Recent Books

Before I get to the books ... Tonight my wife said something she thought she'd never say: "Please do a blog post." What prompted this? The hideous photo of me dressed up for Halloween. I must admit, while it seemed funny at the time, post-Halloween it's disturbing. My chubby, pasty, hairy gut is an affront to all that is good and decent. (I can't believe I didn't get razzed in the comments for it.) The purpose of this post is to push the Halloween post down where it won't be seen.

Now to the books. I've read a few recently. Here are my reviews:

Founding Brothers - First a story. Last Fall I yearned for something new to read, so at lunch I stopped by a bookstore and asked a 50-something guy there what he recommended. Those of you who are more literary will probably view this as a rookie mistake. He showed me several books and I selected Founding Brothers. I immediately discovered this is not a light read. It's dense and precise. It's obvious the author knows this subject deeply and he works hard to craft each long sentence to convey the exact meaning and tone he intends. But this level of exactness is tiring and I put this book aside 4 times for other books. A less stubborn person would have dumped the book, but this book was my choice, and I paid money for it - not like some library loaner. So my pride compelled me to finish it. Well last week I finished it and I felt pleased I'd stuck with it. No, that's not true, I felt relieved to be done with it.
My twisted motivations aside, I'll try to give an impartial review. The author is obvious an expert in Revolutionary history. His ample command of language allows him to accurately convey his assembled picture of the scenes and the people involved. His insights into the events, motives, and personalities is fascinating. Consequently I gained a deeper understanding of a handful of key Revolutionary events. But the reading is slow going with long sentences filled with big words. Often I got to the end of a sentence only to realize I'd read the words but not soaked in the meaning, so I'd read it again. A good book, but it made me work and sometimes I resented that. Dug listened to the audiobook - that's the way to go as it would be a stimulating lecture.

Big Bang - From the title you'd expect this book to be a long, dry explanation of the big bang theory. But it's really a fascinating history of astronomy, cosmology, physics and other sciences that led to the theory of the big bang. I thoroughly enjoyed this book (disclaimer: I dig science), although the epilogue was a bit too philosophical. Also, some of the examples were not needed as the explanation was enough (but they are easy to skip).

The Five People You Meet In Heaven - Good writing, good story - I liked this book for what it is. Tough to do this kind of story without it being too sappy, sentimental, preachy - he mostly pulls it off. Some good ideas and food for thought.

We watched the made-for-TV movie based on this book with Jon Voight and it was pretty good.

The Book Thief - I liked the staccato writing style, the Nazi Germany setting and the unconventional 3rd person storytelling. Is kindness all that really matters in life? Possibly.

It was a freezer book for dug, and I agree with that.

Now I'm reading Angels And Demons. Everyone I asked liked it. So far it's a roller coaster ride like The Da Vinci Code. I'll finish it in a month - yeah, I'm a slow reader. I need to try some audiobooks for the commute, as dug and Mark have recommended.


JoshuaMcC said...

My wife has read The Book Thief three times. She's goofy about it. I recently overheard a conversations she had with our German neighbor who couldn't finish it because, apparently the German profanities throughout the book were to jarring for her.
I personally try not to read anything longer than a street sign.

KanyonKris said...

I'm not sure I'd like to read The Book Thief again, since I know how it ends.

I'm on a reading kick. Before last year I'd only read a book or two a year.

Ski Bike Junkie said...

Kris, I agree with you about Founding Brothers. Dug was stunned when I told him I didn't think Ellis was a great writer because he won the Pulitzer. But I contend he won the Pulitzer for his research, not for his ability to retell the stories. I tried that one in print and didn't get past 10 pages. It was easier as an audiobook because I had nowhere to go and nothing to do. 1776 by David McCullough is another good one from that period, and I think McCullough is a better writer.

I loved The Book Thief. One of my favorite books ever. I didn't think it was a freezer book, but maybe I'm weird that way. It's great as an audiobook because the reader is outstanding (that can make or break an audiobook). I also read "I Am the Messenger" by Zusak, and though enjoyable, I didn't find it as compelling. I've talked to others that liked it better than The Book Thief, though.

Maybe I'll try Big Bang--sounds interesting. I'm about 1/8 through "Reading Lolita in Tehran" and it's drudgery so far. Enough so that I may abandon.

29er said...

ACK! Need a longer post. I still see Wyatt Rash when I scroll down to your blog list.
Thanks Sweetie.

bikemike said...

yeah, i just started The Lost Symbol...i'm sure i'll regret it.
i'm TRYING to finish the third book in Cormac Mcarthy's border trilogy, Cities of The Plain and dang it, i'm having a hard time with this one. the first two were awesome but i'm really struggling with this one. iwon't give up but this one better have a great ending.