Favorite Books of 2003

15:34 Mon 24 Aug 2009
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This time, I’ve managed to let just a day pass since my last roundup of books from a given year.

2003 started slowly on the reading front; apparently The Idiot took me three months to get through. The first five months of the year saw me read just four books, an extremely low rate. I returned to a normal reading pace thereafter, with some dips and a surge in December.

Flann O’Brien’s The Third Policeman was excellent, if disturbing. It didn’t dislodge At Swim-Two-Birds from its spot high in my book rankings, however.

Infectious Greed, by Frank Partnoy, was fantastic, and contained plenty of warnings about what would arrive a few years later in terms of the “credit crisis”. Partnoy laid a lot of it out, and covers fascinating other developments in the modern financial world as well. Probably still relevant.

I really enjoyed Positively Fifth Street, I think it’s one of the best poker books I’ve read. Despite the diminution of the poker craze in the US, it’s still worth reading.

Ludwig Wittgenstein: The Duty of Genius was an excellent and interesting biography of a rather unique character, and prompted me to look further into Wittgenstein’s work—something I’ve only made a little progress on, sadly.

D. B. Weiss’ Lucky Wander Boy was a novel I enjoyed a great deal at the time, but I’m not completely sure that this tale of dot-com life entwined with arcade nostalgia and a quest through a kind of childhood would have aged well. It’s probably still fine, but I don’t know about it ten years from now.

Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy was good, and to my mind is vastly superior at least to the first Harry Potter book (which is the only one I’ve read).

I started Neal Stephenson’s Baroque Cycle in 2003, and was conflicted about Quicksilver. I felt that it started extremely slowly—not a feature I associate with his work—and that he really put some of the least interesting stuff in it at the start.

I started some other series in 2003: The Hammer and the Cross series by Harry Harrison and John Holm, which had some great ideas about what might happen to 9th Century Europe if slightly more advanced technologies were dropped into it; Robin Hobb’s Farseer Trilogy, which was excellent and which I definitely recommend; and the Ilium/Olympos cycle by Dan Simmons, which I enjoyed but kept hoping would be as amazing as The Hyperion Cantos.

Zen Without Zen Masters is a great book, and is something I should probably reread—perhaps frequently.

Looking at this list, I think that the quality of books on it is quite high, and that it’s significantly better in quality terms than 2002. Pretty much everything on it is worth reading, although perhaps some of the Hiassen, Block and Rankin would only be for people who know they like those authors.

This is the full list for 2003:

  1. The Third Policeman; Flann O’Brien 01/01/2002
  2. The Idiot; Fyodor Dostoyevsky 03/2003
  3. Dr. Strangelove’s Game; Peter Strathern. 12/04/2003
  4. The Eyre Affair; Jasper Fforde 21/04/2003
  5. Infectious Greed; Frank Partnoy 05/06/2003
  6. Positively Fifth Street; James McManus 17/06/2003
  7. Gardens of the Moon; Stephen Erikson (again) 24/06/2003
  8. Ludwig Wittgenstein: The Duty of Genius; Ray Monk 25/06/2003
  9. Deadhouse Gates; Stephen Erikson (again) 29/06/2003
  10. The Art of War; Sun-Tzu (trans. by The Denma Group) 17/07/2003
  11. Memories of Ice; Stephen Erikson 18/07/2003
  12. Bangkok 8; John Burdett 19/07/2003
  13. Lucky Wander Boy; D. B. Weiss 22/07/2003
  14. Hardcase; Dan Simmons 23/07/2003
  15. Moneyball; Michael Lewis 24/07/2003
  16. Can Love Last?: The Fate of Romance over Time; Stephen A. Mitchell 27/07/2003
  17. Wicked; Gregory Maguire 01/08/2003
  18. The Crook Factory; Dan Simmons 08/08/2003
  19. Coyote v. Acme; Ian Frazier 12/08/2003
  20. Innumeracy; John Allen Paulos 25/08/2003
  21. True Names and the Opening of the Cyberspace Frontier; Vernor Vinge, et al 15/09/2003
  22. The Golden Compass; Philip Pullman 21/09/2003
  23. The Subtle Knife; Philip Pullman 24/09/2003
  24. The Amber Spyglass; Philip Pullman 27/09/2003
  25. The Dark Domain; Stefan Grabinski, trans. Miroslaw Lipinski 28/09/2003
  26. Quicksilver; Neal Stephenson 13/10/2003
  27. The Hammer and the Cross; Harry Harrison and John Holm 01/11/2003
  28. One King’s Way; Harry Harrison and John Holm 02/11/2003
  29. King and Emperor; Harry Harrison and John Holm 06/11/2003
  30. Ball Four; Jim Bouton 08/11/2003
  31. Assassin’s Apprentice; Robin Hobb 10/11/2003
  32. Hope to Die; Lawrence Block 10/11/2003
  33. The Chronoliths; Robert Charles Wilson 11/11/2003
  34. Basket Case; Carl Hiaasen 14/11/2003
  35. Royal Assassin; Robin Hobb 18/11/2003
  36. Assassin’s Quest; Robin Hobb 22/11/2003
  37. Fool’s Errand; Robin Hobb 29/11/2003
  38. The Politics of Experience; R. D . Laing (incl. The Bird of Paradise) 03/12/2003
  39. Enough Rope; Lawrence Block 16/12/2003
  40. Ilium; Dan Simmons 17/12/2003
  41. The House of the Spirits; Isabel Allende 19/12/2003
  42. House of Chains; Steven Erikson 23/12/2003
  43. A Good Hanging; Ian Rankin 24/12/2003
  44. Worlds Enough and Time; Dan Simmons 24/12/2003
  45. The Acid House; Irvine Welsh 25/12/2003
  46. The Book of Illusions; Paul Auster 26/12/2003
  47. Zen Without Zen Masters; Camden Benares 26/12/2003
  48. Light; M. John Harrison 28/12/2003
  49. After the Quake; Haruki Murakami, trans. Jay Rubin 28/12/2003
  50. Micro Fiction; Jerome Stern, ed. 29/12/2003

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