What I've been reading.....
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| Reading List 2020
| Reading List 2021
| Reading List 2022
|Reading List 2023|
Family of Spies ~ Pete Earley (1988) history (160 pgs)
Story of "spy" John Walker. Shows him to be mostly a shallow dickwad who just lucked into his position, but fooled himself into thinking he was some kind of superspy. A very, very sad tale of a small man and his family.
The Hotel ~ Sonny Kleinfield (1989) history, society (125 pgs)
A week in the life of the Plaza Hotel in New York City. Interesting look behind the scenes at the running of a huge hotel.
When You Are Engulfed In Flames ~ David Sedaris (2008) essays, humor (323 pgs)
What can I say, it's more from the always entertaining Sedaris. Dark, twisted, and so very, very funny.
Chart Throb ~ Ben Elton (2006) novel (464 pgs)
Elton uses this hilarious story to riff on the evils of "reality" television and how it is anything but. Great stuff.
Junky ~ William S. Burroughs (1953) novel (158 pgs)
One of the most narratively straight-forward Burroughs novels, it's a straight forward account of the life of a junkie. Interesting history of the difficulty of getting it published, seems like it a good idea to show how bad the life is!
Top Dog ~ Jerry Jay Carroll (1996) novel, fantasy (330 pgs)
A different take on the fantasy-quest and good-v-evil novel, with an immoral (to put it nicely) "hero" who finds himself transformed into a dog, and thrust in the middle of a battle between good and icky evil. A surprisingly good read.
Friendship: An Exposé ~ Joseph Epstein (2006) nonfiction, society, relations (251 pgs) (lib)
Interesting, half intellectual/half personal reminiscence, looking at the whole idea of what is friendship. Makes me wonder why anyone at all out there would want me to be their friend, but fortunately, most folks are much nicer than me!
Groucho Marx, Private Eye ~ Ron Goulart (1999) novel, mystery (263 pgs)
Great dialogue for Groucho, but just shows my brain is not lined up for the basic mystery tale, as I really wasn't sure who was what through most of this, just reading the funny lines. I am such a simple soul.
The Stupidest Angel : Version 2.0~ Christopher Moore (2005) novel, fantasy (306 pgs)
Another off-the-chart book of weirdness from Moore, he brings back characters from a number of previous novels and dumps them into a wild mix of angels, zombies, and talking bats. And this isn't even his weirdest book!
Don't Step In the Leadership ~ Scott Adams (1999) comic strip collection (127 pgs)
More great Dilbert comic strips, slapping you with the cold reality of corporate life. but doing it with a smile.
Horsemen of the Esophagus ~ Jason Fagone (2006) nonfiction, society (302 pgs) (Lib)
Excellent, semi-gonzo style look at the world (well, American) of competitive eating. Digs deep into the subject, the history, the people, and just about everything else. A great look at another of the thousands of odd little corners of society.
The Secret Feminist Cabal ~ Helen Merrick (2009) nonfiction, literature, sf, feminism (288 pgs)
Overview of feminist writings on science fiction. Can be a bit dry, as such studies will be, as it is more a look at who had opinions about what over time, and less about getting into the actual thoughts. Still, is a jumping off board for more.
The Dirt on Clean: An Unsanitized History ~ Katherine Ashenburg (2007) nonfiction, history, society (300 pgs) (Lib)
One of those great tight-focus history books I love, this one a look at how the idea of what was and wasn't considered "clean" has changed and evolved over time in Western society.
Chasing Cézanne ~ Peter Mayle (1997) novel (295 pgs)
Another old-fashioned feeling caper novel, with people bopping all over Europe, lots of descriptions of fine foods and clothing, art dealers, multi-billionaires, a little action, a little romance. Cries out to be a movie.
More Forbidden Knowledge ~ Matt Forbeck (2008) "how to" (256 pgs)
Sub titled as "101 New Things Not Everyone Should Know How To Do", it gives some idea how some scams or schemes or run so can protect against them, as well as fun stuff like"Read the Necronomicon". Forewarned is forearmed
Monster ~ A. Lee Martinez (2009) novel, fantasy (325 pgs)
I love how Martinez (or can I call him "A-Lee" now?) manages to keep trying different things with every new book. This one has a guy in the "Cryptobiological Containment and Rescue Services". Oh, and control of the entire universe. Good stuff.
The Unlimited Dream Company ~ J.G. Ballard (1979) novel, fantasy (220 pgs)
I wanted to like this more, but seemed kind of a "forced" weirdness to the goings-ons. Maybe because I've read so much like this over the years. I'm sure in '79 the impact would have been much greater.
100 Words to Make You Sound Smart ~ American Heritage Dictionaries Editors (2006) language (118 pgs)
I'm not sure if I should be worried or pleased that I knew all 100 words here, and probably have often used the vast majority of them without thinking they were really anything special.
Geek Confidential ~ Rick Klaw (2003) essays, books, reading (255 pgs)
Rick gets into books: the reading of books, the writing and writers of books, the selling of books, the publishing of books... he's pretty much done just about everything you legally can when it comes to books, and has written entertainingly on it all, too.
The Canon ~ Natalie Angier (2007) science, history (264 pgs) (Lib)
An overview of the fundamentals of the basic sciences like biology, chemistry, physics, astrology and more, all told with wit and humor. A great read.
A History of God ~ Karen Armstrong (1993) history, religion, philosophy (407 pgs) (Lib)
With main focus on Judaism, Christianity and Islam, and their associated off shots and hanger-on religions, Armstrong shows how God has been changed and molded through time. Final result: a lot of wasted effort by a lot of people.
God Is Not Great ~ Christopher Hitchens (2007) religion, history (286 pgs) (Lib)
Subtitled "How Religion Poisons Everything", Hitchens explores the basics and dogmas of the major religions, pointing out the illogical nature underlying them all, and the problems blind faith have brought to humanity through time.
Against the Day ~ Thomas Pynchon (2006) novel (1,085 pgs) (Lib)
Okay, I gave this one 555 pages, but finally gave up. Interesting characters and scenes here and there, but seemed like it was all just meandering around, and finally decided I didn't have the patience to go another half thousand pages to find out. Reading reviews now that I'm done, I see it was the right decision.
The God Delusion ~ Richard Dawkins (2006) religion, history (374 pgs) (Lib)
Fine writing on why the idea of a personal god looking over your shoulder is, in the end, quite silly. Written with humor and detail, the flying spaghetti monster would be proud. This will go on the shelf next to the Bible.
Bones of the Moon ~ Jonathan Carroll (1987) novel, fantasy (222 pgs)
Wonderfully weird novel, darker fantasy than what is usually served up these days. So far Carroll has not disappointed! (And with another great Patrick Arrasmith cover.)
Strange Brains and Genius ~ Clifford A. Pickover (1998) history, science, psychology (320 pgs) (Lib)
A look at the obsessions and phobias of scientists and eccentrics, to see if there is any correlation between intellect and strange behavior. Fun read, learned of Hypergraphia: an overwhelming urge to write. Need a term for the urge to draw all the time!
Chew On this ~ Eric Schlosser & Charles Wilson (2006) food, society, health (258 pgs) (Lib)
History of fast food with a jaundiced eye. Makes it's point about how this stuff can be bad for you, but then kind of beats you over the head with it again and again.
Mrs. Kimble ~Jennifer Haigh (2003) novel (394 pgs)
Not a novel I might have picked up on my own from the description, but turned out to be a fascinating character study of the lives of three women, and the one man who was married to them all.
The Big Over Easy ~ Jasper Fforde (2005) novel, humor, mystery (383 pgs)
Fforde's other mystery/detection series set in a weird world of literary devices, this time taken out of nursery rhymes. Like the Thursday Next series, amazingly inventive, throws out more ideas in one book than most writers in a lifetime. Great fun.
The Somnambulist ~ Jonathan Barnes (2007) novel, fantasy (353 pgs) (Lib)
From the Victorian/Steampunk/whatever category, a fun and funky fantasy read of strange goings-ons in Victorian England. Weird characters, odd situations, evil and other conspiracies, a page-turner of a fun read.
Florence of Arabia ~ Christopher Buckley (2004) novel (253 pgs) (Lib)
Less the funny satire I was expecting, more of an action-adventure political novel with overtones of humor. A good read, and might make a good movie down the line. Just not what I thought it might be, based on his previous novels I've read.
The Best of the Bubbas of the Apocalypse ~ Selina Rosen (ed) (2008) short stories, humor (294 pgs)
Selection from the "Bubbas" series, where a virus has turned Yuppies into brain eating zombies, and only those who have eaten a lot of BBQ sauce in their life are immune.... the Bubbas. A goofy idea, with some tales better than others.
Gödel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid ~ Douglas R. Hofstadter (1979) science, philsophy, etc. (742 pgs) (RE-READ)
Not so much read again as re-skimmed, re-dipped into, as I'm not smart enough by half for most of this. But the sheer joy of knowledge, and of playing with knowledge, comes off every page, and is very energizing.
Wild Ducks Flying Backward ~ Tom Robbins (2005) essays, poems (255 pgs) Lib)
"The Short Writings of Tom Robbins" has a now cross selection of smaller pieces done over the decades. Funny, insightful, and Robbins-style weirdness, I've always been a fan of his unique stories and style.
The Fourth Bear ~ Jasper Fforde (2006) novel, humor, mystery (378 pgs)
The second Jack Spratt mystery from the Nursery Crime Division, and another highly inventive romp from Fforde.
Satire ~ Laura Egendorf (ed) (2002) literary theory (182 pgs) (Lib)
Some interesting insights into what "satire" is, but too often dry and lacking the wit of the subject they are exploring. However, did remind me that I should be reading some Sinclair Lewis, so can't be all bad.
I Gotta Go ~ Ian Shoales (1985) essays, humor, society (185 pgs) (RE-READ)
After reading the rather dry book above, time to dip back into some prime examples of satire, parody, sarcasm, wit and fun, and Ian (actually, Merle Kessler) does it every time. (Plus, it has the best index I've ever seen in a book.)
The Odyssey ~ Homer (approx. 800 BC) adventure! (426 pgs)
Thought I should read a real classic. Know all about the story, just never read it. Surprised how quickly many of the incidents were run through in the first part, only to have the final confrontation take up almost half the book. The gods are idiots.
Sixty Million Frenchmen Can't Be Wrong ~ Jean-Benoît Nadeau & Julie Barlow (2003) society, history (343 pgs) (Lib)
Sure, they do things we think are odd, but we do things they think are odd. The world is odd, and we all gotta live in it. A good book, if a bit long on the political aspect of things for my liking. But certainly made me feel more understanding.
Elmer Gantry ~ Sinclair Lewis (1927) novel (430 pgs) (Lib)
Wonderful portrait of both the time and character, a satire/dark comedy of a self-delusional con-man using religion to get what he wants in life, never seeing his own hypocrisy. Makes me want to search out more by Lewis.
The Hacker and the Ants (V 2.0) ~ Rudy Rucker (1994, 2002) science fiction (308 pgs)
Another wonderful Rucker slopping over with ideas and cyber wildness. Tech knowledge might help even more to enjoy, but I always love going along for the rides.
The Joy of Sects ~ Sam Jordison (2005) history, religion, society (264 pgs)
Concentrating on England, but with world-wide weirdess appeal, this is a look at 66 "cults, cranks and religious eccentrics" as it says, not just now, but all through history. And this just scratches the surface!
The Horse's Mouth ~ Joyce Cary (1944) novel (289 pgs) (Lib)
Story of what has become the image of the typical "artist": a foul-mouthed leech who will lie cheat and steal to create his "art". Not a nice guy, but an interesting character to read about in a book. Some good commentary on art and artists.
Fuzzy Dice ~ Paul Di Filippo (2003) novel, science fiction (296 pgs)
Wow, if there is such a thing as Gonzo-sf, this would have to be included there! More ideas in this book than some authors use in an entire career. Weird, fascinating, funny, crossing all of time, space, and all the bits in-between. Great read!
Last Words ~ George Carlin (2009) autobiography (294 pgs)
I always thought George was brilliant, toward the end also kind of scary in his anger, but still, always made you think about stuff, big and small. Weird how many things he said about processes, feelings and attitudes I identify with!
The Unreasoning Mask ~ Philip José Farmer (1981) novel, science fiction (243 pgs)
Space opera with epic ideas of time and space, a planet killing machine with a truly unique weapon, aliens that really do look alien, and just a kick to read.
The Life of God (as Told by Himself) ~ Franco Ferrucci (1986) novel (281 pgs)
Was disappointed by a tale that was just kind of a stroll through history with a "god" who didn't seem to do much of anything, or with any attempt to get into deeper questions. An interesting idea, but shallow execution with "fake depth".
Between the Bridge and the River ~ Craig Ferguson (2006) novel (329 pgs)
Wonderfully quirky novel full of interesting characters and tons of great observations on life, people and just about everything else in the world. Impressive.
The Dark Side of Christian History ~ Helen Ellerbe (1995) history, religion (188 pgs) (Lib)
Concise run down of the bad things that have been done in the name of God. While it concentrates on Christians, this kind of "God is on my side" nonsense is the core of so many problems from so many directions.
The Island of Lost Maps ~ Miles Harvey (2000) nonfiction, crime, history (354 pgs) (Lib)
Story tracking the history of a man caught for stealing maps from libraries all over the country, told more through an examination of the history of maps, and the obsession of some people with them. A different take for sure.
This Is the Way the World Ends ~ James Morrow (1986) novel, science fiction (270 pgs) (RE-READ)
Found Morrow through the amazing "Towing Jehovah", and have been tracking down all his other work since. This one is another high point, end-of-the-world twisted through Wonderland, it's touching, funny, sad and a fantastic read.
The Land of Laughs ~ Jonathan Carroll (1980) novel, fantasy (241 pgs)
Third J Carroll novel I've read, and I am now a solid, solid fan. Things slightly off center, characters you can believe are real, and one of the most unexpected, short, and impressive endings I've read in a while. A wonderful writer.
Rocket Science ~ Jay Lake (2005) novel, science fiction (220 pgs)
With the alien space ship angle, and marketing, this is classified as sf, though it came across more as a mystery-style book with some sf elements. A quick read, nice enough, but not anything that will probably stay with me.
Hollow Earth: The Long and Curious History of Imagining Strange Lands, Fantastical Creatures, Advanced Civilizations, and Marvelous Machines Below the Earth's Surface ~ David Standish (2006) history, pseudo-science (289 pgs)
Loved the sub-title on this, so had to run it all here! Very comprehensive view of the whole hollow earth weirdness, covering both the fictional and the real...well, the real people who believed this stuff. Great reference.
America (The Book) ~ Jon Stewart, Ben Karlin, David Javerbaum (2004) humor, history (244 pgs)
Another of those great satirical looks at life, this one concentrated on America, and more specifically politics in America, that reminds me I'd rather laugh than cry about crazy things over which I have no control. Like life!
The Lost Years of Merlin ~ T.A. Barron (1996) novel, young adult fantasy (326 pgs)
First of a trilogy for kids, which became a five-ol-ogy, but last one I'll read. I've read and enjoyed many great kids series, but this one has nothing new, kind of standard issue "adventure", and no impulse to read more of the series.
Flaming London ~ Joe R. Lansdale (2005) novel, science fiction (177 pgs)
Follow-up to "Zeppelins West", more crazy literary mosh-up with Twain, Verne, Wells, a King-Kong "style" guy, invading Martians, and so much more. Nothing too amazing, just a lot of goofy fun. Should be one more volume, too!
Follow That Mouse ~ Henry Melton (2010) novel, young adult, science fiction (254 pgs)
Great adventure read. Starts out simply enough in small desert town, but lots of interesting sf ideas thrown in, and even a bit dark at moments that made it work all the better.
Dangerous Laughter ~ Steven Millhauser (2008) short stories (244 pgs)
Another extraordinary collection of wonderfully different tales from Millhauser. Makes me also think of Nicholson Baker or Italo Calvino, taking a single odd idea and just flying with it. Always impressed reading his work.
Total Eclipse ~ Rachel Caine (2010) novel, science fiction (303 pgs)
The Weather Warden series is wrapped up with a world apocalypse narrowly averted, which was the only way to go after the roller-coaster ride of the whole series. Kick ass action series!
King Rat ~ China Miéville (1998) novel, fantasy (319 pgs)
First book from Miéville, a weird urban fantasy with horror overtones, already doing great writing even with his first book!
The Year of Living Biblically ~ A.J. Jacobs (2007) nonfiction, religion, society (350 pgs)
Jacobs spent a year trying to follow all the rules in the Bible, both the usual suspects and hundreds of odd things. Great honest analysis of how people approach their faith. Funny stuff.
Stupefying Stories ~ Bruce Bethke (editor) (2010) short stories, science fiction (164 pgs)
Nice little collection of off-beat sf tales, most leaning more toward the humorous than serious, which is fine by me.
The Book of Vice ~ Peter Sagal (2007) essays, society 254 pgs)
Great essays on people doing things that society is said to frown on: porn, gambling, swinging, gluttony, etc. Not only funny, but often very insightful into why people do certain things.
The Brain-Dead Megaphone ~ George Saunders (2008) essays (257 pgs)
A great selection of short essays from Saunders, casting his eye on wide and varied subjects, always an entertaining read.
Vurt ~ Jeff Noon (1993) science fiction (342 pgs)
Clockwork Orange meets Alice in Wonderland, and everyone puts on cyerpunk outfits. That's a compliment, by the way!
The Complete Roderick ~ John Sladek (2004) Science fiction (611 pgs) collects together:
Roderick (1980); Roderick at Random (1983)
Wonderful satire/parody/black humor novels. Take Vonnegut and make him a bit more pissed off about people, and the result might be Saldek writing here.
In The Studio ~ Todd Hignite (2006) cartoons, artists, history (310 pgs)
Subtitled "Visits With Contemporary Cartoonists", it's less visits to studios, or interviews with the artists, as a quick overview of each, then the artist talking about both their own work and, often more interestingly, the influences of the past they loved.
Divine Misfortune ~ A. Lee Martinez (2010) novel, humor, fantasy (307 pgs)
Martinez continues to go in different directions with every book. This one is our world, but all of the gods of every religion are not only real, but always on the look-out to pick up a few followers. A wonderful book by a favorite writer.
Wry Martinis ~ Christopher Buckley (1997) essays, humor (294 pgs)
Smart, funny observations on all facets of life over several decades. Some deep, some shallow, almost all interesting.
The Devil Is A Gentleman ~ J.C. Hallman (2006) religion, history (310 pgs)
Subtitle "Exploring America's Religious Fringe", he gets in with Scientologists, , Druids, Satanists, Atheists, and other "not the big guys" religions and anti-religions. Interesting reading, though his fascination with Williams James threatens to overwhelm at times.
Infinite Jest ~ David Foster Wallace (1996) novel (1,078 pgs)
Wallace's epic masterpiece, one of the stranger reads I've had in years. Long passages of brilliance that sucked me into the scenes and really made me feel them, others where I felt lost, knowing it was my own limited knowledge. Can't say it is something I'd read again, but am glad I did it at lest once.
The Dante Club ~ Matthew Pearl (2003) novel, mysery (370 pgs)
A series of murders in post-Civil War Boston are based around the writings of Dante's Inferno, and it's up to Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Oliver Wendell Holmes, and James Russell Lowell to solve the mystery!
Undone (Outcast Season, Book One) ~ Rachel Caine (2009) novel, fantasy (305 pgs)
First of her offshoot of the Weather Warden Series, following a Djinn that has lost her powers. It is, as with the other books, pretty much action packed all the way until the (argh!) "to be continued" last page!
Doghead ~ Morten Ramsland (2005) novel (383 pgs)
Interesting tale of three generations of a somewhat dysfunctional Norwegian family. Not as outrageous as I had hoped for, more a series of sad events and people not really communicating with each other. Not bad, just not my cup of tea.
Frankenstein Takes the Cake ~ Adam Rex (2008) picture book (50 pgs)
Wow, the page count has to include the endpapers, dustjacket, and everything else. Great design, fun collection of, well, funny stuff around a "monsters" theme. Comics, cartoons, illustrations, text. Small press writ large and in hardback!
Follies of Science ~ Eric & Jonathan Dregni (2006) history, science, art (128 pgs)
Subtitle is "20th Century Visions of Our Fantastic Future", looks at scientific and popular ideas of what would happen in the future. Kind of unfair using so much science-fiction over science predictions, but mainly got it for the cool retro pics!
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