The Twelfth Five Books of 2007.......BUT FIRST!


Before we get into the latest batch of books, you have to check out what we're going to do. And what I totally want to be for Halloween.

Walking with DinosaursThe Brass Clan can get tickets before they are generally available and they emailed and asked if we'ld like to go. Needless to say, we're all stoked. The Big O can't wait to see the dinosaurs eat other dinosaurs. I'm just making up for missing Gertie ninety years ago.

Anyway. It looks awesome. Click on any of the dino photos and watch the videos. I'm pretty excited.

As for the books, we've got a few classics (The Pearl and , perhaps the best new newspaper comic of the last decade, the Great (and Controversial!) Mormon Horror Novel, plus Book #60. Expect long diatribes--or at least discussion--over the G(aC!)MHN and Foundation.

Plus lots of cool dinosaur photos!

Walking with Dinosaurs 060) Tales of the Black Widowers by Isaac Asimov, finished September 14
      I have already gone on about Asimov at some length in this five, so I will keep this brief: Fun little mystery stories. My favorite was the one about the fire, although it was the closest to a cheat. My least liked was the one about Alice, because it seemed to break the rules of Henry's skillset. Technically, I was most impressed by the effortlessly drawn characters, each of whom remained distinct. The perfect book of short stories to carry about in a pocket for instant distraction with minimal requirement.

        three weeks

Walking with Dinosaurs 059) The Pearl by John Steinbeck, finished September 11 and again on September 12
      We read this book aloud in both my freshmen classes. It was my first book since reading Of Mice and Men in high school. And this one has a pretty similar ending. Makes me wonder if Steinbeck has any other tricks. Anyway, I won't write him off entirely until I've read East of Eden and Travels with Charley.

        about a week

Walking with Dinosaurs 058) The Dog Is Not a Toy: House Rule #4 by Darby Conley, finished September 3
      Someone left this book next to the changing table, and I've been reading a bit here and there as I've changed diapers. Then, today, as the Large S took a nap on me, I finished it up. Good book. The first Get Fuzzy collection. I started reading Get Fuzzy online when it was only a few weeks old and I still count it one of the best new strips of the last ten years, even though I don't read newspaper comics online like I used to. Good stuff.

        four days

Walking with Dinosaurs 057) Brother Brigham by D. Michael Martindale, finished August 29
      For those of you who haven't been paying attention (or have been too far removed from Martindale's shouting), this is a Very Controversial Book. I'll get to that later, but first I just want to say that those of you who like idea-driven fiction, this is a great book. If, only the other hand, you read to luxuriate in the wordsmith's killer style, forget about it. I'm going to talk about style first, so we can move onto the meatier stuff without worrying about it, but if you're totally disinterested in issues of style, skip ahead to the *****.

      So it's kinda clunky. Let's just say it cause it's true. The dialogue's not terrible, but no one's going to be putting him on list's with Every-Critic's-Favorite Elmore Leonard any day soon.

      The worst thing (maybe) is this: Martindale can't seem to decide who his audience is. Since the book is steeped so heavily in Mormon doctrines and culture, he seems to be aiming directly at Mormons--who else could follow the twists, other than someone who's been going to their church meetings the last decade or so? But on the other hand, if his audience is all schooled Mormons, why the occasional dunderheaded explanations? (Example: "the Book of Abraham in the Pearl of Great Price".)

      Actually, I think I can explain that, because it's not just Mormon stuff that gets overexplicated now and then, and Martindale is hardly alone in committing this sin. Too many writers add awful sentences at the end of paragraphs that make the reader wonder if they think I'm stupid. This is a complaint I make a lot.

      But enough on style. Let's wrap it up with a question: is Martindale a writer whose virtues outweigh a lackluster style or not? Is he like Harry Turtledove, an excellent storyimaginer whose crappy storytelling renders him unreadable (at least to a sometimes snob like me)? Or is he like Dean Hughes who admits to not being a stylist, but is so compelling and unpretentious that it hardly matters? (Or, for that matter, Asimov?)

      I don't know. I've only read one book.


      Let's start with the assertion I've never heard argued, that everything in Brother Brigham is doctrinally sound, from a Mormon point-of-view. This is, in fact, arguable. But only arguable. Also arguable is some of the Church-procedural stuff, but like I said before, this is a novel based in ideas, and I think I'm going to go with the crowd and not argue with the it's-doctrinally-sound assertion. After all, it's an argument I could lose.

      This book had a certain fame and notoriety among Mormon literary circles as the Great Unpublishable Mormon Novel, and I had been anxious to read it for, mm, five years? The first chapter has been online for a while, but I couldn't see much point in reading it without access to the rest of the book.

      (Update: since I read that first chapter a few months ago, the page has been changed to increase readability; which was sorely needed.)

      Then came Zarahemla Books, looking for "edgy but not apostate" Mormon lit and snapped BB right up as one of its first books. So I read the online first chapter. I had style issues, but assumed an editor would have fixed them up (wrong there)--and besides, the opening salvo was plentiful intriguing. I wanted to read more. So I bought the book.

      It took me a couple months to get to it, but finally I did. And now I've read it. And what do I think?


      First, I would have undoubtedly liked the book a lot more if I hadn't heard so much inaccurate praise for it. All the comparisons to Stephen King and nonspoileralerted exclamations like (spoiler alert) SEX! VIOLENCE! EVIL! POLYGAMY! that completely mislead me and led me to expect something other than what was delivered. I mean--there's nothing that explicit in it. The Infamous Masturbation Scene, for instance, occurs between two adjacent paragraphs. That's hardly shocking.

      Although the books' big reveal was never announced to me--although it occurred to me (as a well versed Mormon) before the second chapter ended. The details of the big reveal felt more like namedropping than revelatory, but that's getting way too nitpicky. And, in fact, I would not have recommended the namedropping be changed if anyone had asked me.

      Which brings me to something really important I had better say now: Unless you're kind of squeemish when things that aren't supposed to happen happen (and this book will let you know if you are), then this is a book worth reading. Yes, it's hugely Mormoncentric; yes, it's got some style issues; yes, there is SEX! VIOLENCE! EVIL! POLYGAMY!; yes, yes, yes. But the book offers a hugely different place to stand and examine your faith and that's never bad.

      So here I'll say something about (spoiler alert) the hopeful denouement. It is good and right and proper and nothing like a copout. It's even--I'll say it--faithful.

      And no matter what you think about Brigham Young appearing to a man mowing his lawn, that's an idea worth taking for a drive.

        say two weeks

Walking with Dinosaurs 056) The Foundation Trilogy: Foundation, Foundation and Empire, Second Foundation by Isaac Asimov, finished August 27
      I have been meaning to read the Foundation books for some time--their importance to the development of the thinking and style of American science fiction really can't be overestimated and I felt an obligation to read them. But I never got around to it until Recession Cone lent me his three-in-one set. Although even three books only take us about halfway through the story of the fall of one empire and the creation of another.....

      Style first: Asimov rejected style entirely and in doing so created a voice that has been mimicked and copied to no end. This is recognized pretty widely. So how does his styleless style strike me? Pretty good. Unlike some other styleless writers, his writing is not that clunky. Most of the clunkiness has to do with the book becoming dated (notable it's weirdly period tobacco use and sexism)--the plain style of Asimov's prose holds up fine. Or at least compared to the other fiction I'm reading at the moment. ¶ And the story? Hmm.

      Prefirst: It was surprising to get invested in characters only to turn a page and find out they had suddenly been dead fifty years, but I got used to it and I understood and it makes sense given the story being told.

      Now. First: I love the idea of plotting history mathematically and sculpting a better future through a precise understanding of the human mass. Very cool. And I was in favor of the Foundation all the way. But, in the third book (SPOILER ALERT), we learn that the Second Foundation had been pulling strings all along, I felt these two things equally strongly: a) Those bastards! How dare they! and b) Well, duh. Of course! It makes sense! Good for them. I'm not comfortable with that split in response.

      Anyway, the first book I was in and out of in no time. I slowed down and took many breaks with the others, but they're fast reads too--in no small part to Asimov's styleless style. Should anyone at all interested in American science fiction read at least the first? Of course. Would I recommend it to them? Yes. But I probably wouldn't use it as an example of SF's reasonable claims to ahrt. But it would be an easy recommend to a younger chap wondering where to start.

      I'ld just warn him first that women aren't that docile in real life.

        two months and two weeks

055) Ode To Kirihito by Osamu Tezuka, finished August 20
054) Polygamy Was Better Than Monotony by Paul Bailey, finished August 10
053) Plato and a Platypus Walk into a Bar: Understanding Philosophy Through Jokes by Thomas Cathcart and Daniel Klein, finished August 7
052) Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J. K. Rowling, finished July 24
051) Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince by J. K. Rowling, finished July 21
050) The Ruins by Scott Smith, finished July 13
049) Favorite Stories by Margret Rey, illustrated by H.A. Rey, finished July 12
048) Criss Cross by Lynne Rae Perkins, finished July 2
047) Flight Volume Three edited by Kazu Kibuishi, finished June 27
046) Nobody Is Perfick by Bernard Waber, finished June 14
045) First Paragraphs: Inspired Openings for Writers and Readers by Donald Newlove, finished June 12
044) The Universe in a Nutshell by Stephen Hawking, finished June 11
043) Dune by Frank Herbert, finished June 9
042) The Gifts of the Jews: How a Tribe of Desert Nomads Changed the Way Everyone Thinks and Feels by Thomas Cahill, finished June 8
041) The Roald Dahl Omnibus by Roald Dahl, finished June 6
040) Troll: A Love Story by Johanna Sinisalo, finished May 31
039) The End by Lemony Snicket, finished May 23
038) The Complete Peanuts 1961-1962 by Charles M. Schultz, finished May 22
037) The Penultimate Peril by Lemony Snicket, finished May 21
036) The Grim Grotto by Lemony Snicket, finished May 18
035) The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde, finished May 15
034) Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman, finished May 14
033) Chip Kidd: Book One: Work: 1986-2006 by Chip Kidd, finished May 9
032) Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë, finished May 7
031) The Complete Peanuts 1959-1960 by Charles M. Schulz, finished April 25
030) Devils & Demons edited by Marvin Kaye, finished April 23
029) Talk Talk Talk: Decoding the Mysteries of Speech by Jay Ingram, finished April 23
028) Einstein's Dreams by Alan Lightman, finished April 20
027) The Long Chalkboard: and Other Stories by Jennifer Allen and illustrated by Jules Feiffer, finished April 19
026) Babbitt by Sinclair Lewis, finished April 19
025) Frank by Jim Woodring, finished April 12
024) The Complete Concrete by Paul Chadwick, finished April 3
023) The Rumpelstiltskin Problem by Vivian Vande Velde, finished March 30
022) Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson, finished March 28
021) Batman: The Dark Knight Returns by Frank Miller et al, finished March 23
020) A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius by Dave Eggers, finished March 16
019) Batman: Gothic by Grant Morrison et al, finished March 13
018) Wild at Heart by John Eldredge, finished March 7
017) Stink: The Incredible Shrinking Kid by Megan McDonald, finished March 7
016) 50 Professional Scenes for Student Actors: A Collection of Short 2 Person Scenes by Garry Michael Kluger, finished March 6
015) Twenty Love Poems and a Song of Despair by Pablo Neruda, finished March 5
014) Frindle by Andrew Clements, finished March 1
013) Brain Wave by Poul Anderson, finished February 27
012) The Best American Comics 2006 edited by Harvey Pekar and Anne Elizabeth Moore, finished February 26
011) Everything Is Illuminated by Jonathan Safran Foer, finished February 15
010) The Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ edited by Mormon and Moroni, finished February 7
009) Lisey's Story by Stephen King, finished February 1
008) The Maltese Falcon by Dashiell Hammett, finished January 26
007) Empire by Orson Scott Card, finished January 24
006) Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli, finished January 22
005) Vile Bodies by Evelyn Waugh, finished January 17
004) Superman Adventures Vol. 1: Up, Up and Away! by Mark Millar, finished January 16
003) A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson, finished January 12
002) Understanding Comics by Scott McCloud, finished January 11
001) Galápagos by Kurt Vonnegut, finished January 10

    Read about
The First Five
The Second Five
The Third Five
The Fourth Five
The Fifth Five
The Sixth Five
The Seventh Five
The Eighth Five
The Ninth Five
The Tenth Five


  1. I just looked at the touring schedule and it doesn't appear to be west of Texas... where are you going to see it??

  2. 1. You really should read East of Eden. It's one of my favorite books ever. For some weird reason I fell in love with Steinbeck in 9th grade. I think because I was horribly depressed and angry. I've been slowly falling out of love since, but I still love East of Eden.

    2. I have never heard of Brother Brigham. I guess I'm really not in the Mormon literati.

    3. The giant robot dinosaurs blow my mind. Freaky, freaky, freaky.

  3. .

    San Jose.

    East of Eden, we have it, so I'll eventually read it--never fear.

    You can borrow my copy of BB when you come to Berkeley for school. You remember.

  4. I admit, I just kind of skimmed a large portion of this post, because I was too busy looking at the dinosaur pictures to thoroughly read your commentary about the books. However, possibly because I just skimmed it, I could not find what you want to be for Halloween. Is it that you want to be a giant robotic dinosaur?

  5. do I want to know how much those tickets are going to cost?

  6. hooooray for dinosaurs! love the pictures, this is lola for future reference, and I got a new blog!
    and yes i kow that this is,well, not spelled correctly. But you know,we all make mistakes!(especially 8th graders)

  7. Well, it looks like LS and I (and the babies) won't get to attend...

    Too bad.

  8. .

    They're not robots, exactly. They are also puppets/costumes.