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Books I Done Been Reading

Filed Under: Book Reviews

I’ve been writing a lot about television. You could chalk it up to laziness, or summer, or the fact that I seriously watch way too much television. But it’s time to even things up a little. Here are some bookz I’ve been enjoying in the last few weeks. You should enjoy them too. Unless you prefer TV, in which case someone didn’t get enough Reading Rainbow as a kid.


bookshandmaid-100x100The Handmaid’s Tale I don’t know how I missed this book for so long. All I know about Margaret Atwood, or knew, was my wildly unimpressed response to the first 50 pages of The Blind Assassin. So when I discovered Handmaid’s Tale, by which I mean found it in the backseat of a friend’s car during a nine-hour drive back to the city from Cape Cod, I figured I might as well give her another shot; that shit paid off. Handmaid’s Tale is most often, and most accurately, compared to the George Orwell’s 1984, except with a bit of a feminist twist. In the story, women have been subjugated (vocab word of the day) and serve as either wives, “aunts” (middle-aged teachers and enforcers of the town’s doctrine of female subservience), housekeepers or handmaids (condoned mistresses). Society has been reduced to two goals: eliminate dissent and make babies. The book is told from the perspective of one handmaid, and it’s simultaneously witty, insightful and fucking terrifying. A must-read for fans of hypothetical conspiracy theories that may or may not come true in the next 10 to 15 years.


bookstower-100x100Dark Tower V: The Wolves of Calla Don’t worry, I’m not telling you to go ahead and get started on Stephen King’s infamous seven-book series by jumping in at No. 5. I just don’t feel like backtracking through the 3 million+ pages of this series I’ve already read. Which isn’t to say I’m not enjoying them; the Dark Tower books are, for lack of a better phrase, mad good. Anyone who’s read any King knows his predilection for science fiction meets mysticism meets plain old freaky shit. Add to that a touch of a western, plus a billion nerdy references and an astoundingly developed alternate reality, and you’ve got these books. The only downside? They start off small but gear up (by the fourth installation) to 700-page monstrosities that are unwieldy for subway rides and other long journeys. But Kindle be damned, I will power through.


booksdrinks-100x100I Drink for a Reason I’ve never seen or heard anything from David Cross that I didn’t enjoy, so it stands to reason that I’d like his books as well. Well, book. This is the comedian’s literary debut, something he references multiple times in the series of hilarious two-page essays put together to create something of book length. Topics range from “Ideas for T-shirts to be Sold at Urban Outfitters” (example: Punch Me, I’m Pregnant) to “A Free List of Quirks for Aspiring Independent Filmmakers” and I am apparently on page 200 even though I’m pretty sure I only started this book yesterday.


booksclemency-100x100The Northern Clemency Sometimes, and by sometimes I mean often, I am duped into buying some inordinately long and dense novel because of its a) interesting cover b) heaps of praise or c) metallic-looking sticker suggesting a win or near-win of some fanypants book award. TNC got me on all three. It’s one of those novels that’s kind of about stuff, but not enough stuff to warrant 700 pages (seriously, what’s going on with me and the 700-pagers?) so I’m struggling. TNC followers two families in England who live across the street from each other and have all sorts of mundane tragedy and scandal befall them over multiple decades. You can see how this could become tedious. It is beautifully written, and its high points are page-turners, but I am easily distracted from this novel.  …I’ve been reading it for four months.


booksmars-100x100Packing for Mars Mary Roach is probably the best science writer I’ve ever read. Now, she may also be the only science writer I’ve read, (because owning two unread Bill Bryson books doesn’t count, I don’t think) but the claim is still valid. Her previous three books – about death, ghosts and sex, respectively – are more accessible than Mars, which documents historical and present-day preparations for space travel, but this one is still pretty damn good. Did you know, for instance, that men have been on the moon?! No, seriously, the book is chock full of crazy tidbits on everything from astronauts’ hygiene habits to the respective temperaments of space’s first chimps. Most importantly though, Roach is fucking hilarious, which is something I’d find it difficult to be when suspended in zero gravity near a grad student throwing up their lunch.


And that’s all! So now we’ve sufficiently established that I do more than watch reality television (but not much more) and I can go back to recapping the latest shenanigans on Jersey Shore.

 
kira

10:22 AM on September 9th, 2010 | 

Posted by kira

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Surrender Dorothy

Filed Under: Book Reviews

wicked-402x450As an avid reader and even more avid frequenter of bookstores, I’ve stumbled across Gregory Maguire’s Wicked more than a few times in the past several years. Particularly after the book was translated into a Broadway musical–which I am seeing for the first time this weekend–it became fairly impossible to avoid seeing Maguire’s various fairy-tale remakes on shelves everywhere. Only recently, prompted in fact by my imminent trek to Broadway, did I bother picking it up.

Here’s the thing: I really didn’t want to like Wicked, and for no particular reason. I suppose some part of me thought the very idea of revisiting stories already told was corny, to say nothing of a bit of a cop-out on the part of an author. I thought the book would be a cliche, the same way I have no intention of reading Stephenie Meyer’s fifth Twilight book, which re-tells Book 1 through the eyes of another character. In my world, where at any given time some 200 books wait, unread, in my apartment, there’s no time for repetition.

So extra kudos go to Maguire for manging to tell an excellent story that not only impressed me, but changed my mind entirely. What The Wizard of Oz dispels by way of hokey morals and annoying canines, Wicked re-offers through a much more somber lens: the story centers around Elphaba, a resident of Oz with green skin, who later becomes what we know as the Wicked Witch of the West. But more importantly, the story focuses on the political and religious inclinations of all the various people of Oz; it touches on questions of royalty and hierarchy, on political unrest, revolution and ruling with an eye to the divine. It brings up issues of good and evil, right and wrong, and guilt and forgiveness. In short, it’s a very serious book that just so happens to star a central character of its less-serious predecessor. Also, there’s sex. And dirty jokes. And violence.

So if anyone out there still reads books, this one comes highly recommended. I suspect it’s more worth your time than, say, Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland.

 
kira

2:08 PM on November 6th, 2009 | 

Posted by kira

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The Da Vinci Ode

Filed Under: Book Reviews

danbrown

Dan Brown dresses as Robert Langdon for Halloween.

Though an avid reader several times over, I have never considered myself much of a literary elitist—I’m as likely to be reading one of the Gossip Girl books as War and Peace. So when the release date of Dan Brown’s latest book, The Lost Symbol, was officially announced, it swiftly earned a notation in my Outlook calendar, right between “dentist appointment” and “pick up cat food.” Seriously, my itinerary is the stuff of legends.

But in my excitement—which has less to do with Dan Brown fandom, and more with the nerd-like joy I get from knowing there are a handful of authors who can convince anyone and everyone to read—I had forgotten one thing: Dan Brown really can’t write.

Indeed, much criticism has been made in recent weeks of Brown’s ascent to stardom – a great deal of it, I suspect, from jealous authors who haven’t yet accepted that America’s predilection for lowbrow entertainment transcends all media; why would a country that’s tolerated a half-dozen seasons of Survivor display anything different when it comes to books? In spite of the success of authors like Dean Koontz, Clive Cussler and James Patterson, the last of whom doesn’t even write all of his own books, people seem baffled that America is head over heels for someone like Dan Brown, someone whose writing classes appear to have revolved around the motto “More adjectives, please!” Read More ›

 
kira

3:19 PM on September 28th, 2009 | 

Posted by kira

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Buddy Yes, Savior Not So Much

Filed Under: Book Reviews

buddychristSometimes, when I’m not watching TV, or reprogramming my faulty DVR for the ninth time, or idly wondering whether mood rings come in “irritable,” I read books. And since this is my blog and I’ll wax intellectual if I want to, I feel it’s high time I start reviewing them. Because trust me, there are a lot (175 unread books in my 330-square-foot apartment, to be exact).

The most important thing you need to know about God Is Not Great—it’s a rather awkward book to read in public. Which isn’t to say that New Yorkers have any specific problem with atheism, or one 20-something semi-hipster predictably reading about it on the subway, but one finds it hard to ignore the looks, which vary from skepticism to accusation (by the way, in a rant for another time, I find the Kindle really hampers my predilection for observing what others are reading on the train). Then again, maybe it’s just some watered-down version of Catholic guilt that has me wanting to reach out to fellow riders; “I’m not an atheist; I mean, maybe, I don’t know. I’m just—the book was on sale.” Read More ›

 
kira

10:06 AM on September 9th, 2009 | 

Posted by kira

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Do they publish Blindness in braille?

Filed Under: Book Reviews

I’m not entirely sure what I was thinking when I picked up Jose Saramago’s Blindness. Well, that’s a lie – I knew exactly what I was thinking. I was thinking that I really should have shelled out the 15 bucks sooner since my book club meeting was fast-approaching and reading all 326 pages in less than a week was going to cut into my reality television time. But besides that, having seen a few trailers for the book’s imminent film adaptation, and read the back cover, I don’t know why I was still hoping for sunshine and rainbows. Read More ›

 
kira

1:59 PM on October 2nd, 2008 | 

Posted by kira

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