Sunday, October 01, 2006

BooksFirst - September 2006

Books Read

A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson
Florence of Arabia by Christopher Buckley
The Deep Blue Goodbye by John D. MacDonald

Books Bought

Special Topics in Calamity Physics by Marisha Pessl

Books Donated

Anne of Greene Gables
The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman
Some obscure Judy Blume book
Four books based on the Peter Rabbit tales
A Blues Clues books
Two other books I can’t remember


This is the month I finally broke the two book jinx that I have had. The key was that I was had read most of the Bill Bryson book in August. It nearly made the August list, but since I had a few chapters to go, I made myself defer it to this month's list. I refuse to give myself credit for a book I don’t completely finish because I am notoriously famous for getting distracted ¾ of the way through and then never finishing. Since I finished that early in the month, that gave me plenty of time to fit two more books in.

The Short History of Nearly Everything is a bit of a misnomer, since it is really not particularly short and hardly covers everything. Unless everything covers astrophysics, geology, and biology. Which it might. As someone who read close to the entire Asimov oeuvre in junior high, I have been exposed in one way or another to most of the topics discussed. I did enjoy the gossipy sections about the scientists, but even that got tired after awhile. There are much better books about each of the five topics covered that aren't much longer than the individual sections and more comprehensive.

Bill Bryson is a good writer but I felt he was slumming in the science writer category. I would like to know what else he has written that would be more representative of his typical style.

Christopher Buckley is a comic genius and I was really looking forward to Florence of Arabia which is about a disgruntled State Department that sets off a feminist revolution in a very thinly veiled (or burkha’ed as the case may be) Saudi Arabia called Wasabia in the book. Unfortunately, the events of the past three years in Iraq have totally overtaken the premise of the book and it reads dated even though it came out in 2004. There are a few name checks of Abu Graib and some other topical items, but the book is written as if we are not already morassed in the Middle East. The political and social satire is razor sharp, but ultimately seems misdirected.

I am a huge John D. MacDonald fan and read all the Travis McGee novels in order when I was in high school. Since then I have read much of MacDonald's other fiction as well. I collect his paperback originals complete with those noir-ish lurid covers. I have resolved to reread the Travis McGee novels again to refresh my memory and see how they have held up to time. I will try to write a much more detailed review later in the month giving more background about MacDonald and McGee and me.

My local library has a bin near the front door for clearance books which range in price from 25 cents for kids books to two dollars for videotapes and DVDs. I scarfed up about nine of these for a total of $2.50 and mailed them to Cassandra S as my first contribution to the Achenboodle Book Drive. At the post office, an 8”x8”x8” mailer box cost $1.65 and the postage at the media rate was another $2.50. So for under seven buck, I got nine books sent to a good cause. The mailer box could have easily held nearly twice as many books, so next time I think I will save up books until I have a full box.

I nearly made it a whole month with adding to the nightstand inventory, but I had a BigBoxOfBooks coupon for 25% off one item and a Personal Shopping Day that was about to expire, so I picked up the Pressl book which has gotten good notices everywhere and looks like the type of erudite concept-dropping middlebrow capital-L Literature that I tend to like. We’ll see if I can finish it by next month's BooksFirst.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson - about hiking the Appalachian Trail - is very funny. He also wrote a book about Australia, which I borrowed from the library and didn't finish - but it started out good. I think it's called In a Sunburned Country.