Here's a fun book for you:


057) Mr. Mercedes by Stephen King, finished July 27

If this were my first Stephen King novel, it probably would have been the last. Although given props from critics (and an Edgar Award!), I thought it was poorly executed. I didn't care about any of the characters and so didn't much care abut their peril. The two characters I found instantly compelling both died in the first few pages. I did get to like the protagonist some and his love interest wasn't too bad---and so of course she was fridged.

The other characters were shadows of cliches. And, I hate to say it, but this was a bit of an old-man book. The young characters don't play like actual people of this century (eg, the way they talk about race or tech), the narrator takes a couple digs early on that reveal the author's political bias, King makes (at least) two references to his own work, and every reference to technology just feels fake--both vocabulary and facts. Our kid whiz runs the two best antivirus softwares money can buy. Someone can tell at a glimpse where someone downloaded a file from. It just...it makes me nervous to write about anyone twenty years younger than me---let alone double that.

Plus, King relies on some tricks that I thought he was too good for---hokey cliffhangers, characters explaining things to each other while the narrator hides that info from the audience to build suspense. Crap like that.

I want to mention that this is NOT by first Stephen King novel, however, and that I will undoubtedly read him again. Some of his books I have found excellent and some forgettable, but this is the first I would call bad.

FYI, here are the novels (novels only) that I have read (in order of original publication): Carrie, 'Salem's Lot, The Shining, The Green Mile, Bag of Bones, Dreamcatcher, From a Buick 8, The Colorado Kid, Cell, Lisey's Story, Doctor Sleep, Mr. Mercedes.
about a week


058) Your Duck Is My Duck by Deborah Eisenberg, finished July 29

This is the second short-story collection this summer I've picked up on a New Yorker recommendation, intending to read but part, but then devouring the entire thing quickly thanks to circumstances providing much time to read and not much time to do much else. And, like the first, this collection was provocative and excellent.

Provocative particularly in the quality and daringness of the writing itself. I didn't care for all the stories equally in either collection, but the writing never stopped impressing me with its variability and pushy brilliance.

I mean---I've already written a golden shovel based on a line from the title story in this collection.

The following is a list of things I learned from Your Duck Is My Duck as I read it.
1. Writing about other's art is an opportunity to inject a work of fiction with something completely different, even absurd.

2. A short story can be made of moments far, far apart. Childhood, early adulthood, middle adulthood. Connected any way you want.

3. Deliberate symbolic/metaphorical titles with no pat explanations.

4. Audiences can understand cause and effect even if they lie not in a straight line and the in-between points are left out.
Terrific use of language. And some of the stories are pretty terrific too.
three days


059) The Cat Behind the Hat: The Art of Dr. Seuss, finished August 4

My biggest complaint about the biography of Dr. Seuss I recently read was it's lack of included art. It talked about what he had done throughout his career but include almost no examples. A book like this helpfully fills that gap.

I had anticipated this being exclusively his fine art, but in fact it runs the gamut which is great---I was losing hope of seeing any Seuss Navy stuff.

The text is brief but helpful. The highlights are two essays by the artist himself (both about art for children).

First, I have no doubt that Dr. Seuss was a great artist. I'm not certain he's a great painter. A lot of it seems simply hobbyist. Other works seems to have more promise. I guess I need to see a bunch of it live to make a decision. No question, however, about his draftsmanship and his voice. He was individual and masterly.
threeish days


060) Please, Please Call Me to the Bishopric by Jett Atwood, finished August 6

Jett's been publishing her cartoons in Sunstone long enough now to be THE visual voice of the magazine. Which is essentially what Stephen Carter says in his intro (first appeared here).

I see Jett's work as kinder than Bagley's or Grondahl's, but she's certainly working the same vein of humor.

two days (possibly not sequential)


061) How to Hide an Empire by Daniel Immerwahr, finished August 8

This is yet another book I put on hold because of something The New Yorker said about it. By the time it arrived, I had forgotten what that was and when I saw the book's heft (over 500 pages!) I chuckled and said, I'm not reading that.

But I did read the intro which intrigued mightily. I thought then I would skim the last half of the book for fun facts and that would be that. But somehow (I blame good writing) instead I turned to the next page and was instantly fascinated. And so on to the next page. And the next. For hundreds of pages.

This is a history of the Greater United States and you should definitely read it. It answered questions I had (just what, exactly, has the US's relationship been, historically, with the Philippines), provided information on stuff I never thought to wonder about (why Alaska and Hawai'i became states when they did), context I never speculated on (how those statehood's impacted the Civil Rights Movement), new context for historical bits I thought I new a lot about (such as guano islands and English as lingua franca), significant historical details I had never heard of (Puerto Rico's frequently violent battles against their half-baked status), and more more more. Mindexpanding information on every page. I'm so much smarter having read this book and you should come over to be regaled now while I still remember so much.

The book also helped me better understand our current history. Names like Obama and Trump and McCain and bin Laden make more sense (or even appear inevitable) once this Greater history is laid out. Many of today's political crises are better understood when places in this larger context.

I've never felt so provincial as having my ignorance of American history laid out like this.

But this fruit is delicious.

I hope it makes me wiser than I have been.

(One small complaint. The title, though an excellent and marketable title, isn't quite the right title. The one time I was angry at the book was when a chapter ended, "And that's how you hide an empire." when, in fact, a more makesensible sentence would have been "And that's what it looks like when you hide an empire." The last bit of the book matches better when the title, but that's my complaint. As I said, it's a small one.)
perhaps two weeks


The other books of 2019

001 – 005
001) Thornhill by Pam Smy, finished January 2
002) How to Be Happy by Eleanor Davis, finished January 3
003) Arcadia by Tom Stoppard, finished Janaury 4
004) Third Wheel: Peculiar Stories of Mormon Women in Love by Melissa Leilani Larson, finished January 6
005) Fox 8 by George Saunders, finished January 6

006 – 010
006) SPIDER-MAN: INTO THE SPIDER-VERSE by Phil Lord and Rodney Rothman, finished January 8*
007) Latter-day Laughs by Stan and Elly Schoenfeld, finished January 16
008) All We Ever Wanted: Stories of a Better World edited by Miner, Palicki, Chin-Tanner; finished January 19
009) Daytripper by Fábio Moon & Gabriel Bá, finished January 19
010) Evolving Faith: Wanderings of a Mormon Biologist by Steven L. Peck, finished January 20

011 – 015
011) Kindred by Octavia E. Butler, finished January 22
012) Huck by Mark Millar et al., finished January 24
013) Marketing Precedes the Miracle by Calvin Grondahl, finished January 30
014) Uncle Scrooge:The Seven Cities Of Gold by Carl Barks, finished January 31
015) When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi, finished January 31

011 – 015
016) Snotgirl: Green Hair, Don't Care by Bryan Lee O'Malley and Leslie Hung, finished February 16
017) Ghost of the Grotto by Carl Barks, finished February 20
018) When the Wind Blows by Raymond Briggs, finished February 22
019) Temple and Cosmos by Michael R. Collings, finished February 23
020) The Thin Man by Dashiell Hammett, finished February 23
021) Fungus the Bogeyman by Raymond Briggs, finished February 24

022 – 027
022) One Dirty Tree by Noah Van Sciver, finished February 25
023) Snotgirl: California Screaming by Bryan Lee O'Malley & Leslie Hung, finished February 28
024) Sabrina by Nick Drnaso, finished March 7
025&026) Macbeth by William Shakespeare, finished March 14
026) Fences by August Wilson, finished Ides of March
027) N Is for Noose by Sue Grafton, finished Ides of March

028 – 033
028) Ethel & Ernest by Raymond Briggs, finished March 20
029) Let's Go Exploring by Michael Hingston, finished March 20
030) Gentleman Jim by Raymond Briggs, finished March 20
031) The Fifth Risk by Michael Lewis, finished April 2
032) No Matter the Wreckage by Sarah Kay, finished April 8
033) Letters to ta Young Poet by Rainer Maria Rilke, finished April 9

034 – 040
034) King Lear by William Shakespeare, finished April 13
035) Shazam!: The Monster Society of Evil by Jeff Smith, finished April 13
036) The Ghost of Eternal Polygamy: Haunting the Hearts and Heaven of Mormon Women and Men by Carol Lynn Pearson, finished April 15
037) Phoebe and Her Unicorn by Dana Simpson, finished April 19
038) a novel by a friend, finished April 23
039) Monstrous Regiment by Terry Pratchett, finished April 27
040) Hyperbole and a Half by Allie Brosh, finished May 3

041 – 044
041) The Birthday Party and The Room by Harold Pinter, finished May 6
042) When Worlds Collide by Philip Wylie & Edwin Balmer, finished May 11
043) Aquaman: Sub Diego by Will Pfeifer / Patrick Gleason / Christian Alamy, finished May 18
044) The Tragedy of King Leere, Goatherd of the La Sals by Steven L. Peck, finished May 22

045 – 051
045) Eric by Terry Pratchett, finished May 31
046) The Library Book by Susan Orlean, finished June 7
047) Sing to It by Amy Hempel, finished June 8
048) The Emma Press Anthology of Fatherhood, finished June 17
049) Batman: White Knight by Sean Murphy, finished June 28
050) The Great Pie Robbery and Other Mysteries by Richard Scarry, finished July 1
051) "O" Is for Outlaw by Sue Grafton, finished July 1

052 – 056
052) The Diary of Adam and Eve by Mark Twain, finished July 1
053) Witchy Eye by D.J. Butler, finished July 2
054) The Tree of Life by Terence Malick, finished July 9
055) Becoming Dr. Seuss: Theodor Geisel and the Making of an American Imagination by Brian Jay Jones, finished July 10
056) Dr. Seuss Goes to War: The World War II Editorial Cartoons of Theodor Seuss Geisel edited by Richard H. Minear, finished July 26

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