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Why No Reviews Lately? and My Problem With Non-Fiction Well, I've been away for a while due to life upheavals and such, so I haven't done a review in about two years. I have been reading though, and so the reviews should start up again soon. Non-fiction has reared it's pesky head in my life recently, and my tendency to read five of them at a time (one page here, three pages there) makes it difficult to come up with reviews. My theory is that fiction tends to take a few key concepts and explore them in depth through character development and "what if" scenarios, thereby helping the reader figure out what they think about it all. Non-fiction, however, presents key concept after key concept and leaves me feeling like I need to think about them for a couple of years before I go on to the next chapter. Despite this tendency of mine, I have found many excellent informational and philosophical books of non-fiction that I would like to tell you about. Their reviews are soon to come and I will be notifying those who have subscribed to the page (as explained above). Thanks everyone!
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The Sci-Fi family has suffered a great loss. Douglas Adams, author of the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy series, died suddenly aged 49. His brilliantly humorous, social commentary-style science fiction is classic, timeless and has become part of our cultural mythology. He also wrote two fascinating and intelligent books featuring his comedic holistic detective character, Dirk Gently, and the story for a very good quirky computer game called the Starship Titanic. I had an ongoing wish that he would write another series of books someday. It became a pet peeve of mine that he did not seem inclined to do so. Now, I feel deeply saddened that the possibility for more brilliant work from Douglas Adams no longer exists. ~Cat
The Turn of the Screw by Henry James
Intro: This book was written in 1898, therefore the writing style and the author's use of language is quite different from what we are currently used to. I have read and academically studied many books from the 19th century and a couple of my favourite authors are from that era. I will have to say that Henry James is no Charles Dickens.
Review: My reaction to this novel is best described by the one word I continuously uttered while I was reading: "What?"
According to the jacket of the book, this story is a "terrifying tale of the supernatural which has mystified and enthralled readers for half a century." I hate to be contrary, but it did not enthrall me in the least, and the only way in which I was mystified was in trying to decipher Henry James' writing. His paragraphs were rambling and disorganized, his descriptions were vague and verbose, and his sentences were badly constructed. One of my favourite examples of Henry James' writing is a moderately sized sentence of 27 words, which contains five commas.
p. 106: "She passed that night, by the most tacit, and I should add, were not the word so grotesque a false note, the happiest of arrangements, with Mrs. Grose."
I stress that this is merely an example. Imagine reading an entire book composed almost exclusively of this sort of thing. In addition, he apparently assumed that the reasons behind his characters' reactions were obvious and exactly what anyone would have done, because many times in the story their actions were not explained. Often, no clues were given at all. I kept saying to myself, "Now why would she do that?"
This novel is mercifully short, probably due to the missing character motivations. As for the ending, I give no spoilers here, let me just say that it was abrupt and completely inexplicable. If you read this book, please let me know your guess as to what happened at the end. I feel certain that I will have as many alternate interpretations as I have people telling me their viewpoints.
Quote: (get a load of this eloquence...not)
"It took of course more than that particular passage to place us together in presence of what we had now to live with as we could - my dreadful liability to impressions of the order so vividly exemplified, and my companion's knowledge, henceforth, - a knowledge half consternation and half compassion, - of that liability."
The Truth, by Terry Pratchett
Intro: This book is Terry Pratchett's twenty-fifth Discworld novel.
Review: This is a funny, almost cheerful, idealistic novel. "The truth shall make you free" is the motto of the Ankh-Morpork Times. The staff of the Times represents the full spectrum of the diverse population of Ankh-Morpork, the city in which this story takes place.
This ecclectic staff came together by accident, they accreted rather than congregated. They consist of a group of Dwarves who work the press; A Human named William who started the whole thing; Sacharissa, the very sweet and innocent features editor; Rocky, a Troll who runs the complaints department; a Vampire photographer named Otto, who has taken the pledge and wears a black ribbon to show that he has given up drinking human blood; an annonymous witness who calls himself "Deep-Bone;" and two bad guys named Pin and Tulip.
They are a most eccentric and loveable collection of humorous characters, except for the bad guys. If you read this book you will get to know this quirky family and you will learn the meaning of "-ing."
Upon his death, one of the bad guys is faced with all the people he has killed. "What are they?" he asked of Death. "Lives," Death said, "just lives. Not all masterpieces, obviously, rather naive in their use of emotion and action, but nevertheless full of interest and surprise, and each in its own way a work of some genius."
Stranger In A Strange Land by Robert Heinlein
Intro: This book was published in 1961. To give you some perspective, the women's movement in America didn't really get going until 1969, which is also the year of the legendary music festival at Woodstock. In December 1961 (just after Stranger was written) America got involved in the Viet Nam war.
Review: This book alternates between being embarrassing, infuriating, and brilliant. Robert Heinlein is clearly a radical thinker and a genius at analyzing the psychosis of our society. The age of this book has to be taken into account when reading, because his analysis of where we are and where we're going is from the perspective of someone who was living in the late fifties. You can tell that the widespread rebellion against middle American "perfection," a la Donna Reed and Leave it to Beaver, was beginning as he wrote and that he was extrapolating a future world based on the conflict between the hippies and the conservative Christian-style moralists.
Heinlein shocks us from both directions. His future religious conservatives have resorted to every lowest-common-denominator tactic in order to secure a maximum number of adherents. The future churches he describes provide alcohol, gambling and waitresses with lots of cleavage to those who come to hear "the news" delivered by slimy evangelists. On the other hand, his hippies are pretty shocking, too. We're used to the communal living idea, the idea of nudism, while not widely accepted, is at least somewhat familiar, but the orgies (described in more detail than I care for) do come as a bit of a shock.
What was infuriating was the excessive banter. In my opinion about a fourth of the book could be cut without losing any character development, intricate subplots, or poetic philosophizing. There's plenty of all that without the endless stream of clever ribbing, friendly jibes, and demeaning slap-on-the-rear cracks about women. Despite this, Stranger in a Strange Land is highly quotable, and contains some of the most profound ideas I've ever read.
Quote: "What sexual union should be, it rarely is. Instead, it is indifference, and acts mechanically performed, and rape and seduction as a game no better than roulette but less honest, and prostitution and celibacy by choice and by no choice, and fear and guilt and hatred and violence, and children brought up to think that sex is 'bad' and 'shameful' and 'animal' and something to be hidden away and always distrusted. This lovely, perfect thing turned upside-down and inside out and made horrible."
My Rating: R. I highly recommend this book to adults because of its profound sociological and philosophical observations and because it's a classic.
Just read: Timeline by Michael Crichton
What I liked about this book: Michael Crichton is a smart guy. What I like about him is that he can explain some very esoteric scientific theory so that even I can understand it. Remember in Jurassic Park where he explained fractals by having Jeff Goldblum try to hit on Laura Dern? I swear, that's every physicist's dream. In this book he explains the idea of the multiverse, wherein an infinite number of universes exist side by side. With him explaining it almost sounds probable. Quote: "Everett called this the 'many worlds' interpretation of quantum mechanics. His explanation was consistent with quantum equations, but physicists found it very hard to accept... 'Wait a minute,' Chris said, 'are you telling us this is true?' ... 'I'll show you,' Gordon said, and he reached for a manila file that said, 'ITC/CTC Technology.'"
What I hated about this book: In the preface, Crichton tries to drum up some suspense with this quote: "...although ITC took the position that their discoveries were entirely benign, their so-called recovery expedition showed the dangers only too clearly. Two people died, one vanished, and another suffered serious injuries." No shit Sherlock! There was no suspense in this book. For all his wonderful, scientific explanations, the plot of this book is like bad Sci-Fi Channel TV. Once you get to know the characters, its clear who's gonna die in the past and who's going to stay behind. Nice try future boy.
I just read: An Uncertain Currency by Clyde Lynwood Sawyer, Jr. and Frances Witlin, 1999.
Review: This book goes far beyond the mystery genre. There is a mystery contained within its pages, and though it is an interesting one, it is to the rest of the story as an orchestra would be to Paverotti, just the background music. Paverotti, in this case, being the life story of the main character, Mario.
Mario is a true clairvoyant: he can see past events, read minds, gain psychic insights from handwriting, etc. His gift, which he calls La Lucia, comes and goes seemingly at random. Although La Lucia has provided Mario with a livelihood through his job as a magician/mind reader/fortune-teller, and has, in effect, paid the bills, she is an "uncertain currency," and he often is forced to use his intellect and observational skills alone to work his miracles.
Sometimes we learn right and wrong the hard way. In my opinion, this book addresses two questions: "What makes us do the right thing?" and "If you had a guardian angel, what would you be willing to do to keep from losing her?"
Quote: "I want you to promise to be true to her always," Massimo said, "Hold her above all others, honor and obey her, use her gifts only for good."
"Like Marriage vows, Uncle!"
"No matrimonio was ever more sacred. Say the words! Not to me, but to her."
How to find this book
I just read: †Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World by Haruki Murakami
Review: This is the story of a guy whose brain is technologically enhanced in a dangerous way, causing his subconscious to develop an unusual survival technique involving snow and unicorns.
I wonder to what extent I should take this book as being culturally relevant to Americans. Although the book was written in Japanese (translated by Alfred Birnbaum), the author is currently teaching at Princeton University, so I'm not sure how much of the American culture is part of his worldview. I would also be interested to know if he has read very much science fiction, which is what this book undoubtedly is, although I did not find it in the sci-fi section of the bookstore. This would make a huge difference to me because as I read, I kept having that oh-so-popular feeling, "been there, done that."
Why would knowing where he's coming from make such a difference? Because on one hand I could praise him for being a Japanese person suggesting that individuality is more important than community. In America, that idea is as common as Rock-n-Roll. If he knows nothing about science fiction, I would praise him for giving a couple of interesting twists on some fairly standard sci-fi story elements - even if they did involve enormous holes in the science part of the science fiction. If he's never read a pop-psychology book, I could give him a thumbs-up for thinking of the idea that the subconscious can do lots of amazing things. Unfortunately for myself in this situation, I am all too familiar with American individuality, science fiction and pop-psychology, and as a result, I felt a bit impatient with this book.
You realize, of course, that many of the highest quality books that are written have no original ideas in them whatsoever. In those cases it is not the ideas that are great, but the presentation, the artistry, the depth of the characters, the compelling style and the individual perspective of the author that are great.
The only sense of any greatness I got from this book was found in what I call the "dream section," the part about the unicorns. There was just a spark of greatness in the atmosphere of sad, hopeless beauty that he created in this land of beasts. There was also one concept that seemed to be presented in an original way. The main character's realization that the beasts were being unfairly used, burdened, and ultimately sacrificed for the comfort of the humans in the story. It was a beautiful allegory for the case of animal rights in the real world of today. For this greatness alone, it was worth reading the book. I highly recommend it.
Quote: "My mind cannot forgive my gain at the sacrifice of the beasts."
I just read: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone by J. K. Rowling
Review: There's a lot already being said about the Harry Potter Books, but I have my own take on why they're so popular and why they're so feared.
This book, the first one in the Harry Potter series, is about a little boy who loses his parents and goes to live with his aunt and uncle. They neglect him and continually tell him he's no good. Then when he turns 11, he inherits a new life. It turns out his parents were part of a secret part of society, those who do magic. His parents left him enough money to go to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry where he could live away from the oppression of his aunt and uncle.
He also begins to be able to use his magical powers and no longer has anything to fear from his bullying cousin. This change in his situation empowers him. He is no longer a victim. It turns out that there are some new things in this world of magic for him to be afraid of, but he has the power to fight these new things.
Many people have had this book taken out of school libraries. Why? There are no cuss words, no sex, a very small amount of innocuous violence, nothing but a classic good vs. evil story where good wins. When people want to ban something, it's because they are afraid of it. What is so scary about this book?
Maybe those people are afraid of the suggestion that a power may exist that they are not in control of. There's a saying: "Evil magic is any kind that works for you, good magic is any kind that works for me."
What I say is, "Chill out, it's just a story."
Quote: "Last night I had a dream about a motorcycle. It was flying!" Harry said.
Uncle Vernon nearly crashed into the car in front of them. He turned right round in his seat and yelled at Harry, his face like a gigantic beet with a mustache: "MOTORCYCLES DON'T FLY!"
"I know they don't," said Harry, "It was only a dream."
I just read: Feet of Clay by Terry Pratchett
Intro: I believe this is the seventeenth book in the Discworld series (any fans out there who know differently, please drop me a line), a phenomenally popular series of humourous fantasy books, every one of which is a bestseller. I've read this particular one three times now.
Review: The police force of Ankh-Morpork, which is called the City Watch, is an equal opportunity employer. Members of the watch include Humans, Trolls, Dwarves, a Werewolf and a Gargoyle, so Commander Vimes is used to having respect for the rights of people from different backgrounds. Then he meets someone who has no rights and who has given himself up for a murder he didn't commit.
Golems are men made out of clay for the purpose of being slaves. All over the city Golems are committing suicide. Why? Is this connected with the priest that has been murdered?
Feet of Clay is a solid merging of a hard boiled detective story with a study in human rights and diversity. Humour is also, of course, a main ingredient in any Discworld novel, and it is interwoven expertly with the serious issue of personal freedom.
"I am a Golem. I was made of clay. By means of words of purpose in my head I acquire life. My life is to work. I obey all commands. I take no rest."
"That's why we all hate 'em, thought Commander Vimes, those expressionless eyes watch us, those big faces turn to follow us, and doesn't it just look as if they're making notes and taking names? If you heard that one had bashed in someone's head over in Quirm or somewhere, wouldn't you just love to believe it? Given how we use them, maybe we're scared because we know we deserve it."
Terry Pratchett: Guilty of Literature
I just read: Reason for Hope by Jane Goodall
Intro: Jane Goodall was the first person to document witnessing a non-human animal making and using a tool. Because of her, the definition of what it means to be human actually had to be revised.
Review: Reason for Hope is an autobiography. It comprehensively covers Jane Goodall's life experiences, and through these experiences she illustrates how she has managed to retain a positive outlook all her life. Religion has been a major focus of her life and in this book she explains her religious develpoment over the years. This book is by no means evangelistic, however. She writes, "And what about those, and there are many, who do not believe in a God - those who are atheists? It does not make any difference. A life lived in the service of humanity with a love and respect for all living things - those attributes are the essence of saint-like behavior."
She very adeptly explains many emotional experiences and some transendental moments that would be difficult for most people to put into words. Because she was not trained as a scientist before observing the chimps in Africa, the information she gathered was not reduced to numbers and dates and statistics. Jane Goodall transcended science and brought the world the observations of a human being. What she learned from the chimps and from the forest cannot be found in a scientific text.
Despite much political resistance, Jane Goodall has made sure that the observations in Africa continue and that many more projects continue around the world to further our understanding and compassion for other animals, and ultimately, hopefully, for ourselves. She has also been working dilligently to help create programs that may lead to sustainable living in Africa and all over the world.
Quote: from a poem by Jane Goodall (included in the book)
"...the Eternal Power
that encompasses life's beginnings
and gathers up it's endings
and lays them like Joseph's coat
on the never changing, always moving canvas
that stretches beyond the universe
and is contained in the eye of a little frog."
I just read: Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
Intro: This is one of the most important books in history.
Review: I've read Fahrenheit 451 once before. I've also listened to the audio book and seen the movie. Even with all that, this story could never be exhausted for me. It was first published in 1953. A shorter, preliminary version was written in 1950 - 50 years ago, and yet it seems like it was written this year. It is a hauntingly plausible extrapolation of what could have happened in our society and what could happen in the future. It's not plausible in the sense that I think it's going to happen, but in the sense that the reader can see the line of logic between where we are now and what Bradbury has put in this book. It is a warning.
Quote: "I'm afraid of children my own age.
They kill each other. Did it always used to
be that way? My uncle says no."
The main character has been raised in a society with no novels, no poetry, no treatises on the lifestyles of the dinosaurs or theoretical mathematics, and no history books; only technical manuals, instruction booklets, comics and TV guides. People drive their cars real fast when they're feeling restless and overdose on sleeping pills because they feel completely empty inside. In this world devoid of contemplation, Guy Montag finds himself feeling and acting strangely. The teenager next door, the old man in the park, and a few books that Montag stole are his only clue to what has gone terribly wrong in his life and in his world. He acts foolishly, stumbling and thrashing, but he does the best he can with the complete lack of experience he has in being rebellious. The things that he accomplishes, although quite often unwise are after all very satisfying.
And for those book lovers out there...well, love may not be a strong enough word. I know there are a great number of people to whom books are sacred, and libraries are cathedrals. Parts of this story may be painful to them, but the story as a whole is a celebration. It is a statement of just how important books are in the life of an individual and of a civilization. Yes, humans can survive without them, but the question is, would you want to?
Quote: "So now do you see why books are hated and feared? They show the pores in the face of life. The comfortable people want only wax moon faces, poreless, hairless, expressionless. We are living in a time when flowers are trying to live on flowers, instead of growing on good rain and black loam. Even fireworks, for all their prettiness, come from the chemistry of the earth. Yet somehow we think we can grow, feeding on flowers and fireworks, without completing the cycle back to reality."
The House of Mirth by Edith
Intro: This recent Jane Austen craze could very easily bring some other authors of a similar style into the popular movie scene. The House of Mirth would be a perfect fit into this mold even though it is American and the story takes place in New York instead of Jane Austen's England. The subject matter is high society and the problems of women trying to get themselves married off.
Review: How important is life to you? Can you only live in the surroundings to which you've been accustomed? Would you find a way to adjust if things changed? Would you be able to make sacrifices? In The House of Mirth the main character, Lily Bart is faced with these questions. Actually this character starts out perfectly suited to her environment of riches and parties, but she has a sensibility which renders her incapable of embracing her world fully. Then when her financial situation becomes unstable she is even more incapable. She couldn't live within her high society world and yet she couldn't live without it. Each potential avenue of success carried with it certain compromises which she was not willing to make. I cannot admire this character, and I don't think the reader is supposed to. It is a study in human failure. The failing main character is contrasted toward the end with someone else who is the embodiment of success. Not success in terms of wealth or fame, but success in dealing with the harsh realities of life and survival. The story was compelling to me because I kept asking myself, "What would I have done?" Lily Bart has so many opportunities offered to her and at each turning point I ask myself which way I would have gone. What makes life worth living? What kind of person can survive and prosper? Read The House of Mirth and discover your own answers to these questions.
Quote: "The only way not to think about money is to have a great deal of it. You might as well say that the only way not to think about air is to have enough to breathe. So it is with rich people - they may not be thinking of money, but they're breathing it all the while; take them into another element and see how they squirm and gasp!"
Little Green Men by Christopher
Intro: I find that reading satire is the best way to explore a subject. It tends to point out ironies and inconsistencies, looking at the subject from a relatively disinterested point of view. The reader is not bound by a dramatic seriousness and is more free to contemplate and speculate.
Review: Little Green Men is kind of a "what if" scenario. What if it wasnít mostly midwestern farmers and other low profile individuals who got abducted by aliens? What if somebody famous and beyond reproach were to be abducted? Itís a great premise and could be a great way to explore the UFO phenomenon. The only problem is that the famous, beyond reproach person who gets abducted in this story is an idiot. It has occurred to me in the past that the "real life" abductees sometimes donít react in the most rational ways if what they really want is to be believed. The opportunity to see what a worldly-wise, socially adept and persuasive individual would do was very intriguing. Unfortunately, every time he took action I found myself saying, "No no no no no no!" The frustration would have been worth it if it was funnier, but I think the authorís purpose would be better served if the irreproachable abductee could use some of the talent that apparently got him where he is in dealing with his new found situation. Instead he reacts like everyone else does, and the reader is suddenly caught up in a 15 year old sit-com. The fact that satire points out ironies and inconsistencies is bad news for this book, because itís full of them. It does make you think. It makes you think the book could have been a lot better.
Quote: "Iím Ok. Call the police. The military. Call the air force. THEY may still be in the area!"
"THEM! The aliens! In the spaceship - in the woods off the 4th fairway!"
One of the medical technicians leaned closer to sniff Banionís breath.
"I am not drunk!"
"Sir, weíre going to take you to the hospital, your blood pressure is very high."
"Of course itís high! Call the police! Clear the golf course! Oh, my God!"
"Theyíre seizing the government! It could be a takeover of the whole country!"
The Education of Little Tree
by Forrest Carter
Intro: Although it was written in 1976, this book was the ABBY Award Winner of 1991. It was reissued recently by The University of New Mexico Press. It has had a serge of popularity recently, but if you cannot find a copy please call the press at 1-800-249-7737.
Review: What can a child learn in three or four years? Little Tree learned how to see the world and how to live in it during the time he stayed with his grandparents starting when he was 5. It's amazing how much wisdom can be conveyed in such a short time and in such a short book. Maybe it was possible because these characters do not waste time on irrelevancies. They are people of few words, but plentiful meaning. The author uses a backwoods American dialect to tell this story. It may seem very odd to some, but the writing flows clearly and comfortably, initiating its readers almost immediately. I believe this dialect is very effective in setting the scene in the mountains in the 1930's. What is being said by the narrator fits with how it is being said. The philosophies presented are short and simple, but run very deep. This book is bitter-sweet, just like life. You may have heard the phrase "words to live by." The Education of Little Tree contains a life to live by. The way of life described by the young narrator could be a blueprint for a sustainable life of deep understanding - not scientific knowledge - but understanding.
Quote: "Then the yellow dandelions poked up everywhere along the lower hollow, and we picked them for greens - which are good when you mix them with fireweed greens, poke salat and nettles. Nettles make the best greens, but have little tiny hairs on them that sting you all over when you're picking. Me and Granpa many times failed to notice a nettle patch, but Granma would find it and we would pick them. Granpa said he had never knowed anything in life that, being pleasurable, didn't have a damn catch to it - somewheres. Which is right."
The Last Continent
by Terry Pratchett
Intro: When I first looked at the cover of The Last Continent I thought, "This book is about Australia."
Review: Now that I have read The Last Continent, I can speak from a more knowledgeable standpoint and say, "This book is about Australia." The author weaves Australian references and clever mock explanations as to how things got that way very captivatingly into the book. Although Australia is a fine setting for a book, I like a book better when it includes several layers of meaning, at least one of which either moves or inspires me in some way. Unfortunately, this book didn't seem to be about anything but the setting. I enjoyed it in a very superficial way due to cute scenes and a couple of extremely insightful cracks against humanity, but I kept asking myself, "What is this book about? (besides Australia, of course)." Nothing in this book really moved or inspired me until the very last line. I would quote it to you, but I believe that would be breaking the prime directive of book reviewers. If you live in, or are a big fan of Australia, you should definitely read this book.
The Food of the Gods, by H.G.
(from Seven Science Fiction Novels of H.G. Wells, Dover Publications, Inc. New York)
Intro: "...we are but the momentary hands and eyes of the life of the world."
Review: People often talk about seeing the "big picture." We are too close to events in our everyday lives to see how things fit together, how they become part of the whole civilisation and of the whole world. But what if some of us were suddenly much larger than the rest? What if they towered forty feet above the little everyday things that the rest of us were doing? It's possible that those big people could see the larger effect. The Food of the Gods is about a substance that causes things to grow very large. These living things that grow large are healthy and correctly proportioned, making them seem, not malformed or unnatural, but God-like.
The difficulties and conflicts that arise between the big things and the little things are very thought provoking, and all along the way Wells' poetic, sensory-rich writing washes over you, letting you see things in ways you never have before. The philosophies explored in this book range from the motivations of an individual scientist, to ideas that are so all-encompassing that they seem religious. Indeed, it is inevitable that anyone who reads this book will find themselves considering some very deep questions.
This novel is extremely well-written and much better than many of Wells' more famous books, such as War of the Worlds and The Invisible Man. I would say The Time Machine, one of my all-time favourite books, comes in a close second to Food of the Gods in terms of quality. Food of the Gods begins with biting, very funny sarcasm, and ends with a scene almost Biblical in nature. You'll laugh, you'll cry. Go read it!
Quote: "The reef of science that these little scientists built and are yet building is so wonderful, so portentous, so full of mysterious half-shapen promises for the mighty future of man! They do not seem to realize the things they are doing. Without some great inspiration for such glories and positions only as a scientist may expect, what young man would have given his life to his work as young men do? No they must have seen the glory, they must have had the vision, but so near to it that it has blinded them. The splendor has blinded them, mercifully, so that for the rest of their lives they can hold the light of knowledge in comfort - that we may see."
You can buy Food of the Gods here.
Northanger Abbey, by Jane
Intro: I have found many readers to be slightly afraid of "literature," preferring to stick to "light reading" which they read in order to relax. Jane Austen proves that "literature" can be "light reading."
Review: Come and hang out in England in the early 1800's. Bath was one of the hip and happenin' local scenes at that time and this book is your ticket to go, along with your guides and chaperones, the Allens. You will have the finest clothes, comfortable lodgings and servants. Your only occupation will be to mingle and enjoy your surroundings. You guessed it - there's a catch: you are a 17 year old female who must abide by all the complex social etiquette of that time and social/economic class.
Northanger Abbey is very well written and very relaxing. There is somewhat of a language barrier for those not accustomed to the 1800's form of English - but if you would like to become accustomed to it, this might be a good book to start with.
This book is definitely what one might call a "girl book," the assumption being that any "guy book" must have lots of explosions, killing, cussing, and references to cars and/or sports. As a rule, I don't hold with stereotypes and I fully realize that many very masculine men would quite enjoy this book, because of the insights it offers into the social workings of upper-middle class 19th century England, but I just thought I'd warn you. If you read Northanger Abbey, you're in for a rated G (clean and innocent) version of a teenage-girl's worries, gossip, and hopes of marriage.
Quote: No one who had ever seen Catherine Morland in her infancy, would have supposed her born to be a heroine. Her situation in life, the character of her father and mother, her own person and disposition, were all equally against her. She was from a family of ten children, which will always be called a "fine family " where there are heads, arms, and legs enough for the number; but the Morlands had little other right to the word for they were in general very plain, and Catherine, for many years of her life, as plain as any.
A Graveyard for Lunatics by Ray Bradbury
Intro: This is an Anti-Review.
Review: It is my policy to only read good books. I'm finicky that way. The problem is you can't judge a book by it's cover, so how do you know it's good before you read it? Recommendations work sometimes, but what if your taste differs from that of your recommender? You can stick to authors that you already know you like, unfortunately authors (like other mortals) die and stop writing, preventing their works from being infinite in number- or, as in the case of Douglas Adams, they stop writing novels and start writing computer games.
In light of these difficulties, it is particularly annoying when you pick up a book from an author you already like, he's not dead, he hasn't started writing computer games, and yet - aaaaggghhh! - you hate it! How did this happen??
A Graveyard for Lunatics, by Ray Bradbury must be some kind of mistake. I mean, Ray Bradbury! He wrote my favourite book in the world: Fahrenheit 451! I also liked Something Wicked This Way Comes and many of his short stories. Well, Ray must have been in a phase or "finding himself" or something during this book because the style was very different. It was like the Hardy Boys written in beat poetry. After about 80 pages of this, I couldn't take it anymore and bailed out. It took me about a week to nurse my wounds and regain enough faith to go back to the library and get another book. Please tune in next week and hopefully good literature will again abound.
Quote: "I was studying him as I must have studied my grandfather, dead forever, in his upstairs bedroom thirty years ago. The stubble on my grandpa's pale, waxen skin, the eyelids that threatened to crack and fix me with the angry glare that had frozen Grandma like a snow queen in the parlor for a lifetime, all, all of it as clean and clear as this moment with Lenin's necrologist/cosmetician seated across from me like a jumping jack, mouse-nibbling his fruit salad."