John's Reading List
For many years I have kept a "must read" list of books. I add books from whatever sources I encounter - book reviews, recommendations of friends, bibliographies of books by other authors I like, etc. This list is often quite long, currently over 250 titles. As I read them, I delete them from the list.
Some years ago, it occurred to me that I should be keeping a list of books I've read, partially to help me avoid reading books over again needlessly, and partially to help me keep a chronicle of books that are especially influential in shaping my own thoughts and beliefs. Having started this list, I found myself jotting down some comments about each book, and this soon developed into writing some full fledged reviews.
The following is a partial list of books I've read (many in astronomy, but lots of other subjects in science as well) over the last several years. It is not comprehensive - I've lost track of many books I've read and liked, but it is representative of what I've been reading lately.
Generally, I only write a review of a book that I really liked, therefore, you won't find many negative comments here. If I finish a book I don't like, I usually just return it to the library and forget about it. Usually I don't finish books I don't like. If I find a book I really like, I tend to read other things written by the same author, and check the author's bibliography and sources for further tips on things to read.
I buy very few books these days. The Madison library system is quite comprehensive and the computer card catalog system makes it easy for me to reserve books - it even notifies me via email when they're in. When I do decide to purchase a book, I frequently use Amazon, but also make use of the extensive used-book resources available on the internet. Some of the better ones I've found are Half.com, ABEBooks.com, and Alibris.com. Between these three, I can track down nearly any difficult to find book and often have my choice of several editions, sellers, and prices.
A few more words about Amazon.com's excellent website. For my purposes, Amazon comes close to being an online "books in print" (yes, I know that the actual "books in print" is available online and on CDROM, but the fact that Amazon's service is free, and Bowker's BIP costs thousands of dollars makes the choice easy). Recently, I've also started sending some of my reviews to Amazon, where they can also be seen at this website. I use Amazon as a book search resource, and also to see what other readers think of various books.
I have also started writing some reviews for Cosmic Controversy, a new web site run by an acquaintance of mine. Visit and have a look.
- John Rummel (updated
January 15, 2007 )