Lots of unicorns here


Unicorns can be fun. Unicorns can be lonely. Unicorns may live through the wrong time. Or just the right time. Or unrecognized until much later. Or only by the prophets who preceded them.

And some things are not unicorns at all.

119) The Sandman: Fables & Reflections by Neil Gaiman et al., finished October 27

Another great short-story collection including the Emperor Norton story and probably the most nudity so far. Sometimes I wish I'd been buying these as a kid but maybe not.

Anyway, I do wonder if these will retain their classic status another fifty years. Neil Gaiman helped create new possibilities in fiction but sometimes the first thing through the door is not the one that becomes immortal.

I probably won't live long enough to know the answer to this question.

almost two weeks

120) The Last Unicorn by Peter S. Beagle, finished November 3

I know the story as a movie that more scared me as a child and more annoyed me as an adult. That said, the book is its own thing and it is beloved and every once in a while I consider reading it and now I finally have.

It is such a different road for fantasy than all the Tolkein/Sanderson stuff. Which is not to knock those styles, but the light touch here allows for a different form of beauty and meaning and I love that.

The novel makes for a delightful companion. It is both small and vast and I wish I didn't have the movie's imagery holding it back. I'm sure next it'll be a ten-hour streaming event and that will be too realistic and maybe even gritty. It'll happen and it should happen but it won't change the simple fact that some books are best as books.

No wonder everyone loves it.


121) Three Men in a Boat (To Say Nothing of the Dog) by Jerome K. Jerome, finished November 3

I believe this is my third time reading this book. I discovered it thanks to Connie Willis and first read it was hilarious. It still made me laugh out loud numerous times but the bits didn't really combine into a driving read. I don't know if my tastes have changed or it's a one-and-done sorta thing.

This version was published by TOR which seems odd for something decidedly NOT science fiction and thus I wonder if it was in response to Willis's novel. This might also be why they added Told After Supper to the end, a very silly sequence of ghost stories. But, weirdly, there is NO suggestion of an additional text tacked on anywhere on the book's outside or pre-text pages. Even the tops of the pages still say THREE MEN IN A BOAT after you switch books.

Plus, TOR's version has a smattering of typos, hardly appropriate for a book that's been out 112 years at the time of publication.

Anyway, if you're unfamiliar of it, three uppermiddleclass British fellas (and a dog) take a fortnight's trip up the Thames. Laughs ensue.


122) The Last Unicorn: The Lost Journey by Peter S. Beagle, finished November 5

This is his original draft, written years before the version that became a massive hit and remains beloved. Bits of the original remain here—some lines, some images—but this unicorn leaves her forest to discover our world and meets and then travels with a demon rather than a magician and a Molly.

The tone is right. The beauty of the sentences is right. But placing it in the modern era is wrong. It makes it feel like it's trying very hard to say something specific (ala White Noise) while in fact saying nothing in particular. By being more openly about whatever you want it to be about, the published version of The Last Unicorn becomes all the more meaningful. As Beagle says in the afterward, he was trying to be a satirist and it wasn't working.

That said, even though it's a bit glum without purpose and although it ends before it figures out its point, it was another great read.

Clearly, I'm now a person who will pick up Peter S. Beagle books.

two or three days

123) Have Spacesuit–Will Travel by Robert A. Heinlein, finished November 14

I listened to Citizen of the Galaxy during my commute back in 2006 and, while parts of it irritated me, I did enjoy its bounty of imagination.

This is my second Heinlein book and I'm reading as part of a trio, starting with Three Men in a Boat (see above) and ending with To Say Nothing of the Dog (which I read c. 2000 and still think of as one of my favorite books). Connie Willis, thanks Heinlein for introducing her to Three Men in To Say Nothing's dedication, so all I'm doing it arranging them in chronological order.

Have Spacesuit is not as tightly connected to Jerome's novel and Willis's; the protagonist's father is just reading it in the opening scene (for, like, the 500th time). But it does come off as a real recommendation.

I'd always imagined this novel would be about a professional adventurer, but in fact it's about a teenager who wins a spacesuit in a soap company's contest then gets kidnapped by aliens and so on and so on. It's a very 1950s YA sort of read but it's also great fun. It is funny to see Heinlein striving to imagine the future and attempting something like feminism and just falling grossly short of where the world would be just years after he's writing.

Anyway, it was fun and a light lift.

coupla weeks

124) Romney: A Reckoning by McKay Coppins, finished November 16

I don't know when I first became aware of Mitt Romney, but certainly living in Utah when he saved the 2002 Olympics put him on my good side. When he was on the ballot in 2012, I didn't vote for him, but even with some of the embarrassing things he said, I still thought of him as a reasonably decent human being.

The biography filled in blanks in his story and it's excellent at letting us dig deeper into one man's mind and thoughts. And, since he has been around at a number of significant historical events, his own witness and insight opens new windows of understanding.

The biggest indictment (imo) the book offers is of our democracy's bad motivators—we have created a system where our leaders are worried more about reelection than doing good or right.

McKay's writing is easy on the eyes; the pages just fly by. For a book that was done as quickly as possible, it holds together as a piece of writing and there are relatively few errors (only one seemed significant, writing 2002 instead of 2022). Of course, the occasional missing word makes you wonder about errors of content, but the lengthy notes provide a sense of confidence in that respect. Not to mention McKay's longstanding respectable reporting.

This is not a full biography, though it does cover every portion of his life. The early years fly by and then the text slows down to examine more closely events that seem most important during the last decade—and I don't just mean events events, but these are often thematically motivated editorial choices. I don't disagree with these decisions (it's the right book for this moment) but there is still room for future biographical attention.

But me, I'm satisfied.

(If you were hoping for a better review from me while I have a cold, sorry, try this instead.)

about three weeks

  125) The Sandman: Brief Lives by Neil Gaiman et al., finished November 21

This is the only one we own (Lady Steed brought it into the marriage) and in many respects I think it deserves that honor, though Ishtar's dance means it cannot be left at reaching level (the description of a man ejaculating over and over until he was ejaculating blood stuck with me a long time; maybe it will again).

What Gaiman is best at is concepts and that's why it's his shorter works (comics, short stories, children's novels...) that tend to be his best. And Brief Lives has just strong concepts throughout, with a just-strong-enough plot to contain them all.

Maybe I should say that his shorter AND his episodic works that work best. Because Sandman, as a whole, is not particularly "short" and it works as both an entire and in its bits.

Anyway, I liked it.

three weeks (with a two-week gap in the middle)


Previously. . . . :

final posts in this series from
  2007 = 2008 = 2009 = 2010 = 2011 = 2012 = 2013
2014 = 2015 = 2016 = 2017 = 2018 = 2019 = 2020 = 2021 = 2022

Earlier in 2023

001) The Dark Room by Gerry Duggan & Scott Buoncristiano, finished January four
002) The Only Harmless Great Thing by Brooke Bolander, finished January 6
003) Rose by Jeff Smith and Charles Vess, finished January 10
004) Acting Class by Nick Drnaso, finished January 10
005) Red Scare by Liam Francis Walsh, finished January 11

006) The Short Reign of Pippin IV by John Steinbeck, finished January 18
007) Filmish by Edward Ross, finished circa January 20

HOW many times?

008) Maddy Kettle Book: The Adventure of the Thimblewitch by Eric Orchard, finished January 24 
009) Fantastic Frights: A Beginner's Guide to Scary Stories, finished January 24
010) Ramona the Pest by Beverly Cleary, finished February 2
011) Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman, finished February 3
012) The Postman Always Rings Twice by James M. Cain, finished February 4

013) Is that all there is? by Joost Swarte, finished February 6
014) Edge Case by YZ Chin, finished February 7

If it weren't for a friendly sex talk, everything here would be miserable

015) Double Indemnity by James M. Cain, finished February 10
016) Sex Educated: Letters from a Latter-day Saint therapist to her younger self by Bonnie Young, LMFT, finished February 13
017) Unmask Alice: LDS, Satanic Panic, and the Imposter Behind the World's Most Notorious Diaries by Rick Emerson, finished February 20 

A Bookful Bounty for thee and thine 

018) I'm Glad My Mom Died by Jeannette McCurdy, finished February 27
019–21) The Abominable Charles Christopher by Karl Kershl, finished March 6
022) Displacement by Kiku Hughes, finished March 6
023) The Many Deaths of Laila Starr by Ram V and Filipe Andrade, finished March 6
024) The Homeland Directive by Robert Venditti and Mike Huddleston, finished March 7
025) Titus Andronicus by William Shakespeare, finished March 14
026) Last West: Roadsongs for Dorothea Lange by Tess Taylor, finished March 15
027) 22 Young Mormon Writers edited by Neal E. Lambert and Richard H. Cracroft, finished March 19
028 & 029) Titus Andronicus by William Shakespeare, finished March 23 & March 27

Literarily solving for X

030) X by Sue Grafton, finished March 28
031) Ramona the Brave by Beverly Cleary, finished April 5
032) Camera Man: Buster Keaton, the Dawn of Cinema, and the Invention of the Twentieth Century by Dana Stevens, finished April 5
033) Abe Lincoln in Illinois by Robert E. Sherwood, finished April 8
034) Theology of Play by Jürgen Moltmann, finished April 12
035) The Male Animal by James Thurber and Elliott Nugent, finished April 12
036) Bluffton by Matt Phelan, finished April 16
037) Number One Walking: My Life in the Movies and Other Diversions by Steve Martin and Harry Bliss, finished April 15

From Lolly to Elias

038) Lolly Willowes by Sylvia Townsend Warner, finished April 17
039) The Emperor's Soul by Brandon Sanderson, finished April 19
040) Beware the Eye of Odin by Wager/Odland/Madsen/Dukeshire, finished April 19
041) The Complete Peanuts: 1965–1966 by Charles M. Schulz, finished April 20
042) A Wealth of Pigeons by Steve Martin and Harry Bliss, finished April 22
043) Elias: An Epic of the Ages by Orson Ferguson Whitney, finished April 23

Old Hollywood & Olden Times

044) Straight Lady: The Life and Times of Margaret Dumont, "The Fifth Marx Brother" by Chris Enss and Howard Kazanjian, finished April 25
045) Voices from the Radium Age edited by Joshua Glenn, finished April 26
046) The Ballad of YFB by Aaron Brassea, finished April 28
047) Reynaud's Tale by Ben Hatke, finished May 3
048) Superman: Up in the Sky by Tom King and Andy Kubert, finished May 5
049) Ramona and Her Father by Beverly Cleary, finished May 5
050) Resurrection Row by Anne Perry, finished May 6 

Saying good bye to our friend Kinsey

052) More Gross: Cartoons by S. Gross, finished May 9
053) I Am Blind and My Dog Is Dead by S. Gross, finished May 9
054) Batgirls: One Way or Another by Becky Cloonan / Michael W. Conrad / Jorge Corona / Sarah Stein, finished May 11
055) Batgirls: Bat Girl Summer by Becky Cloonan / Michael W. Conrad / Neil Googe / Robbi Rodriguez / Rico Renzi, finished May 11
056) Y is for Yesterday by Sue Grafton, finished May 12 

The tyranny of getting stuff in the right order

051) On Tyranny by Timothy Snyder, finished May 8
057) Superman Smashes the Klan by Gene Luen Yang and Guruhiru, finished May 13
058) Four in Hand by Alicia Mountain, finished May 17
059) The Glob by John O'Reilly and Walt Kelly, finished May 20
060) Why They Can't Write: Killing the Five-Paragraph Essay and Other Necessities by John Warner, finished May 24
061) Less by Andrew Sean Greer, finished May 25
062) Children of the Woods by Ciano/Hixson/Stevens/Otsmane-Elhaou, finished May 27
063) The Making of Another Major Motion Picture Masterpiece by Tom Hanks, finished May 29

Such quality. Such excellence.

064) Here by Darlene Young, finished June 1
065) Theseus Volume 1 by Jordan Holt, finished June 1
066) Theseus Volume 2 by Jordan Holt, finished June 1
067) Reviews for Non-Existent Movies by Eric Goulden Kimball, finished June 5
068) The Scarlet Plague by Jack London, finished June 6
069) Anne of West Philly by Ivy Noelle Weir and Myisha Haynes, finished June 10
070) Ramona and Her Mother by Beverly Cleary, finished June 10

 Books read: a forensic investigation

073) These Precious Days by Ann Patchett, finished c. June 17
074) Grass by Keum Suk Gendry-Kim, finished c. June 19
075) The Burning Book: A Jewish-Mormon Memoir by Jason Olson and James Goldberg, finished c. June 21
076) The Night Watchman by Louise Erdrich, finished June 23
From prehumanity to eternal destiny

077) Tuki: Fight for Fire by Jeff Smith, finished June 28
078) Tuki: Fight for Family by Jeff Smith, finished June 29
079) The Writer's Hustle by Joey Franklin, finished July 8
080) Future Day Saints: The New Arrivals by Matt Page, finished July 16
081) Binti by Nnedi Okorafor, finished July 18
082) Ramona Quimby, Age 8 by Beverly Cleary, finished July 19
083) Just One More by Annette Lyon, finished July 20
084) The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar and Six More by Roald Dahl, finished July 22
085) Somewhere Out There: My Animated Life by Don Bluth, finished July 22

Two women, in comics form

085) Beast by Marian Churchland, finished July 24
086) Supergirl: Woman of Tomorrow by King/Evely/Lopes, finished c. July 28

The sex-and-metaphysics Venn diagram

087) Banana Sunday by Paul Tobin and Colleen Coover, finished August 2
088) Falconer by John Cheever, finished August 3
089) Still Life with Woodpecker by Tom Robbins, finished August 3
090) Homunculus by Joe Sparrow, finished August 5
091) Cuckoo by Joe Sparrow, finished August 9
092) Fatal by Kimberly Johnson, finished August 16
093) The Unsinkable Walker Bean by Aaron Renier, finished August 17
094) The Infinite Future by Tim Wirkus, finished August 22
095) Super-Infinite: The Transformations of John Donne by Katherine Rundell, finished August 23 

What, is this nothing but comics?

096) The Unsinkable Walker Bean and the Knights of the Waxing Moon by Aaron Renier, finished August 24
Just Julie's Fine by Theric Jepson, finished August 26
098) Bea Wolf by Zach Weinersmith and Boulet, finished August 28
099) Assassinistas by Tini Howard / Gilbert Hernandez / et al., finished August 31
100) Wonder Woman Historia: The Amazons by Kelly Sue DeConnick / Phil Jimenez / Gene Ha / Nicola Scott, finished August 31
101) The Sandman: Preludes & Nocturnes by Neil Gaiman et al., finished September 6
102) Slapstick, or Lonesome No More! by Kurt Vonnegut, finished September 11

We got mysteries, we got apples, we got St. Paul. . . .

103) The Sandman: The Doll's House by Neil Gaiman et al., finished September 14
104) Hallowe'en Party by Agatha Christie, finished September 2023
The Sandman: Dream Country by Neil Gaiman et al, finished September 27
Apples Never Fall by Liane Moriarty, finished September 29
Paul Among the People: The Apostle Reinterpreted and Reimagined in His Own Time by Sarah Ruden, finished October 1
108) Cymbeline by William Shakespeare, finished October 5
109) The Sandman: Season of Mists by Neil Gaiman et al, finished October 5

Coupla classics et al.

110) A Cluster of Noisy Planets by Charles Rafferty, finished October 6
111) Ramona Forever by Beverly Cleary, finished October 7
112) The Mysteries by Bill Watterson and Bill Kascht, finished October 10
113) The Sandman: A Game of You by Neil Gaiman et al, finished October 12
114) The Bridge of San Luis Rey by Thornton Wilder, finished October 13
115, 116) Cymbeline by William Shakespeare, finished October 16, 17
117) Kaya: Book One by author, finished October 21
118) White Noise by Don DeLillo, finished October 23