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Review the Last Book You Read

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In Hanuman's Hands

by Cheeni Rao

Memoir tracks Rao through the course of his addiction and rehab as he reflects on the effects of his Indian past and American present. That's the short of it, anyway. Pretty compelling.

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Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell

by Susanna Clarke

Genius story about 19th century magicians trying to bring back the practical craft to England. Reads well as a companion to Harry Potter, but works well on its own, too. I can't imagine that Clarke wasn't thinking along those lines as she was writing it.

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The Advanced Genius Theory

by Jason Hartley

The theory tries to explain why pop culture figures (hatched over musicians Lou Reed and Bob Dylan, but finds apt examples in Orson Welles and Marlon Brando, for instance) are considered geniuses early in their career and then then perceived as having lost it later. The rare book I read in one day.

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The Hunger Games

Catching Fire

by Suzanne Collins

Not great literature, but probably pretty typical of current young adult fiction.

Although Of Course You End Up Becoming Yourself

by David Lipsky

Lipsky's Rolling Stone interview with David Foster Wallace from around the launch of Infinite Jest never saw print, but here's a belated transcript of the days he spent with the late author, providing considerable insight into a person many consider to be one of contemporary fiction's best voices.

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Sacred Games

by Vikram Chandra

The fourth of four huge epic novels I read as part of my regular schedule, and the fourth of four excellent huge epic novels. This one's set in India and tracks the events that lead up to and follow a police inspector's bust of a gang lord.

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Gods Behaving Badly

by Marie Phillips

Excellent little Greek pantheon romp in the manner of Douglas Adams and Good Omens. Probably a lot more compelling than the Percy Jackson books.

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Bridge of Birds

by Barry Hughart

Set in "an ancient China that never was", Bridge of Birds is definitely one of the finest fantasy-novels (or novels in general), it has ever been my priviliege to read. The author is not hampered by the relatively low page-count (the entire novel is under 300 pages) but cramps the book full with adventure, gods, monsters, intrigue and a dose of humour which could have come from Pratchett at his best. In short: I heartily reccomend "Bridge" to anyone and hope that more people will be acquainted with No. Ten Ox and Li Kao: The sage with a slight flaw in his character.

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Thunderball, by Ian Fleming.

I'm working my way through all the Bonds. This is one of the better novels from Fleming - a thriller that blows both movie adaptations out of the water. A plane carrying nuclear warheads has been hijacked and crashed into the ocean, and Bond must find the plane and recover the bombs before SPECTRE explodes them. The story moves along at a fair old clip, and though the sexual politics on display are dated, this does not interfere with the novel being a jolly good romp.

All fans of the Bond movies would do well to check out the novels: they offer a much deeper sense of who Bond is and what his frailties are.

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The Children of Húrin

By J.R.R. Tolkien, edited and published by Christopher Tolkien.

If you have read the Silmarillion by Tolkien you will have noticed one long chapter called "Of Túrin Turambar". It is one of the more detailed chapters of the book and yet seems a bit slightly out of place as it focuses more on characters that only really casually fit in to the whole "storyline" of the Silmarillion. Then again that was Tolkien's style, to have many characters and focus on them at any given time. But despite the details of that chapter it is really described as a summary and the reader is actually referred to a more detailed version called "The Children of Húrin." Which at the time was still being written and had not been published yet.

Then in 2007 as I wandered into a bookstore I noticed suddenly a book that was simply called "The Children of Húrin" and was in fact by J.R.R. Tolkien, and edited by his son Christopher. Turned out that he had finally finished editing his father's more detailed story that featured Túrin.

Unfortunately this story is very hard to read if you have not read the Silmarillion, or are not a die hard Tolkien fan with all the names and places memorized by heart. In fact at my initial attempt of reading in 2007, I had trouble getting past the first chapter and stopped at the second. So I shelfed the book for a while and figured I would pick it up once I had read the Silmarillion since I figured that the story would be easier to read once I had done that.

Turned out I was very right, unfortunately I never had a chance to start reading the Silmarillion until few weeks ago when I finally acquired a better copy of it than I previously owned. But I read it through and really got back into the whole back history of Middle-Earth and the whole First Age of that world. So once I had read that I tried "Children of Húrin" again and this time I found it much easier to read.

This is definitely a story where you have to be familiar with Tolkien's Middle-Earth and it's First Age and all the events that are going on around at that time. But aside from that it is a very good read and gives you an insight into some of the inner workings of Men and gives a whole lot more detail to world of Middle-Earth especially it's First Age. Plus it kind of gave me more reasons to like the character of Thingol as we really see how his attitude towards mortals has taken a change and he becomes much more nobler character.

But it is a dark story and a tragic one and really merely just one humongous chapter to a much bigger story of the Silmarillion though it is not a tightly tied to it and if you really try you could actually read this story without having read the Silmarillion first. (Then again that's what they told me about the LOTR and that I didn't need to read the Hobbit first to understand it, turned out that I did in fact need to read the Hobbit before I could work my way through the LOTR, but then again that's just me.)

So I can definitely recommend this book to the Tolkien fans, but I would advise the casual readers to try and work their way through the Silmarillion first or at least to pay close attention to the introductio nthat Christopher does provide at the beginning.

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I think I'll have t look into Bridge of Birds. Sounds interesting. I've got some of the Bond books in a collected edition I'll be reading at some point in the distant future (I have a really extensive reading list). And that sucks to hear about Children of Hurin, because I've got that in my list somewhere, and was hoping it would be easier to get into than Silmarillion.

Anyway...

The Little Book

by Selden Edwards

This is a really pretentious piece of...fairly intriguing literary fiction. Edwards spent decades working on this book, and that was half the reason why I was interested in it originally, but now having read it...it definitely shows that he spent decades writing it. He hugely overthought it, ruined it by perhaps simplifying (I have no idea what other forms it took over the years) to an excessive degree, but...all things considered, it's still a pretty fascinating little book.

Light Boxes

by Shane Jones

This is another fairly ambitious piece of literary fiction, and I think, even though it's clearly purposefully and even artfully minimalist, I didn't really get that much enjoyment out of it. Instead of building toward anything, it just kind of comes to an end, which would be fine if that end were...special. But it's just an ending. Maybe some metaphor I just don't get.

But I'm reading something right now, Johnny One-Eye by Jerome Charyn, that I'm really enjoying, so this slight slump isn't something I need to worry about too much. I've read a lot of really good stuff recently, too.

Edited by Waterloo

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The Great Snape Debate

various

A scholarly book based on the Harry Potter series that was released just before Deathly Hallows. A lot of it it fairly repetitive argument and evidence, but still pretty interesting.

The City & The City

by China Mieville

Really interesting...for about fifty pages. But then becomes bogged down in tedium. I actually stopped reading. Mieville had a better and more interesting subject than he allowed the actual story to be.

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Also just finished...

Big Nate: In a Class by Himself

by Lincoln Peirce

People who are only familiar with the Diary of a Wimpy Kid phenomenon might consider this a knockoff, but Big Nate's been in newspapers for more than ten years. Not a lot of newspapers, but he's been there. So this was pretty awesome when I first saw this at the bookstore.

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On Writing

by Stephen King

Didn't occur to me that I was basically reading this on its ten year anniversary, but that's how long it took for me to get around to reading it, I guess. The most interesting parts are the biographical passages. I don't know that I necessarily agree with his stance on the title topic, but he has some good things to say.

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Dave Barry Slept Here

Pleased to discover that it was actually an updated edition that covered material after 1989, when it was originally published, so I got to read Dave skewer Clinton along with the rest of American history.

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Willie Mays: The Life, the Legend

by James S. Hirsch

Really eye-opening and complete biography of the Say Hey Kid. It was sometimes difficult, for me, to sympathize with him, but it was still pretty awesome to have this much detail about any one career, especially this one.

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Hector and the Search for Happiness

by Francois Lelord

Evocative fable about a psychiatrist's world trip and experiences as he attempts to figure out why his patients seem to be miserable for no good reason. A bit simplistic, but mostly in a good way.

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Typee

by Herman Melville

Melville's first book was pretty sensational for its time, but it wasn't really a work of literature, and so I guess what really happened to him was a matter of pigeon-holing. Readers at the time got used to him as that guy who wrote about cannibals, and he could never live it down. Still pretty interesting, Typee, but not by far among his more interesting, at least to modern readers.

Mr. Palomar

by Italo Calvino

I was assigned to read some Calvino back in college, but apparently the class never got around to it. So here I am years later. I used the name "Palomar" in that book that's in my sig, but this is the first time I've read this book. Interesting material, but not very cohesive. Probably was the point.

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Big Nate Strikes Again!

by Lincoln Peirce

Another outing from the comic strip character attempting to reclaim territory from the diary-writing wimpy kid is a little more focused this time, with a cool layer of Ben Franklin tossed in for good measure.

The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven

by Sherman Alexie

A series of interrelated anecdotes that describe the blast that is life for the modern Indian, from an author I originally read in college. I was just going through some old boxes the other week, and decided not to keep Indian Killer, which I'd had a bad experience with, but that was before I actually started reading this one. Now I wish I had a second chance at that first impression.

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The Great Typo Hunt

by Jeff Deck and Benjamin Herson

A tad pretentious, but still pretty interesting. Deck and Herson, along with a few others, took a trip around the country correcting typos from public places, with a tiny hiccup at the Grand Canyon (costing them legal and financial troubles). Some good thoughts on the why's definitely make it worth reading.

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Israel Potter

by Herman Melville

One of Melville's last books is the semi-biographical account of a Bunker Hill (American Revolution) survivor who spent decades in exile and experienced a whole ton of setbacks in his efforts to return home, meeting a number of famous individuals (John Paul Jones, Benjamin Franklin, Ethan Allen, King George) along the way. Clearly anticipating his later Confidence Man, it's a fine way to start wrapping up an underappreciated career.

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Growing Up Free In America

by Bruce Jackson

Jackson more or less writes the African American version of The Long Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven (from a few posts earlier), with a literary voice tending toward the poetic. It's not for the easily offended, but pretty interesting.

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I have mostly been reading Star Trek books this year. I started reading Terry Pratchett's Discworld series and right now am reading the fifth book, Sourcery. The first one was great. The second and third were really dull. The fourth was good. So far, the fifth is just as dull as the second and third. Frankly, it is amazing to me that the series has been this long-lived given how terrible some of the early books were. I am also reading The Bunny Years: The Surprising Inside Story of the Playboy Clubs right now. It is really interesting so far.

I read **** My Dad Says in one sitting a few days ago. To me, it depicted a horrible father and a horrible childhood. And I found it completely unbelievable that that author could faithfully reproduce so many of his father's quotes, decades after they were first uttered.

Edited by forst

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Frankly, it is amazing to me that the series has been this long-lived given how terrible some of the early books were.

This is true. For example, the only good thing I can think of to say about "Equal Rites" is the fact that Granny Weatherwax is introduced in that book. Soldier on though, later books in the series, such as "Small Gods" and "Night Watch" are absolutely brilliant.

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I have not read much this year so far. I got through two anthologies: A Century of Science-Fiction (1963, edited by Damon Knight) and Star Trek: The Original Series: Constellations. I then read I Am Half-Sick of Shadows, the fourth book in the Flavia de Luce series by Alan Bradley. My mother introduced me to the series. They are enjoyable. I then started to reread Kim Stanley Robinson's "Mars" trilogy; currently I am on Green Mars, the second in the series. I originally read them back in 1998 or so, meaning I remember almost nothing about the plots so it is almost like reading them for the first time. They are incredibly dense and I do not have as much time to read as I used to, so it is taking a long, long time to get through them. I have such a long list of books to read that I doubt I will ever get caught up unless I spend a few weekends doing nothing but reading.

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