Book Lovers

Driving on the Rim
Thomas McGuane

Irving Berlin (“Berl”) Pickett is a housepainter-turned-doctor-turned-housepainter who, upon suspension of his clinic duties reflects on a life spent as an immature fool. His inability (or unwillingness) to grow up is the novel’s source of both comedy and tragedy, and sets Pickett apart from those around him as more of a constant narrator of his life instead of a fellow actor. Pickett’s deadpan style is incredibly rich in one-liners and will appeal to fans of Kurt Vonnegut or Heller's Catch-22.  Pickett’s tale is much more remarkable in its cast than in its actual events. Driving on the Rim is a great read for those more concerned with colorful character than profound plot. 

Oct 18, 2011
The Family Fang
Kevin Wilson

Caleb and Camille Fang are extreme performance artists.  Their attempts at art are staged happenings in real situations meant to bring chaos and shake up the mundane.  Being as quirky as they are, it is no wonder that their children have failed at becoming well-adjusted adults.  Annie and Buster were raised as part of their stunts, but have each chosen their own creative paths.  Annie became an actress while Buster became a writer, deeply disappointing their parents who believe that nothing is more important than their odd art.  When Annie and Buster come hit rough patches in their lives and careers, they return home to live with their eccentric parents.  They figure out that their parents have one last final performance planned, one that will be their crowning glory.  Once Annie and Buster have figured out their parents's plan, they are forced to question and confront their previously held notions of love, family and art.  The Family Fang is Kevin Wilson's debut novel, combining humor, tragedy and suspense in a successful manner.  Highly recommended for readers of quirky and strange fiction.

Oct 8, 2011
The Sisters Brothers
Patrick DeWitt

This is a western about a pair of brothers: Charlie, a dark, lean, heavy-drinking gun-for-hire; and Eli, his riding companion and conscience, a little overweight and seeking an end to the killing lifestyle (though with his own mean streak). As it happens, Charlie and Eli Sisters are on the trail of a man their boss, Commodore, has ordered them to dispose of. This sometimes brooding, sometimes humorous picaresque is about the adventures they encounter on their find to find Mr. Hermann Warm, including an encounter (and a curse) with a desert witch, a goldmining boss set to take their bounty and their lives, and plenty of squabbles settled Old West-style (gun fights and killing). The humor is dry  and dark, but spot on for the Western setting. Recommended for those readers who like a little reflection amid flying bullets and flasks of whiskey.

Oct 4, 2011
Snow Flower and the Secret Fan
Lisa See

Before Lilly can begin her foot binding, her feet are recognized as having great potential to form “perfect golden lilies.” This increases her potential for a good marriage and improved status in her village. Part of this upward mobility is a match with Snow Flower, a laotong ( “old same”) with whom she will form a lifelong friendship. Writing in the women’s language of nu shu, Lilly and Snow Flower chronicle their lives through triumphs, loss and tragic misunderstandings, a “marriage of emotions” that will change their lives forever. See’s novel presents a wonderful contrast between the rigidity of social relationships and the variety and richness of relationships among women in nineteenth-century China.

Oct 4, 2011
Foundation - Isaac Asimov
Isaac Asimov

This classic science fiction novel by Isaac Asimov is the first of a trilogy that tells the story of the Galactic Empire, a human civilization set somewhere into the distant future where humanity has colonized the entire galaxy.  One man, Hari Seldon, has developed the science of psychohistory, which allows him to mathematically determine all possibilties in large societies and predict long term outcomes.  He is able to conclude that the Galactic Empire is destined to decay over the next 500 years and revert to barbarism for 30,000 years if something isn't done.  Seldon comes up with a scheme that involves establishing the Foundation which will allow knowledge to be preserved through the creation of the Encyclopedia Galactica.  The novel consists of five short stories that describe several of Seldon's predictions.  Many other authors have gone on to write books that take place in the Foundation universe.

Oct 4, 2011
See A Little Light: The Trail of Rage and Melody
Bob Mould

Prolific songwriter Bob Mould finally sits down to tell his story.  Starting with his childhood of abuse and loneliness, Mould shows the trajectory is life took, coming to terms with who he is.  See A Little Light covers his early punk and hardcore days in Husker Du, where he first made a name for himself, continues through his successful music career in the well-loved band, Sugar, and finally reaches his time as a solo musician.  Along the way, he talks about his struggles with alcohol and drug addiction, his sexuality and complicated relationships.  There's even the surprising time when Mould worked in wrestling as a writer.  All this ends up with Mould finally accepting himself and obtaining authentic happines. 

Oct 3, 2011
These Things Hidden
Heather Gudenkauf

In a small town in Iowa, we meet four women: Alison, who has returned to her hometown after five years in prison for a terrible crime; Brynn, Alison’s estranged sister; Charm, a young nursing student who cares for her sick stepfather; and Claire, the owner of a local bookstore. From start to finish Gudenkauf slowly reveals the secrets that connect these women in a gripping tale about family, guilt and unconditional love.

Sep 26, 2011
The Psychopath Test: A Journey Through the Madness Industry
Jon Ronson

Jon Ronson's newest book, The Psychopath Test, manages to be engaging and even funny at times as it delves into psychopathy and Bob Hare's psychopath checklist.  This is a light read investigating the whats and the wheres of psychopaths, giving a broad overview, written by a journalist.  It is not a deeply researched book on psychopathy by a psychologist or psychiatrist.  With that in mind, it is highly entertaining with disturbing and amusing anecdotes. 

Sep 25, 2011
A Drink Before the War
Dennis Lehane

When a cleaning woman from the Massachusetts State House disappears with sensitive documents, private investigators Patrick Kenzie and Angela Gennaro are hired to find her. With a little digging they discover that this is much more complicated than a simple blackmail case: their subject possesses photographs that will ruin a congressman’s career, incite a gang war and deliver some justice for the victim of a long-forgotten crime. The first in Lehane’s Kenzie and Gennaro series, Shamus Award-winning debut is a strong introduction to key players and a great introduction to Lehane’s style of writing.

Sep 23, 2011
Falling Man by Don DeLillo
Falling Man
Don DeLillo

This is the story of Keith Neudecker, a lawyer and survivor of the World Trade Center attacks on 9/11/01 who shows up at his estranged wife’s apartment covered in ash and blood on the day of the attacks. It is also the story of the Falling Man, a performance artist who shows up unannounced after the attacks in business suit hanging from balconies and overpasses, like the infamous picture of the man who jumped out of the burning towers. The description of the events of 9/11 are harrowing, intense, and reflective (the beginning and end are realistic renderings). For the survivors and their families, daily events follow and routines spring up out of need to fill space vacated by lost friends amid this life-altering experience. Even though DeLillo is regarded as a more literary writer, I thought this book was accessible, though not sentimental or overtly patriotic. Recommended to anyone interested in learning about the emotional turmoil this tragic event caused.

Sep 20, 2011

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