Tuesday, March 31, 2009

You can read an interview with Michael Connelly on his new book, The Scarecrow, here.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

British Library mislays books

Now this is a great story. The Guardian reports that the British Library has misplaced 9,000 books. The library does not believe the books are stolen, just mislaid. I understand the problem. It's difficult to keep track of everything whether you have 3,200 books (me) or more than 150 million (the British Library). However, I do know exactly where my missing copy of David Halberstam's sports writing can be found. It fell behind a bookcase months ago, and I don't know how I will ever retrieve it. It would be simpler to buy another copy.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Catching Up With My Reading List, Part II

Here's my reading so far in March:

31. Agincourt. Bernard Cornwell. Fiction

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 America, Russell Banks. Non-Fiction

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

Catching up with my reading list

Here it is 11 days in to March and I realized that I have not posted, since early February, on the books I've been reading. And I've been reading a lot, which is part of the reason I have been remiss in my duties as a blogger. I've also failed to post because my two sons have me playing games on the computer, and I have been distracted by episode two of Half Life 2.

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, Gary May. Biography

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 Gary May and Herbert Hoover by William E. Leuchtenburg. Athill's memoir is tender and illuminating. The Presidential biographies insightful and informative.

Monday, March 09, 2009

Fantastic Four meet Wonder Boys

Well, three of the Fantastic Four actually.

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

Book news surfaces on Times' sports pages

Two book-related stories appear today on the sports pages of The New York Times.

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.