Books I’m At Least Half-Heartedly Reading


This post, much like me, is all business.

Thirteen, by Philip K. Morgan. Besides just knowing it has to be good since the author’s name includes his middle initial….this is science fiction of some sort. They have special categories involving cool words such as steam and punk and post-steam and cyber. I haven’t the foggiest what any of those labels mean. I don’t care enough to wiki it to find out. This is of the murder mystery variety. Involving genetically altered humans with whom you absolutely do not mess. Except for some people do. And end up dead. I’m enjoying it thoroughly.

Killing Yourself to Live: 85% of a True Story, by Chuck Klosterman. Klosterman sets out on an epic journey to visit interesting (maybe even important) sites of death involving rock stars. Ostensibly — and this is a really cool idea for a book — he is going to try to understand why some rock stars seem to take on a greater cultural meaning only after their death. Fun to read. Klosterman is funny and smart. The book, a third of the way in, really has nothing to do with rock stars killing themselves. But the journey is sufficiently epic enough, and Klosterman is funny enough, that it doesn’t really matter.

Tree of Smoke, by Denis Johnson. Set during the Vietnam War. Only 100 pages into the book. Johnson’s characters are amazing. He creates military characters that are not the typical depiction of rough and tough characters. They are rough and tough, but they are also compassionate and intellectual. And the novel has way more dialogue than most novels. Dialogue is hard to pull off, I think, especially when writers depend on big chunks of the story being told strictly through dialogue. Johnson does this brilliantly.

Shakespeare: The World as Stage, by Bill Bryson. This is a history of the histories of Shakespeare. It’s short. It’s funny. Bryson is a wonderful story teller. I realize I’m a dork, but I’m having a hard time thinking of people who wouldn’t enjoy this book — including the majority of people I know, people who care nothing about Shakespeare or plays or English history. One of the few books I’ve read in a while that I’d recommend to just about anyone who asks me for a book recommendation.

The Amulet of Samarkand, by Jonathan Stroud. This is the first book in a trilogy. Think: Harry Potter. It’s children’s / young adult fiction. I’m a Harry Potter fan, so I kind of want to like this book. But it’s about a young magician. In London. Who outwits all the adult magicians and assorted ne’er-do-wells. I’m sure there are better young children’s / young adult books to be read.  

23 Responses to “Books I’m At Least Half-Heartedly Reading”

  1. alsturgeon Says:

    I would so much rather read your reviews than any actual books.

    Hey Mikey, I now have a Pepperdine email addy!!! Woo hoo!!!

    I’m reading two books right now: (1) The Shack (on a recommendation – not enjoying it yet), and (2) Resident Aliens (a theology book, not science fiction) by my buddy, Hauerwas.

    My next book to read is The Westing Game. My 6th grade teacher read it to our class and we loved it. I recommended it to my (now) 6th grade daughter who enjoyed it, too, and told me I HAD to read it again!

  2. mrspeacock Says:

    I agree. Your book reviews are better than actual books.

    I’m adding Killing Yourself to Live and the Shakespeare book to my reading list. I’ll read Thirteen when they turn it into a graphic novel. Which they better do.

    I’m reading Eat, Pray, Love (along with every other woman in America). I knew I would love the Italy section, but I’m surprised at how much I’m liking the ashram in India. Only one more country to go. I’m also reading The Idiot’s Guide to Starting and Running your own Coffee Shop. Pretty self-explanatory.

    Al, what is up with you and this Hauerwas guy? Do I sense a man crush?

  3. alsturgeon Says:

    Uh-oh. Now she’s done it. Prepare for another onslaught of Hauerwas-inspired posts.

    Well, maybe one or two. 🙂

  4. urbino Says:

    Tree of Smoke wore. me. out. I finally gave up on it, bought the audiobook version, and haven’t been able to finish it that way, either. I can’t put my finger on why, because I liked it. I’ll be interested to hear your further thoughts. (Laura Miller wrote a really interesting review of it, btw, which you might want to look up on Salon, sometime.)

    You’re turning into quite the steam punk. Is that allowed in sunny Cali? I figured you had to live in Gary, Indiana, or Milwaukee or Flint or something, and be all goth and such.

    Currently reading: Lush Life by Richard Price.

    He was one of the writers for HBO’s The Wire, and is up there in the pantheon of current crime/mystery novelists, so I thought I’d give him a try. It’s very good. You can see the gears of the novel turning — insert contradictory evidence into Slot A, and fold character complication B over Tab C — but it’s compelling enough as story to keep you involved. And he’s good with the street/police slang and the surprising metaphor.

  5. Michael Lasley Says:

    I just picked up Lush Life. It’s probably next on my reading list.

    Tree of Smoke is slow. Miller always has interesting insights. I’ll give her article a look-see.

    It’s fun to read apocalyptic novels while sitting on the beach. Adds a layer of irony to it all.

    Congrats on the email addy, Al! One step closer.

  6. urbino Says:

    It gets slower. Or maybe, and this goes back to something Miller said, it just moves in circles rather than linearly. I think I got tired of circling.

  7. urbino Says:

    The Idiot’s Guide to Starting and Running your own Coffee Shop

    Thinking of doing such, Mrs.P? A colleague and I were just saying the other day that if somebody put one in the little strip mall behind the office park where we work, they’d probably do a brisk business.

  8. DeJon05 Says:

    I love Scott McClellan… site unseen.

  9. mrspeacock Says:

    I am, in fact, thinking of doing such! But in a little town down the road we like to call Jackson, TN.

  10. urbino Says:

    Jackson? But it’ll get hit by a tornado.

  11. Michael Lasley Says:

    Yeh…..McClellan seems to have pissed everyone off. The only thing I’ve read about the controversy was whatever was on the front page of

  12. urbino Says:

    Yeah, he’s definitely not winning any new friends at the old clubhouse. The conservative commentariat hates him as a traitor (Dolchstoss! Dolchstoss! Dolchstoss!), and the WH has decided to handle the whole thing basically as Poor Scotty’s Nervous Breakdown.

  13. mrspeacock Says:

    Jackson? But it’ll get hit by a tornado.
    True, true. But that’s why you pay the big bucks for insurance, right?

  14. urbino Says:

    Al, you want to chime in on this point?

  15. alsturgeon Says:

    BUY FLOOD INSURANCE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  16. urbino Says:

    I thought they didn’t pay off on that, anyway.

  17. alsturgeon Says:

    Okay, here’s a quick primer on disasters:

    #1: FEMA sucks

    #2: If your house is blown away by wind and water, the wind people will say the water did it, and the water people will say the wind did it, and you will soon create brand new curse words in a Pentecostal tongues-speaking sort of way. (This is if you HAVE flood insurance.) But lawyers make money along the way, which makes everyone happy.

    #3: If you don’t have flood insurance, you’re just screwed.

    #4: FEMA sucks

    So bottom line: BUY FLOOD INSURANCE!!! At least some lawyers make some money…

  18. urbino Says:

    #2 was what I had in mind re Mrs.P’s tornado strategy: that is, having insurance and getting any benefit from insurance are two largely unrelated things. Wait till you get to law school, Al, and find out how skewed the rules [intentionally] are toward insurance companies.

    It’ll make you weep. It’ll make your dog weep. It’ll make your roof leak.

  19. Whitney Says:

    I read a book! Actually two! I can’t believe it!!! I had time to READ!
    The first was one no one here would probably be interested in, called “The Homefront Club” writted by a Navy wife to military wives. It was excellent, funny, and took a humorous spin on the hard truths we have to face day in and day out. I loved it. But I probably loved it because it spoke to me and totally described my own experiences with much more eloquence than I’ll ever have.

    The second was “The Last Summer (of You and Me)” by Anne Brashears (Sp?) who wrote the “Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants” series. I also enjoyed it. Not deep, all that much, but a good story, and a quick read, which I needed. A definite summer love-story tragedy sort of thing. Awwww.

    I only had a week, so getting two books in between sightseeing on Kauai and spending much-needed quality time with my husband was like a small and welcome miracle to me.

    Mrs. P, I think your coffee shop sounds just awesome and truly wish you the best. Can we name it? I just want to hear what Mikey & JU come up with. “Mrs. P’s” might not be the best. How about “Hippo House”…wait, that would drive too many women away….

  20. alsturgeon Says:

    What about Thirsty, Thirsty Hippos?

  21. urbino Says:

    I suspect Mrs.P has cleverer names in mind than I could come up with.

  22. mrspeacock Says:

    Thank you for the well-wishes, Whitney! I haven’t completely settled on a name just yet. I’ve learned from past experience that it’s easier to write a song than come up with a band name. The same seems to be true of a coffee shop, sadly. I’m hereby accepting name nominations! Thirsty, Thirsty Hippos is at the top of the list. And, Urbino, you’re a naming machine! Get on it.

  23. urbino Says:

    How about:

    Utley’s: A Coffee Shop

    The Storm Cellar (Seriously, We Have a Storm Cellar.)

    Johnny Depp

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