Reading!

Bel-Cam Jos

Jedi Council Member
Aug 16, 2001
16,616
77
108
Where 'text' & 'friend' are nouns
What better way to experience a "two" theme on a Star Wars website than with a non-SW book written by two SW authors? Delilah Dawson and Kevin Hearne wrote Kill the Farm Boy, a sort-of parody of quest fantasy novels (and yes, there were some SW-related words and situations: a "force" comment, blue-glowing ghosts, a "far, far away" line in the first paragraph, the farm boy sure looks and sounds a lot like Luke, etc.). It is silly on purpose, with puns throughout, especially with place names; occasional song lyrics and movie lines mixed in at times. It started out great, very funny; but as it continued it got overly tongue-in-cheek. So it was just okay.

[edit: 6/7] With his more famous book set on Mars, Andy Weir's Artemis seemed like it was written to also be turned into a film version. At a city on the Moon, the main character Jasmine/Jazz is a porter/smuggler who's really science-smart (really?) and smart-alecky (REALLY?!?), I was pleasantly surprised by the pace of action in it: there's murder, traitors, lots of profanity, business ethics and their lack thereof, science descriptions, some pop culture allusions (it never mentions "when" it's taking place, but I'd assume 2030s maybe). A fast, good read. I pass 2000 pages read in summer with this book.

[edit: 6/9] I don't know if I'll be able to make the sci-fi book club meeting next week (they are still doing them via Zoom, which I can't access from home), but they chose Harry Harrison's Make Room! Make Room!, since it was the basis of the 1970s film Soylent Green that is apparently set in the future year of... 2022. While I have not seen the film, I am aware of its famous ending; this book (set months before and on the eve of Jan. 1, 2000) does not really even hint at that possibility. But it is definitely dystopian in its tone: affordable prices and food and water and livable weather and safe places to live are scarce in NYC. Well-written, but not the kind of story one should read these days with overpopulation and shortages of basic necessities going on right now.

[edit: 6/10] Many people were saddened at the recent death of Betty White, and coming a few weeks from her 100th birthday. If You Ask Me was written when she was "just" 89. She muses on topics like entertainment, friends and family, animals, and more. It was a fast read, with nice inspiration, honesty, and humor. My 10th book so far in this summer's total.

[edit: 6/12] The TV variety/comedy sketch show In Living Color was a starting-off point for many in various aspects of the entertainment world (this book shows it was even more people than I had realized), but I found that David Peisner's Homey Don’t Play That! to be more sad than funny. Researched with interviews and statements from previously-published sources (books, online and print articles, online video/audio, etc.), it's definitely detailed but just not that enjoyable to read about. Sad that such an amazing concept only lasted five seasons, and ended with so many people disappointed (and not counting its fans).

[edit: 6/14] Inspired by the Queen's platinum jubilee celebration, where she shares some tea with a certain bear from Darkest Peru, I found Paddington Goes to Town by Michael Bond. There is a downtown celebration in this book, too (Christmas displays and shows). These books are always fast reads, wonderful and humorous tales of someone trying to do the right thing but somehow not quite succeeding (yet never failing). He wins a longest drive golf event, earns money as a waiter/cook and tries his paw as an usher (but remember that the British drop their "Hs"), brings a sculpture home via bus, is psychoanalyzed at the hospital, and has other funny misadventures.

[edit: 6/16] I listen to NPR's weekend news quiz show Wait, Wait... Don't Tell Me, where Roy Blount Jr. is often a guest celebrity. I was looking for his book about his early-1970s book about the Pittsburgh Steelers, but I settled for Alphabet Juice instead. It has 26 sections, each in alphabetical order, about the word history of... words (and phrases, and even parts of words). It was okay, but then I started using the cross-reference "feature" (where someone writes "see ____" with another term elsewhere in that book) instead of just reading the next page and it not only was more enjoyable (and perhaps I will retain these etymologies) but it sped up my reading time (because I had already read those entries later in it). I will find other books he wrote (including the "sequel" book to this one).
 
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The OC47150

Jedi Initiate
Nov 9, 2018
173
9
54
I'm making an all-out effort to keep track of the number of books I read at work and at the Y. I'm on #7. Read the third book in the Gray Man series. Forever and a Day, a new James Bond novel by Anthony Horowitz. The Crowded Hour, about Teddy Roosevelt and the Rough Riders. Book #7 is a techno thriller written by a local attorney; one of the guys I talk to at the Y lent me his copy.
 

Bel-Cam Jos

Jedi Council Member
Aug 16, 2001
16,616
77
108
Where 'text' & 'friend' are nouns
When I was refining my all-time books read list (LISTS... drool), OC, I used these threads to check on authors/titles/summaries I'd posted about already. You and I have been frequent contributors here, so maybe that will help you out!

I had a few educator colleagues and friends who mentioned the film To Sir, With Love as a key part of their time as teachers. I learned that the Sidney Poitier film was based on E.R. Braithwaite's book (but I didn't know it is considered a semi-autobiographical novel) of the same title, and while I have yet to see the film, I will seek it out. The author takes on a teacher job at a school in East End of London, where he deals with students who've have teachers who seemed to give up on them as well as the social struggle of his skin color. Well-written, plus honest and inspiring (although, I am not the type of teacher who visits my students at their homes).

[edit: 6/19] I will be honest, I was trying to finish this book on Juneteenth, since it was quite appropriate for that day's significance to America, and I did end up reading Women, Race, & Class by Angela Y. Davis today. Her name came up in several of the books I've read over the past few years as a significant contributor to multiple movements (see the book's title for three of them). I learned of many people whose own contributions to America history and society I either heard very little about or none at all; it is mostly chronological by subjects and well-footnoted throughout. I've passed 4K pages read this summer with this one, too.

[edit: 6/21] This book is my 14th read-a-Martin book over the years: Ricky Martin's memoir (from over a decade ago) Me. As a teacher of writing, it reminded me of students who have something interesting to write about, but they do so vaguely or generally. I give him credit for writing that he would not "name names" for those whose privacy he wanted to keep, but that came off as ambiguous and not specific. It was quite obvious that me/I/myself/mine were important words for him to write, since they were featured constantly. It was okay (several nice life lessons, occasional details about his musical career events) but repetitive and simplistic.

[edit: 6/22] Our department is going to use Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz An Indigenous People’s History of the United States for Young People as a supplementary textbook for our classes; I had read the original book a few years back, so I needed to read this adapted version. This one is just as informative but it does seem to be a little more didactic throughout. It does have more details since it was published back in 2015 with some new events.

[edit: 6/26] I recalled a bulletin at the school that recommended Jesmyn Ward's The Fire This Time, an anthology that she edited and contributed to, that addresses current (at least, as of its publication in 2016) issues similar to James Baldwin's similarly-titled The Fire Next Time. The essays and poems (I didn't know this format was included; I liked that) include one SW author (Daniel Jose Older) and others with their own experiences and points of view about social and racial concerns over the years. They are divided into three parts: past, present, future as Legacy, Reckoning, Jubilee; and the writers often reference or mirror Baldwin's subjects and style.

[edit: 6/27] Another book similar to the previous one above, Sisters of the Yam by bell hooks, is about black women and how they can engage in self-recovery (as the subtitle states). The terminology sounds like it's from articles or sources from the last few years, but it was published in 1993. I might not be its target audience, but it is still valuable and informative (the bibliography is quite extensive, interesting for just a 200-page book). This gets me to 5000 pages in summer.
 
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Bel-Cam Jos

Jedi Council Member
Aug 16, 2001
16,616
77
108
Where 'text' & 'friend' are nouns
I had said that after the first Obama Biden Mystery book that I was done, but Andrew Shaffer's Hope Rides Again was actually a better story. Set in Chicago, this book just seems a more "realistic" fiction. The author "mentions" the first book (called Murder on the Amtrak Express) as a published story that Biden and others read, the exaggerated situations appear more legit, and the reader feels that this could've happened (sort of); and the cover happens in the book in a way, too. I wonder if Pres. Biden will somehow find some free time from his day job for a third mystery? This book is #20 this summer and #1700 all-time for me.

[edit: 6/30] In looking at my reading lists (LISTS... drool) I thought I'd read another Christopher Paul Curtis YA novel years prior; I had, but it was only earlier this year. Having seen Bud, Not Buddy on library and bookstore shelves for years, I thought this was from the 1970s or '80s; but it was published in 1999 and the story's set in the 1930s Depression era in Michigan. The main character is a boy in the foster care system, and he leaves an abusive situation whilst (that's a word he often uses; it's a first-person narrative) looking for his father. Honest enough descriptions that readers would believe a ten-year-old is seeing and experiencing these things, but even the Afterword mentions that these characters would've had it better than most during that time period (so it's not as sad as many other Depression stories are). He keeps an ongoing list (LISTS... and there are scenes with drool, too!) of life lessons and rules he's learned over his brief life. Really good; this also fulfills my award winner (Newberry Medal) book status for the summer.

[edit: 7/1] With my "to/two/too/2" theme for summer 2022, I noticed Alice Munro's Too Much Happiness on the shelf at the library. It is a collection of 10 short stories, but not much happiness in those stories: basically, humans are horrible and males are the worst of them all, plus everybody's gonna die and possibly get hurt (physically and/or emotionally) along the way. Hey; that's life. Several times I had an audible "ugh" type reaction to these situations. And I tried to finish reading this Canadian author's book on Canada Day, which I sure did, eh?

[edit: 7/2] Another on-my-to-read, and a book to fit the number theme of this summer, after weeks of drudgery I finally finished Joseph Heller's "classic" Catch-22 on day two of this month. The story is simple: war is stupid and people are stupid (hey; that's a Boy George song lyric!); sounds similar to the previous book above. I did find myself smiling or chuckling several times, but the repetition (characters often parrot the previous dialogue or narration) and the hit-over-the-head confirmation of that stupidity in war made me catch 22 winks on more than one occasion. Reached the 6K pages point so far after this one.

[edit: 7/4] This week, the next Thor movie (Love and Thunder) is due out, and today's the 4th of July. So, why not read Brad Thor's State of the Union book? I'd always seen his name on best seller lists (LISTS... drool) and wanted to know what the interest was. This protagonist, Scot Harvath, is a former Navy SEAL and current anti-terrorist and is now preventing a nuclear situation with Russia in the early 2000s. I'll spoil the end: Russia doesn't destroy the USA. There are very, very detailed histories of weapons and programs (sometimes spoken by characters, sometimes as narration), and everybody JUST makes it out by the closest ways; I am certain this will be my last Thor read.

[edit: 7/6] A teacher site recommended this book, and I'm glad I read it (not only for the knowledge, but I might be able to use it in my English classes). Undelivered: The Never-Heard Speeches that Would Have Rewritten History, by Jeff Nussbaum, fills in the cracks about significant people around the world whose scheduled speeches somehow didn't end up that way. Some due to death (FDR, Einstein, JFK, a pope), some due to losing elections or results/situations changing, some due to others' suggestions; and there are some full texts of those speeches (often with the removed or added parts, if their original versions weren't what was actually spoken).
 
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Bel-Cam Jos

Jedi Council Member
Aug 16, 2001
16,616
77
108
Where 'text' & 'friend' are nouns
A sort-of-SW book: Byron Lane, Carrie Fisher's former personal assistant, wrote a fictional novel, A Star is Bored. Following the axiom "write what you know," it's about the newly-hired personal assistant (Charlie "can't-print-his-nickname-on-this-site" Besson) a famous actress (Kathi Kannon) from a famous movie franchise (Nova Quest) living next to her also-famous mother (Gracie "Miss Gracie" Gold) in Beverly Hills. The vapid lives of Hollywood stars and the hangers-on and "their people" who let them do what they want is "fictionalized" here, and it's hard to humanize them based on this story. The protagonist whines (even more than Luke or Padawan Anakin!) about his own life, but once there's money from his job, life eventually gets better (is that the lesson of this novel?). The last chapter or two saves the book overall, but I predict that this might be the author's last book that gets attention. This 26th book breaks through the 7K pages level.

[edit: 7/9] Reading plays is something I don't do too often (it's among my least-read categories) and as I needed a letter 'F' author, I pulled Paul Fleischman's Zap off the library shelf. His name sounded familiar, and checking his other works, children's/YA books Half-Moon Inn and Seedfolks were ones I'd read as a kid and an adult (for teaching). This play is designed to be performed by high schoolers, according to the Foreword: he combined multiple playwrights' styles (Russian and Southern dramas, Avant Garde seriousness, comedy, Shakespeare, monologue, mystery) with different casts for each... but the same set. Different props and accents tell the audience it's now a new scene, but the "zap" sound effect is meant to be like a TV remote changing channels (the lights go out, with new actors now on-stage). It got funny (think Noises Off or Blazing Saddles) and weird as the characters and off-stage props and sound effects get confused on purpose. I liked it.
Since plays usually don't take too long to read, finishing a second play today was easy. Most of the William Shakespeare plays I've read have been dramas, so The Two Gentlemen of Verona (it's considered a comedy) was supposed to be a welcome change from them. The edition I got from the library had an editor analyze the GRAMMAR and SPELLING, as well as the LENGTHS OF LINES ON THE PAPER. This one had the original spellings (I would've LOVED to take spelling tests in Elizabethan days; anything goes, it seems!) and notes to explain what they might've supposed to be (along with whether a comma or period or colon was used). It made it hard to follow, and the play itself is just so-so.

[edit: 7/14] Seeing him on various retrospective programs about sports, pop culture, or history, I've read one or two books by Chuck Klosterman already. His newest book, The Nineties, covers that decade (which he actually says is book-ended by the release of Nirvana's album Nevermind and the 9/11 attacks) with his own recollections and other sources. Not as funny as some might expect (but when people recall the past, they often forget or ignore the negatives) but its nostalgic aspects are tempered by what actually happened and how they are connected to previous and later events and people. His prose and diction sometimes could use a dictionary or writing teacher to analyze, but that's something positive; it read relatively quickly and was somewhat chronological by themes. This was a numbers read: its title, my 30th book and crossing 8000 pages this summer, and one shy of my 52 books goal for each year.

[edit: 7/18] For multiple reasons, Bob Uecker's (co-written with Mickey Herskowitz) Catcher in the Wry was on my to-read list (LISTS... drool): a letter U author, its similarity to a "classic" novel (although, Salinger's is not one I liked reading), and to see if it was as humorous as he was in his broadcasts, movies, TV shows, and routines or interviews. Answer: yes. He focuses on his average playing career behind the plate and how it helped his post-baseball playing career; also those players and managers who crossed paths. I did not know he hit exactly .200 in his 6-year career, nor that he hit 14 homeruns but no triples or stolen bases. A fun and silly read.

[edit: 7/20] I noticed this book on the shelf whilst (?) on a quest seeking books from yonder local library: Douglas A. Anderson whom edited Tales Before Tolkien. And like LOTR and other fantasy books, this took a long time to read and was in a wordy, semi-archaic style. The editor compiled short stories in a similar style of JRR Tolkien, and he decided that they must have been written or published prior to Tolkien's works (but he mentioned a few that Tolkien would likely not have read before, only that some plot detail or stylistic way could remind readers of him).
 
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Bel-Cam Jos

Jedi Council Member
Aug 16, 2001
16,616
77
108
Where 'text' & 'friend' are nouns
Ada Limon is now the new US Poet Laureate, so I found her collection The Carrying; poetry is usually fast to read (not always easy, though), and so was this one. Not one poem that rhymed, IIRC, but all were deep and introspective. I noticed that several details in some poems were going on around me at that moment.

One of my favorite authors, Loren D. Estleman, is about the only western author I read. I found The Long High Noon on the shelf and am glad I read it. It's about two cowboys with a long-running grudge (neither really remembers how it started) and their desire to shoot the other. Then, a promoter gets the idea to make it into a show and charge tickets; later, they travel across the USA (including Alaska) seeking the other out or to make enough money to travel and seek the other out. There were several parts where seeing how much of the book was left I thought, "well, that's going to end too soon," only to have the story take a turn for the better. Really good.

[edit: 7/23] I look for authors' letters to read (trying for all 26 each year) but I'm not a fan of the romance genre. I'd heard of the Netflix Bridgerton series based on Julia Quinn's books, and since I'd read a similarly-titled book this summer, I thought that To Sir Phillip, With Love wouldn't be too bad. Truth be told, it wasn't as bad as many of the romance books I've read, but it was wordy (set in post-Napoleonic London, I guess that fits). The family has eight children, and Eloise is the fifth; she is the protagonist of this book. Unless I need another letter 'Q' in future years, I think I've crossed my bridge across this series. But I'm now over 9K pages.

[edit: 7/25] Over the years, it's happened sometimes where I seek out a humorous book (often a memoir or biography or reflections of a person associated with comedy somehow), only to read it and find it's either not funny at all or on a different topic/tone. Tim Conway was always a favorite actor/comedian of mine, so seeing his eldest child (and only daughter) had written My Dad's Funnier Than Your Dad (by Kelly Conway and Caroline St. Clair), and I was expecting a behind-the-scenes recollection of the subtitle of the book: Growing Up with Tim Conway in the Funniest House in America. There were plenty of those memories, but around the halfway point, it became an excruciatingly detailed account of Tim's new wife's attempts (sadly, most were successful) to control his health care (or lack thereof) and access. The last page, where his daughter explains her intent in writing the book for those also going through elder care issues, did make up for how depressing and frustrating it became to read it. Tim's own autobiography that I read previously is more of what I'd hoped this book would be (I did have to set this one down a time or two and not keep reading it); I'm not disappointed to learn this all happened, but it was unfortunate that it did.

[edit: 7/26] With NFL training camps opening, it seemed relevant to read something about a football player. Former Pittsburgh Panther and Steeler running back James Conner (with Tiffany Yecke Brooks) wrote Fear is a Choice, which chronicled his journey to college. He injured his knee at Pitt, but while getting treatment during that season he was unable to play, he discovered he had lymphoma. Overcoming those obstacles, he was drafted by his hometown Steelers. It's well written, with the use of second-person perspective that comes off as helpful rather than didactic, with enough first-person memories that come off as complementary rather than bragging.

[edit: 7/28] Only one authors' name letter left for this year (you get Roman-numeral-ten guesses as to which one) after this thriller/mystery book: Christopher J. Yates' Grist Mill Road. I chose it for its length (over 300 pgs.) and letter; after reading it, I would not have chosen it on its plot or characterization. Reminding me of such movies/TV as Stand By Me, Yellowjackets, or American Psycho, or the novel The Nickel Boys; it alternates between 1982 and 2008 events (injuries suffered as kids in upstate New York, the impending Great Recession issues in NYC). The lives of three teenagers in the '80s intersect, and each seems to be described as "good" or "bad" individuals; then, after two decades, those descriptions become more muddled. It does reference Star Wars a few times (one error: a character's brother has an Ewok figure... in 1981?). Uncomfortable to read; yet another book in the like-the-style-and-structure but don't-like-the-characters-and-details way. Summer docking book 38 (thirty-eight) could almost buy its own ship for that (now over 10,000 pages).

[edit: 7/31] Having heard good things about The Memory Librarian by Janelle Monae, after having read it, there were some good things about it. Apparently, it is based off her "emotion picture screenplay" (aka "album") Dirty Computer and the world it created; these five stories were co-written by her and five other authors (3/5 of them were very good) and set in this future Earth where memories are collected while thoughts and actions are controlled by the government. Each story follows different characters (with some crossovers) and their experiences. Sometimes hard to follow or unclear descriptions (lesson: let people do whatever they want, but give them resources without interference or returned efforts), occasionally intriguing and engaging (lesson: creativity and independence will improve the future as well as the present).
 
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Bel-Cam Jos

Jedi Council Member
Aug 16, 2001
16,616
77
108
Where 'text' & 'friend' are nouns
Close to my end-of-summer time. Not being able to travel (or at least, not feeling safe or having resources on the way while doing so) recently, most of the travel books I've read have sated that desire: Charles Wheelan's We Came, We Saw, We Left covered his family's "gap year" of nine months across six continents in 2016. Some was funny; occasionally was informative; most was just reviewing what was done and where it was. Even though they budgeted and attempted to go cheaply, they still had quite a bit of funding for this (most of their locations were around the equator or south of it, places I have never been before). For the thousands of photos he took (much to his family's dismay), I expected more than 8 total pages of 17 B&W pictures.

[edit: 8/7] Today does end my summer (back-to-school meetings start tomorrow, classes themselves resume on Wed.), and reading this book on a Sunday prior to the first day of school seems apt. A family member gave me Sweet Jesus, Is It June Yet? by Amy J. Cattapan, who is a teacher (and author) at a religious school. The book is targeted at teachers who may be (or are) feeling burned out, and she uses biblical passages and lessons to help ease that struggle. Easy to read, not preachy (considering the subject matter) but caring and helpful.

Plus, here are my 2022 (and more!) summer stats...

Letters by authors’ last names (22 of 26 letters read):
5 (C),
4 (W),
3 (B, D, H, M),
2 (A, G, L, S, T),
1 (E, F, K, N, P, Q, R, U, V, Y, Z),
0 (I, J, O, X).

Comic TPB/graphic novels: 23 (I realized I hadn't really included these separate reads in my lists [LISTS... drool] before).

Books by genres: 5 (History/Science),
3 each (General Fiction, Star Wars, Philosophy/Poetry, TV/Movies, Education, Auto-/Biography, Mystery/Horror)
2 each (Humor, Travel, Sci-Fi, YA/Children’s, Sports, Plays),
1 each (Classics, Fantasy/Adventure, Western, Romance).

SUMMER BOOKS READ:
2004 (28 books = 7200 pgs., 257 pgs. per),
2005 (29 books = 8800 pgs., 303 pgs. per),
2006 (25 books = 5900 pgs., 236 pgs. per),
2007 (34 books = 9100 pgs., 268 pgs. per),
2008 (23 books = 5300 pgs., 230 pgs. per),
2009 (21 books = 6100 pgs., 290 pgs. per),
2010 (30 books = 8700 pgs., 290 pgs. per),
2011 (39 books = 10,300 pgs.; 264 pgs. per),
2012 (36 books = 9500 pgs.; 264 pgs. per),
2013 (29 books = 8500 pgs.; 293 pgs. per),
2014 (41 books = 10,600 pgs.; 259 pgs. per),
2015 (29 books = 8200 pgs.; 283 pgs. per),
2016 (43 books = 11,700 pgs.; 272 pgs. per),
2017 (37 books = 10,500 pgs.; 284 pgs. per),
2018 (31 books = 9,400 pgs.; 303 pgs. per),
2019 (31 books = 8600 pgs.; 277 pgs. per),
2020 (54 books = 14,800 pgs.; 274 pgs. per),
2021 (47 books = 12,800 pgs.; 272 pgs. per),
2022 (42 books = 11,500 pgs.; 273 pgs. per).

Summer Totals (19 years, 649 books = 177,500 pgs., 273 pgs. per, 34 books per summer).
 
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