Books – July 2009

Wow, July went fast. It was a whirlwind of good times and good reading as well. With it being light later, and warmer it’s harder to get to sleep, and so I read until much much later. I love actually hearing the sounds out my open window of the trains, the planes and the neighborhood cats enjoying the company of the neighborhood raccoons.

Choke – Chuck Palahniuk – Ah Chuck! Famed writer of the shocking Fight Club! Actually I enjoy his writing, once you get past his characters who end up in the dregs of society, he does have a lot of good insights and characterizations of people in this crazy world we live in. Borrowed from a fried who loves him, I enjoyed it, watched the movie and was sad that it was another book->movie conversion that lost something in the translation. All the pieces and plot points were there, just something was missing and I couldn’t figure out what! I also found it interesting that the “Choke” part of the book plays such a minor role, but was the part always talked about with the book blurbs I’d read in the past. Anyways, good book, read if you’re a Palahniuk fan, otherwise, I’d read another of his books first, like Survivor or the now way overhyped Fight Club.

The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy – Douglas Adams – Don’t Panic, 42, and did you remember to bring your towel? Hitchhikers has a ton of little jokes, and has been a nerd favorite for decades now, and rightfully so. It’s a funny book, filled with little jokes that are easy to miss, lots of humor, poking fun the world and it’s people, and in the end a delight to read. I’ve probably read it now 4-5 times over the years, and it never ceases to be enjoyable. It’s quick, fun, and it’s a sad thing we lost Douglas Adams from this world as a writer and humorist. Since I referenced the movie for Choke above, I’ll recommend the Hitchhiker’s movie. It pulls some of the book plot, but goes in it’s own direction and in the end still holds true to the spirit of the story. Plus, it’s got Zoey Deshanel! That’s worth at least an extra thumbs up.

Restaurant at the End of the Universe – Douglas Adams – Continuing on the Hitchhiker’s track, I picked up an omnimbus book that collected the first three novels of the trilogy (yes, I know…) so I was able to read them all fairly quickly. A good follow up that had a great strong beginning, that really petered off at the end for me. Still more great humor with Author Dent, Ford Prefect, Trillian and Marvin the Paranoid Android.

The Cleft – Doris Lessing – So I picked this up at Powells in Portland when I was down there for work. It has a “Nobel Prize Winning Author” medal on the cover and I thought well why not. I’m always on the lookout for a new author to read, but now I see why this was on the bargain table. The story of a group of women who live and reproduce all on their own, called The Clefts, who’s world is irrevocably changed when Monsters (aka men) are born into their midst. The Monsters are initially killed, then exiled and then they learn to live together with the Clefts and the world moves on, but oh the agony of this book. Filled to the brim with cliches of nurturing women and men who don’t understand why the women don’t want to play all day and worse. Please do not read this book. I really would like to give Lessing a chance, but I am going to give her a long break and really pick a book that she would have won the Nobel Prize for, and not this bargain table crap. If you know of what is good by her please let me know!

Life, the Universe and Everything – Douglas Adams – Last of the Adams books for the month. I enjoyed this one more than the previous one, great story lot’s of laughs. I really don’t have a lot to say about them, which is sad for how enjoyable they are. I want to add some great thoughts as to why these books work but I’m at a loss at how to express it. Good, but subtle, comedic writing is difficult. Only a few books have succeeded with me in presenting this, and Adams is one of them. The other? The Princess Bride novel takes all that you love about the movie, and expands upon it greatly but makes you laugh from page to page. Loved it as well.

Best Served Cold – Joe Abercrombie – Abercrombie’s latest book in which he continues to amaze me with his writing. I wrote somewhere else on why I like Abercrombie, and it boils down to this – I love world building books, where the author builds up his world with a fiction and history and culture all it’s own. I love Tolkien and Erikson so much because of this. Abercrombie has his world built in his mind, and you get tiny glimpses of it in his books, but for him the world doesn’t take center stage. His books, like Best Served Cold, are about the people who inhabit that world, and their fears, their aspirations, their motives for revenge or their ideals of redemption, and how their own past shapes them, and not the past of the world they live in. You get the flawed, gritty characters, who plunge forward of their own will sometimes, and at other times by the will of those they surround themselves with. It’s a ride, like the previous First Law trilogy by him, that takes you into familiar, almost cliche, characters and places, but yet moves beyond them to much more nuanced and deep understanding of how thin the line is between good and evil, and all of the huge wide swath that the gray ground covers. You’ll find understanding for murders, and pity for those who attain that which they most desired. He’ll be on my short list of books to recommend to others when they ask for sometime to come.

So July was a good month, and well read. Only one bad spot and it was quickly erased by the good that followed it.