Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Sexing the Cherry by Jeanette Winterson

I am quite thankful to be done with this maddening, suffocating, revolting book. I only finished it because I had to read it for a class, and if I hadn't vowed to read fifty books I probably wouldn't have read the whole thing then, either. Here is the plot as best as it can be described: A massive and maniacal person known only as the Dog-Woman fishes a baby out of the Thames and names it Jordan. They live through the rule of Cromwell and Jordan imagines some really dumb crap and tries to pass it off as a narrative. At the end, there is a hastily tacked-on epilogue which tries to introduce a couple of new modern characters and convince us that they are the reincarnations of Jordan and the Dog-Woman, and that that is somehow interesting or innovative.

The whole thing is full of metaphors beat senselessly into the ground:

He called me Jess because that is the name of the hood which restrains the falcon.

Palpable anti-male bias:

5. Men deem themselves weighty and women light. Therefore it is simple to tie a stone round their necks and drown them should they become too troublesome.

6. Men are best left in groups by themselves where they will entirely wear themselves out in drunkenness and competition. While this is taking place a woman may carry on with her own life unhindered.

And a whole bunch of forced images and vignettes that have no connection to any plotline whatsoever, and are only justified through the use of tired and half-baked metaphysical garbage:

OBJECTS 1: A woman looks into her bag and recognizes none of her belongings. She hurries home. But where is home? She follows the address written in her purse. She has never seen this house before and who are those ugly children wrecking the garden? Inside a fat man is waiting for his supper. She shoots him. At the trial she says she had never seen him before. He was her husband.

Winterson is insulting me by placing that last line there; I knew it was her husband. Read the whole thing again but leave off the last line--isn't that much better? Writers like Winterson spend so much time being clever that they come off as if they think they are much more clever than you. And then there's the recycled time is not linear ideas, the liberal self-righteousness, the flat characters, the Faulkner-lite trading off of point of view. This book prides itself on being about ideas, but if these ideas didn't get worn out in the twentieth century, surely Winterson has killed them.

Do not read this book.

Monday, January 29, 2007

Suddenly We Didn't Want To Die by Elton Mackin

Memoirs of a World War I Marine.

There is a thrill in hunting men. It's a greater sport than hunting rabbits anytime -- rabbits can't shoot back at you or call your bet.... War is just a high-class type of poker. That's why some fellows learn to like the game. 'Kill or be killed' just means you play for keeps.

+ Interesting It's a pretty sweet story. I mean, it sucks because it's depressing. It's a war and all. But it's really interesting. And the "chapters" are just little tales of specific memories, only 1-5 pages long. Good for my ADD.

- Narrative Mackin refers to himself in the third person as "Slim." He tells a lot of personal stories that way. However, he sometimes switches to "I" or "we." It's confusing. Also, I don't really understand "humility."

+ Woohoo It's cool that he mentions the legendary 38th Battalion "Rock of the Marne" because my brother was in that division in Iraq. I even have a 38th Infantry t-shirt.

Overall B Considering I had to read this for class, it was pretty good.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Tuesdays with Morrie by Mitch Albom

I purchased Tuesdays with Morrie at the height of its popularity, while I was in an airport bookshop. I was waiting on a connecting flight, and felt kind of stupid putting a $1.50 pack of gum on my checkcard. For whatever reason, I did not read the book during my flight. (I was probably too busy eating peanuts and drinking watered- down ginger ale.) In fact, I did not read it for many years.

Earlier this evening I was sitting in my easychair, staring at the wall, trying to determine what I should read next; when a stack of books toppled over, and a few of them fell off the bookshelf. Of those mutinous books that made it to the floor, Tuesdays with Morrie was the only one that I had yet to read. I took it as a sign.

When sportswriter Mitch Albom found out that his college mentor had contracted amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (often referred to as Lou Gehrig's Disease), it had been sixteen years since he had last seen the man. He began visiting Morrie every week and discussing topics with him, such as, marriage, family, regrets, forgiveness, and death. The book is a written record of these informal interviews.

While Albom is a good writer, it is not his prose that makes this book shine, but the words of Morrie Schwartz that Albom dutifully transcribed. Morrie's thoughts and witty aphorisms were what kept me eagerly turning each page. They were entertaining, insightful, often poignant, and always candid. While discussing the fear that many people have of aging, Morrie states, "Aging is not just decay, you know. It's growth. It's more than the negative that you're going to die, it's also the positive that you understand you're going to die, and that your live a better life because of it."

Each chapter of the book focuses on a different Tuesday, a different topic. Sandwiched between each chapter, Albom spends a page or two reminiscing about the earlier experiences that he shared with his professor, most of which took place during Albom's time as a college student at Brandeis. Although brief, these reminiscences provide important context for the Tuesday interviews.

At pocket size and only 200 pages, the book is a quick read. But Tuesdays with Morrie's size belies its literary and emotional stature. Simply put, the book is powerful.

Since its initial publication, Tuesdays with Morrie has been read by millions of people, has been made into a feature film, and has earned the somewhat nebulous title of "modern classic." I realize that I am about a decade late in reading this book. Given Morrie's penchant for aphorisms, I think the best way to address my severe tardiness is simply, "Better late than never."

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

The Man Who Was Thursday by G.K. Chesterton

I am going to give away the big sort-of secret in this book, because I believe that it is a.) crucial to explaining the plot, and b.) quite obvious, quite early.

The Man Who Was Thursday is about a man named Gabriel Syme, who is a poet recruited by the London police into an undercover unit designed to combat intellectual threats to the government, specifically "anarchists," by which Chesterton means not quite what we would mean, but a wide-ranging group of intellectuals whose ideologies are closest to nihilism. Through Syme's cleverness, he successfully masquerades as an anarchist and is elected to the worldwide council of anarchists, of which there are seven, each named after a day of the week. Syme is Thursday, and the group is led by the intimidating and mysterious Sunday. If you think the fact that anarchists have an organization is funny, well, that's the sort of humor you're getting with this book.

Thing is, as the book develops, you find out one by one that all six of the "Sabbatarians," excluding Sunday, are policemen in the same unit tracking each other. I think that's a really funny twist, and it's certainly a funny book. When Syme's fellow anarchists explain why the former Thursday must be replaced, this is what they say:

As you know, his death was as self-denying as his life, for he died through his faith in a hygenic mixture of chalk and water as a substitute for milk, which beverage he regarded as barbaric, and involving cruelty to the cow.

These sorts of nihilistic and existentialist philosophies are the butt of Thursday's extended joke. Chesterton "claimed afterwards that he wrote this book as an unusual affirmation that goodness and right were at the heart of every aspect of the world," according to Wikipedia--at the heart of the book is an affirmation of the great order of God that rules over chaos. "Chaos is dull," Syme says, trying to argue with an anarchist and fellow poet that order and lawfulness are the most poetic things in the universe.

This book is only around 150 pages, but it's packed very tightly with a lot of ideas. Despite its philosophizing, its humor makes much of it a very light book, and some of the more "adventurous" scenes would make an awfully good film--there's even a car chase. But the book's final chapters, in which Syme seems to exit the reality of London and enter the fantastic and surreal world of Sunday's grand estate, and where the book's overt Christian themes are the most evident, that are the most impressive.

I would like to film this book, casting Cary Elwes as Gabriel Syme. If you are a movie producer, please e-mail me.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Magnetic Los Angeles by Greg Hise

This book starts off with promise. Greg Hise, an Associate Professor of Urban History at USC, has some interesting and original ideas regarding suburbanization. The introduction is very solid, if only it were indicative of the rest of the book.

The arguments that were a crucial part of the introduction never fully materialize throughout the book. In the first few pages of Magnetic Los Angeles, Hise states that historians often perpetuate the all-too-common stereotypes about suburbs. He argues that terms such as "urban sprawl" are inadequate in describing the complex processes of suburbanization. Furthermore, Hise asserts that people were not simply moving out to the suburbs to get away from downtown, but that many were, in fact, following jobs out to the suburbs.

The problem is that not only does Hise choose Los Angeles as his case study, but he actually tries to argue that it is similar to the rest of the United States. Los Angeles is really unlike any other city in North America; and its development was unique as well. Unlike most other cities, Los Angeles does not have a well-defined, cohesive downtown area. Instead, there are three or four areas out of which the city spread. Los Angeles was also unique in that it had large aeronautical development companies on its outskirts, and shipping yards on its coast. Most other cities do not share this good, economic and geographic fortune.

The main problem with Magnetic Los Angeles is that it lacks focus. The book feels like a cobbling together of already-publishing articles (this very well may be the case). Sometimes whole chapters felt out of place. Hise spends thirty pages discussing migrant workers and their homes, but does nothing to place this chapter within the context of the rest of the book.

Basically, Hise set out to refute a specific argument. He wanted to disprove the idea that suburbanization was chaotic, and that people moved to the suburbs simplu as a way of escaping to better housing. Hise was somewhat successful in making his case within the confines of L.A. However, I was thoroughly unconvinced that this was the case in most American cities.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Kafka on the Shore by Haruki Murakami

Little known fact: In Costa Rica, blogger.com is in spanish. I am exhausted from travel, nervous about studying abroad, and very confused by this book, but I will try to write a review as best I can.

This book was confusing, to say the least. It involved a 15-year old runaway escaping from an ominous prophecy straight from Oedipus imposed on him by his own father, an old man who can talk to cats, souls leaving bodies, souls entering dreams, bodies entering dreams, souls... dreaming.. bodies? I couldn't shake the feeling that this entire book was a metaphor, but for what, I have no idea. Perhaps some of the more tricky bits would make more sense if I had a background in Japanese cultural history; I get the feeling that a lot of the strange characters and elements of Murakami's story would mean more to a reader from his own country.

Murakami is an excellent writer, and completely lets his reader get inside the head of the main character, the incredibly intelligent, 15-year old Kafka Tamura (an assumed name). I really got a sense of Kafka's wandering consciousness, and some of the things that he speculated about the state of his own subconscious nearly made my head spin. Kafka on the Shore is written in a style similar to Jonathon Safran Foer's Everything is Illuminated, where alternating chapters tell different story lines, the secondary story line beginning in the past and eventually converging with the present.

I really enjoyed this book, it was an incredibly well told story, but one that is so densely packed with metaphor and symbolism, that it would take much more effort than I can offer to extract any greater meaning from it.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Randy's Books 2010

1) Raise High the Roof Beam, Carpenters and Seymour: An Introduction
by J.D. Salinger

2) Franny and Zooey
by J.D. Salinger

3) To Keep and Bear Arms: The Origins of an Anglo-American Right
by Joyce Lee Malcolm

4) Lochner v. New York: Economic Regulation on Trial
by Paul Kens

5) Nine Stories
by J.D. Salinger

6) The Death Penalty: An American History
by Stuart Banner

7) Let's Get Free: A Hip-Hop Theory of Justice
by Paul Butler

8) Brown v. Board of Education: Caste, Culture and the Constitution
by Robert J. Cottrol, Raymond T. Diamond and Leland B. Ware

9) The Known World
by Edward P. Jones

10) Reconstructing the Fourth Amendment: A History of Search and Seizure, 1789-1868
by Andrew E. Taslitz

11) A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man
by James Joyce

12) Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell
by Susanna Clarke

13) The Intruders: Unreasonable Searches and Seizures from King John to John Ashcroft
by Samuel Dash

14) I am America (And So Can You!)
by Stephen Colbert

15) The Red Lily
by Anatole France

16) Othello
by William Shakespeare

17) Blood Meridian: Or the Evening Redness in the West
by Cormac McCarthy

18) The Death of Superman
by Dan Jurgens, et al.

19) Civil War: A Marvel comics Event
by Mark Millar, et al.

20) Kick-Ass
by Mark Millar and John Romita Jr.

21) Love in the time of Cholera
by Gabriel García Márquez

22) The Problems of Jurisprudence
by Richard A. Posner

23) Zorba the Greek
by Nikos Kazantzakis

24) U.S.!
by Chris Bachelder

25) The Good Apprentice
by Iris Murdoch

26) Identity Crisis
by Brad Meltzer, et al.

27) Discipline & Punish: The Birth of the Prison
by Michel Foucault

28) The Bonfire of the Vanities
by Tom Wolfe

29) The Omnivore's Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals
by Michael Pollan

30) Dance, Dance, Dance
by Haruki Murakami

31) The Essential Holmes: Selections from the Letters, Speeches, Judicial Opinions, and Other Writings of Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.
By Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.; Edited by Richard Posner

32) The Nature of the Judicial Process
by Benjamin Cardozo

33) The Ages of American Law
by Grant Gilmore

34) How Lawyers Lose Their Way: A Profession Fails its Creative Minds
by Jean Stefancic and Richard Delgado

35) Armeggedon in Retrospect
by Kurt Vonnegut

The English Patient by Michael Ondaatje

Of all the books I've read this year, the prose in this one is probably the most striking:

They are in the botanical garden, near the Cathedral of All Saints. She sees one tear and leans forward and licks it, taking it into her mouth. As she has taken the blood from his hand when he cut himself cooking for her. Blood. Tear. He feels that everything is missing from his body, feels he contains smoke.

That's one of many passages that stood out to me. The metaphors, as the best ones do, always seem to describe the way one feels with a precision that you never knew existed. I've felt like I've "contain[ed] smoke," but until I read that passage I didn't know how to describe it.

Still, this is the kind of book my girlfriend would hate. There's not much in the way of a plot--It opens as a young nurse, Hana, tends for a badly burned man with no name in an Italian villa ruined by World War II. Later she and "the English Patient" are joined by Caravaggio, a thief she knew in her youth, and Kip, a young Indian sapper (a person who finds and defuses bombs for the military.) That's about it. There are flashbacks--oh so many flashbacks--and they seem to double back on themselves, in the way that the English Patient's flashback narrative might touch upon an event in brief, and then a chapter later double back and go through the entire thing again, revealing new details. Narratives are chopped up and sprinkled through the book piecemeal with little regard to chronology. There is nothing really remarkable about the beginning or the end that make them recognizable as such.

Normally, these kind of things don't bother me much. But I, like Elaine screaming "just die already!," find them a little grating and confusing in this novel. I feel like to be completely appreciated it needs more patience than I was willing to give it, because the characters really aren't engaging enough to make me want to read with a fine tooth comb, so to speak.

I have to write a paper on this book by the end of this month, though, so maybe I'll come to understand it a little better.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Meagan's Books 2009

1. American Wife by Curtis Sittenfeld
3. Skinny Bitch by Rory Freedman and Kim Barnouin
4. Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen
5. The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath
6. The Tales of Beedle the Bard by J.K. Rowling
7. Beautiful Boy by David Sheff
8. The Abstinence Teacher by Tom Perrotta
9. Holidays on Ice by David Sedaris
10. The Places in Between by Rory Stewart
11. Dead Until Dark by Charlaine Harris
12. Tweak by Nic Sheff
13. The Nine by Jeffrey Toobin
14. The Monster of Florence by Douglas Preston and Mario Spezi
15. Ellen Foster by Kaye Gibbons
16. Louder Than Words by Jenny McCarthy
17. Stolen Innocence by Elissa Wall
18. Escape by Carolyn Jessop
19. The Heretic's Daughter by Kathleen Kent
20. The Year of Fog by Michelle Richmond
21. Happens Every Day by Isabel Gillies
24. The Host by Stephanie Meyer
25. The Associate by John Grisham
26. Confederates in the Attic by Tony Horwitz
28. Handle With Care by Jodi Picoult
30. The White Queen by Philippa Gregory
31. In the Woods by Tana French
32. The Best American Nonrequired Reading, edited by Dave Eggers
34. South of Broad by Pat Conroy
35. The Lost Symbol by Dan Brown
36. Living Dead in Dallas by Charlaine Harris
37. Along for the Ride by Sarah Dessen
38. Resilience by Elizabeth Edwards
39. Deep Survival by Laurence Gonzales

Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert; translation by Allan Russell

"She still was not happy, she never had been. What caused this inadequacy in her life? Why did everything she leaned on instantaneously decay?" - Gustave Flaubert

M. Bovary runs along the same lines as many books claimed by feminism as the "early stages of enlightenment." Kate Chopin's "The Awakening", Emily Brontè's "Wuthering Heights", and Thomas Hardy's "Return of the Native" all all into this category. They are all about artistic women discontent with with "simple" husbands. They all seek passionate love and feel they will find freedom in this, but they inevitablely find just the opposite.

Madame claimed to know and yearn so much for love yet she can't see it in its most basic form. How does M. Bovary presume so much superiority over her husband in the area? Can she not see that his quite but consistent admiration of her is love in its greatest form? He is content with her, and happy at each breath she takes. Why could this not be enough?

M. Bovary is truly blind to her own selfishness. She never realizes that she is the destructive force in her life. Bad luck is not following her around, she is dragging it kicking and screaming. She also seems to feel a great deal of pity for herself, and expects others to as well. Shouldn't people know what she wants from them without her constantly having to ask for it or explain it? (Attention Ladies!) I think this novel is horribly sad because it is so often repeated.

I found Charles' passionate and desolate reactions in the very end to be most ironic.

"For I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content" Phil 4:11

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Brokeback Mountain by Annie Proulx

Christopher told me I couldn't count this because it's "just a short story." But I told him too bad and I'm counting it because he's not the boss. The website doesn't say "Fifty Books at least 200 pages long Project." And if Nathan can count a comic book, I can count this. So here's my third book. The story is pretty much what you can gather from the commercials about the movie. Proulx manages to cover 20 years in 55 pages, telling the story of two young cowboys in love but unable to be together. Classic. Just like Romeo and Juliet.

There were only the two of them on the mountain flying in the euphoric, bitter air, looking down on the hawk's back and the crawling lights of vehicles on the plain below, suspended above ordinary affairs and distant from tame ranch dogs barking in the dark hours. They believed themselves invisible...

- Names The two cowboys' names are Ennis Del Mar and Jack Twist. I think that's all I have to say about that.

+ Good plot line At first I couldn't understand how 55 pages became a full-length movie. But then I realized how much she crammed in there. She just jumps from scene to scene, and you're not entirely sure how much time passed in between. It could have been longer and made more sense, but it was interesting enough as it was.

+ It's Short I like books that cut through all the crap and just tell you what happens. I don't need all the fancy prose and long-winded (that means boring) descriptions. I read half the book on the elliptical machine at the gym. Nice.

Overall C+ I was going to give it a C, but I'll give it a C+ because c'mon, it's about cowboys having sex.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Reading Lolita in Tehran by Azar Nafisi

These are the memoirs of Azar Nafisi, a Western-educated literature professor at the University of Tehran, beginning with the first murmurs of revolution in Iran and ending with her departure to the United States. The book is divided into four sections, with each named after a book or author. She switches among chronicling events in Iran, analyzing the work or author, and drawing connections between the work/author and life in Iran. When the authoritarian regime begins to crack down, Dr. Nafisi leaves her post as professor and creates her own secret class, inviting specially chosen young women into her home to read and discuss classic literature

It is amazing how, when all possibilities seem to be taken away from you, the minutest opening can become a great freedom.

+ Fresh idea Maybe I'm ignorant, but I'm not aware of many memoirs written through the lens of classic works of fiction. It was definitely interesting to get this new viewpoint.

- Long-winded I guess I should have expected this from an academic, but she really gets long-winded when it comes to analyzing the works she's attempting to relate to. If I wanted to read an analysis of those novels, I would find a scholarly essay.

- Unfamiliarity with the works I've never read Lolita, I read The Great Gatsby so long ago I don't remember it, and I think I was skipping class senior year when we went over our Henry James. But I did read Austen's Pride and Prejudice! So I was 1 for 4. Nafisi explains enough of the novels that you can understand what's going on without reading them, so for the first three sections, I didn't mind. But when I got to the last section, Austen, I realized how much more interesting it was since I was actually familiar with her work. So I would suggest reading up on Humbert, Gatsby, Daisy Miller, and Elizabeth Bennet before tackling this one -- it just makes it more fun

+ Interesting Subject Matter I hate to seem like I'm making light of her suffering, but really the best part of the book was her tales of life under the regime, just because it was so interesting. The horror stories her girls tell of being forced to strip for a hands-on search before entering the university, of going to jail for wearing makeup and then being raped by prison guards, of being beaten by their husbands -- they're like a car wreck. It's terrible and tragic, but you just want to keep looking. I had to keep pinching myself to remember that this is non-fiction, and it really did happen. The posters she describes with Khomeini's face with his war slogans underneath (The more we die, the stronger we will become) alongside the hideous crimes against women make it sound like a dystopian mix of 1984 and The Handmaiden's Tale.

Overall B

The Broker by John Grisham

I can't say that I am a huge Grisham fan or have read more than a few of his books, so I tread carefully here.

Grisham has a knack for making the law very interesting. His style is easy to read and understand, but I find his writing to be more time spending than brain food. I wasn't impressed with The Broker at all, either as a person or as a book. I think Grisham took the opportunity to show how fine is the line between a good law story and cheap spy drivel. He seems to be writing because his publisher needs the next book out and not because he actually had a story he wanted to tell us. He does give a warning in the Author's note about all the espionage. Thank you, Grisham.

The Broker, Joel Backman, has gotten hold of a program which controls the world's most sophisticated satellite system. After a six year stint in prison he is pardoned by the president and taken by the CIA to Italy. There, they wait to see who will kill him in order to find out where these satellites came from. It is all very fast paced except the bit where he is learning Italian. The only thing more tedious than learning a language is reading about someone learning a language. Grisham does dive in with the running and killings, just before you throw down the book and stamp on it, which carries you to the end. Now, you can sleep, a jerk like Backman is once again safe in the streets.

Tess of the D'Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy

"His experience of women was great enough for him to be aware that the negative often meant nothing more than the preface to the affirmative..." Thomas Hardy; Tess of the D'urbervilles

Hardy's writings are characterized by fatalism. Often expressed in ones given disposition or status in life. Uncontrollable circumstances bring tragedy and characters miss opportunities to change their fate by a hair's breadth; people are seemingly punished for their desire to have happiness. Tess is no different. A simple joke made by a minister for his own amusement causes questions which will lead to rape, heartache, and eventually murder.

His writing style contrast a bit with the content. His descriptions are not very detailed, but they paint landscapes you feel you are seeing rather than reading about. Hardy creates characters easy to love or hate accordingly, the ones we love are also made to be sympathized with and ultimately identified with.

I think Hardy's novels have a sadness aside from the actual content. His inability to escape this fatalism implies what I believe he did in his own life; allowing circumstances to overwhelm you to the point of acceptance. Characters are unable to pull themselves out of the muck life places them in. They all live in a place easy to get into but with effort not impossible to get out of, something I think Hardy would have benefited from realizing.

Out of the Silent Planet by C. S. Lewis

C. S. Lewis is my favorite author. From Mere Christianity to The Chronicles of Narnia to his collections of essays, I enjoy his writings more consistently than those of any other author. Of his fiction, I have read precious little, aside from the aforementioned Narnia books, so this year, I thought I'd try reading his lesser known Space Trilogy.

Out of the Silent Planet, the first book in the series, is a departure for Lewis. I remember reading it yeas ago, expecting it to be like the Narnia books, and, although I finished it, I never moved on to the other books in the series. Reading it now, I see why. Most of the whimsy of Narnia is gone, replaced with a terse poeticism and rather adult themes. Like most of Lewis' fiction, Out of the Silent Planet deals with religious and philosophical themes in a very indirect way, although not quite as indirect as the later books in Narnia. Indeed, there is some obvious philosophizing at points, and the book sometimes reads slow, but if you enjoy Lewis, it's a slim book and worth the time.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Hannibal Rising by Thomas Harris

"The Little boy Hannibal died in 1945 out there in the snow trying to save his sister. His heart died with Mischa. What is he now? There's not a word for it yet. For lack of a better word, we'll call him monster." - Hannibal Rising

Hannibal Rising is written by Thomas Harris, the author of the three previous Hannibal books: Red Dragon, Silence of the Lambs, and Hannibal.

As it's title indicates, this books chronicles the beginnings of the now infamous Dr. Lector. It begins just before Hitler's Armies invade Eastern Europe, and ends ten years later when a young Hannibal takes vengeance on those soldiers that killed his family.

If you're looking for a detective novel or a psychological thriller, you're reading the wrong book. These are Hannibal's early years, and it doesn't get much into the workings and logic of his twisted, brilliant mind. Instead, it gives the reader an overview as to how Hannibal became the sweet, caring man he is today. Of all the Thomas Harris books, I like this one the best.

(Are you happy Brent? I posted.)

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

The People's Act of Love by James Meek

I got nervous when I saw Brent had finished another book, because Lord knows I can't have him tied with me. So I hurried to finish my current book, The People's Act of Love.

Here's a synopsis as best I can write: A mysterious man named Samarin appears in the Siberian town of Yazyk, which is populated by a sect of Christians who castrate themselves in order to keep themselves from sin. Samarin claims that he's escaped from a gulag called the White Garden, and has been followed by a cunning murderer named the Mohican who wants to eat him. Meanwhile the "widow" Anna Petrovna who has followed her castrate husband to Yazyk takes an interest in Samarin, which angers her lover Lieutenant Mutz, second-in-command of a troop of Czech soldiers who have been marooned in Yazyk thanks to the Russian Revolution and live in fear of an imminent attack by Red factions. It's like a crazier version of Dr. Zhivago.

Whew. There's a lot to love about this book, like that strange plot (which borrows the tales of the castrates and stranded Czechs from actual historical sources), and the metaphorical scope of the novel, which deals with the nature of faith and sacrifice. Anna Petrovna hates her former husband for the faith that made him castrate himself, and all manners of faith indiscriminately, including Communism. In Samarin, a many-faced man and ubermensch who feels he above all notions of right and wrong, she faces the logical conclusion of her hate. Meanwhile, her castrate husband, Gleb Balashov, must deal with the irrevocable destruction of the promise he made to her in marriage--lots of complex feelings and storylines in there.

But there were a few things about this book that bothered me, as well. For a book that centers itself around the contrasts between characters, they can be nebulously characterized. The thing that bothered me the most is that they all tend to speak in the same metaphysical, disjointed language, which really prevents the characters from popping out. There's a passage in which Balashov writes to Anna Petrovna, "I am a plain writer," and then goes on to write, "They had something of another world about them; smooth skin and soft voices and ageless faces." Sometimes overly thought-out dialogue is worse than dialogue which isn't thought out at all. I like this book, but given the choice I'd just read Dr. Zhivago again.

Tuesday, January 9, 2007

Ethan Frome by Edith Wharton

Really more of an lengthy short story than an actual novel, Edith Wharton's most famous book is the story of a simple man who, trapped in a loveless marriage to a hypochondriac wife, falls in love and/or obsession with his wife's cousin. Does this sound like a Lifetime movie of the week? Well, despite numerous reviews on Amazon to the contrary, Ethan Frome is about as far from Lifetime's weekly slice of estrogenated tripe as can be. Rather than a feel-good romance, Ethan Frome is a tragic character study, a forbidden love story, and twisted morality tale all rolled into 99 compact pages.

Deconstructing the plot is unnecessary, since there really isn't much to speak of. The one line summary in the first paragraph of this review tells you everything you should know going into the story, but the straightforward story isn't a problem, since the characters are the real objects of interest. There's the titular Ethan Frome, brooding, shy, and obsessive, Zeena the self-absorbed (and perpetually ill) wife, and Mattie, the vivacious cousin living with them. There are other characters, but it is around this trinity that the events unfold.

The writing itself is absolutely gorgeous. I am not exagerrating when I say that Wharton has produced some of the most evocative prose I have ever read. Her descriptions of the house, the snow, the lovers themselves, all ring true and deeply, and there are a number of moments to catch in your throat. Ethan Frome is a tidy little tome, and well worth the couple hours spent reading it.

John's Books 2017

1. Another Brooklyn
by Jacqueline Woodson

2.  Going After Cacciato
by Tim O'Brien

3.  East of Eden
by John Steinbeck

4.  Heirlooms
by Rachel Hall

5.  Can't Stop Won't Stop
by Jeff Chang

6.  The Letter Writer
by Dan Fesperman

7.  The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao
by Junot Diaz

8.  So Far From God
by Ana Castillo

9.  Bellevue
by David Oshinsky

10.  Night Sky With Exit Wounds
by Ocean Vuong

11.  Girl Code
by Andrea Gonzalez and Sophie Houser

12.  Ceremony by Leslie Marmon Silko

13.  The Gargoyle Hunters
by John Freeman Gill

14.  Letters to a Young Writer
by Colum McCann

15.  Fog and Car
by Eugene Lim

16.  Dear Cyborgs
by Eugene Lim

17.  Home
by Marilynne Robinson

18. Lila
by Marilynne Robinson

19.  Gowanus:  Brooklyn's Curious Canal
by Joseph Alexia

20.  Fatale
by Jean-Patrick Machete

21.  Giovanni's Room
by James Baldwin

22.  Thrall
by Natasha Trethaway

23.  Interpreter of Maladies
by Jhumpa Lahiri

24.  Book of My Nights
by Li-Young Lee

25.  White-Trash:  The 400-Year Untold History of Class in America
by Nancy Isenberg

26. The Inheritance of Loss
by Kiran Desai

27.  Leaving Saturn
by Major Jackson

28.  Otis Redding, An Incomplete Life
by Jonathan Gould

29.  New York 2140
by Kim Stanley Robinson

30.  The Lobster Coast
by Colin Woddard

31.  The Green Road
by Anne Enright

32.  Behind My Eyes
by Li-Young Lee

33.  A Fine Balance
by Rohinton Mistry

34.  Dragonfish
by Vu Tran

35.  Lock and Load
ed by Deirdra McAfee and BettyJoyce Nash

36.  The Refugees
by Viet Thanh Nguyen

37.  February House
by Sherrell Tippins

38.  The Bread of Time
by Philip Levine

39.  Leaving Saturn
by Major Jackson

40.  Shame
by Salman Rushdie

41.  Bummy Davis vs Murder Inc.
by Ron Ross

42.  Heart of Darkness
by Joseph Conrad

43.  Caramelo
by Sandra Cisneros

44.  Manhattan Beach
by Jennifer Egan

45.  Tenements, Towers and Trash
by Julia Wertz

Monday, January 8, 2007

Watchmen by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons

I don't think I can write a review that does this book justice. Watchmen is a Cold War era graphical novel that follows the complicated lives of six self-made super-heroes, from their upbringing to present events. These six, however, aren't your typical supermen or women; save one, the "costumed vigilantes," "masked adventurers," or whatever else they choose to call themselves, are just as human as the next person. Each character's motivations for fighting crime in costume are explored through excerpts of written documents that Moore sandwiches in between chapters. He fills in the background of his story not by awkward, forced dialogue, but through a few chapters of an autobiography, newspaper articles, all things that we see in the story and read for ourselves later, as if we happened to pick them up on our way out. By about the third chapter, through this and other devices, we realize that some of the main characters, far from being perfect super-humans, have serious psychological problems, and others that we thought were for or against us might be much more complicated.

Dave Gibbons' artwork is fine, and gets the job done, but it's very clear that Alan Moore's writing makes this story what it is. He's fond of narrating two events at once, in alternating frames, using the same text for each. For instance (one of my favorites): a man is fumbling through sex, for what we assume is the first time in many years, while a television in the background narrates a gymnastics competition, all the way through the "dismount." I could flip to any page in the book and find more of the same, some funny, some serious, all very, very well-done.

Nothing in this book seems overblown, as you might expect from some comics. Moore writes an mostly realistic (albeit exaggerated) story up until the final chapters. One of only a few stretches was my favorite character, Dr. Manhattan, the once nuclear physicist turned god-like glowing blue man when his "ionic field" was removed, and he had to rebuild himself. His character provides a very different perspective in the face of worldwide nuclear destruction, and an obstacle in one particular debate over the world's future. This book was written in the mid-1980's in a series of installments, and clearly plays off WWIII paranoia, but the only thing in each chapter that might be dated (save words like "devo" and people talking about taking Katies) is the art. Moore's super-hero/political/historical satire tells the stories that comic books have been known for since the 1950's, but in a completely different, more human light. If there's one book that can lend legitimacy to graphic novels as a literary medium, I think this is it.

Sunday, January 7, 2007

Pyramids by Terry Patchett

As a general rule I tend to avoid books that are parts of long series. As a general rule, any series that extends into the double digits achieves its longevity by dumbing itself down, repeating old ideas, or just generally overstaying its welcome. However, the Discworld series has not yet fallen prey to this dreaded syndrome. Over 30 books into the series, Pratchett's irreverent satire, likable characters, and taut plotting still haven't begun flagging. Part of the reason is Pratchett's everpresent but rarely overbearing sense of humor. He manages to elicit laughter without ever cheapening the characters or devaluing the plotline.

Pyramids, one of the earlier books in the series, is the only one thus far that deals with none of the Disc's established characters (except Death, in a very brief cameo appearance). The main character is Teppic, a young man who graduates from the Assassin's Academy only to learn that he has a more pressing destiny: King of Djelibeybi, a thinly veiled version of ancient Egypt.

Interestingly, the book deals with many of the same topics as my previous entry, Watership Down. Political systems, religion, mythology, and death all play major thematic roles, but the perspective is entirely different. Rather than a serious examination of the themes, it is instead a deconstruction of them. The jabs range from obvious to subtle, sometimes making room for insights that, if they are not exactly profound, are at least thought-provoking. That, in a nutshell, is why Pratchett's work stands up and will continue to do so.

Saturday, January 6, 2007

Watership Down by Richard Adams

Brent and I read this book at the same time, and I finished first, beating him by only a hare. Ha!

Seriously, though. I was quite impressed with this book. Watership Down is often called a children's book that adults will appreciate, but I feel it's the opposite--an adult's book that children will appreciate. It's about rabbits, yes, okay, but the themes that abound--the fear of death, the importance of religion and mythology, the composition of the perfect state--are all there. Here's what I really liked about this book:

The language: Adams wrote this book as if the rabbits' dialogue were translated from a strange rabbit language called Lapine, complete with footnotes to justify his translations. It's gimmicky, but it provides a great insight into the rabbits' culture, as every language does. For example, one of the main characters was the fifth in his litter, but rabbits can only count to four; every number after that is hrair, or a thousand. This rabbit's name is Hrairoo, or "little thousand", because of his birth, but Adams translates this as "Fiver."

The characters: This book has a massive cast of rabbits, of which I'd say ten or fifteen have really well-developed personalities. Perhaps most interestingly, Adams rarely deigns to bestow these rabbits with more "humanity" than they really have; they struggle with concepts like boats and poetry, and much of the book is about the struggle between adapting to the strange world into which they are cast and maintaining their traditional ways. Their social dynamics are not human, they are very much rabbit-like (one might call this a Naturalist work like something of Jack London), but Adams manages to carve out very human personalities for them within those dynamics.

The plot: This book is intense. I bet the fight scenes in this book are more captivatingly written than in a lot of war novels.

Okay, so next week we go back to school and I won't be able to keep this pace up. But hopefully having three under my belt will give me a leg up when crunch time comes around in eleven months or so.

Watership Down by Richard Adams

A friend of mine (Carlton, who may or may not actually participate in this little incentive), has been after me to read Watership Down for sometime. I've been hesitant though, and those of you who know the book's premise but not its story can probably relate to my lethargy. After all, a 475 page book about rabbits couldn't possibly be interesting reading for a mature adult, right?

Well, I finally took the plunge, and I'm glad I did. Watership Down reminds me of nothing so much as Lord of the Rings with, well, rabbits. Structurally, it's a classic Hero's Quest, made up of several episodic adventures during Hazel, Fiver, Bigwig, Blackberry, and the rest of his warren's trek to Watership Down. To classify the book as children's literature is to do it a grave disservice. It's been speculated over the years that there is some allegorical significance to the story, a notion which Adams denies in his introduction, but there are certainly deeper themes than one might expect in a book about bunnies. Friendship, loyalty, patriotism, war, mythology, religion, and death are all explored to varying degrees.

Best moment? "Siflay hraka, u embleer rah." Want to know why? Read the book.

Kunal's Books 2013

1. Devil in the White City
by Erik Larsson

2. King of Torts
by John Grisham

3. Confessions of an Economic Hitman
by John Perkins

4.  A Law Unto Itself: The Untold Story of the Law Firm Sullivan & Cromwell
by Nancy Lisagor

5. Life of Pi
by Yaan Martel

6. In the Garden of Beasts
By Eirk Larsson

Friday, January 5, 2007

A Canticle for Leibowitz by Walter Miller

I've decided to make 2007 the year of the post-apocalyptic novel. I've already read Cloud Atlas, which has a post-apocalyptic story in its center, and I'm going to try to pick up a copy of The Road by Cormac McCarthy when I can find a copy.

A Canticle for Leibowitz is a compilation of three novellas which trace a post-nuclear holocaust Earth from shambles to the rediscovery of space flight. After the nuclear disaster, the "Simplification" causes the survivors to kill all academics, scientists, and otherwise smart people for their part in bringing about nuclear destruction, and books are widely burnt. Isaac Leibowitz, a scientist involved in the development of the Bomb founds a Catholic order of monks who smuggle books to a remote abbey in Utah and save them for the edification of future generations. That's just the backdrop--the actual story is of the different generations of priests and brothers who fight to preserve the collection of Leibowitz, who is eventually sanctified, even though they themselves do not understand what their collection means.

It's a cleverly simple idea, and this book is interesting simply because it's a deeply religious science fiction novel, of which there are few. It's an easy enough read--I read it in a mind-numbingly uneventful day--but it contains a lot of notable themes and ideas, such as the inevitable cycle of human history. It ultimately poses the question of whether or not the monks' attempts to civilize humanity are worthwhile, as the knowledge that they save ultimately threatens to destroy the earth a second time. The one thing I found a little irritating was the uncanny resemblance of the world that survived the nuclear holocaust to ours, the pre-holocaust world. Statement about the inevitable cycle, or lack of imagination? I'm not sure.

Thursday, January 4, 2007

Long Way Down by Nick Hornby

Four strangers meet on the roof of Toppers House with the intention of jumping to their deaths. None of the four stopped to think that they might not be alone at London's most popular suicide spot on one of the world's most popular suicide nights, New Year's Eve. The four decide not to jump and instead form a strange sort of support group.

Can I explain why I wanted to jump off the top of a tower block? Of course I can explain why I wanted to jump off the top of a tower block. I'm not a bloody idiot.
- Martin

+ Easy to Read It was entertaining enough and simple enough to be called a "beach read" and yet you don't have to suffer through a story about some high-powered New York businesswoman with a pretentiously yuppie name whose magical high heels saved her dating life.

+ Excellent Voices The narration jumped among first-person points of view of the four main characters. Hornby did an excellent job with his character development. Each character has a unique voice and personality which really shines through. The chapters voiced by Jess truly sound like the words of a troubled (possibly psycho) teenager and the chapters voiced by Maureen truly sound like a conservative older British woman. Also, it was very amusing to see what Hornby thought of as the stereotypical American voice when he wrote chapters from JJ's point of view.

+ The LOL Factor I actually laughed out loud at some parts, which was surprising considering the morbid topic. Maybe I'm lame; maybe Hornby is good.

- Anti-Climactic I thought that the end was slightly disappointing. It seems like nothing big really happened. Maybe Hornby's idea fell a little short at the end. Maybe I was too annoyed with the copious amounts of family time over the holidays that I couldn't really enjoy it by the time I got there.

Overall B-

Wednesday, January 3, 2007

What to Read?

If you're stuck thinking up stuff to read, pick something off one of these two lists:

Greatest English Language Novels Since 1923
Greatest English Language Novels of the 20th Century

I've read 15 on the first list, 13 on the second. The second website also includes a voted-on list, which includes a lot of awful garbage like Ayn Rand and L. Ron Hubbard.

Tuesday, January 2, 2007

The Creation by E.O. Wilson

E.O. Wilson is an evolutionary biologist and avid conservationist, and writes this book in the form of a letter to a Southern Baptist pastor (the demographic, that is, not an actual pastor). Through detailed examples of the beauty of the natural world, and a history of the goals, failures and successes of the conservation movement, he aims to bridge the gap between scientific and religious perspectives of the environment in order to raise support for his cause, and, in that, he is very likely to fail.

Wilson maintains a polite and respectful tone throughout the entire book (full title: The Creation: An Appeal to Save Life on Earth), constantly drawing comparisons between his own beliefs and that of the Southern Baptist pastor in the first few chapters, using his Alabama childhood as a sort of common ground. But, as his letter continues, he delves deeper into esoteric specifics of evolutionary biology that most BIO 101 students would find terribly boring, let alone a deeply religious minister who probably has little education in such a specialized subfield of science. When reading this book, it becomes increasingly obvious that Wilson wrote The Creation for a very particular audience, which, unfortunately, was not his target one.

That being said, for me, the book was wonderful. It was full of exactly the kind of case studies of evolution and conservation that get me giddy enough to bother anyone around me to read a page or two. For instance: did you know that our bodies contain more bacterial cells than human cells? I would have to read this book again to absorb all the little factoids it contains, and I likely will some time soon. In the end, Wilson didn't make any new allies, or win converts to his movement, but wrote a book full to bursting of fascinating information on organisms, species and ecosystems that I, and fellow environmentalists, evolution enthusiasts and biology majors, will undoubtedly love.

Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell

I went to the library today and saw this book in the science fiction section. That made me laugh a little, because if you really wanted to classify Cloud Atlas, you'd have to rip it up and put one piece in historical fiction, one in mystery, one in fiction, and one in science fiction. Cloud Atlas spans six stories over a few centuries, its structure fashioned after a Russian doll--Each story is interrupted halfway through in the book's first half, and then continued in the book's second half, in reverse order.

What impresses me about this book is the way that Mitchell moves so effortlessly between genres. These stories, which range from the journal of a mid-nineteenth century American in the Pacific Islands to a Orwellian future world ruled by corporate interests, seem almost as if they were written by six completely different people. I would have enjoyed this book a little more if the connections between stories were a little less tendentious--some of the characters overlap, but for reasons more thematic than plot-driven--but it's inventiveness is enough to make it one of my favorite modern novels.

Monday, January 1, 2007

Genie's Books 2009

Pieter's Books 2009

Lauren's Books 2009

8. On Beauty by Zadie Smith
7. Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress by Dai Sijie

6. Kafka on the Shore by Haruki Murakami
5. The Reader by
Bernhard Schlink
4. The Valkyries by Paulo Coelho
3. A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man by James Joyce
2. The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger
1. Three Cups of Tea by Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin

Joey's Books 2009

Liz's Books 2009

11. Inner City Poverty a collection of essays by various authors
10. Camille by Alexandre Dumas Fils
9. Debt of Honor by Tom Clancy
8. Mrs. Pollifax on Safari by Dorothy Gilman
7. Mrs. Pollifax Pursued by Dorothy Gilman
6. Mrs. Pollifax and the Lion Killer by Dorothy Gilman
5. You Only Live Twice by Ian Fleming
Media Control by Noam Chomsky
3. The Long Halloween by Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale
2. Goodnight Nobody by Jennifer Weiner
1. The Unexpected Mrs. Pollifax by Dorothy Gilman

Helen's Books 2009

Brent's Books 2009

50. Libra
Don DeLillo

49. Gilead
Marilynne Robinson

48. The Way We Talk Now
Geoffrey Nunberg

47. Castle Mirage
Alice Brennan

46. V for Vendetta
Alan Moore and David Lloyd

45. A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again
David Foster Wallace

44. Dr. Fischer of Geneva or The Bomb Party
Graham Greene

43. Seymour: An Introduction
J. D. Salinger

42. Tarzan of the Apes
Edgar Rice Burroughs

41. Raise High the Roof Beam, Carpenter
J.D. Salinger

40. Franny and Zooey
J.D. Salinger

39. High Fidelity
Nick Hornby

38. Alice in Wonderland
Lewis Carroll

37. DC Archives: The Spectre
Jerry Seigel and Bernard McFadden

36. Sloth
Gilbert Hernandez

35. Little Scarlett
Walter Mosley

34. A Turn of the Screw
Henry James

33. Men of Tomorrow
Gerard Jones

32. Wonder Boys
Michael Chabon

31. Great Jones Street
Don DeLillo

30. Heart of Darkness
Joseph Conrad

29. Rabbit Run
John Updike

28. Infinite Jest
David Foster Wallace

27. Longitude
Dava Sobel

26. I Like It Better When You're Funny
Charles Grodin

25. Go Ask Alice

24. The Tale of Despereaux
Kate DeCamillo

23. A Movable Feast
Ernest Hemingway

22. Final Crisis
Grant Morrison

21. Blood Meridian
Cormac McCarthy

20. Ulysses
James Joyce

19. This Year You Write Your Novel
Walter Mosley

18. The Sound and the Fury
William Faulkner

17. The Woman in White
Wilkie Collins

16. From a Buick 8
Stephen King

15. The Confidence-Man
Herman Melville

14. Gun with Occasional Music
Jonathan Letham

13. A Walk in the Woods
Bill Bryson

12. Into Thin Air
Jon Krakauer

11. Watchmen
Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons

10. Red
Jack Ketchum

9. The Hound of the Baskervilles
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

8. Everyman
Philip Roth

7. The Counterlife
Philip Roth

6. Neuromancer
William Gibson

5. Kilbrack
Jamie O'Neill

4. The Human Factor
Graham Greene

3. Miracleman
Alan Moore and Neil Gaiman

2. The Sun Also Rises
Ernest Hemingway

1. The Giver
Lois Lowry

Carlton's Books 2009

Check out my favorites from a year of reading.

39. A Dog at Sea by J. F. Englert
38. The Amputee's Guide to Sex by Jillian Weise
37. Buffalo Bill's Wild West by Joy S. Kasson
36. Pure Drivel by Steve Martin
35. The Number File by Franklin W. Dixon
34. Black Culture and Black Consciousness by Lawrence Levine
33. The West as America edited by William H. Truettner
32. American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang
31. This Is Where I Came In by Gerald Early
30. The World is Flat by Thomas Friedman
29. Breakfast at Tiffany's by Truman Capote
28. The Box by Richard Matheson
27. The Girl in a Swing by Richard Adams
26. The Rainmaker by John Grisham
25. Wolves of the Crescent Moon by Yousef Al-Mohaimeed
24. Out of The Silent Planet by C. S. Lewis
23. Ant Farm by Simon Rich
22. Mere Anarchy by Woody Allen
21. Twilight by Stephanie Meyer
20. Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie
19. Free-Range Chickens by Simon Rich
18. Benjamin Franklin on the Art of Eating edited by Gilbert Chinard
17. Fortunate Son by Walter Mosley
16. Stuart Little by E. B. White
15. Flatland by Edwin A. Abbott
14. The Last Olympian by Rick Riordan
13. Our Endangered Values by Jimmy Carter
12. A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole
11. Catch-22 by Joseph Heller
10. The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster
9. Nim Chimpsky by Elizabeth Hess
8. Every Rescued Dog Has A Tale by Deborah Eades
7. The Battle of the Labyrinth by Rick Riordan
6. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
5. The Wordy Shipmates by Sarah Vowell
4. Watchmen by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons
3. The Secrets of a Fire King by Kim Edwards
2. The Wisdom of Insecurity by Alan W. Watts
1. The Book of Lost Things by John Connolly

Jim's Books 2009

52. Asylum by Patrick McGrath
51. Latitude Zero: Tales of the Equator by Giani Guadalupi
50. The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson
49. Breaking Dawn by Stephanie Meyer
48. Eclipse by Stephanie Meyer
47. New Moon by Stephanie Meyer
46. Twilight by Stephanie Meyer
45. Ball Four by Jim Bouton
44. Moneyball by Michael Lewis
43. The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway
42. The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett
41. 1984 by George Orwell
40. Empire Falls by Richard Russo
39. A Star Called Henry by Roddy Doyle
38. A Team to Believe In by Tom Coughlin with Brian Curtis
37. The Yankee Years by Joe Torre and Tom Verducci
36. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
35. Antony and Cleopatra by William Shakespeare
34. Toll the Hounds by Steven Erikson
33. Air Force One is Haunted by Robert Serling
32. The Summer of '49 by David Halberstram
31. The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay by Michael Chabon
30. One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
29. Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides
28. Lolita by Vladimir Nabakov
27. The Life of Pi by Yann Martel
26. Dog Soldiers by Robert Stone
25. The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson
24. Reaper's Gale by Steven Erikson
23. A People's History of the United States by Howard Zinn
22. Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell
21. American Gods by Neil Gaiman
20. The Bonehunters by Steven Erikson
19. The Long Walk by Slavomir Rawicz
18. The Return of the King by J.R.R. Tolkien
17. The Two Towers by J.R.R. Tolkien
16. The Fellowship of the Ring by J.R.R. Tolkien
15. Midnight Tides by Steven Erikson
14. House of Chains by Steven Erikson
13. Holidays on Ice by David Sedaris
12. Moby Dick; or The Whale by Herman Melville
11. In the Woods by Tana French
10. The Inner Circle by T.C. Boyle
9. The Secret History of the Lord of Musashi and Arrowroot by Junichirō Tanizaki
8. House of Sand and Fog by Andre Dubus III
7. Memories of Ice by Steven Erikson
6. Burned Alive by Souda
5. A Spectacle of Corruption by David Liss
4. Beasts of No Nation by Uzodinma Iweala
3. Deadhouse Gates by Steven Erikson
2. The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle by Haruki Murakami
1. Gardens of the Moon by Steven Erikson

Nathan's Books 2009

16. Neither Here Nor There by Bill Bryson
15. Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
14. White Teeth by Zadie Smith
13. Let My People Go Surfing by Yvon Chouinard
12. The Ball is Round by David Goldblatt
11. Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman by Haruki Murakami
10. Wolf Totem by Jiang Rong
9. Beowulf
8. A Star Called Henry by Roddy Doyle
7. Jonathan Livingston Seagull by Richard Bach
6. Dubliners by James Joyce
5. Cannery Row by John Steinbeck
4. Rabbit, Run by John Updike
3. Holidays on Ice by David Sedaris
2. The Last American Man by Elizabeth Gilbert
1. Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami

DISCLAIMER: I am a lazy, lazy person.

Brooke's Books 2009

3. Girls In Trucks
by Katie Crouch
2. The Mermaid Chair
by Sue Monk Kidd
1. The Road
by Cormac McCarthy

Christopher's Books 2009

50. The Complete Plays
by Sophocles
49. Dandelion Wine
by Ray Bradbury
48. Rebecca
by Daphne du Maurier
47. Oedipus the King
by Sophocles
46. The Age of Innocence
by Edith Wharton
45. Robinson
by Muriel Spark
44. The Tattooed Girl
by Joyce Carol Oates
43. Our Man in Havana
by Graham Greene
42. The Odyssey
by Homer
41. The Good Earth
by Pearl S. Buck
40. Men and Cartoons
by Jonathan Lethem
39. Tears of a Tiger
by Sharon Draper
38. House on Mango Street
by Sandra Cisneros
37. Aiding and Abetting
by Muriel Spark
36. A House for Mr. Biswas
by VS Naipaul
35. Speak
by Laurie Halse Anderson
34. Count Belisarius
by Robert Graves
33. Life of Pi
by Yann Martel
32. Hatchet
by Gary Paulsen
31. Raise High the Roof Beam, Carpenters and Seymour: an Introduction
by JD Salinger
30. Revolutionary Road
by Richard Yates
29. Ubik
by Philip K. Dick
28. Wise Blood
by Flannery O'Connor
27. Ludmila's Broken English
by DBC Pierre
26. The Time Traveler's Wife
by Audrey Niffenegger
25. Silence
by Shusaku Endo
24. The English Teacher
by RK Narayan
23. The Heart of the Matter
by Graham Greene
22. The Spy Who Came in from the Cold
by John Le Carre
21. Gormenghast
by Mervyn Peake
20. House of Sand and Fog
by Andre Dubus III
19. Ironweed
by William Kennedy
18. Something Wicked This Way Comes
by Ray Bradbury
17. Miss Lonelyhearts
by Nathanael West
16. Voss
by Patrick White
15. Mister Pip
by Lloyd Jones
14. Franny and Zooey
by JD Salinger
13. The Centaur
by John Updike
12. The Last of Mr. Norris
by Christopher Isherwood
11. The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie
by Muriel Spark
10. Dragonwings
by Laurence Yep
9. The Painted Bird
by Jerzy Kosinski
8. Miracleman
by Alan Moore
7. How Fiction Works
by James Wood
6. Motherless Brooklyn
by Jonathan Lethem
5. The Brooklyn Follies
by Paul Auster
4. Things Fall Apart
by Chinua Achebe
3. The End of the Affair
by Graham Greene
2. Dogsong
by Gary Paulsen
1. Dog Soldiers
by Robert Stone