Note: Writing these in Spanish now. Available here.

I figured out that writing a summarized version of my thoughts/opinions when reading, in the form of a review, would be good for clarifying them, and might also be interesting for other people to read.

2012

Slaughterhouse-Five (5/5)

Kurt Vonnegut
Found it a very pleasing book, both in content and in style. The unusual observations and fake science fiction stores inside the book were particularly fresh and challenging, and the exposition of somewhat hippie life philosophy is decent at the very least. In terms of style, the nonlinear narrative is done in a way that is not confusing at all, while still making one have to put things together. It also is quite an intense moment when the author makes you wonder what the main character was thinking of at a particular time, and then you turn the page and suddenly see it in big letters covering the whole page. A lot of the appeal of the book is supposed to reside in its portrait of the horrors of war, and in that direction I'd suspect the book probably had a stronger effect on readers in the past. Modern audiences might be more desensitized against this kind of fictional content, but a lot of the culture that caused this desensitization probably owes a lot to this author.

Void: Hex, Shadows, Ghosts (5/5)

Rhiannon Lassiter
Futurist, dystopian, tech/hacker-heavy story. I had read the first two books in Spanish more than ten years ago, but never found the third one. Was really looking forward to see how it ended, and did not disappoint at all. It was great to have a larger look at the history of the European Federation, and the different gangs in London. It would have been nice to have more detail, but hopefully we will get that if they make a TV show or a movie out of this. It was also funny to observe the eerie similarity in the ending with another work, more well-known, that was released a few years later.

Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance (4/5)

Robert Pirsig
Worth reading for sure, if only for some of the in-passing psychological commentary. Really accurate, and it touches on many practical issues most thinkers just decide to ignore (of the type, why are people not caring about what you say). He also anticipated issues (and solutions) of how technology would affect people's daily life and mental states before they were so obvious, having an unusually balanced take on the issue. All of this is mostly in the first half, the second half is centered more on hardcore philosophical points, and the author's concept of Quality. Those are ok, though I wish the connections to previous ideas were made clearer. Also, the explanation was somewhat mangled and confusing, this might be related to the psychological issues of the author.

The Human Use of Human Beings (5/5)

Norbert Wiener
Simply a masterpiece. Brilliant reflections on the interaction between society, and all the technology based on information theory that was only beginning to emerge at that time. The accuracy of the predictions about the future is impressing, given that they are more than 50 years old. My impression is that this comes from actually having a strong empathy and understanding with people, something that is lacking in many of the people that would usually talk about this topic nowadays.

The Doors of Perception and Heaven and Hell (3/5)

Aldous Huxley
Not bad, but definitely disappointing. The beginning of the book is a chronicle of an entheogenic experience not that much better than those that can be found at erowid. Or at least not as better as the intellectual weight of the author might lead one to expect. Perhaps this is unavoidable when talking about the unspeakable. Later the author makes a series of very well-made and articulated points about the relation between mind-altering substances and society. The particular edition I read is also greatly improved by the presence of supplementary material (reviews, commentary, fragments of other books, etc.)

Proust Was a Neuroscientist (2/5)

Jonah Lehrer
The aim of the author is in principle connecting art and science. However, the spirit of the book falls too often into "look, these artsy authors were all saying really deep stuff ignored by those square scientists". This sounds very unidirectional as far as connections are concerned, and certainly not the best way of creating a situation where "science and literature can co-exist as peaceful, complementary equals". The constant confusion of impossibility with intractability/a high Kolmogorov complexity situation is also something that does not help at all. In the positive, I did actually enjoy the biographical bits about the authors, but judging by what some of the online reviews say, that is probably only because of my previous lack of knowledge about those authors.

The Art of Travel (4/5)

Alain de Botton
If you like travelling and human psychology, then this book is for you. The observations made by the author are often whimsical or somewhat obvious, but no less correct because of that. The choice of background trips to illustrate the points is also very correct.

Consciousness: Confessions of a Romantic Reductionist (5/5)

Christof Koch
In times of crisis, we reflect about everything that we know, or rather that we think that we know, both about the world and ourselves. And when you know a lot, the outcome of those reflections can be very beautiful and interesting. This is such a case, a wonderful exposition of the current scientific understanding of the human condition, particularly centered about consciousness. I don't think this book can be matched by any of the similar books that discuss in an informal way how humans have used science to study the world and our perspective of it, what science tells us about what the future can be, and other "weird stuff". It also avoids the pitfall of falling into pretentiousness, and the cultural references are particularly priceless, all the way from Eminem to Teilhard de Chardin, passing through The Master and Margarita.

Confessions of an Economic Hit Man(3/5)

John Perkins
It is fascinating to get an inside look look at how the international business world works, and the motivations of the people in it. That said, the author is very good at being critical of his own culture, but not so much with other ones. He should try being homosexual in some of the traditional societies he seems to highly regard.

The Alchemist(1/5)

Paulo Coelho
I contemplated giving a zero here, but I recognize that the ideas of the author have probably impacted people in ways that were positive for them and for the people around them, while not harming anyone. Compared to many other ideas with a wide dissemination, this is actually pretty good. Now, this said, I could not even bring myself to finish the book. The writing has a complete lack of subtleness, and consists of just one grandiloquent fallacy after another, with an unnecessary use of absolute language. There is a serious lack of questioning or criticism, and a similar excess of earnestness.

The Sandman(5/5)

Neil Gaiman

La Sustancia Interior(5/5)

Lorenzo Silva

El Nombre de los Nuestros(5/5)

Lorenzo Silva

The Kite Runner(4/5)

Khaled Hosseini

Persepolis(5/5)

Marjane Satrapi

El Angel Oculto(5/5)

Lorenzo Silva

Millennium Trilogy(4/5)

Stieg Larsson