Tuesday, March 31, 2009
Wednesday, March 18, 2009
Thursday, March 12, 2009
32. The Flood, Ian Rankin, Fiction
33. Dead Souls, Ian Rankin. Thriller
34. Crossing Open Ground, Barry Lopez. Essays/Nature
35. The Falls, Ian Rankin. Thriller
36. Dreaming Up
37. Wonder Boys, Michael Chabon. Fiction
Again, there are some patterns, including three books by Ian Rankin. The Flood is Rankin's first book, and reads as such. Dead Souls and The Falls feature Inspector Rebus. I do like these books. The characters are extremely well defined and the narrative is riveting.
I've become a Bernard Cornwell fan. I am impressed at how (seemingly) effortlessly and seamlessly he weaves hard fact into an engaging narrative. His characters are lightly drawn, but entertaining. Some of the minor characters are quite vivid. It's the setting and the sense of history that are palpable and the narrative rolls along in the most entertaining fashion.
Lopez' essays on nature are finely written and insightful. Banks ruminations on America less so.
Wonder Boys is an entertaining early novel by Michael Chabon. You can almost see him mastering his craft in this wild, slapstick novel with its undertones of Richard Brautigan. I liked it.
I didn't add it to my reading list, and maybe I should have, but I also finished Book 3 of The New Avengers, a hardbound compilation from Marvel.
Wednesday, March 11, 2009
So, I will attempt to correct my oversight today and tomorrow. Today, February's book. Tomorrow, those I have read so far in March.
16. The Outlander, Gil Adamson. Fiction
17. Frontier Medicine, David Dary. History
18. Darkness, Take My Hand, Dennis Lehane. Thriller
19. Prayers for Rain, Dennis Lehane. Thriller
20. Dark Banquet, Blood and the Curious Lives of Blood-Feeding Creatures, Bill Schutt. Natural Science
21. Cost, Roxana Robinson. Fiction
22. The Family Trade, Book One of the Merchant Princes, Charles Stross. Speculative Fiction
23. The Hidden Family, Book two of the Merchant Princes, Charles Stross. Speculative Fiction
24. Clapton, Eric Clapton. Biography/Blues
25. The Clan Corporate, Book three of the Merchant Princes, Charles Stross. Speculative Fiction
26. The Merchants’ War, Book four of the Merchant Princes, Charles Stross. Speculative Fiction
27. Somewhere Towards The End, Diana Athill. Memoir
28. John Tyler,
29. The Women, T.C. Boyle. Fiction
30. Herbert Hoover, William E. Leuchtenburg. Biography
As you can see, there's something of a pattern. Early in the month I pulled together a couple of early works of Dennis Lehane and toward the end I read four books by the always inventive Charles Stross. Grouping books like that seems to work well. The Stross books, for example, are all part of his Merchants Princes series and after finishing one book I can jump immediately to the next.
I enjoy Lehane's early works and am disappointed that he has ceased to write about the team of Genaro and Kenzie. Stross' Merchant Princes series isn't his best work, but it is still better than most. I find that I'm not reading much science fiction these days, but I will always make time for Charlie Stross and Robert Sawyer.
I highly recommend Gil Adamson's debut novel, The Outlander. I blogged about it in February so I won't say more now. I did not much care for Roxana Robinson's Cost, the story of a New England family coping with a son's heroin addiction. The mother is so desperately, densely hopeful that I found her unsympathetic. Her denial seems palpably unreal. (Although my wife, who worked with addicts for more than eight years says that this level of denial really exists among family members.)
Along with The Outlander, the other fictional standout was T.C. Boyle's The Women. I liked it a lot, and believe this is his finest effort since Drop City. It is eminently readable, and you can always improve your vocabulary by reading Mr. Boyle. I compiled a list of unfamiliar words while reading The Women, which I've since misplaced. If it surfaces (and it is likely to do so), I'll share it here.
Non-fiction was a mixed bag. I am normally a fan of the histories of David Dary, but not this time. Take a pass on Frontier Medicine. I'd say the same about Dark Banquet, Blood and the Curious Lives of Blood-Feeding Creatures by Bill Schutt. It is mildly interesting, but not as good as I thought it could have been.
Clapton's self-titled biography is an interesting read. I don't normally go in for celebrity bios, but was interested in Clapton because of his ties to the blues.
Three works I think are not to be missed: Diana Athill's fine memoir Somewhere Towards The End, and two new offerings from Times Books' American Presidents Series, John Tyler by
Monday, March 09, 2009
From Michael Chabon's Wonder Boys:
" . . . we sat parked . . . and waiting for my third wife, Emily, to emerge from the lobby of the Baxter Building, where she worked as a copywriter for an advertising agency. Richards, Reed & Associate's . . . I saw Emily's secretary come through the revolving door and shake open her umbrella, and then her friends Susan and Ben . . . "For those whose cultural references don't include Marvel Comics. Reed Richards is Mr. Fantastic, the brains of the Fantastic Four. He is married to the Invisible Girl, Susan Richards, formerly Sue Storm, and their best friend is Ben Grimm, the Thing. The only one missing from this super-powered quartet is Johnny Storm, Sue's little brother. Johnny is, of course, the Human Torch.
Oh, yeah, the Fantastic Four live in the upper floors of the Baxter Building.
Tuesday, March 03, 2009
The first concerns author Pat Conroy and his reconciliation with The Citadel. Times reporter Charles McGrath writes: "The Citadel’s most famous alumnus is not an athlete, or even a general, but a novelist, Pat Conroy, class of ’67, who dared to write about the place and made himself so unpopular that for 30 years he was all but barred from the campus. Last week, though, he was on hand to see his former team thump Furman, its archrival, 75-54."
The second story concerns inaccuracies in a baseball memoir written by former minor league pitcher Matt McCarthy.