First Five Books of 2008: THE MOVIE!!!!!
with copious liner notes


I didn't know I read so many books a year when I decided to do this last year. And looking over the list is fascinating--I would never remember that I read some of those books in 2007 without my blogging them. So now I can't imagine not doing this. I imagine I'll be writing these posts for the rest of my life.

All those wasted hours typing.....

So let's get to it!


Holy CRAP blogger sped that up fast!


005) The Salmon of Doubt:: Hitchhiking the Galaxy One Last Time by Douglas Adams, finished January 14
      Recession Cone and 'sposita gave this book to me for Coast Guard Day, and I was glad to finally read it. But the primary thing its mere existence does is break my heart. Douglas Adams died at 49 and things just should not be so.

      The pain is especially acute now, as today I finished reading the portion of the book that was the unfinished Dirk Gently novel, and let me just say: the first 11 chapters were excellent.

      The book is also packed with lectures and magazine articles and the like, including the impressive Parable of the puddle and a hilarious version of Genghis Khan. Really, the whole book is worth reading, although--as might be expected from a posthumous collection--a little patched-together feeling.


    five plus months

004) Lord of the Flies by William Golding, finished January 10
      I am no longer the only English teacher in America to have never read Lord of the Flies.

      And between this, Animal Farm, and Lady Steed's reading of Heart of Darkness, we're doing an excellent job of reading the world's greatest books both short and cheerful.

    just shy of one month

003) Rising Sun by Michael Crichton, finished January 7
      As I didn't get any novels for Christmas, and since the comics I did get were the ultrasexy editions, I needed something to read while I held the baby. I ended up picking this off the shelf--got it in my stocking clear back in 1994 and never read it till now. Mostly because the trailers for the movie made it look like the book might have way more kinky sex than a soon-to-be-missionary should be watching.

      My only prior Crichton novel was Jurassic Park which I read shortly before the movie came out (and loved).

      Anyway, according to the NYTBR quote on the cover, Rising Sun is "As well built a thrill machine as a suspense novel can be." Uh huh.

      In fact, the book is thrilling for about twenty pages toward the end. The rest of the book is the protagonist being lectured to by everyone he runs into about the history and evil implications of Japanese/American business relations. It's tedious.

      And that's all I have to say about that.

    not quite two weeks

002) The Marketing of Sister B by Linda Hoffman Kimball, finished January 2
      I first heard of this book via a positive review published on the AML List about five years ago. I didn't remember a lot about it, but it sounded good and Lady Steed thought so too, so this Christmas, the Big O gave it to her. She read it and it made her very very angry at its awfulness.

      I think she overreacted--perhaps because she has never read a true piece of dreck like Baptists at Our Barbecue. Which sucked. A lot.

      The comparison is helpful, and, for me, useful. As a writer of a comic Mormon novel myself (look for it this summer!), reading BaoB made me feel like a genius. Sister B, on the other hand, made me wonder if I made some of these blunders.

      The answer is obvious: Yes. Then I had the good sense to rewrite it. And rewrite it. And rewrite it. And gets notes from many people. And rewrite it. And rewrite it. Then get a good editor. Who made me rewrite it again. And again. And again.

      I'm sure it'll still not work for everyone--no fiction does, and comedy pisses off / confuses a great many people, and I'm fine with that (this may be why many friends never get back to me on what they think)--but it's a terrific book (IMHO) and it's effective comedy for most people who've read it.

      I'm surprised at Signature. Their reputation includes an assumption that the quality of the writing they put out under their name will be excellent. You may hate what the writer says, but you'll admit that it's extremely well written. Do they not treat their (rare) fiction the same? Is quality not as important when it's "just comedy"? Another review on AML says just that: "it has unbelievable situations, stock characters, and a tidily wrapped-up ending. None of these things are liabilities in the service of the comedy, however." Blarney.

      What upsets me most about this book is how much potential it has. For all its egregious problems (a Miss Misery-worthy Channel 5 anchor, an irredeemably obnoxious best friend, a total incapacity to represent the flow of time makesensibly), the book is still so close to being good.

      I wish she'd sent me the MS. I would have marked it up with a thousand comments....


      Anyway. The book made me sigh a lot. And for all its comedic potential, I almost never smiled. But I am notoriously picky and many people enjoyed this book immensely.

      Here's a synop: Sister Brooks makes a perfume for a Relief Society meeting where it falls into the hands of a NY firm who turns Sister Brooks into their spokesperson and sends her all around the country promoting the most popular scent in the history of bottled stink. Good things happen. Bad things happen. Astonishingly unsubtle foreshadowing happens.

      I hate to be saying so much bad about such a promising rough draft, but I don't know what else to do: it was perfect bound and I paid for it. I want a little more.

      Et tu?

      Note: it should be mentioned that Lady Steed has additional reasons for being irritated by this book, viz, the main character was set up to be much like her, then revealed to be a blathering idiot--at least from the Lady's perspective. It's much worse when it's much closer to home.

    three or four days

001) Animal Farm by George Orwell, finished January 1
      A lot of the complaints I would make about any other book I can't make about this as it's a parable and nothing more. So I won't. It is, as everyone knows, good at what it is. but if, like me, it's the only book you have enough cash for at the sixth-grade book fair, you're apt to be disappointed. Unless really evil talking pigs are your thing.

      You know what I mean.

    twenty some hours


  1. If it helps, I'd been an English teacher two years before I actually had to read Lord of the Flies. I'd love to know what you thought about it your first time through.

  2. .

    Overall, I liked it. The beginning seems like a hard sell, but the book is short and, once it finally gets going, pretty action packed.

    Plus, if anything, it's overloaded with symbolism and other such Englishclassy things making it a fairly easy book to get kids to write on, I would imagine. I still haven't taught it, but I imagine that's an inevitability.

  3. I'd say I'm ashamed you'd never read LOTF, but I'm not. I wouldn't have read it till post-college if hadn't been required for AP English.

    But in college--as an English major--it came in very handy more than once. (I recall using it for a Psychology in Literature class, a Critical Theory class, and-ironically-a Women's Lit class)

  4. .

    Yes. There certainly are a lot of women in it.

  5. I said 'ironically,' didn't I? It was a theoretical study of how a lack of women on the island may have impacted the savageness of the boys.

    My professor was a man-hater. She ate it up and awarded me according to her own feelings about men. (Read: Katie got an A on that particular assignment :))

  6. .

    Heh. Perfect. I'm taking a class now where it looks like I'll have to go ahead and hate white people.

  7. When I read Lord of the Flies my freshman year of high school, I hated every minute of it, and now I don't remember much about it at all. I've been contemplating rereading it because I didn't enjoy To Kill a Mockingbird when I read it that same year, either, and, having reread that fairly recently, I appreciated it quite a bit.

    So, I guess my question is Is this the sort of book you recommend people read, or is it just the kind of book that seems like a good idea to have people read and respond to? There is, to me, a pretty important difference.

  8. Um. Let me try that again:

    Is this the sort of book you would recommend to people in a general sense, or is it better as a stimulus for classroom discussions and academic writing?

  9. .

    It's a good book, but as someone familiar with lit, be prepared to be blugeoned with symbolism. But I enjoyed reading it.

  10. Lord of the Flies was one of my favorite required books in HS.

  11. I had no idea Douglas Adams died. Now I am sad.

  12. .

    And not just died, but died at the gym at 49.

    I think that's why the movie sucked.

  13. I think the movie had to suck, comparatively . . . the material was mourning his loss. Oddly enough, if you read enough about him, he almost seemed to know he would come to an untimely end before the movie came out.

  14. .

    I don't know about that, but I'm certain he would have found it a suiting irony.

  15. I've never read Lord of the Flies but all my children are for their English classes. We have one book annotated by three different children. The fourth wanted one brand spanking new. I almost forced her to use the old one but eventually gave in. This babbling is my clever ruse to hide the embarrassing truth that I've never read it. I was relieved that you hadn't either until recently. Yea. That's why you're my friend.