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« September, 2014 »
The Martian: A Novel

Since I have read this book--which I did in two sittings, very compelling--every time something goes wrong around here I tell myself “well at least you are not stranded on Mars popping into a plastic box” This is a great book about an astronaut stranded on Mars and the full court press to get him home. Soon to be a major motion picture, I hear. It’s interesting, you like the character and you maybe learn a little bit about science while you’re reading it.


This story is apparently the first in a set of graphic novels focusing on a young woman who is living on the Ivory Coast in the 70s when things were going better. She and her friends have varying degrees of ambition and family “situations” and while I found it hard to place myself in anyone’s shoes to really understand some of the choices they made, I enjoyed being along for the ride and really felt transported to that time and place.

The Rook

This book was recommended by someone who liked other books that I’d liked, so I opened it not knowing much about it other than that. It’s great. It has one of those Orphan Black openings: character doesn’t quite know what’s going on but SOMETHING is definitely going on... and then she starts to figure out what. One of the things I like about this book is that the main character, and many of the other characters, are female. Not in one of those “Oooh check out the women being all interesting” but just, they are characters, who act like women, and are important players in this story. The book passes the Bechdel test, heartily, which is something that I don’t expect anymore in any non-specifically-feminist books. So, yes, it’s got a rousing plot, zips around a lot. Has just enough supernatural to be interesting but not so much that you feel that he author writes himself out of every difficult episode with “And then a monster appears” Was happy to hear that there’s a sequel in the works. I came late to this editions, so I won’t have long to wait.

Lock In

Hey this just came out! And I know John Scalzi a little bit. So I was excited to read this since I hadn’t read any of his stuff before. And he has a movie deal for it. So cool. I enjoyed this book about a slightly slant future in which there was a flu-like epidemic but instead of people dying they just got Parkinson’s-style locked in, unable to interact with the outside world. But there were enough people like this that a social safety net of sorts was built for them. And then people started messing with it. Hard to explain without giving too much of it away. I liked the story. I felt like there were maybe too many “And here is where I explain the thing” parts to it, some of it was a bit too pat, but that’s just me being an internet nitpicker about it. This is a good book.

Moonwalking with Einstein: The Art and Science of Remembering Everything

I must admit, I maybe liked this book better before I learned that Foer got a 1.2 million dollar advance for it. In any case, this book is a fun romp through Foer’s year of learning about memory and about his attempts (and successes) to compete successfully in memory competitions. The basic thesis is that you don’t need to be smart to be good at remembering things and to some people being able to remember things makes you look smart. And Foer does a really good job of explaining this through words and actions, showing the difference between people with autism and people who are just really focused, taking the reader along with him as he learns to do what he does (I still have a large jar of garlic in my memory palace). I enjoyed it.

A Curious Man: The Strange and Brilliant Life of Robert

This was a great book about someone I’d always wanted to know more about. I grew up reading Ripley’s books but Ripley himself had been dead since long before I was born. This is a meticulously well-researched biography of a man that even his biographer didn’t seem to like much even as he accomplished becoming a household name and the best paid cartoonist in the world. I also learned about Norbert Pearlroth, Ripley’s researcher who had a full time+ job going to the downtown NYPL every single day to find material and never got any credit. I enjoyed this book but was a little bummed that larger-than-life Ripley was just in a lot of ways a normal weirdo.


I’ve read all of Dunning’s bookseller books and enjoyed them a lot. I didn’t really know he’d written any other kinds. This book showed up on the FREE table at my local community college and even though the cover seemed sort of blah, I recognized the name and picked it up. Dunning claims he wrote this book in one sitting--well not exactly but that the entire plot came to him at once. This may explain why it’s such a simple read. It has its own momentum, a cast of characters that you can understand, and a slightly edgy mystery involving the FBI, the Amish and some 60s revolutionaries now decades older. Worth picking up to see what else Dunning can do.