030) Wyrd Sisters by Terry Pratchett, finished April 13
- I love Terry Pratchett and the eighteen months or so I've gone without reading a Terry Pratchett novel is probably the longest Pratchett drought I've had since reading my first book of his the summer of 2002. The impetus to read this one was twofold: Lady Steed was removing most of the Pratchett books from the front room and this one's title was an obvious reference to Macbeth which I was about to start reading (see below). (Also, it's one of only three that we own that I hadn't yet read.)
In fact, the two books even share the same opening line of dialogue. Using Google Books, I've copied these first lines from each book (though not from the editions I read) for your comparative pleasure (haha):
Not quite the same.
If you don't know Pratchett, you don't know the whirlwind it is to read him. He's not just a master joke teller, but he's one of the plain best writers I know. Wyrd Sisters is one of the earlier Discworld novels and the only two earlier ones I've read I consider among his weakest works. By Wyrd however, he's fully arrived. This book gives him the opportunity to spit out references to everything from Charlie Chaplin to Samuel Beckett and nothing is safe.
(The Oxford Times calls him "Simply the best humorous writer of the twentieth century" which is certainly arguable -- the main competition being Douglas Adams and P.G. Wodehouse.)
The book seems to be based on Macbeth and the play-within-a-play tries to be based on Macbeth, but in the end, I think both are closer to Hamlet.
Anyway, you should read a Discworld novel. Depending on the person, my recommendation for first read is usually either Thief of Time, The Truth or Monstrous Regiment, but I don't think you'ld go wrong with Wyrd Sisters. Ours is about to go in a box, but if you want to take it around the block, we'll pull it back out for you.
029) Animal Farm by George Orwell, finished April 8
- I know. Again. And I don't even really like this book -- I certainly don't like reading it. By the end of the month I will have read it three more times. But I'm not going to count those. Twice in four months is plenty counting enough.
about ten days
028) Macbeth by William Shakespeare, finished April 7
- I don't know the last time I read Shakespeare just because I wanted to read Shakespeare and for no other reason--possibly even ten years. I find this remarkable. Certainly not what me at 18 would have expected. Poor me at 18--always getting disappointed by me at later ages.
Anyway, I don't think I've read Macbeth since high school. I read way more Shakespeare in college than the average high school student--likely even more than the average English major--yet somehow I haven't touched Macbeth in like...14 years? A long time anyway.
And I totally fell for Malcolm's I-am-a-bad-guy speech. I didn't even get what it was about--I had to consult the notes then go back and reread it. (At which point it was obvious and I felt stupid. This feeling must be why I haven't read for fun any tragedies I'm not already familiar with. Titus Andronicus for example. Or Coriolanus.)
Anyway, I don't like Macbeth all that much. I just don't think it has as much to say as, say, Hamlet. Or Romeo and Juliet. It's sort of a one-note opera.
(Although I still think the current Broadway version with Patrick Stewart would be an awesome way to spend an evening.
Now: not being Hamlet does not make a thing bad.
Else all the world would be bad.
let's say ten hours
027) On the Road to Heaven by Coke Newell, finished April 4
- I need to preface remarks by saying I liked this book very much and I recommend it to anyone. I need to say that because it might seem like many of my comments are denigratory, but remember: I liked this book. I laughed. I cried. The former literally. The latter darn near. A few more tear molecules and I would have spilled over.
My biggest problem with the book is a problem I got over (eventually) (mostly) and that is it's style. The book is widely rumored to read like Kerouac, but, never having read Kerouac, I can't say. There's not doubt the book was highly influenced by the man -- the title even plays on one of his titles -- and is a phrase lifted straight from another Jack book. Plus: lots of Kerouac epigrams. So the Kerouac thing I'm guessing is a yes.
And it's not very . . . literary. I finally figured out what it was when I hit the final page: the style is conversational. Only, not conversational in the sense Coke and I are chatting. No, it's more like he's a master storyteller and we're in matching recliners and he's spinning his old-man yarns of long ago. And you want him to go on and on and never stop until he says "But that's another story altogether" and you have to admit he's right and then you stand and stretch and clap him on the back and thank him for having you over and assure him you can see yourself out, no problem, thanks again.
And that's okay.
Anyway, if you haven't been paying attention or have had your attention riveted to things like the Democratic Primaries or the Wall Street Journal, you probably don't know, but On the Road to Heaven swept the Mormon awards this year, novel of the year from both the AML and the Whitneys (here's a nice breakdown on the difference and whether on not this fact even matters). I don't know if it deserved it as I haven't read much of the competition, but I would like to make a plea to Mormon bookstores to carry this book. Yes, it has breasts and pot and stuff, but anyone who thinks this book is not beautiful and holy and totally 13th is out of their mind. Or, more likely, can't read.
So, would you like a plot summary? Here you go.
This book, which, although masquerading as fiction is almost 100% Coke's real story, takes our young Colorado hippie from long hair and pot and mountaintop vigils and Kerouac and Black Elk and Thoreau and even Ram Dass to the Book of Mormon of all things and, woh, a mission to Columbia complete with tapeworms and earthquakes.
See? Plot summaries are lame.
But the book's not.
about a week and a half
026) The Great American Citizenship Quiz: Can You Pass Your Own Country's Citizenship Test? by Solomon M. Skolnick, finished March 23
- This book uses questions off the test given to those becoming naturalized citizens of the United States as a launch into bite-sized portions of history and political theory. A fun book with occasional unknown nuggets. I for instance did not know the British occupied New York City for two years after the surrender at Yorktown. How did that work? I don't know.
I also found a typo on page 98. Do I get a prize?
(Also worth noting, even though I only skimmed the appendices: The Constitution is such a beautiful document in its brevity and perfection. Really gets me right here, like a four-inch needle of patriotism straight to the heart.)
an hour and a half maybe
025) Long After Dark by Todd Robert Petersen, finished March 23
024) The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch, finished March 21
023) Robot Dreams by Sara Varon, finished March 10
022) The Complete Peanuts 1963-1964 by Charles M. Schulz, finished March 9
021) Spoon River Anthology by Edgar Lee Masters, finished March 7
020) Unorthodox Practices by Marissa Piesman, finished March 5
019) Happy Hour at Casa Dracula by Marta Acosta, finished March 4
018) A War of Gifts: An Ender Story by Orson Scott Card, finished Leap Day
017) Watership Down by Richard Adams, finished February 26
016) Old Boy Volume One by Garon Tsuchiya and Nobuaki Minegishi, finished February 25
015) Case Histories by Kate Atkinson, finished February 18
014) Ultimate Spider-Man: Ultimate Collection, Vol. 1 by Brian Michael Bendis and Mark Bagley, finished February 15
013) Trusting Jesus by Jeffrey R. Holland, finished February 11
012) Fables: 1001 Nights of Snowfall by Bill Willingham et al., finished February 11
011) Spook: Science Tackles the Afterlife by Mary Roach, finished February 4
010) The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold, finished February 3
009) American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang, finished LDotFMotNY
008) Zombification: Stories from National Public Radio by Andrei Codrescu, finished January 22
007) Marriage Lines: Notes of a Student Husband by Ogden Nash, finished January 22
006) Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen, finished January 20
005) The Salmon of Doubt:: Hitchhiking the Galaxy One Last Time by Douglas Adams, finished January 14
004) Lord of the Flies by William Golding, finished January 10
003) Rising Sun by Michael Crichton, finished January 7
002) The Marketing of Sister B by Linda Hoffman Kimball, finished January 2
001) Animal Farm by George Orwell, finished January 1