31 October 2006

30 October 2006

Okay, I'll say it: I've been in kind of a book rut recently. I was reading a lot of stuff for work that was not inspiring, and which left me too tired to read anything else besides. Isn't it hell when you can't find a good book? I just get so disillusioned with life; it seems like all the sparkle goes out. This weekend did a lot to turn that around. While traveling home -- more on that later -- I read four really good books in a row (three of which I'll talk about here) and now I feel all energized to tackle the rest of my stack.

Ted Heller, SLAB RAT. Recommended to me via Sara Nelson's SO MANY BOOKS, SO LITTLE TIME (she's the editor of Publisher's Weekly, so she should know!) A dark comedy set in the magazine world at a "Vanity Fair"-ish rag called It. The slab in question is the giant, menacing building in which protagonist Zach Post lives and works. So much of it rings true, even the zany bits. It's out of print, but go to your library and hunt it up (or get it second-hand).

Ken Jennings, BRAINIAC. I expected this one -- part memoir, part history from the world's winningest "Jeopardy!" champ -- to be good, and it was better than expected. I had read some things on Jennings' blog before, so I knew what to expect as far as his writing style -- wry, occasionally over-explained, salted with clean but occasionally lame jokes -- but I was pleasantly surprised at how much I enjoyed following him through his "Jeopardy!" run. The trivia questions in each chapter don't hurt either.

Laurie Graham, GONE WITH THE WINDSORS. A Whartonian history in diary form? I'm so there. Maybell is a young rich widow who goes to stay with her sister in London in the 1930s, where she reconnects with an old friend -- Wallis "Wally" Warfield Simpson, a social climber with a vengeance. Maybell is not too smart, so her diary dutifully records Wally's attempts to be introduced to the prince, but she couldn't have predicted that Wally would ever become romantically attached to the prince, or what would happen after. This reminded me of an Ann Rinaldi book I read when I was younger, IN MY FATHER'S HOUSE, which employs a Civil War coincidence (the farmer in whose fields the war began ended up providing the Appomattox house where the war ended) as the backdrop to a coming-of-age story, but subtly ensures you will never forget the historical events of the time.

I realized while sitting in Newark Airport that airports, or really any kind of transportation hub, are the best places to read. I may also enjoy reading in bed with my flashlight, but airports are so nowhere and general that anything you read feels like a specific somewhere. Plus it's much less messy than, oh, assembling scrapbooks, or knitting, or building things out of Legos. Not a lot of small pieces to a book, usually, is what I mean.

I caught a glimpse of Mark Z. Danielewski's Only Revolutions at a bookstore in Newark on my way home (killing time before the bus) and I am daunted, but want to try it. Anyone read it? The Antonia Fraser book on Marie Antoinette also caught my eye, but due to the popularity of the movie the tie-in edition, the only one in stores, costs $17 list in paperback. (I didn't love the movie, although I do love Steve Coogan.)

22 October 2006

Sounds like heaven!

Book... fair? All I can think of is the days when Scholastic would bring all their new stock into my elementary-school gym and class by class we'd get to go and Buy! Books! Which reminds me of the time I got in trouble for ordering from the school book club, but that is another matter entirely.

12 October 2006

My friend Brian swears by Greil Marcus, so I guess I'll add this book to all the other ones of his that are supposed to be great. Plus, everyone loves a good Laura Palmer joke. (Salon)

11 October 2006

Not how I would have put it.

"The Book Of My Enemy Has Been Remaindered" Via reading under the covers.

Booker 2006: Kiran Desai Takes Home A 'Manny'

The envelope, please: Kiran Desai bests David Mitchell, Sarah Waters to take the Booker Prize. I requested it at my local library as soon as I heard -- did you? Meanwhile, the Nobel Prize sucks, says Salon (via Largehearted Boy). Notable sentence from that piece: Perhaps we shouldn't be so surprised when the [Nobel] blows up in our faces. (Among other things, Alfred Nobel invented dynamite. Classy.