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« July, 2014 »
My Pet Virus: The True Story of a Rebel Without a Cure

I’m a little embarrassed to say that I didn’t know as much as I thought about why hemophiliacs were likely to have contracted HIV. I learned that and a lot more from this entertaining but informative book by Shawn Decker. Decker (who also blogs at mypetvirus.com) has written a memoir about what it was like growing up as a kid with HIV back when most of what we knew about HIV and AIDS came from Ryan White and Bennetton ads. He’s got an engaging style, a no-bullshit manner and pulls no punches with himself or anyone else in telling his story.

Interpreter of Maladies

Trying very hard to get on my “more diverse authors” bandwagon. This book was perfect. I got it from a library book sale, had never heard of it before and was completely engrossed by the stories of people in India or Indian Americans and their experiences both at home and in the US. Lahiri won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction for this and also lived in Rhode Island which gave many of the US stories a familiar feel. A lot of places I recognized (Cambridge, Boston, the Charles) seen through eyes that made it less familiar. All in all a great collection.

The Fifth Assassin

I somehow read this book in 2014 and forgot to write a review for it. I liked it and I enjoy this series about the Culper Ring and all the weird intrigue happening in DC> This one was a little less great than the others because of the inclusion of the mentally ill assassin guy. Any time there is a first person account of someone who is mentally disabled (and not really that realistic but used as a “they could do anything!” wildcard) I lose interest. That said I’m currently reading the newest installment so it didn’t make me give up on the thing, just made me more skeptical.

Guitar Zero

Gary Marcus and I went to college together and I reconnected with him at a friend’s memorial service. He was buzzing about this book he’d written and I was just learning to play ukulele and it was kismet. I really enjoyed this look into the science of what music is about brain-wise and why it holds a special place in our brains

Born Standing Up

By the time I knew about Steve Martin, he was already famous and doing SNL. This biography covers his lie from when he was born to basically when he became stupid-famous and talks a lot about how he chose to do the stuff he did. It’s a neat look into someone who is often pretty private about a lot of his life and is a great behind the scenes look at what sort of work it takes to become not only a comedian but a sort of unique one with a very narrowband audience appeal. Martin come across like a really nice guy and is gracious about all the people he mentions even though he definitely had a bit of a rocky upbringing. A bunch of old photos really make this a book worth reading.

Lost Cosmonaut: Observations of an Anti-Tourist

Sort of a random pickup from me while I’ve been trying to expand my book-reading horizons this year. Kalder is a white guy but he is a white guy from Scotland who is living in Moscow and decides to go to the weird ends of the Russian empire, looking at a lot of former Soviet places that are now sort of muddling along as sort-of independent. He talks about the history of the people who used to live there, goes in search of what’s interesting and/or cool and spends a lot of time bored and hungry. On some trips he goes with friends and on some he goes alone. While he’s not the most reliable narrator in all cases, the things he decides to discuss and talk about have a level of universal appeal. Many of these places are now places that I want to go, even though I suspect that just the intervening decade will have changed them tremendously.

Holy Sh*t!: The World’s Weirdest Comic Books

Fun collection of totally weird and crazy comics. Some of these are “OMG what were they thinking?!” and some are just weird comics, but either way this is an entertaining and well-researched look at several decades of comics publishing internationally.

Wild Life

A terrific book, given to me by a friend when we were talking about cryptozoology and the place it takes in American fiction. This book is a lot of books at once: it’s got a strong female lead who is a very non-traditional female, it’s got a lot of outdoor PacNW history and “sense of place” activity, and buried in the middle of it is a parable about how humans interact with the earth, and how it could be different. Th set up of this book (a pile of journal entries, somewhat recreated after-the-fact by a modern-day person) was a little tough to get into at first but gradually became much more appealing. I was sorry when this book was over.