Barbarian Book Club: Best of 2017 and Planetary Awards Nomination

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It dawned on me that I never got around to putting together a best of 2017 post. It’s tough for me and somewhat useless because my reading choices are completely organic. I chose my reading material based on split-second emotion without rhyme or reason when it comes to publication date, genre, topic, or length. I also impulse buy Kindle books when they go on sale so I have a significant back catalog that I go through based on whatever dark mood takes me.

In 2017 I finished 39 books give or take a few re-reads and research for my day job that I don’t keep track of.

The Genre breakdown is as follows:

  • Fantasy: 12
  • Sci-Fi: 4
  • Historical Fiction: 2
  • History: 5
  • Crime/Detective: 2
  • Other Nonfiction: 25

Favorite Fiction Read: Thune’s Vision by Schuyler Hernstrom

516TtCvHahLThis is hands down one of the best short story collections I’ve read in a long time. Hernstrom writes like a savage clone abomination of Robert Howard and Jack Vance. Barbarians, reptilians, shamans, witches, walking dead, and all sorts of dark gonzo madness fill the pages of this collection. Thune’s Vision is the Fantasy version of an underground death metal LP that you can only pick up at an invite-only exclusive show held in some cave in the middle of a dark wood. I read the whole collection in one sitting and immediately had to run to the gym to knock out a few sets of deadlifts so I could feel somewhat worthy. Read it now.

Favorite NonFiction: Napoleon: A Life by Andrew Roberts

One of the best biographies I have ever read. Masterfully written covering the life of one 20170928_211824.jpgof the worlds greatest general and conqueror of Europe since Alexander and Cesar. The massive tome covers Napoleon’s life from his youth in Corsica through the French Revolution, the Egyptian expedition, his triumphs at Austerlitz, and finally his catastrophic campaign in Russia, defeat at Waterloo, and exile and death on St. Helena The book gives us an in-depth picture of Napoleon’s personal thoughts due to the recently released collection of 33,000 letters written during his life. It paints a fascinating picture of a vastly intelligent and complex man who micromanaged every little detail of his reign and was able to shoot off a letter focused on winning over the Austrians one minute then switch gears and write a missive correcting the improper wear of uniform by a private he saw a week prior and his recommendation and opinion on the latest Operas playing in Paris. My favorite sections focused on Napoleon’s interaction with his soldiers and the extreme respect he had for the common grunt and how he showed a genius understanding of the psychology of the soldier. Excellent reading for anybody interested in military leadership, history, the 19th century, and great men in general.

Biggest Disappointment: Red Sister by Mark Lawrence

RedSisterA joyless book lacking the interesting characters of The Broken Empire and the joyful wit and comedy of The Red Queens War. Lawrence took every grimdark cliché, amped up the blood to 11, but left out the realism; creating a superhero pre-pubescent murder fantasy lacking any emotional punch, stretching the believability of the characters beyond all plausibility. Red Sister committed the biggest sin, it bored me. So much so that I would make up excuses to avoid returning to it, spending my reading time reading articles or just browsing the internet. The only thing that kept me going was the fact that I paid 12.99 for the damn ebook and that everybody that also didn’t like it said that the last 20% picked up. It does a bit but not enough to make it through the slog of following a 9-year-old going through a nonsensical ninja nun school.

The thing that pissed me off about this turd is that Mark started hyping it up with the cover art, art that clearly shows an adult woman. I expected a violent dark fantasy featuring some sort of assassin nun. Instead, I got fucking Harry Potter with a feral girl-child in some shitty predictable post-apocalyptic or future fantasy setting that replaces the magic houses with castes which are obviously powers due to mutations either from being space colonists or some sort of post-apocalyptic bioengineering. Either way, the whole damn thing was boring.

2017 Planetary Award Short Story Nomination: 

The First American, by Schuyler Hernstrom

The Barbarian Book Club nomination for short story comes from Cirsova #5, the wholecover damn issue is fantastic. It was hard to choose between The First American and Burnett’s In the Gloaming O My Darling, a fantastic Lovecraftian tale with a hint of homoeroticism and a dollop of horror. In the end, I had to go with The First American because the whole insane Vancian madness is unforgettable. Barbarians, lasers, reptile-men, time-traveling astronauts, holy shit I had to take a breath after finish this one, climb to the top of my house, and play the Star Spangled Banner on my fucking Stratocaster, and I don’t even own a guitar.

On the topic of nominating, I also want to remind everyone following the Planetary Awards Blog, that my story, A Tiger in the Garden, came out this year in Storyhack #0.

There you go, the Best of the Barbarian Book Club reading list. A lot of the other stuff I read this year was great. Not to mention that I read a bunch of Shakespeare, and honestly, I had to leave out the Bard because nothing compares.

So the final take away is that you should click on the above link, drop the two bucks, and read Thune’s Vision immediately.

The Gentleman’s Personal Library

In September I posted about my decision to start a personal gentleman’s library made up of books on history, philosophy, science, and the biographies of great men. My goal is to have a respectable collection lining my study when I retire. A man must be surrounded by good books in order to make the most of deep brooding and solid contemplation. This collection is even more important to me now that I will be a father in the near future.A man’s collection of books is a heavy thing, taking up space both in the physical and intellectual realm and I believe that all men should strive to leave behind things that take up space and demand authority.

J R R Tolkien
2nd December 1955: John Ronald Reuel Tolkien

It often seems that modern men and our possessions have been relegated to the margins of the household, either hidden away in garages or limited to juvenile toys. I’ve often noticed that when I visit other men’s houses there is almost no sign of their existence. With the exception of the occasional video game console, sports memorabilia if the wife is into sports, and the necessary clothing and toiletries, there is almost nothing that speaks of their habitation. Honestly, looking back, one can find more signs that a family dog lives there. A sad state.

20170928_211824.jpgA library anchors a man to the home and based on its makeup is a window into his intellectual history and development. So I challenge all men to look around their house, what do you leave behind, how will your children picture your presence when you are no longer here? I know that I want to be remembered as a man who loved reading, writing, conversation, and calm thoughtful relaxation surrounded by an ever-growing library.

I started the Barbarian Library with Andrew Robert’s outstanding single-volume biography Napoleon: A Life. From his birth in Corsica, through the French Revolution, Egyptian Campaigns, Republic, Empire, and finally exile and death on St. Helena, this book is a brilliant portrait of one of the greatest military and political minds to walk to Earth. This book was a fantastic starting point for my collection and I recommend that all who are interested in history, warfare, and leadership read this excellent biography. 20171205_191556492666654.jpg

Continuing with the focus on great men I ordered and received today, Walter Isaacson’s biography of Leonardo Da Vinci. I chose this book after listening to the author being interviewed on the A Man’s Life podcast and finding his insights fascinating. Also, I chose Leonardo because in my twenties I studied painting and art history before being turned off by the college scene and postmodern art. I’ve avoided delving into art because it tends to leave a bitter taste in my mouth, but lately I’m slowly becoming interested in Medieval and Renaissance painting, architecture, and music, so I figured why not return to the topic by reading about one of the great masters.

Until next time friends, keep reading the best, writing your best, and enjoying life to the fullest.

 

Barbarian Book Club: September & October 2017

I’ve been feeling kind of burned out on fiction. The last two months I’ve only read non-fiction, mostly focusing on the early 19th century, specifically the French Revolution and the Napoleonic Wars. I don’t plan my reading. What I do is randomly buy books based on whatever whim I’m experiencing at the time, so my reading list ends up having a weird six degrees of separation feel where one book flows into the next organically.

20170928_211824.jpgNapoleon: A Life by Andrew Roberts is one of the best biographies I have ever read. Masterfully written covering the life of one of the worlds greatest general and conqueror of Europe since Alexander and Cesar. The massive tome covers Napoleon’s life from his youth in Corsica through the French Revolution, the Egyptian expedition, his triumphs at Austerlitz, and finally his catastrophic campaign in Russia, defeat at Waterloo, and exile and death on St. Helena.

The book gives us an in-depth picture of Napoleon’s personal thoughts due to the recently released collection of 33,000 letters written during his life. It paints a fascinating picture of a vastly intelligent and complex man who micromanaged every little detail of his reign and was able to shoot off a letter focused on winning over the Austrians one minute then switch gears and write a missive correcting the improper wear of uniform by a private he saw a week prior and his recommendation and opinion on the latest Operas playing in Paris.

My favorite sections focused on Napoleon’s interaction with his soldiers and the extreme respect he had for the common grunt and how he showed a genius understanding of the psychology of the soldier. Excellent reading for anybody interested on military leadership, history, the 19th century, and great men in general.

Robert’s work is beyond worthy and I’m glad I picked this book as the first addition to my gentleman’s private library. After the biased abomination of Mary Beard’s SPQR left its foul taste in my mouth I’ve become weary of randomly picking up history books without checking up on the author. If I showed some diligence I would have come across Beards social media posts focused on feminist grievance mongering and idiotic defense of the BBC portraying Roman Legionnaires in Britain as Sub-Saharan Africans and spared myself the aggravation of reading her garbage. So before I ordered this one I read up on Roberts and found his articles well written and free of progressive politics or terrorist apologetics.

SJW’s Always Lie & SJW’s Always Double Down by Vox Day. I came across Vox Day a few years ago through r/fantasy. This was at the early stages of the Puppy war and I was ignorant to the whole political aspect that was tearing through the Hugos apart. Due to some couch fainting hyperbole, I ended up checking out Larry Correia’s writing and actually agreeing with most of his stuff and ended up becoming a fan of his writing. I think that Son of the Black Sword was the best fantasy written in 2015 and I’m glad I got to meet him at a signing in San Diego. Correia led to Vox Day, Castalia House, and eventually to all the Pulp Revolution guys. SJW

While I don’t agree with all of Vox Day’s politics(I don’t agree with anybody’s whole output.) I do find a lot of his stuff exceptionally interesting and usually on point. I definitely enjoy how well he plays his enemies, causing them to go into foaming self-defeating rages. Yet I never got around to reading his books focusing on SJW’s, who are basically the part of what Harold Bloom describes as the school of resentment, basically a cult of made up of grievance mongers, social hustlers, and the mentally ill.

The two SJW books are basically extended essays outlining the phenomena of social-political infiltration of organizations, hobbies, sub-cultures, and scenes by the above cultists and how to quickly identify and survive their attacks. Written in a simple conversational tone each book is easy to read and overall entertaining. The first suffers from a bit of overindulgence due to the focus on the Hugo awards, a topic I don’t give any fucks about, but the second makes up for it by being tighter and more focused.

Excellent quick reads that illuminate dangerous social phenomena, a must read just for the useful knowledge on how to respond in case you are yourself targeted.

Antifragile: Things That Gain From Disorder by Nassim Nicholas Taleb. Interestingly enough right as I finished SPQR Mary Beard made social media waves by getting into a Twitter and blog battle with Nassim Taleb over the BBC documentary controversy. Taleb called her out on the nonsense peddling and caught my interests because after finishing her book I felt the same way about her writing. I’ve read about Taleb on different blogs in the past but finally decided to give one of his books a try.

antifragileAntifragile is a good book on a fascinating concept that suffers from a bit of excessive indulgence. Mr. Taleb is clearly a brilliant thinker but unfortunately a lackluster writer. The book is unnecessarily long and filled with boring sections that fall short of their intended wit. While the concept is fantastic even the name he gives it is kind of stupid, antifragile sounds dumb when you have a much more elegant word, adaptable. There’s no need to write a long book describing the age-old concept of “not putting all your eggs in one basket,” and basic adaptation and flexibility.

I enjoyed the book and a few chapters stood out but this isn’t one I’m going to go around recommending.