Books Ron Read in 1997

Comments on the Year 1997

I'm reeling in the years and stowing away the time. As I write this, it is May 2003, and I am still working my way backwards through my booklists.

I had a lot of time to read in 1997, as I had just moved to Seattle to work at Boeing, and until about April, my wife Marty was still living in Lexington, Kentucky, where we had lived for a couple of years after an extended period in Boston. Yes, I was the Hale-Evans vanguard, and I had ready access to an excellent subscription library called the As You Like It Library that focused on occult books but carried a good many books on skepticism too. Thus, a lot of the books I read in '97 were either occult or anti-occult.

1997 was also the year I discovered the following good things:

For much of this year, I was working on the first draft of my book Kennexions. I also read a bunch of bibliophilic books, or "books about books", and toward the end of the year, a number of books on study skills, becoming smarter, and digesting all the information I was gobbling.

This list is pretty fully commented. Share and Enjoy!

A year in (parentheses) is the book's publication date; a date in [brackets] is the date I finished the book.

The Books

  1. Joseph Bulgatz, Ponzi Schemes, Invaders from Mars & More Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds (1992) ... Great debunking of mass hysteria, in the tradition of Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds. Required reading to combat some of the hooey I was about to read this year. [6 Jan]

  2. Aaron Lynch, Thought Contagion (1996) ... A seminal book on memetics. Focuses largely on how memes influence certain populations (e.g. Mormons, Mennnonites) to have more children, thereby spreading the memes further. As above, required anti-hooey medication. [8 Jan]

  3. Arthur B. Hancock and Kathleen J. Brugger, The Game of God: Recovering Your True Identity (1993) ... Why we should forgive God for all the suffering in the world. (Hint: Life is a Game, and guess who is God...) [11 Jan]

  4. Viktor E. Frankl, Man's Search for Meaning (1963) ... By the existentialist author who survived a Nazi concentration camp to invent logotherapy. Does your life lack meaning? Try reading this book. [12 Jan]

  5. "Æ" (George William Russell), The Candle of Vision (1918) ... The detailed record of a self-avowed mystic who saw... a lot of something. [13 Jan]

  6. David Darling, Zen Physics: The Science of Death, the Logic of Reincarnation (1996) ... Interesting stuff consistent with recent work in the philosophy of identity. Reminds me a little of Forever For All. [14 Jan]

  7. Dion Fortune, Through the Gates of Death (c.1968) ... Magician Dion Fortune's account of what happens after you die. Unconvincing. [16 Jan]

  8. Lyall Watson, The Secret Life of Inanimate Objects (1992) ... Another book from a master [bull|horse]shitter, this time claiming that inanimate objects have "a life of their own" when we're not looking. Would probably be more appealing if I were still a stoner. [22 Jan]

  9. Jorge Luis Borges, In Praise of Darkness (1994) ... A collection of poetry, I believe. Not first-rate Borges, but the man was dying. [27 Jan]

  10. Alta J. LaDage, Occult Psychology (1978) ... Compares Jungian psychology with the Qabalah. [27 Jan]

  11. Bruce and Susan Kodish, Drive Yourself Sane: Using the Uncommon Sense of General Semantics (1993) ... Moderately interesting and useful, although the father of a friend of mine drove himself insane using similar techniques. I'd recommend Language in Thought and Action by S.I. Hayakawa instead anyway. [29 Jan]

  12. Larry Niven, The Ringworld Throne (1996) ... Feh. Niven can't even write books set in his own universes anymore. [9 Feb]

  13. Richard Brautigan, The Abortion: An Historical Romance 1966 (1971) ... Brilliant, like all the Brautigan I have read. This is my favourite Brautigan novel, about a mysterious, perhaps magical library. [11 Feb]

  14. Dianne Dreher, The Tao of Peace: A Guide to Inner and Outer Peace (1990) ... Taoist self-help. I believe this book is now titled The Tao of Inner Peace. [15 Feb]

  15. D.E. Harding, The Trial of the Man Who Said He Was God (1992) ... Excellent. Possibly my favourite Harding book. Do you have a head? [19 Feb]

  16. Matthew Fox and Rupert Sheldrake, The Physics of Angels (1996) ... A priest excommunicated from the Catholic Church and a scientist excommunicated from the scientific community (respectively), speculate what angels might be like. Pretty much a yawner. [22 Feb]

  17. Peter Haskel (ed. Yoshito Hakeda), Bankei Zen (1984) ... Relax. You are already enlightened. [24 Feb]

  18. P.D. Ouspensky, A New Model of the Universe (1931) ... Ouspensky without Gurdjieff, for the most part, if I recall correctly. [4 Mar]

  19. Norman Spinrad, The Iron Dream (1972) ... What if Hitler had emigrated to the United States and become a science fiction writer instead of a mass-murderer? This is the book he'd write. Devastatingly deconstructs the conventions of sword & sorcery fiction. [11 Mar]

  20. Stanislaw Lem, Eden (1990) ... One of Lem's more forgettable novels (there aren't many of them). I always confuse it with Fiasco. [13 Mar]

  21. Rachel Pollack, Temporary Agency (1994) ... Creepy quasi-Gnostic happenings in an alternate late 20th century. [13 Mar]

  22. Corinne McLaughlin and Gordon Davidson, Spiritual Politics (1994) ... What political action you should take if you're "spiritual". [20 Mar]

  23. "Ophiel" (Ed Peach), The Art and Practice of Talismanic Magic (1979?) ... Written in a homespun style like all of Ophiel's books. I didn't find it that useful, but I do like the author. [6 Apr]

  24. Charles Portis, Masters of Atlantis (1985) ... Wicked satire of occult orgs by the author of True Grit. Hilarious. A needed antidote. It is no coincidence I read this alongside The Kybalion (below). [28 Apr]

  25. D.E. Harding, Head Off Stress (1990) ... Another Harding book on headlessness, this time from a self-help perspective. [9 May]

  26. "Three Initiates", The Kybalion (1912) ... Corny, but one of my favourite occult books. Reread. Try the etext. [12 May]

  27. Alan Richardson, The Magical Life of Dion Fortune (1991) ... Not a very complimentary biography, as I recall. [19 May]

  28. Melita Denning and Osborne Phillips, The Llewellyn Practical Guide to Creative Visualisation (1983?) ... Like most Denning and Phillips books in this series, written in almost cloyingly simple language, but very practical (if you don't believe me, try it). Reread. [23 May]

  29. Rabbi Nilton Bonder, The Kabbalah of Money: Insights on Livelihood, Business, and All Forms of Economic Behavior (1996) ... Rather dull. [25 May]

  30. Z'ev ben Shimon Halevi, The Anointed (1987) ... Pretty good historical occult novel about medieval Jews in Catholic Spain. [25 May]

  31. Dion Fortune, The Cosmic Doctrine (Second edition, YEAR?) ... A "channeled" book by Fortune. I admit to feelings of vertigo as the depiction of the Cosmos in the book expanded chapter by chapter. [28 May]

  32. Melita Denning and Osborne Phillips, The Llewellyn Practical Guide to Creative Money-Making (1992) ... Like most Denning and Phillips books in this series, written in almost cloyingly simple language, but very practical (if you don't believe me, try it). Reread. [31 May]

  33. Rudy Rucker, Freeware (1997) ... Third in the SF series after Software and Wetware. Doesn't disappoint. If you liked those, you'll like this. [31 May]

  34. Elizabeth Marshall Thomas, The Hidden Life of Dogs (1993) ... Who knew dogs had a secret life? But they do. You'll never see your dog in the same way after reading this ethological book. Highly recommended for dog lovers. [4 Jun]

  35. David Zindell, Neverness (1988) ... Prequel to the series Requiem for Homo Sapiens. Transhumanist SF. Highly recommended. [18 Jun]

  36. Melita Denning and Osborne Phillips, The Llewellyn Practical Guide to the Magick of the Tarot (1985) ... Like most Denning and Phillips books in this series, written in almost cloyingly simple language, but very practical, although I'm not a Tarot freak and didn't get much out of this one. [18 Jun]

  37. Robert Anton Wilson, The Walls Came Tumbling Down (1997) ... RAW has been venturing into screenplays quite a bit lately. Since he's such a fringe writer, they're unlikely to be produced, but they're fun to read. This one is quite moving, and just as weird as usual. [29 Jun]

  38. G.R.S. Mead, The Hymn of the Robe of Glory (1908) ... One of the seminal religious texts of Gnosticism. You can read it online. [6 Jul]

  39. Morton Smith, Jesus the Magician (1978) ... A popular book espousing a scholarly argument that Jesus was a run-of-the-mill first-century con man, based largely on Jewish sources. [14 Jul]

  40. David Zindell, The Broken God (1993) ... First book in the series Requiem for Homo Sapiens. Transhumanist SF. Highly recommended.[22 Jul]

  41. Eugene Field, The Love Affairs of a Bibliomaniac (1896) ... His "love affairs" were mostly with books. Read the etext. [27 Jul]

  42. W.E. Butler, Lords of Light (1990) ... Magical mystical blah. [28 Jul]

  43. Ken Wilber, A Brief History of Everything (1996) ... Interesting metaphysical speculation. Not sure how I'd react to it today (2003). [6 Aug]

  44. David Zindell, The Wild (1995) ... Second book in the series Requiem for Homo Sapiens. Transhumanist SF. Highly recommended. [6 Aug]

  45. Leonard Wibberly, Encounter Near Venus (1967) ... One of my wife Marty's favourite childhood books, by the author of The Mouse That Roared. Slightly less Christian than Narnia. Read aloud to Marty. [11 Aug]

  46. Ian Watson, Queenmagic, Kingmagic (1986) ... Fun ludic fiction about intelligent Chess pieces who learn to visit other board games. [13 Aug]

  47. Peter Roche de Coppens, Ph.D., The Nature and Use of Ritual for Spiritual Attainment (1987) ... Dull, Christianised magic. [13 Aug]

  48. Colin Wilson, The War Against Sleep: The Philosophy of Gurdjieff (1980) ... Wake up! Pretty good, but Wilson covers familiar material. [13 Aug]

  49. Francis-Noël Thomas and Mark Turner, Clear and Simple as the Truth: Writing Classic Prose (1996) ... I wish I had followed more advice in this book while writing the first draft of Kennexions. [20 Aug]

  50. Warren F. Motte, Oulipo: A Primer of Potential Literature (1986) ... Extremely yummy introduction to the French "Workshop for Potential Literature". [22 Aug]

  51. Dan Simmons, Hyperion (1989) ... I don't know why everybody likes this book so much. It took me two tries to read it, and then I was sorry I did. Lame traditional SF. [27 Aug]

  52. Rob Wittig (for IN.S.OMNIA), INVISIBLE Rendezvous: Connection and Collaboration in the New Landscape of Electronic Writing (1994) ... Excellent! More Oulipiana! [29 Aug]

  53. Italo Calvino, tr. William Weaver, If on a winter's night a traveler (1979/1981) ... An Oulipian novel by a writer many people do not even know was a member of the Oulipo. [2 Sep]

  54. Dan Simmons, The Fall of Hyperion (1990) ... I hoped this would be better than Hyperion, but it wasn't. [6 Sep]

  55. Paul Grescoe, 101 Uses for This Book: The Astonishing Uses and Everyday Abuses of the Humble and Enduring Book (1996) ... Lightweight bibliophilic humour, with cartoons. [11 Sep]

  56. Johan Huizinga, Homo Ludens: A Study of the Play Element in Culture (1938) ... A classic study of play and games, and perhaps the most comprehensive ever. If you don't take games seriously, think about this: our legal system seems to have evolved from prehistoric debating games -- at least according to Huizinga. [12 Sep]

  57. O.B. Hardison, Jr., Disappearing Through the Skylight: Culture and Technology in the Twentieth Century (1989) ... More philosophy in the Oulipo vein. Don't remember much about it, though. Can't have been all that. [26 Sep]

  58. Holbrook Jackson, The Anatomy of Bibliomania (c.1940) ... Revised edition. Ooh ooh! A great patchwork of quotations for book lovers, stitched together with wit. Well worth reading cover to cover, even if that's not the way it's meant to be done. [26 Sep]

  59. Christopher Morley, The Haunted Bookshop (1919) ... Charming light bibliophilic fiction from the early 20th century. Project Gutenberg etext. [29 Sep]

  60. Georges Perec (tr. Gilbert Adair), A Void (1969/1994) ... OK, imagine this French guy wrote a novel of several hundred pages entirely without the use of the letter 'e' (even harder in French than in English). And imagine that this novel was actually interesting. Now imagine another guy translated the book into English, retaining the meaning, keeping it interesting, and still avoiding (a voiding) the letter 'e'. That's this book. (Translator Adair also wrote a pretty good sequel to Lewis Carroll's Alice books called Alice Through the Needle's Eye.) [4 Oct]

  61. Angus T.K. Wong, Cyborg 101 (c.1995) ... Super study skills. You can still read most of the etext online. [3 Nov]

  62. Christopher Alexander, The Timeless Way of Building (1979) ... Companion to A Pattern Language. A beautiful, semi-narrative book, as opposed to its more formal companion. [12 Nov]

  63. David Perkins, Outsmarting IQ: The Emerging Science of Learnable Intelligence (1995) ... What it says. Pretty cool. For what it's worth, the author believes only about 50% of one's intelligence is hereditary; the other 50% is learn[ed|able]. [18 Nov]

  64. Ronald Gross, Peak Learning (1991) ... Another book about study skills and beefing up your brain. [25 Nov]

  65. Laurence Sterne, The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman (1760) ... This book hardly needs an introduction, nor could I give it one. (P.S. Can anyone tell me where I can find Slawkenbergius On the Nose? I want to shelve it next to my Necronomicon.) Project Gutenberg etext available. [25 Nov]

  66. Bruce Sterling, Heavy Weather (1994) ... Pretty typical Sterling, which means a pretty good book. The ending is tenser than most. [26 Nov]

  67. Walter Truett Anderson, Reality Isn't What It Used To Be (1992) ... Was it ever? Pomo ontology. [28 Nov]

  68. Rudy Rucker, White Light (1980) ... Rucker's first published novel, but in my opinion, one of his finest. "Math fi" as opposed to "sci fi". What's on the other side of Infinity? [29 Nov]

  69. Several more books. Right here I mostly stopped recording what books I was reading until approximately April 1998.

  70. Walter Truett Anderson (ed.), The Truth About the Truth (1995) ... In a nutshell: the Truth about the Truth is that there is no Truth (pace Epimenides). I'm going to go wash my hands now. [31 Dec]

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Ron Hale-Evans