Some books that make me seems smart (or at least political), some books about tv, some books by a friend, and some books from my favorite era of American humor.


025) The Trouble with Reality by Brooke Gladstone, finished April 24

Although helpful in understanding our current, Trump-inflicted era, Gladstone's tiny book is best seen as an excellent sum-up of how we understand reality---and misunderstand others' You could read this is one sitting and would not regret it.
three of five days


026, 27) Coriolanus by William Shakespeare, finished April 26

Although I enjoyed reading this personally, it's a hard play. No one to like, no clear lessons learned, not much in the way of catharsis. Recommend abstractly. Not a top choice for future high-school classrooms.
fivish school days


027) The Secret History of Twin Peaks by Mark Frost, finished April 28

This novel takes the form of a secret dossier compiling the peculiar history of Twin Peaks going back centuries. It includes excerpts from such things as the journals of Lewis and Clark, old miners, through mid-century military files. Much of the history is true (I was sent to Wikipedia a few times to learn about bits of American history I did not know), which makes the line between fiction and fact at times fuzzy. The older stuff tended to be less inherently interesting (imo) than the more recent stuff, and some of the detours into more show-centric stuff dragged on, but when we started watching the new series (we're about halfway through now), it was helpful to be reading the book simultaneously. (Although, ends up there's ANOTHER book that would have been even MORE helpful.)

Clearly, this is a companion work to the tv series and not stand-alone work. It also seems a bit more ... rational than the tv show, though it may be the same whackadoodle world. Really, I'm left curious as to the Frost/Lynch working relationship. Is he the left brain?
almost a year and a half


028) Twisted Tales from Shakespeare by Richard Armour, finished April 28 or April 29 depending on when midnight happened

Two things would have helped me enjoy this more: a closer focus on my favorite / most-recently-read plays, and the excision of certain jokes.

For the record, the plays included are Hamlet, Macbeth, Midsummer, Romeo and Juliet, Merchant, and Othello. All fine choices, for the record, but not my personal top six. There's also an appendix on the sonnets and another on authorship which mocks the conspirators by taking them seriously.

The second issue has to do with the final two plays in which Armour touches on, shall we call, Jewish and African jokes. I suppose in an enlightened world, these jokes would be as dangerous as the jokes elsewhere on Italians and Scots and rich people and poor people and the educated and the uneducated etc etc, but we're inbetween at the moment. Here's the one that threw me off the most, although that might also be because it passed over a pageturn and because I it took me a while to figure the joke out:

Even her own father, Brabantia, hasn't an inkling, though if his daughter and Othello beget offspring he may have one for a grandchild.


Anyway, perhaps my favorite bit was the study questions at the end of each chapter. It's a great bit. I'll have to lift it some time.

two-plus weeks


029) Bless The Child: A Romance of Redemption and Glory in the Ancient World by David J. West, finished May 1

How time flies!

Although I've read David's short fiction fairly regularly, it's been eight years since my last novel! This is ... flabbergasting. Eight years ...

We are all going to die, friends.

Anyway, this is the story of a Spartan in exile. He bumps into such luminaries and Lehi, Laban, and Nebuchadnezzar, as he deals with the errors of his past, and his bloody past and present.

He's a rich character and his growth as a person and his interaction with biblical cultures is compelling. The novel has several excellent action sequences, but the final chapter as amaaazing. Then! it follows that action-packed sequence with an ambiguous final moment, as if we're allowed to mix our genre and our literary.

One comment though as I subtweet the credited editor. She did not do a good job. The most egregious issue is the neverending sequence of unneeded apostrophes, but spelling issues abound. It gets in the way of reading.
almost ten months


030) The Decline and Fall of Practically Everybody by Will Cuppy, finished May 3

As a kid, I often borrowed a Louis Untermeyer-edited anthology of American humor (I think this one) from my grandmother. And one of my favorite sections in the book was Will Cuppy's work. His essay on goldfish was ... just amazing. It reached a point where I knew it so well I couldn't recreate the amazed laughter, but there's no question it changed what I think is funny. No one --- no one! --- is better at the funny footnote.

I've been reading this Richard Armour books (see above); he's much the same sort of humorist. Same tone, funny illustrations, footnotes, grounded in reality. And Armour made a lot more money doing it. But I think I have to say that Cuppy's better.

For a few reasons, but the number-one reason is that Cuppy's work is based in fidelity for the truth. Everything is true in a Cuppy essay. It's just arranged for hilarity. Cuppy would read a couple dozen history books before writing a thousand words on a historical character. And he wasn't above original research either. His final submission to The New Yorker was rejected because that most fact-checky of institutions assumed he was making stuff up just because it was funny. Even today, his work for them is labeled fiction. Just because something is hilarious doesn't make it lies. Reality's pretty funny-looking if you're standing at the right angle.

Anyway, Decline and Fall was published posthumously because he couldn't take it anymore and offed himself. His friends might have swept to his aid, but he'd made a habit of joking about suicide so no one noticed when he took a turn towards meaning it. At least he made a lot of money as a dead person. Maybe that was the secret all along.

The book is a collection of short essays on historical figures. I learned a lot. I had some laughs.

I would say Cuppy is less satirizing the historical figures, however, and although her certainly is, than satirizing history and historians and the way they compose their histories with overmuch seriousness. This is mostly a good choice, though I do wish he'd cut up Columbus with as much glee as he did Alexander.

Anyway, his work is wonderful. I hope the University of Chicago has named something after him.

just over a week


The other books of 2018

1 – 4
001) Black Panther: A Nation Under Our Feet Book 3 by Ta-Nehisi Coates &‎ Brian Stelfreeze & al., finished January
002) The Complete Peanuts 1950-2000 by Charles M. Schulz & al., finished January
003) The Things They Carried by Tim O'Brien, finished January 10
004) El Deafo by Cece Bell, finished January 12

5 – 9
005) Cleopatra in Space: Target Practice by Mike Maihack, finished January 13
006) Nabokov's Favorite Word Is Mauve by Ben Blatt, finished January 15
007) Glister by Andi Watson, finished January 18
008) Zita the Spacegirl by Ben Hatke, finished January 20
009) The Lay of Aotrou and Itroun by J.R.R. Tolkien, finished January 21

10 – 11
010) The Vision by Tom King et al., finished January 23
011) Miles Morales: Spider-Man by Jason Reynolds, finished January 24

16 – 16
012) Anthem by Ayn Rand, finished February 8
013) The City in Which I Love You by Li-Young Lee, finished February 14
014) Many Waters by Madeleine L'Engle, finished February 21
015) It Needs to Look Like We Tried by Todd Robert Petersen, finished March 7
016, 017) Fences by August Wilson, finished March 8

18 – 20
018) The Andromeda Strain by Michael Crichton, finished March 13
019) Star Wars Super Graphic: A Visual Guide to a Galaxy Far, Far Away by Tim Leong, finished March 22
020) Superman: Secret Identity by Kurt Busiek and Stuart Immonen, finished March 25

21 – 25
021) M Is for Malice by Sue Grafton, finished March 28
022) Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by Jack Thorne, J.K. Rowling, John Tiffany; finished March 31
023) It All Started with Hippocrates: A Mercifully Brief History of Medicine by Richard Armour, finished April 6
024) Don't Bump the Glump by Shel Silverstein, finished April 14
025) Coriolanus by Wm Shakespeare, finished April 16

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* the most recent post in this series *

final booky posts of
2007 = 2008 = 2009 = 2010 = 2011 = 2012 = 2013 = 2014 = 2015 = 2016 = 2017

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