2015 Reading, Film, & Games Mini Review
So folks seem to be doing this: jotting down a list of the books, graphic novels, and films read or watched in 2015 with a short review of each.
A few surprises hit me in looking through the list. First, I read a lot of non-fiction. Much more then typical in any given year. Second, I read very few novels: only three. While I read a great deal of graphic novels. What is not shown here is the vast number of short stories that I’ve been reading. I remember a teen being bored with short stories. How were we supposed to really connect with a character over twenty or thirty pages? These days it seems like even the novella is just too long. Who has time to read through twenty thousand words of prose? Hopefully next year will see a return of the novel to my reading.
The other thing I find interesting. I also seem to be paring down my need for novelty in my reading. I am going back and rereading good books that I had read as a teenager. In fact, the three novels I did read? I have already read each of them at least three times already.
So let’s kick this off.
*The Hobbit** by J.R.R. Tolkien
After watching the film, I immediately felt the need to revisit the novel. Now The Hobbit was one of my favorites as a child and one that I read several times more then I ever read The Lord of the Rings.
My third pass through Kerouac’s masterpiece. This is one of those novels where each read leaves me thinking differently. My first read had me completely caught up in the sense of wanderlust. My latest read really seemed to put me into thinking about just how disgusting Moriarty is as a human being and yet just how easy it must have been to want to get caught up in his self destruction.
*Dune** by Frank Herbert
A revisit to Dune, an annual read of my teenage years. Upon revisiting this novel, I’m amazed at just how much my political ideology was shaped by Herbert.
Particularly the message that when you ask others to do for you which you could do for yourself, you are inviting them in to have power over you.
Remote by Jason Friend and David Heinemeier Hansson
A text that Research Square gave me upon joining. This is a rather light read, one that you could probably finish in a single reading. I don’t think it really said anything that isn’t rather obvious to anyone who has teleworked before.
Another text that Research Square asked me to read before starting. This is a rather great read, particularly in the sense of how big of an impact the thinking from this text has hit the tech sector over the last decade.
A collection of Abbey’s essays. Some good. Some bad. It’s rather a mixed bag as I am one of those rare breeds who prefers Abbey’s novels over his non-fiction.
Really got me thinking about what is teamwork? How we approaching working in groups is a notion that has started to slowly interest me the last few years.
A huge solid read. This gave me so much insight into how many larger applications are structured.
A more hands-on look then Domain Driven Design. Although, I felt like it was starting to get padded out by the end.
Drive by Daniel H. Pink
An examination in the obvious. I’m seriously amazed that it took this long for business’s to realize that people are motivated by things other then just gathering up pretty pieces of cotton paper.
It’s Hegal in all of his racist glory.
If you were to go into a used book store and look at the new age section you will find a copy of this book. Buy it. I always thought it would be a bunch of rubbish but it’s actually a very solid read and perhaps the best introduction to Zen that I have found at this point.
A not particularly interesting examination at the steps taken by businesses to move from being middling to great businesses. Yawn.
Manga Read & Graphic Novels
Total: 10 (If Counting Volumes)
Third pass through this wonderful autobiography by Yoshihiro Tatsumi. I randomly read a handful of his shorter comics as well during the same time. I am always impressed by his struggles and the wonderful depiction of post-war Japan.
One of my most exciting feats this year was to read the first two volumes of Galaxy Express 999 in French. I have waited over a decade for Viz to get around to translating this work into English. It’s been out in French for years! Well, I figured French is easier than Japanese, so I bought the whole series from Amazon France and learned French! These comics are just as wonderful as the Anime.
Continuing to keep up on The Origin as volumes are released. This year, I finally caught up with with the publisher’s release cycle and had to start waiting.
This is an odd one. I find the story to be extremely dry and slow. The character’s plod along through very routine life events. Yet it’s drawn so beautifully that I just have to pick up each new volume.
Star Power by Michael Terracciano and Garth Graham
It’s been years since Dominic Deegan ended. I tried to start reading Star Power when it first started but found the release too slow to grab my interest.
I gave it a year for the archive to fill up and then plowed through it with great enjoyment.
Johnny Wander by Yuko Ota and Ananth Panagariya
I have a folder where I stick comics to read. Johnny Wander was randomly selected from that folder. The comic is great, although lately published at a rather random or slow pacing so I have already lost track of it.
Dumped into the donation bin. It took two tried to read through Anno’s book. The inside humor probably works for anyone who is really, really into classic anime, but it just doesn’t work for me.
Total: 14 (*6 in Theaters)
Since I prefer The Hobbit novel to The Lord of the Rings, I found that I just could not get into this film. The Hobbit novel is a light hearted children’s adventure. The film, is a serious action-adventure flick. Pass.
A solid biopic on Alan Turing that did a rather good job of portraying the man in all of his facets.
Terry Gilliam can do no wrong in my book. The Zero Theorem was just a solid watch and a great summarization of the ideas presented in his other works with all the same quirkiness that I would expect.
This was on my list of films that I watched, but for the life of me I don’t recall actually having watched it this year. Ah well, a solid film. I think satire of the typical horror film really didn’t get in the way of the film being good in it’s own right.
Saw this showing in the local theater and just had to take Jess. A rather touching mystery worth a watch as Ian McKellan does a great job at portraying an aging Mr. Holmes.
The blockbuster of the season. Easily the best film that I saw this year.
Completely lived up to the hype.
Starting off our movie classics for the year was They Live which I just had to watch after listening to a piece by Zizek where he used the film as a starting point to launch into a discussion on Western politics.
Saw it twice before it moved on from the theater. The first time, I just couldn’t get over my critical nostalgia. By the second watching I could just sit back and enjoy it for what it was worth. The last act had some massive plot issues, but the characters were interesting and I feel Kylo Ren is going to end up being just as interesting of a villain Vader.
The first Daniel Craig Bond film that I caught. Made me want to go back and watch the rest of his Bond films, or even further back to watch them all.
Nothing really new here. Bond is Bond is Bond.
On Halloween we got into a bit of a Vincent Price kick. House of Usher was definitely an interesting watch. Particularly if you put on your feminism goggles. It’s amazing how much society has changed.
Part two of our Vincent Price kick. I don’t really find Price frightening. I find him kind of lovable.
Now this was a good creepy film. Beautifully shot. It was interesting that the week after watching this film it was announced that someone had succeeded at performing the horrifying procedure depicted in this film — transplanting a human face.
The good reviews reached my ears regarding The Martian so we ventured out to the theater and bought our popcorn. A really solid science fiction film that will probably end up being this decade’s greatest contribution to the “hard” category of science fiction.
I got to love my grandfather’s love of bad films. I am amazed at just how many martial arts films came out in the eighties. No wonder kids of that decade grew up to watch Anime.
Anime / Animation
Total: 11 (Counting Seasons)
Mush-shi is just as beautiful in the second season as the first. The only sad thing is that it should come to an end. Each atmospheric episode was a wander and highlight of my week.
Could never quite get into nor drop this series. The fact that Yes is their soundtrack just made everything awesome.
Caught this series while on a trip to Ohio. Death Billards was a great stand alone and most of Death Parade was easily on par. The only thing that ruined Death Parade was a misplaced need by it’s creators to escape from just being an episodic examination of people’s lives and to try to give it a running plot.
Had it just gone the way of Mush-shi, it would have easily been a perfect ten.
Bobduh over at Wrong Every Time seems to love Gatchaman Crowds so I gave it a whirl. While I sympathized with it’s message, I thought it was completely lost in the show’s over-the-top camp. After the first season, I dropped it.
If you want to get people to listen to Jazz, show them this show. This is perhaps Watanabe’s second greatest series (after Cowboy Bebop). The characters just feel so very real.
Bakamonogatari was a visual splendor that I devoured. Since then each subsequent series seems to end up less and less enticing and yet I feel as though I will probably end up watching them all.
A good show, not a great show, but a very solid good show.
This show is just plain non-serious fun. Rapidly became my go-to show to watch while exercising or just needing some low-commitment time to burn.
I saw a few clips from Rick & Morty when season 1 came out and thought it funny buy never looked it up. Man, I haven’t binge watched a show this hard since college. The nihilistic ennui. Woo.
South Park was hitting all of the right spot’s this year. Particularly living in Jackson, WY where the whole gentrification and yuppie take over is in full swing. This could have been a documentary about my life.