d e t a i l s

  i try to make reading a daily part of my existence. there are a number of reasons for this but i imagine you're interested in exactly zero of them. so deem yourself spared. as for how i choose what to read, i use a genre-based rotation. the rotation changes from time to time but below is the present pattern:

POPULAR FICTION (e.g. ken follet, dan brown, john grisham)
CLASSIC LITERATURE (e.g. alexandre dumas, victor hugo, charles dickens)
SCI-FI/FANTASY (e.g. isaac asimov, orson scott card, robert heinlein)
PHILOSOPHICAL (anything from raw philosophy to the merits of bhudism)
MODERN LITERATURE (e.g. upton sinclair, william faulkner, theodore dreiser)
INSTRUCTIONAL (something towards making a better me)
HISTORICAL BEST-SELLER (from the kahn reading project)
NON-FICTION (e.g. michael lewis, jon krakauer, bill bryson)

the purpose of the above serpentine is rut and glut avoidance. i am desperate to not become a boorish one-category reader and i also love (!!!) the sweeping arcs of subject matter landscapes this practice forces my mind to ambulate through. from a fox hole in WWII europe to solar systems not yet seen (and in times not yet conceived) to how to make your child laugh more to the roman forum at its peak the potential behind this exercise offers limitless candy and vitamins for your mind (and soul).

if you think i'm missing a category, i'd appreciate to hear your argument. and, i'm ever interested in hearing about people's favorite reads, so please hit me up with yours.

The Clan of the Cave Bear
Jean M. Auel

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Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West
Gregory Maguire

first off, i didn't finish reading this book. it's not that i wasn't enjoying it, it was just a hectic month (cough ... everyman). combine that with marty and i had choice seats to the musical version of this work thanksgiving-eve and i feel there's little point in continuing the book now that i know the outcome. therefore, this review will consider what i did read, my feelings on the theatrical rendition and marty's observations regarding the two.

the text was obviously more involved and did a fantastic job of extending the world of oz. of what i did read i'd say it was respectfully and believably treated with an appropriate, if not expected, mix of mystery and uniquity to move you forward. the stage production deviated from the plot-line significantly but in doing so amped up the humor and suspense. for the show, i took my seat expecting little for those who weren't oz-groupies. at its conclusion, i left the theater trying to enumerate the great complexities of the narrative. in several respects i'd liken it to the latest star wars film which chronicled the true birth of vader. and while she was no sith lord, i imagine Elpheba is somewhere on the radar of super-villans. and efforts such as wicked and episode three will collectively move us to appreciate that things just aren't always as they seem. wicked was outstanding and based on marty's comments, possibly superior to the book.

in a quasi-related aside. the first time marty played the wicked soundtrack on our downstairs radio, the witch's cackle sent alex into hysterics. since then anytime someone turns that stereo on, regardless of what it's tuned to, alex totally, completely and utterly comes unglued. so, with this new neurosis in our home, is anyone in the market for an absolutely stunning henry kloss model two? if so, i suggest you do what i did and go buy one because alex's limbs would have to start flying across the room messing up my painted walls before i parted with mine.
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Assassination Vacation
Sarah Vowell

sarah vowell covets space and time. this is the tile he was shot on. this is the same bumpy road his wagon descended on that fateful night. this is a piece of the bullet that took his life. this is the program he was holding which, if you look close, you can see a drop of his blood. and, in case you can't see the blood, there's a chunk of his skull in this glass display.

i get this. totally. a similar proclivity explains why i can't live in the town i grew up in. i can barely visit the place. at every intersection, every converted building, every twenty year old eatery my mind projects a frenetic slide show of sound and imagery flooding my brain's narrow neural avenues. fortunately, vowell's subject matter actually rates discussion in that she addresses moments of national and social consequence where my thoughts focus on the globally insignificant.

in our days we race, dash, and bounce off one another spending our minutes in mostly meaningless events en route to other, different, meaningless events without stopping to reflect on significant things that are and have happened around us, like there is no value in it, no point. i guess for many this is the case, but for those who treat now and then more spiritually, vowell's product of obsession reads as a passionate homage to that which is there, but simply overlooked and under-noticed.
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The Sandman, Nocturnes and Preludes
Neil Gaiman

i don't fully know the genesis of how this story came to be but it is one fantastical and interestingly told yarn. in being introduced to some of the more mature pieces of this genre, i'm definitely seeing the great potential many already know it to have.

i have some additional thoughts about the coolness of this medium but am having trouble verbalizing them, coherently at least, right now. so as to not embarrass myself, i think i won't try.
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The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time
Mark Haddon

beavis and butthead went from being a short to a show to a movie. it was exquisite as a short, acceptable as a show and excruciating as a film. curious incident had a little bit of that going on (danger of letting the narrator go on too long) and it almost seems like someone, like an editor or a friend, told him this late in the process because the tent got rolled up on the quick, like he was late for a hard-to-schedule colonic.

and, i will admit to being disappointed the author was not, himself, autistic. the way the book was presented to me, i was given the impression this was the case and sadly it is not. the voice was believable, i just wish it were authentic.
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Caves of Steel
Isaac Asimov

right now, the thought of a robot so realistic the average person can't tell if it is human or not is quite unreasonable. but assuming we don't destroy ourselves with our primitive tools, such elegant ones are surely part of our inevitable course. do you think their introduction into mainstream society will work itself out? to that i say, ever seen a HIRE UNION bumper sticker? we are a people who, even if we have dinner on our own family's table, care who else was able to feed their family that day. i don't have great faith that this is an evolutionary checkpoint that is going to work itself out.

predicting or theorizing how society unfolds through the advance of robotics (or anything else for that matter) is a grand exercise, one asimov handles masterfully. obviously we or even our children's children will not know how close he came but does that really matter? at the turn of the final page, it's about the cerebral gymnastics and serves as the one great advantage fiction does have over fact.

although, one point already straying from his vision; tobacco. in asimov's future, smoking is still very much part of society which, given the last ten or so years, just doesn't seem like a pony you want to put friday's check on. but considering when his stuff was written, it's an easy thing to slip through the cracks and is a testament to how challenging predicting what a society will look like a thousand or even a hundred years from now truly is.
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Under The Banner of Heaven
Jon Krakauer

some scary and disturbing shit goes on in these pages.

with this book, mormonism catapulted itself to the forefront of what i deem to be interesting. that is, the study and discussion of mormon history surpasses circumcision, the evils of walgreens, is homosexuality a choice and the use of abortion as birth control arguments combined. the informational nooks and crannies that make up this spiritual juggernaut are as endless as the nooks and crannies of their ultra-white temples. and, secreted behind any of the curtains, beneath all of the rocks you are reasonably assured of discovering a skeleton as intriguing as anything dan brown has ever put to paper.

granted the most special facet of this thread is that we are talking about a major religion that came into existence AFTER the printing press and modern journalism (although, let's be clear, if CNN existed when joseph came down the hill with his gold plates, the church of the latter day saints would have never gotten out of the blocks). as a historical object, the documented roots of mormonism are as compelling as would be the discovery of a partially evolved human alive and kicking and biting for all they're worth. it is, without doubt, endlessly marvelous.

the core question; are the true foundations of the other world religions equally dubious? it doesn't take long to see that given the difficulties in pinning this nascent faith down, the odds of debunking something thousands of years old just aint' going to happen. however, to the great and public chagrin of the church, their institution can be, and is routinely, placed on the petri dish and vivisected by the world-over.

in their defense, the white men of MORMON.INC are putting up one hell of a fight.
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2 Sisters
Matt Kindt

the pundits say that what separates a great craftsman from their peers is an ability to select the right word, the quintessential detail, the lowest common denominator of any given moment to paint an image to their audience. in the first thirty pages of this graphic novel you are swept from a bath house of the roman empire to the war-torn streets of a 1940's europe. thirty pages! and what's more, in this first thirty pages there's an equal number of words ushering one along this timeline.

the imagery in 2 sisters seizes the reader while the underlying mystery compels them forward. it becomes immediately apparent that kindt has a unique gift for both sides of the page, the artistic rendering as well as the story's composition. in fact, the sophistication of the story makes me rethink my position on the comic genre. for many, the 'funnybook' industry's depth matched the characters it accommodated (think archie and jughead). pieces like 2 sisters, and others like it, will continue to challenge this mainstream consideration.

2 sisters site
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i, Robot
Isaac Asimov

i've always liked works that require the reader to fill in some blanks. robot's collection of short stories could easily serve as a classroom exercise designed to stimulate original thought, drawing small, concise pictures before leaping to another point in time, leaving the reader to bridge the gaps.

while there are holes in the timeline, a certain fluidity exists between the pieces. and instead of coming off as a patchwork with missing squares, this collection presents more like a vast and vivid tapestry with a random series of different-sized circles cut out. overly impressive for a man's second published work.
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Angels and Demons
Dan Brown

i went into this anticipating it to be much less than the davinci code. while davinci possessed a globality that added appeal, this story's more pointed agenda sang from early on. brown is all over this small-chapter, wide-turns style of suspense guiding the reader with great precision.

think of it this way, this book would make a great parent neglect their children to read just ten more pages. so imagine its effects on someone who is as confident in his ability to govern kids as he is to teach a class of 12 year old girls how to use a tampon. the good news is, the book can be read in a matter of days and what self-respecting kid can't do 48 hours in the same diaper.

on a more academic note, i read this while our pope of a scillion years died for real and the catholic players were in the process of selecting the next. you'd win the bonus question if you answered 'troy learned more about the pope in the last week than he ever knew before.' true dat.
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Parenting from the Heart
Jack Pransky

when marty was still teaching high school we met some really impressive young people. there was this one guy i found extra remarkable. after knowing him for awhile marty and i met his parents at a social event. we asked them a number of questions about their philosophies in regard to parenting. they were very open about sharing their personal beliefs with us. one of the more concrete things they mentioned was this book.

there can be no doubt that the tenets discussed in this study are contrary to how either marty or i were raised. they don't feel natural. but then again neither did holding a tennis racket the first time someone showed me the proper way to do it.

and this book affirms a theory i apply to virtually everything; the difference between being mediocre and great at something is a whole lot of dedication, discipline and patience.
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Second Foundation
Isaac Asimov

just as with the second book in this installment, i didn't spend too much time thinking on what was coming next until i sat down and began reading. and again, i was thoroughly intrigued, piqued and anxious once i saw where the tale wound. this trilogy stands as one of the most complete and satisfying series i've ever read.

with some serialized works, i'm left questioning why the author/publisher elected to divide the piece so. the untrusting side of me usually leans towards some form of monetary reward, for them not the reader. but, not in this case. while length and cohesion-wise this book could have snugly fit into a single volume it works so remarkably better broken into distinct chunks as it is. the divisions are mandatory and assist in preparing the reader for the next phase of this journey. amazing.

additionally, i consciously meter how much i'll read of an author, not wanting to OD on a single human or even genre, but i could not be more ravenous for asimov's chili. the reading staff in my brain are already on edge, tapping toes and furrowing brows wondering why management isn't launching headlong into the next asimov-offering. i need them to understand there are reasons, although when the throwing shit and name-calling begins, this administration may be pulling the first of the robot series from the stack. we'll see.
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The Many Aspects of Mobile Home Living
Martin Clark

this book was .... funny .... gritty .... twisting .... southern ....

this book was not .... any of the things i thought it would be .... which in the end was good for it, the book.

i'd read more by this guy.
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Foundation and Empire
Isaac Asimov

i didn't contemplate the title or direction of this second novel in the foundation series so when i sat down i wasn't real sure where this story was headed. by page three i was on board and rifling through the pages and chapters as rapidly as my nimble eyes could dart from left to right.

if i could make one book longer than it is, so it wouldn't end so fast, it would be ... well it would be puzo's the godfather. but, if i could make two books longer, the second would be this foundation series. unfortunately, it's brevity is part of why it works. there is no waste. there is no clutter. this trilogy and paris hilton are each operating with about 2% body fat.
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