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books I read, 2nd quarter 2004 - The inexplicable charisma of the rival [entries|archive|friends|userinfo]
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books I read, 2nd quarter 2004 [Jul. 4th, 2004|02:42 pm]
Just me.
[mood |literary]


1) How to be alone: essays- Jonathan Franzen (audio)
Mostly magazine pieces. I read it before the Corrections to see if I liked the author enough to read his 592 page novel (answer: I did)

2) Scary Monsters and Super Freaks: Stories of Sex, Drugs, Rock 'N' Roll and Murder- Mike Sager
Magazine pieces from former Washington Post reporter on subjects like John Holmes, Rick James, Janet Cooke (the original Jayson Blair). Good stuff.

3) Confessions of a Tax Collector : One Man's Tour of Duty Inside the IRS- Richard Yancey
You know the people in the IRS who seize your assets to sell for back taxes? The author was one of those guys for 10+ years. Good book to read when you're hating your job, as it sounds like pretty awful work.

4) 21 Dog Years : Doing Time @ Amazon.com - Mike Daisey
More like a stand-up routine than a fleshed out book, but a fun quick read.

5) How Would You Move Mount Fuji? Microsoft's Cult of the Puzzle - How the World's Smartest Company Selects the Most Creative Thinkers - William Poundstone
Half expose of Microsoft's hiring methods, half list of brainteasers. Not as fascinating as Poundstone's "Big Secrets" series, which I love.

6) The Story of My life- Helen Keller (Audio) -
Her first book, authored when she was a college student in 1902. Not as much attention is given to the methods of her learning to read and speak as I would have liked; it's like she goes from having "water" spelled into her hand to reading Braille and learning French and German overnight. Book plods at the end, as Helen proves she's as intellectually pretentious as any other Harvard/Radcliffe sophomore by describing at length what her favorite books are. Still, pretty interesting, and reasonably short. Not in this book, but did you know HK would later become a socialist and peace activist and that the FBI had a file on her?


1)The Awakening- Kate Chopin (audio)
Famous proto-feminist novella from 1899. I found it plodding and did not enjoy the Victorian language. Compared to Helen Keller's book, published only 3 years later, this reads like Dickens or Melville. But at least it's short, and its historically an important book, but today it kinda, uh, sucks.

2) The Princess Bride: S. Morgenstern's Classic Tale of True Love and High Adventure (The 'Good Parts' Version)
- William Goldman
lots of fun, much like the movie. No, there was no "S Morgenstern"- that's all a joke for those of us who enjoy swipes at the publishing industry.

3) The Corrections-  Jonathan Franzen (audio)
Pretty good. Might be especially relevant (though I wouldn't say more enjoyable) to you if you've watched your father wither and die from a degenerative illness like Alzheimer's. Part of the "all unhappy families are unhappy in their own way" genre of literature.

4) Atonement- Ian McEwan (audio)
Blargh. Too British for me. Maybe it was the reader on the audiobook that made it so "foreign". I recognize that this novel is "good" but it failed to connect with me. WWII era story of how a 13year old girl misinterprets something she witnesses and screws up a bunch of lives in the process. Would probably have enjoyed more if the writing was less stodgy/British. Might make an okay Merchant/Ivory movie.

5) Motherless Brooklyn -Jonathan Lethem(audio)
Really funny, actually, though not a comic novel. Protagonist is an orphan with Tourette's syndrome. I especially recommend the audiobook- the narrator does the Tourettes patter very well.

In progress but not finished in time for this quarter:

Set this house in order: a romance of souls - Matt Ruff
Waiting- ha jin (audio)

[User Picture]From: rwx
2004-07-04 10:44 am (UTC)
motherless brooklyn is an outstanding book. I think my favorite of lethem's, certainly.
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[User Picture]From: tinymammoth
2004-07-04 11:43 am (UTC)
Aw, man, The Awakening suxor. And I love Edith Wharton, too. It wasn't just the style, it seemed like such a hollow story to me. I got the feeling it had been revived by feminists for ideological rather than literary reasons - before the sixties it had been justly forgotten.
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[User Picture]From: bassfingers
2004-07-04 12:54 pm (UTC)
Set This House in Order was pretty strong, but I think I still like Fool on the Hill most, followed by Sewer Gas Electric.
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[User Picture]From: jtemperance
2004-07-05 05:14 pm (UTC)
Jonathan Lethem was around Berkeley I think the same time you were. He used to work at Pegasus Books according to a friend of mine who works at Pendragon. Also his sister used to work at a camera shop on Solano - she was a coworker of my friend there.

He also went to the high school in NYC that I would have gone to if I hadn't moved to CA.
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