have forgotten to put in my list when I read it. I originally got this book from the library but it was good enough that I decided to purchase it. (9/20/98)
Piano Lessons by Noah Adams
I can't seem to stop rereading the good parts of this. I finally decided I should get my own copy, and ordered the hardcover version from Amazon. (9/20/98)
Pianist's Progress by Helen Drees Ruttencutter
Traces pianist Robin McCabe's life from when she enters Juliard to when she begins a professional career. This is the exactly the kind of book I wanted to read, but I found it a little less interesting than I thought it might be, mostly because the piano student's life turns out to be not so interesting--mostly just practice and competitions. Still I ended up reading it twice. Searching on the web McCabe ended up as the head of music at the University of Washington, which seems particularly appropriate for her. Of the other young pianists covered in the book, at least one seems to have become extremely famous: Mitsuko Uchida. (9/20/98)
Glenn Gould at Work: Creative Lying by Andrew Kazdin
I almost didn't check this book out from the library, as the cover makes it sound like Kazdin, Gould's long-time producer, has an ax to grind. However the first half of the book is quite well written and extremely interesting. Then around the second half the grinding begins, and it gets less entertaining. Kazdin sounds like jilted lover, overanalzying and expecting too much from Gould. (9/20/98)
The Computer Music Tutorial by Curtis Roads
Incredible introduction to all aspects of computer music, as well as digital audio in general. (1/22/97)
I'm retiring this book from my "middle of" list since I'll probably never read it all the way through, and instead just read sections that are interesting at the time. I did read about the first half straight through, but of course forgot everything. (7/23/98)
Hot Tips for the Home Recording Studio by Hank Linderman
An excellent book, written with a nice sense of humor, which covers the basics of home recording. The audience is someone who knows practically nothing about recording, so this was perfect for me. (7/23/98)
Mastering the Piano by Mervyn Bruxner
Various tips on practicing and so forth, most too advanced for me at this stage but still interesting to read. (7/23/98)
Piano Pieces by Russell Sherman
Found at the Menlo Park library. I'd never heard of Sherman, who is supposedly a famous pianist, but reading this I've discovered he's a terrible writer. This book requires incredible effort to find the very small pieces of reasonably interesting information. I wonder if even the critics quoted on the back really read it. I was looking forward to the "exquisite use of Beckett and Robbe-Grillet to explicate the wonders of Mozart" mentioned by one but all the book had to offer was an (incorrect) analogy of their works to Mozart's nonsense letters. Gould, whom I'm a fan of, writes beautifully and clearly, so probably I wouldn't like Sherman's piano playing.... (7/23/98)
Playing the Piano for Pleasure by Charles Cooke
Noah Adams recommended this book in his book, and I was lucky to find it at the Menlo Park library. It is indeed a terrific book. One interesting quote: "My own sight-reading pile stands hip-high and I expect to have read my way through it by 1998, at which time I will be ninety-four years old" (written in either 1941 or 1960). I wondered if he made it! Unfortunately on rereading Piano Lessons I learned he'd died in 1977. (7/23/98)
Piano Lessons by Noah Adams
I reread this twice (see last year's list for the first time), although I concentrated on just the most interesting parts the second rereading. What a great book. I wish there were more books like this. (7/23/98)
The Science of Musical Sound (Revised Edition) by John R. Pierce
I again reread the interesting sections. There is a copy at Stanford and I thought about finally buying it twice in consecutive weeks, but decided against it. On the third trip I was actually going to really buy it, but someone else had! I guess I'll just continue to check it out from the library. (7/23/98)
Some Prefer Nettles by Tanizaki Jun'ichirou
I started reading this and then quickly skimmed the rest. Another dull Tanizaki novel. Finished a month or two ago. (7/23/98)
Natsume Souseki's Mon (The Gate)
Finished a month or two ago. I had high expectations since the previous two books in the trilogy were so excellent, but this one is a real snoozer. Best left unread. (7/23/98)
Everest: Mountain without Mercy by Broughton Coburn
An excellent account of the 1996 IMAX expedition; it complements Into Thin Air well and includes many beautiful pictures and maps. Too bad the film won't be showing in the Bay Area until October! (4/30/98)
Finished a couple days ago. (5/5/98)
Natsume Souseki's And Then
This is the second of a sort of trilogy (mainly connected thematically). I'd read it before (and Morita's movie on it is also excellent), as well as the first novel Sanshiro, but I don't think I ever read the third Mon (The Gate), perhaps because I never found it (however I just did find a copy a couple days ago at Chimera used books in Palo Alto, so I'll be reading that next). I wanted to read Sanshiro, which I remember liking better, but can't find a copy, so I tried this one out. And I'd forgotten how excellent it is! I also have this in Japanese and might try reading it just after this, so that it will be easier to figure out. (4/30/98)
Finished a couple days ago. Terrific. (5/5/98)
The Master of Go by Kawabata Yasunari
I'd read this years ago, but was in the mood to read it again. Not great, but certainly very enjoyable, especially if you're interested in Go. Finished a couple weeks ago. (4/30/98)
Naomi by Tanizaki Jun'ichirou
I tried reading this, one of his early novels, after finding the book below so good. Unfortunately this one is pretty weak. Finished a few weeks ago. (4/30/98)
The Reed Cutter and Captain Shigemoto's Mother by Tanizaki Jun'ichirou
A friend lent me this book of two short novels. I'd read and really liked Tanizaki many years ago, but for some reason hadn't pursued him. This book reminded me how great he is. The Reed Cutter in particular is superb. Finished a few weeks ago. (4/30/98)
Marie Redonnet's Silsie
For the second time. (10/4/97)
Finished a couple days ago (there was a long break of course). Excellent, but perhaps not quite as great as Forever Valley after all. I've placed it in Second Tier for now. (3/24/98)
Murakami Haruki's Sekai no owari to haadoboirudo wandarando (The End of the World and Hardboiled Wonderland)
The English translation reverses the two parts of the title. This will probably be the last Murakami novel I read. Not a romance novel, but more of a science-fiction/detective story it seems. Quite long, and more difficult to read (vocabulary-wise) than his others. So far it's so-so. (6/3/96)
On hold while I read stuff in English and French. (8/12/96)
Started reading again around December of last year. Now in the middle of the second volume. (2/8/98)
Finally finished yesterday. Murakami writes like he's being paid by the word, and this book is full of uninteresting filler. The structure is excellent, but if it were a third as long it would be twice as good. It continues to be dull right up to the end, although the ending itself is not bad. Overall mediocre at best. (3/8/98)
For Smile by Okamoto Mayo
This is primarily a picture book, with the main text a series of three long interviews. (2/8/98)
The intereviews are very interesting and complement the autobiographical material in Koi suru kinyo well, answering several of the outstanding questions. I finished reading this around mid-February. (3/8/98)
Koi suru kingyo by Okamoto Mayo
Okamoto Mayo has recently become one of my favorite musical artists, so I wanted to read about her as well. The first half of this book is a sort of autobiographical sketch, which is interesting but raises more questions than it answers. The second half is a series of two-page essays, which are so-so. A short book; I finished in less than a week reading it on the train. (2/8/98)

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