Monday, September 7, 2020

The Books List, Part Five



20 Books I Would Recommend Reading, 5 Books I Wouldn't, and 50 from my Reading List

With fall just around the corner, it's time to hit the books! But if you aren't in school, you get to choose yours, at least. Clearly, it's time for another Books List post!

My likes/loves: These are books that entertained me, moved me, taught me things, made me think, inspired me, and that I would heartily recommend. They are not ranked – they are merely in the order in which I read them.

  1. Freakonomics – Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner

  2. Man and Wife – Andrew Klavan

  3. Texas Hold 'Em – Kinky Friedman

  4. Telling Lies for Fun and Profit – Lawrence Block

  5. All the King's Men – Robert Penn Warren

  6. The Know-It-All: One Man's Humble Quest to Become the Smartest Person in the World – A.J. Jacobs

  7. Native Son – Richard Wright

  8. The Uncanny – Andrew Klavan

  9. The Tipping Point – Malcolm Gladwell

  10. The Poisonwood Bible – Barbara Kingsolver

  11. The Five People You Meet in Heaven – Mitch Albom

  12. Mary Mary – James Patterson

  13. He's Just Not that Into You – Greg Behrendt and Liz Tuccillo

  14. Monster – Jonathan Kellerman

  15. Dr. Death – Jonathan Kellerman

  16. All I Did Was Ask – Terry Gross

  17. The Jester – James Patterson and Andrew Gross

  18. The Lake House – James Patterson

  19. Never-Say-Diet Book – Richard Simmons

  20. Bel Canto – Ann Patchett


My meh/yuck list: Did not find these appealing for any number of reasons – some were boring; some had an interesting subject but did not do it justice; some were flat-out terrible. All simply left me cold in some way. Although I am likely to read multiple books by authors I like (you will see a lot of Dean Koontz, Jonathan Kellerman, Margaret Atwood, Charles deLint and Toni Morrison), I do not excuse those authors when they write a book I didn't like, so they might just show up here, as well.

  1. The Woman's Book of Questions – Sophia Mark

  2. The Worst Noel – ed. by Marjorie Braman

  3. Siren's Lullaby – William Kennedy

  4. Incredible Facts – Richard Manchester

  5. The Devil's Code – John Sandford


My Reading List: these are books I haven't read yet, so I don't have a reaction for you. However, I could semi-recommend them, based on the reasons they made it onto my list:

  1. They were on one of those “100 Greatest Books” lists;

  2. They are other books written by authors I really enjoy; or

  3. I read a review, and it sounded like something I'd like.

#1 can be a bit hit-or-miss; #2 is almost (but not always) foolproof for me (but maybe not for you), and #3 usually works out pretty well, as it's a combination of the first two. As always, your results may vary, but consider them suggestions. These may tend to come in chunks of stuff by author (apologies).

  1. In the Ruins – Kate Elliott (book series – continued from prior list)

  2. Crown of Stars – Kate Elliott

  3. The Great Deluge – Douglas Brinkley

  4. Never Done – Susan Strasser

  5. The Foreigner's Gift – Fouad Ajami

  6. In a Strange City – Laura Lippman

  7. All Families Are Psychotic – Douglas Coupland

  8. Bookmark Now – Ed. by Kevin Smokler

  9. The Girl's Guide to Hunting and Fishing – Melissa Bank

  10. The Wonder Spot – Melissa Bank

  11. I Hate the Man Who Runs This Bar – Eugene Chadbourne

  12. Don't Get Too Comfortable – David Rakoff

  13. Brainiac: Adventures in the Curious, Competitive, Compulsive World of Trivia Buffs – Ken Jennings

  14. Prisoner of Trebekistan: A Decade in Jeopardy! - Bob Harris

  15. Female Chauvinist Pigs – Ariel Levy

  16. To Hell with All That – Caitlin Flanagan

  17. This Book Will Save Your Life – A.M. Holmes

  18. Special Topics in Calamity Physics – Marisha Pessl

  19. The Thirteenth Tale – Diane Setterfield

  20. The Devil in the Junior League – Linda Francis Lee

  21. Sharp Objects – Gillian Flynn

  22. Insecure at Last – Eve Ensler

  23. Freedom: The Story of My Second Life – Malika Oufkir

  24. Last Seen Leaving – Kelly Braffet

  25. Mortified – Ed. by David Nadelberg

  26. One Good Turn – Kate Atkinson

  27. The Worst-Case Scenario History Almanac – Borgenicht, Piven, Marchant

  28. The Ten-Minute Activist: Easy Ways to Take Back the Planet – The Mission Collective

  29. At Day's Close; Night in Times Past – A. Roger Ekrich

  30. A Room of One's Own – Virginia Woolf

  31. Skinny Legs and All – Tom Robbins

  32. A Wild Sheep Chase – Haruki Murakami

  33. Spook: Science Tackles the Afterlife – Mary Roach

  34. Global Warming: Personal Solutions for a Healthy Planet – Chris Spence

  35. Climate Change Begins at Home – Dave Reay

  36. Wish I Could Be There: Notes from a Phobic Life – Allen Shawn

  37. The Age of Missing Information – Bill McKibben

  38. The Friday Night Knitting Club – Kate Jacobs

  39. The Double Bind – Chris Bohjalian

  40. I Am the Cheese – Robert Cormier

  41. Holes – Louis Sachar

  42. Back When We Were Grownups – Anne Tyler

  43. If I Ever Return, Pretty Peggy-O – Sharyn McCrumb

  44. The Devil Wears Prada – Lauren Weisberger

  45. The Iliad – Homer

  46. The Odyssey – Homer

  47. The Aeneid – Virgil

  48. Beowulf – unknown

  49. The Divine Comedy – Dante Alghieri

  50. The Travels of Marco Polo – Marco Polo


The other lists:

https://bucketofuseful.blogspot.com/2020/03/the-books-list-part-one.html

https://bucketofuseful.blogspot.com/2020/04/the-books-list-part-two.html

https://bucketofuseful.blogspot.com/2020/05/the-books-list-part-three.html

https://bucketofuseful.blogspot.com/2020/05/the-books-list-part-four.html


Some actual book reviews:

https://bucketofuseful.blogspot.com/2020/04/review-of-honeymooners-cautionary-tale.html

https://bucketofuseful.blogspot.com/2016/04/review-of-almost-green-how-i-saved-16th.html


That's all for now; hope you find these lists useful as you think about things you might like to read.

Image from Pixabay: https://pixabay.com/photos/leaves-books-color-coffee-cup-1076307/

Saturday, July 4, 2020

Learn English Grammar: When to Use the Word "Had"?




The word "had" serves two functions in English: as the past tense of "has/have", but also as a "helping verb" that is added to the past participle of a verb to create another tense, the past perfect. 

Let's look at the following examples:

1. She has a book. She had a book. 
This simply shows the use of the verb "to have" which means "to possess", in its present and past tense.

2. She writes a book. She wrote a book. She has written a book. She had written a book. 
This one shows the present and past tense (write/wrote), and gives an example of how "has" and "had" both act as "helping verbs" when added to the past participle (written) in the formation of the present perfect (has written) and the past perfect (had written).

The present perfect tense is used to describe something that happened (she has written a book) or didn't happen (she has never written a book) from the perspective of the current time, which is why it's called the present perfect. In other words, as of now, the present time, she has written a book.

The past perfect tense is used to describe something that happened in the past at a time before another time that is also in the past. So, "By the time Alice was 16 years old, she had written a book". Alice is not currently 16 years old - that happened in the past, which we can tell because of the use of the past tense word "was". But before that, even farther in the past, she wrote a book.

So when do you use "had"? You use it either to show a simple past tense of possession, or as a helper verb to refer to something that happened longer ago in the past from the reference point of something that also happened in the past, but more recently.

More on writing: 
https://bucketofuseful.blogspot.com/2017/10/why-you-should-never-trust-spell-check.html

Image from Pixabay https://pixabay.com/photos/correcting-proof-paper-correction-1870721/

Saturday, May 30, 2020

The Books List, Part Four



20 Books I Would Recommend Reading, 5 Books I Wouldn't, and 50 from my Reading List 


The pandemic isn't over, and summer reading season is just getting under way, so it's definitely time for another Books List post!

My likes/loves: These are books that entertained me, moved me, taught me things, made me think, inspired me, and that I would heartily recommend. They are not ranked – they are merely in the order in which I read them.
  1. The Little Friend – Donna Tartt
  2. A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius – Dave Eggers
  3. Staying Fat for Sarah Byrnes – Chris Crutcher
  4. Writing and Illustrating the Graphic Novel – Mike Chinn
  5. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time – Mark Haddon
  6. Gulliver's Travels – Jonathan Swift
  7. The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring – J.R.R. Tolkien
  8. Fast Food Nation – Eric Schlosser
  9. The Weight of It: A Story of Two Sisters – Amy Wilensky
  10. Athletic Shorts: 6 Short Stories – Chris Crutcher
  11. Why Animals Sleep So Close to the Road (And Other Lies I Tell My Children) – Susan Konig
  12. Ironman – Chris Crutcher
  13. Nickel and Dimed – Barbara Ehrenreich
  14. Assassination Vacation – Sarah Vowell
  15. Whale Talk – Chris Crutcher
  16. Fahrenheit 451 – Ray Bradbury
  17. Animal Farm – George Orwell
  18. The Color Purple – Alice Walker
  19. Autobiography of a Face – Lucy Grealy
  20. Funny in Farsi – Firoozeh Dumas
My meh/yuck list: Did not find these appealing for any number of reasons – some were boring; some had an interesting subject but did not do it justice; some were flat-out terrible. All simply left me cold in some way. Although I am likely to read multiple books by authors I like (you will see a lot of Dean Koontz, Jonathan Kellerman, Margaret Atwood, Charles de Lint and Toni Morrison), I do not excuse those authors when they write a book I didn't like, so they might just show up here, as well.
  1. Childhood's End – Arthur C. Clarke
  2. The Midnight Club – James Patterson
  3. The Lottery and Other Stories – Shirley Jackson
  4. The Sheltering Sky – Paul Bowles
  5. The Satanic Verses – Salman Rushdie

My Reading List: these are books I haven't read yet, so I don't have a reaction for you. However, I could semi-recommend them, based on the reasons they made it onto my list:
  1. They were on one of those “100 Greatest Books” lists;
  2. They are other books written by authors I really enjoy; or
  3. I read a review, and it sounded like something I'd like.
#1 can be a bit hit-or-miss; #2 is almost (but not always) foolproof for me (but maybe not for you), and #3 usually works out pretty well, as it's a combination of the first two. As always, your results may vary, but consider them suggestions. These may tend to come in chunks of stuff by author (apologies).

  1. Along Came a Spider – James Patterson
  2. The Waste Land – T.S. Eliot
  3. Blue Blood – Ed Conlon
  4. Bleachy-Haired Honky Bitch – Hollis Gillespie
  5. Eats, Shoots, and Leaves – Lynne Truss
  6. The Rule of Four – Ian Caldwell and Dustin Thomason
  7. Red, Red, Robin – Stephen Gallagher
  8. Paradise Lost – John Milton
  9. Jurassic Park – Michael Crichton
  10. The Alienist – Caleb Carr
  11. Mr. Spaceman – Robert Olen Butler
  12. The Partner – John Grisham
  13. When the Music's Over: My Journey into Schizophrenia – Ross Burke
  14. The Book of Dead Birds – Gayle Brandeis
  15. Mrs. Dalloway – Virginia Woolf
  16. A Canticle for Liebowitz – Walter Miller, Jr.
  17. The Postman – David Brin
  18. Parable of the Sower – Octavia Butler
  19. I Am Legend – Richard Matheson
  20. Riddley Walker – Russell Hoban
  21. Brown Girl in the Ring – Nalo Hopkinson
  22. Numbered Accounts – Christopher Reich
  23. Blackburn – Bradley Denton
  24. The American Way of Dying – Jessica Mitford
  25. Him Her Him Again The End of Him – Patricia Marx
  26. The Spellman Files – Lisa Lutz
  27. Then We Came to the End – Joshua Ferris
  28. Monstering: Inside America's Policy of Secret Interrogations and Torture in the Terror War- Tara McKelvey
  29. Swim to Me – Betsy Carter
  30. The Big Turnoff – Ellen Currey-Wilson
  31. Mystery Walk – Robert McCammon
  32. The Strangers – Mort Castle
  33. When Science Goes Wrong – Simon LeVay
  34. Maximum Ride: School's Out Forever – James Patterson
  35. Maximum Ride: Saving the World and Other Extreme Sports - James Patterson
  36. Maximum Ride: The Final Warning - James Patterson
  37. Sundays at Tiffany's - James Patterson
  38. Sail - James Patterson
  39. The Dangerous Days of Daniel X - James Patterson
  40. The Varieties of Scientific Experience: A Personal View of the Search for God – Carl Sagan
  41. The Pillars of the Earth – Ken Follett
  42. Encyclopedia of an Ordinary Life – Amy Krouse Rosenthal
  43. Bee Season – Myla Goldberg
  44. A Primate's Memoir – Robert Sapolsky
  45. Almost Human – Shirley C. Strum
  46. King's Dragon – Kate Elliott
  47. Prince of Dogs - Kate Elliott
  48. The Burning Stone - Kate Elliott
  49. Child of Flame - Kate Elliott
  50. The Gathering Storm - Kate Elliott

The other lists:





Some actual book reviews:



That's all for now; hope you find these lists useful as you think about things you might like to read.



Sunday, May 17, 2020

The Books List, Part Three



20 Books I Would Recommend Reading, 5 Books I Wouldn't, and 50 from my Reading List




Time for another Books List post! The weather has finally gotten warm, and you can now go read on the porch or in a comfy hammock. Enjoy!

My likes/loves: These are books that entertained me, moved me, taught me things, made me think, inspired me, and that I would heartily recommend. They are not ranked – they are merely in the order in which I read them.

  1. Girl with a Pearl Earring – Tracy Chevalier
  2. The Red Tent – Anita Diamant (you will probably cry, really hard. But it's good.)
  3. Kiss the Girls – James Patterson
  4. The Between – Tananarive Due
  5. A Prayer for Owen Meany – John Irving
  6. Owls Aren't Wise and Bats Aren't Blind: A Naturalist Debunks Our Favorite Fallacies about Wildlife – Warner Shedd
  7. Lullaby – Chuck Palahniuk
  8. Diary: A Novel – Chuck Palahniuk (this is a REALLY creepy story. Must like horror.)
  9. Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Immortal – Christopher Golden and Nancy Holder
  10. It's a Dirty Job – Katy Terrega
  11. The Ten Trusts – Jane Goodall and Marc Bekoff
  12. The Ground Beneath Her Feet – Salman Rushdie
  13. The Remains of the Day – Kazuo Ishiguro
  14. Night Falls Fast: Understanding Suicide – Kay Redfield Jamison
  15. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix – J.K. Rowling
  16. Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim – David Sedaris
  17. Stealing Faces – Michael Prescott
  18. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince – J.K. Rowling
  19. House of Sand and Fog – Andre Dubus III
  20. The Secret History – Donna Tartt

My meh/yuck list: Did not find these appealing for any number of reasons – some were boring; some had an interesting subject but did not do it justice; some were flat-out terrible. All simply left me cold in some way. Although I am likely to read multiple books by authors I like (you will see a lot of Dean Koontz, Jonathan Kellerman, Margaret Atwood, Charles de Lint and Toni Morrison), I do not excuse those authors when they write a book I didn't like, so they might just show up here, as well.

  1. As I Lay Dying – William Faulkner
  2. Things Fall Apart – Chinua Achebe
  3. The Dark Tower VI: Song of Susanna – Stephen King
  4. We Have Always Lived in the Castle – Shirley Jackson
  5. Daddy's Little Girl – Mary Higgins Clark
My Reading List: these are books I haven't read yet, so I don't have a reaction for you. However, I could semi-recommend them, based on the reasons they made it onto my list:

  1. They were on one of those “100 Greatest Books” lists;
  2. They are other books written by authors I really enjoy; or
  3. I read a review, and it sounded like something I'd like.
#1 can be a bit hit-or-miss; #2 is almost (but not always) foolproof for me (but maybe not for you), and #3 usually works out pretty well, as it's a combination of the first two. As always, your results may vary, but consider them suggestions. These may tend to come in chunks of stuff by author (apologies). There are literally over 1400 books currently on my reading list (I'm stupidly ambitious), so this is a very small chunk.

  1. The Ivory and the Horn – Charles de Lint
  2. Jack of Kinrowan - Charles de Lint
  3. Moonheart - Charles de Lint
  4. Moonlight and Vines - Charles de Lint
  5. Tapping the Dream Tree - Charles de Lint
  6. At the Mountains of Madness – H.P. Lovecraft
  7. One Lonely Night – Mickey Spillane
  8. On the Beach – Nevil Shute
  9. Starship Troopers – Robert Heinlein
  10. The Door into Summer – Robert Heinlein
  11. The Puppet Masters – Robert Heinlein
  12. Double Star – Robert Heinlein
  13. Citizen of the Galaxy – Robert Heinlein
  14. The Wood Wife – Terri Windling
  15. Arrowsmith – Sinclair Lewis
  16. Guilty Pleasures – Laurell Hamilton
  17. V – Thomas Pynchon
  18. Tristam Shandy – Laurence Sterne
  19. Dead Souls – Nikolai Gogol
  20. Buddenbrooks- Thomas Mann
  21. Le Pere Goriot – Honore de Balzac
  22. The Tin Drum – Gunter Grass
  23. Molly/Malone Dies/The Unnamable (trilogy) – Samuel Beckett
  24. Nostromo – Joseph Conrad
  25. Clarissa – Samuel Richardson
  26. Dream of the Red Chamber – Cao Xueqin
  27. The Trial – Franz Kafka
  28. Jane Eyre – Charlotte Bronte
  29. Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers – Mary Roach
  30. Animal Talk – Tim Friend
  31. Arranged Marriage – Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni
  32. Dragonfly in Amber – Diana Gabaldon
  33. Gentlemen Prefer Blondes – Anita Loos
  34. Life among the Surrealists – Matthew Josephson
  35. Small Town – Lawrence Block
  36. Novel History – Ed. by Mark C. Carnes
  37. The Story behind the Story – Ed. by Turchi and Barrett
  38. Mortification: Writer's Stories of Their Public Shame – Ed. by Robin Robertson
  39. Lapsing into a Comma – Bill Walsh
  40. The Elephants of Style – Bill Walsh
  41. Empire Falls – Richard Russo
  42. Life of Pi – Yann Martel (I've seen the movie and liked it)
  43. Peace Like a River – Leif Enger
  44. The Secret Life of Bees – Sue Monk Kidd
  45. Indistinguishable from Magic – Robert L. Forward
  46. The Demon-Haunted World – Carl Sagan
  47. Bellwether – Connie Willis
  48. Neuromancer – William Gibson
  49. Fairyland – Paul J. McAuley
  50. A Map of the World – Jane Hamilton

That's all for now; hope you find these lists useful as you think about things you might like to read.

The other lists:

https://bucketofuseful.blogspot.com/2020/03/the-books-list-part-one.html

https://bucketofuseful.blogspot.com/2020/04/the-books-list-part-two.html

Some actual book reviews:

https://bucketofuseful.blogspot.com/2020/04/review-of-honeymooners-cautionary-tale.html

https://bucketofuseful.blogspot.com/2016/04/review-of-almost-green-how-i-saved-16th.html




Sunday, April 26, 2020

The Books List, Part Two


20 Books I Would Recommend Reading, 5 Books I Wouldn't, and 50 from my Reading List


Still in quarantine, so time for another Books List post! I hope that you found the first post helpful in bringing some enjoyable books to your attention. If you didn't read it, go here:https://bucketofuseful.blogspot.com/2020/03/the-books-list-part-one.html

You'll probably note that there is a continuing pattern in the proportion of books that I liked (20), books I didn't like (5), and books I might like (50). It's true that I do enjoy the majority of the books that I read, but that's not because I have low literary standards. Although I tend to be an optimistic chick, I don't appreciate bad writing, nor will I recommend a book that left me flat, even if it's by a favorite author (out of fairness, I almost always finish a book, even if it's not great, to give it every chance).

So how do I get so lucky? Well, it's because I tend to read books that have either come well-recommended or that are by an author I like. Sometimes I am betrayed, but most of the time I am delighted. Sometimes I just idly pick something out or read what's handy, and that's where taking my chances is less likely to pay off (sometimes it does). Basically what I'm saying here is that you, too, stand a better chance of liking something that was recommended – hence my list!

My likes/loves: These are books that entertained me, moved me, taught me things, made me think, inspired me, and that I would heartily recommend. They are not ranked – they are merely in the order in which I read them.

  1. 3001: The Final Odyssey – Arthur C. Clarke
  2. Moses, Man of the Mountain – Zora Neale Hurston
  3. Seraph on the Suwanee – Zora Neale Hurston
  4. Bird by Bird – Anne Lamott
  5. Odd Thomas – Dean Koontz
  6. The Haunting of Hill House – Shirley Jackson
  7. The Taking – Dean Koontz
  8. The Dark: New Ghost Stories – Ed. By Ellen Datlow
  9. A Cold Heart – Jonathan Kellerman
  10. The Conspiracy Club – Jonathan Kellerman
  11. The Last Juror – John Grisham
  12. Writing the Breakout Novel – Donald Maass
  13. A Primer on Mental Disorders – Allen, Liebman, Park, Wimmer
  14. Wake Up, I'm Fat! - Camryn Manheim
  15. Wasted – Marya Hornbacher
  16. Helping Someone with Mental Illness – Rosalyn Carter
  17. When the Wind Blows – James Patterson
  18. Cradle and All – James Patterson
  19. Sons and Lovers – D.H. Lawrence
  20. Along Came a Spider – James Patterson

My meh/yuck list: Did not find these appealing for any number of reasons – some were boring; some had an interesting subject but did not do it justice; some were flat-out terrible. All simply left me cold in some way. Although I am likely to read multiple books by authors I like (you will see a lot of Dean Koontz, Jonathan Kellerman, Margaret Atwood, Charles deLint and Zora Neale Hurston), I do not excuse those authors when they write a book I didn't like, so they might just show up here, as well.

  1. Unexplained! - Jerome Clark
  2. The Chronicle of Crime – Martin Fido
  3. 563 Stupid Things People Do to Mess Up their Lives – Dr. Larry
  4. Moby Dick – Herman Melville
  5. Their Eyes Were Watching God – Zora Neale Hurston

My Reading List: these are books I haven't read yet, so I don't have a reaction for you. However, I could semi-recommend them, based on the reasons they made it onto my list:

  1. They were on one of those “100 Greatest Books” lists;
  2. They are other books written by authors I really enjoy; or
  3. I read a review, and it sounded like something I'd like.
#1 can be a bit hit-or-miss; #2 is almost (but not always) foolproof for me (but maybe not for you), and #3 usually works out pretty well, as it's a combination of the first two. As always, your results may vary, but consider them suggestions. These may tend to come in chunks of stuff by author (apologies). There are literally over 1400 books currently on my reading list (I'm stupidly ambitious), so this is a very small chunk. Don't worry; there will be more of these posts.

  1. The Princess of Cleves – Madame de LaFayette
  2. The Stranger – Albert Camus
  3. The Counterfeiters – Andre Gide
  4. The Good Soldier – Ford Madox Ford
  5. Germinal – Emile Zola
  6. U.S.A. Trilogy – John dos Pasos
  7. Hunger – Knut Hamsun
  8. Berlin Alexanderplatz – Alfred Doblin
  9. Cities of Salt – Abd al Rahman Munif
  10. The Death of Artemio Cruz - Carlos Fuentes
  11. The Last Chronicles of Barset – Anthony Trollope
  12. The Pickwick Papers – Charles Dickens
  13. The Sorrows of Young Werther – Goethe
  14. Oblomov – Ivan Goncharov
  15. Waverly – Sir Walter Scott
  16. Snow Country – Yasunari Kawabata
  17. The Betrothed – Alessandro Manzoni
  18. Cold Sassy Tree – Olive Ann Burns
  19. Dawn – Octavia Butler
  20. Boys and Girls Together – William Goldman
  21. Bimbos of the Death Sun – Sharyn McCrumb
  22. Suttree – Cormac McCarthy
  23. Mythago Wood – Robert Holdstock
  24. Illusions – Richard Bach
  25. The Cunning Man – Robertson Davies
  26. War and Peace – Leo Tolstoy
  27. In Search of Lost Time – Marcel Proust
  28. The Tale of Genji – Murasaki Shikibu
  29. Emma – Jane Austen
  30. Bleak House – Charles Dickens
  31. The Ambassadors – Henry James
  32. 100 Years of Solitude – Gabriel Garcia Marquez
  33. Finnegans Wake – James Joyce
  34. The Man without Qualities – Robert Musil
  35. Women in Love – D.H. Lawrence
  36. Yarrow – Charles de Lint
  37. Memory and Dream - Charles de Lint
  38. Trader - Charles de Lint
  39. Greenmantle - Charles de Lint
  40. The Little Country - Charles de Lint
  41. Mulengro - Charles de Lint
  42. Spirits in the Wires - Charles de Lint
  43. Medicine Road - Charles de Lint
  44. The Blue Girl - Charles de Lint
  45. Angel of Darkness - Charles de Lint
  46. Dreams Underfoot - Charles de Lint
  47. The Fair in Emain Mancha - Charles de Lint
  48. From a Whisper to a Scream - Charles de Lint
  49. I'll Be Watching You - Charles de Lint
  50. Into the Green - Charles de Lint

That's all for now; hope you find these lists useful as you think about things you might like to read.



Wednesday, April 1, 2020

Review of Honeymooners: A Cautionary Tale by Chuck Kinder



I want to be nice to Chuck Kinder. I want to give him a great review, because he is from West Virginia. Although I was not born in West Virginia, I grew up there, and I have had to deal with the most astonishingly ignorant comments from people who either have no idea that West Virginia is actually separate from Virginia (What part of Virginia did you say you were from? The part that became a state in 1863), or who think it is a land peopled solely by unlettered inbreds of the Deliverance ilk (by the way, Deliverance was set in Georgia , and the people in the movie were actors).
Okay, so clearly I'm a little defensive about the West Virginia thing, and I wanted to praise my homeboy Chuck Kinder as a fantastic writer who has penned an amazing book. And yet, although I don't think Kinder is a bad writer--as a matter of fact, he is a good writer--I do not, in fact, think that he has penned an amazing book, or even a very good one. It is not so much a bad book, either, as an aggressively pointless one.
Honeymooners: A Cautionary Tale is the story of friends Ralph Crawford and Jim Stark, two intelligent yet self-defeating writers who are unlikely to achieve their big dreams of being star novelists, as they have made a second career of doing inadvisable quantities of recreational drugs, screwing around on their spouses, wandering off aimlessly, running out on restaurant checks, and blathering, blathering, blathering about all the great stuff they are going to do as soon as the world stops holding them back. Arghhh. I don't feel I need to tell you more; I am sure you know people just like this and probably have restraining orders against them.
What initially drew me to this book was the deadpan hilarity of the cover (in retrospect, the best part of the book), backed up by approving cover blurbs by such renowned literary figures as Michael Chabon, Richard Ford, Scott Turow and Larry McMurtry. But I should have taken warning from those same blurbs: Ford, for example, invokes the likes of Kerouac, Ken Kesey and even R. Crumb. The term 'iconoclast' is used, with reverence. Sigh. I have read Kerouac, Kesey and Crumb (now there's a nice, alliterative law firm for you), and they seem to enjoy writing about the pointless pursuits of drug-addled hedonists (by turns, nihilists), so, hey, if that's what you're into, this book fits right in. It also occurred to me that the blurbists are all known for writing "manly man" fiction, so maybe that's the problem--maybe I just don't have the right plumbing to enjoy this stuff. And here I was thinking a pointless, plotless, train wreck of a book with unlikable characters doing nothing worthwhile or even remotely interesting wouldn't appeal to anyone , regardless of gender.
Sorry, Chuck. At least I don't think it's because you're from West Virginia, if that's any consolation.

Sunday, March 29, 2020

The Books List, Part One




20 Books I Would Recommend Reading, 5 Books I Wouldn't, and 50 from my Reading List

It is March 2020, and we are currently staying at home because of the threat of COVID-19 (historical context!). People are looking for things to do while under this semi-quarantine, and a lot of us are finding more time to catch up on reading. It's always good to have friends who can recommend books that they enjoyed, to give us an idea of something we might try next. I personally read a lot of different kinds of things – fiction, non-fiction, Young Adult (YA), graphic novels, and several years ago, I started writing down everything I read, with a little smiley, meh face, or frown to remind me whether I liked it, didn't care, or disliked it, because I am certainly not going to remember every single book I read, but at least I know whether I would read it again or steer clear.

I am not going to write reviews or summaries of these books, because all that stuff is readily available online. This is just my very simple overall opinion based on how I felt after having read the book. Did I love it, or at least like it? Or did I feel like I wasted my time? The point of sharing this list with you is to give you some inspiration about what you might like to read.

My likes/loves: These are books that entertained me, moved me, taught me things, made me think, inspired me, and that I would heartily recommend. They are not ranked – they are merely in the order in which I read them.

  1. The Sound and the Fury – William Faulkner
  2. By the Light of the Moon – Dean Koontz
  3. The Art Book – Phaidon Press
  4. Cat's Eye – Margaret Atwood
  5. The Murder Book – Jonathan Kellerman
  6. The Face – Dean Koontz
  7. The Bluest Eye – Toni Morrison
  8. The Handmaid's Tale – Margaret Atwood
  9. Enough Rope – Lawrence Block
  10. The Great Gatsby – F. Scott Fitzgerald
  11. Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them – Al Franken
  12. Light in August – William Faulkner
  13. The Dark Tower V: Wolves of the Calla – Stephen King
  14. The Lovely Bones – Alice Sebold
  15. Stupid White Men – Michael Moore
  16. The Age of Innocence – Edith Wharton
  17. Ender's Game – Orson Scott Card
  18. The Songs of Distant Earth – Arthur C. Clarke
  19. Jonah's Gourd Vine – Zora Neale Hurston
  20. The Hammer of God – Arthur C. Clarke

My meh/yuck list: Did not find these appealing for any number of reasons – some were boring; some had an interesting subject but did not do it justice; some were flat-out terrible. All simply left me cold in some way. Although I am likely to read multiple books by authors I like (you will see a lot of Dean Koontz, Jonathan Kellerman, Margaret Atwood, Charles deLint and Zora Neale Hurston), I do not excuse those authors when they write a book I didn't like, so they might just show up here, as well.

  1. For Whom the Bell Tolls – Ernest Hemingway
  2. The Official eBay Guide – Laura Fisher Kaiser and Michael Kaiser
  3. Emotionally Weird: A Novel – Kate Atkinson
  4. Don't Bend Over in the Garden, Granny, You Know them Taters Got Eyes – Lewis Grizzard
  5. The South Beach Diet – Dr. Arthur Agatston

My Reading List: these are books I haven't read yet, so I don't have a reaction for you. However, I could semi-recommend them, based on the reasons they made it onto my list:

  1. They were on one of those “100 Greatest Books” lists;
  2. They are other books written by authors I really enjoy; or
  3. I read a review, and it sounded like something I'd like.
#1 can be a bit hit-or-miss; #2 is almost (but not always) foolproof for me (but maybe not for you), and #3 usually works out pretty well, as it's a combination of the first two. As always, your results may vary, but consider them suggestions. These may tend to come in chunks of stuff by author (apologies). There are literally over 1400 books currently on my reading list (I'm stupidly ambitious), so this is a very small chunk. Don't worry; I'm planning on coughing up more of these posts.

  1. The Blank Slate: The Modern Denial of Human Nature – Steven Pinker
  2. American Normal: The Hidden World of Asperger Syndrome – Lawrence Osborne
  3. Crowns: Portraits of Black Women in Church Hats – Craig Marberry
  4. Partly Cloudy Patriot – Sarah Vowell
  5. Lady Oracle – Margaret Atwood
  6. Man's Search for Meaning – Viktor Frankl
  7. Running with Scissors – Augusten Burroughs
  8. Random Family – Adrian Nicole LeBlanc
  9. Atlas Shrugged – Ayn Rand
  10. Lolita – Vladimir Nabokov
  11. The Maltese Falcon – Dashiell Hammett
  12. Midnight's Children – Salman Rushdie
  13. My Antonia – Willa Cather
  14. Naked Lunch – William Burroughs
  15. Brave New World – Aldous Huxley
  16. Brideshead Revisited – Evelyn Waugh
  17. The Call of the Wild – Jack London
  18. A Clockwork Orange – Anthony Burgess
  19. Dune – Frank Herbert
  20. Fifth Business – Robertson Davies
  21. The Fountainhead – Ayn Rand
  22. The French Lieutenant's Woman – John Fowles
  23. Gravity's Rainbow – Thomas Pynchon
  24. Heart of Darkness – Joseph Conrad
  25. Invisible Man – Ralph Ellison
  26. One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest - Ken Kesey
  27. A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man – James Joyce
  28. Rabbit Run – John Updike
  29. Slaughterhouse – Five – Kurt Vonnegut
  30. Sometimes a Great Notion – Ken Kesey
  31. Sophie's Choice – William Styron
  32. To the Lighthouse – Virginia Woolf
  33. Tropic of Cancer – Henry Miller
  34. Ulysses – James Joyce
  35. The World According to Garp – John Irving
  36. The Sparrow – Mary Doria Russell
  37. The Hours – Michael Cunningham
  38. Angle of Repose – Wallace Stegner
  39. Plainsong – Kent Haruf
  40. Survival of the Prettiest – Nancy Etcoff
  41. Learning Their Language – Marta Williams
  42. Science and the Search for God – Gary Kowalski
  43. Darkness Visible – William Styron
  44. I Know What You're Thinking – Lillian Glass
  45. The Fat Girl's Guide to Life – Wendy Shanter
  46. Good Grief – Lolly Winston
  47. Symptomatic – Danzy Senna
  48. From Beirut to Jerusalem – Thomas Friedman
  49. The Red Badge of Courage – Stephen Crane
  50. Petersburg – Andrey Bely

That's all for now; hope you find these lists useful as you think about things you might like to read. Let's make quarantine fun and productive!

Image from Pixabay https://pixabay.com/photos/book-read-tee-literature-2020460/