February 02, 2005

On Books: December and January

When I prepared my whole review of the top books of 2004 earlier this month, I managed to forget about posting what I’d read in December. Combine that with January’s reading list – I’ve got a tired, pregnant wife so its quite a long one – and I’ve managed to come up with a lot of stuff to review. And that? Would be boring for everyone and a hell of a lot of typing for me. So, to make it less painful for everyone, especially those of you with short attention spans like me today, I give you my concise reviews!

The Man With The Golden Gun: Ian Fleming
Good, but not as good as some of the other Bond books (Dr. No and You Only Live Twice hold up much better). Regardless, I grew up on the movies so going back and reading the books is always fun. There’s a trend though – aside from the general plot, very little translates from the books into the movies.

Kiss Me Judas, Penny Dreadful and Hell’s Half Acre: Will Christopher Baer
Imagine a fucked up Chuck Palahniuk. Okay, okay…a more fucked up Chuck Palahniuk. Interested? Will Christopher Baer is your guy. All three of these novels revolve around anti-hero Phineas Poe. All three are raw, brutal and hallucinogenic. And? Extremely entertaining…in a dark, twisted kind of way.

Girls: Nic Kelman
Probably the second worst thing I’ve read over the last couple of months. Its complete, unadulterated crap. We’re supposed to feel sorry for rich, male protagonists who can’t seem to find any way to get their minds off of young and occasionally underage girls? ‘Cmon! Oh, and Mr. Kelman? When you suggest the works of Faulkner, Melville and Hemingway as 'further reading', you’re left sounding stupid and arrogant especially in light of your own inability to write anything decent.

The Enemy: Lee Child
Occasionally, I just like a good mystery or thriller. This fit the bill nicely. Child’s books are always entertaining. Pulp, but entertaining.

Possession: James A. Moore
I don’t advocate burning books…unless its this one. Moore’s previous novel, Fireworks, was pretty good. I thought I’d give this one a shot because I was in the mood for something mindless and entertaining. It sure was mindless. Perhaps what bothered me most was a complete absence of anything resembling a plot. It was really all downhill from there.

How We Are Hungry: Dave Eggers
I loved his debut, A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius, but in no way did I consider it “the shit” as did so many others. With this collection of short stories, however, Eggers proves he can write. It is, perhaps, the best collection of short fiction I’ve ever read…and I’m not a huge short fiction fan.

Another Bullshit Night In Suck City: Nick Flynn
Flynn’s memoir is truly one of the most absorbing memoirs I’ve ever read. Imagine, if you will, working in a homeless shelter…and running into your homeless father.

A Movie…And A Book: Daniel Wagner
This extremely short volume is truly original. Reading this elicits a feeling similar to the one I’d imagine the actors felt when they read the script for Memento. Wagner guides the Escheresque plot masterfully. Its odd, quirky yet only marginally satisfying after all is said and done.

The Polysyllabic Spree: Nick Hornby
Have you read Hornby’s Songbook? You really should. This, Hornby’s latest effort, is a must for readers. Over the course of several months, he chronicles the books he buys and reads. Yet, as he did with Songbook, essay topics expand to cover his thoughts on just about anything. Hornby, as always, is funny and genuine.

Little Children: Tom Perrotta
Perrotta satirizes suburban life, especially the young, upwardly mobile residents with small children. Little Children is well-written and occasionally funny yet it seemed a little too light and airy to me. Worth reading but its not going to change your life.

The Hanged Man’s Song: John Sandford
Sandford is a reliable writer of mysteries and thrillers and this, his latest, did nothing to change my opinion. Like so many novels of the genre, it was largely inconsequential pulp but it was a great deal of fun to read.

Home Land: Sam Lipsyte
Ever get those alumni newsletters from your old school? The ones detailing what folks from your class are up to now? Imagine would the updates from the self-professed class loser would look like. And there you have Home Land.

Molvania – A Land Untouched by Modern Dentistry: Santo Cilauro, ed.
Molvania is a fake travel guide. That’s the joke. But somehow that one joke manages to work through 200 pages of restaurant and hotel descriptions, photographs, and histories of this imagined country. I don’t remember laughing harder at anything I’ve read in a very long time.

Jennifer Government: Max Barry
Barry imagines a world in the not too distant future in which corporations eclipse government influence…and surprisingly its not all that difficult to believe. Not exactly a leap that’s tough to make. Above all else, its deftly handled satire that makes some interesting points but doesn’t allow the entertainment value to suffer because of them.

Gone, Baby, Gone: Denis Lehane
Known primarily for Mystic River, Lehane’s first series of mystery novels have gone largely unnoticed. Which is a shame because they’re brilliant. There can be no doubt that Lehane is talented. This is no exception.

Posted by Chris at February 2, 2005 02:15 PM

Thanks Chris - as usual makes me want to go out and buy a bunch of these.

Posted by: Bill Murray at February 2, 2005 02:27 PM

wow so the Dave Eggers book is good eh? I absolutely adored his debut and of course caved and ordered the self-published version of "They Shall Know our Velocity" only to be EXTREMELY disappointed.
i'll check it out!


Posted by: wn at February 2, 2005 02:53 PM

You read that many books in two months?! I would be lucky to finish one book a month. Count your blessings, Chris. You have 6 months of free time left. After that, poof! Its gone.

Posted by: Jon in Michigan at February 2, 2005 04:19 PM

I just have to say, you have interesting choices...personally I prefer some trashy romance novels or a really bloody horror novel, theres nothing better than a ton of sex and even more gore.

Posted by: jennifer at February 2, 2005 04:25 PM

Dude - I thought I read a lot...I thnk I go through 2 or 3 a week for a spell and then a dry slot. I am currently reading Carl Hiaasen's "Native Tongue" and Barack Obama's autobiography.

Posted by: Sue at February 2, 2005 05:57 PM

LOL @ John in Michigan. I was gonna say chronic book reading is a luxary for those without child(ren). Unless you count childrens' books. :) Another Bullshit Night In Suck City sounds really fascinating! Must pick it up for my February reading. And it will take me an entire month to read between karate practice, homework, entertaining the wee one and his pals, and doing everything else to keep the household afloat. :)

Posted by: groovebunny at February 2, 2005 06:59 PM

I used to read like that once upon a time too....then I had a daughter LOL

Posted by: Nina at February 2, 2005 10:52 PM

Ya know, you aren't helping my book addiction but giving me a whole new list ;)

Posted by: chrissie at February 4, 2005 12:20 PM