Monday, March 01, 2010

Book list 2010 ... month two

I entered February with a small stack of old paperbacks I got for a buck each at Half Price books and a couple of library books checked out - and a few on their way. I enjoy these old crime novels from the mid 40s through the early 60s even though they are short and sort of cheesy. My library selections sort of have tilted towards narrative nonfiction here in February, but there are a number of fiction works that trickled in, and took over for a while. Last year I tried for a book a month and made it, but was really thinking about the number 100 (or 104 actually, but those last four are like the .2 at the end of the marathon when you hit the 26 mile marker and aren't quite done) and fell short at 83. Again, these are in the order finished, which is different than the order started because I usually have more than one book going at a time.

Black Elk Speaks: Being the Life Story of a Holy Man of the Oglala Sioux by John G. Neihardt
I started this once several years ago and only read a brief chunk. I am glad I decided to revisit. This book has enjoyed a huge following over the decades and when I finally got the time to sit down and read it this time it is clear why. So many native languages and histories have been lost, we are fortunate to have this. I have looked out over the Little Big Horn and wondered what it was like ...

Lyrics by Sting
I have to agree with Sting in that the removal of music takes lyrics away from their context. But, as I know all of these songs, I heard the music as I read. This was like reading the liner notes to a giant box set of Sting's solo material and all of The Police records in one package.

White King and Red Queen: How the Cold War Was Fought on the Chessboard by Daniel Johnson
An interesting take on the Cold War through the world of high level chess. With nearly a third of the book looking at Bobby Fischer and 1972. This is by no means an objective historical study of the subject looking at both sides as a disinterested observer, it is a very unapologetic politically conservative look and needs to be read with that in mind.

Kasparov and Deep Blue: The Historic Chess Match Between Man and Machine by Bruce Pandolfini
In 1996 Kasparov won 4-2 leading to the re-match in 1997 where he lost to the computer 3.5-2.5 in the final match. Technically, that makes it a split - and in soccer would be 6.5-5.5 on aggregate to Kasparov. However, the final game was a rout by the computer that is all that is generally remembered and distorts the reality that Kasparov won more games overall. This book is a move by move analysis of the six games in the second match.

And Another Thing ...: Douglas Adams's Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy - Part Six of Three by Eoin Colfer
I saw this on the shelf at a bookstore recently and literally stopped in my tracks stunned that there really was such a book. I love this material and had huge and mixed emotions about it, sort of like the Alice In Chains reunion. Yes, both of these have the endorsement of relevant family members ... but it is hard to take it all too seriously. I decided to split hairs and get Colfer's book from the library. I have yet to do the same with the other project.

The Greks Bring Gifts by Murray Leinster
This 1964 novel hits you over the head with its message. There is a note on the inside cover that reads "this is a contrived book" from a previous owner. Basically, it takes the "teach a man to fish" parable about dependency, sets it in a science fiction setting, and then pounds the issue. That being said ... The note inside doesn't do it justice. This is a terrible book on many, many levels ... and is perhaps the worst book I have ever read, or at least completed. It is all absolutes and excessive adjectives and if I wasn't reading for a number this year and stubborn (plus, it is short) I would have never got through it. It was overpriced at a dollar.

Angel Face by Fan Nichols
In 1955 this must have been a shocking tale. Today, it seems like an early draft or inspiration for Fatal Attraction. It reads quick and is fairly entertaining, but could also be a turned into a decent episode of Law & Order today ...

Suzy, Led Zeppelin, and Me by Martin Millar
This book made me wish it was 1981 again and I was preparing to go to my first Rolling Stones concert. It also made me think of the girls I crushed on and got no where with when I was 14, so it sort of evened out at that point. I have seen Plant and Page in concert, but Plant was solo and Page was in The Firm ... but, I too got to the front and could almost reach up and touch the guitar, and then the wall broke and there was trouble and Page and Paul Rogers had to talk the crowd back under control.

A Feast of Friends by Rosser Evans
A novel I got during one of my old paperback buying sprees. Set during the Great Depression, this 1961 Gatsby-ish tale is the reflections of a friend the first days after a tragic and mysterious or suspicious death. However it is not nearly as derivative as I thought it might be, which made for a much more entertaining read.

The Lost City of Z: A Tale of Deadly Obsession in the Amazon by David Grann
I loved this book and have already been recommending it to people. The Amazon has been the source of all sorts of stories, myths, and adventures and this book is a great look at all of that. Percy Fawcett is actually the inspiration for The Lost World. The disappearance of the Fawcett Expedition in 1925 is one of the great mysteries of the 20th century.

Voice of the Fire by Alan Moore
The first prose novel by the writer of Watchmen, V for Vendetta, and The Killing Joke. There are few writers that make me need to slow down and absorb their prose without pissing me off, Moore is now on that very short list after this novel. Still, this is a tricky read and only something to read if you are ready to be challenged.

Outliers: The Story of Success by Malcolm Gladwell
I have a lot of comments about this that will appear soon. The Ten Thousand Hour Rule seems valid though.

Fakers: Hoaxers, Con Artists, Counterfeiters, and Other Great Pretenders by Paul Maliszewski
I have always found that when I take stuff that is lifelike but fictionalized that I need to place words like "short story", "a fictionalized account of possible real events", or even "fiction" just below the title. Not everyone feels that way or works under that simple rule. That is what this book is about.

War Reporting for Cowards by Chris Ayres
Sending a young man who had never really been camping and had primarily been a hollywood or financial reporter to Iraq to be embedded in with Marines invading Iraq was only ever really going to lead to a funny book or a tragic ending. Fortunately, we got the funny book.

February total = 14 / YTD = 27 (goal 100)