• These Top 14 Astronomy Pictures from 2010 are incredible – I particularly like shots of the moons of Saturn, and the dunes of Mars.
  • A couple of very thought provoking posts about intellectual property.
  • I really liked this post by Flinthart about lifelong learning.
  • A couple of interesting videos from TED – Brene Brown’s talk on vulnerability, and Dan Gilbert’s talk on happiness.
  • The podcast The Marketplace of Ideas has some very varied and interesting interviews in the archives.
  • From Brain PickingsAround the World in 80 Diets, and Your Brain on Love.
  • Studies in Crap, a look at books found in second hand stores, makes me cry with laughter – examinations of books like Unicorn Vengeance (which contains neither unicorns, nor vengeance, but does contain possibly the worst sentence ever written), and The Living Animals of the World from 1901, which says of koalas, “These animals make a peculiarly plaintive cry when molested in any way.”

  • Book Round-Up for 2009

    I read 135 books in 2009, much less than the previous two years (183 and 173 respectively). I’m not sure why the numbers have dropped so much – I definitely read less in the second half of 2009 than I have in previous years, and I was less careful in keeping track of what I was reading, so perhaps that accounts for a few books.

    Best Faux-Nostalgic Books

    For some reason, I never read the Anne of Green Gables series when I was younger. I made up for that during my winter holiday this year, when I found Anne of Green Gables at a friend’s place in Darwin, and then followed that up with the rest of the series gathered from second-hand bookstores in Tasmania. I loved Anne & Gilbert, but became less interested in the series as they became adults and the stories focused more on their children.

    Best Newly Discovered Classic

    I have loved Evelyn Waugh’s Vile Bodies since I read it as a teenager, and I listened to Decline & Fall for the first time this year (which is an earlier novel, and vaguely related). Decline & Fall is hilarious, in the same dark way as Vile Bodies. I feel that I should read Brideshead Revisited now, but I think it’s a very different style to these two books.

    Most Trashy Books of Which I Read Far Too Many

    A tie between the equally addictive Sookie Stackhouse series by Charlaine Harris (source material for the True Blood tv series), and JD Robb’s In Death futuristic-detective series.

    Best Non-Fiction

    I don’t read that much non-fiction, so there’s not a lot to choose from – a tie between Ingrid Cummings’ The Vigorous Mind, about the benefits of life-long generalised learning, and Mary Roach’s hysterical Spook, over which I shook with silent laughter on public transport.

    Best Book About Antarctica

    Possibly the only book about Antarctica I read in 2009, but definitely the best – Geraldine McCaughrean’s The White Darkness, a truly terrifying and creepy YA novel, which inspired me to read more about Lawrence Oates, of the “I am just going outside…” quote.

    Best Dystopia

    While it’s not a really believable dystopia (which all the really terrifying ones are), Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games was as fantastic and compelling as everyone was saying, and I enjoyed the sequel, Catching Fire, as well. However, hands-down-best dystopia of the year was Santa Olivia by Jacqueline Carey – a fantastic fable-like story about boxing and what it means to be human.

    Best How Have I Not Read This Author Before?

    I can’t believe I had never picked up a John Green novel before – king of quirky teenage characters. (I know quirky is really overused as a descriptive word, and I think I’ve used it twice already here, but I mean it as a compliment. I like quirky.) I read Paper Towns, An Abundance of Katherines, and my favourite, Looking for Alaska, which I loved and wept over.

    And my final two Honourable Mentions to books that I loved but can’t think of a particular category for – Lev Grossman’s The Magicians, for all of us who read and loved the Narnia books as children, and wished that one day we could step through, and AS Byatt’s Possession, for everyone who loves.

    September Wallpaper

    It’s spring!  The last remnants of winter chill are disappearing, and we have had our first night of rain after months of blue skies.  The cats are starting to shed their enormous winter coats, which I’m sure is more comfortable for them but means that I am more likely to look up and see a large tumbleweed of cat hair drifting by.

    I’ve made a wallpaper for September, using a photo of one of my yellow grevilleas, which is flowering at the moment, and a calendar for the month.  The thumbnail on the left is a 1280 x 1024 picture, and the one on the right is 1024 x 768.  Click on the thumbnails to see the pictures, then right click to save them and use as wallpaper.  (And if you’re not sure what your screen resolution is, I think that statistically it’s more likely to be 1024 x 768.)