Recent books

Posted in Reviews at 22:54 by RjZ

I’ve added a new category on the right for books I’ve recently read. Not because you care what books I’ve read or because I think it will impress you. Indeed, I think this might be one of the more embarrassing parts of this blog. If there was any doubt about my intellectual level, it’s quite possible that my selection of books that I read to entertain myself will surely confirm it.

I read books mostly because they’re handed to me by a friend. I don’t really choose them except that I start many more than I finish. A book ought to find it’s way on to this list only if I’ve finished it. And this also means that it might be even more embarrassing because this means I’ve stuck through whatever you see listed there for every page so it’s likely light reading. There are several books which I am sure are very good, but I just don’t seem to be able to get through them.

For the moment though, I’m reasonably satisfied with the list. Particularly The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time which I enjoyed immensely, recommend highly, and finished in two days like those young people who are devouring the latest Harry Potter. I won’t describe the book any further though because that would take the fun out of it.

Books are distinguished these days from other kinds of entertainment simply because of the time they take. Even if you know exactly what is going to happen you are teased and excited to find out the details, and no matter how fast you read, it’s likely still several hours before you’ll know everything. A review of The Curious Incident would almost assuredly spoil at least a few of those little rewards and I’d hate to take that away from anyone who takes my recommendation.

Books are a little like making love with someone you really care about. The slow revealing of the story yields a pleasure greater than the quick release of a movie and it makes the effort so much more worthwhile.

I think I better start reading more. Any suggestions?


  1. tim rohrer said,

    October 10, 2005 at 12:30


    This entry excites me! I love to talk about books, and I look forward to hearing what some of Ron’s other’s commentators are reading, ebcause I always need more reading material. I am currently reading:

    Tim O’Brien’s novel “Tomcat In Love” (very cute, quick, fun, good author)
    “Wish You Were Here” — a just released biography of Douglas Adams
    Various Dian Fossey and Jane Goodall for the background of a new novel I’m working on
    “Eye of the Albatross” by Carl Safina. Great biological writing.
    Tom Wolfe’s “I am Charlotte Simmons” — Witty, the usual Wolfe creation — rang a bit hollow for me at the end, but that just made me think.

    As for recommendations of some favorite books:

    The River Why by David James Duncan (my favorite Oregon/pacific NW novel, somewhat philosophical, absolutely incredible use of the english language, very poetic)

    Umberto Eco’s novels “The Name of the Rose” and “Foucault’s Pendulum”

    Guns, Germs and Steel by Jared Diamond (non-fiction, sweeping history of human development, many insights into the history of food production, and why the Europeans came to dominate the rest of the world over the last 2500 years)

    Annals of the Former World by John McPhee. Anything by McPhee is a good read, but this set of his geologic history of U.S. mountains is excellent

    And some previous recommendations to this blog in response to the vegetarianism entry were:

    Mark Kurlansky’s “Cod: A Biography of the Fish That Changed the World” –simply one of the finest pieces of non-fiction I’ve ever read. Gripping; reads like a thriller.

    Sidney Mintz’s “Sweetness and Power: A History of Sugar” Very good, incredibly interesting non fiction. The history of sugar is more amazing than you might think.

    George Ritzer’s “The McDonaldization of America,” a funny, easy academic read that is also a provocative look into the how the food industry works

  2. gina said,

    October 18, 2005 at 14:26

    I can’t believe you liked the curious incident of the dog in the night-time. I wondered who was keeping it on the best-seller list. I thought it was trite.

    Books are cool, thought, and I think you are cool for reading them. Fast food nation was excellent- have you seen the movie super size me? Kind of interesting, but not as good as fast food nation- not just because it’s a movie and not a book.

    Have you read Tom Robbins? He is thoroughly entertaining, sort of along the lines of Vonnegut- smart, clever, funny, and very, very odd.

    I agree with Tim’s take on Tom Wolfe’s “I am Charlotte Simmons” …good, but I was highly disappointed with the ending. Very empty and lacking.

    But, yah! Books are cool. Hooray for reading.

  3. Penelope said,

    October 18, 2005 at 23:03

    Ah, Tom Robbins! I was quite devoted to him in my early 20s, reading everything he wrote right up until Half Asleep in Frog Pajamas, at which point I suddenly got sick of him. He’s a very particular taste, and it is possible to overdose. I highly recommend that y’all give him a try, though. My personal favorite Tom Robbins book is Skinny Legs and All, an interesting look at world religion and the lives of inanimate objects, in Robbins’ unique style.

    Or, if you’re in the mood for a truly offbeat romance, try Still Life with Woodpecker.

  4. Penelope said,

    October 18, 2005 at 23:15

    For nonfiction, and something I’ve read more recently, I recommend Mary Roach’s “Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers.” (I’ll use quotes now, since my attempt to use italics in my previous post didn’t work out so well. Sorry.)—ed: I fixed your italics

    Really. It’s a great book. Roach is an excellent journalist, and she approaches bizarre and disturbing topics with impressive compassion. I knew that I’d like the book because I am fascinated by corpses and death culture. (I love mummies, funeral rituals, and forensic anthropolgy. A psychotherapist would probably have a field day with me.) Still, when house-sitting for a much more normal, and much more literate writer friend, I found “Stiff” on her bedstand. When I told my friend I’d read it, she gushed, “Yes! Isn’t that a great book?”

    So, normal folks, give “Stiff” a try. And if you are a freak like me, or if “Stiff” convinces you that you really like the subject, I recommend you move on to Heather Pringle’s “The Mummy Congress: Science, Obsession, and the Everlasting Dead.” Pringle is not quite as fantastic as Roach is for making the dead interesting to the general public, but this is the best overview of death culture I’ve seen, from all over the world and across a wide span of time. Fascinating stuff, in my opinion. And please don’t worry. I promise that I’m not dangerous.

  5. farofferin said,

    October 28, 2005 at 13:21

    Anything by Haruki Murakami.

    Loved Hard Boiled Wonderland and the end of the World.

    Currently savoring, but not completed – The Wind Up Bird Chronicle.

Leave a Comment