The May 2006 Book Thread

Picked up a couple of older McPhee books in the last few weeks, Pulitzer-Prize winning Annals of the Former World and The Control of Nature in anticipation of his new book this month, Uncommon Carriers. Annals is a compilation of four of his earlier books detailing the geological history of the US in his own fashion; the latter details three tales of places where humans battle against nature.

Also got Simon Winchester’s A Crack in the Edge of the World, about the '06 Frisco quake, which I must say has one of the coolest hardback bookcovers ever - it has four crossfolds and unfolds into a giant newspaper-like sheet.

Alan Furst’s new novel should be coming out very soon.

— Alan

Can anyone recommend a good epic fantasy. I’m feeling a George R.R. Martin crave right now and knowing that I’ll not satisfy it, must at least delve into something of a quality epic.

I’m a bit too afraid to pick up a random book at the fantasy selection, knowing the perchance for the majority to suck.

Other than that, my monocle goes up and I’m taking the actual time to read some of Shakespeare’s lighter comedy works, 12th Night, Much Ado about Nothing and Midsummer Night’s Dream.

And Bill Bryson, “Everything you need to know about the Universe.” as well as a bunch of Jonathan Lethem’s short stories.

Well, Euri likes Katharine Kerr’s Deverry series, that’s 11 books long now, I’m not sure if it ends with the book released right now or if there will be one more.
Oh, and I like it too…

I’m reading the continuing adventures of Aubrey & Maturin (Treason’s Harbour currently) and Hegel’s Grundlinien der Philosophie des Rechts. I think I even understand the occasional paragraph or two but I could be mistaken.

I’m partway through “Girl With Curious Hair”, a book of short stories by David Foster Wallace. “Infinite Jest” was engrossing and I really enjoyed “A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again”, but “Curious” seems somewhat … opaque so far. Maybe it’s just the very long story about Lyndon Johnson which turned me off.

I’m leaving on a trip on Friday and will be bringing a beachier book for that, “The Hot Kid” by Elmore Leonard.

Too busy with a new job to make my usual overly long post, so here’s the quick list:

The Tombs of Atuan by Ursula K. Le Guin
Notes from a Small Island by Bill Bryson
Bait and Switch: The (Futile) Pursuit of the American Dream by Barbara Ehrenreich
House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski
The Hedge Knight by George R. R. Martin
Second Foundation by Isaac Asimov
Foundation and Empire by Isaac Asimov
Foundation by Isaac Asimov

I could devote entire paragraphs to House of Leaves alone. It’s …interesting. And very different from most books.

Financial Peace - Revisited, by Dave Ramsey. I read the original many many years ago, but I lost my copy. I figured it was time to see what’s new.

My God do you read that many books at once? How do you do it? I find that if I try to read even 2 books at once, one of them gradually fades into insignificance, and then I pick it up, half-read, a month later, can’t bear to get going on it again, and toss it into the metaphorical book dumpster. That book is then ruined for me, because if I try to read it again years later, I get all sorts of negative energy, in a weird Feng-shui kind of way. Not that I put any credence in Feng-shui, but maybe if they had more little sayings about reading a bunch of books at the same time, I would start to buy in.


You should, I’d like to hear what you think. It’s one of my favorite books. Maybe a little too postmodern for its own good, but it had me tearing through it at a pace I rarely reach when reading.

Currently I’m reading through a big omnibus volume of six of Vonnegut’s novels, as I’ve somehow avoided him until now. Slaughterhouse Five, Mother Night, and Cat’s Cradle are all checked off. Working on Sirens of Titan at the moment. Good, but very dated - one line in particular had me laughing. One character is supposedly the most highly paid executive on the planet, making a staggering ONE MILLION DOLLARS a year. Heh.

E=MC2: A Biography of the Worlds Most Famous Equation - David Bodanis

Fire and Ice: The Cascade Volcanoes - Stephen Harris

Earth: An Intimate History - Richard Fortey


The House of Morgan

Just got Rainbow’s End by Vernor Vinge. My initial impulse was to rush through the rest of Thomas Jones’ Sky Walking so I could start it. Then I calmed myself and realized that Vinge likely won’t put out another book till 2010, so there’s no reason to rush into this one.

Currently reading “Oh The Glory of it All,” by Sean Wilsey, and “Mouchette,” by Georges Bernanos.

“Glory” is coming along quite good. I hate to compare it to Salinger but that was my first impression, although the characters are far different. Very good writing… fast read, potent, and very real.

“Mouchette” is a different animal and I’m enjoying it very much. Written in 1937 (in French), it might not appeal to everyone but it’s very touching and every bit a message for today.

Outside of LotR out loud a couple of summers back, I haven’t read any fantasy in years, but have you read any of Gene Wolfe’s stuff? He’s an extraordinary writer, and there’s a lot of fascinating stuff hidden deep in his stories. The Book of the New Sun might be a good place to start. The four books in that series are The Shadow of the Torturer, The Claw of the Conciliator, The Sword of the Lictor, and The Citadel of the Autarch.

Finishing Darwin’s Children by Greg Bear. The sequel to Darwin’s Radio. Good, but a few to many…6 months later…moments where the story skips around. It certainly moves things along more quickly, but I feel like I am missing important things, like a movie adaptation where whole passages are edited out.

Audiobooks. All those except House of Leaves are audiobooks. I listen to them at the gym and on my commute, which used to be 1 hour each way. You’d be surprised how many you can get through when you listen for 3 hours a day. Also, I listened to 3 of them when my wife and I made a 4-day drive from San Diego to St. Louis last week.

I’ll put down some thoughts in the next few days. I’m still deciding what I think of it, but it’s doubtlessly impressive for how it pushes the medium to new limits.

I find that a lot of Greg Bear’s work runs into that problem–a bit too much velocity to some of it. Still really dug the Darwin’s Duo, and an interesting take on the necessary next step of human evolution shouldn’t really be people getting smarter (at least not directly), but in our communication “bandwidth” increasing.

Having really enjoyed Vladimir Nabokov’s Pale Fire awhile back, I’m currently about halfway through the much better-known Lolita. I picked up an annotated version which is most helpful for all the times the narrator lapses into French and Latin. Aside from that, the guy could really write–an exceptional talent for painting a picture of a character, using that own character’s own (very) unreliable testimony to do so.

You all read far too much smart stuff.

I just finished book one of Edding’s Elder Gods series The Dreamers. Apparently this is the third of fourth time he’s written the same story, but I actually enjoyed it. My first Eddings book, btw, so maybe that’s why I’m not as disappointed with it as everyone else seems to be.

And I’m just now starting the Preston & Child book Dance of Death, which has a Kirkus quote on the back stating “Goes down like cheddar flavoured potato chips.” That about sums it up.

About 100 pages into The Lost World, which ironically has become less interesting for me as the dinosaurs show up (Doyle’s presentation of them is pretty flat – he just seems to leave it at “look, dinosaurs!” and expects us to be impressed – maybe it will improve). Also dipping back into A Clash of Kings, which at this rate I will finish around 2046. I enjoyed the chapter in which teen queen Daenarys (sp?) leads her tribe across a wasteland to an abandoned city.

Eddings is a truly awful writer. You’ll realize soon enough.