Friday, August 31, 2007

August Books Bought

A few of these books were "bought" with a gift certificate that I'd been hoarding for several months, but I'm including those books anyway. (Anything to inflate the numbers, right?)


The American Fantasy Tradition (2002)- Brian M. Thomsen, ed.

My Amazon review may have been overly enthusiastic in 2002, but I enjoyed the book so much I knew I'd buy it if I could find it on the cheap. I actually bought the same copy I'd checked out from the library five years earlier. What goes around...

Ghosts and Grisly Things (2000) - Ramsey Campbell

I know it's unthinkable to admit that I've read next to nothing by Ramsey Campbell, but this collection seems a good place to start.

Take Joy: The Writers Guide To Loving The Craft (2003/2005) - Jane Yolen

I enjoy both Yolen's children's/YA fiction as well as her writer's journal. There are some real jewels in this book for all writers.

The Imago Sequence and Other Stories (2007) - Laird Barron

I'd read a couple of Barron's oddly disturbing horror stories in magazines, so buying this debut collection was a no-brainer.

9Tail Fox (2005/2007) - Jon Courtenay Grimwood

Charles Brown mentioned this book in Locus a couple of years ago. Most of the time we have different tastes, but this one intrigued me: a sf/noir thriller about a murdered San Francisco cop who wakes up in another man's body to investigate his own murder.

The Truth Is Out There: Christian Faith and the Classics of TV Science Fiction (NF 2006) - Thomas Bertonneau and Kim Paffenroth

I picked this one up thinking it would be a light, fun read. Light, no. Fun, yes. More about this one later.

Haunted (2005) - Chuck Palahniuk

I'm not a huge Palahniuk fan, but I thought most of Diary was very good. But after reading the back of the dust jacket -

Writers' Retreat: Abandon your life for three months. Just disappear. Leave behind everything that keeps you from creating your masterpiece. Your job and family and home, all those obligations and distractions - Put them on hold for three months...

Sounds like something I've done before...

Ysabel (2007) - Guy Gavriel Kay

Somewhere in the convoluted area of my mind, I could've sworn this novel was nominated for a World Fantasy Award (but of course it's not: it's a 2007 release), so I picked it up at a library sale. I loved Kay's Tigana, but have never been able to get into any of his other works. We'll see what happens with this one.

Flora Segunda: Being the Magickal Mishaps of a Girl of Spirit, Her Glass-Gazing Sidekick, Two Ominous Butlers (One Blue), a House with Eleven Thousand Rooms, and a Red Dog (YA 2007) - Ysabeau S. Wilce

One look at the title and you know this is a fun-filled book that doesn't take itself too seriously. I think I first read about it in Locus.

Bound to Please (NF 2005) - Michael Dirda

Reviews and essays of a broad scope of books from Dirda's 20+ year career as writer at the Washington Post.

Counting Heads (2005) - David Marusek

I missed the boat on this one when it came out, so I was glad to find it at a thrift store. The trade paperback edition is coming out on October 16.

Ill Met in Lankhmar (1970/1995) - Fritz Leiber

This volume consists of the first two entries in the Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser series, the beginnings of which can be traced all the way back to a story Leiber published in 1939 in Unknown. (The original collection, Swords and Deviltry, came out in 1970.) This is a classic series that I haven't read, but should.

That's it for August purchases. Next time, August Books Read

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Two More Temptations

Someone in the Purchasing/Acquisitions Department of The Anne Arundel County Library is doing a good job, at least in the "Providing Books Wolverton Wants to Read" category. You never know what you'll find on display at one of their 15 branches. I was delighted to find these two titles yesterday at the Provinces Branch:

The Merchant and the Alchemist's Gate, the new novella by Ted Chiang. The limited edition is sold out, but the trade hardcover is available. The retail price is $20 ($13.60 on Amazon), which has upset a few Amazon reviewers, since the novella is only 60 pages long (including illustrations), but I'll still read it.

But for the same price (retail and Amazon), you can pick up a recommendation from Jeff VanderMeer's Amazon Bookstore Blog, Mister Pip by Lloyd Jones, longlisted for the 2007 Booker Prize. (For those of you keeping score, Mister Pip weighs in at 256 pages.)

Now if I can just find the time to read these two before my other library books are due....

Monday, August 27, 2007

Book Thing Report

Ah, yes....The Book Thing!

Cindy and I made our way over to Baltimore to drop off a few

books on Saturday. When we got there, our books joined thousands of others in a book family reunion of sorts.

(Those are volunteers, by the way, not scavengers. I think...)

Just to give you an idea of the scope of the place, pretty much everything you see here (and several shelves that you can't see) consists of fiction. Not mass market paperback fiction, however. That's somewhere else.

They just keep bringing stuff in all day long. The Book Thing has many rooms, far more than I've included here. If you can read the signs, you can see that the books are somewhat organized. But if you're expecting alphabetical order, forget it.

Unfortunately, the Science Fiction/Fantasy section obviously got obliterated earlier in the day. The volunteers add new books continuously, but you really have to get there when they open at 9:00 for the primo stuff.

Cindy and I only picked up a few books for ourselves. The main objective was to get rid of books. (Maybe next time it'll be a different story.) Happy Reading!

Friday, August 24, 2007

Reading in America

A couple of days ago I was running on the treadmill at Gold's Gym, watching the Mets/Padres game on one of the five big-screen TVs while trying to zip off a couple of miles. (There wasn't much zip going on, though.) In between innings, I flipped my headphone control to Fox News where they were reporting on Reading in America.

The brief report stated that only 1 in 4 Americans reads (or finishes) at least one book a year. That statistic, the reporter said, includes students who are required to read something for school. Or it could be someone reading Harry Potter. To be honest, I was surprised the percentage was as high as 25%.

Then last night I started reading Washington Post writer Michael Dirda's 2005 book Bound to Please - An Extraordinary One-Volume Literary Education: Essays on Great Writers and Their Books. In the Introduction, Dirda cites a 2004 report from the National Endowment for the Arts called "Reading at Risk: A Survey of Literary Reading in America." According to the report (which can be downloaded from the bottom of this page), "one in six people reads 12 or more books in a year."

Of course, as Dirda points out, most of those people are probably reading the same 12 books including The Da Vinci Code, Harry Potter, the latest Oprah book, etc. Dirda also states that the NEA definition of "literary" reading includes anything NOT a textbook or business report, so the category is pretty much wide open.

It saddens Dirda (and me, too) that fewer and fewer Americans each year are reading "real" literature, however you choose to define it. The implications for our cultural future are not pretty at all, but I think you have to remember that some people are still reading something, even if it's not "literary" or challenging or whatever you want to call it.

Now I don't care what people read as long as they're reading something. Sure, it would be great if everyone read quality literature, classics, history, philosophy, science, and on down the list. But nobody's going to read any of that if they don't start with something, even if it's The Da Vinci Code.

Whether it involves listening to music, watching films, looking at art or any number of artistic endeavors, people have to start with something familiar and be led to appreciate works with more depth. You can take someone from Adam Sandler to Ingmar Bergman, but it takes time and patience. A transition from The Da Vinci Code to The Name of the Rose might be challenging, but it's not impossible.

First we have to get people reading something. Then we can't abandon them. Stick with them. Talk about books, make recommendations. Don't give up. And the next time you see somebody reading something you probably wouldn't pick up, at least be thankful they're reading something. Then go up to them and ask, "What are you planning on reading next? I've got a couple of suggestions..."

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Book Juggling

I read somewhere that you should only read books that you can't wait to pick up again once you've been forced to set them down. I won't argue with that, but what do you do when you're reading three such books?

The Looming Tower: Al Qaeda and the Road to 9/11 - Lawrence Wright

While touching on the ancient origins of Middle Eastern terrorism, Wright focuses mainly on what led to the birth of Al-Qaeda, starting with Egyptian scholar Sayyid Qutb's seemingly innocent visit to post-WWII America. How does one man's disgust with what he sees as America's degenerate cultural landscape lead to the horrors of 9/11 nearly half a century later? Wright's painstaking research and clear writing bring the often confusing ideologies and methods of Al-Qaeda (and pre-Al-Qaeda) terrorists into sharp focus.

This is an outstanding, non-technical book for those who want to understand the terrorist mind. I'm listening to this one in the car, so a few more book trips should help me finish the last two discs. But I'll definitely purchase a paperback copy.

The Privilege of the Sword – Ellen Kushner

This one was on my "To Read, But Not Urgent" list for quite some time until I saw that it's been nominated for a World Fantasy award. Young Katherine is called away from her humble (and poor) village existence to stay with her uncle, the Mad Duke of Tremontaine, who has drafted her for training as a swashbuckler. Sure, it sounds like just another tale of high fantasy, but Kushner masterfully weaves corrupt political machinations, a rigidly immovable social structure, dazzling swordplay, a little romance, and so much more. And there's no magic, other than Kushner's superb writing, rich in detail and character.

The Truth Is Out There: Christian Faith and the Classics of TV Science Fiction – Thomas Bertonneau and Kim Paffenroth

I picked this up at Ollie's (a bargain/discount chain in the area), thinking it would be a quick, light read. Boy, was I wrong. The Truth Is Out There, written by an English professor (Bertonneau) and a professor of religious studies (Paffenroth), is not an easy read, but it is fascinating. The authors examine Dr. Who, Star Trek (TOS), The Prisoner, The Twilight Zone, X-Files and Babylon 5, showing how each series contains elements of Christianity.

I'd certainly recommend you read the book, but here are a few of the basic ideas associated with each series:

Dr. Who – Kingship, dominion, and false gods

Star Trek – Freedom (and free will), human responsibility, humility and moderation (especially in light of the Prime Directive), compassion, self-sacrifice

The Prisoner – Human freedom, the false idol of the state, war and violence, alienation and community

Twilight Zone – Sin (especially the legacy of original sin) and grace

X-Files – Apocalypse, truth and the distortions of truth, symbolism

Babylon 5 – Universal gospel, healing, plurality and love

While Christianity is their main focus, the authors also touch on Judaism, Buddhism, and other belief systems. It's not an evangelistic book, but rather an examination of how elements of Christianity have (knowingly or unconsciously) seeped into classic sf television. I'm almost finished with the X-Files section and look forward to the chapter on Babylon 5, a show I have never seen. (Although the first disc from Season One just arrived from Netflix yesterday.)

As much as the book is enjoyable and thought-provoking, I wish the authors would consider a book on current (or more current) television shows with sf elements, such as Battlestar Galactica, Lost, Heroes, Firefly (now defunct), Carnivale (also defunct), to name just a few.

Juggling three highly enjoyable books. Things could be worse.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

The Book Thing

I have so many books in the "To Be Purged" dungeon (actually it's just one section of the basement) that an emergency situation is near at hand. That's right, it's time to go to The Book Thing on Saturday. I'm sure the foundation of my house will thank me.

I've blogged about The Book Thing before and you can read about its history in the articles posted here, but basically all the books are free. That's right - free.

"Oh, sure," you might say. "A couple hundred battered Readers Digest books and National Geographic magazines that look like they were used as bases at a T-ball game." And you would be sooooooooo wrong.

The Book Thing's new location is at least three times as large as their old home, which held (according to Fearless Leader Russell Wattenberg) over 250,000 books. The new location must have close to half a million books. (After I donate on Saturday, that figure will increase considerably.)

Every category you can think of is represented at The Book Thing. And although you will find some old (and often worthless) textbooks and travel guides, I have found brand new bestsellers, signed first editions and rare books.

I can still see you scratching your head. Free?


What's the catch?

Every book is stamped "This is a free book. Not for resale." That's it.

The Book Thing is open Saturdays and Sundays only. If you're ever in the Baltimore area, make it a point to stop by. It's a wonder to behold. Just plan on staying awhile.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Upcoming Stuff

Just a few books to look for in the coming months, via the Forthcoming Books section of Locus Online:

20th Century Ghosts - Joe Hill
Finally someone (HarperCollins/Morrow) is reprinting Hill's debut collection so that regular folks like you and me won't have to shell out three figures to own a copy.

Red Spikes - Margo Lanagan
Although she still continues to be marketed in the U.S. as a YA writer, don't let that stop you from reading and enjoying Lanagan's work.

Moon Flights - Elizabeth Moon
I rarely read straight-up sf, but I enjoyed Moon's writing so much in The Speed of Dark, that I'm eager to give this collection a try.

The Orphan's Tales: In the Cities of Coin and Spice - Catherynne M. Valente
Reading Valente's gorgeous stories in several magazines and "Best of" anthologies provides more than enough evidence to sign up for this one.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Playing Favorites, Installment # 7

Installment #7 – "Try a Little Tenderness" ("Irving King" [James Campbell and Reginald Connelly]) – Otis Redding (1966)

By the time Otis Redding was cajoled into recording "Try a Little Tenderness," it had already been recorded by Sam Cooke, Ella Fitzgerald, Frank Sinatra, and even Bing Crosby. The song, after all, had been around since the 1930s, but Redding's manager Phil Walden thought it would be a good "weeping ballad" for Otis in 1966.

Before each recording session, Redding often sang or hummed little bits and pieces of tunes, variations of melodies of the songs he was about to record. If he put together something he liked, he'd teach it to the horn section, as he did with the "Try a Little Tenderness" intro. As the horns fade, there's just a bit of a pregnant pause, a silence that suggests that Otis may just have something very soulful up his sleeve, just before he sings "Oh, she made me weary/Them young girls they do get wearied." The accompaniment is all very hushed, very distant.

But at the second verse, drummer Al Jackson goes into a sneaky double-time with rim clicks on the snare drum, turning up the intensity. The piano (played by Isaac Hayes) and organ (Booker T. Jones) become more prominent. By the third verse, Steve Cropper's guitar

turned more funky; the organ and piano began swirling in and out; the horn section played long, sustained single notes....Finally, as Otis approached the end of the verse, it all meshed together. Al executed a quick drum roll and began to pound his drums with fury as the song soared with the power of a humming engine that is suddenly downshifted and revved. The final minute of the song was a furiously charged performance. The band played a powerful series of ascending notes that rose up and up and up while Otis breathlessly screamed out: "Squeeze her! Don't tease her! Never leave her!" The song reached a climatic moment, then briefly hovered on a series of chords before leaping back into another round of the ascending notes. ...... Otis stuttered out nonsensical words as if he was too beside himself for coherence: 'Got-ta! Try! My-my-my! Try! Try a little tenderness.'*

Redding recorded for the Memphis-based Stax Records, a much smaller (and some would say a much grittier) label than the giant Motown. Most of the Motown-era records were squeaky-clean, slickly-produced, often somewhat formulaic. That's not to diminish the quality of the Motown artists: many of them were superb, recording a long string of pop and soul classics. But Stax was all about acts and songs filled with raw energy, emotion and excitement. Otis Redding was one of the few artists (of any era) that could transform a song from soulful ballad to an absolute emotional frenzy in the space of three minutes. "Try a Little Tenderness" proves it.

"Try a Little Tenderness" can be found on The Otis Redding Dictionary of Soul as well as on The Very Best of Otis Redding, Dreams To Remember: The Otis Redding Anthology, and many other compilations.

* from Otis! The Otis Redding Story - Scott Freeman

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Love That Chicken

Cindy's buddies on the Navy Band Recreation Committee always put on a great picnic every year. Last year they had an outstanding shrimp boil with literally mounds of shrimp on every table. One year they advertised a combination Sausage Fest and Petting Zoo. (Yes, they did have a few animals penned up. But how they managed to have "sausage" and "petting" in the same sentence and have nobody written up still amazes me.)

But at yesterday's picnic the featured food was Popeyes Chicken. That's right, Popeyes. Mild and spicy. Red beans and rice, mashed potatoes and biscuits. Oh, those biscuits. Aw yeah....

"That's it?" Cindy said. "Just Popeyes Chicken?"

"And sides," I pointed out.

"No vegetables?"

"It's Popeyes Chicken! Who needs asparagus and carrots???"

And it was superb. I salute the Rec. Committee. Love that chicken. Love that cholesterol.

On the way back home, Cindy could see that I was miserably in Popeye's heaven.

"You're gonna be hurting later from all that chicken," she said.

"Sometimes," I said, putting a hand to my stomach, "you have to make sacrifices for culinary greatness."

As the old commercials used to say, "This is some serious chicken." Amen, brother.

Thursday, August 16, 2007


I guess living with me for 11+ years did the trick. Or maybe she figured if you can't beat 'em, join 'em. For whatever reason, Cindy has joyfully converted, becoming a Bob Dylan fan.

We've both been hoping Bob would pull up to our area with his Never-Ending Tour, and BEHOLD! He has! Today I plan on ordering our tickets to the Merriweather Post Pavilion show on Sept. 28 in Columbia, MD.

Now here's the problem: Cindy has really gotten into Dylan for about the past six months or so. But, like a lot of people who are introduced to Dylan, she mainly likes the early stuff (1961-1966).

"I really like that live CD," she says, referring to The Bootleg Series, Vol. 6: Bob Dylan Live 1964 - Concert at Philharmonic Hall.

"I hate to tell you this," I say, "but that guy's not gonna show up."

"But that's the Dylan I like!"

"Oh he'll do some older tunes, but they won't sound like they do on the discs." She slumped in her chair.

I told her to listen to last year's Modern Times and 2001's Love and Theft for a more accurate example of what to expect at a Dylan concert (although even his renditions of newer tunes can vary as well). I handed her the discs and she gave me a skeptical look, like I'd just handed her a stuffed animal for Christmas when she'd asked for a pony.

Anyway, this discussion caused me to think about our expectations from all artists. I'm sure there are still thousands of fans who never forgave Dylan for "going electric," expecting the same type of acoustic music that filled his first several albums. Writers evolve their writing styles, painters branch out into unexplored territory...filmmakers, dancers, sculptors, all artists do it.

Except those who play it safe, always giving their audience and fans exactly what they expect. We see that in every aspect of the arts as well. I once heard a professional writer talking about another professional writer (whom she would not name) who writes a very successful mystery series. "I just wish the thing would end," the writer said. She felt like a prisoner. Of course that's the whole premise of Stephen King's Misery, the story of a writer held captive who literally is not allowed to write anything that varies from his successful formula.

Cindy is not one of those people. It'll just take her a little time to understand and appreciate the various stages of Dylan through the past 40+ years. She's willing to give it a shot and I admire her for that. Maybe we can spread that around a little.

Of course, if Bob straps on the harmonica and belts out "The Times They Are A-Changin'" in his 1962 voice, I'm sure Cindy won't complain too much.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Running...If You Want to Call It That

Well, I officially SUCKED at the XTERRA Boordy Vineyards 5K Trail Run (located a few miles north of Baltimore) this afternoon. I guess that's what you get when all the running you do is on a treadmill at Gold's Gym while watching movies in Cardio Theatre or baseball games in the main workout area. But, I finished it. Afterwards, things got much better. The race provided food, drink, and even a free winetasting for those who ran.

The best part was listening to the bluegrass group Jericho Bridge. These guys played a lot of traditional bluegrass tunes, then expanded into some strange bluegrass arrangements of a decidedly non-bluegrass flavor, such as Jefferson Airplane's "White Rabbit," Pink Floyd's "Wish You Were Here," Jethro Tull's "Locomotive Breath," and the Who's "Going Mobile."

Next time I'm going to run slower and drink more wine. Or maybe just skip the run and drink more wine. Or listen to the bluegrass group and drink more wine. I think there's a common element developing here...

Thursday, August 09, 2007

The Book or the Movie?

Last month I read E.M. Forster's A Passage to India for the first time. Last week I watched David Lean's film version for the third time, but the first in at least ten years. Usually when I read a book and then watch the film adaptation, it's pretty obvious which version is more satisfying. Not so in this case.

(A quick plot summary: Miss Quested and her traveling companion Mrs. Moore travel from England to India in the 1920's. Quested is engaged to be married to Mrs. Moore's son, a British magistrate in Chandrapur. Both women soon learn that the Brits and the Indians aren't exactly the best of friends. Yet a local Indian, Dr. Aziz, is quite taken with the ladies and arranges an extravagant expedition to the Marabar Caves, where an unfortunate incident takes place. Miss Quested accuses Aziz of assaulting her in one of the caves and a trial ensues.)

Now I'm not telling you that the movie is better than the book. I'm just saying that for me, the David Lean film is more satisfying than Forster's novel.

An unfair comparison? Probably so. The novel was published in 1924, while India was still under British rule (which would last until 1947). The book's initial release no doubt stimulated heated discussions on both sides, and although it still has much to say about understanding (and misunderstanding) different cultures, it feels a little dated. Yes, Forster probably gives too many examples of just how deep animosities ran. Yes, the language used in 1924, while often beautiful, still feels stiff and takes a bit of getting used to. And yes, it's probably not fair to compare Forster's omniscient point-of-view to Lean's (which is much easier to pull off with a camera). But none of those things tip the scale to the David Lean side.

I believe that if any other director had tackled the novel, disaster would have ensued. Forster (and later his estate) never wanted a screenplay written, fearing a director would come down too hard on either the British or Indian side. (The estate finally consented to grant Lean permission to write the screenplay and film the novel.) Again, comparisons are unfair – Lean was the absolute master of painting gorgeous, unforgettable landscapes (Dr. Zhivago, Lawrence of Arabia) that seem to stretch out into infinity. He was visually the perfect choice for A Passage to India.

But it's something that Lean added to the film that makes his version more satisfying.

Again, to be fair, Miss Quested appears a little too noble in Lean's version, a little too judgmental of typical British behavior in India. Forster has her questioning the prejudices of the British, as does Lean, but it's clear that she may have brought a few prejudices with her on the trip.

Yet Lean adds a scene that is nowhere to be found in Forster's novel. On a solitary bicycle ride through a wooded area, Miss Quested discovers an assortment of ancient statues, many of them depicting sexual acts. It soon becomes clear that this scene is a turning point in the story: About to be married to the ruling British magistrate of the city of Chandrapur, Miss Quested experiences a sexual awakening and begins to wonder if her fiancée may be unwilling (or unable) to meet her needs. Everything that follows, from the incident in the Marabar Caves to the courtroom trial, hinges on this scene.

Which presents an interesting situation. Lean's screenplay was approved by Forster's estate. They must have agreed that Lean's additional scene was consistent with Forster's characterization of Miss Quested. If Forster did mean to suggest a sexual incompatibility in the novel, it's so deeply hidden as to be unrecognizable (at least to me). You could make a claim that Forster was writing in 1924 when such things were seldom discussed in print and Lean was filming in 1984 when you could say/suggest/depict just about anything. Still, Lean (again, with the consent of the Forster estate) just makes a clearer, more satisfying look into Miss Quested's character.

The ending of the film seems more satisfying as well, providing maybe not a better, but certainly a different sense of closure. The final shot also leaves you with the feeling that Miss Quested will rethink what happened in that cave for the rest of her life.

Lean's film premiered in 1984, earning 11 Oscar nominations (tied with that year's winner Amadeus) and winning two (Peggy Ashcroft, Best Supporting Actress; Maurice Jarre, Best Original Score). Yet despite its success (and the fact that it was Lean's final film), A Passage to India is rarely mentioned today as one of the great films.

Read the book. Watch the movie. See what you think.

Monday, August 06, 2007

Looks Like Lawrence

I've got to check out the AFI Silver Theatre site more often. Lawrence of Arabia has been playing on Sunday nights since July 29. And in 70mm.

I simply must go.

(Psssst! John! Interested?)

This is More Like It

Here it is - the way I used to attempt to keep up with things. Most of the time I failed miserably, crossing things out, moving them to the next day, drawing arrows to adjacent days, weeks, MONTHS... Plus it was bulky, cumbersome and yes, let's face it, nerdy.

Ah, but now, it's a completely different story. After only a week with the Palm Z22, I feel so much more organized it's scary.

Plus I can make lists, long, long lists of books I'm looking for and have instant access to the titles I need. No longer do I have to lug around my "Books to Look For" book (in which also had things crossed out, arrows, etc.).

Ah, but the best part: free ebooks. This morning I downloaded several books and short stories including Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom and Someone Comes to Town, Someone Leaves Town by Cory Doctorow, Stranger Things Happen by Kelly Link, Burn by James Patrick Kelly, and many more. I read the first part of Down and Out this afternoon while waiting in line at a thrift store. Now I can read anywhere!

I know, I know, the Palm products have been around for what, years now? It takes me awhile to embrace technology, okay? This is coming from a guy who still owns a functioning turntable. Who knows what could be next?

Maybe one of those telephones without the big dial...

Thursday, August 02, 2007

July Books Read

Here we go. As always, links to recommended books.

Fingerprints: The Origins of Crime Detection and the Murder Case That Launched Forensic Science (NF 2001) – Colin Beavan
Not a bad read, but I thought the author spent too much time going into the peripheral aspects of some of the lesser cases involving pre-forensic studies.

Zodiac (NF 1986) – Robert Graysmith
As much as I enjoyed David Fincher's take on Zodiac, the book shows that the California killer was far more dangerous, cunning and elusive. One of the few books I've read three times.

Reasons to Live (1985) – Amy Hempel
I'm cheating a bit here, first by listing Hempel's debut collection in The Collected Stories, and second, by linking you to that book instead of Reasons to Live. I'm hoping more people will be willing to risk a few bucks for the upcoming paperback edition and experience Hempel's sparse style, wry wit and somewhat ambiguous stories.

The Dark is Rising (YA 1973) – Susan Cooper
The second book in The Dark is Rising sequence, far more complex and satisfying than the first volume, Over Sea, Under Stone. An 11-year-old boy discovers he has magical powers and a scar that turns back evil. Sound a little familiar? Susan Cooper did it first over 30 years ago. Think it's a coincidence that these books are being adapted into film as we speak? Don't think so.

A Passage to India (1924) – E.M. Forster
West meets East, neither understanding or connecting, as a British woman travels to India to see her fiancee, the ruling magistrate in a British-controlled Indian township. An important novel for the time and still significant today. (I'll have more to say about this one and the film version in a later post.)

In the Palace of Repose (2005) – Holly Phillips
I've goo-gooed about Phillips on this blog before, so all I'll tell you is buy the book and enjoy.

The Overlook (2007) – Michael Connelly
Good, but probably the least satisfying Harry Bosch novel. A little too much suspension of disbelief for me, combined with some stereotyped characters and situations I just couldn't (pardon the pun) overlook.

The Keeper (2006) – Sarah Langan
A stunning first novel from Sarah Langan, who fits right into the upper tier of the horror community.

Einstein: His Life and Universe (NF 2007) – Walter Isaacson
Another I've already spoken about a bit. Don't let "Fear of Science" keep you from this one. Just jump right in.

How to Want What You Have (NF 1995) – Timothy Miller, PhD.
Recommended by Nina Kiriki Hoffman at Clarion. I really enjoyed most of the book, but it seemed the last large section of the book consisted of Miller pitching/justifying his ideas to psychotherapists.

Whales on Stilts! (YA 2005) – M.T. Anderson
A wild, completely wheels-off parody of (or tribute to?) the children's mystery genre from long ago (Hardy Boys, Nancy Drew, etc.) that only someone with Anderson's gifts could pull off.

That's it for July. Go read something.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

July Books Bought


Dictionary of Theories (NF 2002) - Jennifer Bothamley
This looked like a great reference book, especially for writers. I'll keep you posted as I use it.

The Stories of Vladimir Nabokov (1996)
I read Lolita for the first time last year and was blown away, so buying a copy of Nabokov's short fiction was a no-brainer. I've only just started sampling this collection, but so far it's incredible.

Edgar A. Poe : Mournful and Never-Ending Remembrance (NF 1992) - Kenneth Silverman
Cindy and I visited Poe's Philadelphia home (which is very creepy) last year and loved it. At the gift shop were several Poe biographies. I wrote down a few titles, did some research at home, and discovered that this seems to be the one most people recommend.

Novelties & Souvenirs : Collected Short Fiction (2004) - John Crowley
I'd previously read and enjoyed a couple of these stories in anthologies. Crowley seems to be one of the few writers embraced in both genre and literary circles - the best of both worlds.

The End of Mr. Y (2006) - Scarlett Thomas
The back cover wrap reads, "Ariel Manto has a fascination with The End of Mr. Y, a book no one alive has read - maybe because it's cursed and everyone related to it (the author, various book collectors, Ariel's doctoral advisor) disappears." How could I resist that?

The Overlook (2007) - Michael Connelly
It's a Michael Connelly Harry Bosch novel. What else needs to be said?

Dean Koontz: A Writer's Biography (NF 1997) - Katherine Ramsland
For awhile, this one was really hard to find, then I saw two copies in two days. Several people several years ago told me it was pretty good. We'll see.

The Collected Stories of Isaac Bashevis Singer (1983)
Jeffrey Ford recommended Singer's stories to me at Clarion.

The Werewolf of Paris (1933) Guy Endore
This one was tough to find. (I actually found this 1992 paperback reprint at a yard sale amidst all the pregnancy and home-buying books.) Highly recommended in Horror: The 100 Best Books by Steven Jones and Kim Newman.

Tomorrow: July Books Read