Coming Soon

by

The thing I love most about life in the academy, other than teaching, is the breaks. Contrary to what most people think, most professors actually work during the break. I happen to be one of the ones who enjoys the work I do during breaks, which is read. And I love it that I get to go home and have my reading interrupted by my nephews. I successfully taught them to tell everyone that “Michael is Handsome.” They added “and burpy” to the end of it at some point, which makes it even better. Joshy, the 4 year old, is apparently worried about my not being married, which led to a few interesting conversations. Finally we decided that he would marry Elastigirl from The Incredibles and I would marry Syndrom’s helper, whose name I can’t remember, but the platinum blonde girl. That seemed to settle his worried mind. So, I read quite a bit, but I didn’t finish much. I started five or six books and finished only one. It’s hard to read after playing construction all morning.

But here’s some of what I’ve been reading and will try to review soon.

John Crowley’s Lord Byron’s Novel: The Evening Land. I bought it last summer but just got around to reading it, and I might try to do a proper review of this at some point. The skinny of it is that an encrypted copy of a novel written by Lord Byron was discovered and un-encrypted. It had been encrypted by Byron’s daughter, a daughter he had never seen and who had been raised (or reared, to be grammatically correct) to hate her father. The novel is discovered by a young woman in the 21st century who had also been raised to hate a father she never saw. Crowley is an amazing writer. He is able to write distinct voices in astonishingly well. In this novel, he writes in the voice of Byron, Byron’s daughter, and then a few modern characters. Crowley does a great job of creating Byron’s novel. That part of the book is great. The surrounding story (the modern one) is less interesting. This is a slow reading book, and it’s not Crowley’s best (Little, Big is a classic), but it’s worth browsing through in the bookstore.

Neil Gaiman’s American Gods: This is a very popular novel. My students even read it without someone telling them to. I’ve been itching to read Gaiman’s work. But I was very much let down. It’s a book of cliched conversations. The story is interesting, and if I review this book later, I’ll focus on that, but the dialogue is horrible. And the characters are cliches as well.

Bill Flanagan’s U2: At the End of the World: For U2 fans, I’d say this is a must read. It chronicles their lives during the recording of Achtung, Baby, which is my favorite album of theirs, and then the tour that follows. There is a lot of insight into the creativity of the band, but there is also a lot of insight into the intelligence of the band. This is a band that does their homework in literature, music, politics, art. They aren’t just some guys who happen to play good music. It’s also just a fun read for people who have dreamed of being a rock star.

Jack Finney’s Time and Again: Buy this book. This book was written in the early 70s. I have no idea why I picked it up, but it is incredible. I will do a review of it soon, so I’ll just say that Finney is an incredible writer. He’s easily accessible (talks about Einstein’s theories in a way that I’m pretty sure anyone could understand) and the story is great. It’s a book about time travel, but in a way that is completely different than other treatments of time travel — no machines involved at all.

Alexandre Dumas’ The Count of Monte Cristo: I somehow managed to go through my graduate studies without reading this book. It is an absolute page-turner. Of course, there are 1400 pages to turn. I’m a third of the way through it and it makes me stay up late and get up early just to read more of it. Of all of the “classics” I’ve read, this is probably the one I’d recommend to people who don’t like to read.

Dan Chaon’s You Remind Me of Me: Chaon is a very good writer. This is a story of several “white trash” people and the ways some of them try to break the cycle of poverty and the ways others try to find ways to be content with their lives. So far, it’s good stuff.

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9 Responses to “Coming Soon”

  1. Al Sturgeon Says:

    Thanks, Mikey.

    I’m reading “Electric God” by Catherine Ryan Hyde (the author of “Pay It Forward”). I just happened to pick it up in the library on Monday, and by last night I was halfway through it (my way of saying that its hard to put down).

    I couldn’t remember the author’s name, so on a Yahoo check (I don’t Google!), I learned that it is being made into a movie with a projected release in 2007.

    Have you read it? Or any of her books?

  2. Sandi Says:

    As long as this is becoming a forum for book recommendations, here are some great ones I have read lately:

    102 Minutes (I forget the two authors’ names) — an account of what happened inside the World Trade Center on September 11, written by two NY Times reporters who interviewed over 200 people, read transcripts of emergency calls, etc. Fascinating reading, excruciating at times, but well worth it. In paperback.

    We Wish To Inform You That Tomorrow We Will Be Killed With Our Families by Philip Gourevich (sp?) — this is a book about what happened in Rwanda in 1994 and afterward, written by a journalist who traveled throughout the country and interviewed many people, including Paul Rusesabegina, the man whose story was chronicled in Hotel Rwanda. An amazing book.

    The Paradox of Choice by Barry Schwartz. This book is about how having an excessive number of choices to make, from big things like who to marry to small things like what jeans to buy, makes people unhappy. Really interesting.

    this is an oldie but a goodie — Guns Germs & Steel by Jared Diamond. it is definitely not a page-turner, but the ideas put forth are incredibly important and illuminating.

    As you can tell, I read mostly non-fiction. πŸ™‚

  3. Al Sturgeon Says:

    Hey Sandi,

    I read Guns, Germs, and Steel. A friend gave it to me Christmas ’04. I’m hardly smart enough to read such a thing (I was SO glad when I finished it, just from an endurance perspective!). It was very interesting, though.

  4. DeJon Redd Says:

    My two cents …

    Blue Like Jazz by Donald Miller: Subtitled “Non-religious thoughts on Christian Spirituality.” Miller’s perspective was salve for my disillusioned soul.

    Embedded in America: The Onion Complete News – I believe too many people take themselves too seriously.

    Three Nights in August: Twenty-one days until pitchers and catchers report!!

    My Year in Iraq by Bremer: It was interesting to hear Russert’s interview (15 Jan) having read most of this memoir. Kinda seems like this talk of troop-strength is forced news — Especially two years removed.

    Sandi, I read 102 Minutes about the same time as the 9/11 Commission Report… Your description is exactly how I felt.

  5. Michael Lasley Says:

    Al, I’ve not read anything by Hyde. I’ll look up Eletric God. I really liked Guns, Germs, and Steel. I keep meaning to pick up Collapse, but I haven’t had the time to read it. I wanted to read 102 Minutes, but I didn’t think I could handle it after reading The 9/11 report. We Wish to Inform You…is on my list to read soon, and I’m looking forward to it. Is Three Nights in August the book about Larussa? I’m itching for baseball season, so I’ll probably read a baseball book soon. Is it any good?

    I like the book recommendations.

    Also, I’m in no way territorial about the books column, so all of you can feel free to write a review or whatever and post it on Wednesdays.

    Mikey

  6. Al Sturgeon Says:

    Three Nights In August is about Larussa. Its good, but not as good as I suspected (since it was written by the Friday Night Lights guy).

  7. Annie Says:

    Thanks to Al’s recommendation, I finally read Traveling Mercies by Anne Lamotte. It was fascinating, and I would recommend it (not that anyone would take my recommendation over Al’s).

  8. Al Sturgeon Says:

    Better said Annie, “not that anyone would take Al’s recommendations.” πŸ™‚

    Except you, it seems! I’m honored!

    Although a lot of Christian people will/have read “Traveling Mercies” and hate you, me, and Anne Lamott. She has a sequel out now – “Plan B” – by the way. I really liked it, too.

    This “Electric God” book I’m reading now is really good and really depressing so far. I stayed up to midnight reading it last night, and I will finish it tonight. No matter what. Nicolas Cage has the lead in the movie they are just starting to make. Which means my wife is suddenly interested.

  9. susansinclair Says:

    Thanks, Mikey, for the time travel book. (I saw the lousy movie version of Time and Again, but didn’t realize there was a good book behind it. Silly me.) I really enjoyed Connie Wills’s Doomsday Book and To Say Nothing of the Dog, as well. And I recently read Crichton’s Timeline, which was reasonably enjoyable but not as much fun as Wills’s. That is, if you want some fun out of your reading.

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