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« April, 2012 »
The Best American Short Stories 2011

I love these collections but usually there are at least one or two stories that I find wincingly terrible. Not so this year. Brooks has assembled an interesting assortment of very different stories that don’t all have that “Written for the New Yorker” feeling to them. While there are a lot of the same themes threading throughout--bad marriages, Rome, quirky childhoods, lost loves, the usual--the stories don’t all feel “of a type” the way these collections usually do. I raced through this set and really enjoyed the range and variety of writing.

Groovitude: A Get Fuzzy Treasury

What’s almost more amusing than this book, which I enjoyed quite a lot, is seeing the people who are totally ticked off and annoyed by it on Amazon. I can understand how the content -- a mean cat and a dopey well-meaning dog who live with their ad exec owner and have amusing domestic interactions -- aren’t for everyone, but I’d think that would be the sort of thing you’d know before you bought it, maybe? The only gripe people seemed to have that was legit was that this compendium is basically the first two books combined with some Sunday comics. So, if you already have one of the other books, you may not want this one. I’m not sure why I love this collection so much but having had dogs and cats a lot of my life it just makes me smile a lot of the time.

The Vermont Monster Guide

This was a gift from some friends, totally unexpected and I read it all almost immediately. One of the things that is great about Vermont generally is how the whole state can seem like a small town. Reading about all these real and possibly apocryphal monster reports and sightings in towns I’ve heard of and/or been to was super fun. I like Citro’s work generally and this combination of his research and humor combined with some great illustrations by talented illustrator Stephen Bissette made it a really fun read.

My Kind of Place: Travel Stories from a Woman Who’s Been Everywhere

This book was great fun. Orleans is the type of person who finds all sorts of random things to talk about and makes it the most fascinating thing you’ve never heard of. She injects herself enough into her essays to make them seem real but not so much that it’s all filtered through her own sensibilities and you wind up annoyed. Every essay makes you feel that it’s about someone or something you’d like to know more about, from the Sunshine Grocery in NYC to the fertility monastery (?) in Bhutan to climbing Mount Fuji. It’s good writing that happens to be about travel. Most of it appeared previously in the New Yorker so if you know her writing there, you may have already seen a lot of it.

Internet Fraud Casebook

Was hoping to be able to finish this but it just wasn’t happening and then I’d already renewed it once and it was overdue. So, this is a neat casebook that talks about the many different ways the internet can be used to defraud people. And it’s fascinating because there are all these different scams. However the writing is really uneven and some of the chapters are ones where you feel like you’ve learned something and others are hard to even figure out what is happening. Ultimately I just couldn’t get excited to keep reading it.

Dangerously Funny: The Uncensored Story of "The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour"

This was one of those “Oh hey when winter rolls around I will really hunker down and finish this book” situations. But then winter never came and the book was overdue and I had to return it though I am excited to maybe try again next winter.