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What's Coyote Reading Now!?

I was poking around in an old drawer and I found a list of books I had read in 1976. I can't remember now why I was keeping a list of books way back then, but I found the list interesting. It immediately called to mind the topics I wanted to learn more about when I was a young man. I thought it might be interesting to have another list, compiled 30 years later, to compare it to, hence the list you find here of books I have read since January 2007, and short comments about them. I'm always curious what other people are reading, and I thought you might be, too. If you have read a book you think I might like, please contact me. I generally have two or three books going at the same time, so I'm always looking for fresh material.

Coyote's entire library is now available for viewing on .

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January 2012

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Wild Birding Colorado: The Big Year of 2010
by Cole Wild and Nicholas Komar

Wild Birding

Cole Wild is a young, local birder that you run into occasionally if you spend any time at all around this area looking for birds. Nick Komar is one of the local gurus who has taken Cole under is wing and taught him a thing or two about birds and where to find them. And, obviously, Cole is motivated enough and bright enough to risk everything to learn more on his own. These two guys are inspiring, if not the most eloquent and polished of writers.

This is an account of Cole's attempt to find more bird species in one year in Colorado than anyone before him. It is a reminder that you don't have to be rich to chase birds all over to Hell and gone if you are passionate enough about them. If you are a Colorado birder, this book should probably be on the "must read" list.

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The Bourne Identity
by Robert Ludlum

The Bourne Identity

I give away used books as Christmas presents, and I found this old favorite on a shelf and gave it to my non-reading youngest, hoping to spark a file. He had already read it, he said. (Although I think he was remembering the movie, which is nothing whatsoever like the book.)

Anyway, it was sitting around on the coffee table the day after Christmas and, naturally, I picked it up and ... Well, you know the story. Interestingly enough, this was a much better book when I read it 20 years ago!

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Travels in Siberia
by Ian Frazier

Travels in Siberia

Ian Frazier is my kind of traveler. He has a wonderful eye for detail and I like his travel philosophy. He likes to go to out-of-the way places with large vistas and few people. Siberia is perfect for him. This book strings together several different trips to Siberia at different times of the year, but centers around a single long trip across the vast breath of the country. I had no idea the place was so damn BIG! Nor did I really understand how Siberia was used in the Soviet Union to punish its citizens. Nice book.

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Tenkara: Radically Simple, Ultralight Fly Fishing
by Kevin C. Kelleher

Tenkara

Over the past several years, I have been radically reducing the amount of weight I carry backpacking. I generally carry on the order of 18-20 pounds these days, fully loaded for a long weekend trip. But, I have pretty much eliminated any extraneous gear and, yet, one of the things I still envy about my heavily loaded friends is their fishing gear. Tenkara may well be the answer. You can put together an entire fishing outfit for about 6 ounces. The Zen-like simplicity of Tenkara really appeals to me. I haven't bought my rod yet, but I have a feeling its going to be my next major purchase.

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Lighten Up! : A Complete Handbook for Light & Ultralight Backpacking
by Don Ladigin

Lighten Up!

I am co-teaching an ultralight backpacking class next month, so I have been gathering resources and materials. This is a reasonably good book for people who are new to ultralight backpacking. It can easily be read in an evening. Mike Clelland is the illustrator of this book, which makes it fun. Clelland has his own book (Ultralight Backpackin' Tips), though, which I think is even more useful than this one.

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No Shortage of Good Days
by John Gierach

No Shortage of Good Days

I'll say this about John Gierach. You know what you are getting when you start a Gierach book. Good times, a few laughs, great insight into fishing and life, and a most pleasant and enjoyable few hours killing time rather than fish. This book is no different, and that is maybe the best and worst that can be said of it. Sometimes I wonder if Gierach doesn't have more to say, but it's just too much trouble to push it a bit. Or maybe he really is just a fisherman who writes fun, entertaining books and he is happy enough with that.

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February 2012

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Ultralight Backpackin' Tips
by Mike Clelland

Ultralight Backpackin' Tips

I've spent the past couple of months combing the Internet for information for an ultralight backpacking class I was planning to teach to a group of hikers I belong to. For a long time I avoided this book because it didn't appear serious enough to me. Then, I sat down and read it, and I learned more about ultralight backpacking in a couple of hours than I did in nearly a month on the Internet! Maybe this book makes more sense once you have actually struggled to reduce the weight of your backpack, but my pack weight was reduced another couple of pounds just by the new ideas alone. I didn't have to buy a thing. My pack base weight is now about 14 pounds and heading lower!

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Curtis Creek Manifesto
by Sheridan Anderson

Curtis Creek Manifesto

As the title has it, this is a "Fully Illustrated Guide to the Stategy, Finesse, Tactics and Paraphernalia of Fly Fishing". And, I would add, it is wonderful! If you are just learning to fly fish, or you are like me and coming back to it after a long time, this is the book to get you in the mood to fish! Like Cleland's book on ultralight backpacking, this book is fun, witty, and chock full of good and useful advise. Highly recommended.

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A Fly Fishing Guide to Rocky Mountain National Park
by Steven B. Schweitzer

Fly Fishing in Rocky Mountain National Park

This is not only an extensively researched and well written book, but it is absolutely gorgeous! It is done in full color on high quality paper, and if the sight of those views of Rocky Mountain National Park's miles of fishable streams and lakes doesn't get you off the couch and into the mountains, nothing will. This book has it all. Which streams and lakes have fish, what kind of fish you can expect, the best way to get there, and what flies to use once reach your destination. In addition, you are given 100 fly patterns used and tied by many of best fishermen locally. Great book! I've spent a lot of time in RMNP, but I can already tell I'm going to be spending a lot more.

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Floaters: Three Short Stories
by J.A. Konrath and Henry Perez

Floaters

J.A. Konrath writes a most interesting blog about writing, and he mentioned this book as a free e-book he and Perez were giving away for a week or so as a promotion. I snapped it up to see if he was as good a fiction writer as he is a blog writer. But, truthfully, I'm not sure. I'm going to have to read more to make up my mind. This book was a bit of an experiment between Konrath and Perez, with the two of them writing the book in a give and take fashion. It reminded me of a storytelling class I took years ago, when you were required to "go" with the story as it came to you, embellish it, then pass it on again. It's probably not their best work.

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The Getaway Car: A Practical Memoir About Writing and Life
by Ann Patchett

The Getaway Car

I have never read any of Ann Patchett's books, and I don't really know how I came to read this one. Except that I was poking around one day trying to learn how to create e-books, and I found this book offered as a Kindle single. These are books that are too long to be a magazine article, but too short to be a full-fledged book. However I came to find it, I'm glad it did. This is a most entertaining and enjoyable book about the writing life. If you are an aspiring writer, I highly recommend it for its good advice and companionable tone. Now, I'm looking for an Ann Patchett novel.

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Ishmael: An Adventure of the Mind and Spirit
by Daniel Quinn

Ishmael

I am not sure what to say about this book. It was given to me by one of my children and described as one of the best books my son had ever read. I did not think it was a well written book. In fact, the style annoyed me a great deal at first. But, after working my way through the first 80 or so pages of the book, I found I really wanted to keep reading. I was extremely disappointed with the ending. I kept wondering what a really good writer would do with this material. I guess I think the ideas were compelling, and that the execution was deeply flawed.

March 2012

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An Idiot Abroad: The Travel Diaries of Karl Pilkington
by Karl Pilkington

An Idiot Abroad

I bought this book on a whim after looking at a YouTube video of Karl talking to Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant. It was a hoot! Any my son tells me that he and his wife roar with laughter when watch the television show this book is based on. I can believe it, but I don't think the video to book translation works all that well. The book itself is hilarious for the first 40-50 pages. Then it becomes an believably tedious bore as Karl reacts pretty much the same way to each experience: he hates the food, he hates adventure, he hates travel, etc., etc. By about page 150 you are ready to toss him overboard and just get on with it!

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Eiger Dreams: Ventures Among Men and Mountains
by Jon Krakauer

Eiger Dreams

Although published rather recently (2009), this book has the feel of a book written long before that. And, indeed, it turns out to be a collection of magazine articles Krakauer has written over a 15 or 20 year career. It is clearly Krakauer, but it is not as polished or as evocative of some of his best, later writing. Nevertheless, a most enjoyable book about some of the characters who climb the world's biggest and most challenging mountains.

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Travels with Charlie: In Search of America
by John Steinbeck

Travels with Charlie

One of the abiding pleasures of renting a beach house, over and above the obvious one of slouching on the hammock with your feet up and a book in your hands for a week straight, is the opportunity to poke around the house and see what manner of people live there by examining the books they have left behind on the shelves. I've only been disappointed once, when we were the first occupants of a newly-built beach house in Virginia Beach. There were books, of course. But you needed about five seconds of browsing to know that whoever put the damn things there was not a reader. Maybe it was the interior designer. The books looked inviting. They just didn't have the least bit of character or personality. I spent that vacation curled up with my Kindle or playing Hearts.

But, a recent visit to another beach house in Hawaii has made the world right again. Travels with Charlie! Oh, my goodness. It's been at least 40 years since I read that book, and I still remember it fondly. And, 40 years on, it was just as good--maybe better, because I had forgotten how funny it was. What a joy to read about the America of my youth. A time when a camper pick-up truck was a big deal, and the small towns of Steinbeck's youth were growing up and becoming cities. I guess one of the pleasures of growing older is that you get to revisit your youth every once in awhile. This was a most pleasant two-day read and has me looking on every book shelf I meet for a copy of East of Eden, one of the books that made me a life-long reader.

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Portrait of a Spy
by Daniel Silva

Portrait of a Spy

I was enjoying a near perfect vacation when my Kindle suddenly quit on me. Yikes! I haven't read a real book in what seems like a long, long time and I had a 7 hour flight home the next day. The only thing I could do was dash into the nearest convenience store for a good mystery novel. Something that might last for a few hours on a flight. I've seen Daniel Silva's name on these kinds of books for years, but I've never actually read one. I chose this one because the publisher, HarperCollins, has pity on old folks and prints their books in a readable size typeface. Plus, it was a spy novel and I've read enough of these to know that even if the book was terrible, it wasn't as bad as the in-flight movie.

Imagine, then, my surprise to find a book that not only can be read by tired, old eyes but was well-written and fast-paced enough to keep me enthralled the entire flight. Apparently this book is one of a series written about the Israeli spy, Gabriel Allon. I'm sure I'll be reading a few more.

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A Sense of Direction: Pilgrimage for the Restless and the Hopeful
by Gideon Lewis-Kraus

Sense of Direction

As someone who has an excessive wish for travel (not always fulfilled, alas!) and a significant interest in the Camino de Santiago in particular, I have read a lot of travel books in the past couple of years. Most of them not so good. Gideon Lewis-Kraus could have been reading my mind when he wrote this sentence:

“I only like travel writing when it's not about travel at all but rather about friendship, lies, digression, amateurism, trains, and sex.”

Amen to that!

Still, this book got started slowly with me. I thought I was in for a long slog as he describes his life in Berlin that led to this series of three pilgrimages. Young, narcissistic, full-of-himself. "For God's sake, grow-up," I kept muttering. I'm not sure he ever does, even in the end, but he has two things going for him. First, he realizes he is young, narcissistic, and full-of-himself (not easy for a narcissist, as my family history can attest) and he can occasionally be quite funny. More importantly, by about the middle of the book, I found myself ignoring more important chores to read this book.

In the end, I think this "travel" book is exactly the kind of travel book Lewis-Kraus and I like to read. I'm pretty sure the author and I would never be good friends, but if I ran into him on the Camino I would have very high expectations of spending a long meal together, laughing and telling tales to one another.

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Before the Swarm (Kindle Single)
by Nicolas Griffin

Before the Swarm (Kindle Single)

This is an interesting account of eccentric naturalist and National Geographic photographer, Mark Moffett. Moffett studied ants with E.O. Wilson at Harvard, but this high-school drop-out has always had "major problems with authority" and has gone his own way whenever possible. Nicholas Griffin does a good job of capturing the essense of this strange man and his devotion to ants and to sharing their story with the public. This is a book that can be read at a single sitting, and at only $2 is cheap entertainment, indeed.

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My Mother's Lover (Kindle Single)
by David Dobbs

My Mother's Lover

Long-form journalism, such as this book by David Dobbs, is becoming one of my favorite types of books to read on my Kindle. This short book describes Dobbs' attempt to find out what prompted his dying mother to request that her ashes be spread out on the sea, so she could go back to her first love, Angus, whom none of her children knew anything about. Dobbs ends up learning that his mother was a much more complicated woman than she appeared. An interesting look at family secrets.

April 2012

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1776
by David McCullough

1776

It always amazes me how superficial my knowledge of American history is. I know I paid attention in class, but maybe what we are taught in class is the watered-down "official" version. In any case, I was surprised to learn how close this country came to not being a country, and by what exigencies a course in history is plotted. This well written and crafted book by David McCullough should be required reading by every American who wants to know how America came to be a country. Brave and committed men, acts of nature, and mistakes by the enemy do, indeed, sometimes make a country. But, it could have just as easily gone the other way.

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Tao of Travel
by Paul Theroux

Tao of Travel

Not what I was expecting. Quotes from fellow travelers. Interesting. Just not the Theroux I was expecting.

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How to Shit Around the World
by Dr. Jame Wilson-Howarth

How to Shit Around the World

Having traveled in several undeveloped countries now, I can assure you this book is essential reading. There is nothing worse than coming unprepared and ignorant in how to handle yourself (not what I meant!) in unfamiliar terrain. Highly recommended for any traveler.

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A Final Arc of Sky: A Memoir of Critical Care
by Jennifer Culkin

A Final Arc of Sky

The essays in this book were a little uneven. You can see the writer gaining skill over time. But this was a book that has stayed with me for a long time. Most enjoyable and I learn a great deal about what goes on in the Flight for Life helicopters.

May 2012

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Cooking Solves Everything: How Time in the Kitchen Can Save Your Health
by Mark Bittman

Cooking Solves Everything

I have always had a strange relationship with food and cooking. Basically, I can eat the same thing day after day for months at a time. Occasionally, I get into my head that I want to change this and I go looking for books about food and cooking. I'm always drawn to Mark Bittman because he makes a lot of sense to me. And while his books get me all fired up and shopping differently for a couple of weeks, I always seem to fall back into the same boring habits. Even so, I'm a believer. Cooking does solve everything. If I could only make myself do it. A Byliner e-book.

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Kingpin: How One Hacker Took Over the Billion-Dollar Cybercrime Underground
by Kevin Poulsen

Kingpin

Every once in awhile I like to think about how I could make a better living with my computer skills. This would be SO much more fun than writing one more display of satellite image data. But, in the end if figure I wouldn't really know what to do with several million dollars anyway, and I just go back to my day job.

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The Electric Mind: One Woman's Battle Against Paralysis
by Jessica Benko

The Electric Mind

One of my favorite outlets for long-form journalism is The Atavist. This long-form article by Jessica Benko is exactly the reason why. Trapped in a body that won't move, Cathy Hutchinson's only way to communicate with the world is by moving her eyes. Benko tells the story of how technology is being used in ways that are simply unimaginable to most of us. This is a most compelling and well-told story.

June 2012

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Turn Right at Machu Picchu: Rediscovering the Lost City One Step at a Time
by Mark Adams

Right Turn at Machu Picchu

Lots of good information about the trail to Machu Picchu, but told in a "I'm such a klutz" style that I didn't enjoy it all that much. My god, man, suck it up! You are doing what thousands of people wish they could do, with advantages most could never afford. Don't patronize us.

***

A Great Aridness: Climate Change and the Future of the American Southwest
by William deBuys

A Great Aridness

Well researched and interesting book on the future of the American Southwest in the face of anticipated climate change. William deBuys interviews most of the major players whose decisions will affect the area and considers what the future might hold. Contains the best description yet of the Colorado River Compact that divides Colorado River water between the SW states and Mexico.

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The Miracle Already Happening
by Rosemerry Wahtola Trommer

The Miracle Already Happening

Rosemerry Wahtola Trommer is a Colorado poet who has been writing a poem a day on her blog. It is one of the first places I head to when I sit down at my computer in the morning. More often than not, that day's poem is wake-up call to be in the present, to experience life fully, to rejoice in its mystery. Trommer is fan of the mystical poet, Rumi, as I am, and often writes her poems with that sensibility evident. This is one of my favorite collections. Highly recommended.

***

How to Get Away with Murder in America: Drug Lords, Dirty Pols, Obsessed Cops, and the Quiet Man Who Became the CIA's Master Killer
by Evan Wright

Murder in America

This is a fast-paced and compelling the story of how a young Cuban named Ricky Prado went from working as a hit man for a Miami mafioso to making policy decisions at the highest levels of the Central Intelligence Agency. One of a growing number of long-form journalism e-books from the Byliner, another of my favorite sources of e-books to download to my iPhone.

July 2012

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Blue Highways
by William Least Heat Moon

Blue Highways

One of the classic American travel books that I somehow missed when it was written 25 years ago. Very glad I finally stumbled upon it.

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Wild
by Cheryl Strayed

Wild

Having done a couple of month-long hikes on the Pacific Crest Trail myself, and having read many accounts of this hike, while getting ready to hike the Oregon section of the trail a couple of years ago, I decided to give this one a go when I heard good things about it from one of my friends. Gideon Lewis-Kraus wrote in a book I was given to review on LibraryThing that "I only like travel writing when it's not about travel at all but rather about friendship, lies, digression, amateurism, trains, and sex." Me, too. And although there wasn't any mention of trains in this book, the rest was mentioned plenty often enough for me to thoroughly enjoy the book.

Last Updated: 24 December 2012