1999 Reading

Here are the books I finished reading in 1999.

The Vertical World of Yosemite edited by Galen A. Rowell
Climber's Guide to Yosemite Valley by Steve Roper
1971 and 1964 editions. (10/24/99)
Rock Jocks, Wall Rats, and Hang Dogs by John Long
Performance Rock Climbing by Dale Goddard and Udo Neumann
Aid Climbing with Mike Corbett by Mike Corbett and Steve Boga
Free Climbing with John Bachar by John Bachar and Steve Boga
Bouldering with Bobbi Bensman by Bobbi Bensman
Sport Climber's Guide To Skyline Boulevard by Bruce Morris
Postcards from the Ledge by Greg Child
Seven Summits by Dick Bass and Frank Wells with XXX
Everest: Expedition to the Ultimate by Reinhold Messner
How To Rock Climb, Third Edition by John Long
Fifty Classic Climbs of North America by Steve Roper and Allen Steck
Learning to Rock Climb by Michael Loughman
Mountaineering: The Freedom of the Hills, 6th Edition, edited by Don Graydon and Kurt Hanson
The Climber's Handbook by Garth Hattingh
Travels in a Strange State: Cycling Across the U.S.A. by Josie Dew
I borrowed this book from Mike Vermeulen (who has a large collection of cycling touring books--I'd never even seen any of them before) the night before our trip to San Luis Obispo, bringing it along to read during the trip. One reason I chose it was that Dew rides along the same part of Highway 1 as we did. I stopped reading in disgust in Monterey when she described it being unusually clear and warm in January, where it was cloudy and freezing cold that day around the end of May.
I didn't bring the book on the Reno trip, and only recently finished it. I was rather disappointed as it's not so much about cycling but more about the strange people she meets. It is interesting that, for a book about crossing the US, she spends about half the pages on Hawaii and almost all the rest on places west of the Rockies. The only picture east of the Rockies is of an Amish woman in Indiana. (8/1/99)
National Geographic's Guide to the National Parks of the United States
I happened on this book in a store and really liked it--it's far better done than the other books on national parks. Since I enjoyed Yosemite (the first national park I'd ever visited) so much and am looking forward to visiting Death Valley and perhaps others next year, I wanted to read more about all the parks and got this. I haven't really read through everything, but just pick it up when I'm in the mood. (8/1/99)
Riding the Iron Rooster: By Train Through China by Paul Theroux
Theroux's older brother Alexander was a visiting writing teacher at MIT when I was a freshman, and I took a class from him and found him to be a fantastic teacher. Unfortunately he wasn't a very good writing, but Paul certainly is. I'd read a short story of his in Alexander's class, but nothing since then until this book. Travel narratives appear to be Theroux's specialty, and he's certainly good at them. (4/11/99)
I didn't actually finish this, eventually returning it to the library. I'll probably check it out again and finish it someday. (8/1/99)
Practical Chinese Reader I by the Beijing Language Institute
This seems to be the standard textbook on Chinese, and although it's old (1981 or earlier) and probably not that great, it seems pretty good and still probably the best thing out there. The selection of Chinese textbooks is as bad or worse than Japanese was when I first started learning it in 1987. I actually have two copies of the book, one being the traditional character edition that I first purchased at Stanford (where it is used), and the other the original version with simplified characters, which I bought because I wanted the tapes and they only came bundled with the book. I preferred the traditional version, since the characters are closer to those used in Japanese, and thought it was a waste to have to buy the other version as well, but it turns out to have been a good idea--despite the simplified version being older and apparently poorer quality, I actually like the layout much better. Also the tapes are pretty good, certainly much better than those that come with Modern Chinese. This is the primary book I'm using to learn Chinese. (12/22/98)
This, like the other books I'm using to learn Chinese, is ongoing reading. (8/1/99)
Graphic Java 1.2: Mastering the JFC. Volume 1: AWT by David Geary
I haven't completely finished this, but have probably read all I will for now and will use the rest as a reference. After trying to program graphics in Java for a long time using only Sun's documentation, I finally broke down and bought this book, and soon wondered how I had ever survived without it. A wonderful book, and absolutely essential. (4/11/99)
A Ride Along the Great Wall by Robin Hanbury-Tenison
The Great Wall is of course particularly interesting so I wanted to read something about this, and found this book in the library. It's about the author and his wife riding their horses along most of the length of the Great Wall. I would have preferred an account of walking or cycling, and the book isn't particularly well written, but it was still enjoyable to read. (4/11/99)
Red China Blues: My Long March from Mao to Now by Jan Wong
I found this in the library and thought it would be a nice complement to Wild Swans and indeed it was, telling a different, although connected, story, and going into more recent history. Not nearly as good as Wild Swans, but still fairly well written and certainly worth reading. I didn't realize how good my luck was with these two books until I looked at a few others (such as No Tears for Mao, which I quickly abandoned) and found how poorly written they were. Finished early this year. (4/11/99)
Wild Swans: Three Daughters of China by Jung Chang
I finished this book at the end of 1998, but am including it here since it fits in with the 1999 books better. My wife had this book and loved it, but I never thought I'd like it. However once I started learning Chinese I thought I should also learn a little about the country, and took a look at the book. Immediately I loved the style, and couldn't stop reading it. This really is an incredible book. The writing is superb, and what's especially amazing is that although the book is extremely long, it is so dense that hardly a word seems wasted. The story is so tragic that it's not something I'll reread soon, but I'm sure I will someday. (4/11/99).
Modern Chinese: A Basic Course by the Faculty of Peking University
I picked up this book since it was so cheap--the book plus three cassettes for $16. In a way you get what you pay for, but this is still a good deal. The book is very old--it dates back to 1958--and rather poorly done. For example far too much is introduced in each lesson, once the real lessons start. But one interesting feature of the book is that the first 8 lessons are entirely on pronunciation, and although the tape quality is also poor this is still useful as a supplement. Chapter 6 is a nice summary of change of tone rules. I like using several books at once to learn something as it provides some extra repetition, and this is a good secondary text. (12/22/98)
Moving here since this will be a reference. I did actually read through all the grammar notes in the book. (4/11/99)
Basic Chinese: A Grammar and Workbook by Yip Po-Ching and Don Rimmington
This just came out and it seemed very useful so I picked it up right away. Although it is too dry to read through, it seems to be a good reference, and it's very nice that both pinyin and (simplified) characters are provided for everything. What is unforgiveable, however, is that there is no index! (12/22/98)
Although I haven't really read this, I'm putting it here since I'm using it as a reference. I also got the second volume Intermediate Chinese. (4/11/99)
Speaking of Chinese by Raymond Chang and Margaret Scrogin Chang
I found this at the library, and it was quite a find. A terrific book for someone who wants to read about the Chinese language in English, which is just what I wanted to do when I started learning it. I read most of the book twice, and will probably read it a few more times in the future. (12/22/98)
I'm putting this in 1999 even though I finished it in 1998 since it fits in with the other 1999 books better.

Here are books that I'm in the middle of but haven't made any progress on in a while.  [This was written back in 1999.  I did later find an older and better English translation of Kokoro and read that, finding I didn't like the novel much after all.  The other books here I never really got back to (as of the end of 2005), although I did start taking Chinese at UCLA in Fall 2005.]

Various Chinese textbooks
I'm not reading much fiction lately, mostly spending my time on cycling, piano, and learning Chinese. So the last makes up my main reading. I'm using a lot of books to supplement Practical Chinese Reader which is described in more detail below. Some of the books are in Japanese, and are typically higher quality than the English books, but two very good books in English are Beginner's Chinese by Yong Ho and Passport to Chinese: 100 Most Commonly Used Chinese Characters by Lin Shan. The latter is particularly interesting in that the author starts by teaching the 100 (actually 110) most common characters, and the entire rest of the book consists of words, sentences, passages, and finally dialogs and stories using only those characters. Quite remarkable.
If I ever have time I'd like to make a page about learning Japanese and Chinese, and will review all of the books I'm using there. (8/1/99)
Angélique ou l'enchantement by Alain Robbe-Grillet
I would like to reread this and Les derniers jours de Corinthe before the NYU colloquium in October, but it probably won't happen. (9/20/98)
I indeed didn't manage to finish this, and who knows now when I will.... (10/27/98)
Natsume Souseki's Kokoro
I liked Sanshiro and And Then, which I read in English, but when I tried to read this in English it seemed very dull. A while ago a friend in Japan sent me a nice Japanese edition, which includes liberal furigana and footnotes for old words. I thought it would be too tough to read in Japanese (as Kawabata is), but it's actually not hard at all, and is very enjoyable to read in the original. I looked at the English translation again and decided it was just poorly done. (2/26/98)
I'm kind of bogged down in a dull section of this now, and am reading some other Japanese literature in English for a change, but should get back to this soon. This is good, but I prefer Souseki's romantic-theme novels. (4/30/98)
Alain Robbe-Grillet's Glissements progresifs du plaisir
Now that I have the film on video, I thought I'd finally read the ciné-roman. The film (probably his best) and the book complement each other beautifully, and I'd actually say the book is the more successful of the two! (8/11/97)
Marie Redonnet's Splendid Hôtel
In French this time, after reading it twice in English. This was the first work of hers that I read in English, and is the only work of hers I have yet to read in French. (8/11/97)
Jules Michelet's Satanism and Witchcraft
The title is a terrible translation of La sorcière, one of Robbe-Grillet's favorite books, which he often references. It turns out reading books recommended by your favorite author is a good idea! I certainly would have never tried this otherwise. I normally don't read much history, but Michelet is exceptional--his style is so good (even in translation ) that I'd rank him with the best fiction authors. I'd borrowed this last year from the San Jose library and read a little, in particular the first chapter "Death of the Gods" which is absolutely remarkable, and which I've already reread many times. I looked for the book for a while with no success before thinking of trying Stanford's campus bookstore, which was the most likely to carry it, and indeed they did. I got it the 15th and have read about a chapter a day--the high quality is maintained. (10/19/95)
Continuing after a long break. Still great. (8/4/97)
Jules Verne's Le tour du monde en 80 jours
I started this many months ago, when I was taking a class at the Continuing Studies program at Stanford, but I had to return it unfinished to the Stanford library when the class ended. I then couldn't find it anywhere else untill recently, when I got a copy at the European bookstore in San Francisco. Just before that I went to the SF public library and got Voyage, which for logistical reasons I had to return the next day and so was only able to read 40 pages of. I'd never read it before, and I got caught up in the story so I wanted to read it instead of Le tour du monde which I'd already read in English a long time ago. (8/4/95)
I've started reading again from the beginning. (8/12/96)
Marcel Proust's Remembrance of Things Past
I restarted Within a Budding Grove (the French title A l'ombre des jeunes filles en fleur is much better). (3/13/95)
James Joyce's Ulysses along with Ulysses Annotated by Don Gifford and Ulysses: A Study by Stuart Gilbert
I got tired of reading French and for some reason was in the mood to try Ulysses again, which is mostly in English. I'd tried to read it a few years ago but got bored and gave up. This time I've gotten a lot further, to chapter 11, although I'll probably take a rest again as the book does take a lot of effort to read. Ulysses Annotated, which I happened to find in a bookstore, is invaluable, and I'd almost say necessary. It provides much needed background information and is very interesting in its own right. Gilbert's study is also great, of course. Ulysses itself I still find uneven--parts are a real joy to read, while other parts are a chore to get through. (9/5/95)
Alain Robbe-Grillet's La jalousie and Le rendez-vous
I thought I'd try reading these in French, very slowly and carefully, a paragraph at a time followed by the corresponding paragraph of the translation. This was a wonderful exercise--I learned some French, found errors in the translation (and the original is enormously better, of course), and discovered all sorts of things I'd casually skipped over in my previous readings. However this was quite exhausting, not to mention a pain having to juggle two books, so I stopped about midway through, although I'd like to finish sometime. (I recently started again, but it's still slow and painful. (3/20/95))
Fourier no Bouken (Fourier Adventure) edited by the Transnational College of Lex
Every once in a while, I find something that makes me glad I learned Japanese. This book is one instance of that. Published by the Hippo Family Club, a group interested in conversing in as many languages as possible, this book attempts what seems so impossible that at first it might seem like a joke: teaching Fourier analysis to people who know almost no math (junior high algebra, maybe). And amazingly, they seem to pull it off! Well, I'm still not too far into the book, as Japanese is a bigger obstacle than math for me, so it's not clear exactly how successful they are yet. Their strategy, which is excellent, is to keep everything concrete and firmly grounded, using phonetics (which inspired the writing of the book in the first place) as a unifying theme. I've learned quite a bit already. And when I finish this one there's a "sequel", which teaches quantum mechanics.... (3/1/95)
I was delighted to recently discover both Fourier no Bouken and the "sequel" have recently been translated into English and released under the titles "Who Is Fourier?" and "What is Quantum Mechanics?"! Both really deserved to translated, and I was very tempted to get the English versions so that I'd finally read them through, but I think I'll hold out and try again to read the originals. (5/29/96)
Douglas Hofstadter's Godel, Escher, Bach
I almost forgot about this one! This is the second reading of what has probably been the book to influence me the most. The first reading took place over about four years from high school to college. I started re-reading it a couple years ago in Japan (I also picked up the Japanese translation, since it was interesting to see how the translator struggled with untranslatable material) and the second reading was of course enormously easier (although some of the material in the book, particularly that on AI, is rather dated), but at the rate I'm going it may end up being four years before I finish this time as well!