Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Book 16/60: Through Painted Deserts by Don Miller

Somehow, I'm now reading five books at once.

Should be good, though. I'll be through with The Stand soon, and I may read Woyzeck during my lunch break tomorrow.

This book I would have waited until I'd finished the others, but my church ordered it specifically because I'd asked about it, and they want me to write a review for them, so I'm going to go ahead and get it done sooner than later.

Don Miller is most famous, I suppose, for Blue Like Jazz. I've had quite a few friends recommend BLJ (though none for this particular projetc). I read about half of that book one night while waiting for Hurricane Rita (she stood us up) and, while it was an enjoyable and engaging read, I didn't really see what the big deal about it was. I didn't think that anything the man was saying was wrong, but I guess I didn't think it was particularly novel, either. I'm not sure, either way, I wasn't that impressed.

Through Painted Deserts is a republishing of Miller's first book: observations and ruminations during a soul-searching cross-country road trip Miller took at age 21 from Houston (hey!) to Oregon. The book is subtitled "Life, God, and Beauty on the Open Road." Seems a bit like A Walk Across America for today's youth. (I remember Walk Across America as being beautiful; however, I was in grade school when I read it and my standards where much different in those days. I should revisit that someday)

Anywho, interesting thing is that Miller's less-formulaic, more-relational approach to the gospel has made him a favorite in the emerging church movement, though Miller doesn't really consider himself to be emergent. (Indeed, what I remember from BLJ didn't seem to fall too far into the emerging line of thought, though I can totally see how that movement would love most of what he has to say)

The book is published by Thomas Nelson publishers. Miller's also written BLJ, Searching for God Knows What, A Million Miles in a Thousand Years, and To Own a Dragon (which may find its way on the next list) His web site is http://www.donaldmillerwords.com

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Books 13, 14 and 15/60


So I'm really digging The Stand, and I'm not putting it down for awhile or anything. However, it is 1,100 pages long, and I like to feel like I'm making progress, so I'm going to tackle a couple shorter books while I'm still working on the one larger one.

I'm told real readers do this sort of thing all the time.

Second note: I'm making a change to the list, because the cheapest I can find a copy of Fool's Gold by Doug Tjaden for is $27.00 plus shipping. For a book that it didn't really look like I was going to be able to get into anyway...maybe next time.

Replacing Fool's Gold will be Frances Hodgson Burnett's The Secret Garden. I need to be reading this anyway, since I'm currently in rehearsals to perform in it. Plus, it's a great, great story of renewal and redemption. And those stories are always my favorites. Interestingly, this was not considered one of Burnett's better stories at the time of the author's death, and now it's possibly the best-known thing she's ever written and is often considered one of the best children's books of the 20th century.

Go figure.

The second mini-book I got with my Power Card today is Powers, a graphic novel by Brian Michael Bendis. I really enjoy Bendis' work in the mainstream blockbuster comics (specifically his stuff with Secret Invasion and New Avengers, so it will be cool to see what he did with his "own" stuff, since this is a creator-owned property, I believe. Basically, it's kind of a detective story set in a world where super-powers are fairly common, though not omnipresent. Should be cool.

The third and shortest entry in this list-within-a-list is Georg Buchner's play Woyzeck. I know nothing about it going in other than that it's German, and I really don't know a lot of German theatre. Also, the playwright died before he finished it, so if there's an ending to the translation I'm reading, then somebody else wrote it for him. And, unlike certain tales of Tolkein, there isn't one definitive posthumously-written ending; apparently various editors and translators have taken a stab at it.


All right, that's what I'm up to. Stand, Secret Garden, Powers, and Woyzeck. Awesome. Reading is cool, kids.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Book 12/60: The Stand by Stephen King

And not just any The Stand, but the complete and uncut The Stand. The The Stand which is five-hundred pages longer than the originally-published The Stand, which was something like six-hundred pages long.

A little over a year ago, a couple of friends got me to read King's post-apocalyptic western/fantasy/sci-fi epic The Dark Tower. I'd never read King, but I think I assumed he was strictly a writer of disturbing horror stories (It, Carrie, and things like that came to my mind) I trusted these friends, however, and dove into DT. It was incredible. I loved it. I actually find myself wanting to read it again, and it hasn't even been a year since I finished the seven-book epic. I discovered that, first and foremost, King is a great storyteller with an incredible imagination and a knack for writing great characters. And that his stories often contained uncannily disturbing images, and that he was very good at describing these dark and disturbing scenes, but the storytelling was always at the forefront.

As I confessed my enjoyment of DT, friend and trusted literary critic Dave-o told me I needed to check out The Stand at some point, not only because it was one of King's better novels, but also because of the epic good-vs-evil struggle that was the heart of the story. All I knew of the story was from commercials for the made-for-TV movie: there is a super-flu, and it kills millions of people. That fit pretty well into my It-writing view of Stephen King, so I figured it was yet another grotesque horror novel that I needed to avoid.

So, after a bit of a disappointment with Nick Hornby's book, I decided I wanted something I knew would be quality, something I could really sink my teeth into as I read it. Some "meat". And something long, too.

The 1100-page complete and uncut The Stand ought to fit that bill perfectly.

Don't expect my closing thoughts on this one any time soon.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Closing Thoughts: High Fidelity

# of pages: 323
Pages read so far: 3,732
Avg pages/book: 311

Once again: Wow.

I hated this book.

You remember how I said I wanted Richard (of Neverwhere) to stop whining and get on with the story? High Fidelity's Rob is approximately six hundred times worse. I got the impression I was supposed to laugh at the guy's haphazardness, his childish inability to move past the latest live-in girlfriend to dump him, his awkwardness in the social scene, and his uncomfortable situations involving his ex, his mom, her mom, et cetera. But I didn't. Rob spent the entire book being petty and childish, and rather than finding it amusing I found it exasperatingly annoying.

I thought for awhile that the book was going to be a coming-of-age type tale, the journey of a man who's lost in life and finally is forced to learn to grow up and stop being a baby. And had that been the case, I would totally have been cool with selfish whiny emo Rob (who was 35, by the way, and having what seemed to be an early midlife crisis). However, Rob spent most of the book not WANTING to change. He was a jerk to pretty much everybody pretty much the whole time, and at the end of the day he still pretty much gets what he wants. And while the man talks a great deal about changes, and about re-ordered priorities, the last sixty or so pages don't seem to suggest that he really truly ever does.

Now, it is VERY likely the cast that I am just the wrong audience for this particular book. There wasn't really a character I liked or related to (except maybe for Dick and Anna). The majority of the film and music analogies the book pulled were lost on me, as I figured they probably would be. I was totally the kind of guy that the guys in this book would have ripped to shreds as soon as I'd walked out of their shop. In fact, it kind of felt like that's exactly what they were doing the entire time I was reading the book.

Hornby is a good writer, I can tell that. I liked his dialogue and his descriptions (the ones that didn't start with "She looked like particular actress from particular eighties movie", at least) and his narrative voice. And he told this particular story well. I just hated the story and everybody in it. So no hard feelings, Nick (as though you'd possibly be upset that some random book blogger didn't like your novel). I'll see you at A Long Way Down.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Book 12/60: High Fidelity by Nick Hornby


So the purpose of this project was to pick up and read some thing I wouldn't normally pick up and read on my own.

Ding, ding, ding! We have a winner!

High Fidelity has been made into a movie and a Broadway musical. All I can tell from the comments and the synopsis on the back are that it's a very dry, witty examination of sex and masculinity from the viewpoint of a disenchanted thirty-something who has yet to "get it right," whether you're speaking relationships or sex. The guy also runs a record store, and so apparently a major part of the narrative is he and his employee buddies debating top five lists on all things pop culture.

In short, this book appears to be everything that I am not. I'm kind of excited about that, but hopefully it's not so full of jokes only to be understood by the in-crowd culturally speaking, because I haven't been too current on pop culture since Hammer Time was burning up the airwaves.

Not joking.

Anyway, love, sex, pop music, and cynicism, here I come!

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Closing Thoughts: Walking on Water

# of pages: 198
Pages read so far: 3,409
Avg pages/book: 309.91

For all the stat-heads out there.

Anyway, Walking on Water is a book I'll recommend to pretty much any Christian who fancies themselves to be a writer or an artist of any sort. It's not particularly earth-shattering or sun-stopping, but it is a strong, enjoyable, insightful, and meditative look at both faith and art and the believer artist's responsibility to each. I won't say I always agreed (and if you always agree with any one person's personal philosophy of art, I wonder if something may be wrong), but I definitely believe she's on the right track more often than not.

See, Madeleine L'Engle is one of those people who make me hesitant to refer to myself as either "writer" or "artist." She's so dedicated to and passionate about her craft that there are times when I just don't think I should be aloud to count myself as one of "them." What's good about this is that Walking on Water has served as a personal challenge to my own writing (and I've come to realize recently how much impact my daily blog has had on my overall writing and storytelling) and art as well as my faith. Which, ultimately, is probably what a book like this SHOULD be doing.

The down side about that, however, is that I was up until three getting some words on paper toward my next play.

Anyway, the book itself: very good. Lots of things I wish I'd taken note of and written down somewhere so I could quote them here (and elsewhere as I found the quotes applicable later in life), but I never did, and I'm not sure where they were. I'm sure I'll give this one a re-read some day, and I'll pay closer attention then. I think L'Engle occasionally belabors her points just a tad, but I can forgive that. Her voice is clever, entertaining, and engaging, and it's interesting to see the some of the trends she notes as bad for literature and, as a result, bad for society as a whole, and how they have developed since the book's publishing. (Hm, wonder what Madam L'Engle would have to say about text messaging?)

Worth a read, if you like books on theory and theology that don't hit you over the head on either side while still giving you plenty to chew on.

My next book is an interesting change of pace from this one...

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Book 11/60: Walking on Water (Also, where you been???)

All righty, so the reason there haven't been any updates on this thing in the past twenty or so days is that, sadly, I haven't really been reading anything in that period of time. The workload at work exploded, and I came home most evenings too exhausted to do anything past spending time with my family. Thus, recreational reading fell by the wayside.

I did start to read a book on the list, and it was good, but it was also not exactly a "quick read" and between that and my fatigue I wasn't able to get through it before it was due back at the library. Embarrassing. Fortunately, it was a non-fiction book, so I think I'll be able to pick it up later without being lost. I was at a good stopping point.

Now, I expect reading to be fairly sparse in the near future as well, due to November being National Novel Writing Month. I was a NaNoWRiMo winner last year, my first serious attempt at it, and I'm giving it a go again, so most of my free time from November 1st through 50,000 words is going to be spent writing, not reading.

That said, November 1st is still a week away, and although I've got a full and busy week ahead, I'm going to pick up this little book and see if I can't get through it fairly quickly.

The book is Walking on Water, and it's Madeleine L'engle's reflections on the relationship between her faith and her art. If you recognize L'engle's name, it's most likely as the author of the young-adult sci-fi classic A Wrinkle in Time (which, interestingly enough, was intended to be a heavily non-Christian work and is now considered by many to be one of the finest examples of Christian sci-fi/fantasy. Even L'engle laughs about this now).

My wife's read this book and loves it, so hopefully she hasn't already read all of the good parts to me ;-)

P.S. I'm having trouble locating this book at the moment, so I'll have to give you the page # breakdown etc upon its completion.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

The Ten Down Awards--The first ten

It feels like I've hit a milestone of some sort. Ten books I'd probably never have picked up on my own are now behind me, with fifty more to go. I think I'll end every tenth book with an award-type reflection on the previous ten. Everyone wins an award. It's like little-league basketball!

First, the nominees:
#1: The Heart is a Lonely Hunter by Carson McCullers
#2: Fluke, or I Know Why the Winged Whale Sings by Christopher Moore
#3: Ilium by Dan Simmons
#4: The Road by Cormac McCarthy
#5: Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman
#6: Boy by Roald Dahl
#7: Flatland by Edwin A. Abbot
#8: The Cestus Deception by Steven Barnes
#9: Dragonflight by Anne McCaffrey
#10: Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen

Now, the winners!

The Most Surprisingly Enjoyable Read Award goes to:
The Road
I was almost annoyed at my friend Dave for recommending this one. All I knew going in was that The Road was reputed to be one of the most depressing books ever written in the English language. I went in with this expectation, and sure enough, I found the narrative to be uncompromisingly dreary. As I delved further into the relationship between the man and the boy, however, I found myself more touched by their love and need for one another than I was appalled by their situation. Even knowing that it couldn't possibly end well, I wanted to pull for them. I started finding bright spots in their episodic journey toward the coast. It's hard to explain how this dreary world became an enjoyable read, but it did, and I was surprised, and I'm glad I read it.

The Most Recommendable Book Award goes to:
The Heart is a Lonely Hunter
I think just about everybody could take something out of this book. It's a bit of a downer, but I think there's a lot of strong character and relationship to explore and enjoy. The people in Hunter are real to the point that we've all known one or two of those people at some point in our lives. We all enjoy reading something we can relate to, and I think this was a very relateable tale.

The "Yeah, That's Gonna Work..." Award goes to:
Seriously? A novella about about two-dimensional shapes? An entire chapter about the dangers of having one-dimensional women in a world of two-dimensional men? Geometric theory as social commentary? It's incredible that someone thought it would be a good idea. More incredible is the fact that it works.

The "Would Make The Best Movie" Award goes to:
Water for Elephants
The story, the characters, the settings, the events, virtually everything about this story screams, "Cinema! Cinema! Make me into an awesome movie!" I believe the movie rights have been sold, but I haven't found anything on pre-production starting. It'll be a winner. Guarantee. Like Free Willy for grown-ups. Okay, maybe not.

The Best Use of Villains and Shady Characters Award goes to:
I love villains. I think they can be some of the greatest characters to write and to read, and Gaiman's cadre of villains and/or shady characters are what made this story work for me. I was a bit annoyed with the protagonist and the leading lady, but the Hunter, the Marquis, and the fantastic Mr. Croup and Mr. Vandemar (along with their mysterious employer) totally made this book worth reading. The final confrontational scene is an absolute page-turner.

The "Well That Explains a Lot" Award goes to:
Roald Dahl's autobiographical recounting of his childhood reveals tons of insight into where his famous children's stories came from. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Matilda, James and the Giant Peach, The Witches, they all unmistakably have their roots in Dahl's own experiences with schools and schoolmasters. Also, a somewhat heartbreaking account of why Dahl considers himself an agnostic.

The Most Disappointed That the Book was Over Award goes to:
This would also win the "most likely to read again" award, but I'm only giving out one award per book. It was almost four in the morning, and it really didn't seem fair. The sequel, Olympos, is certainly going to be one of the first five items on the next reading list.

The Constantly Redeemed Award goes to:
Fluke, or I Know Why the Winged Whale Sings
I can't tell you the number of times I was reading this book when I thought, "Okay, now that's just lame," or, "I know where this is going, and it's going to be lame." Funny thing was, just as Moore was on the verge of losing me, he always managed to pull something cool out of his hat to keep me on board. Many of the developments I originally considered lame ended up being among the best parts of the story. Toward the end, I simply surrendered to the insanity and trusted that it would all make sense in the end. More often than not, it did.

The Would Make the Best Video Game Award goes to:
The Cestus Deception
Is there any surprise? Star Wars and video games go together like roast beef and mashed potatoes. Exciting characters and pulse-pounding battles are the hallmark of this franchise, and it carries over into the books. (At least, into this one) Of all the books I read, this was the story I'd be most likely to recommend anybody looking for a "summer blockbuster" of a book. Turn your brain off for awhile, kids, and just enjoy the Jedi.

The Coolest Combination of Geeky Greatness Award goes to:
Seriously. Mixing sci-fi theory with classic fantasy-style creatures, characters, and ballads. And doing so without making it hokey or glaringly inconsistent. Cheers, Anne McCaffrey. Cheers.

Coming up: some historical non-fiction, science fiction, and Christian theory, among other things. See you next time on The Ten Down Awards!

Water for Elephants (Closing Thoughts)

# of pages: 335
Pages read so far: 3,211
Average pages/book: 321.1

Water for Elephants is a great story well-told. It hooked me fairly early on in the narrative and never really disappointed me, which I'm discovering is pretty rare for a longer piece of fiction. It definitely doesn't feel long, however. I'm a fairly slow reader, but I digested the bulk of this book in two days. I know I've got friends who would probably digest it all in one and not miss a bit of the enjoyment. By the end of the story, it's hard to believe only three-and-a-half months have passed in Jacob's life, partially because you've finished the story so quickly and partially because he undergoes such massive changes in that amount of time.

I will say, however, that I struggle to find much that corresponds to the story of the biblical Jacob, which the author claimed to be the "backbone" of this novel. Not that that bothers me, it just seems it was an odd thing to say.

The book opens with Jacob Jankowski as a ninety (or possibly ninety-three)-year-old man in an assisted living facility. I will say that I've always kind of looked forward to old age--not that I'm looking forward to joint pain or daily medication, but I've always thought I'd be an awesome "back in my day" sort of guy. Jacob's reflections on assisted living, however, are heartbreaking and harrowing. I'm now far more apprehensive about the twilight of my years after reading this book! Indeed, the picture that author Sara Gruen paints of Jacob is a dreary one, and as his flashback begins with the unexpected and gruesome death of his parents while he is away at college, I started to wonder when we were going to get to the touching romance I was promised by the comments on the back of the book.

Left with nothing (due to the benevolence of his father, a vet who stopped taking monetary payment when his neighbors could no longer afford to pay it--did I mention it's the Depression?), young Jacob runs away, eventually climbing onto a train on somewhat of a rash impulse. The train belongs to the Benzini Brothers Most Spectacular Show on Earth, one of many traveling circuses of those days. Jacob gets hired on as the show's vet, an act which sets into motion a complex tale of love, loyalty, choices, and consequences. At times, you think it'll be yet another "good-hearted young man falls for beautiful woman who's married to a man she doesn't really love" story, but as the story unfolds more layers of complication arise to the point where the story is highly engaging. By the end of the story, you have the characters you love and those you loathe, but while you find the loathesome characters appalling, you do eventually come to see where they come from, and it takes a great story to let you see the villains sympathetically.

Minor gripes: there are two points, fairly major story points, which require you to simply accept what you're given at face value. A couple of characters make some pretty significant changes in attitude or emotion that, at the time, seem to come sorta out of nowhere. (Worth noting that I think I made peace with both of these instances by the end of the book; besides, I'm a reader who's usually willing to "just go there" in order to enjoy the story) Also, you're introduced to a LOT of secondary characters fairly early in the flashback, most of whom will disappear for the majority of the rest of the book before you've really gotten to know them, yet when the reappear later you're supposed to remember who they were and why they were significant. Didn't really affect the enjoyment of the book for me, though, since most of these characters were more functional than anything.

Major gripe: Okay, I understand that most stories are going to feature sex scenes. I've made peace with that truth. Of the ten books I've read so far, half of them have included sex scenes with varying degrees of detail. But this book was by far TOO MUCH INFORMATION for my taste. I generally find these scenes to be more effective when more is left to the imagination. Suggestion is a more effective means of communication than a blow-by-blow (pun only partially intended) account of every kinky encounter between the drunken Polish kid and the professional prostitute. At one point, this book spends several pages describing a strip show, and I really got the point fairly early on in the account. I know I thought that the sex descriptions in Ilium were bad, but Water for Elephants made Dan Simmons' work look positively PG by comparison.

The book wrestles with issues like prejudice, racism, poverty, business ethics, animal rights, mental illness, and loneliness, without ever actually needing to comment on any of them. It is, at its core, a love story/adventure. More, it's a story of love and friendship that exists in a world permeated by all of the aforementioned afflictions. And that makes for a good read more often than not.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Book 10/60: Water for Elephants

And now, for a bit of variety. Huzzah!

Following a couple of fantasy novels, we've got Sara Gruen's historical romance novel, Water for Elephants. Elephants is a newer book, published in 2006, and Gruen is a newer writer, pursuing writing full-time for the first time in 2001. She's got four books published, and animals feature prominently in all of them. According to the inside flap, Gruen lives "with her husband, her three children, four cats, two goats, two dogs, and a horse in an environmental community north of Chicago." Here's her website, which features a "Critters in Need" link for animal activist organizations.

Anyway, this book has made its way onto a slew of bestsellers lists and has garnered some pretty high praise, so I'm looking forward to the read. The story is set in a Depression-era traveling circus. It follows the protagonist's budding relationship with the girl who rides the elephant (and, in what I assume is a completely non-romantic sense, his relationship with the elephant as well). That's about all I know, thought the author has said that the backbone for her story parallels the Biblical story of Jacob, so that's an interesting twist as well.

Finally, I have to finish this book by the 5th of October, because it's on hold and I can't renew it, so awaaaaay we go!

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Dragonflight: Closing Thoughts

# of pages: 288
# of pages read so far: 2,876
Avg pages/book: 319.6

Why do I keep those numbers? Because I love numbers.

For some reason, I don't have a ton to say about this book. It was pretty good. I had trouble getting into it because I thought the lead characters were a little bland, and while I ended up really liking the story, I still felt that Lessa and F'lar were both fairly predictable. Maybe that was the point, and I just missed it. That happens a lot. Anyway, I wouldn't mind reading the other books in the series, but I'm not dying to, either. (Unlike when I finished Ilium a while back) I did, however, find the twists and turns in the latter half of the book to be really pretty cool.

**Consider the following comments spoilers**

I mean, you're giving me dragons AND time travel? That's fantastic! And, as with any good time travel story, it requires a you to be willing to drop a bit of "Wait, but how did this happen if it needed that to happen first?" questioning, which I'm totally willing to do if you're going to give me dragons and time travel in a way that's well thought out and entertaining. Unfortunately, the end of the story seemed a bit of a foregone conclusion, because basically everything the hero tries in this story works almost perfectly, so there wasn't a ton of drama leading up to the resolution. That, however, gave you a bit of a sense of being "in on the joke," which was fun in a scene or two. Still, I kinda wanted to smack F'lar and tell him to calm down, since obviously everything would go according to plan. And it did. Ultimately, though, the wrapping up of this story served the purpose of setting up for the others, I'm assuming, and that was done admirably, leaving the narrative at an exciting place to pick up with whatever the next book is.

**end spoilerish discussion**

All in all, a fun read. I'd recommend it to anyone looking for a decent, short, fantasy-adventure story, but it's not on my list of "things you must read before you die."

Come to think of it, I have no such list. I should make one.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Book 9/60: Dragonflight by Anne McCaffrey

I'm not very good at keeping my initial thoughts updated any more. That's probably because I usually start these books late at night and don't feel like blogging, and then I just don't get around to it.

Anyway, I've started this book already, but I can remember my "initial thoughts" pretty easily.

Dragonflight is the first book in the famed Dragonriders of Pern series, and it's one that people will generally recommend to the "beginner" when it comes to reading fantasy novels. Anne McCaffrey is actually an author I've been meaning to get around to for awhile, so I'm looking forward to this book.

The first segment of this book (which I've just finished reading) won a Hugo Award, and the second won a Nebula Award, both in 1968. (Those are both fairly big deals)

There's not a whole lot else to say except "yay, dragons," I suppose.

288 pages
Trade paperback edition copyright 2005 Del Rey Books
Originally copyright 1968; copyright renewed 1996 by Anne McCaffrey (cause she was bored)
Originally published in the U.S. by Del Rey Books (an imprint of The Random House Publishing Group) in 1968

Monday, September 21, 2009

The Cestus Deception (Closing thoughts)

# of pages: 401
# of pages read so far: 2,588
Avg. pages/book: 323.5

I like Star Wars. From start to finish (well, at least through Episode VI, as I haven't read anything about VI-IX), I think it's a fantastic story. I think the telling of the main narrative (the movies) of the story is oftentimes clumsy, chocked full of unnecessary and awkward moments and poor dialogue, but that's okay because really, it's just supposed to be fun. And it is fun. It's entertainment, folks.

The Cestus Deception follows that mold pretty closely. It's fun. It's entertainment. It's not great literature, but it's not supposed to be. I jokingly commented to my wife that it felt like Steven Barnes hit some sort of performance bonus in his contract if he hit 400 pages (the book is 401, exactly 400 if you don't count the one blank page between the end of the story and the afterward), because right around page 300 it felt like the relatively fast-paced story suddenly found itself meandering fairly aimlessly through a series of episodes that could have been tightened up (or, in some cases, omitted entirely). The dialogue and internal monologue was occasionally hackneyed or cliched, but whatever. It's Star Wars, right? I can forgive a multitude of transgressions on that front alone.

Besides, once you've committed to reading a 400+ page book, I've found it helps if you commit to try to like it despite its faults rather than hate it because of them. Makes the journey much more pleasant.

As for the story itself, the majority of the novel splits between Obi-Wan Kenobi and clone soldier A-98, or "Nate". Nate's story is generally the more compelling and rewarding element to the book as the clone soldier who has never questioned orders before is confronted with the question of what it is to be human, and whether he really is human, and all of those sticky philosophical things that come with such journeys of self-discovery. While this storyline occasionally falls into the realm of predictability, I have to say the payoff is satisfactory, and after appearing an afterthought to what is the main coursing of the plot throughout the novel, Nate does a pretty good job of finally tying everything together at the end.

Obi-Wan's story is pretty much a stock Star Wars story, though I have to admit I was a little disappointed in the Jedi characters throughout. They just seemed a little dumber than I remembered from other Jedi incarnations I've seen. Furthermore, the Force appears to be a very fickle weapon. (I've always thought this, though; for example: why, in the beginning of Episode I, do Qui-gon and Obi-Wan use light sabers to battle the first several battle droids they meet, but when reinforcements come Qui-Gon just waves his hand and disables them. Why not do that in the first place???) Seems there were certain things Obi-Wan and Kit should have had no trouble with that, for dramatic reasons, were suddenly worthy adversaries.

But whatever. It's Star Wars, right? ;-)

Finally, I have to imagine it's great fun for a writer to be given permission to play in another creator's sand box, especially one so iconic as Star Wars. (Barnes speaks to this effect in the afterward) I mean, I'd go crazy if Marvel asked or allowed me to write an original story in an Avengers novel, especially if it were to become part of Marvel canon. (Admittedly, Marvel cannon is far more complicated than Star Wars canon, but you get the idea) You know, now that Disney has bought Marvel, I can't help but think that a Spider-Man and Wall*E crossover novel may just be a necessity to North American pop culture...

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Book 8/60: The Cestus Deception (middle-ish impressions)

I meant to post some initial thoughts, but I never got around to it, and now I'm literally halfway through with this book.

The Cestus Deception is a Star Wars novel from the untold Close Wars saga. (Funny side note: I first accidentally typed that as "Cone Wars". Ha. Haha. Cones fighting. Classic) I've never read any of the Star Wars books, though I've seen a few trillion of them. What's confusing to me is that I guess some of them are considered cannon and some are not? Further, I've been told that a few are really very good, while many are forgettable.

This book appears to be "official" and licensed by Lucasfilms as part of the extended universe. According to the information on the inside of the book, if you want to get the FULL story on the Clone War, you have to buy x number of books as well as this certain graphic novel, this comic storyline, and these video games on different systems in addition to watching the cartoon series and movies.


Man, and I thought it was inconvenient when Kingdom Hearts started releasing in-betweequels on other platforms...

Now that I'm a good deal into this book, however, it looks like it's really not necessary at all to understanding the main Star Wars narrative (i.e., the six films). Rather, it's a story that happens between episode 2 and episode 3, so if you enjoy these characters you may enjoy these further exploits, but if you miss The Cestus Deception you're not really missing anything that corresponds to the main Star Wars storyline.

So there's that.

Anyway, book is written by Steven Barnes, who also wrote some episodes of Stargate-SG1, Andromeda, and (oddly enough) Baywatch. He's also an expert in martial arts and kickboxing. He's also won an Endeavor Award for distinguished sci-fi/fantasy written by a Northwestern writer (for his novel Lion's Blood).

So, yeah. Halfway through, not bad so far. Enjoyable reading, and not quite so philosophical as Flatland. Fluff. One of Dave's "palate-cleansers," which are always fun and, properly placed in your reading diet, quite necessary!

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Closing Thoughts: Flatland

Pages: 147
Pages read so far: 2187
Average pages/book: 312.43

Flatland is, I think, pretty much everything everybody cited in the post before claimed it to be. At first, I called it the "nerdiest book I have ever read," and it was true. The first seventy or so pages address the physics of what it would be like to live in a world of two-dimensions: how do these entities recognize one another? How do they differentiate between other shapes? What affect have sharp angles when they come in contact with flat sides? It's all very well thought out and written in such a way that it's still interesting to read, even if it is essentially high school geometric theory to the nth degree, where n = someone-spent-way-too-much-time-thinking-about-this.

Throughout this section and the sections that follow, the book seems to be a running social commentary as well, and since I'm not terribly well-versed in Abbot's society I don't feel qualified to comment on it, but there were a few points toward the middle when it started to lose me.

I found the debate amusing as poor A. Square attempted in vain to explain the complexities of two dimensions to the king of line land, and when you hear Square using the exact same arguments when the great Sphere enters his world, you get the feeling that Flatland is about more than the time and place immediately surrounding Edwin Abbot (whose middle name was also Abbot, it turns out). I felt it touched on all our natural inclination to create the world in our image, to broaden the horizons of those who know less than we do, but to vehemently deny that there is a bigger picture than our own big picture. Square's unfortunate downfall is also a bit of a foregone conclusion, as Abbot's picture of mankind is somewhat bleak and closed-minded (though not entirely off the mark).

I'm not certain what Abbot's intent in writing Flatland was, nor whether or not he felt he achieved it. Regardless, it's a fairly quick read, and an interesting one, where story is clearly not the defining element but is present enough to make for an enjoyable read. (Admittedly, had it gone on for much longer, the thing may have started to grow annoying)

This seems to me an unsatisfactory reflection on this book; however, it's a difficult book to reflect back upon, so I'm just going to post it and move on with life.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Book 7/60: Flatland by Edwin A. Abbott

I can think of nothing that I can add to preface this book that would sufficiently expand on the following two thoughts. First, from the new introduction by Valerie Smith:

"Abbot's other works have been fairly easy to classify, but Flatland has been referred to variously as a mathematical or scientific novel, a social satire, a work of science fiction and fantasy, a philosophical treatise, a mystical adventure, an artistic inspiration, a fictional work of travel, and 'a very puzzling book.'"

Second, the description from the book's back cover:

"With wry humor and penetrating satire, Flatland takes us on a mind-expanding journey into a different world to give us a new vision of our own. A. Square, the slightly befuddled narrator, is born into a place limited to two dimensions--irrevocably flat--and peopled by a heirarchy of geometrical forms. On a tour of his bizarre homeland like that taken by Gulliver, A. Square spins a fascinating tale of domestic drama and political turmoil, from sex among consenting triangles to the intentional subjugation of Flatland's females. He tells of visits to Lineland, the world of one dimension, and Pointland, the world of no dimension. But when A. Square dares to speak openly of a third, or even a fourth, dimension, his tragic fate climaxes a brilliant parody of Victorian society."

All righty, then.

Stats: 147 pages
First published: 1884
This edition published: 2005, Signet Classics (a division of Penguin Group, USA)
Major awards: Apparently none

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Closing Thoughts: Boy

You know, up until we did James and the Giant Peach at our children's theater four full years ago, I still thought Roald Dahl's first name was actually "Ronald."

Dahl's autobiographical look at the first twenty years of his life is--whoops, almost forgot!

# of pages: 160
Pages read so far: 2040
Average number of pages/book: 340

Sorry about that.

All right, Dahl's autobiographical look at the first twenty years of his life is a quick and interesting read. I've really never read biographies or autobiographies frequently, but they are a fantastic reminder that the world is a huge place with tons of diversity, especially when you start reaching across historical eras. The headmasters of English boys' schools in the 1920s would likely be fired, fined, and/or arrested in 2009 American school systems. Also, kids dying young has been a fairly regular occurrence throughout history and still is in many parts of the world, especially death by diseases easily treated here. Dahl's life story was a reminder to how incredibly blessed I am to live when and where I currently live.

Dahl's Boy is an especially interesting read if you are familiar with his works; otherwise, it might be relatively dull. With some authors, there are veiled clues toward their stories and characters found in people, places, and events in their histories. Dahl's are all incredibly clear. A child's distrust of grown-ups; evil and abusive schoolteachers; fascination with chocolates, especially experimental new types; loving, trustworthy grandparents; the delightful, naughty fun that comes from farting socially; these are all ideas taken quite obviously from his childhood, and it's kind of fun to see where these stories came from.

It's also sad (from my perspective, anyway) to see when and how Dahl lost his faith in faith. The headmasters who would unjustly cane Dahl and his schoolmates happened to be the same men who led prayer and worship on Sunday, one even eventually becoming the Archbishop of England. He had trouble reconciling the unfair treatment he received on Friday with the message of love and mercy he heard on Sunday, and so he decided that something in the Christian message was not quite right. A sobering reminder of the power of a Christian witness, both positively and negatively.

Also (and, in my book, probably related) found this tidbit interesting: late in the book, Dahl is describing his first job as a businessman, and how much better of a life that is compared to that of a writer:

"I enjoyed it, I really did. I began to realise how simple life could be if one had a regular routine to follow with fixed hours and a fixed salary and very little original thinking to do. The life of a writer is absolute hell compared with the life of a businessman. The writer has to force himself to work. He has to make his own hours and if he doesn't go to his desk at all there is nobody to scold him. If he is a writer of fiction he lives in a world of fear. Each new day demands new ideas and he can never be sure whether he is going to come up with them or not. Two hours of writing fiction leaves this particular writer absolutely drained. For those two hours he has been miles away, he has been somewhere else, in a different place with totally different people, and the effort of swimming back into normal surroundings is very great. It is almost a shock. The writer walks out of his workroom in a daze. He wants a drink. He needs it. It happens to be a fact that nearly ever writer of fiction in the world drinks more whisky than is good for him. He does it to give himself faith, hope and courage. A person is a fool to become a writer. His only compensation is absolute freedom. He has no master except his own soul, and that, I am sure, is why he does it." (emphasis mine)

I feel like I have a lot to say about this passage, but it needs more thought before I can say it clearly or correctly. Something about this paragraph doesn't sit quite right, and while I know there's some tongue-in-cheek going on there, I also know that there's usually a shred of truth in sarcasm.

Maybe after I've reasoned it out I'll post more thoughts on this one. (WHAT? Books make you THINK???) For now, however, think on these things, and think very hard on what it is you do to give yourself faith, hope, and courage, either in art or in life. Because chances are, the two are very closely linked.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Book 6/60: Boy by Roald Dahl

Ah, Roald Dahl: the fantastic, creative writer of children's fiction who seems to have lost a letter for his first name at some point in his life.

I love Dahl's stories. I love his heroes and heroines, I love the way he relates so naturally to his audience, I love his love for the mildly crude things like nose-picking and gas-passing, I love his use of magic and wonder to spark the imaginations of his readers. This book, however, is something entirely different: this is a collection of stories and memories from Dahl's own childhood. Scattered throughout are black-and-white photographs of Dahl's family and childhood homes. It is autobiographical, but it is not quite an autobiography.

From the author:

"An autobiography is a book a person writes about his own life and it is usually full of all sorts of boring details.
This is not an autobiography. I would never write a history of myself. On the other hand, throughout my young days at school and just afterwards a number of things happened to me that I have never forgotten.
None of these things is important, but each of them made such a tremendous impression on me that I have never been able to get them off my mind. Each of them, even after a lapse of fifty and sometime sixty years, has remained seared on my memory.
I didn't have to search for any of them. All I had to do was skim them off the top of my consciousness and write them down.
Some are funny. Some are painful. Some are unpleasant. I suppose that is why I have always remembered them so vividly. All are true."

160 pages
Published 1984
Farrar, Straus and Giroux, New York
No significant awards or nominations
Dahl's autobiographical tale was continued in a later book, Going Solo

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Closing Thoughts: Neverwhere

# of pages: 337
Total pages read: 1880
Average pages/book: 376

You like how I added that last one in there? I love averages.

Speaking of average, let's talk about Neverwhere!

I'm kidding, it's actually far above average, but that was just an awesome transition and I couldn't waste it.

As I think I said before, this isn't my first Neil Gaiman book, as I've read and enjoyed Stardust, and I also remembered recently that I've read his 1602 Marvel Comics graphic novel. The similarity I see in all three of these is that they're great ideas formed into good stories with decent characters that are always interesting and enjoyable, but somehow I always feel like there could have been more there.

I liked Neverwhere, and once I got near the end of Richard's journey to get back to the Angel I found myself unable to put the book down until it was finished, leading to yet another 3:30 a.m. bedtime. (Books are bad for sleep, by the way) I particularly loved the villains (not loved the villains in that "lovable bad guy" way but in the "wow, these are fantastic villains, I hate them" way that I find so appealing in adventure stories) and thought the final confrontation scene was fantastic. The book also did a great job of avoiding the "being weird for weirdness' sake" trap that can be so tempting when a particularly colorful imagination gets hold of an untouched fantasy world, for which I was very grateful. Parts of this story were downright creepy without betraying the generally fun mood that ran throughout the majority of the narrative. It felt as though I was in on a joke that the poor unfortunate protagonist just couldn't quite grasp, and that's always fun.

For me, however, this was probably the only strike against the novel. After awhile, I found myself thinking, Yes, I get it. He's awkward and out of place and the others all pity him for it. There were probably thirty or so variations of the phrase "as if speaking to a child" and, while it fit the story, it got a bit old to read over and over again. There also seemed to be an inconsistency to Richard's willingness to believe the unbelievable. On one page he's accepted that the best way to survive was to accept things at face value, but then a few pages later he's throwing a tantrum because there are no such things as angels. I just felt it would have been stronger for him to just move one way or the other rather than waffling for the first half of the book.

That's a really minor complaint, though. This is a fun read and a good story, and while not every element comes to a satisfying payoff, and there's at least one major plot element that still doesn't seem to make any sense, I'd recommend this book to anybody who's not scared away by language.

Oh, right, a brief synopsis for posterity (and, potentially, for the curious): Richard Mayhew thinks he leads a perfectly happy life in modern-day London, England. He's satisfied with his job, he enjoys his fiance and their social situation, and as far as he can tell he's definitely on the up and up. Then he meets Door, a young woman from London Below, an entire society that exists invisible to those who live above but exists in the tunnels and trains below the city. Door is being chased by some underworld assassins when she opens a magic door to "someone who can help." That someone ends up being Richard, who takes the girl back to his apartment, helps her clean her wound, and delivers a message for her to a curious marquis who lives in some sort of illogical dream-world. When Door leaves with the marquis, Richard believes that everything is back to normal, and for the most part it is, with the tiny exception of the fact that he no longer exists. His apartment is being rented out to strangers, no one at work has ever heard of him, his bank card is rejected by the loveless ATM machine, taxis refuse to stop for him. Richard has "fallen through the cracks" and is now a part of the bizarre and magical world of London Below of Door and the marquis. And, because this is how these stories work, the only way to get his old life back is to go on a dangerous quest that will tie his destiny with Door's and, ultimately, all of creation's, and if he gets to the end he may no longer recognize the man he is.

Which, of course, may not necessarily be a bad thing.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Book 5/60: Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman

I have to admit that I've been looking forward to this one. (The anticipation of its awesomeness led me to place it directly after The Road in case the previous novel was as much of a downer as I was warned it would be) There were roughly eight million Neil Gaiman recommendations on my list (okay, like four or five), making Gaiman easily the most-recommended author on the list. I've heard from several friends over the past few years that Gaiman is the greatest writer in the history of the written word. This book is Mr. G's first solo novel, and I was told that this was the place to start when examining Gaiman's cannon, and thus here we are. (Though technically, I've already read one work of his--Stardust--so I'm not really starting here, but it's close)

Old friends Christopher Moore (author of #2) and Stephen King (#57) love Gaiman and Neverwhere, as do a lot of other authors noted for their creativity and fantasy. The back flap can barely contain all the praises and still fit a decent-sized picture of the author.

You have hype to live up to, Mr. G.

Stats: 337 pages
Published by Avon Books, New York, 1996
Awards: None, though it has been translated into Polish, Portuguese, Czech, German, Hebrew, Italian, Russian, Bulgarian, Dutch, Serbian, Brasillian Portuguese, Romanian, Finnish, Latvian, Hungarian, Chinese, Danish, and comic book.

No Oprah book club, though.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Closing Thoughts: The Road

# of pages: 287
Pages read so far: 1,543

The lender of Cormac McCarthy's The Road told me it was supposed to be one of the most depressing books ever written. Through the first half of the book, I agreed. At times, it was so depressing that my mind started to reject it as ridiculous (much like someone who meet Pollyanna in real life would wonder whether the girl was for real or not). Everything that happened in the story was just sad. Not a make-you-cry sort of sad, but more of a "dang. That really sucks" sort of sad. The novel is incredibly dreary; a man and his son (around eight years old) are traveling on foot together down a road (used to be an interstate highway) in a world in which everything is dead. (You never find out what happened. Probably Global Warming) No plants, no animals, and almost no people. Cities are completely empty, rotting corpses everywhere. A stranger you meet on the road may very well want to kill you for your belongings and the meat on your bones. The man and the boy (you never get their names) journey ever southward, trying to survive a cold winter on a planet that now bares a permanent layer of ash.

Really, there's not a lot of potential for happy thoughts in this sort of story.

However, as I got into it further, I realized that it wasn't depressing, not really. Depressing literature leaves me feeling like crap when I read it. The Road didn't. I won't say it was uplifting by any stretch of the imagination, but it was definitely engaging. The language was simple; the majority of the book was structured like the post I wrote yesterday. Short paragraphs, no chapters, no apostrophes or quotation marks, few descriptive words. Very plain. Very little life. No real structure to the story. Like the man and the boy, it just sort of rambles along toward its end. And while it does have an ending, this story is not about the end. It's not really about the mystery of the beginning, either. It's about the journey and the relationship between the father and the son. The language is accessible and readable. McCarthy doesn't waste words. He doesn't try to creep you out with any of the excessively gory details of the world around the travelers. Rather, he lets the hopelessness of the situation speak for itself. And it's a very engaging read for that.

It's very interesting to read the snippets of reviews inside the cover of the book. Unanimous acclaim based on incredibly diverse takes on the narrative. One reviewer finds it ultimately hopeful. One finds it terrifying and depressing. One calls is personal while another lauds its alienation. Yet another comments on its portrayal of "the miracle of goodness." Me? I saw very little miracle of goodness. Also very little to make me hopeful afterward. It didn't depress me, though. I liked these characters. I related to them both. I found myself appreciating a story well-told more than worrying about whether it should be depressing me or inspiring me.

I'd recommend reading this book in as few sittings as possible. I read it in about two days, and I think I would have had trouble getting into it if I kept checking out and back in. There's some disturbing imagery as well. (How many of these books on my list are going to involve cutting up babies??) However, it was nice to read something that wasn't graphic or gratuitous in language, gore, or sex. (Not that sex would have fit in this story anywhere)

So there you have it. I liked the book. I dunno that it was brilliant of a masterpiece, but it did win a Pulitzer so most likely it is ;-) What it is for certain is a well-told story that causes you to pause, think, and reflect as you read it. If you're not afraid to injest some troubling scenes and despairing narrative, this is a good, quick read to pick up.

Oh, and here's the trailer for the movie.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

You, too, can write like Cormac McCarthy's "The Road"!

They stumbled along. It was dark and they were cold, but there was no place to stop. The man put his hand on the boy's head. The boy didnt react. He was barely awake.
I'm hungry.
I know.
Can we stop?
We can't stop yet.
I really want to stop.
We can't stop yet. It's too out in the open here. I'm sorry. Soon.
Are the bad guys close?
I don't know.
I'm really scared.
It's okay.
He put one arm around the boy's shoulders.
It's okay, he said.
The boy grabbed the man's hand. The man noticed he'd dropped his toy truck in the ashy snow somewhere along the way. He wondered if the boy had realized it was gone. He could barely make out some trees a few hundred feet away. They went toward the trees.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Book 4/60: The Road by Cormac McCarthy


So the recommender for this book tells me it's supposed to be one of the most depressing things ever written.

Huzzah! It'll feel like I'm reading academically again! ;-)

The Road is the story of a father and his young son (Six? Seven? I don't know yet) traveling along, appropriately enough, a road, trying to stay alive in a world that is dead. No signs of life anywhere. Plant life all dead, cities full of rotting human corpses, no bugs, no animals. Dead. Perpetual gray in the sky. And winter is coming.

The Road is another Oprah book club selection, and Entertainment Weekly named it THE best book of the past 25 years. Oh yeah, it also won the 2007 Pulitzer for Literature. Viggo Mortensen is starring in the movie, supposedly out this October.

As for McCarthy himself, he's in his third marriage (the first two he divorced) and was described as a "gregarious loner" by the New York Times in a rare interview. He doesn't appear to like writers, and he doesn't think stories that do not deal with life and death directly should be considered literature. His last novel before The Road was something called No Country for Old Men; I wonder if that'll ever catch on.

All righty. Award-winning secluded writer who dislikes writers and has trouble with relationships writes depressing story about the end of the world. Time to dig in!

287 pages
Published by Vintage International, a division of Random House
Copyright 2006
Awards: 2007 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction
2006 James Tait Black Memorial Prize for Fiction

Closing Thoughts: Ilium

# of pages: 576
Pages read so far: 1,256

I'm fairly proud of myself for getting through this one. Not that it was bad, because it wasn't, but because it was big, wordy, and pretty far outside my realm of reading experience. I know 576 pages isn't necessarily a lot, but these were big pages, little words, and lots of sciencey stuff--both real scientific theory and elaborate technobabble. In other words, this was a novel that took effort for met to barrel through, and the result is a wildly imaginative narrative that throws together Homer's Illiad, Shakespeare's Tempest, and alien robots, among other things. While that sounds like a recipe for fanfiction disaster, it actually plays out as a sci-fi epic that makes the original Illiad pale in scope.

Simmons is a very good writer. There were times when I felt like "being a great writer" was getting in the way of his storytelling, and that's generally a turn-off of mine. (For example, and entire chapter describing the alien physics that allow a ship to take off from Jupiter's atmosphere and land safely on Mars by using completely fictional units of measurement and electronic equipment takes great skill, but I'm perfectly happy just saying "They took off." That, however, is completely a matter of personal taste, and not something that can be held against the writer) I was perfectly able to overlook these instances, though, because Simmons did a fantastic job of setting up so much intrigue all throughout the story, which is remarkable considering the reader thinks they already know how this one should end if they've ever taken a western civilizations class (thanks, OBU!).

It took me awhile to get into the story because the majority of the book jumps between three completely separate storylines, none of which seem in the least bit connected. (In fact, this book never did actually all of them into the fold, but they set things up for that to happen in the second book, Olympos, so I was okay with it) Of the three plots, I only found one even remotely interesting for the first hundred pages or so--and remember, big pages, little words. So I was afraid that I'd be struggling with this book the whole way through. Once I got about a hundred pages in, though, things really began to pick up on all fronts, the bland-er characters started to take shape and develop, the adventure factor was cranked up a few hundred decibels, and life got more interesting. (Which, it turns out, was kind of the point of at least one of the stories, so I can completely understand why Simmons constructed this part of the story the way he had. I still sorta wished he'd gotten into about 20 pages sooner, though)

Bottom line: here is a great, epic tale, and a successful modern attempt to capture the spirit of the Greek poetry. From the starting-lineup-ish rundowns of who is fighting in what battle to the distinctive attention given to each detail of every individual death, the novel echoes of Homer without sounding pretentious for the most part. I'm impressed. (Side note: there were a LOT of typos in this book. A guy's or place's name is spelled with an O here, a U there, then an O again; or, one of my favorites, at one point the word "scuttled" was spelled with three "t's" instead of two. Doesn't somebody get paid to catch those things??)

That said, it's not a book I can readily recommend to most of my friends. The story, characters, and writing are all great, but the content of the book make it something I would not want just anybody to read. First is, obviously, the language, which is to be expected in a war novel, especially in this day in age. As I've stated before, language no longer phases me, but I know some people are still bothered by it, and if you're one of those people, this book may not be for you. Second, there is a LOT of sexual content in this book. Which, again, is what comes with a Greek epic story. There's a lot of sex. Most of the conflict in Greek stories seems to originate out of sexual situations. The Trojan War begins because one guy steals and sleeps with another guy's wife. It's going to be there. But it is EVERYWHERE in Ilium, and not just in the Greek storyline. Naked bodies and parts of naked bodies are described somewhat gratuitously, to the point that I could see it being border-line pornographic to those who already struggle with that sort of temptation. Plus, there are times when nude or nearly-nude descriptions are not really necessary (the thermal-suits, the callibani), but are used anyway. If you're bothered be pseudo-erotic descriptions, or if you know they're just not good for you to read, this is a book you're better off skipping. And finally, it's bloody. Oh, boy, is it bloody. For the third time, that's a necessary part of this story and of its Greek origins, but that doesn't mean everybody can stomach it. People--not just soldiers--die in ghastly detail. I'll just say that if you can't handle a man dragging another (living) man's intestines out of his guts or a vivid description of babies getting chopped up, so read something else.

Wow! That felt like the longest disclaimer EVER! I'ma skip the synopsis, since it's hard to do without spoiling things anyway, and just jump straight to some spoilerish highlights below:


--I loved the banter between Mahnmut and Orphu. I was becoming concerned that it was going to be primarily spurious by the time we got to the end, and one could make an argument that it ultimately was, but I think it did a great job of keeping us grounded in a world of literature, so that when certain elements--especially Calliban, Prospero, etc--became part of the narrative, they didn't seem out of place.

--Simmons is a jerk for leaving us with that ending. The Greek and Trojan armies are united and storming Olympos with an army of alien robot infantry, the humans on earth are freed from their terrible comfort (and ultimate slavery) at the possible price of freeing the monsters that were secretly feeding on them, aaaaaand to be continued. Jerk.

--I liked the growth we got in the human characters (the ones in Harman's story). At times I didn't quite follow their motivations for doing certain things, but as a guy who's tried to write a novel I can totally appreciate that sometimes, somebody had to do something out of character to keep things moving forward.

--One of the best lines I've ever read: "These deus ex machinas have a way of sneaking up on us literary types." Orphu to Mahnmut

--It is absolutely insane that this entire book is just set-up to the actual ware between man and gods. My initial thought upon finishing (a 3:30 this morning) was "I have to go put a hold request for the next book!!!" I think that's what you're going for when you write something like this. However, I think I'll go ahead and get through my list first. Olympos will be at or near the top of my NEXT reading list, though!

Friday, August 14, 2009

Confession #1

I have a confession to make.

I'm not terribly far long in Ilium. I started to read, and at first I have to admit that I had trouble getting into it. There are three different storylines with entirely different characters and locales (and, for all you know at the beginning, time periods). One of these storylines I found very interesting; one I found rather sleazy and monotonous, and one I absolutely hated. (Keep in mind, this is all very early in the book, but still, two of the three were just not hooking me) One night I read a decent way into a chapter of storyline #2 (sleazy) and put the book down for the night. It just wasn't happening for me, and I was afraid this was going to be a very, VERY long read.

I have to admit, I didn't pick it up again for a couple of days, partially because I was lazy, and partially because I was tired and was afraid of being put to sleep.

Finally, two days ago, I pick the book up and read a couple pages, and two and a half pages from where I left off.......

*very minor spoilers*


*very minor spoilers over*

Holy crap! I would never have stopped if I had known that was going to happen so soon!

Needless to say, the story has picked up dramatically from that point, and we've had epic battles, internal organs spilling, gods plotting to kill other gods, and all kinds of goodies!

The lesson here, kids, is never give up on a book; you never know. You may be two and a half pages away from

*same very minor spoiler*


*very minor spoiler rehash over*
*post over, too*

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Book 3/60: Ilium by Dan Simmons

The number "60" is a lot more daunting today than it was last night for some reason...

Anyway, on to Ilium. (You'll notice Ilium is not the third book on my list; however, I'm getting a lot of these on hold requests from the library, so you sort of have to read them as they're available) Ilium won the Locus Award for Best Science Fiction Novel of 2004. (The winners of the Locus Awards get a certificate. Dang. I gotta win me some Locus Awards) It was also nominated for Hugo Award that same year. I don't know if that's more prestigious or less, but Starship Troopers won a Hugo Award in 1960. (Maybe Starship Troopers goes on the next reading list?)

If you don't know who Dan Simmons is (and I didn't), the back of this book has words of praise from Dean Koontz, the Denver Post, and Stephen King, who says, "I am in awe of Dan Simmons." Well, I'm sold.

Then again, Stephen King also seemed to like Jerry B. Jenkins, so...(Maybe some non-Left Behind Jenkins gets on the next reading list?)

As for the story of Ilium, it appears to be the Illiad in the future. In space. Mingled with some Shakespeare. Really, I don't know what else you need to know about this book.

Nevertheless, here's the opening, the invoking of the muse, if you will:


Sing, O Muse, of the rage of Achilles, of Peleus' son, murderous, man-killer, fated to die, sing of the rage that cost the Achaeans so many good men and sent so many vital, hearty souls down to the dreary House of Death. And while you're at it, O Muse, sing of the rage of the gods themselves, so petulant and so powerful here on their new Olympos, and of the rage of the post-humans, dead and gone though they might be, and of the rage of those few true humans left, self-absorbed and useless though they have become. While you are singing, O Muse, sing also of the rage of those thoughtful, sentient, serious but not-so-close-to-human beings out there dreaming under the ice of Europa, dying in the sulfur-ash of Io, and being born in the cold folds of Ganymede.

Oh, and sing of me, O Muse, poor born-again-against-his-will Hockenberry--poor dead Thomas Hockenberry, Ph.D., Hockenbush to his friends, to friends long since turned to dust on a world long since left behind. Sing of my rage, yes, of my rage, O Muse, small and insignificant though that rage my be when measured against the anger of the immortal gods, or when compared to the wrath of the god-killer, Achilles.

On second thought, O Muse, sing of nothing to me. I know you. I have been bound and servant to you, O Muse, you incomparable bitch. And I do not trust you, O Muse. Not one little bit."


570 pages (576 if you count the Dramatis Personae)
Published 2003, HarperCollins Publishers Inc., New York

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Revised reading list

Due to several factors, the list has been expanded to 60 books. The revised list is as follows:

#1: The Heart is a Lonely Hunter by Carson McCullers
#2: Fluke, or I Know Why the Winged Whale Sings by Christopher Moore
#3: The Road by Cormac McCarthy
#4: Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman
#5: Through Painted Deserts by Don Miller
#6 Fool's Gold by Doug Tjaden
#7: Illium by Dan Simmons
#8: Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card
#9: Walking on Water by Madeline L'Engle
#10: The Fellowship of the Ring by J. R. R. Tolkien
#11: Boy by Roald Dahl
#12: The Cestus Deception by Steven Barnes
#13: Flatland by Edwin A. Abbot
#14: Founding Brothers: The Revolutionary Generation by Jacob Ellis
#15: Carter Beats the Devil by Glen David Gold
#16: Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen
#17: Gilead by Marilynne Robinson
#18: Prophet by Frank Peretti
#19: American Gods by Neil Gaiman
#20: Bringing the Rain to Kapiti Plain by Verna Aardema
#21: One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
#22: Elantris by Brandon Sanderson
#23: High Fidelity by Nick Hornby
#24: The War of Art by Steven Pressfield
#25: Haroun and the Sea of Stories by Salmon Rushdie
#26: Life of Pi by Yann Martel
#27: Catcher in the Rye by J. D. Sallinger
#28: Powers by Brian Michael Bendis
#29: Les Miserables by Victor Hugo
#30: Woyzeck by Georg Buchner
#31: A Game of Thrones by George R. R. Martin
#32: Three Cups of Tea by Greg Mortenson and Davild Oliver Relin
#33: Lamb by Christopher Moore
#34: The Sacred Romance: Drawing Closer to the Heart of God by John Eldridge and Brent Curtis
#35: Dune by Frank Herbert
#36: A Long Way Down by Nick Hornby
#37: The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupery
#38: Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury
#39: Wistrix Donn by Peter DeVries
#40: A Midsummer Night's Dream by Neil Gaiman
#41: The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz
#42: I Love You, Beth Cooper by Larry Doyle
#43: Mistborn by Brandon Sanderson
#44: Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
#45: The Scarlet Pimpernel by Baroness Emmuska Orczy
#46: The Crystal Shard by R. A. Salvatore
#47: Red by Ted Dekker
#48: The Ranger's Apprentice: The Ruins of Gorlan by John Flanagan
#49: Boy's Life by Robert McCammon
#50: Persuasion by Jane Austen
#51: Eragon by Christopher Paolini
#52: You Don't Have to Be Blind to See by Jim Storail
#53: Cotillion by Georgette Heyer
#54: Dragonflight by Anne McCaffrey
#55: The Mind of the Maker by Dorothy Sayers
#56: Good Omens by Neil Gaiman and Terry Brooks
#57: The Stand by Steven King
#58: Captain Hook: The Adventures of a Notorious Youth by JV Hart
#59: The Ear, The Eye, and The Arm by Nancy Farmer
#60: All Over But the Shoutin by Rick Bragg

Closing Thoughts: Fluke, or I Know Why the Winged Whale Sings

Pages: 321.
Pages read to date: 680

Fluke was recommended to me by a friend who stated that Christopher Moore has one of the most creative imaginations she's ever seen. I concur that this book is an incredibly creative story, a type of science fiction that starts with science rather than just saying, "They're in space. And there's robots." (None of this story takes place in space, that's just an example of some of the sort of thing that gets classified as science fiction, but it seems to me if there's no science anywhere in the story it may fit better into fantasy, robots or no. But I digress. I may write more on this later) The book dealt extensively with the ocean and with marine life, and as a young man who spent a lot of his early life wanting to be a marine biologist, I found it awakened some of that 12-year-old manatee nerd that's still deep down in there somewhere.

I liked this book; I actually found the first few chapters fairly annoying, but I was thoroughly entertained most of the way through. It was not a great book, but it was a very strong story that pitted likable (or at least like-to-readable) characters in some pretty fantastic circumstances while doing an admirable job of making most of it make sense and not be a bunch of random crap for the sake of writing an off-beat novel. I say "admirable" because I don't think it really succeeded all the time in explaining itself; a few concepts could have used a bit more time to help us see how a certain character makes the jump from Assumption A to Action B, and there are times when the humorously-disturbing background stories don't seem to necessarily correlate to the trait or event they are supposed to be laying the foundation for, but overall there is an awful lot to like in this book, if you can manage past the profuse obscene language at times and the vast quantity of fairly graphic sexual humor.

I guess I would classify this one as "somewhat recommended, with reservations," because the language and sexual content are pretty prevalent. It's what my friend Dave would call a "palate-cleanser." Nothing terribly great nor profound, but a good entertaining storybook.

Best awkward funeral scene I've ever read. Choice.

I hadn't really expected the environmentalist/evolutionary angle the story takes, but then again I should have since it was dealing with whale biologists. I know these are both turn-offs for some folks, but neither bothered me, because they were part of the story, and they weren't brow-beating agendas, and besides, the environmental angle was about not killing whales, and really, who can disagree with that?

Some more spoilerish thoughts after the synopsis:

This story is about marine biologist Nate Quinn, a thrice-divorced humpback whale behaviorologist (not a real word, but a great way to describe what exactly he does). Nate is stationed in Maui, poor guy, where he and his research partner Clay Demodocus have spent the past twenty-five years studying humpback whale songs. Clay's life ambition is not just to understand the how of the song, but the why. Also on the research team: perky, attractive young research assistant Amy, a New Jersey native an faux Rastafarian if-you-can-light-it-you-can-smoke-it surfer named Kona, and the Old Broad, the crazy old lady who lives at the top of the volcano and pays for everything. One day, while Nate and Amy are out snapping pictures of humpback whale tail flukes, Nate sees something rather curious: the words "Bite Me" arranged in dark splotches on the underside of an animal's tail. Nate rushes back to the lab with the photos and hands them off to be developed, but when the film comes back, the Bite Me shot is missing. Furthermore, the lab has been trashed, and things only go downhill from there. A series of sabotages and a bizarre phone message from the Old Broad ("The whale called, he said you need to go out tomorrow and to bring a pastrami and rye with mayo") lead Nate, Clay, and Amy to believe that someone out there has it out for them. Suspicions run high, especially toward rival researchers and secret military operations, but Nate never guessed that the whales themselves were out to get him--that is, until a krill-eating humpback opens its mouth wide and...GULP! Jonah-time.

And then, things get weird.


All right, spoilers ahoy! I will admit that, each time there was a major twist in the plot, my immediate reaction was one of disappointment. When Nate first encounters the whaley boys inside the humpback that swallows him, I remember feeling let down. "Oh, it's just aliens," or something like that. Turned out, I was very wrong, and I actually really thought the truth behind the ships and the whaley boys and the Goo were really creative and good story elements. When Amy dropped the "I am Amelia Earhart" bombshell, I almost closed the book. (That was the only point where I thought, "Okay, now you're just throwing in twists for the heck of it") However, Moore had brought me back from the initial "alien disappointment," so I stuck with it, and it ended up being all right, too.

I will say that I thought the revelation of the Colonel was very good.

What most disappointed me was, once the Colonel got Nate in on his grand plan to kill the Goo, it felt like the story stopped working together as a cohesive unit. Nothing that happened seemed to be terribly related to anything else that was happening. It kept taking you in one direction only to half-heartedly abandon that pursuit and rejoin some other line of thought, already in progress. That's not to say that last hundred pages or so were bad, they just weren't nearly as strong as the rest of the narrative, and I didn't feel they lived up to the standards, either in storytelling or in quality of writing, that the first 2/3 of the book had me expecting. And I was very disappointed in the ending: Amy tells Nate that their happy ending is not possible, and because of the circumstances Moore has crafted, she's right, and Nate knows it, so he leaves her in the Goo. Three chapters later, he comes back for her, and she goes with him, saying they'll still have to come back and visit sometime. Happily ever after. Whaaaaa?? We just established that this wouldn't work! And it fits so perfectly well with the rest of the story! Why did we...how can they...jiggitywha..?

Well, I guess the author just wanted to have a happy ending. And really, who am I to deprive him of that?

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Book 2/50: Fluke, or I Know Why the Winged Whale Sings (initial thoughts)

Moving along to something completely different from The Heart is a Lonely Hunter, meet Christopher Moore, am American humanist author whose first novel, Practical Demonkeeping, was published in 1992. Fluke is the first of two Moore novels on my list, so here's hoping I like Moore.

The recommender of this book told me that Moore possesses one of the most original imaginations she's ever seen. The inside flap of the book supports the idea that this will, at the very least, but an odd and unusual story: "Marine behavioral biologist Nate Quinn is in love--with the salt air and sun-drenched waters off Maui--and especially with the majestic ocean-dwelling behemoths that have been bleeping and hooting their haunting music for more than twenty million years. But just why do the humpback whales sing? That's the question that has Nate and his crew poking, charting, recording, and photographing any large mammal that crosses their path. Until the extraordinary day when a whale lifts its tail into the air to display a cryptic message spelled out in foot-high letters: Bite me."

The story appears to get stranger as it goes, as there are conspiracies, rival researchers, phone calls from marine mammals, and sandwiches thrown into the mix. Just the sort of thing, I suppose, that would follow a whale telling you to "Bite me."

Looking forward to this novel; hope to make a pretty sizable dent in it while I'm in Lubbock for the weekend, especially since I've got a whopper of a book on hold for me at the library.

Oh, and while it's not exactly the Oprah Book Club, it's worth noting that it did make NBC's Today Show book club in 2004.

Stats: 321 pages
Published: 2003, William Morrow (an imprint of HarperCollins publishers)
Links: http://www.harpercollins.com

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Closing Thoughts: The Heart is a Lonely Hunter

Well, there we go. One book out of fifty (sixty?) down.

I'm going to go ahead and post my thoughts on these books as I finish them and, while I do my best not to spoil anything wherever possible, please realize that there will be spoilerish elements (at least) and possible full-out ending-ruinings (at worst). It's just unavoidable.

Also, I'm not publishing a review of the book necessarily. Again, this blog is mostly for my benefit, so it's good for me to have my initial thoughts cataloged somewhere handy where I can refresh my memory on what I've read (since I'm going to be reading a LOT of things I've never heard of before)

Bottom line: if you think you are planning to read the books discussed, you probably ought to stop after the synopsis. If you don't plan to read them, or you've already read them, then go for it. Grab a cup of coffee and we'll chat.

So, with that said, The Heart is a Lonely Hunter. This book was recommended by a good friend of mine who is one of the few true good ole Southern boys I've ever met. Having grown up in the Midwest, I really don't have a great frame of reference for life in the Deep South (Houston does not count, despite the fact that it is deeper and souther than most of the Deep South), so this was an interesting perspective to read from.

Page count: 359
Total pages read so far: 359
Total books read so far: 1

My synopsis:
John Singer is a deaf-mute who lives in a small Georgia town in the late 1930s. There is only one other deaf-mute in town, a Greek named Spiros Antonapoulos, who is not only Singer's best friend but also the only person in town with whom Singer feels he truly belongs. After Anonapoulos' cousin has him committed to an asylum, Singer finds himself alone in the world for the first time in years. He moves into a new boarding house and has his breakfast, lunch, and dinner in the same restaurant every day. Eventually, the deaf-mute catches the attention of several of the town's citizens, including the restaurant owner, the teenage daughter of his landlord, the town's black Marxist doctor, and the hot-headed drunken radical reformer carnival worker. The four often visit Singer's room for lengthy conversations, though Singer rarely speaks. He simply listens, and each come to view Singer as his or her confidante, the only person in town who truly understands him/her. Singer, however, still longs for the company of his friend Antonapoulos, and he views these visitors as welcome distractions from the isolation he feels everywhere he goes in the small town. Each character has their hope, their dream, their ideal for which they've forsaken everything else in their lives: Blount has his lower-class revolution, Dr. Copeland his cause of justice for Negros, Mick has a dream to become a great musician and travel the world--and somehow Singer becomes the post which sustains their faith in these ideals.

I liked this book; it was a good read and a pretty accessible one despite the fact that there were several lengthy discourses on philosophical topics (especially Marxism and Fascism) and the fact that your protagonist is a deaf-mute. It's a sad story, as just about everybody you meet is a fairly sad character, but it's not depressing. I used to think (when I was quite a bit younger) that a story with a sad ending made for a depressing read, but that's really not the case. Rather, Hunter is one of those books that allows you to see how these characters' choices eventually led to the loneliness and isolation that they felt, whether it was in their community, in their family, or in the human race as a whole.

This was also one of those books where I think different readers could easily draw different conclusions as to the "bottom line." The throughline that I saw weaving its way through all five characters' stories was the idea that everybody needs to have someone who they feel understands them, and without that person we are lost. When it came down to it, that seemed to be what gave each of these folks the illusion of happiness in their lives.

There are also interesting discussion points about committing your all to one specific dream, ideal, or relationship, and thus shutting yourself out of the lives of those around you. Again, that works great while your Ace is working for you, but once things sour, your life is left surprisingly empty.

Everyone in this story is selfish in their own way. You see it early on in the character of Jake, who is really never likable, but as I look back I see it played out in each of their stories. Jake, Biff, Dr. Copeland, and Mick all came regularly to visit Singer, but none of them really came to "visit," save perhaps for Mick. They came to speak to the mute Singer because he would listen, and because, for some reason, each felt that he truly understood them. For his part, Singer didn't seem to mind their company, but he was using them, too, as distraction from his longing for his own friend (who seemed to me to be a terrible friend upon whom Singer hung the moon). Nobody really reached out to anybody else, and that's why everybody finished the thing so dang miserable.

Arthur Miller once said that a tragedy has to contain the potential for victory in order to be effective. I think that principle was illustrated pretty fantastically in this book. Let's face it, nobody was damned into what they ended up with. You could trace the choices they made, whether in the narrative or earlier in their lives, which led them to their various unhappy endings.

Have you read this? What did you think? Was there one character more than the others you found yourself frustrated with? What did you make of Biff? (I admit I wasn't entirely sure what to do with him by the end of the narrative)

Tomorrow I'll start one what I assume is going to be a happier book ;-)

Monday, July 20, 2009

Book 1/50: The Heart is a Lonely Hunter (initial thoughts)

The first book on the list is Carson McCullers' The Heart is a Lonely Hunter. This is one of my good friend Hatcher's very favorite books, and apparently it has been so since high school.

I always like to know a little about the story before I dive into a book, so naturally I check out the back cover and inside flaps. This particular back cover is all about what an incredible writer Carson McCullers is. Even Tennessee Williams thinks so, calling her "the greatest prose writer that the South produced." Other than that, all it tells me about the story is that this is "an unforgettable tale of moral isolation in a small southern mill town in the 1930s."

The inside cover gives me a little more than that; "At its center is the deaf-mute John Singer, who becomes" something. The entire rest of the summary is cut off by the card-and-sleeve that this book had to have stamped until September of 2004, when Houston Public Library switched to the same bar code system that my middle school was using in the late nineties. The in-book synopsis ends with the word "lives," so there's another clue.

Other facts: Aside from Williams' praise, this book was also an Oprah's Book Club selection in 2004. (Sixty-four years after it was first published. You can't say Oprah's not on top of things!) It is also one of TIME magazine's 100 Best English-Language Novels from 1923-2005. It was made into a movie in 1968 and a play in 2005 (debuted by the Alliance Theater in Atlanta).


Originally published: 1940
Republished: 1961, 2000 (this edition)
Published by Houghton Mifflin (1940 and 1961) and Mariner Books (2000)
Number of pages: 359
Date started: Sunday, July 19th, 2009

The List

So here's my basic concept: I ask a bunch of friends to recommend three books to me, and then I read them. This is because I like to read, but I almost never pick a book for myself, while I generally read things people thrust into my hands.

To partake in this monumental (for me, anyway) task, I decided to bite the bullet and finally commit to the Houston Public Library. I got my very own Power Card! (Power Card = Library Card with a name more appealing to young people) The power is mine indeed.

So here is The List, as compiled by me through suggestions from numerous friends. I cut out a few books because I'd already read them, and I cut out a few others because I wanted to keep the list at fifty, but otherwise this is just about everything. I'm not generally a fast reader, either, so this may take a couple of years. Nevertheless, here it is:

#1: The Heart is a Lonely Hunter by Carson McCullers
#2: Fluke, or I Know Why the Winged Whale Sings by Christopher Moore
#3: The Road by Cormac McCarthy
#4: Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman
#5: Through Painted Deserts by Don Miller
#6: Illium by Dan Simmons
#7: Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card
#8: Walking on Water by Madeline L'Engle
#9: The Fellowship of the Ring by J. R. R. Tolkien
#10: Boy by Roald Dahl
#11: The Cestus Deception by Steven Barnes
#12: Founding Brothers: The Revolutionary Generation by Jacob Ellis
#13: Carter Beats the Devil by Glen David Gold
#14: Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen
#15: Prophet by Frank Peretti
#16: American Gods by Neil Gaiman
#17: Bringing the Rain to Kapiti Plain by Verna Aardema
#18: One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
#19: Elantris by Brandon Sanderson
#20: High Fidelity by Nick Hornby
#21: The War of Art by Steven Pressfield
#22: Haroun and the Sea of Stories by Salmon Rushdie
#23: Life of Pi by Yann Martel
#24: Catcher in the Rye by J. D. Sallinger
#25: Powers by Brian Michael Bendis
#26: Woyzeck by Georg Buchner
#27: A Game of Thrones by George R. R. Martin
#28: Three Cups of Tea by Greg Mortenson and Davild Oliver Relin
#29: Lamb by Christopher Moore
#30: The Sacred Romance: Drawing Closer to the Heart of God by John Eldridge and Brent Curtis
#31: A Long Way Down by Nick Hornby
#32: The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupery
#33: Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury
#34: A Midsummer Night's Dream by Neil Gaiman
#35: The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz
#36: I Love You, Beth Cooper by Larry Doyle
#37: Mistborn by Brandon Sanderson
#38: The Scarlet Pimpernel by Baroness Emmuska Orczy
#39: The Crystal Shard by R. A. Salvatore
#40: Red by Ted Dekker
#41: The Ranger's Apprentice: The Ruins of Gorlan by John Flanagan
#42: Persuasion by Jane Austen
#43: Eragon by Christopher Paolini
#44: Cotillion by Georgette Heyer
#45: Dragonflight by Anne McCaffrey
#46: The Mind of the Maker by Dorothy Sayers
#47: Good Omens by Neil Gaiman and Terry Brooks
#48: Captain Hook: The Adventures of a Notorious Youth by JV Hart
#49: The Ear, The Eye, and The Arm by Nancy Farmer
#50: All Over But the Shoutin by Rick Bragg

I have about eight others that didn't make the cut. In case I get through this and decide I want to do it again, they'll go immediately to the top of the next list.

So there it is. Fifty books. Approximate number of pages: Eight-hundred million billion. Nevertheless, I'm really excited about this. I tried to pick books friends suggested that I would never have picked up on my own (here's looking at you, Beth Cooper). I will also try to go as close to this order as I can, mostly because I think ending with "All Over but the Shoutin" is pretty funny.

So, I guess there's not really any more to be said. I'll post on here as I start and finish a book to give my opening and closing thoughts and keep track of my overall progress. It probably won't be that interesting for anybody else to read, but I love to keep records and I love statistics and such, so I'ma do it anyway. This can be a blog for me.

And if you've just sorta stumbled across this while searching for something entirely different on Google or something...hey, why don't you read along!

I'm just kidding. But if you are looking for a good book to read, I have it on pretty good authority that this here list is a great place to start.