It just gets better and better


057) The Shining by Stephen King, finished August 9

This book has had a hard life. I bought it at a garage sale, an old paperback in wonderful shape. Then it was between the car's fronts seats and the baby crawled over it and ruined the cover and it's been downhill from there. It's an interesting cover though. Maybe sometime we can have a discussion just about the cover. I have theories about what the designer (uncredited) was thinking.

Anyway. I'm going to say some things about this book which are very out of character for me. And you know how I feel about the word very.

First, the mounting dread of the first portions of the book is stellar. And something I like best is how the terror is connected closely to the alcoholism. King, of course, is a man who knows about addiction and his description of Jack's relationship with the bottle, whether "autobiographical" or not, bleeds such honest blood that it's hard not to read this as King's own fears for himself.

And then the horror show starts.

And while the build up is excellent and I was often unsettled, in this case, the metaphorical horror couldn't quite compare with the literal fear of losing one's soul to the liquid.

Of course, I should have read this book alone and in the middle of the night. (One part I did, alone in the middle of the night in Yosemite with a stomach bug that wouldn't let me leave the vicinity of the toilet. I read by red headlamp. That was good for the book.) But mostly I read in snippets in the car as I waited for someone or on BART between stops etc. Not the most respectful way to read the book.

Anyway, having finally read the book, now I can see the movie. Although knowing that many of the most famous elements of the film aren't here, I'm feeling comfortable just resetting my expectations.

three or four months

056) I Don't Want to Kill You by Dan Wells, finished August 6

I loved this series. How much did I love this series? Enough that I read this series. The only other series I've read recently was The Hunger Games and that was as much out of a sense of obligation to the zeitgeist more than anything else. These books I loved. (Read about one and two.

The Hunger Games comparison is useful though. On the surface, they're quite similar. YA books with huge adult appeal, grossly violent, each book follows a similar pattern to the others, each has a troubled hero who must pass through great horror in order to succeed.

But Wells's books are better.

For instance. The third HG book, like the third John Cleaver book, followed a similar basic structure while raising the stakes tremendously. But the structure of HG3 felt a bit hokey and artificial. And when Something Terrible happened, it mostly seemed to happen to show how badass the author was. While I knew things from page one that the hero didn't notice in IDWtKY, his reasons for remaining unaware were believable and the Somethings Terrible were shocking and necessary to the story and built on each other in a way that was genuinely horrifying rather than just a weak attempt at miseryporn.

I'm unsure I want to get at all specific as I really think you should just read these books, but hey: you should really read these books. They are enormously propulsive and have excellent characters and brilliant fantastical elements and genuine horror, yes, but more importantly: terror.

Do yourself a favor.

Meet John Wayne Cleaver.

(In other news, he's left the books in a place where they could very easily become an ongoing series. I'm not a huge fan of ongoing series in general, but I might make an exception in this case, should Wells decide to write them. On the one hand, bread and butter. On the other hand, don't stop imagining new things. Back on the first hand, these books haven't prevented imagining new things yet.)

about twenty-four hours


055) Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs, finished August 2

I didn't notice until I was fifty or seventy pages into the book that this is published by Quirk Books, but once I noticed their logo on the spine, it became terribly obvious. It, like Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, takes something that already exists and turns it into something with quite modern intentions. In this case, the author took found photos, and built a story around them. The story is about a school found through a secret method wherein live children with strange and wonderful powers and a boy who thought he was normal who must lead them to victory against those whose lust for power destroyed their very souls.

The story is propulsive. I had a mostly good time reading it. It was fun and fast to read and had those great old photos as illustrations.

But as much as I think most people will enjoy it, I must warn fellow writers and other snobs that at times the story is utterly clunky. Consider this passage from page 209, which is typical:

I wandered into the yard, wondering how I was supposed to get the image of that withered apple out of my head. Before long, though I did [sic]. It's not that I forgot; it just stopped bothering me. It was the strangest thing.

I imagine that even reading that alone you are tearing your hair out. And this sort of thing happened ALL THE TIME. It's not that our narrator is TSTL. But he it often waaaaay TS all the same.

A few moments after I closed the final page I realized I had been set up. Even though the book is marketed as a standalone, it is clearly intended to be the opening salvo in a series. I don't know if Quirk has announced this yet (and don't care enough to visit their website), but it's pretty obvious. I don't intend to read the further volumes for a few reasons (I didn't like this one that much, I'm convinced that though the time travel element will be fun that it will break down under anything like close inspection, etc), but I expect there will be kids who will.

(One other thing, I'm not under the impression this is being marketed as a YA book though it seems an obvious thing to include under that title, but this has some Hunger Games-worthy violence, so keep that in mind.)

(Oh: One other thing. The book is beautifully made, and mad props to Quirk for putting the P&P&Z money to good use and building a brand. Respect, yo.)

under two weeks


054) Moneyball by Michael Lewis, finished July 12

Nick Hornby, who, being British, can't possibly know much about baseball, was absolutely right about this book. I read it in two days. I can't remember the last time I read a long book with no pictures in two days (and I'm too lazy to look just now. As a look at characters, it's terrific. As an introduction to sabermetrics, it's excellent. And, as per Hornby, it's a brilliant read even if you don't know baseball.

But WHY is it such a compelling read? What made me carry it with me everywhere and not stop reading? I'm not sure. But I think I need to find out. Maybe I need to stop reading ten books (20? 50?) at a time and read books one at a time and learn what makes something propelling. But do I have the moral fortitude?

Probably not.

In other news, this book made me think a lot about how to apply math to improving education. Because everyone from Bill Gates to Arne Duncan thinks we should do it. And maybe their right. But what do we measure? And how do we do it? And what would those numbers then mean? And how would we go about acting on them?

We. Don't. Know.

And frankly, I doubt we ever will. Unlike stocks and baseball, we don't have decades of data measured in the same or similar ways over decades and zillions of incidents with tons of observers. I don't know how we can reproduce that.

So many variables. The mind boggles.

Anyway. Fun book!

two days


053) Madman New Giant Size Super Ginchy Special by Mike Allred et al, finished approximately July 9

Mike really sleepwalked through this one. One lesser story from him, two better stories from other people, and a bunch of pinups, most of which (all of which?) have shown up in previous collection. Doesn't really give me faith for the big anniversary book that's coming out later this year . . . .

a sitting


Previously in 2011 . . . . :

052) The Influencing Machine by Brooke Gladstone and Josh Neufeld, finished July 8
051) Wilson by Daniel Clowes, finished July 6

050) Timequake by Kurt Vonnegut, finished July 1
049) Housekeeping vs. The Dirt by Nick Hornby, finished June 25
048) The Light Princess by George Macdonald, finished June 22
047) Half a Life by Darin Strauss, finished June 17
046) Babymouse: Cupcake Tycoon by Jennifer L. Holm and Matt Holm (siblings), finished June 16

045) Ender in Exile by Orson Scott Card, finished June 10
044) Writings from The New Yorker 1927-1976 by E.B. White (edited by Rebecca M. Dale), finished June 7
043) The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. Le Guin, finished May 31
042) Unnamed book by unnamed client (MS POLICY),
finished May 27

041) Scott Pilgrim's Finest Hour by Bryan Lee O'Malley, finished May 14
040) Scott Pilgrim Versus The Unverse by Bryan Lee O'Malley, finished May 14
039) Scott Pilgrim Gets It Together by Bryan Lee O'Malley, finished May 13
037) The Code of the Woosters by P.G. Wodehouse, finished May 11
036) Scott Pilgrim Versus The World by Bryan Lee O'Malley
035) Scott Pilgrim's Precious Little Life by Bryan Lee O'Malley
034) The Complete Peanuts 1975-1976 by Charles M. Schulz, finished May 1
033) Asterios Polyp by David Mazzucchelli finished approximately April 27

032) Golden Gate by Seth Vikram, finished April 20

031) Batman: Year 100 by Paul Pope, finished April 18
030) The Polysyllabic Spree by Nick Hornby, finished April 9
029) iZombie: Dead to the World by Chris Roberson and Mike Allred, finished April 2
028) A Sense of Order and Other Stories by Jack Harrell, finished April 1
027) Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead by Tom Stoppard, finished March 30

026) The Black Dogs by Ian McEwan, finished March 21

025) Stitches by David Small, finished March 20
024) Arkham Asylum: Madness by Sam Kieth, finished January 19 or 20
023) Hamlet by William Shakespeare, finished March 18

022) Red Rocket 7 by Mike Allred, finished March 10
021) Missile Mouse: Rescue on Tankium3 by Jake Parker, finished March 10

020) The Hotel Cat by Esther Averill, finished February 28

019) Wonderland by Tommy Kovac and Sonny Liew, finished February 21
018) Redcoat by Kohl Glass (MS POLICY), finished February 18

017) Best American Comics 2010 edited by Neil Gaiman, finished February 12
016) Little Bee by Chris Cleave, finished February 10
015) Travels with Charley by John Steinbeck, finished February 2
014) Cursed Pirate Girl: The Collected Edition Vol. I by Jeremy Bastian, finished January 31

013) Sweet Tooth: In Captivity by Jeff Lemire, finished January 30
012) Sweet Tooth: Out of the Woods by Jeff Lemire, finished January 30
011) Essex County: The Country Nurse by Jeff Lemire, finished January 30
010) Essex County: Ghost Stories by Jeff Lemire, finished January 29
009) Essex County: Tales from the Farm by Jeff Lemire, finished January 29

008) Magdalene by Morah Jovan, finished January 27

007) Knightfall Part Two: Who Rules the Night by a slew of DC folk, finished January 23
006) Bayou by Jeremy Love, finished January 17

005) Mr. Monster by Dan Wells, finished January 10
004) The Red Badge of Courage by Stephen Crane, finished January 6
003) The Mystery of the Dinosaur Graveyard by Mary Adrian, finished January 5
002) Batman - Judge Dredd: Judgment on Gotham by John Wagner and Alan Grant and Simon Bisley, with lettering by the famous Todd Klein; finished January 4
001) Batman: Venom by Dennis O'Neil et al, finished January 2


  1. 57 beats my 44. But who's counting, right?

  2. The other stuff I've read by Michael Lewis has been very good so I'm not surprised. It just never occurred to me to read Moneyball. I'll add it to my GoodReads list.

  3. .

    Nick Hornby recommended him.