Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Books of 2009 so far...

My wife and I joined two book clubs this year which has led to me getting in quite a bit of reading this year. Because I'm a big fan of making lists and also because it is something to do I thought I'd make a list of the books I've read so far this year with a few thoughts about each one. I'm ranking in order of preference because that's just the way I am, I rank everything.

Rock, Paper, Scissors by Len Fisher

This book wasn't very good. I read it for the Big Bang Book Club which is a non-fiction science related book club I attend. It sounded interesting, it's about Game Theory something I knew next to nothing about before reading this book but in the end I found the book to be more annoying than anything else. The writer's attempts to be funny fell flat for me nearly every time and his examples for explaining the theories discussed were weak. Not recommended, if you're interested in Game Theory there has to be something better out there than this.

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies by Seth Grahame-Smith

This was another book I read for a book club, Books and Bars, but this time I'm glad I did. The book is basically what the title implies, a mashup of the original novel Pride and Prejudice and a zombie movie. The idea is comedy gold and it did have quite a few funny scenes but in the end the zombie stuff was pretty uninteresting and the only thing keeping me reading was the original story which I had never read before. I had been meaning to try and read an Austen novel already and now I've read one (sort of) and, honestly, probably won't be reading any more. It wasn't bad or anything just not my cup of tea. The book club discussion was great though! Books and Bars was able to set up a Skype video chat with the author Grahame-Smith which was a lot of fun. He seemed like a genuinely funny and thoughtful guy and I will defintely check out his next book to see if it's funnier. His next book by the way is apparently another mashup of sorts, Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter.

The Ghost Map by Steven Johnson

The Ghost Map is the story of a cholera outbreak in London in the 1850's and the people who worked to discover the cause. Lot's of good stuff in here about the history of disease and medicine and also the history of cities and the problems that come with people living close together. This isn't for the squeamish though this book has endless passages of people shitting and tainted water supplies and just other generally disgusting subjects. London in the 1850's does not sound pleasant at all!

Dirty Little Angels by Chris Tusa

This is the first book on the list that I read outside of a bookclub! I was contacted by the author of this book, who apparently must have seen some book reviews I posted somewhere or something. He asked if I would be interested in reading his first novel and writing some reviews for a couple websites. Obviously, this is a sweet deal for me! He sent me a free copy of his book (an electronic copy) which I read nearly right away. This is the review I wrote on Amazon:

Dirty Little Angels is the story of Hailey, a young girl living in New Orleans, and her (very) dysfunctional family. The book details her growing detachment from reality and her struggles to attain something of a normal life. The content here is thoroughly depressing I suppose and some of the other reviewers here commented on how dark the book is based on the story but I guess I had the opposite reaction. Yes, the story is dark but what kept me reading was the style which I found to be exciting and often darkly funny. Tusa writes with a gritty, noir-ish style which reminds me quite a bit of one of my favorite authors, Daniel Woodrell. I really enjoyed all of the phrasing and great lines in the book. Sure, a lot of lines didn't really work for me but there is so much clever writing here that if you don't like one line the next one will probably work for you. I read this book in one sitting without even thinking about the time spent and I would think a lot of readers will do the same thing. Based on story alone I would have rated this only a three but Tusa has style in spades here and I am really looking forward to his future works.

Bonk by Mary Roach

Mary Roach is really funny. This is the second book by her that I have read, Stiff being the other one, and from now on I'm on board with whatever she does next. Her books may not be the most substantial books in the world scientifically but they are packed with information and top-quality writing. I don't know what else you could ask for from popular non-fiction. This book is about sex research and the places she goes and the things she does in order to write this book are truly impressive. I don't know what else to say but you really should just read the book, it's a quick read and it's very entertaining and informative, a perfect mix.

Lush Life by Richard Price

Lush Life is like the novelization of HBO's The Wire and in my opinion you couldn't possibly have a better review of a crime novel. I love The Wire and so I also loved this book. Richard Price's previous novels are said to have been the main inspiration in the creation of the show and eventually he was brought on to write several episodes and you can see the connections in this book. It's the story of a murder in New York and it is told from several points of view, the murderer, friends of the victim, witnesses and the police who are working the case. Highly recommended for fans of The Wire.

The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins

I had been meaning to read this for a long time but been putting it off because I had the impression that Dawkins was sort of an asshole. After reading the book though my mind was changed (somewhat) he comes across as pretty funny and welcoming to me. I'm sure a lot of people have no interest in the book or would possibly find it offensive but I don't think that is what he was going for here. He simply makes his argument for his understanding of the world in a calm and joking way. It probably helps that I basically agree with him in most ways but I think even some of those who don't would be interested in the thought processes of one of the most highly-respected biologists in the world.

That's it for now, there's more and I will add those in another post later in the week.

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