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Tuesday, January 02, 2007

2006 Book List

This project started because, after years of reading 3 to 5 books a week, I found myself at the beginning of last year with stuffed bookshelves, four 4-foot high piles of unread books around the bed, boxes of books yet unpacked in closets, and a sense of being overwhelmed by the whole goddamned show.

I had previously joined a book discussion list online after reading Jared Diamond's "Collapse." I don't think I contributed a single word to the damned discussion. There was just so much else to do!

It didn't help that I was mixing a potent chemical stew of painkillers on a fairly regular basis. It's hard to read when your eyes refuse to move past word four on a page.

Finally, this year, Smoke prodded me until I decided to rise from the depths of my despair and make reading an ongoing project. I'm putting aside the painkiller combo (to be used only in extremis). I'll try other pain-relief methods, for the nonce. (No, not prayer. I haven't sunk that far.)

I made a list of books to be read this year. Not a very ambitious list. Mostly fiction (easier on the chemically stuporous brain). Having announced the creation of the list, I then felt obliged to actually read all the fucking books on it. If only this worked with smoking, I'd be shed of that habit by now.

But without further ado, the list. And please, if anyone has recommendations for must-reads, add 'em in the comments.

Taoist Tales - Raymond van Over

Borrowed? No

Your standard collection of teaching tales. I was inspired to read this by finding, in a small bookstore in Galway, a copy of the Tales of Nasr-ed-din Khoja.

Recommended? Only for those interested in Taoism, religion, Chinese culture, teaching tales, and the like.

Reread? Maybe, but not very likely.

David Marshall Trials - Alex Josey

Borrowed? No

Alex Josey has written a great deal about politics in Malaysia, Singapore, and other parts of Southeast Asia. I think he does right by David Marshall - Singapore's first Jewish prime minister - and one of the finest men that ever lived. Rest in peace, Mr. Marshall.

Recommended? Only if you like reading about criminal law, trials, Southeast Asia post WWII, or David Marshall.

Reread? Maybe, but not very likely.

Shadows of Berlin - Dovid Bergelson

Borrowed? Smoke.

There's no denying that the author is skilled.

Recommended? Quite honestly? This is the kind of book you should read only if you are not given to depression, sadness, sorrow, misery, down-in-the-dumpsitude, angst, unhappiness, or the like. After reading it, I contemplated purchasing a gun with ammunition, poison, acid, a samurai sword, sharp knives, and various other implements that might effectively assist me in doing away with myself. Luckily, we have Happy Pills, so I took those instead.

Reread? Not even after I have senile dementia and have forgotten why I read it in the first place, or what it was about.

House of the Seven Gables - Nathaniel Hawthorne

Borrowed? No

It's been a long time since I read Hawthorne - probably over 20 years - and he happens to come from the era of American writers that I actually am fond of, even if they tend to be somewhat windy, moralizing sods obsessed with Happy Endings. Given my usual choice of reading matter, Happy Endings are not to be lightly dismissed. Although the story was rather predictable - disappointingly so, in fact - plot is not Hawthorne's strongest point. Rather, his descriptions of both things and people have a freshness that is not diminished by the years.

Recommended? I enjoyed this book, and would recommend it to readers interested in literature, especially American literature, especially of that particular period.

Reread? Not very likely, although there's always the possibility that I'll end up stranded when the waters flood the coast all the way up to my hill.

We Too Are Drifting - Gale Wilhelm


Ruined by Reading - Lynne Sharon Schwartz

Borrowed? Gift from Smoke.

I have another of Lynne Sharon Schwartz's books - Disturbances in the Field, I believe. I've had it for nearly a decade. I'm not sure why I never read it, but it did occur to me as I was reading this book, that I might never read the other. Perhaps in all fairness to Ms. Schwartz I should mention that I read her book right after reading Nick Hornsby's The Polysyllabic Spree. Hornsby is not in the same class as Schwartz, as a writer. I gather he's a columnist for a British paper, or perhaps several, and he writes about things like sports, and sprogs, and the like. However, he is highly amusing, and Schwartz is serious. More important, Hornsby does not take himself seriously, and Schwartz does.

Recommended? In fact, although this book was not a bad read - she is a good writer - it was a tad too pompous and pretentious for my taste. Only for shut-ins, the bedridden, the terminally serious, the pretentious, the pompous, and those obsessed with making lists of books read and books to be read.

Reread? Highly unlikely under non-life-threatening circs.

Conferences are Murder - Val McDermid

Polaris - Faye Weldon

Borrowed? No

I like Faye Weldon. She's a good writer, if rather bitter. Bitter things, I find, like greens, for example, can be quite healthy, in certain quantities. I should not recommend an unlimited quantity of Faye Weldon, nor a literary diet comprising nothing but Faye Weldon, but I rather enjoyed this book. Anyone who wants to read it may apply to me in person for the loan (but I'm not mailing it anyplace. Just drop by, OK?).

Recommended? Only if you like literature, reading, words, feminists, twistedness.

Reread? Probably.

Dreams from My Father - Barack Obama

Borrowed? Yes, thank you, Bri. I'm sure you're glad I finally finished reading it.

Barack Obama is The Man Of The Hour, or the moment, or whatever he's the man of. Seems like everybody's talking about him at present.

No doubting that Obama is a very good writer. However, autobiographies are notoriously difficult, especially when one is (still) a callow youth. I began reading this book before the 2006 elections, and when Obama laid into his Democratic colleagues for their inability to appeal to "people of faith" - a phrase which, over the past six years has largely been misappropriated by fundie lunatics to indicate their purer and more virtuous (closeted homosexual, pedophilic, whoring, gambling, drinking, drugging, hypocritical) selves as opposed to the rest of us hoi polloi - I had to put the book down lest I explode in flames. I was deeply and bitterly disappointed in Obama for a while there. It might not even have been largely his fault, as the ManWhore JoeHo LieberClod had been doing the same thing for so long that my every nerve was just hanging out twitching and waiting to be irritated. So, in all fairness to Senator Obama, he may have been the innocent victim of an irritation too large to be limited to the deserving few. After the elections, despite the Liebertumor's win, I decided I had best reacquaint myself with Senator Obama, if only to have a better understanding of what might lie ahead.

Obama writes about some deeply-felt and personal issues - family, relationships, successes and failures - and he does it with what appears to be a rare and refreshing candor. I liked the person I saw in the book. I'm not sure how closely that person corresponds to the Senator, but I would recommend the book. If nothing else, it is a very interesting read, told in a clear, if sometimes anguished, voice.

Recommended? Yes.

Reread? Probably, especially if the Senator goes on to achieve all that he's capable of.

Interpreter of Maladies - Jhumpa Lahiri

Borrowed? Gift from Win.

Jhumpa Lahiri is a very talented writer. That said, this collection of short stories was not haunting, or memorable, or much of anything. Perhaps enjoyable, rather like eating mangoes in season, or fresh watermelon on a hot day. Pleasant. Enjoyable. Perhaps the criterion I should apply is, "At least it didn't make me want to tear my eyeballs out with my fingernails, as Dovid Bergelson's Shadows of Berlin did."

Recommended? Yes, especially for holiday reading.

Reread? Probably not.

The Voice of Egypt - Virginia Danielson

Borrowed? From the ubiquitous Smoke, gifter and lender of fine literature.

This is a book about Oum Kalsoum, one of the greatest singers ever born. I love Oum Kalsoum's music, and I love to listen to her sing. However, in all honesty, the book is rather academic. This does not always have to mean dull, or dry, and Virginia Danielson does a remarkable job of describing the life and times of Oum Kalsoum. When she gets to the analysis of Oum Kalsoum's music, though, it's hard going.

Recommended? Only for those who love music with an unreasoning passion, or have an academic interest in music of the Middle-East, or find most fiction "boring and fluffy."

Reread? Most likely not.

Naked Pictures of Famous People

Jon Stewart. What else is there to say?

Going Postal - Terry Pratchett

See above comment.

Bangkok 8 - John Burdett

Borrowed? Gift from Madame X, I think.

I'm beginning to think a good part of my reading could simply be classified as YAMM - Yet Another Murder Mystery.

That said, this was a curious book. It's clear that the author has spent some time in Bangkok. The background of this murder mystery is detailed enough for the aficionado of such writing, and even travel writing. However, the literary device of attempting to write as a native of Bangkok, when indulged in by someone named Burdett, is not very satisfying. Of course, now that I've written this, Burdett will turn out to be half-Thai, born and raised in Bangkok. Or maybe not.

Recommended? Enjoyable read, what I call a "bog book," meaning, take it with you to any outlandish place. Read it over dinner. Read it in the toilet. Read it while you're prising your eyes open over orange juice in the a.m., after a hungover and inappropriately festive evening. Read it on the beach. Read it on a plane. Then hand it to someone as addicted to the printed word as yourself, who is looking for something to read.

Reread? No.

Someone Comes To Town, Someone Leaves Town - Cory Doctorow

Borrowed? From Bri. Oh, thanks for the loan, Bri, I'm done with this one, too.

The book jacket says that this is Cory Doctorow's first novel. For a first novel, it's, well, interesting is hardly a strong enough word. Again, another talented writer, yet, sadly, not another literary tour de force. Bog book.

Recommended? For those who get off on being the first to discover a writer, or reading unknown authors, or Canadian fiction, or twisted plots, or new trends in literature.

Reread? No.

The Murderers' Who's Who

Signature Killers - Robert Keppel

Borrowed? No

Very interesting book for true-crime aficionados and those interested in what makes psychos tick. Rather upsetting in parts.

Recommended? Definitely not recommended for the squeamish, tender-hearted, emotionally disturbed, unbalanced, or criminally inclined. If you're not any of those, read it at your own risk.

Reread? Possibly.

Grave Secrets - Kathy Reichs

Borrowed? Smoke, of course. Thanks, Smoke!

Definitely YAMM.

There's not much to say about YAMMs. Once in a while one comes across a writer like Dorothy Sayers, or Catherine Aird, or P.D. James, or Robert van Gulik, or Carl Hiaasen, and those books end up as keepers. Mostly, they're bog reading. Enjoyable, but not memorable.

Recommended? For the bog.

Reread? No.

Guyana Massacre - Charles A. Krause

Borrowed? No

This topic fascinates me. I am absolutely flamdoodled by people taking their lives for religion. I suppose if I can't see, smell, touch, feel, and taste it, I'm not likely to want to die for it. Also, for me religion exists to fulfill the spiritual yearnings of humanity. Religion and spirituality are not, to my mind, the same thing. Religion almost seems like a mass-produced Walt Disney solution to human spiritual questings. I'm not immune to the quest for the spiritual, but I don't think anyone else can see into my understanding, or lack thereof, of these sentiments. Therefore, whenever I hear about Heaven's Gate, or Scientology, or People's Temple types, I must know more. So I picked up this book. The writer was a journalist (still is, for all I know), and was there when it all went down. He describes what he saw in detail, and cites sources for his assertions.

Recommended? Not a keeper. Recommended only for the kind of eejit like myself who actually wants to waste their precious time reading about such shite.

Reread? No.

Green River Running Red - Ann Rule

Borrowed? No

Ann Rule is an excellent writer of the True Crime genre. Few better. That said, the subject matter of the book is enough to put one off one's feed for a fair bit. Not that I'm getting any thinner reading things of this ilk, but I certainly ought to be.

Recommended? Read it, enjoy it, pass it on. Not a keeper. Only for people who like reading about murder, mutilation, mayhem, skull-smashings, blood and other forensic evidence, and the general nastiness that marks the human condition.

Reread? No.

Marley and Me - John Grogan

Borrowed? Thank you, KB, for the loan of this book.

This is a book about a dog. Really. That's all it's about. And I highly recommend it to anyone who has ever had an animal in their life that they loved. Take a box of tissues with you, you'll need it. And write a nice cheque to the SPCA, or Best Friends after you put it down.

Recommended? Highly recommended for all but the most curmudgeonly, dastardly, unpleasant animal-haters, psychopaths, and brutes.

Reread? Someday, I'm sure.

A Prayer For Owen Meany - John Irving

Borrowed? From Jeannie, and many thanks, my dear.

If you decide you're never going to read another book again, read this one first. You can stop right after. This is one of those books that you will never forget.
Unless you've been living in a cave in the Himalayas for the past few decades, you know that John Irving is a writer of some renown, and that among his other literary efforts he counts the excellent World According to Garp and (the unread-by-me-as-yet) Cider House Rules and (partially-read-and-abandoned-in-frustration) Hotel New Hampshire. I thought Garp was an excellent book, so I embarked upon Hotel New Hampshire with all the enthusiasm of a carnivore faced with Wagyu beef. Alas, the latter literary effort was inexplicably frustrating and disappointing, and I don't think I got beyond a couple of chapters. So I couldn't bring myself to begin on this book for the longest time. And now I beat myself about the head and shoulders (virtually), because I would happily have reread the book a dozen times. Okay, maybe half a dozen.

"Enjoy" is not the right word to apply to this book. It seized me about the throat with both fists and dragged me into its own world and did not release me to breathe until every last morsel had been devoured. It's a masterpiece of skillful planning and structure, and even though you know early on that the writer is setting you up for something, not until the denouement do you realize how skillfully you've been set up and how perfectly the author has meshed all the separate elements of the story. I laughed, I cried, I despaired, I wondered. I was never bored. I never tired. Sometimes I reread pages for the sheer joy of it. Sometimes, just because my inability to let the book go forced me to attempt the feat of reading through closed lids.

Recommended? This book is a keeper for anyone who loves good writing, good stories, language, insight, reading, late-night bookfests accompanied by edibles, and feeling. And, just in case you were wondering: I liked it.

Reread? Definitely, some day, hopefully soon.

Snow Falling on Cedars - David Guterson

Borrowed? No

YAMM, but with a difference. The writer must live in the State of Washington, he writes about it with such familiarity. I must confess that, thanks to his writerly skills, I suffered a brief memory lapse about how little I liked the fog and rain and all-around gray weather there. A talented author, a well-written book, that examines in great detail many of the issues surrounding the murder of a white resident of Washington state by a Japanese resident of same. Woven in there is an reference to Ronald Takaki's excellent book, Strangers From A Different Shore, which I've had for over a decade and never read and now I want to rush downstairs and read it. Also information about strawberry farming, the weather in Washington state, WW II, Pearl Harbor, the internment of Japanese civilians, and a plethora of other things that I found interesting. Even fishing and fishing boats. Dense, interesting, well-written.

Recommended? For Asian Americans, those studying them, readers interested in WW II, internment camps, fishing, fishing boats, murder mysteries, and strawberries.

Reread? Maybe after Takaki.

The Healing - Gayl Jones

Borrowed? Smoke again!

I had never heard of Gayl Jones before reading this book (thanks for the loan, Smoke!), although it appears that she is a well-known (among the knowing circles) author. Proves that I need to finish reading all the crap fugging up my home and bookshelves so I can find out about New Literary Lights In Teh Field.

I really really liked this book. It's well-written, though at times I didn't quite understand what the author was trying to say, but that can happen when you're lying in a tub full of hot water and bubbles, drinking good Australian white wine.

Recommended? Highly, for readers with an interest in good writing, women's writing, African-American authors, literature, writerly skills of various sorts, and sheer, old-fashioned enjoyable reading. Oh, and soaking in tubs of hot water with wineglasses. It's a light book!

Reread? Someday.

Virtual Reality - Howard Rheingold

Borrowed? Sort of. I think I should blame Brian.

This book is rather dated, but the subject matter is interesting. Interesting reading, though dense with fact, and it's useful to have a computer handy so you can Google necessary facts as you read.

Recommended? No. Dated.

Reread? No.

Evolution's Darling - Scott Westerfeld

Borrowed? Bri?

I don't usually write a review of books that I don't care for, but I'm making an exception here. Perhaps I was just ultra-cranky at the time, but bad writing seems to be such a large part of science fiction, and this authorly effort deserves a special commendation for achieving it. Sheesh.

Recommended? Not just "not a keeper," but a book to be swiftly handed off to any friends you might have that read trash uncritically and spend way too much time on the InnerTubes in a one-handed sort of way, if you get my drift.

Reread? Absolutely not.

Fugitive Pieces - Anne Michaels

Borrowed? A gift from Michael, who is a poet, and I must say, toots, it reveals your poetic sensibility most commendably.

This is a work of prose written by a poet. The author's love of, and facility with, language is truly beautiful to behold. Enjoy this book. Even if you don't want to, you will.

Recommended? Highly recommended for writers, readers, snobs, collectors, poets, and people with literary taste. Not to be read near bathtubs or wine. It's a keeper, and you'll want to preserve it all pristine and everything.

Reread? Yes, hopefully soon.

The Blind Watchmaker - Richard Dawkins
The God Delusion - Richard Dawkins

Borrowed? No

Richard Dawkins wants those of us who are atheists to get the hell out of our closets and stand up proud! And with his witty, sharp prose, he's quite likely to light a fire under our collective bum, not to mention the hindquarters of the fundier loonies or loonier fundies, whichever twig to reading first.

Recommended? Both books highly recommended for those who love science, love to watch (read) a logical mind in action, are amused by verbal cudgelings when bestowed upon the deserving, and anyone who's tired of the shameless godbaggery that passes for religion in these times.

Reread? Mos' Def.

The Mysteries of Pittsburgh - Michael Chabon

Borrowed? Bri, is this one of yours?

I think I expected much more because Chabon has won so much recognition and admiration for his work. He's a good writer, yes. But this book didn't seize me like Owen Meany did - or many other books, too many to list here. Not bad. A good read.

Recommended? Whether you're a writer or someone who enjoys reading, it's always good watching a skilled writer at work.

Reread? No.

The Polysyllabic Spree - Nick Hornsby

Borrowed? Gift from Smoke.

Anyone who reads a lot will enjoy this, especially if you're one of those people who just keeps buying, borrowing, or picking up books. The author chronicles his monthly purchases of books, followed by comments about those he read. As Smoke points out, the ones he reads aren't always the ones he buys. How well I know that!

Recommended? Yes. Thoroughly enjoyable.

Reread? Not anytime soon.

Fierce Attachments - Vivian Golnick

Borrowed? Smoke. Again.

This is another of those books that seizes you by the throat. It's not the most comfortable subject matter - it's about the difficult relationship between a mother and daughter. Nevertheless, I couldn't put it down.

Recommended? Yes.

Reread? Most likely.

A Feeling For The Organism - Evelyn Fox Keller

Borrowed? No.

This is a book by a scientist, about another scientist. Barbara McClintock, the subject of this highly readable, if very technical at times, book, is the biologist credited with discovering the genetics of corn. I've never been terribly interested in corn, although genetics is a fascinating subject. Keller brings the field, the subject, and corn, alive in a glorious and fascinating book. A terrific science read, even for those who don't know much about science. Keller explains much about biology, especially molecular biology, and genetics, and women in science in an interesting and understandable voice.

Recommended? Highly.

Reread? Yes, though not till I get done with next year's reading list!

Oh, What A Blow That Phantom Gave Me! - Edmund Carpenter

Borrowed? No.

What an interesting book this is! Edmund Carpenter examines how the sharing of information changes that information itself, politically and socially. A keen, progressive intellect and a background in media and anthropology allows him to analyze the effect that media have upon the original information that is disseminated and, ultimately, returned, sometimes changed beyond recognition.

Recommended? If you're interested in social and cultural anthropology, and how the media work.

Reread? Someday, perhaps.

A Reckoning - May Sarton

Borrowed? No.

I love May Sarton's work. I think she's one of the most forgotten, or ignored, or neglected of the really good writers in the world. Her ability to conjure up a scene, an interaction, a place, is powerful, possibly unsurpassed. This is one of those books about a very difficult subject - disease, leading to death - that is not at all difficult to read. I hate to say it, but I actually found it enjoyable, even heartening.

Recommended? Enthusiastically.

Reread? Someday.

Thiru's Story - A. Rajendran

Borrowed? No.

This is a first effort by a relatively unknown writer. And unknown he will stay, or should, at any rate. It's not the worst thing I've ever read.

Recommended? No.

Reread? No.

$ and Sex

See previous comment.

PI License to Peep

I read this book because it was written by an acquaintance. The central character is very interesting, but only if you like kaypohing in other people's business. Which I do. Not really recommended except for kaypohs.

The Worship of Shakti in Hinduism - N.T. Nair

Borrowed? No.

Good grief. I can't imagine what possessed me, to read this book. It's extremely dry, a highly technical discussion by a rather bombastic pandit of a very abstruse subject.

Recommended? Only for those with an overweening interest in Shakti worship, Hinduism, or mythology, and, of course, for academics. Preferably pandits.

Reread? No.

Ra'ana Liaquat Ali Khan - Mehr Nigar Masroor

Borrowed? No.

Begum Ra'ana Liaquat Ali Khan, the former Miss Sheila Irene Pant, whose grandfather converted from Hinduism to Christianity, and who, herself, converted from Christianity to Islam when she married Liaquat Ali Khan, the first Prime Minister of Pakistan, is a fascinating human being. A progressive, even radical, intellectual, feminist, political figure of great determination and strength, she lived a life right out of legend. The writer, unfortunately, is not quite up to the task of chronicling the Begum's story.

Recommended? For those with an interest in the politics or history of the subcontinent, or feminism, or the progressive movement in Pakistan.

Reread? No.

Diary of a Duty Manager

Borrowed? No.

From Sultana Bookstore in the Peace Center, on Selegie Road, in Singapore. One of many books picked up there which might be connected with the history of a particular period. Interesting, if that's your line of interest.

Recommended? For a very narrow circle.

Reread? No.

Japanese Occupation Singapore

Borrowed? No.

This is a compilation of newspaper reports of WW II as it affected Singapore.

Recommended? For people interested in WW II, Singapore history, Japanese colonialism.

Reread? Yes, for reasons having to do with book projects.

You'll Never Get Off The Island - Keith Wilson

Borrowed? No.

Very interesting book by an Aussie soldier who served in Singapore during WW II, and ended up in a POW camp.

Recommended? For those interested in WW II, POW experiences, Singapore history.

Reread? Yes. Book project.

Raffles - George Nonis

Borrowed? No.

George Nonis is a Singaporean writer/cartoonist, and really should be treated as a national treasure. This amusing book is a look at the history of The Raffles Hotel (not Sir Stamford Raffles).

Recommended? For those interested in Singapore history, the Raffles Hotel of Singapore, or just for a good time.

Reread? Yes.

Hello Chok Tong, Goodbye Kuan Yew - George Nonis

Borrowed? No.

Amusing, cartoony look at the passing of power from the Old Guard, as represented by Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew to the New Generation, as represented by Goh Chok Tong.

Recommended? For students of Singapore politics and history, or those into cartoons.

Reread? You betcha, George!

Murder is my Business - Chao Tzee Cheng

Borrowed? No.

Chao Tzee Cheng is Singapore's leading forensic scientist, and discusses some of his most famous cases in this book. Gruesome reading.

Recommended? For lovers of grue.

Reread? Probably not.

The Sin-Kheh - Goh Sin Tub

Borrowed? No.

An interesting account of life as the son of a member of the famous Triad gangs of early Singapore. The writer could certainly use a few workshops, but the subject matter is fascinating.

Recommended? Only for those interested in Chinese or Singaporean history, or the history of the Triads.

Reread? Maybe.

Myths & Legends of Singapore

Borrowed? No.

Not the best collection of its kind. Actually, it seemed to be told mostly from an Indonesian point of view. Surely there are plenty of local myths and legends that don't involve the princely families or deities of Indonesia? Well, you won't find them here.

Recommended? No.

Reread? No.

City of Night - John Rechy

Borrowed? No.

I didn't expect to have much interest in this book at all. For one thing, it's dated - I believe it was written in the 60s. And, for another, it's about the world of gay male prostitutes. Hardly one of my overriding interests. Nevertheless, the writer has some quality that makes this book a fascinating read. The book suffers from some faults, but those seem small in comparison to the writer's undeniable talent and ability to create interest in a subject matter that can't possibly be of interest to many people.

Recommended? Highly. Don't be a goddamned prude, read the book. I mean, I'm a goddamned prude, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Well, maybe "enjoyed" isn't the right word - it's depressing in parts, and often upsetting, but mostly fascinating.

Reread? Yes.

A Pinch of Snuff - Reginald Hill

Borrowed? Yes. That Smoke again.

YAMM, with excellent dialogue and characters. Highly enjoyable.

Recommended? Yes.

Reread? No. It was a good read, but I'm done with endlessly reading YAMMs.

Ruling Passion - Reginald Hill

Borrowed? Do I even have to repeat Smoke?

See above.

Recommended? Yes.

Reread? No.

Making Monsters - Robert Ofshe & Ethan Watters

Borrowed? This one's from Madame X.

Dear Madame X has quite a scholarly bent in secret, and shares with me a certain fascination with grue and the bent. The psychology of twisted people never fails to interest me. Robert Ofshe teaches at Cal Berkeley, and Ethan Watters is a journalist who has extensively documented the phenomenon of recovered memory. Considering that the book is a fairly technical analysis of recovered memory theory and the scandals associated with it, it's a terrific read.

Recommended? For those with an interest in crime, criminology, psychology, and mass hysteria.

Reread? Yes, someday.

Volpone, or The Fox - Ben Jonson

Borrowed? No.

I regret to say that it took me so very long to read Jonson. Now that I've begun, I never want to stop. What a way with language the man had! Why, Shakespeare's as nothing to him. Very very wicked humour, too. I'm not sure I'd call this "comedy" as the commentators did, unless one meant a Voltairean sort of comedy.

Recommended? Highly.

Reread? Oh, yes.

The Alchemist - Ben Jonson

Borrowed? No.

More of the same, although crueller, I think, than Volpone.

Recommended? Yes.

Reread? Yes.

A River Sutra - Gita Mehta

Borrowed? No.

I had never heard of this writer before reading this book. I will confess to a tremendous weakness for non-Western European writers, and especially for Asian and African writers. However, I did not find this book as entrancing as I had hoped. It was interesting, the writer is clearly a trained professional, and the style was familiar. Overall, not a bad read, but nothing to write home about.

Recommended? Not particularly.

Reread? No.

Heavenly Intrigue - Gilder & Gilder

Borrowed? No.

This book is about two of the most famous figures in astronomy - Tycho Brahe and Johannes Kepler. Kepler worked with Brahe at a certain point in their lives - in fact, right before the mysterious death of Tycho Brahe. The authors, a spousal team, set about proving that Kepler poisoned Brahe. They make an excellent case. More importantly, they write a fascinating book. This is a good glimpse at science in the Middle Ages, at the power of royalty and the boundaries between alchemy and astrology and chemistry and astronomy. Fascinating.

Recommended? Yes, and especially for those with any interest in history, astronomy, science, and - of course - murder.

Reread? Someday.

In progress:

Dinosaur in a Haystack - Steven Jay Gould partly read
Heart of Darkness/The Secret Sharer - Joseph Conrad rereading
The World of the Shining Prince - Ivan Morris partly read
'Tis Pity She's a Whore - John Ford
The Art of the Novel - Milan Kundera
Sometimes A Great Notion - Ken Kesey partly read
Nonsense - Robert J. Gula partly read
A House in Gross Disorder - Herrup partly read

Reviews to follow. How else to convince you skeptics (you know who you are) that I actually read the damned things?

Okay, sceptics, there's yer reviews.

Now that I peruse the list, it does seem a tad heavy on death and murder, and all that sort of thing, don't it?

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