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Author Topic: 50 Books in 2011  (Read 32457 times)

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c-lando

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Re: 50 Books in 2011
« Reply #180 on: November 17, 2011, 10:06:12 AM »

1. The Last Days of Ptolemy Grey - Walter Mosley
2. My Hollywood - Mona Simpson
3. In The Shadow of Gotham - Stefanie Pintoff
Abandoned book -
Muffins and Mayhem: Recipes for a Happy (if Disorderly) Life - Suzanne Beecher - bleh. Sounded cute and clever. It wasn't.
4. The Postcard Killers - James Patterson & Liza Marklund
5. The Distant Hours - Kate Morton
6. Full Dark, No Stars - Stephen King - This is the only King book I've read aside from MISERY. 4 "short" stories that really examine how different people live with guilt and regret or escape feeling any regret at all. The man can paint a creepy picture.
Abandoned book - Case Histories - Kate Atkinson  - I guess I'm not ready to read about crazy sisters again after THE DISTANT HOURS. Too soon.
7. Girl, Stolen - April Henry (YA Mystery/Thriller) - I don't even know how this ended up in my library queue but I enjoyed it. Clever heroine.
8. A Long Line of Dead Men - Lawrence Block - only my 2nd Scudder book but it did not disappoint. FANTASTIC!
9. Bossypants - Tina Fey - You just know that I loved this.
10. The Reversal - Michael Connelly - Haller, McFierce, and Bosch all working on the same case as Mickey walks across the aisle to work as a special prosecutor.
11. A Drop of the Hard Stuff - Lawrence Block - I skipped a ton of Scudder books before reading this one but it didn't matter since this book was set much earlier in the Scudder timeline. Fantastic. Makes me want to walk around the city with a bunch of quarters and make calls from pay phones.
12. Heads You Lose - Lisa Lutz and David Hayward - silly mystery written by two exes. You get to see them argue as they write the book together as they kept in the notes that they wrote to each other as they passed the book back and forth, alternating chapters. It was more successful as a warning for exes not to work together than it was as a compelling mystery.
13.Live Wire - Harlan Coben
14. The Hunger Games - Suzanne Collins - audiobook - Wow! I requested this from the library so that we could listen to it on our road trip. It came in AFTER the trip. Soooooooooo good. I think I'll read the other two instead of listenting to them. I think Jennifer Lawrence is PERFECT casting for the role of Katniss.
15. Knockemstiff - Donald Ray Pollock - borrowed from my lovely friend, foolsgold, this is one effed up book of short stories. Chuck Cleaver if he wrote novels instead of songs.
16.On Folly Beach - Karen White - chick lit that "learned me" a little something. I picked it up because I loooooooooooove Folly Beach and would be happy to spend every summer there for the rest of my life.
17. The 9th Judgment - James Patterson - audiobook
18. Backseat Saints - Joshilynn Jackson - audiobook - Best line: "It sounded like some fireworks gettin' it on with a bag of asthma."
19. Time to Murder and Create - Lawrence Block - 2nd Matthew Scudder novel

20. Catching Fire - Suzanne Collins - audiobook
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Bubba McBubba

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Re: 50 Books in 2011
« Reply #181 on: November 17, 2011, 09:11:44 PM »

105: “Snuff” by Terry Pratchett

Despite an aversion to the fantasy genre in general, I am a long-time fan of Pratchett, largely because many elements of his books satirize our modern world.  Pratchett has been described as a modern-day Mark Twain, which is a pretty fair assessment.

“Snuff”, the latest Discworld novel, largely concerns intolerance, which has long been a theme in the series.  Through the course of the preceding 38 books, the society of Ankh Morpork has come to begrudingly accept vampires, warewolves, trolls, zombies and dwarves, but can its collective minds be pried open wide enough to accept goblins?

Chief copper Sam Vimes inadvertedly spearheads the movement as he investigates the simultaneous disappearance of a surly blacksmith and the brutal murder of a goblin. 

Action-packed, funny and big-hearted (even if it does occassionally get up a soap box), “Snuff” upholds the unusually, and consistently, high standards of the series.

Recommended?  Yes, though not as the first book for those new to the series.

106: “The Final Testament of the Holy Bible” by James Frey

James Frey is apparently a notorious figure in the world of modern literature, though both he and his controversies were completely off my radar. 

And I still don't know what he did that apparently caused such a ruckus awhile back.  I only learned about this book by stumbling upon it on the staff recommendation shelves at a Chapters bookstore in London, Ontario.  Chapters is a chain north of the 49th parallel, and it appeared to basically be a continuation of the now-defunct Borders franchise, only with a much bigger and better selection than that store ever had.

I try not to judge books by their covers, but this one had me intrigued.  The hardcover comes in a slipcover with no info on the back, and only the title and an image of a scalpel and a drop of blood on the front.  And the exposed spine of the book looked like a Bible. 

Turns out the “Final Testament” is the story of a new incarnation of God on Earth, as told through several different perspectives, with each chapter being told by a different person and so bearing their name as the chapter title.  And as if that isn't enough to show Frey is mimicking the format of the Bible, the text is all left-justified, which was a bit annoying to read for 400 pages.

Frey's new Jesus is a pot-smoking, video-game-addicted slacker who miraculously survives a construction site accident, only to be revealed as a savior for the new millenium.  And this new Hippy Christ is out to spread a message of love and understanding through the simple and charitable act of having sex with as many people of both genders as possible, and with as many partners and is as many combinations as He can arrange.

The text isn't quite as steamy as one would suspect, it is still packed to the rim with nookie (though, now that I think about it, there was no rimming mentioned).  It doesn't take long before each new chapter, even though it is from a new perspective, becomes a repetitive cycle of introduction, doubt, belief, and high-level description of getting a freak on.  And, oh yes, the occassional anti-church, anti-corporation or anti-captalism rant.

Like I said earlier, I don't know what the previous controversy was surrounding Frey, but it obvious from this book that he wants to kick the beehive again.  But I haven't heard of any mass protests of his “Final Testament”, and the author is so obviously trying to play the enfant terrible that I doubt many will take bait. 

In the end, the “Final Testament” wants to be shocking and thought-provoking, but it is simply as over-sexed and obnoxiously policitized as a college humanities professor.

Recommended?  So lightly it might as well not be.

107: “33 1/3: Achtung Baby” by Stephen Catanzarite

Every so often, in my quest to read an absurd number of books, I experience some unintented synchronicity between consecutive titles.  In this occurrence, I happened to read back-to-back books about God and sex.

I didn't even know this volume of the “33 1/3” series would be about (and only about) these subjects.  I have had a copy of this for a long time now, and even forgot I had it until I started reading about the recently released super-deluxe-edition reissue of the album.

Now, some of the entries in this series address the making of an album, and others focus more so on the perspectives of the author and others.  And then there are some that are just a mess with little or no relationship to the album at hand.  I'm sorry, but the volumes that are unrelated novellas or a collection of short stories should not be in the series.

“Achtung Baby” is one such book, and it is basically two different things: a discussion of the place of God in our modern world, and also the author's clumsy attempt to superimpose upon the album the framework of a story wherin Adam & Eve fall from grace in the garden of Eden and straight into comptemporary society.

Towards the end of the text, the author acknowledges the story he builds upon the album was not the intention of the original artists, and yet he subjects us to his tale, nonetheless.

This is a deeply flawed and very, very bad volume of “33 1/3”.  Catanzarite spends half of his time preaching to this audience, including a beef with the scientific method that had me stratching me head until I broke the skin.  Then he wastes the rest of the book spinning his barely-fleshed allegory of Adam & Eve in modern day Sodom (which reminds me: why does Sodom get centuries of infamy while Gamorrah gets the...uh, shaft?).

So there you have it: half dry sermonizing and half entry-level writing course story “inspired” by this album.  And  two halves make a hole, into which this book should be buried.

Recommended?  No

108: “Deep Focus: Heathers” by John Ross Bowie

This is the second volume I had read in the “Deep Focus” series of 33 1/3 sized books about movies of level “B” and below.

In the first one I read, Johnathem Lethem provided some unusual insights and barbed zingers about John Carpenter's “They Live”.  At least Bowie aims a bit higher, as he addresses 80's black comedy “Heathers”.

A bit of my own history with the film: I have not thought about this movie once in years and seeing this book reminded me how much I used to love it.  Although I have seen this movie at least ten times, I probably have not seen it in roughly two decades.  And the more I dug into the book, the more I realized just how little I would otherwise remember from the film.

Bowie does a great service to the movie and the reader with this entry in a series of which I am quickly becoming a fan.  The author conducted many new interviews which, combined with well-researched archival material, provides many interesting insights into the development, production and reception of the movie, as well as obscure references and symbolism in the film. 

The author also interweaves his own history with the movie, which provided an interesting perspective.  Never mind the fact that his own intial experiences with the movie were with two consecutive Heathers he dated.  No, really, their first names were actually “Heather”.

I don't feel my summary can do this book justice, but if you feel inclined to read a book about “Heathers”, you should pounce on this lively little tome.

Recommended? Highly

109: “Other Kingdoms” by Richard Matheson

Matheson is my favorite author.

The guy wrote “I Am Legend”, without which we would not have the entire zombie genre.

He wrote a whole bunch of classic Twilight Zone episodes.  Know that one where Shatner sees the gremlin on the wing of the plane?  His.

I could go on, but I just wanted to give a brief background on the man so that you might understand why this book is such a disappointment.

“Other Kingdoms” is a new book by Matheson and that alone simply makes it remarkable.  Sure, the people at Tor never seem to stop dipping into his archives to slap together yet another short story compendium, but new material?  I honestly didn't even know the guy was still alive.

So I approached this book with a very open mind and generous heart.  And the premise sounded a bit promising, as a young man fresh from combat in WWI ventures into the British countryside, to the hometown of a friend he made and lost in the trenches.  In the spirit of Blackwood and Lovecraft, it is quickly revealed there are mysterious, magical, deceitful creatures in the woods and, should one venture into the forest, one should be careful not to stray from the path.

Of course, our young protagonist immediately strays from the path, and soon finds himself subject to supernatural torments that may be caused by fairie folk, or maybe the self-proclaimed witch who lives in the woods, or maybe both, or maybe neither.

I tried to become absorbed in the text, or at least try to appreciate it as a tribute to the aforementioned horror writers.  But “Other Kingdoms” is rather poorly written, and Matheson tries to use a get-out-of-jail card by having the tale told from the rambling perspective of an elderly gothic horror writer nearing the end of his life.

And yet I was pretty surprised when the novel takes a pretty swift turn, when the protagonist is suddenly getting it on with the witch, frequently and in a fair amount of detail.  The narrator goes to great pains to remind us the witch is old enough to have been his mother at the time.  As if that is not strong enough suggestion of incestuous undertones in their booty knocking, some eyebrow-raising dialogue makes it explicit.

And then the protagonist decides to move on to somebody younger, and is soon doing ye olden beast with two backs with a fairie girl who is all of three feet tall.  Which shifts the uncomfortable nature of the sexual content of the book from incest to something akin to pedophilia.

Ick. 

Wish I could put a more scholarly spin on it but, jeez, everything in the book is pretty skin-crawling, and not in the good ways.

But at least he one-ups Frey, since the Hippy Jesus of “Final Testament” gets his freak on early and often with every willing person, but even He doesn't get it on with his mother (or at least a surrogate of) or a three-foot tall fairie.

Recommended?  No
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c-lando

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Re: 50 Books in 2011
« Reply #182 on: November 18, 2011, 08:22:39 AM »

108: “Deep Focus: Heathers” by John Ross Bowie

This is the second volume I had read in the “Deep Focus” series of 33 1/3 sized books about movies of level “B” and below.

In the first one I read, Johnathem Lethem provided some unusual insights and barbed zingers about John Carpenter's “They Live”.  At least Bowie aims a bit higher, as he addresses 80's black comedy “Heathers”.

A bit of my own history with the film: I have not thought about this movie once in years and seeing this book reminded me how much I used to love it.  Although I have seen this movie at least ten times, I probably have not seen it in roughly two decades.  And the more I dug into the book, the more I realized just how little I would otherwise remember from the film.

Bowie does a great service to the movie and the reader with this entry in a series of which I am quickly becoming a fan.  The author conducted many new interviews which, combined with well-researched archival material, provides many interesting insights into the development, production and reception of the movie, as well as obscure references and symbolism in the film. 

The author also interweaves his own history with the movie, which provided an interesting perspective.  Never mind the fact that his own intial experiences with the movie were with two consecutive Heathers he dated.  No, really, their first names were actually “Heather”.

I don't feel my summary can do this book justice, but if you feel inclined to read a book about “Heathers”, you should pounce on this lively little tome.

Recommended? Highly
Thank you, BMcB. I would not have known anything about this book if you hadn't written up this review. HEATHERS is a favorite. I can't wait to pick this up.
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cyclone

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Re: 50 Books in 2011
« Reply #183 on: November 26, 2011, 11:33:57 AM »

1. The Cornel West Reader
2. A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again by David Foster Wallace
3. Exit Wounds by Rutu Modan
4. The Disappointment Artist by Jonathan Lethem
5. Exploring Reality by John Polkinghorne
6. Stranger Than Fiction by Chuck Palahniuk
7. The Best American Essays 07 (edited by DFW)
8. Fear and Trembling by Søren Kierkegaard
9. Sloth by Gilbert Hernandez
10. The Concept of Anxiety by Søren Kierkegaard
11. Wise Blood by Flannery O'Connor
12. King's Cross by Tim Keller
13. Race Matters by Cornel West
14. The Four Loves by C.S. Lewis
15. Black Postcards by Dean Wareham
16. Why Are All The Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria? by Beverly Tatum
17. Concrete by Thomas Bernhard
18. New Seeds of Contemplation by Thomas Merton
19. The Best American Comics 2007 by Chris Ware (editor)
20. The Freelance Pallbearers by Ishmael Reed
21. 33 1/3: Song Cycle by Richard Henderson
22. Seaview by Toby Olson
23. Light Boxes by Shane Jones
24. This Is Water by David Foster Wallace
25. Oblivion: Stories by David Foster Wallace
26. Players by Don DeLillo
27. The Ask by Sam Lipsyte
28. Naked City by Sharon Zukin
29. Venus Drive: Stories by Sam Lipsyte
30. Some Common Weaknesses Illustrated by Carson Cistulli

31. Soul on Ice by Eldridge Cleaver
32. Imagined Communities by Benedict Anderson

Currently reading Bibliophile by Michael Griffith.  I recently attended an open mic on my school's campus that was put on by a recently started writer's society, and Griffith spoke, who is a UC professor and established author.  I had never heard of him.  The title novella was pretty good but I'm having a hard time making it through the others.
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Bubba McBubba

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Re: 50 Books in 2011
« Reply #184 on: November 26, 2011, 11:47:53 PM »

110: “33 1/3: Dummy” by R.J. Wheaton

Here is something that an author would have to completely bungle for me not to love: a 33 1/3 about the still-mesmerizing debut album by Portishead.

Fortunately, Wheaton does justice to the album with this volume that details the unusual story of the group's formation and the record's production.  I have long been fascinated by how Portishead made recordings, had these pressed to wax and then made their own custom samples from these discs, but I did not know the band even went as far as to “age” those records through destructives acts such as putting the discs on a dirty floor and stomping on them.  That's a fair amount of effort to create a library of samples which no other artist could have.

Wheaton also uses the album's production as a springboard to explore odd tangential subjects, such as a brief background on the inventor of the theremin.  Nothing absolutely essential to the topic at hand, but still an interesting excursion, nonetheless.

All quotes from core band members were pulled from period interviews, which is to be expected as Beth Gibbons has long declined to talk to the press and her two compatriots seem content to usually let the music speak for itself.  Readers may be disappointed by the lack of new first-person interviews and explanations as to exactly what this or that song “means” exactly, but I believe Wheaton does a very good job tailoring archival material to the frame he has created.

I do, however, have two minor grievances with the book.  First, the author takes a scattershot approach with his presentation of the material, with the text broken into small passages of usually only a few paragraphs each, and rarely with a natural feeling of transition from one passage to the next.  Although this rather jarring effect subtly mirrors the more disorienting passages of the album being discussed, it was a bit wearing over the course of more than 200 pages of text.

Which leads me to my other complaint, and that is the book is really too long for this format.  I have noticed this becoming a trend with the most of the recent entries in the 33 1/3 series.  Since the width and height of the series are ideally suited to a rather thin book, the number of pages in the books on “American Recordings”, “Marquee Moon” and now “Dummy” warrant a larger sized book and, therefore, probably should have been standalone books outside of the series.  First, as a book snob, I believe this series should adhere to the design aesthetic it has established over a run of 80 titles at this point.  But I also have found the longest of the books in the 33 1/3 collection could have been improved with more judicious editing that would have prevented redundancy of information.

As I have said about other books I have recommended in the series: if you think you will enjoy reading a book about this album, then you'll probably enjoy this book.

Recommended?
Yes

111: “Sex on the Moon: The Amazing Story Behind the Most Audacious Heist in History” by Ben Mezrich

Hard to believe but, per gram, material collected on the lunar missions is the most expensive substance on Earth.  And something I did not know before reading this book: it is illegal for U.S. citizens to own any quantity of moon dust.

Thad Roberts was an intern at NASA who dreamed of being the first man to set first foot on Mars, when he decided to steal a safe full of moon rocks.  With the assistance of his girlfriend and another friend, he succeeds in stealing the rocks from a heavily-secured facility, only to be apprehended by the feds when he tries to sell them.

That Roberts tried to sell the stolen materials hints at an inherent flaw in the approach taken by “Sex on the Moon”.  Mezrich tries dilligently to present Roberts as a charasmatic dreamer and die-hard romantic who wanted to literally give his girlfriend the moon.  And yet he tries to sell the pilfered collection and even admits the seed of his scheme was planted when he learned how much it was worth.

Myself, I think Roberts was a textbook sociopath, who charms, connives and coerces others to his will, initially convincing fellow interns to camp out illegally at various sites and engage in potentially fatal cliff diving.  Similarly, he abuses the trust of mentor Dr. Everett Gibson, from whose office he steals the safe containing not just the moon rocks, but also the famous Mars meteorite found in Antarctica and several notebooks in which Gibson was working on his memoirs.  Roberts denies ever seeing the notebooks, but everything else in this book would suggest he is either lying about that, or that he was simply so engrossed with obtaining and selling the moon rocks that he did not take notice of their presence when he disposed of the safe in a random dumpster.

This is the first work by Mezrich that I have read, but I am aware of two of his other high-profile books, “Bringing Down the House” and “The Accidental Billionaires”, both of which were turned into feature films.  I kept thinking about this precendent when reading “Sex on the Moon”, as the author keeps the tone light, fast-paced and, well, easily adaptable into a Hollywood feature film.  I highly suspect Mezrich has taken liberties with the facts of the theft and done some creative embellishing and speculation in maximize the wow factor of the book.

Is that is the case, then it seems to me that Mezrich might have something in common with his subject, a man who believes he has the right to steal rocks from NASA that are viewed as substandard specimens in its collection.  Roberts believes he is justified in all of his actions, and I can't help but wonder if Mezrich might be of the same mindset regarding the fictionalization of non-fiction.

I could be wrong about Mezrich and the extent to which he may have tweaked the truth to his own purposes, but I doubt it.  A cursory glimpse at the synopsis for those other two titles of his shows an interest in writing about brilliant, highly educated men who believe rules do not apply to them in their pursuits.  So it isn't a stretch to suspect the author identifies with this type because that is the kind of person he is, or aspires to be.

And all of this is why I did enjoy “Sex on the Moon”.  Although I was absorbed in the story, I also found myself an arm's length from the material, wondering what was or was not true.

Recommended?  Yes, though not entirely for the reasons the author intended.
« Last Edit: November 27, 2011, 09:57:57 PM by Bubba McBubba »
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yoshomon

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Re: 50 Books in 2011
« Reply #185 on: November 27, 2011, 05:34:25 PM »

I made it to 50 already this year:

1. Around the Way Girls (v. 1) by LaJilla Hunt
2. Oblivion by David Foster Wallace
3. Lectures and Conversations on Aesthetics, Psychology and Religious Belief by Ludwig Wittgenstein
4. Sober Living for the Revolution: Hardcore Punk, Straight Edge, and Radical Politics ed. by Gabriel Kuhn
5. The Signature of All Things: On Method by Giorgio Agamben
6. Ghosts by Cesar Aira
7. A Shore Thing by Snooki
8. Decision Points by George W. Bush
9. The Black Swan by Nassim Taleb
10. The Tiger's Wife by Tea Obreht
11. Suicide by Edouard Leve
12. Normally Special by xTx
13. Logic by Graham Priest
14. With Borges by Alberto Manguel
15. Logicomix: An Epic Search for Truth by Apostolos Doxiadis
16. Fiasco by Imre Kertész
17. An Empty Room: Stories by Mu Xin
18. Clandestine in Chile: The Adventures of Miguel Littin by Gabriel García Márquez
19. The Ignorant Schoolmaster: Five Lessons in Intellectual Emancipation by Jacques Rancière
20. The Stranger by Camus
21. Europeana by Patrik Ouedník
22. Autopy of Surrealism by Cesar Vallejo
23. The Mayakovsky Case by Cesar Vallejo
24. The Ornament of the World: How Muslims, Jews and Christians Created a Culture of Tolerance in Medieval Spain by Maria Rosa Menocal
25. The Absent Sea by Carlos Franz
26. Tyrant Memory by Horacio Castellanos Moya
27. From the Observatory by Julio Cortazar
28. Willie Masters' Lonesome Wife by William H. Gass
29. 30 Under 30 ed. by Blake Butler and Lily Hoang
30. The Ghost Writer by Philip Roth
31. Maus (vol. 1) by Art Spiegelman
32. The Sheltering Sky by Paul Bowles
33. The Birth of Tragedy by Nietzsche
34. Wittgenstein's Antiphilosophy by Alain Badiou
35. Illuminations by Rimbaud (new translations by Ashbery)
36. Racing Odysseus by Roger Martin
37. ABC of Reading by Ezra Pound
38. Nox by Anne Carson
39. Stations of Desire by Ibn Arabi
40. The Bed of Procrustes by Nassim Taleb
41. Odes (Books I-IV) by Horace (transl. by James Michie)
42. Maus II (And Here My Troubles Began) by Art Spiegelman
43. If Not, Winter: Fragments of Sappho transl. by Anne Carson
44. Forget Foucault by Jean Baudrillard
45. Bad Nature, Or With Elvis in Mexico by Javier Marîas
46. Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace
47. Rhyme's Reason by John Hollander
48. The Chinese Written Character as a Medium for Poetry by Ernest Fenollosa (ed. by Ezra Pound)
49. The Seamstress and the Wind by Cesar Aira
50. Hillel: If Not Now, When? by Rabbi Joseph Telushkin

51. Introduction to the Philosophy of History by GFW Hegel
52. How to Be Alone: Essays by Jonathan Franzen

53. First as Tragedy, Then as Farce by Slavoj Zizek
54. Revealment And Concealment : Five Essays by Hayyim Nahman Bialik

55. The Angel Esmeralda by Don DeLillo
56. Varamo by César Aira
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Bubba McBubba

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Re: 50 Books in 2011
« Reply #186 on: November 28, 2011, 09:48:58 AM »

112: “Just My Type” by Simon Garfield

Finally, a very readable book about fonts and their history.  I assume this book is  quite popular as I placed a hold on this at the library back in August and that hold was finally fulfilled just last week.  My interest in the book was strong enough that I was tempted to buy it every time I passed by the hot sellers tables at Barnes & Noble.  I probably just should have caved and bought the book because, now that I have read it, I probably will buy it at some point.

“Just My Type” is a passionate and scholarly history of fonts, as well as an examination of why particular fonts mean something to us.  The text goes way beyond serifs vs. non-serifs or Guttenburg's development of movable type.  Just a sampling of topics include the interrobang (the combination of exclamation and question marks that the author describes as “the Esperanto of punctuation”), Microsoft's theft of Helvetica which they rebranded as Ariel (the author directs the reader to a very good College Humor video that touches on this) and the lack of copyright protection of fonts in the U.S.

In general, Garfield maintains a light tone, though he occasionally gets tangled in terminology and minutae that  slow the pace to a grind.  Then there's the structure of the book: Garfield often seemlessly transitions between radically different topics, but is not always successful.  There are also a handful of moments where he seems to step too far outside the norms of scholarly objectivity, such the bone he has to pick with Paul McCartney claiming authorship of The Beatles font on Ringo's drumhead.

But these are very minor faults in a book that was largely a joy to read.  How much enjoyment you will get from it depends on the extent to which you obsess over fonts.  As I said before, the book appears to be very popular, so I'm guessing there is a substantial number of fellow font whores out there, and this book will be like porn to them.

Recommended? Yes
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c-lando

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Re: 50 Books in 2011
« Reply #187 on: November 29, 2011, 09:32:33 AM »

1. The Last Days of Ptolemy Grey - Walter Mosley
2. My Hollywood - Mona Simpson
3. In The Shadow of Gotham - Stefanie Pintoff
Abandoned book -
Muffins and Mayhem: Recipes for a Happy (if Disorderly) Life - Suzanne Beecher - bleh. Sounded cute and clever. It wasn't.
4. The Postcard Killers - James Patterson & Liza Marklund
5. The Distant Hours - Kate Morton
6. Full Dark, No Stars - Stephen King - This is the only King book I've read aside from MISERY. 4 "short" stories that really examine how different people live with guilt and regret or escape feeling any regret at all. The man can paint a creepy picture.
Abandoned book - Case Histories - Kate Atkinson  - I guess I'm not ready to read about crazy sisters again after THE DISTANT HOURS. Too soon.
7. Girl, Stolen - April Henry (YA Mystery/Thriller) - I don't even know how this ended up in my library queue but I enjoyed it. Clever heroine.
8. A Long Line of Dead Men - Lawrence Block - only my 2nd Scudder book but it did not disappoint. FANTASTIC!
9. Bossypants - Tina Fey - You just know that I loved this.
10. The Reversal - Michael Connelly - Haller, McFierce, and Bosch all working on the same case as Mickey walks across the aisle to work as a special prosecutor.
11. A Drop of the Hard Stuff - Lawrence Block - I skipped a ton of Scudder books before reading this one but it didn't matter since this book was set much earlier in the Scudder timeline. Fantastic. Makes me want to walk around the city with a bunch of quarters and make calls from pay phones.
12. Heads You Lose - Lisa Lutz and David Hayward - silly mystery written by two exes. You get to see them argue as they write the book together as they kept in the notes that they wrote to each other as they passed the book back and forth, alternating chapters. It was more successful as a warning for exes not to work together than it was as a compelling mystery.
13.Live Wire - Harlan Coben
14. The Hunger Games - Suzanne Collins - audiobook - Wow! I requested this from the library so that we could listen to it on our road trip. It came in AFTER the trip. Soooooooooo good. I think I'll read the other two instead of listenting to them. I think Jennifer Lawrence is PERFECT casting for the role of Katniss.
15. Knockemstiff - Donald Ray Pollock - borrowed from my lovely friend, foolsgold, this is one effed up book of short stories. Chuck Cleaver if he wrote novels instead of songs.
16.On Folly Beach - Karen White - chick lit that "learned me" a little something. I picked it up because I loooooooooooove Folly Beach and would be happy to spend every summer there for the rest of my life.
17. The 9th Judgment - James Patterson - audiobook
18. Backseat Saints - Joshilynn Jackson - audiobook - Best line: "It sounded like some fireworks gettin' it on with a bag of asthma."
19. Time to Murder and Create - Lawrence Block - 2nd Matthew Scudder novel
20. Catching Fire - Suzanne Collins - audiobook
21. Mockingjay - Suzanne Collins - audiobook
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Bubba McBubba

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Re: 50 Books in 2011
« Reply #188 on: December 01, 2011, 08:02:29 PM »

13: “BFI Modern Classics: Blade Runner” by Scott Bukatman

I have been a fan of this movie for so long that, over the course of my fandom, I loved it back when nobody else I knew liked it, and then I grew tired of it while those same people finally discovered its greatness, and then fell back in love with it after everybody else was tired of it.  I am one contrary bastard.

But I am at a good point on the sine wave of my ardor for this film to read a BFI book about it.  Alas, Bukatman does not have much to reveal that was not already touched upon by the other books and articles I have read about “Blade Runner”, let alone the feature-length documentary in the massive DVD/Blu-Ray set from a couple of years back. 

Also, the author has the tendancy to write lofty and excessively convoluted prose that kept me an arm's length from the text at all times.  It is one thing to write a book that takes a scholarly approach to a subject, and another to dress up your text in a manner that adds only the illusion of greater intelligence.

Which leads me to a running theme through the BFI books so far that is starting to become a sort of running gag.  Is there really a sly undercurrent of homosexuality in every movie covered in this series?  The authors never fail to find one. 

Can't wait to see if they can find such a subcontext in “The Ten Commandments”.  Oh, wait, that whole movie is high camp.

Recommended?  You would be better off watching the documentary in the multi-disc set.
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cyclone

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Re: 50 Books in 2011
« Reply #189 on: December 02, 2011, 06:04:09 PM »

Anyone read Nixonland?  I think I'm going to dig into it next week after hearing nothing but recommendations since it came out.
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Bubba McBubba

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Re: 50 Books in 2011
« Reply #190 on: December 05, 2011, 08:28:26 PM »

114: “Mirage Men: An Adventure into Paranoia, Espionage, Psychological Warfare and UFO's” by Mark Pilkington

Bear with me, as I need to clarify some things before I get to talking about this book.

I am an Atheist, and I also don't believe in aliens, ghosts, telepathy, Bigfoot, witchcraft, reincarnation or psychic powers.   Needless to say, I'm not much fun.

I felt I had to explain my background, because it begs the question why I picked up this book about whether aliens are real, are a government hoax or even a hoax pretending to be a government conspiracy.  Not the kind of book I would normally consider reading, but I was swayed by a starred review in Booklist, and the following quote from Jon Ronson: “An incredible, complex, fascinating story...I loved it.”  I may now have to retract my reommendation of Ronson's “The Psychopath Test”.

But I think Ronson and Booklist must have received a different book in this jacket, because this is the kind of rambling, formless drivel that I would normally expect to hear from somebody wearing a tin foil hat and whom I am stuck next to while waiting for the bus.  I should have known I was in deep trouble when the following text appeared on page 6: “Were they an unusual phenomenon like ball lightning?”.  A natural phenomenon like ball lightning?!?  He might as well have written “a natural phenomenon like Yeti/the Loch Ness Monster/Joan Rivers.”    Or how about this doozy on page 137: “Around this same time, the National Enquirer became perhaps the most outspoken and reliable source of information about UFO's”.  Yes, folks, that pinnacle of journalistic excellence that is The National Enquirer.

Then there's the hyperactive, (mis)information dump of the text.  The author jumps erratically from one time, place and subject to another, and very rarely with any sort of transition.  Dates, names and places (especially seemingly every Air Force base in the U.S.) eventually melt into a blur.  It took me forever to read this, because the experience was actually like trudging waist-deep through a very viscous liquid.  The book often had me feeling so groggy and dizzy that I felt like I had a touch of flu.

The author's head must be hell to live in, because it was a very sad place to visit.  Everything to the author is either a UFO conspiracy or a government conspiracy.  Basically, in his world, there has to be a conspiracy somewhere, or maybe the conspiracies are a hoax?  Or maybe the hoaxes are intentional smokescreens to prevent us from learning the truth that there are UFOs?  Or maybe the hoaxes are so ridiculous that it confirms there are no UFOs?  Or maybe the hoaxes are so ridiculous that it confirms there really are UFOs?  Pilkington spends so much time either up his own ass or chasing his own tail that it's no wonder he's dizzy.

This material is not best served in bound book form.  No, the ideal delivery mechanism for this was badly mimeographed pages stapled together about three decades ago.

This book is so bad that it will not only fail to convert any skeptics, but it just might put some UFO and government conspiracy buffs back on the straight and narrow.  Somebody at Booklist should be spanked for their starred review. 

All I know from reading this book is that the truth may not be out there, but Mark Pilkington definitely is.  Waaaaaaay out there.  Remember to firmly affix your tin foil hat to your head at all times, Mark.

Recommended?  Only as kindling, and I'm not sure it is sufficiently bulkly enough to even adequately do that.
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Dan

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Re: 50 Books in 2011
« Reply #191 on: December 05, 2011, 11:06:02 PM »

1. Spike Milligan - Adolf Hitler: My Part In His Downfall
2. Khaled Hosseini - A Thousand Splendid Suns
3. Spike Milligan - Rommel? : Gunner Who?
4. Bill Bryson - Notes From a Small Island
5. Stieg Larsson - The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo
6. Paulo Coelho - The Alchemist
7. Spike Milligan - Monty: His Part In My Victory
8. Stieg Larsson - The Girl Who Played With Fire
9. Stieg Larsson - The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet's Nest
10. James Ellroy - The Black Dahlia
11. Nick Hornby - Fever Pitch
12. Simon Kuper & Stefan Szymanski - Soccernomics: Why England Loses, Why Germany and Brazil Win, and Why The U.S., Japan, Australia, Turkey -And Even Iraq - Are Destined To Become The Kings of The World's Most Popular Sport
13. James Andrew Miller & Tom Shales - Those Guys Have All The Fun: Inside The World of ESPN

The ESPN book is as good as advertised. It's interesting, covers a TON of ground, and is generally fascinating. Toward the end it gets bogged down in the "we had more information covering the more recent years, so we'll spend more time with it" and slowed down a bit but that is really nitpicking. I will tell anyone who's interested that it's a good book and worth reading. Of course...it helps if you like sports at least somewhat.
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MissKitty

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Re: 50 Books in 2011
« Reply #192 on: December 06, 2011, 07:50:15 PM »

1. Life - Keith Richards
2. Thanks for Nothing - Jack Dee
3. Boy Island - Camden Joy
4. Hitler: 1936-1945 Nemesis - Ian Kershaw
5. Shiprocked: Life on the Waves of Radio Caroline - Steve Conway
6. White Collar Woman - Nicholas Maze
7. Please Kill Me: The Uncensored Oral History of Punk - Legs McNeil and Gillian McCain
8. Just Kids: Patti Smith's Life with Robert Mapplethorpe - Patti Smith
9. The Last Mad Surge of Youth - Mark Hodkinson.
10. Dear Fatty - Dawn French
11. See a Little Light: The Bob Mould Story - Bob Mould and Michael Azerrad
12. Thank You For The Days - Mark Radcliffe
13. Divided Highways: Building the Interstate Highways, Transforming American Life - Tom Lewis
14. House of Dolls - Ka-Tzetnik #135633[/quote]

Adding:
15. Sarah's Key - Tatiana De Rosney
(Thanks for the recommendation, Trixi. Loved it!)

Still reading:
16. Miss O'Dell - by Chris O'Dell
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cyclone

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Re: 50 Books in 2011
« Reply #193 on: December 07, 2011, 04:56:17 PM »

1. The Cornel West Reader
2. A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again by David Foster Wallace
3. Exit Wounds by Rutu Modan
4. The Disappointment Artist by Jonathan Lethem
5. Exploring Reality by John Polkinghorne
6. Stranger Than Fiction by Chuck Palahniuk
7. The Best American Essays 07 (edited by DFW)
8. Fear and Trembling by Søren Kierkegaard
9. Sloth by Gilbert Hernandez
10. The Concept of Anxiety by Søren Kierkegaard
11. Wise Blood by Flannery O'Connor
12. King's Cross by Tim Keller
13. Race Matters by Cornel West
14. The Four Loves by C.S. Lewis
15. Black Postcards by Dean Wareham
16. Why Are All The Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria? by Beverly Tatum
17. Concrete by Thomas Bernhard
18. New Seeds of Contemplation by Thomas Merton
19. The Best American Comics 2007 by Chris Ware (editor)
20. The Freelance Pallbearers by Ishmael Reed
21. 33 1/3: Song Cycle by Richard Henderson
22. Seaview by Toby Olson
23. Light Boxes by Shane Jones
24. This Is Water by David Foster Wallace
25. Oblivion: Stories by David Foster Wallace
26. Players by Don DeLillo
27. The Ask by Sam Lipsyte
28. Naked City by Sharon Zukin
29. Venus Drive: Stories by Sam Lipsyte
30. Some Common Weaknesses Illustrated by Carson Cistulli
31. Soul on Ice by Eldridge Cleaver
32. Imagined Communities by Benedict Anderson
33. Bibliophile by Michael Griffith

34. 33 1/3: The Piper at the Gates of Dawn by John Cavanagh

I'm surprised I never got to this one sooner considering how much I love this album, plus the library system seems to be out of the remaining titles I'm most interested in (notably Low, Endtroducing and The Notorious Byrd Brothers).  It would also be atop the list of albums that I'd love to read about due to that material being so readily not available.  It's kind of similar to the Village Green Preservation Society book in that regard.  I loved the Pet Sounds book, for example, but now after reading (and re-reading) the new Wilson biography (Catch A Wave), my memory of the 33 1/3 book's content is fuzzy.  Even among the most hardcore Floyd/Syd internet sites, information on the actual Piper sessions and early touring days is pretty sparse outside of the occasional artifact like that infamous "Why is it so loud? I grew up in the string quartet ..." 1967 TV interview.

Surprisingly, the book did not go the route I had anticipated.  I had expected a lot more about the formation of the band and a whole lot of pseudo-Syd Barrett biography material, and the book didn't really deliver either.  Although the format is rather sporadic, it worked fine for me.  It jumps right into the recording of the album while detailing the underground/psych London music scene with The UFO Club, etc.  I also have to give the author credit for not running the back story of the life-changing album appreciation into the ground like I notice in a lot of this series.  He dug See Emily Play, bought the Relics compilation, naturally then got Piper, fell in love.  Simple as that.

I appreciated the details of the recording process, which followed the usual 33 1/3 format as far as contributors goes.  The contributions of Norman Smith are pretty good, who I learned had a bit of a controversial reputation in relation to the album's mythos and legacy.  I enjoyed the part about Syd politely agreeing with his input from a producer's POV, but then continuing to write and play the songs exactly the same way he had been.  The dissection and analysis of Interstellar Overdrive was pretty fun too.  The Beatles references and comparisons seem a bit excessive at times, although it is naturally a part of the narrative since they were recording Sgt. Peppers at the studio at the same time.  That also help explained what I had always known about Piper being recorded very quickly ... they didn't want the band eating up too much Beatles time, and often times PF rushed through recording to get to gigs that same evening.  I enjoyed the later Syd contributions by Kevin Ayers as well.

Overall, this was one of my favorite books in the series despite it not quite being of the "I have a whole new insight/appreciation of the record" variety.

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Bubba McBubba

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Re: 50 Books in 2011
« Reply #194 on: December 07, 2011, 05:29:26 PM »

34. 33 1/3: The Piper at the Gates of Dawn by John Cavanagh

I'm surprised I never got to this one sooner considering how much I love this album, plus the library system seems to be out of the remaining titles I'm most interested in (notably Low, Endtroducing and The Notorious Byrd Brothers).  

...

Overall, this was one of my favorite books in the series despite it not quite being of the "I have a whole new insight/appreciation of the record" variety.

I also enjoyed the 33 1/3 on "Piper", though I admit I am not much of a fan of the album (which is odd, as I am a big solo Barrett fan).  Still, I suspect the extent to which most will like the book depends upon their feelings towards the album.

I highly recommend all three of those other entries you listed.  I have read roughly 80 - 85% of the series, and I can tell you "Low" is still one of my absolute faves of the series, and it was quite some time ago that I read it (it was one of the first ten or so that I tackled). 

"Entroducing" is also notable not just for the information, but also for being just a straight interview with DJ Shadow.  No muss, no fuss. 

As for "Notorious", it made me reappraise, and better appreciate, an album I used to be largely indifferent towards.  The book is a bit dry, and unusually heavy on the technical aspects and elements such as time signatures.  Still, it is a thorough and scholarly dissection of the album, and the author throws in some of his own feelings towards the record (which I always enjoy in the 33 1/3 series--the author explaining to me why the album at hand is important to them).  There's also some interesting behind-the-scenes drama, what with Crosby aggressively pushing his own tracks and drummer Clarke abruptly exiting the group (minor aside: the Legacy edition of the album has a lengthly bonus track that makes the listener a fly-on-the-wall during that very uncomfortable altercation).

Anyways, I recommend pulling the trigger on all three books, with "Low" being my highest recommendation.  I'm not sure which titles Shake It has in stock at the moment, but they are the only retailer in this area that I know carries the series.

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