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« October, 2011 »

Weird Hikes   book icon  
by Art Bernstein (2003)

read: 30 October 2011
rating: [+]
category: non-fiction

Enjoyed this book which I found on the new shelf of the public library. Bernstein is an author of many hiking manuals and this book is a collection of odd stuff that’s happened to him while hiking. These can range from the supernatural [saw a lady at a cabin in the woods who others claim had died decades earlier] to the mundane [broken leg] to the inspirational or amusing. Bernstein is an interesting guy with a knack for telling a story but I got hung up on the factualness of some of the stories and didn’t always find this as enjoyable as I might have, and there’s one fictionalized account of a young bullied boy dying while hiking which I found unsettling. Still it’s a neat look at a topic that doesn’t always inspire essay collections and a quick and fun read.

Zero History   book icon  
by William Gibson (2011)

read: 30 October 2011
rating: [+]
category: fiction

This book seems to be getting only “meh” reviews overall but I quite liked it. Same characters from the last book and a bit of the same old story, coolhunting of esoteric brands and topics and some crack teams of superagents who have to pull off a caper. Enjoyable to Gibson fans, possibly disappointing to people who were looking for something newer and fresher?

Rules of Deception   book icon  
by Christopher Reich (2009)

read: 30 October 2011
rating: [+]
category: fiction

A good Switzerland-based spy thriller with enough technology and crossing and double-crossing to stay lively until the end. I enjoyed this better than Reichs other book that I read.

Little Nothings: The Curse of the Umbrella   book icon  
by Lewis Trondheim (2008)

read: 24 October 2011
rating: [+]
category: graphic novel

Loved this. These little comics are filled with small autobiographical sketches of Trondheim, a well known French cartoonist. He draws himself and his wife and children as anthropomorphic birds and makes small slice of life one-pager comics about the things they do including deciding to get cats, the ins and outs of public transportation and concerns about malaria. It’s quite amusing in a droll sort of way and the illustrations are marvelous.

The Scalpel and the Soul   book icon  
by Allan Hamilton (2008)

read: 24 October 2011
rating: [+]
category: non-fiction

Really enjoyed this book since I like reading about medicine but it was sort of all over the place. The doctor is a guy who went to medical school, went off to the war, came back to be a surgeon and then retired from active surgery to help doctors make fewer medical mistakes. If you read a lot of medical books you’ll recognize some fo the traditional marks of arrogance which are explained and somewhat apologized for but still seem somewhat jarring out of context [referring to child burn patients as “it” instead of by their gender, a seeming lack of empathy for patient deaths, a bit of self-absorption] and this is balanced somewhat by the author’s reflection and contemplation of the more spiritual side of medicine. Now, I temd to bristle when I feel that someone is requiring me to accept woo-woo approaches to things that science can explain but the doc in this case is talking about things that science deosn’t explain, or doesn’t explain well. There’s not a lot of “let’s looks into what could have been happening, scientifically...” here but a lot of connected stories that the author reflects on. I enjoyed the book with some reservations.

Kingbird Highway   book icon  
by Kenn Kaufman (2000)

read: 14 October 2011
rating: [+]
category: non-fiction

This book was a natural follow-up to The Big Year which I read a few months ago and which is coming out this weekend as a major motion picture. It talks about Kaufman’s attempt to make and win a big year in 1973, doing it almost entirely by couchsurfing and hitchhiking. Along the way he talks about many of the famous birders he gets to meet, talks about the formation of the ABA and does a lot of ruminating about the nature of bird “collecting” and life on the road generally. I really enjoyed this book even though I was sort of thinking I might not, might find Kaufman indulgent or too hippie to empathize with. I was totally wrong. This book is a delight and should be read by anyone who has read or seen Big Year.

The Giant’s House: A Romance   book icon  
by Elizabeth McKracken (1997)

read: 14 October 2011
rating: [+]
category: fiction

I picked this book off the library booksale shelves and did not know it was about a librarian. It’s not only that, it’s by a former (sort of) librarian turned novelist. She writes quite poetically about this smalltown New England librarian living a life of solitude who becomes somehow connected to the local boy who has a growth problem, eventually reaching over eight feet tall. The boy is clearly based on Robert Wadlow, the tallest man who ever lived, though there are similarities, this is not biographical but rather historical fiction. I kept pulling out phrases in this book that i found particularly evocative as a librarian and the added quirky romance if you could call it that propels the book forward fairly well. A quick, easy and fascinating read.

La Perdida   book icon  
by Jessica Abel (2006)

read: 5 October 2011
rating: [+]
category: graphic novel

Found this at a library book sale and it was a totally pleasant surprise. Jessica Abel is always one of my favorites but I didn’t know much about this one. It’s a really interesting story about a woman who decides to go down to Mexico and the people she meets and interacts with there. it doesn’t go anywhere you expect it to go and the illustration and the entire storyline are all really high quality. Highly recommended.

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