Eleven books closer to death


I'm astonished to realize that this list includes an Australian classic as well as Ted Bundy. Not because I'm surprised I read these things or because I have forgotten that I did, but holy smokes. Those books feel so, so long ago. And, I mean, it has been forty-plus days. I suppose the Bible would tell me that's a long time. So maybe it's okay to feel that it is.

One side effect of making these posts (since 2007!) is that I might be measuring time—my life—in books.

There are worse ways, I'm certain. Better to throw books into the darkness.


041) The Stranger Beside Me: Updated Twentieth Anniversary Edition by Ann Rule, finished April 9

I picked this up because of Murder Book (#27). The Stranger Beside Me was the first true-crime book she reads and it's arguably the book that created the modern ideal for true crime. First published in 1980, then updated in 1986, 1989, and (the one I read) 2000. Those editions add 82 pages.

Ted Bundy is the first criminal I remember hearing about. Circa 1986, I remember a woman I knew and trusted speaking with absolute hate and venom, hoping that Ted Bundy would die. I remember how I felt, hearing this.

I don't remember his actual, successful execution, even though I was reading the newspaper by then.

Ann Rule received a contract from Norton to write about the disappearing women in Washington long before Ted Bundy was identified. But after she had already come to know him as they worked a crisis hotline together. The awkward and ethically suspect position this put her in as her reporting and this book turned her into a phenomenon is a fascinating subtext to consider.

I'm not sure it's possible to live in America over the decades I have and not know the general shape of Bundy's story. But Ann Rule's telling is very human. It's as much a memoir of her believing in him to being ready for him to fry.

We only have so much patience for monsters.

perhaps three weeks

042) Huda F Are You? by Huda Fahmy, finished April 13

I like that this is a comics memoir of a hijab-wearing American girl. But I didn't really like the art (I didn't like the Extra Credits-like floating hands, but issues with perspective and the like just felt sloppy) and I didn't feel like it had much depth. It's great for 12-year-olds but I don't think it's apt to appeal to anyone older. Which is a shame because I think the Muslim American voice is an important one, right now. In most of the country, they are seen as indelibly foreign no matter what. And since we're all accusing everyone else of failing to be properly American, those who are most in that situation surely have something to teach us.

as I stood

043) Enos, Jarom, Omni: a brief theological introduction by Sharon J. Harris, finished April 25

This is split into three parts, one for each book. Sensibly, really. To start at the end, I wasn't really sold by most of the analysis and argument for Omni, but the conclusion, combining Latter-day Saint notions of Jesus and family into one great whole, was excellent.

Jarom was my favorite. The thesis that most intrigues was that Jarom lives in the middle. We live in the middle. The Church is established. The finale is (likely) far away. We're muddling around in the in-between, living our lives best we can. We live in the short books. And this elevates Jarom's demure silence from the least interesting portion of the Book of Mormon to something deeply personal and relevant.

As for Enos, she made some points about its chronology I hadn't thought much about, but the highlight is her exploration of the concept of self-emptying. That's worth checking out. It provides a new way to make Enos a path forward.

a month


044) The Orphan Master's Son by Adam Johnson, finished April 27

This story of North Korea won the Pulitzer a decade ago and keeps coming up as a book people remember and were glad they read.

I feel the same. I'm certain I will remember parts of this book a long, long time. These details and images from a real dystopia (mixed accuracy but all so real in context) are not easily shaken off.

The novel's structure is curious. The first part, much shorter, runs like a proper novel. The second and much longer half weaves three kinds of storytelling together from which you see different things through different lenses and thus the reader has to assemble them.

I'll admit part of the reason I took so long to pick this up is because it's a novel about Korea by a guy named Adam Johnson. But I was one over.

Seems to matter that Kim Jong Il died just as the book was released.

Anyway, it's all the worst parts of Nineteen Eighty-four rendered not just believable but contemporary. You'll believe it is happening Right Now.

maybe three weeks


045,046,049) The Mysteries by Bill Watterson and John Kascht, finished April 29, 30; May 3

I'm leading a discussion on this for the faculty book club this week so I thought I'd try to fit in daily rereads. I kinda love this book but I'm still not sure how I want to think about it. The turn it takes is remarkable.

a few minutes per


047) The Children's Bach by Helen Garner, finished April 30

I was more interested in Monkey Grip but this is the one my library had. When it arrived, I wasn't even going to take it home but then I saw how short it was so I decided to give it a shot.

Garner's voice is calm and melodic. She flits through time without worrying to much about us keeping up. She's like a more reasonable Weetzie Bat. And the people are likable normal people who find themselves genuinely sucking in truly awful ways.

I get why people love it but I don't feel compelled to recommend it to anyone.

two days


048) No. 1 with a Bullet by Sehman/Corona/Hickman/Wands, finished May 2

At the end of this graphic novel you'll find a series of interviews with women who are writers, cosplayers, lawyers, gamers, etc. The interviews reveal powerful women who have bumped into the awful ways men treat women. It's worth mentioning these interviews don't come off as preachy or anything. It's just the way it is.

The comic is about a women who was filmed having sex without her knowledge. The video leaks and now the world has come down on her. There's violence and mystery and startling imagery. It's near-future fiction (by which I mean like three years from now) and there's stalkers and LSD and Johnny Cash quotations (an excellent choice, incidentally) and dirtbag lawyers and good cops and crummy friends and ambiguous lovers. It's a fine entertainment and, like the interviews, it explores heavy and important issues without telling you what to think. Not that you won't arrive at the correct conclusions, but it lets you find them all on your own.

Most of the story I felt we were falling into some artsy cliches, but by the end it's revealed to be doing interesting things with those elements. The ambiguities at the end do seem a little overdone. It's not a perfect book. But a worthy read.

about a week

050) Over Seventy by P. G. Wodehouse, finished May 7

This sorta autobiography was a brief and gratifying read. Made me laugh many times. There were three spots where a word choice was made to allow casual racists to laugh in superiority which was offputting, and the world-these-days parts are very 1950s, but otherwise the book has aged well.

The conceit is somebody from some little newspaper wrote to ask him a couple questions for a column about folks over seventy and Wodehouse rambles and tangents his way through answering them all.

I tracked the book down because I heard it had an essay about footnotes. This is not strictly true. The foreword is about why the book doesn't have footnotes. But perhaps that is the same thing.

a couple weeks

051) The Happy Shop by Brittany Long Olsen, finished May 16

This is kind of a perfect Brittany book: sincere, fantastical, emotive, short.

one day then a few weeks then another day

052) Shades of Fear, finished May 21

Look, the bad news is this isn't a very good book. I don't regret backing it, but the end project is not that great.

But the fact is these kinds of anthologies fill a very important role is giving comics makers a chance to flex their muscles and discover what works. And a lot of really cool stuff is happening in these stories. They're all short enough that they end up not quite coherent, but all of them pull of at least one really cool moment with the art. Permission to experiment—before an audience—is what any young artists needs. And I suppose middle-aged schmucks like myself should be paying them to do so

So, as I said, no regrets.

But nothing here quite takes flight.

I sure hope they keep trying.

a couple weeks but really two or three days


053) Love Poems in Quarantine by Sarah Ruhl, finished May 21

I haven't actually finished a book of poems brought home from the library in quite a while. I don't know why this one made it over the finish line other than I liked the poems.

That they are all very short certainly did not hurt. (I am, after all, the founder of Quatrain.Fish.) Some of these poems are wonderful. Some are . . . not. But the average quality is high enough (and the average length short enough) to carry us through. That I remember very well the first year of covid certainly is a bonus.

What I'm most impressed by is Ruhl's ability to fit a meaningful volta in the smallest spaces. Well done, ma'am! But the little moments with children and dogs, sex and isolation, ring true. Plus, there's a goodly dose of humor. We appreciate that, don't we, folks?

a week, maybe



 2024 × 10 = Bette Davis being Bette Davis

001) Zita the Spacegirl by Ben Hatke, finished January 1
002) The Complete Peanuts: 1977 – 1978 by Charles M. Schulz , finished January 6
003) The Sandman: The Kindly Ones by Neil Gaiman et al, finished January 10
004) Zita the Spacegirl by Ben Hatke, finished January 17
005) Touched by Walter Mosley, finished January 19
006) Opposable Thumbs: How Siskel & Ebert Changed Movies Forever by Matt Singer, finished January 20
007) Evergreen Ape: The Story of Bigfoot by David Norman Lewis, finished January 24
008) What Falls Away by Karin Anderson, finished February 1
009) Peanuts Jubilee: My Life and Art with Charlie Brown and Others by Charles M. Schulz, finished February 3
010) Legends of Zita the Spacegirl by Ben Hatke, finished February 3

 A few of my favorite things

011) Roaming by Jillian Tamaki and Mariko Tamaki, finished February 3
012) The Return of Zita the Spacegirl by Ben Hatke, February 9
013) Things in the Basement by Ben Hatke, February 10
014) A Charlie Brown Religion: Exploring the Spiritual Life and Work of Charles M. Schulz by Stephen J. Lind, finished February 10
015) 1st Nephi: A Brief Theological Introduction by Joseph M. Spencer, finished February 10
016) Dendo by Brittany Long Olsen, finished February 11
017) The Ten Winners of the 2023 Whiting Awards, finished February 12
018) The Peanuts Papers: Writers and Cartoonists on Charlie Brown, Snoopy & the Gang, and the Meaning of Life edited by Andrew Blaune, finished February 17
019) Do Not Disturb Any Further by John Callahan, finished February 17
020) Mighty Jack by Ben Hatke, finished circa February 19
021) 2nd Nephi: A Brief Theological Introduction by Terryl Givens, February 24


Let's start with the untimely deaths

022) The Life and Death of King John by William Shakespeare, finished February 28
022) Might Jack and the Goblin King by Ben Hatke, finished February 29
023) Chronicle of a Death Foretold by Gabriel García Márquez, finished March 4
024) Millay by Edna St. Vincent Millay, finished March
6025, 026) The Life and Death of King John by William Shakespeare, finished March 6, 8
027) Murder Book by Hilary Fitzgerald Campbell, finished March 11
028) A Canticle for Leibowitz by Walter M. Miller, Jr.
029) The Last Hero by Terry Pratchett and Paul Kidby, finished March 15
030) Karen's Roller Skates by Ann M. Martin and Katy Farina, finished March 18


Four comics could hardly be more different

031) The Sandman: The Wake by Neil Gaiman et al, finished March 18
032) The World of Edena by Mœbius, finished March 23
033) Three Rocks: The Story of Ernie Bushmiller, the Man Who Created Nancy by Bill Griffith, finished March 23
034) Mighty Jack and Zita the Spacegirl by Ben Hatke, finished March 23


Jacob says be nice and read comics

035) Jacob: A Brief Theological Introduction by Deidre Nicole Green, finished March 24
036) Starter Villain by John Scalzi, finished March 27
037) Mister Invincible: Local Hero by Pascal Jousselin, finished March 30
038) The Toon Treasury of Classic Children's Comics, edited by Art Spiegelman and Francoise Mouly, finished March 30
039) Harley Quinn: Breaking Glass by Mariko Tamaki and Steve Pugh, finished April 1
040) The Super Hero's Journey by Patrick McDonnell, finished April 5

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