When the zombies come, it really won't matter what order I put these in.



061) World War Z (abridged audiobook) by Max Brooks, finished June 23

So I first listened to this some time ago and liked it enough that I made Lady Steed want to hear it. And, eventually, the kids grew interested in it as well. Perhaps because of another Max Brooks novel? And so, on our multistate drive, this was the book that made the cut for first listen.

I was surprised how many of the stories I remembered. Even the ones I had forgotten often came back to me quickly. They're great stories.

The trailer for the movie seemed like a rejection of the book; the time to remake it is now---as premium tv. Each interview an episode.

Speaking of, I would like to hear the other interviews now that the full thing has been recorded.

One funny thing about this book is how it's already in the past. When the zombies arrive, for instance, Castro and Mandela are still alive. I suspect the president is Colin Powell? But even though some aspects are dated, others seem like clear predictions of the Trump era or the failed response to Covid-19.

And isn't that what zombie books are for?

(Incidentally, I now have some strong opinions about what the missing-from-the-abridgement parts had better be. More stories from Africa, for instance, as we never learn why people were calling it African rabies.)

two days of driving

= = = END OOPS = = =

064) The Child Buyer by John Hersey, finished on July 14

If you are of my generation or younger, if you know John Hersey at all, it's most likely as the author of Hiroshima. I didn't know he spent most of his time as a novelist.

When I found this book at the recycling center, the startling cover and backcopy made me take it home. But then I didn't read it and didn't read it and didn't read it and when Lady Steed told me to get rid of some books I chose this and then she investigated it front and back and said no. So I started reading it. And hoo nelly is it a ride!

It comes in the form of transcripts from a state legislature committee as they try to figure out what's going on in the town of Pequot. In short, a man has appeared in the town looking to buy an intelligent kid attending the local school. Why? For the National Defense, of course.

The child buyer immediately wins over the politicians and over the course of the novel convinces the child's parents and friends and teachers as well. The book is structured like a nightmare and so, even though every page has laughs, dread builds as you wonder how young Barry will escape all the adults in his life (in America?) who see him as a product. It's like a dystopia that already existed and you just didn't hear about it.

The novel is a vicious satire of politics and the defense industry and schools and small towns and television and you name it. Although it's sixty years old and aspects of the way people talk and details of, say, education have changed, the novel retains its bite.

Because the novel is 100% transcript, I can't imagine a better thing to be turned into an audiobook. (Although Paul Rudd should not play the character Paul Rudd. Give him some other role.) And apparently (based on info from the Bookshop link up top) it's now in the public domain. I'm not sure why. Maybe it was first published in a magazine? But I would doublecheck that before I started recording.

Anyway, somebody! Make it so!

about eleven months or more

065) Herland by Charlotte Perkins Gilman, finished on July 15

Hello, fellow modern. Likely you have read Gilman's "The Yellow Wallpaper" and not a lick more of her. So it was with me. But her utopian novel Herland is an option for an assignment I've been doing the last few years, and it is frequently selected by students and universally enjoyed. So I finally picked it up myself.

And I enjoyed it too. Like a lot of utopian fiction, much of it is spent exploring the ways this female-only-for-two-thousand-years society is different from the society from which the novel sprung, but Gilman's satires swing from gentle to violent and it's hard to disagree with the points she's making. And the frisson between our three male interlopers and the nation of women they've intruded upon keeps the preaching interesting. (Rumor has it, this is all missing from the sequel.)

Anyway, the novel is short and entertaining and I am glad to have written it. Here are a couple quotations:

They had no exact analogue for our word HOME, any more than they had for our Roman-based FAMILY.

They loved one another with a practically universal affection, rising to exquisite and unbroken friendships, and broadening to a devotion to their country and people for which our word PATRIOTISM is no definition at all.

Patriotism, red hot, is compatible with the existence of a neglect of national interests, a dishonesty, a cold indifference to the suffering of millions. Patriotism is largely pride, and very largely combativeness. Patriotism generally has a chip on its shoulder.


What Terry meant by saying they had no “modesty” was that this great life-view had no shady places; they had a high sense of personal decorum, but no shame—no knowledge of anything to be ashamed of.

Even their shortcomings and misdeeds in childhood never were presented to them as sins; merely as errors and misplays—as in a game. Some of them, who were palpably less agreeable than others or who had a real weakness or fault, were treated with cheerful allowance, as a friendly group at whist would treat a poor player.

Their religion, you see, was maternal; and their ethics, based on the full perception of evolution, showed the principle of growth and the beauty of wise culture. They had no theory of the essential opposition of good and evil; life to them was growth; their pleasure was in growing, and their duty also.

Incidentally, the version I read also included a slew of short stories. I've read a few and will likely read more before I return the book to the library, but I checked it out to read Herland and Herland I have read. That said, they were strong. Less fraught than "Yellow Wallpaper" but honestly I like the light touch and the subtlety. Her work holds up.

a month and a week with a three-week gap taking up most of that time

066) Dani and Ramen: A Nomad's Tale, volume one by Jake Morrison, finished on July 17
067) Dani and Ramen: A Nomad's Tale, volume two by Jake Morrison, finished on July 17

I became aware of this comic when a bunch of my friends started buying it on Kickstarter. I had backed a previous campaign of the artist's and decided to jump in on this one as well. And I'm glad I did. Although it was not at all surprising to learn from a note on page 173 of volume two that the characters dated back to youth and that the project took its initial form as a proposed tv show, Dani and Ramen works perfectly well as comics. Although it's all funny animals in a high-fantasy world, Morrison's pacing makes everything feel more real. And I mean real in the sense of "realism"---the characters' discussions, the way scenes end without ending---all this stuff is hallmarks of realism and I love how calmly this story proceeds, even with its talking animals and trendy eyeshapes and etc etc.

The best talking-animals fantasy I've read since The Autumnlands and I look forward to more.

two days

068) The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating by Elisabeth Tova Bailey, finished on July 23

This book came into my hands quite randomly and any other day might have found its way to a shelf to be eternally to-be-read. But stuff worked out just right and I slid right in and I read right through.

Kind of a great book to follow up my reading of How to Do Nothing, in fact. Bailey had no choice but to do nothing. A mysterious illness fells her and she can do nothing but lie on her back for months and months. A friend brings her a local snail and, a snail being the level of excitement she can handle, she becomes a close observer of said snail.

The book took her years to write and incorporates both the latest science and rapturous words from the likes of Darwin and Issa. But the whole is a beautiful and poetic personal essay. It is not long and she is a marvelous companion. As is the snail.

two days

069) Kirby: King of Comics by Mark Evanier, finished on July 23

I really didn't know much about Jack Kirby. I knew he was involved in the creation of tons of midcentury comics---including many heroes still going strong---and that he had largely been ripped off and written out of history and never got the full measure of fame and fortune he was owed before he passed. I also knew while that latter part was essentially true, that (Stan Lee's credit-hogging notwithstanding) his is now arguably the most heralded creative mind comics' ever produced.

But his background or the details of his story or anything human about him? I was in ignorance.

I was on a library bench, trying to get all my daughter's picture books into a manageable pile when I saw this book on the oversized shelf. On an impulse, I pulled it off.

That's not so unusual, but it is unusual for me to actually read the entire thing. And here I did. Evanier's text is authoritative and welcoming and it was impossible to not keep reading. The layout is friendly---lots of images, large text. It's just pleasant to have open and to look at. And Kirby is such a fine character, why would anyone stop?

But what most astonished me is how moving I found the final act. When people come around, start paying him (too little too late but still), applauding him, respecting him, recognizing his place in the pantheon. It's touching.

And the personal story Evanier shares at the end is similarly moving. I didn't know I was signing up for that.

Anyway, terrific book. Find it on the oversized shelves of your library today.


Previously . . . . :

books from this year

1, 2, 4, 5, 6

001) The Sun Has Burned My Skin: a modest paraphrase of solomon's song of songs by Adam S. Miller, finished January 3
002) You're a Pal, Snoopy by Charles M. Schulz, finished January 4
004) Served edited by Theric Jepson, finished January 9
005) Served edited by Theric Jepson, finished January 17
006) Shem in Zarahemla by Stephen Carter and Jett Atwood, finished January 19

7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 3

007) iPlates: Zerin's Sacrifice by Stephen Carter and Jett Atwood, finished January 21
008) iPlates: Alma in the Wilderness by Stephen Carter and Jett Atwood, finished January 24
009) Destiny of the Republic: A Tale of Madness, Medicine and the Murder of a President by Candice Millard, finished January 27
010) Served edited by Theric Jepson, finished February 4
011) The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster, finished February 4
003) Waiting for Godot by Samuel Beckett, finished January 6

12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17

012) Dandelion Wine by Ray Bradbury, finished February 5
013) My Father's Dragon by Ruth Stiles Gannett, finished February 15
014) The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald, finished February 16
015) Sisters by Raina Telgemeier, finished February 18
016) A Desolating Sickness: Stories of Pandemic edited by D.J. Butler, finished February 21
017) Nothing Very Important and other stories by Béla Petsco, finished February 22

18, 19, 20, 21, 22

018) Muppets Present "The Great Gatsby" by Ben Crew, finished February 24
 Uncanny Avengers: Counter-Evolutionary by Rick Remender and Daniel Acuna, finished February 28
 Guts by Raina Telgemeier, finished March 2
 The Hoboken Chicken Emergency by D. Manus Pinkwater, finished March 4
022) Ghosts by Raina Telgemeieir, finished March 5

23, 24, 25, 26, 27

023) Consent (for Kids!): Boundaries, Respect, and Being in Charge of You by Rachel Brian, finished March 11
 Memoirs of an Invisible Man by H.F. Saint, finished March 12
 Solutions and Other Problems by Allie Brosh, finished March 20
 The Invisible Saint by Curtis Taylor, finished March 25
 Black Orchid by Neil Gaiman and Dave McKean, finished March 25

28, 29, 30

028) Scrap Mettle by Scott Morse, finished March 26
029) Dugout: The Zombie Steals Home by Scott Morse, finished April 1
030) The Barefoot Serpent by Scott Morse, finished April 1

31, 32, 33, 34, 35, 36

031) Is Sex Necessary? Or, Why You Feel the Way You Do by James Thurber and E. B. White, finished April 1
032) Boys Who Became Prophets by Lynda Cory Hardy, finished April 11
033) George and Martha: The Complete Stories of Two Best Friends by James Marshall, finished April 12
034) Stuart Little by E.B. White, finished April 14
035) Achilles by Elizabeth Cook, finished April 15
036) Have It Your Way, Charlie Brown by Charles M. Schulz, finished April 15

37, 38, 39, 40, 41, 42

037) The House at Pooh Corner by A.A. Milne, finished April 21
038) The Mystery of the Dinosaur Graveyard by Mary Adrian, finished April 22
039) The Garden of Enid—Volume One by Scott Hales, finished May 2
040) Tiny Writings by Danny Nelson, finished May 5
041) Whispering Death! by R.A. Christmas, finished May 6
042) Twelfth Night by William Shakespeare, finished May 9

43, 44, 45, 46, 47, 48

043) T is for Trespass by Sue Grafton, finished May 14
044) Sweet Tooth – Volume 1: Out of the Deep Woods by Jeff Lemire, finished May 22
045) Sweet Tooth – Volume 2: In Captivity by Jeff Lemire, finished May 22
046) Sweet Tooth – Volume 3: Animal Armies by Jeff Lemire, finished May 22
047) Sweet Tooth Deluxe Edition – Volume 2 by Jeff Lemire, finished May 22
048) Sweet Tooth Deluxe Edition – Volume 3 by Jeff Lemire, finished May 23

49, 50, 51

049) A Book of Lamentations by James Goldberg, finished on May 23
050) How to Do Nothing: Resisting the Attention Economy by Jenny Odell, finished on May 25
051) We by Yevgeny Zamyatin, finished on May 26

52, 53, 54, 55, 56

052) Vertigo CMYK, finished on June 5
053) Plutona by Jeff Lemire and Eme Lenox and friends, finished on January 5
054) The Age of Movies: Selected Writings of Pauline Kael edited by Sanford Schwartz, finished on June 9
055) Pastwatch: the Redemption of Christopher Columbus by Orson Scott Card, finished on June 11
056) American Cult edited by Robyn Chapman, finished on June 12

57, 58, 59, 60, 62, 63

057) Messages on the Water by Merrijane Rice, finished on June 14
058) Words on Fire by Jennifer A. Nielsen, finished on June 16
059) There There by Tommy Orange, finished on June 19
060) The Shakespeare Stories by Andrew Matthews and illustrated by Tony Ross, finished on June 19
061) The Garden of Enid: Adventures of a Weird Mormon Girl, Part Two by Scott Hales, finished on June 20
062) Do the Movies Have a Future? by David Denby, finished on July 14

final posts in this series from

2007 = 2008 = 2009 = 2010 = 2011 = 2012
2013 = 2014 = 2015 = 2016 = 2017 = 2018 = 2019 = 2020


the most recent post in the books-read series *

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