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It’s really hard to follow Ready Player One and I’m happy Cline finally did that. This book has a lot of the things that made RP1 terrific but a few downsides that made it not quite so much of a romp. It may be a character flaw with me, but I find endless battle scenes in text really difficult to follow. There were a few of these, one notable one early on and I was concerned for a big chunk of the book that the book was going to end in some epic fifty page battle. It doesn’t. The characters in this book are neat, the plot moves along and I mostly liked it but it took a while to get going and didn’t have quite the “Wheeee!” feeling of the first book.

A User’s Guide to Neglectful Parenting

Sort of funny? I feel like this might be more amusing to people who didn’t have neglectful parents. I’m sure a lot of it will “ring true” to people in any case and I enjoyed the illustrations and the setup but some of the punch lines just seemed cruel and unfun to me.

Hark A Vagrant

This was fun! I enjoy her online comic and looked forward to this book. Mostly enjoyable, a little bit of repetitive stuff like “Imagine this story from the book cover” which may have gone on for too many book covers but all in all a delightful read.

SuperMutant Magic Academy

Liked it. A book by the same author as This One Summer. I was the first person to check it out of my library. It’s a collection of small comics that, combined, tell the story of a school full of mutants who are also teenagers. You learn some things, you wonder about some things, you never figure some things out. Really interesting and well put together.

The City & The City

Felt similarly about this book as I did about Mieville’s other book. I enjoyed it, it was clearly well thought out, but it didn’t have as much forward momentum as I was hoping for (and I finished it despite that). The premise of this book is fascinating and meted out over time. There are two cities, they occupy nearly similar geographic spaces and yet for “reasons” which we don’t totally know, they are different and people in each city assiduously stick to their own city going so far as to “unsee” things in their own cities. This has, as you can imagine, some interesting consequences for how to deal with crime, new faces and other issues.

The copy of this book that I had also had some Q & A with Mieville at the end of the whole thing which I found really useful because I was curious to know why he made some of the choices he made and it was great to get some extra information about this slightly cryptic title.

Pirate Hunters: Treasure, Obsession, and the Search for a Legendary Pirate Ship

This is a story about the second pirate ship ever definitively found in the world. Kurson takes us along with the search by two well known divers and wreck surveyors outlining how they (spoilers!) found the wreck of the Golden Fleece. This book is sometimes too long with extraneous detail like pages of “How fire a cannon” and sometimes too short with throwaway lines like “After this there was a business dispute and two of the men sued each other...” but the bulk of it is solidly interesting discussion of how you find a ship on the bottom of the ocean and the changing face of treasure hunting in today’s world.

El Deafo

Heard great things about this for a while. Happy I finally got to read it. This is a graphic novel about the slightly fictionalized childhood of Cece Bell who has an auditory disability. It talks about her going to school and being self conscious about her hearing aids and interacting with some of the other kids. Really well done with a sensitive afterword by Bell who discusses how her choices and decisions are just one of many in the Deaf community. Very enjoyable.

Book of Speculation

I really may need to reconsider whether I hate ALL books with multiple storylines in alternate chapters or just most of them because I loved this book and it does that thing. I think part of it is that usually I find one of the stories so much more compelling than the other one (looking at you Diamond Age) that it’s like reading one bad story and one good one. Not for this book. It’s a great tale with a librarian at the center and the two stories involve past and current generations of circus performers--a traveling circus in the late 1700s and the descendants of a circus mermaid in the current day. Enter a falling down house left to the kids by their weird dad and I was hooked. So good.

Whatever Happened to the Metric System?

It’s rare that a book makes me want to go look up and read so many other books (not by the same author) but htis is that book. Marciano knows so many neat things about not just the US conversion (or lack) into metric measures but also historical measurement standardizers that may or may not have worked. He looks at the people, he looks at the policy and he looks at the geniuses as well as the kooks. Took me a long time to get through because it doesn’t always move forward speedily but mostly because I keep writing down other things I want to learn about: Metric Martyrs, Standard (and Detroit) time, a lot of other random things. Very good and very worth reading.

Hell and Gone

Another Charlie Hardie. This time he’s stuck in a weird creepy prison scenario which was extra interesting for me because I just watched Escape Plan which is a prison escape movie. Liked it.

Point and Shoot

The last in the series. This one is in space! The whole thing is just a crazy romp and you have to be willing to watch people get really violently injured a lot but for some reason I was interested enough in the characters and what was going on plotwise that I found these books worth it.

Sex Fiends, Perverts and Pedophiles: understanding sex crime policy in America

Fascinating topic but a bit too thesis-like and I could not get through it.

The Library at Mount Char

I think I thought this was going to be more like the John Dunning bookish mysteries. Instead this is a full out fantasy torture porn book that happens to have a library (and reading) featured in it. It ends on a slightly up note which I was hoping since the book, while well written, is a serious gorefest and slog. Read the interview with the author in LJ and while he seems like a decent guy this book was horrifying and not always in a good way. Lots and lots of brutality against everyone: children, adults, dogs, the planet.

Fun & Games

Book one in the Charlie Hardie series otherwise known as “How much pain can one guy take?” I liked it. Lots of twists and turns and a premise that is pretty novel and leaves you wondering wtf is going on a lot of the time. You don’t love Hardie but you really do want to know what happens to him.


Just when I was getting comfortable with Watts and his ability to have terrific female characters who aren’t always just afraid in whatever dystopian night mare he has dreamed up for them, this book comes along. I liked it. I liked knowing what had happened after some of the stuff in the first two books but gosh the sadism was really hard to take. A much more central role for one of the awful characters and a lot of close-up sadist stuff including a multi-chapter rape of a decently liked character. Did not like.

The Company She Kept

Was so excited to have a huge long plane ride to go on and a NEW MAYOR BOOK to read. Enjoyed this book, did not love it. It’s the story of a close companion of Gail Zigman’s getting muredered in a hate-crime fashion and a lot of dogged police work to find the killer. I found it a bit more dull than Mayor’s other books. I was mindful of all the rehashing that is done in every book (so new readers know why Willy has one arm, for example) and I think maybe the tension in this book was supposed to be because maybe we were supposed to feel that Gail did it? But I never did. Not a ton of Vermont scenery, a LOT of “interagency cooperation” porn and what looks like a lot of set up for later books where we learn about Gail’s other political aspirations. Liked it but was not nuts about it.


I got a little bogged down in this book. I was really excited that there was another book by Peter Watts that I hadn’t read after finishing two of his others from the Rifter series and really enjoying them. However this book was a lot more like Blindsight which I found a little dense and very thinky in a good way but not quite what I like for nighttime pleasure reading. That is, Watts discusses a lot of really interesting things about consciousness and religion but a lot of it wound up being a little deep for me, when I was expecting something that was a little more like first contact stories. Great book, but I went into it expecting something different.


Picked up this book without knowing anything about it because it was a prequel to a book I’d already started reading. Now that I’m learning about this book in order to write this entry it turns out there’s also a sequel to the book after this. This is great news. I really enjoyed this set of weird dystopic near future novels a big chunk of which takes place on the ocean floor.


Picked this up from the library only to find that it was a sequel to a book I hadn’t read. Got that book first and really enjoyed these two books by Watts. I had read his book Blindsight earlier and found it a little too creepy and hard to relate to. This book had more of a story to it and the futuristic dystopia seemed really real without having too much over-the-top science explication in it.

Primates: The Fearless Science of Jane Goodall, Dian Fossey, and Biruté Galdikas

A great graphic novel about women who do primate research. It tells three interesting stories and doesn’t shy away from the fact that Dr. Leakey was maybe a little creepy.

How Not To Be Wrong

I love smart and interesting books about math and this is one of the best ones. Jordan talks about a lot of interesting issues in the math community and does so with a lot more humor then I’m used to in books like this. He’s got a great way of explaining things and not only makes you learn things about math but you get excited to know more.

Electric Michaelangelo

this was an amazingly poignant book about a boy who grows up under somewhat impoverished circumstances in that UK carries this with him his whole life, through a trip to the US and back again to the UK. It’s a very provocative and interesting set of stories within stories. Beautiful and sad.


I like Doctorow’s works generally, but I enjoyed this even more than I thought I would, just lying around and reading through the entire thing over a weekend. It’s a long story about one possible future for maker culture, And includes a lot of utopic and dystopic elements along with a healthy serving of Disney. A lot of sympathetic and interesting characters.

Ghost In The Wires: My Adventures as the World’s Most Wanted Hacker

I couldn’t really do anything with this book. A lot of it seem to be going over the bad things that happen to Kevin Mitnick and him defending a lot of the stuff he did as not that big a deal, not his fault and a whole bunch of other stuff. I didn’t even really get up to the modern-day stuff I just found listening to his stories not particularly interesting. And I definitely don’t think of Mitnick as some sort of nasty criminal, but as a hacker he just seems kind of dull and uninteresting and out for number one which is himself in the course of most of this book. Maybe he gets more self-reflective later in the book but I couldn’t wait around to find out

Elephants on acid: and other bizarre experiments

enjoying this well cited well categorized book of lots of different bizarre things people did in the name of science. This isn’t quite like the igNobels where it’s supposed to be pointing out just dumb waste of money things and it’s definitely not the Darwin awards because it’s not just full of people getting injured. The author finds a lot of very strange stuff and even if you’re someone in this strange stuff like me a lot of this will probably be new to you. Great bibliography in the back, well written, lots of fun to read.

Expiration Date

this book was so much fun. It’s kind of a straightforward time travel book, but with a couple twists that will keep people interested. This author is really good at creating very clever lengthy plots that go back and forth a number of different ways so that you’re never quite sure what’s going to happen next. I’ve read some of his other books and they’re all very fast-paced and have a lot of interesting back-and-forth where the back-and-forth could be any number of different things. In this case it’s a guy who winds up being able to take a pill and go back in time to when he was really little and is sort of a ghost but not really. Hard to explain but worth reading.


I got to know Barry through his book Lexicon, and then read you some of his backlist. This is a really early book that I didn’t think I’d like from the description but it turns out it’s a really fun romp through corporate America, like a lot of his other books. You never quite sure what’s going to happen, and there’s a bit of a weird corporate breakneck pace to it that gets a little tiring but is sort of fun because there’s not really a whole bunch of violence in it.

Salvatore 1: Transports of Love

An excellent graphic novel with tiny type about a dog who is looking for the love (dog) of his life, meanwhile there is a pig with a bunch of babies who is trying to get him to fix her car. Or something. Slightly absurd, very well illustrated and told, this book is a delight but sadly only part one of a series.

The Mask

Another good book in the series. I found this one a little hard to follow towards the end because there were so many players with differing agendas and at the end I’m not totally sure if I knew what happened. More good Monroe emotionally working stuff out stuff and a lot more questions about the future of her relationship with Bradford. Definitely a lot less creepy than some of her previous books which I appreciated.

Nature of the Beast

I thought this was one of Penny’s better books. She’s getting a lot better at just showing not telling, so there are a lot of parts of this story that she implies and doesn’t spell out. Just what did the bad man do to those children? Just how big WAS that gun they found? Letting the reader make up their own mind is part of what makes this book a really enjoyable read. Penny is great at getting all of her characters into the situation in new ways that you may not have seen them before without being all “Hey did you know that character X was a sky diver???” and I enjoy learning new things about the character. This book was great, sad it’s over.

Spam: A Shadow History of the Internet

This book from Bruton is great, meticulously researched and lovingly recounted it talks about not just where spam came from, but what it actually IS and how people have, over the entire time the internet has been around/alive, tried to deal with it. Brunton did a lot of work gathering disparate sources and looking at more than just the big headline stories. He also clearly enjoys this topic and knowing a lot about it. That comes through in the writing. This book is actually fun to read as a story and not just as a way to learn facts about how things work. It’s delightful and I’m very happy to have picked it up.

Greg’s Microscope

This is a great kids' book that I had when I was a kid and didn’t even know that it was older than me. I picked it up again at the library to show to some young friends who were visiting. It’s great. It is a story of a kid who gets a microscope and has a good time learning things and experimenting with his family (mom and dad) and there are a lot of neat drawings of what things look like under a microscope glass.

Curious Behavior Yawning, Laughing, Hiccupping, and Beyond

This book was fun. It looked like it might be. The author is a scientist who also enjoys a lot of “What if” sort of questions about a lot of human behaviors. This book is a combination of things he read about and researched, things he looked into personally and anecdata that he knows about things. He has a good sense of humor and his curiosity about, for example, what is really happening when we yawn or sneeze, made for very good reading. I was concerned this might be a dry academic text and it was not.

Stealing Lincoln’s Body

Craughwell is definitely an amazing researcher. This book takes what is essentially a fairly short set of anecdotes and fills it in with enough detail that it becomes a full length book. How you feel about this depends on how much you enjoy reading lists of details. The outline of the story is fascinating. A few counterfeiters, grumpy about one of theirs being carted off to jail, devises a crazy plan to steal Lincoln’s body and hold it for ransom. The plot fails. A group is formed to protect the dead president’s body moving forward.

The book includes a lot of great details about why counterfeiting was such a big deal and about the reactions of the Lincoln family, but it also includes sometimes excruciating detail about the various events. How much money each of the counterfeiters had made during their various arrests, the location of different buildings and the travels of all of the involved people, where they were at what time. It’s cool that this information can be known, again Craughwell was a great researchers, but I question whether all of this needed to be in the book. I was 70 pages into this 200 page book before I even figured out what counterfeiting had to do with the theft of the President’s body. So, a good book for people really involved and interested in this topic. Maybe a little overlong for everyone else.

Bad Houses

Sara is a friend and I’d been meaning to read this for a while. It takes on some pretty heavy stuff, both general topics like addiction and bad parenting but also just STUFF. The things we have and why we have it. The central characters are two nearly-adults one of whom has a mom who is an estate sale organizer and other other of whom has a mom who is a hoarder. Things aren’t easy for either of them. They find each other. This book is beautifully illustrated by Carla Speed McNeil and all fits together as a really wonderful slice of life that is at once relatable but also contains people who we may have never met before.

Trees: National Champions

Bosworth’s book is not just a nice coffee table picture book of lovely trees, though it is sort of that. It’s more that she looks at what it means to see and appreciate a big tree. One of the prologues talks about the difference between looking at a big tree and seeing a legacy and looking at a big tree and seeing a revenue stream. Her photos are not just tree porn, they are much more about looking at these selected best-in-class icons and seeing how they work within their landscapes. The book could almost just be a photo book about America because so many of her pictures just look like ... pictures of our country with a tree in them. She also talks a bit about why measuring trees, why caring about our big trees still matters. I’d be very curious to go back and see how some of these trees from 2005 are doing today,

The Red Market: On the Trail of the World’s Organ Brokers, Bone Thieves, Blood Farmers, and Child Traffickers

A great creepy book about the global issues surrounding buying and selling human body parts from eggs to hair to blood to kidneys to children. Carney looks at different sketchy situation and often manages to get people talking on the record about the quasi-legal businesses that they are engaging in. Carney talks about the various kinds of legislation that have been enacted and how most of them haven’t been effective or, worse, drive the undesireable behavior underground. I learned a lot about the different markets for ... human stuff and would like to read more of Carney’s writing.

Not Just Anywhere: The Story of WHALE and the Rescue of New Bedford’s Waterfront Historic District

Picked this up when I was home with a cold and it was laying around. This book is a (deserved) self-congratulatory look back at some of the important preservation that has been done in New Bedford by a group called WHALE (Waterfront Historic Area LeaguE) since the late sixties. Getting together at about the same time as some major highways were planned to go through, this group did a ton of work to help the New Bedford urban renewal project NOT just be a bunch of bulldozers that ran roughshod over the interesting whaling and textile history of New Bedford. The book has a lot of photos and outlines key players in the project from the sixties through the nineties.

Brotherhood of the Holy Shroud

Was sort of expecting a Da Vinci Code knock off here and got something that was both better and worse. Better because it was actually written by someone from Italy (in Italian and translated) which gives it a certain verisimilitude. Bad because it was a bit of a slog through religious history (specifically the history of the Shroud of Turin) with one of those dual plot devices which I always find a bit difficult. Bonus props for two strong female leads. Demerits for the huge swath of killings in the last pages of the book. Upshot: I liked it but I’d be a little more discerning about future books by this author.

The President’s Shadow

Have enjoyed other Meltzer thrillers and needed a palate cleanser after those awful Gross books. This was good. Intrigue at the White House. Opposing secret orders. Mystery men and an island where secret experiments were carried out. This one was a little more grim than some of the others. I get the feeling that Meltzer feels he needs to up the ante of what is happening to keep people interested. I’m not so sure I agree but I did like this book and it left us with enough questions that I’m sure another is in the works.

The Androids Dream

Another totally fun book from Scalzi. This one was, I was sure, working its way to a shaggy dog story conclusion but actually it was much more satisfying than that. Equal parts silly and serious, this book about a future universe where the earth is just one of many inhabited planets and there’s some diplomatic intrigue that needs working out was engaging from start to finish.

The Transcriptionist

Was a little concerned about this one because it’s one of those novels written by someone who used to hold the job that the novel is about, but I shouldn’t have worried. This is a nice tight little novel about the weird world of the left-behind (job/person/people/offices) as the worldmoves on by. And lions, sort of. I liked it, I wish I could read it again, Rowland did a great job.

One Mile Under

A Ty Hauck book! I thought this would be better. And it was better but only just. I missed Hauck but there wasn’t so much of him in this book actually and it was more slightly schlocky thriller stuff. No relationship stuff and not that much of a mystery, more like an annoying female character who keeps forcing herself into the situations and then, surprise, something bad happens to her. I think I am done with Gross.

Eyes Wide Open

I liked Andrew Gross' Ty Hauck series but this book was just terrible. His impetus was, loosely, a family member’s suicide that seemed inexplicable. However, he mushed that story (and a bunch of people who are all unreliable narrators due to various mental illnesses which makes for really difficult reading) with what feels like a rip off of the Charles Manson murder story which makes it all seem really schlocky. Don’t read this book.

Aha! Gotcha: Paradoxes to Puzzle and Delight

I started this book years ago and then left it out in the rain and then it was in the freezer for a year or so. It’s SO GREAT. If you like math puzzles but can get bogged down with too much detail or too many arcane diagrams, this is for you. Lots of short anecdotes illustrating a math puzzle or a conundrum. Just enough backstory to make it interesting--and for you to look up if it turns out it’s your thing--and then on the next thing. Entertaining cartoons and the always readable Gardner explaining it all. Worth tracking down, a really great book.

The Hangman

More of a novella really, this little book only has some of the characters but a lot of the good aspects of Penny’s best whodunits. Shot and easy to read in not much time. A good filler if you’re waiting for other books from her to be written.

The Long Way Home

Hard to talk about this book without spoilers so I’ll just say that it was less coppish and more travelogue than a lot of her books. Enjoyed it but not as much as a lot of the other ones.

How the Light Gets In

Back in Three Pines this story focuses on the combination of a murder mystery and the culmination of the messy corruption scandal at the heart of the Sûreté. Two parallel stories, but one a lot more interesting than the other, I felt the mainstream murder mystery got a little under fleshed out because of the much larger and more interesting/thrilling aspect of this book.

The Beautiful Mystery

The only book that doesn’t take place in Three Pines and only contains some of the cops. This is a fascinating side story for Penny, taking place entirely in a monastery in the northern part of the country. The central question is about plainchant or Gregorian chants and a murder that takes place among a cloistered order. Interesting, and some of the same storyline with Gamache and Beauvoir and the director of the cops and their conflicts. I enjoyed this and plowed right through it.

A Trick of the Light

Another installation, this one about Claire’s ascension in the art world and an old friend of hers who winds up dead in her garden. A great sub-story about the nature of addiction and redemption which is also a good look into what has been going on with Beauvoir since the attack at the factory. A good book but not as delightful as the previous one.

Working Stiff

I haven’t read a good medical examiner book in a while. This one was great. You think it’s going to be all about 911 (Melinek was a medical examiner in NYC when it happened) but it’s a more wide ranging book about what it’s like to be a doctor wife and mother and deal with some of the worst and grossest medical cases (and family members of some of those cases). Melinek talks about her own feelings concerning her father’s suicide when she was little and only at the end does she give a blow by blow of the first few days working for the ME’s office after 911. This book was a refreshing change from Mary Roach’s somewhat jokey approach to corpses and dead people.

Bury Your Dead

Probably my favorite so far and not just because it has a library in it. This book is a great weaving of a few stories that all come together nicely. The loose threads from the last book’s mystery, a now-in-the-past terrible thing that has happened to Inspector Gamache in between that book and this one, and a new mystery about a murder in a library. The usual friction between the anglophones and the francophones is at a peak in this book which takes place largely outside of Three Pines.

The Brutal Telling

I swear I have been reading books other than these, but I just haven’t finished any of them yet. This is another in the series, a bit more close to home. Murder in the village! A villager suspected! Has a very dissatisfying resolution which winds up getting better resolved with the book after this one. On its own this book was a lot of bad mojo without the better feeling of a resolution where you felt the good guys won.

A Rule Against Murder

A fun addition to this set of cop mysteries. This one takes place at a remote resort and involves the larger family of one of the usual Three Pines people. Penny really gets to go to town with her rich descriptions by talking about the routines and food and trappings of this high class lodge. Enjoyable but with a lot of awful people.

Cruelest Month

I’ve now gotten the feeling that I know how this series will go. There are the core group of people in the small town and then additional people who you didn’t know were in the town who show up to be part of the mystery/story. I liked this book about a seance gone bad but I found it weird to see new people who I hadn’t really known from before who did things like ran stores and etc. Good story and interesting characters with the usual amount of twists and turns.

A Fatal Grace

Second in this series of cozy mysteries that take place in the tiny town of Three Pines. We get to know more about the overarching mystery of what is going on with Inspector Gamache as well as look into a mysterious death during a curling competition.

Vermont Wild: Adventures of Vermont Fish and Game Wardens

This was a fun anecdotal look at the jobs that Vermont’s game wardens do in our lovely state. Has a self-published look with some goofy illustrations but that all adds to the homespun charm of a lot of amusing but believable stories of the people who work for Vermont’s Fish and Game department.

Benjamin Bear in Bright Ideas

Read this and a few other Benjamin Bear books that we just got into the library. Fun! Simple graphic novels for kids but with little bits that make you (or a young kid) think about the bigger picture. Really delightful, each short strip has some little bit that will make you smile.

Still Life

Was nice to get back to reading some simple mysteries. This one is the first in a series featuring the eclair-loving Inspector Gamache. This one concerns a small town in Quebec and the interpersonal politics in the tiny community there. Enjoyed it very much even considering it was handed too me by friends who couldn’t finish it. I’ll dig in to the rest of the series.

Big Nate in a Class by Himself

Picked this up because it reminded me of the Wimpy Kid books.Enjoyed it but not quite as much as the Wimpy Kid books.

The Years of Rice and Salt

I have no excuse for continuing to read this 700+ page book after I knew it was not grabbing me except that I thought maybe the stories would all come together in some way that was super pleasing. Which, they sort of do and sort of do not. Robinson is a great writer and I love his big vocabulary and his world building stuff but I felt like the themes of this award-winning novel remained always just a bit outside of my reach or understanding so I wound up frequently frustrated or confused. Too long and not right for me. I should have not finished it.


Needed a palate cleanser after the 700+ page book I’ve been slogging through. This book was great. A story of “being careful with what you wish for” about some cardboard came to life. It’s a great combination of real-world characters with a fantastical premise that allows for some really interesting drawing. People learn some small lessons. Great story.

Hereville: How Mirka Got Her Sword

A neat book about a girl in an Orthodox Jewish community and the funny woman she meets who owns a pig and helps her find a sword. A neat look into a community that many people may not be familiar with (and the book helpfully defines words that readers may not recognize). Great illustrations and a lead character that people can relate to, for whom not everything got right.

The Secret Science Alliance and the Copycat Crook

A fun romp through the world of an unlikely alliance of nerdy kids who love science. The illustrations in this book are reminiscent of Chris Ware with a lot of little details that reward a close look at every page. Fun story. Neat kids. Something for everyone.


Not totally certain how this wound up on my To Read pile but it was so terrific. Interestingly even though the book is 15+ years old a lot of the “tech"aspects of it did not read as old and dated at all. Ultimately, it’s an ecotopic novel about who owns Antarctica and "What is happening to the planet” with the veneer of Antarctica over the whole thing. Robinson has a tendency to go on sort of long about historical stuff (a problem I’m having with another novel of his I’m reading) but it mostly wraps up in a way the reader will like. Great imagery, great mostly-likeable human characters. I learned some things. I wanted to go there.

Rumrunners and Revenuers: Prohibition in Vermont

Loved this short book of facts and information and first person interviews about the brief period of Prohibition and how it affected Vermonters, particularly those who lived along the Canadian border. Wheeler has put together a terrific collection of stories and photos that outline the many different ways people in Vermont responded to the illegalization of liquor. He talks with rumrunners, revenuers (the people responsible for helping enforce the law) and other people involved in various ways in the liquor business in various odd ways. A fun read, and very informative especially in the discussions with people who lived through it and have great stories to tell.

Come On Down!: Behind the Big Doors at "The Price Is Right"

Published in 2007 and remaindered quickly, it seems. This is a fun light look at the game show The Price is Right by Emmy-award winning co-producer Stan Blits. It’s got nice design, it talks a lot about the show. This is not a gossipy tell-all sort of thing. Blits genuinely seems to love the show and the people he works with, so this is more along the lines of a PR venture than anything else. However if you grew up watching TPIR and want to know more about it, I can’t think of a better book for that.

In Real Life

Said it before but everything that First Second publishes is great. This is a graphic novel for feminist gamer girls specifically but enjoyable for anyone interested in games or global inequality or just being a high school girl. The story takes place half in-game and half out of it with the general message that it’s all "real life", really.

Let’s Explore Diabetes with Owls

I had read some of Sedaris’s earlier books and not enjoyed them as much as this one. This is a collection of mostly first person real life essays with a few made up ones tossed in for good measure 9which I found a bit confusing). They mostly talk about Sedaris and his life, some about his difficult childhood, a lot about his various quirks and anxieties and what it’s like being an American living in France (or England) and I enjoyed reading through this collection more than I thought I would.

Saving the World

Such mixed feelings about this. I am not great at reading books where there are alternate chapters with two different stories. In this case there was one “here and now” story about a woman in Vermont managing with her depression and life in a small town. In the other, the subject of her next book, a real life tale of a woman who goes abroad to help spread the smallpox vaccine in the “new world” in the very early 1800s. Both neat stories, their intermingling was a little difficult and, near the mid-end of the book, one of the characters you’ve grown to like gets killed in a senseless way which was a startling plot device. Want to read more about the smallpox story Not totally sure how I feel about picking up other books by Alvarez.

Plague Land

Continuing in the human misery trend. This is a novel about a mystery that takes place right after the plague came through Europe. I know that the 14th Century was probably a truly terrible time to be alive in a lot of ways but even so, no one in this book is happy. Every single person is miserable most of the time. Everything smells. People are sick and gross looking and treat each other horribly. I appreciated this book a lot as an attempt to be a faithful period piece, but really would have enjoyed it more if there had been ups and downs and not just one long trudge through these people’s unhappy lives.

Struck by Genius

Continuing in the “people with weird head issues” theme, this is a book about Jason Padgett who received a terrible beating and became a different person. Specifically, a different person who was really good at math and drawing mathematical concepts. i had a hard time with this book only because I’ve known people with mental illnesses (not brought on by head trauma) that mirrored a lot of the claims that Padgett is making. I can see why he is considered a savant and it really does seem true that some of his claims about his increased math skills are true. it also seems that some of them are ... possibly delusional and I wasn’t relieved of this skepticism by reading the book. I’m happy that Padgett’s life has turned around a lot after the first horrible years as a virtual hermit after his injury. At the same time it was difficult to read about his other untreated issues such as his OCD and chronic pain troubles. A good book but difficult to read.

The Man Who Couldn’t Stop

Got this off of the new table at the library. It’s a really good look at what it’s like to live with OCD by David Adam who is an experienced journalist. The book talks about his own struggles with the condition (he is constantly hypervigilant about HIV infection) as well as the history of the condition in popular and medical history at the same time. Really readable. I learned a lot.

Hetty Green The Witch of Wall Street

I’d known about Hetty Green all my life but got re-inspired to learn about her when I drove by the Hetty Green motel. I had not known she lived for a while in Bellows Falls and in fact when she died Vermont was the only state that saw any estate taxes from her despite the fact that she lived mostly in New Jersey and New York. Green was clearly mentally ill but also a really shrewd businesswoman. The two issues get mushed together because... everyone and everything was a bit nuttier then. Green was a huge mortgage-holder and this book (which is based a lot on court documents and newspaper articles) talks a lot about how she was a private money lender for hundreds of churches (often getting 6 or 7 % interest on these loans) and other business people. Really interesting book though written in the 30s so the language is a little flowery and at times hard to follow. Green comes across as unlikeable which is not that much of a surprise, but I learned to dislike her in new ways which was not what I was expecting.

The Two Deaths of Daniel Hayes

Sakey wrote Brilliance which I loved so I went through some of his other books. This one was ... fine? The plot seemed contrived in places and the characters made choices I would not have made. It starts from an interesting premise: amnesiac guy comes to on the beach with no clothes on, wants to know what his story is ... and then turns into a bit of a romp through whodunit stuff. Mostly in LA, with some “let’s tell this part of the plot as if it’s a screenplay” device which I didn’t like much. Enjoyed the outlines of the plot, less so the characters and some of the resolutions.

The Road From Coorain

A fascinating story about growing up in the bush which is made more interesting by the fact that you know how the story ends (Ker-Conway winds up in the US and becomes a very successful and respected educator) without knowing how she gets there. She writes very evocatively about her driven father, her neurotic mother and the choices she made and did not make that led to her eventually going to the US. I enjoyed this book more than I thought I would.


Barry writes fun romps. This is a weird dystopian office environment where things aren’t always as they seem. Barry’s newer stuff is better, it’s cool seeing him improve as a writer, but I liked the interplay between all the odd characters, many of whom were only humanized by their interactions with other people.

The Prince of Risk

Another headcold novel. This one was a pretty good mystery/thriller about an international espionage/terrorist plot mystery thing. Reich has a lot of high powered characters who get out of more scrapes than you could imagine they could get into. This one zips along, has a satisfying conclusion and I enjoyed it.

Rodrick Rules

I’d been working my way through a terrible headcold and decided I’d like some lighter reading. I really like these books both for their excellent illustrations and the bildungsroman approach to their main character, the Wimpy Kid. I guess they turned it into a movie?


Hadn’t really read anything by Robinson before but when I read the collection he edited I vowed to track something down by him. And then forgot about that until I saw this on the “new” shelf at the local library. It’s big. And thick. And sort of a world-building book so you have to be sort of into that aspect of it to plow through the actual plot which is sort of spare (but interesting) and is much less central to this book than the explanation of the world in 2312 and how we got there. I liked it but I was reading it at a time when I was flattened by a cold and could focus a lot on it and it didn’t have to move me along. I’ll try reading another book by Robinson but maybe one that is a little shorter next time.

Kaput and Zosky

Fun space comix! I guess part of them are illustrated by Trondheim and part of them are illustrated by Eric Cartier. I have to admit not noticing the difference between the images. This was mostly taken from a television show (I guess?) that I did not know either. It’s mostly amusing spacemen who try to go to different worlds and take them over with amusing results.

The Elephant Who Liked to Smash Cars

Hey my landlady illustrated this book, and my other (deceased) landlady wrote it. NY Review reissued a few of their books including this and the Pushcart War and sent me a copy, I am not sure why. It was a five minute read, but a very enjoyable short tale of resistance and compromise. Lovely reprint.


Really enjoyed this sort of meta look at the disposable ensigns and the like who always seem to eat it in sci fi shows (most notably Star Trek where they are often wearing a red shirt). Scalzi takes this idea and really explores it. What’s it like to be one of these people? How could you fix this situation if you found that you were inside of it? Why are some of these shows so poorly written? Serious fans of Star Trek will enjoy this even more than the casual reader, but I enjoyed both the story and the little chunk of “codas” at the end of it which gave a few more little vignette’s that fleshed out the overall theme.

Smoke Gets in Your Eyes: And Other Lessons from the Crematory

Got this book from the library. In the back there is a little review form that other people can leave mini-reviews on. This one rated the book 2 out of 5 (for “limited audience") and then added "But interesting” I am this book’s limited audience. Doughty is a woman who grew up in Hawai’i and always had a fascination with death. Not just death itself but the way society deals with it. She decided when she got older that she would try to get a job in the “death industry” and starts working for a creamtory in Oakland and then eventually towards the end of the book goes to mortuary school. This book talks about all of that and does not pull any punches. However at the same time, she doesn’t make light of everything and it doesn’t have the jokey-jokey feel of Mary Roach’s Stiff which I really disliked. Caitlin is thoughtful and reflective about her choices and the choices of others even when she’s dealing with people who are difficult or who she disagrees with. I was very happy to get to read along with her journey here and it’s well stated.

Birds in Fall

Part book about birds, part book about plane crashes (and grief and loss and moving on) this book was a little tough for the first few chapters (Spoiler: everyone dies in the first chapter) but improved after that. Great Canadian setting, great bird stories, real feeling interplay between characters. I liked it. It was long enough. It was not too long.

This One Summer

A coming of age type of graphic novel where the main character goes to the summer place she’s always gone to and does the same things, sort of. Lots of depth and nuance in this vacationers vs townies, kids vs. teenagers vs. adults. I felt a lot of the emotional atmosphere of this story rang very true.

Refresh Refresh

Depressing but poignant story about a bunch of kids in rural Oregon growing into their teenage years without their dads who are off fighting the war in Iraq. Hard to read but very worthwhile.

Broken Window

I don’t know when I got off the Jeffrey Deaver train but I just decided I didn’t trust him to not have super creepy stories where the principals were tortured. But I do like Lincoln Rhyme, the disabled brilliant forensic scientist so I tried this one out when I saw it on the free shelf of the laundromat. It was worth it. Interesting and not too creepy. Talked about the world of data/information brokers and all the potential ways they could destroy someone’s life. I don’t think I’ll start up again with these books but glad I gave them another go.

Contemporary Vermont Fiction: An Anthology

An amazing arrangement of stories from people who you’ve heard of that all have Vermont as one of the extra characters. So great. Perfect for underblanket winter reading.

Girl Walks into a Bar . . .: Comedy Calamities, Dating Disasters, and a Midlife Miracle

I finished my last book of 2014 right after midnight and this is what was on my Kindle. It was okay. I like Rachel Dratch and her brand of humor. She’s also about my age and grew up right up the road from me in Lexington MA and also went to school in New England. However I think I was hoping this book would be ... funnier or otherwise a bit more enlightening? Dratch talks about her life and especially what’s been happening post-SNL where she’s offered a bunch of lousy roles that are all some variant on obese lesbians. She’s at her funniest when talking about this. However it seems like the sort of story that’s going to go somewhere and instead Dratch gets accidentally pregnant and now I guess she is a mom? She’s super thoughtful about her own situation and I like reading about people’s non-traditional parenting choices. At the same time, this particular story grabbed me in some places and didn’t really pique my interest in others. A middling start to 2014 reading.

The Wheelman

Read this book a while back and forgot totally about it. It was a great thriller, one of those ones that sticks with you even after you’ve put it down (as opposed to all those others where you can’t really remember the name of it anymore). A lead character who you like despite him being sort of an asshole and a lot of weird “you think the guy is dead and he turns out not to be” stuff going on. Engaging.