It’s cool that PK Dick’s books are being reissued with cool cover art and nice formatting. Some of his books, however, are stronger than others. This one, for example, is a great story of paranoia and “what the hell is going on?” but it doesn’t cohere as nicely as, say, Ubik or his other more popular books. There is some really excellent humor in it, which I’m not used to getting from his books, but overall there are a lot of weird tedious parts as the characters argue over what the main monster-type character is up to. Good story, good to read anything that Dick has written, really, but not superfantastic.
Jon Stewart is really funny, but not always a way that is amusing to me personally. This book is a collection of essays and since I didn’t know what it was when I first picked it up -- besides seeing his face all over the front cover -- I was a bit put off by one of the first essays that was some first person discussion of something where the narrator clearly wasn’t Jon Stewart. Some of the things in this book are fairly funny and some of them are not. He is funnier in person, but I did read this book through to the end, so it wasn’t all that bad.
This sexy YA book was included in the envelope of a pal who sent me some perfume samples and I wasn’t sure if she included it just to take up space or if she was recommending it. I enjoyed it. It’s the story of a girl called Sugar whose rock star boyfriend had recently died in a suicide/drug overdose sort of way. She has to deal with living independently, meeting new people and the fact that his ghost keeps visiting her and wanting to have sex with her. She has a hippie Mom and a father she knows nothing about, few friends and an okay amount of money. This is a fairly classic and straightforward “girl with new life situation learns to find new voice” but I enjoyed it, liked the main character and found myself wondering what woould happen to her next.
The Explainer Another one of those “tell us how it works” books, though this one is from the folks at Slate and a little less hipster and a little more informative than the one from the mentalfloss folks. Answering questions sent in from readers like “Could Bill Clinton be elected Vice President?” and “Can the President change the oath of office?” and “Why do Supreme Court justices recuse themselves” it’s got a lot of tidbits presented authoritatively enough to be good reading while at the same time somewhat entertaining. And, since the questions are usually linked in some way to something that the Slate team has written about, there’s usually some degree of relevance to whatever’s being talked about. It’s not all politics, it’s sometimes really interesting, and the information is usually cited.
This was a really heavy book and one of the ones that stuck with me the most of all the books I read this year. The premise is very basic: people start losing their sight for no reason whatsoever. A class system develops where the sighted quarantine the blind. The blind are left to live like animals in an institutional setting. Things degrade. One man’s wife is taken away with the blind, however she is sighted. She is the one who observes what is going on.
Saramago really spells it all out and this story is tough to read. There’s lots of weird sex and shitting in hallways and bad behavior all around. His writing is beautiful which is in stark contrast to the ugliness that is the human behavior in this story.
One of the many delightful books about honey that I’ve read over the past decade or so. This is more of a hobbyist approach -- a woman who has started beekeeping spends a year on and off with a serious professional beekeeper. It has the tone of The Orchid Thief. Well-off woman from up north comes down to Florida and finds everything remarkable including every odd little habit of the older man she’s hanging out with. Bishop does manage to tell us something about herself, the trials she went through in her early beekeeping days, which are actually quite interesting.
Her description of the noble beekeeper borders on the hagiographic sometimes and she’s clearly put her education to good use with her rich and full and sometimes tiresome use of adjectives. Most of them I began to gloss over after a while, but as she was describing her beekeeper friend cooking up some freshly caught fish as a piscine delight (or something similar) I just started to go “Ugh!” The rest of the book is really worth it if you like bees at all. A lot of good history and some fun images and stories. Maybe a little too much idle pontificating. This book is at its best when it’s telling you facts, somewhat less when it’s telling you stories.
This book capitalizes on the hipster love for trivia while at the same time trying to get its barbs in. So, while it helpfully and humorously explains the difference between crack cocaine and regular cocaine, it also talks about meth user’s bad breath. Is this a snarky aside or is it true (and yes, I know about “meth mouth” but does that equal bad breath?) and how do I tell the difference between jokey pretend information and real information. I enjoyed flipping through the pages of this book; I’m pretty much their target audience, raised on bar trivia and That’s Incredible. On the other hand, as a librarian I felt that it was a little too light to be truly useful, and yet a little too earnest to be just a Big Book o' Snark. Fun, light, eh.