Thursday, November 12, 2009

The Year of Good Books: October

Another good month of books, if not quite up to the standard set in September. Again, no dogs, though nothing warranting 5 stars, either.

The Eye of the World - Robert Jordan starts his fantasy series The Wheel of Time here, and I went back and reread it in anticipation of the release of the 12th installment of the series, The Gathering Storm. It's fast-paced, fairly self-contained, yet it also sets the seeds for the series, some of which have yet to be resolved (frustrating, yet impressive planning on Jordan's part). If you like epic fantasy, this is top-notch, with the characters fully developed and distinct. Highly recommended!

The Rescue Artist (or Stealing the Scream, in Europe) - Edward Dolnick tells the story of the theft of, and attempts at recovery of, Edvard Munch's The Scream. He interweaves it with stories of other art thefts and the hunts for the missing treasures, some recovered, some not. Informative and fun true crime!

The Year of Living Biblically - AJ Jacobs spent a year trying to follow all the rules of the Bible (8 months Old Testament, 4 New), while his wife spends 12 months trying not to kill her rather annoying husband. It's hilarious and filled with lots of biblical trivia (did you know the Bible forbids wearing clothes made of a mixture of fibers?), in addition to serious looks into the reasons behind these rules, he also visits a variety of Jewish and Christian believers of all flavors, from ultra-Orthodox to ultra-liberal. Lots of fun, but one best served by discussing with others*.

* or yourself, if you have multiple, conversant personalities

Dearly Devoted Dexter - Jeff Lindsay's sequel to "Darkly Dreaming Dexter" is a fun romp with the blood-splatter-analyst-by-day, serial-killer-by-night. His biggest adversary? His apparent descent into couch-potato-normalcy. Light, dumb fun, a good break from the slightly more intellectual reading of the month.

Born Standing Up - Steve Martin's memoir of his early life through the end of his stand up career was more a listen than a read, but I did enjoy hearing his voice throughout. However, for someone who knows only a smattering of his routines, this was frustrating, as he explained only bits of his material, leaving me a bit confused WHY he was so popular. Far fewer laughs than I'd hoped for, and wayyyy too serious.

Rogue Trader - Nick Leeson's autobiography understandably puts the blame for Barings' fall more on senior management than on his on HUGE mistakes, and that portion rings true. Leeson is more than willing to admit his own problems, though he does tend to emphasize what he sees as mitigating circumstances -- pressure from above, a desire to live up to expectations, etc. However, it's also quite clear that senior management was unconcerned with how he was making money -- only that he was (or, at least, was APPEARING to). What's especially galling is that the EXACT same attitude was present in the major banks in the recent crisis, and the governing bodies showed a similar disinterest in actually blaming those responsible -- the execs and the boards of directors of the various banks.

The Know-It-All - AJ Jacobs's first gimmick book was his story of reading the Encyclopaedia Brittanica cover-to-cover. And as annoying as he was in his year of biblical life, he's ten times more annoying here. He comes off as completely asocial, seemingly only reading the encyclopaedia to come up with obscure facts to throw into conversations he's otherwise unable to be a part of (of course, I do this far too often, so it hit home). It's funny and informative, but I would strongly recommend at least a month between AJ Jacobs books.


Nancy said...

When you're finished with them, could ya' just pack them all up in a box and send them to Minnesota...pretty please. I could go to the library and borrow them. I could go to Amazon and buy them. But this would save me so much time. Pretty please.

jtingermany said...

Sort of. Only 2 of these are actually mine -- 3 are library books, Rogue Trader is a friend's and "Born Standing Up" is an audiobook i ripped from the library :)

But I will send on the two I own -- "Eye of the World" and "Dearly Devoted Dexter", if you're interested :)