Well here we are the last month of the year, the most insane month of the year and if I hear Jingle Bells one more time I’m going to-------Simpsons station break
Anyway what are we reading? Anything Christmas themed?
Khadaji was one of the earlier members of the SDMB, and he was well-known as a kindly person who always had something encouraging to say, particularly in the self-improvement threads. He was also a voracious, omnivorous reader, and he started these monthly book threads. Sadly, he passed away in January 2013, and we decided to rename these monthly threads in his honor.
Finished Two Kinds of Truth, the latest Harry Bosch novel by Michael Connelly. Excellent as always. Bosch must solve a pharmacy massacre while defending his reputation in a 30-year-old death-penalty case.
Have started Nine Stories, by JD Salinger. It is, as advertised, nine short stories. Very short, 198 pages total. These are all very good. I’m on the sixth one now. Published in 1953. I read The Catcher in the Rye more than 30 years ago, and while I liked it, I couldn’t see what all the fuss was about. Maybe it’s time for a reread.
I finished Mark Z Danielewski’s The Familiar Vol 5. It was the “season finale” with supposedly five seasons and 27 books planned. This is the kind of book series that you beg and plead others to read. The difficulty was that a lot of revelations popped up in Vol 5 that answered portions of previous Volumes (naming them Volume and page #), unfortunately, I have the previous Volumes lent to a friend, so when she’s done, I might re-digest the whole season again.
Then I read Fasten Your Seat Belts And Eat Your F**king Nutsby Joe Thomas. It was really, really, really bad. A bunch of random, unnecessarily sexually charged humor snippets of life as a flight attendant.
Goodreads.com had their voting open for books of the year by category. I was in the mood for a horror novel and saw *Meddling Kids *by Edgar Cantero. Knowing nothing about what a book is about I thought would be kind of good. Within the first chapter, it was obvious that this was going to have a twist that made it as similar to Scooby Doo as possible without having to pay royalties. Maybe I’m desensitized but it just wasn’t horror any more than Scooby Doo was horror. Throw in a lesbian/bi love interest and a lot of Cthulhu-lite, and I got annoyed.
I started reading *Reckless Daughter: A Portrait of Joni Mitchell *by David Yaffe in a hotel in Helsinki. I regretted not having any Joni Mitchell albums on my phone. I finished it somewhere flying over Canada. This was on my Kindle and I could see I was at about 80% when the ending came and I realized that the last 20% was all sources and an index. What was interesting to me was that I was a bit spellbound by CBC’s Jian Ghomeshiz and his interview with Joni (available on youtube) and was hoping for the longform version. And in a lot of ways it was, but in a lot of ways, it painted a portrait that exulted and demeaned at the same time.
Today I started *Think: A Compelling Introduction to Philosophy *by Simon Blackburn. Twenty five years ago I took a beginning philosophy class in college, Descartes, Hume, and one other I can’t remember were discussed in depth. After reading the Joni Mitchell biography and several references to Nietzsche, I thought it would be good to revisit some of the old coursework. I wasn’t sure if a Nietzsche book would be enough to keep my interest, this book was recommend on reddit so I thought I’d give it a go.
November was a month of abandoning books for me. I’m not sure why. Eventually I started The Shift, a mammoth post-apocalyptic book my wife checked out for me, and I thought, goddammit, I’m finishing this book! So I did.
Finished Nine Stories, by JD Salinger. Each one of the nine short stories was remarkably good. I picked up this book for a dollar in a thrift store over on the west side of Oahu, and this is a little treasure. Makes me want to reread The Catcher in the Rye. I’d be hard-pressed to choose my favorite story in it, but if I absolutely had to it would probably be the last one, Teddy," about a 10-year-old genius sailing back to the US from England with his family in October 1952. However, having said that, Salinger was just a wee but sloppy. For example, “De Daumier-Smith’s Blue Period” is set in 1939. He mentions it repeatedly, that it is 1939, so it is. 1939. But in the story, he has June 23 a Sunday and July 6 a Saturday, when in fact the former was a Friday and the latter a Thursday. (Fact-checking was one of my duties at the newspapers I worked at, so doing a quick check on such things has just become second nature to me. Sure, he didn’t have the Internet back then, but if you’re going to assert these things, you can darned well make a trip to the library.) But this is a minor quibble, and I strongly recommend this slim little volume if you can find it.
Next up is Travels with Charley in Search of America, by John Steinbeck.
I love Salinger’s Nine Stories! My favorite is “For Esme – with Love and Squalor.” I think this volume of stories is far better than anything else Salinger wrote, certainly better than The Catcher in the Rye.
My own recent reading: I just finished Little Soldiers by Lenora Chu. It is about education in China broadly, and also specifically about her young son’s experiences in a Chinese preschool. Some of it is very interesting though I found her tone insufferable at times. Lots of self-congratulatory passages about what brilliant parents she and her husband are.
I am just about to begin reading le Carre’s A Legacy of Spies. Very much looking forward to it.
I’ve begun rereading Elizabeth George’s “Inspector Linley” series of mysteries. The current book is A Traitor to Memory. All this is preparatory for reading her latest which is to be released in March, I think.
Gonna have to slow down my rate, though, if I want to have just finished the last one by March: I’m going through them too rapidly. George is such a great and reliable author.
Finished Creating a Class: Educating Elites in America. Enjoyed anecdotes about his work at an unnamed liberal arts college; didn’t enjoy the repetition of stats I’ve seen a lot before. Wanted to know if the applicant who’s father’s listed occupation was “Prime Minister” got in.
I’m currently reading Jade City, an interesting-enough fantasy set in an alt-Japan with modern (seventies-era?) technology, plus magic jade that if you’re “Japanese” and wear it gives you wire-fu superpowers. It’s heavy on the exposition, but otherwise is enjoyable.
Yesterday I finished Amor Towles’s charming novel A Gentleman in Moscow, about a Russian aristocrat placed under house arrest in a swanky Moscow hotel by the Bolsheviks in 1922, and his later adventures over the years without (hardly) ever leaving the building. Highly recommended, although the ending was just a teensy bit disappointing.
Still rereading Frank Herbert’s original Dune, which isn’t as well-written as I remember, although it has a lot of cool concepts.
Also reading Francis McKinney’s Education in Violence, a bio of one of my Civil War heroes, Maj. Gen. George H. Thomas, “the Rock of Chickamauga,” a doughty Virginian who remained loyal to the Union.
Just began an audiobook of Ian Fleming’s 1963 James Bond novel On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, read by former Dr. Who star David Tennant. So far, so good.
Gave up on Death in the Stacks by Jenn McKinlay. I’m always hoping I’ll enjoy a new cozy mystery series but rarely do.
Started Christmas at Cold Comfort Farm by Stella Gibbons. The book should be subtitled “and Other Stories”, since there’s just one story about Cold Comfort Farm as far as I can tell. But the title story is worth the price. (I don’t often buy books for myself, but I did this one.) It’s as funny as the novel.
I’ve recently gone through a spell of picking out books that ended up not being that great – so I won’t rehash those experiences. A few books that I read that I did find worth the read:
Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn, if you’re into crime thrillers (she got me – I did not see the ending coming)
The Undoing Project by Michael Lewis - If you’re into psychology
Before I Go To Sleep by S.J. Watson - If you’re good at suspending disbelief, it’s an engaging thriller but not at all plausible
The Invisible Library - If you’re into that whole magical adventure in an alternate dimension storyline
Stars Across the Ocean by Kimberley Freeman - If you’re into historical fiction. This one also requires some suspension of disbelief, and you’ll probably see the ending coming, but I still enjoyed it because the story and the writing were good.
Just finished 4 3 2 1. Good read, but damn, it could have been half the length and ended up better. And I’m someone who luuuuuurvs long books. Very interesting premise - it’s 4 different versions of the same guy’s life, starting at birth. Each chapter has four sub-chapters, and each sub-chapter is the same chunk of years for that version of his life. If you’ve ever fantasized things like “boy, what would my life had been like if my Dad hadn’t gotten that new job that we moved for when I was 8 and I grew up in town X instead of town Y?” this is the book for you.
Before that I read the Imperial Radch series from Anne Leckie, and I can’t recommend those enough. I must have finished them a good 3 weeks ago, and I’m still thinking about them.
Just finishing up:
[li]The Secret History of Twin Peaks by Mark Frost.[/li][li]All the Birds in the Sky by Charlie Jane Anders.[/li][li]Claudine at School by Colette.[/li][/ul]
All of which I highly recommend. For wildly different reasons.