Reading!

Bel-Cam Jos

Jedi Council Member
Aug 16, 2001
15,791
41
105
Where 'text' & 'friend' are nouns
With just this afternoon and tomorrow (which is Easter Sunday) left to my spring break, I think these two will be the last books I read. Both are travel-related, but could not be more different.

No Touch Monkey! by Ayun Halliday. I thought the title and recommendation by Stephen Colbert on the cover would mean this would be humorous. Nope. The traveler was clueless as to her actions, expected others to make up for her poor decisions, loved her drugs and bad hygiene. I dreaded reading it, and was most pleased when the final page was reached.

Rick Steves' Postcards From Europe by... Rick Steves. If you've seen his PBS travel shows, you might think him a bit stuffy or overly-reserved. Nope. He mentions that his show has censors who consider whether his comments are appropriate for the audience who'll consider actually going to those places, spending money. He gives an insider's view of specific places by chapters, plus some personal insights to his own travel experiences and choices.
 

Bel-Cam Jos

Jedi Council Member
Aug 16, 2001
15,791
41
105
Where 'text' & 'friend' are nouns
I had never read The Neverending Story by Michael Ende before, but I loved the film as a kid. I wish I had read the book then, because I was disappointed by it as an adult. The first 150 pages or so comprises the film; then what happens over the next 220+ pages, then? The character worsens, and the nice ending really wasn't enough to save the book overall. It gets an "okay" rating, because the first part is good (and the 26 chapter images that opened each one were fun to dissect and refer back to). Learning about the author (was German, father's writings were deemed "degenerate" by the Nazi regime, later became enamored of Japanese culture) was interesting.
 

Bel-Cam Jos

Jedi Council Member
Aug 16, 2001
15,791
41
105
Where 'text' & 'friend' are nouns
I read a travel book by Rick Steves (see above) earlier this year, and I saw another one co-written by his friend Gene Openshaw, Rick Steves’ Mona Winks. It is more of an actual travel guide you'd have with you as you look directly at the art in the various European museums it, well, guides the reader through. Funny in parts (sometimes so subtle you're not sure if it's serious or just lame), quite informative, and repetitive on purpose (if you only read the parts of the museum you are at, you wouldn't have known this part was mentioned already). Creepy part: at the back, the authors give bios that have their "death dates," and while Openshaw's is 3024 (funny?), Steves' is... 2018. :eek: I do want to visit some of these museums, if I ever make it back to Europe.
 

Bel-Cam Jos

Jedi Council Member
Aug 16, 2001
15,791
41
105
Where 'text' & 'friend' are nouns
Like the end of the school year: summer reading commencement!

The Book of Joy by the Dalai Lama, Desmond Tutu, & Douglas Abrams. It was based on the two Nobel Peace Prize Laureates meeting and talking for a week in the place where the Dalai Lama is in exile. I liked its simplicity (no need to make hard issues harder to solve), its humor (both of them are "mischievous," as was mentioned frequently), its knowledge (learned about several philosophical concepts and historical events). No part is ever long, so it's really easy to read; and while it should be read in order, it's also constructed to jump to certain passages based on the table of contents, and the reader wouldn't be too lost. A worthwhile read, and a great starting point for my summer read-30-books-or-more quest.
 
Apr 28, 2013
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Rick Steves' Postcards From Europe by... Rick Steves. If you've seen his PBS travel shows, you might think him a bit stuffy or overly-reserved. Nope. He mentions that his show has censors who consider whether his comments are appropriate for the audience who'll consider actually going to those places, spending money. He gives an insider's view of specific places by chapters, plus some personal insights to his own travel experiences and choices.
Big fan of Steves' shows. He has a special behind-the-scenes ep that airs during pledge drive time (??) that shows him and the crew and working on the show.

I will have to check the book out.
 

Bel-Cam Jos

Jedi Council Member
Aug 16, 2001
15,791
41
105
Where 'text' & 'friend' are nouns
Two more books read; I have broken the 1000 page barrier early, since the books have been a little longer than others I've begun summer with previously.

Murder in Foggy Bottom by Margaret Truman. Yes, by THAT Margaret Truman! Wait, what? You haven't read everything by the president's daughter? Neither have I. This was okay; I'm not really into crime drama as a literary genre, but since I'd returned from a vacation to D.C., I looked for some fiction set in the Washington area. This was from 2000, and the premise of shooting down commercial planes was too eerily similar to the events in 2001. Characters were dull, the dialogue was static, but the storyline moved okay.

Andy Rooney: 60 Years of Wisdom and Wit by Andrew A. Rooney. I found it interesting he chose to list his given name, rather than his known one. Full of his standard observations about life and people; I smiled a couple times, but he doesn't make you laugh too often. There was the occasional aspect or view I did not agree with at all, but that's how the world works. I especially enjoyed the parts about his time as a reporter for the military's newspaper Stars & Stripes. It was pretty good.
 

Bel-Cam Jos

Jedi Council Member
Aug 16, 2001
15,791
41
105
Where 'text' & 'friend' are nouns
Two more, which I thought were about notable historical women, but did not fit my expectations.

New Deal for Death by Elliott Roosevelt. I thought this was part of a fictional series where Eleanor Roosevelt was a detective; same author, wrong books. It was bad to begin (just name-dropping of famous Hollywood individuals that the protagonist met, unsure where the story was going and quite confusing), but became decent by the end. "Blackjack" Endicott is a Boston banker but more like a suave detective; it is set in 1932 when Governor Frank Roosevelt (odd to hear him described that way) is running for President. There ends up being some plots (one to discredit him and his family, one to kill him) that get resolved too quickly and easily. Overall, it was okay.

Laura Ingalls is Ruining My Life by Shelley Tougas. I chose it, as I'm sure many readers have, by its title. A single mother moves her family to Minnesota to help inspire her to write a novel about Laura Ingalls Wilder's prairie life but her pre-teen children have some issues. Most of these are caused by the selfishness and impulsiveness of the narrator, Charlotte. I found most of this unrealistic, the characterization poor, and honestly, if this is the way young people really think (I doubt it, and certainly hope not) and act, the world IS going to be ruined. The title should've been called "My Conclusion-Jumping is Ruining My [and Others Who Care About Me] Own Life." Not good.
 
Apr 28, 2013
1,215
6
I've rediscovered one of my favorite authors: Alistair MacLean.

Guns of Navarone is one of my favorites. I reread it every few years, and just did not too long ago. That put me in the mood for more. Just finished the sequel, Force 10 from Navarone. And I was pleasantly surprised to find out there were sequels written in the late 90s, Storm Force and Thunderbolt from Navarone. Read Thunderbolt, and have Storm Force sitting on the shelf. Reading AM's Partisans now.

Might have to track down a few others of AM's to read.
 

Bel-Cam Jos

Jedi Council Member
Aug 16, 2001
15,791
41
105
Where 'text' & 'friend' are nouns
Two more, over the 2K mark, both involving the early 20th century at various points in the stories.

A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway. I actually thought I should get his book from the Metallica song... No Leaf Clover. No, no: FWTBT \m/ :p . But that can be for another day, another summer goal. Being the voice of the Lost Generation shouldn't lead anyone to think a book set in WWI will have a happy ending; even so, it was a rough conclusion. Semi-autobiographical, an American in Italy during the middle of the fighting is part of an ambulance group. It's descriptive, fairly introspective, and obviously depressing as he wonders what's the point of all this war and death and fighting and rules-following. I can see why it's a classic, but don't expect sunshine and smiles.

The Lost Constitution by William Martin. I've noticed that over the summers, I have read one book by a Martin author, and only one book by him/her. The premise sounding interesting as well: a rare documents expert finds out about an early draft of the Constitution, with annotations about WHY certain concepts were important. So, it's valuable and important. Kind of like Indiana Jones and Robert Langdon. Sad that I found about 7 editorial errors (misspellings, missing/added punctuation, duplicate lines, etc.). But it was good; I learned quite a bit about New England regional history, geography, and climate (I liked the alternating chapters of history and the current plot).
 

Bel-Cam Jos

Jedi Council Member
Aug 16, 2001
15,791
41
105
Where 'text' & 'friend' are nouns
With the World Cup currently up and running (and shooting, and saving, and scoring, and slide tackling...), I thought a soccer-related books would be apt. Maradona by Diego Armando Maradona (as his name is listed on the title page) was informative, based on his recall memories over a 20+ year career. But it also reveals his insecurities, arrogance, and whininess. He blames so many other people (occasionally including himself, but often to try and justify his own choices), his constant profanity, and his anger at seemingly everything and everyone make it hard to empathize with his difficult life. His list (LISTS...) of 100 great footballers was nice, even if he didn't rank them.

Add two more, to break double-digits and 3000 pages for the summer. I had never read any of the "Little House" books by Laura Ingalls Wilder, apparently.

Little House on the Prairie was NOT the first book in the series; did not know that. Each book, at least from the two I just read, seem to piece together as a continuous story, rather than one that ends and starts fresh in the others. The first was okay: I have always said I would've preferred to live in the pre-Civil War Midwest USA time period, but not as an 8-year old girl, I suppose. It's a bit idealistic and simplistic, but again, I'm not an 8-year old girl reading the book. I did like the "old fashioned values" and perspective, but the views on Indians certainly have changed from the savages and almost-not-people views of that time.

The other book, On the Banks of Plum Creek was set in the same location as the book I read earlier this summer by Shelley Tougas. That book wasn't enjoyable, but this one was funny in some parts and just a better characterization and storylines; Wilder definitely improved as a writer by the 4th book in her series. I think I'll pass on living in Minnesota year-round (grasshopper swarms, "wheels of fire" tumbleweeds, 3+-day blizzards, overflowing creeks). These books were also illustrated by an artist of one of my favorite kids' books: Cricket in Times Square.
 
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Bel-Cam Jos

Jedi Council Member
Aug 16, 2001
15,791
41
105
Where 'text' & 'friend' are nouns
And two more more, over the 4K mark of pages. I liked one overall and the other only certain aspects of it.

Assassin's Creed: Heresy by Christie Golden. I have tried to read at least one non-Star Wars novel by some SW authors I've read over the years. I have never played an AC video game, but have heard the "but it teaches you history" justifications for playing it (I often counter with, "yeah, just like how Clash of the Titans taught me mythology" ). I have always enjoyed Golden's style, and I did learn a little more about Joan of Arc than I knew before (I guessed correctly at a major plot point that takes MAJOR liberties with Joan's history). The premise is you can observe through the eyes of one of your distant ancestors reliving his/her life, but cannot change actions or events, by use of some device in the 21st century. Pretty good.

American Mirror by Deborah Solomon. It's a biography of painter/illustrator/artist Norman Rockwell. I learned quite a bit about him (didn't realize he was known as far back as WWI as an illustrator; he became close with some pretty famous non-art individuals) in this chronological account, but the biographer overstepped her bounds with excessive (and often incorrect) psychoanalysis of his artwork and actions. Might have to visit the NR Museum in Stockbridge, VT sometime.
 

Bel-Cam Jos

Jedi Council Member
Aug 16, 2001
15,791
41
105
Where 'text' & 'friend' are nouns
I don't know why I had this book in my "to read" file, but I really enjoyed Isaac Asimov's The Gods Themselves. It was written in 1972 and set in the 22nd century, where there is now an unlimited, pollution-free energy source that comes from a different galaxy via an "Electron Pump." The book is divided into three sections: first, the discovery of this technology on Earth; next, that other galaxy and its alien life dealing with this new energy; lastly, a little later in time on the Moon. It's tech-gone-mad, environmental issues, whether life exists elsewhere and what are they like, corruption with power and the desire to get/hold onto prestige. Those three sections never specifically cross over, but the details show the reader how they intersect. It is definitely SCIENCE fiction and not space fantasy, but it doesn't feel too technical to understand.

I thought I was getting another Sarah Vowell travel book, but instead Lafayette in the Somewhat United States was a history of the American Revolution, in the same vein as Hamilton (who gets mentioned as a Founding Father in it, of course) the play (which, I $till haven't $een). She is funny and brings in enough current references and terminology to make this un-boring (I am quite tired of that cliché about history being so); I found myself recalling events from classes as well as places in the D.C. area I travelled to this summer.
 

Bel-Cam Jos

Jedi Council Member
Aug 16, 2001
15,791
41
105
Where 'text' & 'friend' are nouns
Two books (moving my pages-read total to over 5,000 so far) about people recalling their lives and travels in the 1990s and earlier.

I'd heard several readers' positive reviews of Bill Bryson's travel books, and I'd seen the cover of A Walk in the Woods in book stores before, but I didn't realize it was published 20 years ago. He decided to hike the entire Appalachian Trail from Georgia to Maine, and no one wanted to join him, except a "friend" he last met about 20-some years prior. It's funny, nicely detailed, and even includes some places I've been to (plus many more I want to). I am the same age now as he was then, but I sure don't think I have the stamina nor physique I once did to handle that journey. Did he make it all the way? You'll have to read it yourself.

Barbara Bush: A Memoir by, herself. Part of my tradition of reading something about a recently-deceased notable person. This was slow-going: slugging through names of people she met, fashions she observed or wore herself, opinions she gave (I will admit, I gained more respect for George H. W. and lessened hers; something I did not expect). She comes across as more naïve, bitter, catty, and materialistic than I thought. I was also disappointed to learn this was from 1994, and quite a bit happened to her family in the 2+ decades since then that would've been interesting to hear her views. I give it an average rating based on her honesty about world and personal events of her 60+ years at that point, but it wasn't as intriguing as I had hoped.

[edit: 7/10/18] These books could not be more different; also moved over 6K pages...

Lethal Rider by Larissa Ione. I wanted an "I" author, and the premise seemed "interesting" (romance novel based on the Horsemen of the Apocalypse). It was like fan fiction, it was so bad-but-it's-still-not-good: dialogue is like Jersey Shore/The Bachelor rejects, too drawn-out (cut out 150+ pages and it might've been "better" some), predictable. The creatures (demons, angels, vampires, etc.) can even get treatment at a hospital (Underworld General). Ah, ugh.

Parable of the Talents by Octavia E. Butler. I'd been recommended to read her work, and I shall seek out other books. This is a sequel to a previous book, but this shows a 1998 copyright date; it could just as well be about today. A sci-fi plot of a gradually-deteriorating future in the 2030s, a religious/political leader comes to power and takes over, giving "devoted followers" license to do what they want. A certain MAGA phrase appeared in the first 10 pages or so. Limited resources due to climate issues and economic troubles. Uneducated populace based on eliminating public education and focusing on tech-based skills. A frightening but wonderful book all at once: you'll hate the content but love the way it's written.
 
Apr 28, 2013
1,215
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One of my regular stops is Ollie's, the discount store. Stop by looking for marked down toys, but I always stop by the book section. For the military enthusiasts out there, I've been finding the Osprey WWII history books for $2 each. I've picked up several over the months but have read about the St. Nazaire and Dieppe commando raids and the invasion of Crete.

Reading 13 Hours, about the Benghazi attack. Watched the movie first and now reading the books.
 

Bel-Cam Jos

Jedi Council Member
Aug 16, 2001
15,791
41
105
Where 'text' & 'friend' are nouns
Broke the 7K pages mark and my "baseline" minimum number of books!

Siren's Storm by Lisa Papademetriou (please don't autocorrect this, TFG reply box! :p ). I wanted a YA book, a 'P' last name, and the Odyssey connection sounded interesting. It was quite good: a summer tourism east coast town is the setting, and a teen and his neighbors deal with last year's drowning tragedy and more this season (plus other odd behaviors and individuals). One character may or may not be an actual siren/mermaid, so that makes this a fantasy/sci-fi story. Actual teens who act and sound like REAL teens, not movie heroes or moping brooders or tech addicts!

A Tale Out of Luck by Willie Nelson and Mike Blakely. The first (and apparently only) fiction book by the country singer (although, I have to wonder the percent of it he actually wrote; I'd guess 20-80). Set in the Texas town Luck, it follows a family dealing with theft, murder accusations, Native American interactions (no, they weren't called that in the story), relationship struggles, escapes, etc. It was pretty good; by the end, I think every plot point was tied up, and I chuckled a couple times.

[edit: 7/20/18] I have not seen the entire film The Warriors, but I have now read the book by Sol Yurick that was its basis; sort of. Written in the 1960s about youth gangs, it follows a gang headed back home after an attempt to unite New York's gangs together at one July 4th night gathering goes wrong. It's graphic, the characters are overly-obsessed (is that redundant?) with their reps and man-ness (not manliness; just being considered a man), and the myth-of-Sisyphus type violent actions are sadly the kinds of things that misfit individuals would find fun. However, the afterword (with a copyright about 40 years after the book's original one) shows the depth of how Yurick developed the book, based on a Greek story of fighters going home through dangerous territory (called The Anabasis, by Xenophon). I could look back and appreciate it more based on that info., but not that much more.

[edit: 7/22/18... over 8,000 pgs and 26 books so far] With another book by a SW writer that's not Star Wars, Aaron Allston's Terminator 3: Terminator Dreams did not excite me at first. I haven't seen all of T3, but the general consensus that it wasn't that great of a movie, I only chose this because of Allston. The first half was as I expected: a continuation of the basic storyline of the movie (another, better Terminator is sent back; John and someone else need to not get killed; Arnold says lame catch phrases) that I didn't even know. The premise of this book is that the scientist who created the system that became Skynet is able to go back into the mind and body of his younger self just prior to Judgment Day. I found myself not only laughing along, nervous about, and rooting for the characters in their situations. I miss Aaron Allston as an author. :(

[edit: 7/27/18] A classic novel, Brave New World, by Aldous Huxley. The future is perfect, as long as you take your medication, do what everyone else does without being alone, and stay in your lane. One of these "how'd he predict that [fill in idea] would happen?" books; written in 1932. I realize how "savage," mad, or "alcohol into the blood surrogate" I must have sounded when complaining about tech addiction and bandwagon activities. Spoiler: it doesn't end well... or does it? Nope; it doesn't.

[edit: 7/31/18:] Another Asimov book, but I was unaware that Fantastic Voyage was written as a movie novelization, not the basis for the movie. Also, no one takes a classic car down to the beach with numerous partygoers exiting the trunk. :p :fool: Very scientific, as Asimov tends to be, and very much like a movie with its scenes of suspense; also, there's the USSR/USA conflict (the countries are called We or They, or Over There). I like how the cover of this book states it's written by the author of Fantastic Voyage 2 (but let me read this one first). It would've been quite cool to read this in 1966, prior to the movie.
 
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Bel-Cam Jos

Jedi Council Member
Aug 16, 2001
15,791
41
105
Where 'text' & 'friend' are nouns
Getting close to the end of my summer, so this might be my final book (which brought me to my 30-book goal and broke 9,000 pages read... so far?). I hadn't read an Ellery Queen book in some time (which is due to the fact that apparently this is the last book I had yet to read that was in all 4 of the local libraries :( ), so The Player on the Other Side was my choice. This one is more recent (copyright 1966), and more of the older writer EQ than the younger active detective EQ. A wealthy family has a will that upon the death of the patriarch, the remaining heirs (all cousins, no children) will get the $11 million and property. The last 4 heirs begin to be killed, until there's just one left. To spoil it, multiple personality disorder is among the reasons for the murders. It was weird, but as always, I liked the punning and turns of phrase throughout.

[edit 8/5/18] One more, and it was very good (perhaps the best book I read this summer), in fact! The Lie Tree by Frances Hardinge was recommended by a former colleague (she's a high school librarian; she should know) as a YA novel. It's set in Victorian England (but takes place near the sea, not in cities) about a fossil hunting father who is linked in scandal. His daughter, Faith, is limited by her time period in what she is "allowed" to do or say but still wants to follow in her father's footsteps as a nature scientist. The tree in question "feeds" off lies told to it, bearing fruits that when eaten, give the person knowledge of certain things (in dream forms that need interpretation). Well-written, mystery style, breaking social stereotypes and expectations.

I'll put my reading stats together when I can compile and categorize it all.

And so I have...
Books read this summer: 31. Approximate pages read: 9,400 (averages 303 per book).
Books by author last name (and how many read): A (4* = most of any letter), B (3), C (1), D (2), G (1), H (3), I (1), M (2), N (1), O (1), P (1), Q (1), R (2), S (1),T (2), V (1), W (2), Y (1), Z (1).
Books by genre (and how many read): Star Wars (5 * = most of any), sci-fi (2), fantasy (1), general fiction (2), classics (3), movies/TV (3), travel (1), romance (1), biography/autobio. (3), young adult/children (3), western (1), mystery/horror (3), sports (1), philosophy (1), history/science (1).
Authors repeated (twice each): I. Asimov, L.I. Wilder.
Summer Totals: 14 years, 475 books (approx. 129,800 pgs., 273 pgs. per), about 32 books per summer.
 
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Bel-Cam Jos

Jedi Council Member
Aug 16, 2001
15,791
41
105
Where 'text' & 'friend' are nouns
A non-SW book (although, it does mention the Strategic Defense Initiative that was nicknamed that), and a long one at that: Neil deGrasse Tyson & Avis Lang's Accessory to War, where it traces the connections, as listed in the book's subtitle, "The Unspoken Alliance Between Astrophysics & the Military," from BCE times up until recent 2010s decade. Lots and lots of endnotes (about 120+ pages of them, and not just works cited entries but commentaries and extended quotes), and a wonderful timeline of world events seen through the (sometimes literal) telescope of technology, war, exploration, and politics. I think it might be a few weeks before I get a chance to read for pleasure again. :cry:
 

Bel-Cam Jos

Jedi Council Member
Aug 16, 2001
15,791
41
105
Where 'text' & 'friend' are nouns
Well, apparently if you schedule classwork to be due AFTER a 3-day weekend, and a colleague gives you a book just prior to that time, you CAN read! Eric Klinenberg's Palaces for the People is basically the premise that when people know each other and the community in which they live, life is better. He promotes "social infrastructure," defined as the necessities for feeling stable and part of something, more than just solid buildings, working facilities, or other "infrastructure" concepts. There's a good amount of research, but not every term or place is defined (he assumes you already know much of this). He is not so optimistic about the future, but he offers ideas on how that future can be brighter, if people and governments and organizations do what's right and proper for humanity's needs. And, it's a signed copy.
 

Bel-Cam Jos

Jedi Council Member
Aug 16, 2001
15,791
41
105
Where 'text' & 'friend' are nouns
Some odd YA books that were recommended by a colleague:

Rabbit & Robot by Andrew Smith. Horrible; the opening sentence was a harbinger of bad things to come. A teen in the future goes on a ship that has just robots on it, with a few human teens. There's profanity, self-serving characters, excessive repetition, and a plot that's bland at best. Ugh.

Munmun by Jesse Andrews was sometimes amazing, other times horrid, overall an interesting concept that went sideways or insightful. In a world where people can literally make it big by increasing their physical size with money (munmun). The made-up words are often hard to follow while reading (lots of merging, pop culture-izing), but it's a sad commentary about how a child might want to get back at those who hurt/tease/misunderstand/misjudge him.