Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Fool by Christopher Moore

Wow! Fool by Christopher Moore is a hilarious romp through Shakespeare's universe. And not just the play King Lear, but others too, like Macbeth. Moore tells the story of Lear's fool, Pocket, and the events that surround King Lear's retirement. All the characters from King Lear make an appearance, but Moore adds so much more and tells the story so well, you can easily read Fool with no knowledge of King Lear or any of Shakepeare's other plays.

Be warned. While the novel is full of side splitting humor, Fool is also as bawdy as the book's blurbs promise. If you are easily offended by sexual humor, this is not the book for you. If, on the other hand, you are looking for a really funny book to read and you can stomach racy comedy, I highly recommend Fool. I, for one, will have to go to the library as soon as possible to get more books by Moore.


ABANDONED: Liberty and Tyranny by Mark Levin

I am an admitted liberal, but I try to be open minded and widely read. So, I tried to read conservative radio host Mark Levin's Liberty and Tyranny but I just could not stand it. I had hoped it would be a well reasoned defense of conservatism, but it struck me as simply a slipshod rant about those that disagree with Levin's conservative philosophy, people like me. For me, the last straw was when Levin was arguing about how government interference is the root of our financial problems. His example was the current housing problems that continue to be a drag on the economy. While making this argument he railed against the development of financial derivatives, blaming it on government intervention when this is clearly the work of the unfettered free market with which Levin is so enamored. Now, I happen to agree with many of his points on how the current economic crisis originated, but overall his ranting style and sloppy logic made this book unreadable.


Write These Laws On Your Children by Robert Kunzman

Write These Laws On Your Children is a glimpse of the world of conservative Christian homeschooling. I became fascinated by the topic of homeschooling when I used some homeschooling books to find resources for enriching my son's public school education. Robert Kunzman does a fantastic job of highlighting some of the strengths and weaknesses of homeschooling. However, he expresses his main reservations about homeschooling: the quality of education and how homeschooling affects the development of citizenship.

Kunzman, an educator himself, spends time with several homeschooling families. He visits each family more than once over a two year period. Kunzman describes his time with each of those families. It is important to note that, while some of the families were clearly doing a disservice to their children by homeschooling them, others were providing top notch education. I think one of the things I liked best about the book was Kunzman's apparent even-handedness when describing the homeschooling experiences he witnessed. In between the chapters on the homeschooling families, Kunzman profiles homeschooling organizations and what he perceives to be the perils of homeschooling. Overall, Kunzman provides a balanced view of homeschooling, for better and for worse.

If you have any interest in homeschooling you should definitely read this book, if only to learn about the perils of homeschooling. If you are an educator, reading this book would help counter any stereotypes you may have about homeschooling.


Sandman Slim by Richard Kadrey

Sandman Slim by Richard Kadrey is about James Stark, a man who is betrayed and dragged into Hell while still alive. He spends eleven years in Hell, fighting in a gladiatorial arena where he becomes Hell's most formidable fighter, known to the demons as Sandman Slim. His skills catch the eye of Azazel. Lucifer's general gives Stark a key that allows him to enter a shadow and come out anywhere he wants and Stark becomes Azazel's hitman. But Stark soon turns on Azazel, kills the demon general and escapes Hell. Once on earth, Stark seeks revenge on those who sent him Downtown and, one could say, all Hell breaks loose.

Sandman Slim was a pretty enjoyable read, fast paced with a well constructed universe. If you enjoy the urban paranormal genre, I do not think you would go wrong to give Sandman Slim a read.


Saturday, December 19, 2009

King Lear by William Shakespeare

In this masterpiece by Shakepeare, King Lear decides to retire and divide his kingdom among his three daughters. Courting tragedy, the king decides to test his daughters by asking which loves him the most. The conniving Gonoril and Regan flatter their father, the king, with words of love, but Lear's youngest daughter, Cordelia, refuses to play along. For this she is disinherited and banished. When the Earl of Kent speaks up on Cordelia's behalf, King Lear banishes him too. Meanwhile, another plot is afoot. Edmund, the bastard son of the Earl of Gloucester schemes to have his legitimate brother, Edgar, disowned and thereby inherit his father's lands and title. These two different plot lines collide in an orgy of violence, death, and tragedy not to be missed by any serious reader.

Though Hamlet is still my favorite Shakespearean play, King Lear comes in a close second. I really enjoyed the two different plot lines that run through the play. The characters were all engaging. The only negative was the frequent lines of the play that I did not understand and apparently scholars are unable to explain But, those unintelligible lines are but a minor distraction in a great work of literature that everyone should read.


Monday, December 14, 2009

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

Before this year, I would never have considered reading young-adult fiction. After all, I am entering my middle age and as an adult, I felt I should read adult fiction. Over the last year, however, my opinion has changed. It started with The Book Thief by Markus Zusak. After that I read a few other young-adult fiction books that were pretty good, but nothing really spectacular. All that changed when I read The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins. What can I say other than Wow! The Hunger Games is a great read. A roller coaster that keeps you on the edge of your seat from beginning to end. If you have not read this novel, do so as soon as possible. If you have, you might want to try Battle Royale by Koushun Takami. It had a similar feel to this book, although I enjoyed The Hunger Games more than Battle Royale.


Sunday, December 13, 2009

The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins

The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins is a sprawling "Sensation Novel" about familial intrigue in Victorian England. It is a story about marriage, inheritance, deceit, and secret societies. The novel is full of interesting characters: the tempestuous Sir Percival Glyde, the cunning Count Fosco and his submissive wife the Countess, the indomitable Marian Halcombe, and of course Walter Hartright and the love of his life, the Lady Laura Glyde.

I really enjoyed this book, despite the overwhelming complexity of its narrative. Just before finishing it, I picked up a copy of Collins' The Moonstone from Half Price Books and hope to read it next year. If you have not read this classic, give it a try. You won't be sorry.


Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Glen Beck's Common Sense

I am a little reticent to write a review of this book. Once you start discussing politics, things can become heated. By way of disclaimer, I am likely what Mr. Beck calls a "Progressive" in his book. I do believe the founders of our country were great men. I think they did the best they could with the Constitution. But that does not mean that I think those man and that document are inerrant. I think this has been amply demonstrated: slavery, women's suffrage, and the civil rights movement. I strongly believe that the Constitution should be amended and grow as this great nation changes and we learn to be a better country, to be better people.

That disclaimer aside, to Mr. Beck's book. I tried not to have a knee-jerk reaction to it. I tried to be open minded. I am sure some, having read my disclaimer above, will dismiss my thoughts on this book outright. But nonetheless, here they are. I think Mr. Beck's book is awful. It a poorly written screed. The arguments were so disorganized, I quite often had a hard time following them. I had specific problems with some of his anecdotes. Take for example the one about the poor woman who broke a compact fluorescent light and was told she would have to pay $2000 to clean it up. But Mr. Beck does not tell the true story of what happened.1 It makes me wonder what else Mr. Beck has been mistaken or misleading about in this book.

What makes this book appealing, to those on both the Left and Right, is that Mr. Beck says some things that everyone can agree with. Many of those people who govern us are corrupted by the power they have. That is not any great revelation. What I find interesting is how he contrasts the "bad" government with the "good" capitalist private sector. Government is a human institution that is prey to human foibles. But so is capitalism. (That is not to say that I think capitalism is bad. I see it as a flawed human institution that can be both good and bad, just like our government.)


1 See the Snopes.com entry to see what really happened.

Monday, November 16, 2009

House of the Sleeping Beauties by Yasunari Kawabata

I am participating National Novel Writing Month right now, so this review will be brief. House of the Sleeping Beauties is a very weird book made up of three bizarre short stories. The first, House of the Sleeping Beauties is about an old man that repeatedly visits a house where old men can, for a fee, sleep with naked young girls. Sleep but not have sex. It is really creepy in a lecherous kind of way because the old man is not very pleasant. The second short story, One Arm is a surreal tale about a man that borrows a young woman's arm and takes it home. He talks to it. He substitutes it for his own arm. This one was just plain weird. Of Birds and Beasts is about a man that has a number of pets, many of which die through his negligence. I didn't really get this story at all.

The bottom line, if you are looking for good modern Japanese fiction, don't look for it here.


Saturday, November 07, 2009

The Greatest Show On Earth by Richard Dawkins

As soon as I heard about the publication of Richard Dawkins' The Greatest Show On Earth I got really excited. As an atheist, I find the theory of evolution credible. I am always surprised when I hear or read about the lengths that creationists go the make it sound like evolution is not credible, especially when they are arguing against teaching evolution in public schools. So, I was looking forward to reading a book on the evidence that supports the theory of evolution.

Dawkins book, however, is extremely disappointing. He does cover the evidence supporting evolution, but does so in an awkward manner. He constantly digresses from his main point or cuts a discussion off by saying that it is too complex for the layperson. My overall opinion is that there is a much smaller book in The Greatest Show On Earth that would have been much better. I think I might try Why Evolution Is True by Jerry Coyne to see if I like it better.


Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Black Dogs by Ian McEwan

I must admit this was the book that I read at the end of the Readathon, so my recollections of it are vague. Black Dogs is about a woman's encounter with two huge, menacing black dogs while on a walk in France. Her husband out of earshot, the woman is attacked by the dogs. She manages to fend them off, but her life and the life of her husband are deeply altered. For Bernard, the encounter was just an unpleasant event. But for June, the dogs are the incarnation of evil. This rift drives them apart, opening a large metaphysical gulf between them as she becomes a devout Catholic and he remains an atheist.

It is really hard to rate this book because I don't remember it very well. But I do remember my impression that Black Dogs was not as good as my previous McEwan read, Amsterdam.


Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Night by Elie Wiesel

Night by Elie Wiesel is the heartbreaking memoir of Wiesel's experiences in Nazi concentration camps. It was an emotionally difficult read, probably not the best choice for the Readathon. But, if you haven't read this book, get a copy and read it as soon as possible. Remembering the injustices of history can help us prevent injustices in the future.


Disquiet by Julia Leigh

Disquiet by Julia Leigh starts off with a intriguing air of mystery. Olivia, with her two children in tow, returns to her mother's house in France. Olivia seems to be on the run, but why? Soon after Olivia arrives, her brother, Marcus, and his wife, Sophie, return to the house with tragic news. It seems that Sophie has given birth to a stillborn child. Unhinged, Sophie has taking to treating the corpse as if it was a live baby. Would she ever regain her sanity and allow the poor dead child to be buried?

In the end, I was horribly disappointed with this book. Leigh doesn't ever answer the first, and most intriguing, question about why Olivia has returned to France.


The Moon Opera by Bi Feiyu

Xiao Yanqiu was a rising star with the lead role in The Moon Opera. But before the opera could open, Xiao, in a jealous fit, flung boiling water into the face of her understudy. Disgraced, Xiao is demoted to being a mere music teacher. But twenty years later, a rich businessman who remembers Xiao's beauty offers to underwrite a new performance of the The Mood Opera. But can Xiao, who hasn't been on stage since her disgrace, be the star she used to be? And what will happen when her new understudy begins to show signs of enormous talent?

The Moon Opera is a tragic look at the world of Peking Opera and of China. I enjoyed the story, despite the sad ending (which I won't spoil for any who want to read the book). This was one of the better short novels I read during the Readathon and I would recommend for Readthoners next time.


Koula by Menis Koumandareas

Koula by Menis Koumandareas, a Greek novelist, tells the story of an affair between a young university student and an older woman who works for Greek IRS. They meet on the subway, where they often ride in the same car. Eventually, the begin to talk. Soon enough, they are carrying on an affair. The woman, Koula, becomes obsessed with the younger man. Realizing it, she breaks off the affair despite, or because of, her genuine affection for the younger man.

I read this during the Readathon for the Orbis Terrarum Challenge. It's pretty good novella, but not spectacular. But at 88 pages, it's a good read for the Readathon.


The Pink Insititution by Selah Saterstrom

The Pink Institution by Selah Saterstrom is a short novel that chronicles four dysfunctional generations of a post-Civil War Mississippi family. A prose poem, many parts of it were touching, many disturbing, but they were well written. But there were also parts where the novel jumped the shark and became a little to "artsy" for me; parts where the narrative was absent or too difficult to find.


Sunday, October 25, 2009

Readathon End of Event

  1. Which hour was most daunting for you? Hour 24 by far. I had a horrible time trying to stay awake.

  2. Could you list a few high-interest books that you think could keep a Reader engaged for next year? Night by Elie Wiesel was probably the best book I read during the last 24 hours, but it is a pretty heartbreaking story.

  3. Do you have any suggestions for how to improve the Read-a-thon next year? Nope. The organizers do a fabulous job of putting on the readathon.

  4. What do you think worked really well in this year’s Read-a-thon? Once again, the cheerleaders were awesome!

  5. How many books did you read? 3 unfinished + 5 finished.

  6. What were the names of the books you read?

    1. The Number Devil

    2. The Greatest Show On Earth

    3. Black Dogs

    4. The Pink Institution (finished)

    5. Koula (finished)

    6. The Moon Opera (finished)

    7. Disquiet (finished)

    8. Night (finished)

  7. Which book did you enjoy most? Night

  8. Which did you enjoy least? The Pink Institution

  9. If you were a Cheerleader, do you have any advice for next year’s Cheerleaders? I wasn't a cheerleader.

  10. How likely are you to participate in the Read-a-thon again? What role would you be likely to take next time? Are you kidding? I'm definitely going to do this next time too.

Readathon Hour 24

Yeah!!! I made it. The whole head-nod-no-I'm-awake think prevented me from finishing Black Dogs or reaching the 1000 page mark. But I had a lot of fun.

Thank You Organizers and Cheerleaders. And to my fellow Readers, Well Done!

Final stats: 981 pages and 5 books completed in 13:40:02

Readathon Hour 23

I'm still awake with only one hour to go. I'm still reading Black Dogs and still fighting to keep from falling asleep. With only one hour to go, I'm pretty sure I can make it now.

Running stats: 947 pages and 5 books completed in 13:02:50.

Readathon Hour 22

Still slowly making my way through Black Dogs. I have resorted to reading while standing up in order to keep from dozing off. Only 2 hours to go. Maybe I can hit 1000 pages with a big push. We'll see ...

Running stats: 915 pages and 5 books completed in 12:26:07.

Readathon Hour 21

The pushups helped me stay awake this hour. I'm still reading Black Dogs by Ian McEwan. This one is probably going to see me all the way to the finish line.

Running stats: 886 pages and 5 books completed in 11:51:29.

Readathon Hour 20

Wow, it is really getting hard to stay awake now. I find myself starting to doze or reading the same sentence more than once. I think I'm going to have to do another round of pushups or yoga to stay awake. But only 4 more hours to go!

Dana asks what your four favorite books are. Right now, mine are:

  1. Dante's Inferno

  2. Homer's Iliad

  3. Vyasa's Mahabharata

  4. 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die

But if you ask me again tomorrow, they'd be different.

Running stats: 855 pages and 5 books completed in 11:22:33.

Readathon Hour 19

Not getting a good night sleep last night is coming back to haunt me. My eyes sting and have started to get that gummy feeling. I started Black Dogs by Ian McEwan this hour. It happens to be a large print book; I was hoping the large print would make it easier to read, but it really isn't working out that way. But hey ... we're more than 3/4 of the way through the readathon. As they say in marathoning, "It's all down hill from here!"

Running stats: 834 pages and 5 books completed in 10:53:13

Readathon Hour 18

Despite the suffering a few times from the "I'm falling asleep head nod," I was able to finish Disquiet by Julia Leigh. It is a creepy little novella about a woman who can't let go of her stillborn child. >Shudders< Finishing this book also means that I have completed the Orbis Terrarum Challenge.

Running stats: 809 pages and 5 books completed in 10:28:37.

Readathon Hour 17

I didn't do much reading this hour. I am really tired now and eyes hurt so it was easy to distract myself by puttering around. I need to refocus and try to finish Disquiet during hour 17.

Running stats: 733 pages and 4 books completed in 9:36:42

Readathon Hour 16

This hour I completed The Moon Opera and started Disquiet. I am starting to get sleepy now, so my reading pace has declined significantly. But, that's OK. I remember this from previous readathons. It's temporary, like the Wall in marathons. You just have keep pushing until you get your second wind.

I also completed the Wisdom of Aging Mini-Challenge hosted by Care. In addition, Lynn asks for your favorite five books from your childhood in the Give Me Five Mini-Challenge. Well here are my favorites:

  1. The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle

  2. Danny, the Champion of the World by Roald Dahl

  3. Robin Hood by Howard Pyle

  4. The Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O'Dell

  5. Any Choose Your Own Adventure or Fighting Fantasy book.

Running stats: 715 pages and 4 books completed in 9:23:16

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Readathon Hour 15

This hour I continued reading The Moon Opera by Bi Feiyu. With only 14 pages left, I will finish it in hour 15. From there I will move on to Disquiet by Julia Leigh. If I can finish that one, I will have completed the Orbis Terrarum Challenge.

Running stats: 673 pages and 3 books completed in 8:50:57

Readathon Hour 14

This hour I started The Moon Opera by Bi Feiyu. It is the story of a young opera star that disfigures her understudy. Then, after twenty years away from the stage, returns to the role that made her famous when a rich man sponsors a new production of the Moon Opera.

I also did some yoga, at the suggestion of Soleil at The Yoga Mini-Challenge.

Running stats: 618 pages and 3 books completed in 8:13:03

Readathon Hour 13

In this hour I finished Koula by Menis Koumandareas, the story of a brief affair between a young man and an older woman. In the next hour, I plan to either read some more of The Number Devil to my son or read The Moon Opera by Bi Feiyu.

Despite not reading as many pages or hours as I had hoped, I am succeeding in my goal to knock out some of my reading challenges. I think I have a pretty good chance of finishing both the Orbis Terrarum Challenge and the Colorful Reading Challenge.

Running stats: 571 pages and 3 books completed in 7:37:39

Readathon Mid-Event Survey

Mid-Event Survey:

  1. What are you reading right now?

  2. How many books have you read so far?

  3. What book are you most looking forward to for the second half of the Read-a-thon?

  4. Did you have to make any special arrangements to free up your whole day?

  5. Have you had many interruptions? How did you deal with those?

  6. What surprises you most about the Read-a-thon, so far?

  7. Do you have any suggestions for how to improve the Read-a-thon next year?

  8. What would you do differently, as a Reader or a Cheerleader, if you were to do this again next year?

  9. Are you getting tired yet?

  10. Do you have any tips for other Readers or Cheerleaders, something you think is working well for you that others may not have discovered?

My Answers:

  1. Right now I am reading Koula by Menis Koumandareas

  2. I have completed two books of the five books I've read during the readathon.

  3. Black Dogs by Ian McEwan, for two reasons. (1) I enjoyed the previous McEwan book I read, Amsterdam. (2) It is a large print book which will be easier on my eyes.

  4. I skipped the NaNoWriMo kickoff for the Houston area and had to arrange for my wife to take over my usual household duties: dinner, shuttling our child around, etc.

  5. I've had quite a few interruptions. But I deal with them by understanding from the beginning that I'm not going to read for the entire 24 hours. This is supposed to be fun, not a joyless slog.

  6. I was surprised at the amount of joy I got from reading to my son. I read to him all the time, but it was really cool to read to him for that long.

  7. I think the readathon is very well organized and I wouldn't suggest changing a thing.

  8. I think next time as a reader I will perhaps try to find more large print books. Also, audiobooks might allow me to "read" while doing household chores.

  9. I didn't sleep well last night, so I'm already tired and my eyes hurt. But if it was easy, everybody would do it.

  10. I don't have any tips right now, but I'll let you know about the large print book later.

Readathon Hour 12

This hour, I had dinner with my family. I also completed the two mini-challenges of the hour:

What I didn't do is get a lot of reading done. But I did start a new book, Koula by Greek novelist Menis Koumandareas. It is a really short novella, just 88 pages. Perhaps I can finish it in the next hour.

Running stats: 521 pages and 2 books completed in 7:08:46

Readathon Hour 11

This hour I finished Elie Wiesel's Night. A truly sad tale, but a good read.

Earlier this hour I completed Joy Renee’s Reading is Fundamental mini-challenge. I was the first because I've already spent a couple of my readathon hours reading The Number Devil to my son, so I just linked to my hour 8 update. I'm looking forward to reading more to him when he gets home from his friend's birthday party.

Running stats: 483 pages and 2 books completed in 6:45:58

Readathon Hour 10

I continued to read Night during hour 10. I am surprised that out of 10 hours I have only spent 6 hours reading. That's only 60% of the time. I was shooting for 75%. Hopefully I can bring the average up over the remainder of the readathon.

I also completed Erika's minichallenge:

What book or books do you return to read again and again and why?

I am not really one to reread entire books, although I often refer back to books that I have read. But there are a few that I have read more than once:

  • Buddhist Sutras especially the Sutra on the Full Awareness of Breath. I find the sutras can often help me on my path to "peace of brain."

  • The Mahabharata and the Ramayana. I have read more than one translation of each of these great Indian epics because I love epic poetry.

  • The Iliad and the Odyssey. See answer above.

  • Beowulf. See answer above.

  • Gilgamesh. See answer above.

  • Hamlet, Macbeth, Much Ado About Nothing. C'mon ... it's Shakespeare!

Update from hour 21: I just thought of another classic that I reread often: Dante's Inferno. It is one of my favorites. I can't believe I forgot it.

Running stats: 422 pages and 1 book completed in 6:00:40

Readathon Hour 9

I didn't get much reading done this hour. I spent some time getting the pictures that I added to my hour 8 update. Plus, it is difficult to read about the horrors described in Elie Wiesel's Night; it is hard to believe that humans can do such things to other humans.

Running stats: 402 pages and 1 book completed in 5:36:09

Readathon Hour 8

My family returned from the Halloween party. So, this hour I resumed reading The Number Devil to my son. He's really enjoying it and so am I. This hour we read about squares, square roots, and triangular & quadrangular numbers.

Bonus update ... Some pictures!

Reading to my son.

Keeping me company today while I'm reading.

Running stats: 382 pages and 1 book completed in 5:19:36

Readathon Hour 7

During hour 7 I did indeed resume reading The Greatest Show On Earth. I'm already getting a little tired, so I had a hard time following some of what I read. It was a chapter full of scientific names. So, after finishing that chapter I switched to Elie Wiesel's Night. I'm only 14 pages in, but I can feel the sadness begin to build already. I hope to finish Night in the next couple of hours.

Running Stats: 341 pages and 1 book completed in 4:41:12

Readathon Hour 6

The Pink Institution got weird again. I finished it, but it didn't make a lot of sense. It is a prose poem, so perhaps it doesn't have to make sense. Anyway, it is the first book I have completed during this readathon. Woot!

I think I will go back to Dawkins' The Greatest Show On Earth for hour 7 and then on to another book during hour 8.

Running Stats: 298 pages and 1 book completed in 4:04:02

Readathon Hour 5

I started reading Selah Saterstrom's The Pink Institution. It is a strange book. A sparsely told tail of a family on the decline in post-Civil War Mississippi. I didn't like it at first, but now that I am over 80 pages into it, I am starting to see an engaging plot.

Running stats: 246 pages in 3:24:42

Readathon Hour 4

This has been my favorite hour so far. I read The Number Devil by H. M. Enzensberger to my 7 year old son. It was a pretty interesting read, covering number theory in a kid friendly way. Alas, my son is off to a Halloween party, so I will be alone in the house again. But, he asked if I could read to him later. I'm looking forward to it!

Running stats: 164 pages read in 2:55:45

Readathon Hour 3

Well, I didn't switch books because I wanted to finish the chapter I was reading in The Greatest Show On Earth. But, I will be switching books in hour 4 because my family is home from the gym and I will be reading to my 7 year old son.

Running stats: 98 pages in 2:04:42

Readathon Hour 2

Well ... that's 2 hours done. I have to say that I am disappointed with the pace of my reading. Perhaps reading a nonfiction book on evolution isn't the best choice for a readathon. I think, perhaps, in hour 3 I will switch to something a little easier to read.

Running Stats: 67 pages read in 1:22:56

Readathon Hour 1

So, I started the readathon with one of the books I am currently reading, Richard Dawkins' The Greatest Show On Earth. It is about the evidence for evolution. It is a pretty easy read, but surprisingly snarky. I would have prefer Dawkins to argue his case rather than make fun of the opposing view.

Mini challenge for this hour:

Where are you reading from today?

3 facts about me …

How many books do you have in your TBR pile for the next 24 hours?

Do you have any goals for the read-a-thon (i.e. number of books, number of pages, number of hours, or number of comments on blogs)?

If you’re a veteran read-a-thoner, Any advice for people doing this for the first time?

I am reading in Sugar Land, Texas, a suburb of Houston. My readathon goal is to use the time to polish of some of my reading challenges. To that end, I went to the library and checked out a bunch of novellas that meet the criteria of my challenges. I am afraid I went a little overboard and checked out way too many to list. But, here a some that I want to finish:

  • The Greatest Show On Earth by R. Dawkins (for the Chunkster & Seconds Challenges)

  • Night by E. Wiesel (for the What's In A Name Challenge)

  • The Pink Institution by S. Saterstrom (for the Colorful Reading Challenge)

  • Black Dogs by Ian McEwan (for the Colorful Reading & Seconds Challenge)

  • Double Indemnity by J. Cain (for the Seconds Reading Challenge)

  • The Moon Opera by B. Feiyu (for the Orbis Terrarum Challenge)

  • Koula by M. Koumandareas (for the Orbis Terrarum Challenge)

  • Disquiet by J. Leigh (for the Orbis Terrarum Challenge)

I checked out a bunch of novellas, books of less than 200 pages, because I found last time that these books are the easiest to read. As you get tired, holding the events and characters of longer books in your head becomes a little difficult. In addition, shorter books give you shorter, achievable goals that can motivate you to keep going. So, a little late I know, I would recommend that novice readathoners choose shorter books to read. But, the most important advice I would pass on is that readers need to take breaks. Get up, walk around, change your eyes' focus distance. Remember, you have 23 more hours to go!

Running Stats: 31 pages read in 00:40:15

Pre-Readathon Thoughts

It's that time of year again when over 350 of us readers get together over the internet to read for 24 hours straight. If you are one of the readathoners, people might say, "Why would you want to read for 24 hours? That's crazy!" But, if we have to explain it to you, you won't get it. Don't make any mistake, it will be grueling. It's worth it though; the thrill of finishing is definitely worth it.

I have my big pile o' books sitting next to my reading chair. I have plenty of caffeine, I mean tea, and a willing attitude. I tried to get a good night's sleep last night, but I'm a light sleeper and my wife snores. (What can you do?) But I'm ready!

Before we start, I want to wish all my fellow readers good luck. To all the cheerleaders, thank you in advance. When it's dark and the house is silent, your encouragement keeps me going. See you all at the finish line!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Booking Through Thursday

We’re moving in a couple weeks (the first time since I was 9 years old), and I’ve been going through my library of 3000+ books, choosing the books that I could bear to part with and NOT have to pack to move. Which made me wonder…

When’s the last time you weeded out your library? Do you regularly keep it pared down to your reading essentials? Or does it blossom into something out of control the minute you turn your back, like a garden after a Spring rain?

Or do you simply not get rid of books? At all? (This would have described me for most of my life, by the way.)

And–when you DO weed out books from your collection (assuming that you do) …what do you do with them? Throw them away (gasp)? Donate them to a charity or used bookstore? SELL them to a used bookstore? Trade them on Paperback Book Swap or some other exchange program?

I purged my library once in my life. When I got married and moved out of my parent's house, I gave away or sold many of the books that I had collected through high school and college. To this day I regret having done so. I have repurchased some of the books I got rid of and vow to never purge again.

For more answers to this question and others, check out Booking Through Thursday.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Hellenistic Philosophy by A. A. Long

I have had a long time interest in Hellenistic Philosophy. I admire the Epicureans, the Stoics, and the Sceptics. Over the last few years, I have read several to learn more about them. I looked forward to reading A. A. Long's survey of Hellenistic Philosophy for some time. So, I was highly disappointed when I found it nearly unreadable.

I am sure that for someone with more technical knowledge of philosophy this book is an excellent overview of Hellenistic Philosophy. However, I don't have that technical knowledge. I was looking for a book written for the lay audience. Hellenistic Philosophy is not that book. So, unless you are ready for a slog through a dizzying array of technical topics on Hellenistic philosophy, find another book to read.


Sunday, September 20, 2009

Sunday Salon: To Challenge Or Not

Samantha over at Bookworms and tea lovers is abandoning her book challenges:

I'm chucking my challenges out of the window. Yes, you heard me right, all challenges that have a time limit have been discarded. Which means I can read without guilt! No more thinking 'I really should read a book for my challenges'.

Reading Samantha's "cry of freedom" made me consider if I too should quit my book challenges. Like Samantha, I chafe under the constraints of the challenges in which I am participating. The constant pressure to ignore all the new and interesting books that I find each week in order to read books to which I am already committed.

However, I think that my reading benefits from the challenges. I find there is a certain amount of inertia in reading. It is easy to read books that are like all the other books I have read, to read only books that are entertaining or easy, or those in a particular genre that I find appealing. This is the first year in which I have participated in challenges. During this year I have read many books that I would never have read without the challenges. Literary fiction, literature in translation, novels in unfamiliar genres. So, while I can certainly see why Samantha chose the freedom of reading as she pleases, I think I am going to persevere with my challenges.

What about you, do you participate in challenges or not? How have they affected your reading?

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Murder at the Vicarage by Agatha Christie

In Agatha Christie's Murder at the Vicarage the vicar, Mr. Clement, returns from visiting a parishioner to find a dead body in his study. The dead man is Col. Protheroe, a judge in St. Mary Mead, and not well liked at all. But who could of have killed him? His wife? Her lover? Or perhaps someone else in the village with a grudge? When the police can make no headway toward solving the case, a village spinster, Miss Marple, steps up to solve the crime.

While I thoroughly enjoyed this book, I did not find it as easy to read as The Mysterious Affair at Styles. I kept losing track of who was who during the course of my reading. Also, Murder at the Vicarage marks the debut of Miss Marple. So, I was surprised to find that she is not the narrator, nor seemingly even a main character, despite being the one to solve the case. Still, I look forward to the next Miss Marple book, in part to see if she takes a more prominent role in it.


Health Care for Undocumented Aliens

I thought long and hard about whether to introduce politics here. I don't think many people, if any really, will actually read this, but there is always a certain element of risk when one takes a public stand on an issue. However, I strongly believe in public discourse and would like to add my voice to the clamor.

You were probably just as surprised as everyone else when you heard Rep. Joe Wilson interrupt the President's speech with his outburst. You have also probably viewed and read enough coverage on how rude he was (or wasn't) or how mistaken (or right) he is on the issue. However, I would like this opportunity to bring up something which I think is being largely ignored, something about which I have been thinking since Wilson's outburst.

I believe there is a strong economic case for insuring those that currently lack health insurance. Health care is already provided for them, the extremely expensive kind that they receive in the emergency room. And, when the uninsured are unable to pay for that care, we, those of us that can pay because we are insured, pay for that care when the the costs are passed on. So, it appears that we would save money by providing health care coverage for all, a savings produced when the formerly uninsured receive preventative or less expensive care from regular doctors.

By the same argument, shouldn't we provide health care coverage to undocumented aliens too? I know that this is a heretical view, but please, hear me out. If the argument made above in favor of providing coverage for the uninsured is accurate, and I believe there is strong evidence that this is so, wouldn't the same argument apply to undocumented aliens as well? Health care for undocumented aliens is the same emergency care relied upon by the uninsured. And when the undocumented alien is unable to pay, or is detained and deported like many want, who do you think will pay for that emergency care? That's right, you and I. So why not opt for the less expensive option by providing universal health care coverage, for every man, woman, and child who lives in our great country?

If you are truly interested, Andrew Romano has written an article for Newsweek that does a much better job of covering this issue than I could ever do.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Ex Libris by Anne Fadiman

Ex Libris is a wonderful little collection of essays about books, reading, and words written by Anne Fadiman. In my favorite, The Joy of Sesquipedalians, Fadiman writes about archaic or not often used words and the delight one can have when discovering them. In another essay, Secondhand Prose, Fadiman writes about the joy of finding bibliographic gems in used bookstores, a favorite of mine as well. Broad in range, the collection includes essays on joining libraries upon marriage, political correctness, food and literature, plagiarism, and much more.

If you are bookish in any way, I highly recommend you read a copy of Ex Libris. You won't regret it, I promise.


Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Green Angel by Alice Hoffman

When Green's family leaves her behind to weed the garden while they go to the city, Green is angry. Her anger turns into intense grief when a fiery disaster destroys the city, killing Green's sister, mother, and father, leaving Green to survive alone. What follows is a magical tale of how Green overcomes her grief to learn to live and love again.

Green Angel is not the kind of book that I would normally read. First, it is a YA novel, which I tend to avoid since I am an adult. (I know ... I am a little snobbish when it comes to reading.) Second, Alice Hoffman really isn't the type of author that usually catches my attention. However, when I couldn't find my first choice for a Green book for the The Colorful Reading Challenge, I saw that Mardel at Rabid Reader had read Green Angel as her Green book. Since I had just finished Blue Angel as my Blue book for the Colorful Reading Challenge, I thought I would give Green Angel a go.

I have to say that I am pretty happy I did. The story is sparsely told, but touching. The prose is wonderful. At 116 pages, it is a great short read, so go ahead, give it a try.


Monday, August 31, 2009

The Mysterious Affair at Styles by Agatha Christie

This famous mystery classic saw the debut of the great detective Hercule Poirot. Asked to investigate the suspicious murder of Mrs. Emily Inglethorp at Styles Court, Poirot, with a little help from Mr. Hastings, solves the case and gets his man.

After reading this great book, I couldn't help wondering what it would be like to read a Poirot mystery without having known David Suchet as Poirot from the PBS series Mystery! How would Poirot look in my minds eye? Well, I couldn't conjure up anything except for Suchet's wonderful portrayal of that famous Belgian detective. Having watched Suchet as Poirot on Mystery! for years did not spoil my enjoyment of this novel, despite my remembering bits and pieces of the very episode about the murder at Styles Court.

The Mysterious Affair at Styles is a great mystery novel, with an occasional comedic turn. I highly recommend this to any reader who has even a passing interest in mystery novels.


Blue Angel by Francine Prose

When it comes to embarrassment, I am a little squeamish. I don't like to read a book or watch television when a character is about to do something that will ruin their life in an extremely embarrassing way. So, I found reading Blue Angel by Francine Prose to be an uncomfortable experience.

Ted Swenson is a has-been novelist who makes his living teaching writing at an expensive albeit backwoods private college. When one of his students, Angela Argo, gives him a manuscript that shows real talent, Swenson wants to help her. But things soon go horribly awry. His marriage is destroyed and his tenure lost when Angela accuses him of sexual harassment.

Prose does a magnificent job of communicating both the depths of Swenson's unhealthy obsession and Angela's manipulative character. The events are an interesting contrast to those that take place in J. M. Coetzee's Disgrace where the professor is the transgressor. In Blue Angel the lines between culprit and victim are much blurrier.


Monday, August 24, 2009

The End of the Affair by Graham Greene

On a rainy night in London just after World War II, Maurice Bendrix, has a drink with Henry Miles. Henry tells Bendrix that he believes his wife, Sarah, is having an affair. Jealousy wracks Bendrix, who had an affair with Sarah some months previous. Despite the end of the affair, Bendrix' jealousy drives him to hire a private investigator to find out if Sarah is indeed having another affair. What follows is a tragic tale of adultery, hatred, and faith.

From the opening paragraphs of this book I knew that it would become one of my favorites. I found the prose to be exquisite. I read the book slowly, enjoying not only the plot, but also savoring each line of text. I loved this book and heartily recommend it to any reader who enjoys literary fiction.


Faceless Killers by Henning Mankell

The grisly double murder of an elderly couple on a remote farm baffles the Skane police. Inspector Kurt Wallander doggedly pursues the solution to the mystery while dealing with a divorce, an estranged daughter, and an aging father. If that wasn't enough, when the dying woman's single last word, foreigner, is leaked to the press, escalating violence against refugees in Skane must take priority. But, Wallander doesn't give up on the double murder, despite being forced to solve yet another when a refugee is shot dead.

I was sorely disappointed with this book. I watched a BBC adaptation of the Wallander series starring Kenneth Branagh that was wonderful. But Henning Mankell's first mystery novel left me flat. But, just like Wallander, I won't give up. Hopefully the rest of the series will prove more enjoyable.


Monday, August 17, 2009

Shakespeare Challenge

I wasn't going to join anymore challenges because I am kind of falling behind already. But, I just could not resist the Much Ado about Shakespeare Challenge being hosted by Andrea at The Little Bookworm. I mean, come on, it's Shakespeare!

Here are the rules:

The challenge runs from September 1, 2009 - April 26, 2009 (Shakespeare's Birthday). Read 6 of any Shakespeare's works or any book inspired by a Shakespeare play. You can also watch any movie from or inspired by a Shakespeare play.

And here is my list, which I reserve the right to change at will:

  1. Hamlet by the man himself

  2. Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead by Tom Stoppard

  3. King Lear by the man himself

  4. Fool by Christopher Moore

  5. A Thousand Acres by Jane Smiley

  6. Othello by the man himself

Sunday, August 09, 2009

Holy Mavericks by Shayne Lee and Phillip Sinitiere

Tyler Cowen of Marginal Revolution says that we should treat books like television shows. When a book is not appealing to you, you should "change the channel," throwing out the unappealing book and moving on to a better one. Holy Mavericks for me was like that television show you keep watching expecting it to get better until ends and you realized that it was awful the whole way through.

Holy Mavericks is supposed to be an investigation of five pastors: Joel Osteen, T. D. Jakes, Brian McLaren, Paula White, and Rick Warren, as innovators in the spiritual marketplace. As a non-Christian, I picked this book up at the library because I am intrigued by the subject. I was hoping for a book that would explain what these pastors believe and how they draw so many people to their churches. But the promise to look at the pastors using the tools of economics never materializes. Holy Mavericks is a jargon filled book that gives only shallow profiles of each pastor in question in which the authors miscite psychological ideas or name-drop philosophers in ways that are awkward and distracting. In addition, though published in 2009, the material is dated. The profile of Paula White includes a postscript about events that occurred in 2007.

This is the first book that I feel obligated to recommend not reading. It was awful and disappointing. If you are interested in this subject, I think perhaps the only use you will get from Holy Mavericks is the bibliography.


Thursday, August 06, 2009

Booking Through Thursday

What’s the most serious book you’ve read recently?

The last serious book I read was Fool's Gold by Gillian Tett. It is about the development of the credit derivatives that caused the financial mess in which we currently find ourselves. That crisis being something that is quite serious indeed.

How To Talk About Books You Haven't Read by Pierre Bayard

As a lifelong reader and bibliophile, I find the idea of talking about books I haven't read an anathema. That being said, Pierre Bayard has some very insightful things to say about reading in his book How To Talk About Books You Haven't Read. One important insight is that any act of reading a particular book is also an act of not reading other books. Like the economic idea of opportunity cost, you need to keep this in mind when you choose a book to read. Bayard also writes about how books are not just objective things, but are subjective. When you talk or think about a book, you are actually talking or thinking about your own mentally constructed version of the book. Others will have their own constructed version of the book which may have some overlap with your version of the book. A final insight is that a book has a place among all other books, a context in the collective library. When reading a book, you must consider this context.

As much as I find value in these insights, I did not find Bayard's book to be an enjoyable read. Perhaps is was too philosophical or obscure, but more likely I just don't like the idea of talking about books I have not read.


Fool's Gold by Gillian Tett

In Fool's Gold, Gillian Tett, a reporter for the Financial Times, tells the story of how esoteric credit derivatives were developed and championed by a small group of independent thinkers at J. P. Morgan and how these derivatives came to ran amok among other banks causing the financial crisis from which we currently suffer. She details how a small close-knit group at J. P. Morgan developed and championed credit derivative swaps (CDS). J. P. Morgan was quite careful with these derivatives. It is interesting to note that they looked into the possibility of creating similar instruments backed by residential mortgages, but thought it too risky.

When J. P. Morgan merged with Chase Manhattan, the change in culture led many of the team to leave JP Morgan Chase for other banks or hedge funds. Those that stayed watched as the credit derivatives they invented took off, sometimes baffled by the risks other banks seemed to be taking. Did those banks know more than they did?

Another merger, this time between JPMorgan Chase and Bank One, brings in Jaimie Dimon who was the head of Bank One. He soon took over as JP Morgan Chase. The previous derivatives team had been conservative, but Dimon, with his "fortress balance sheet" idea really drove home the possible dangers of credit derivatives. Other banks, however, continued increased their CDO outputs, leveraging themselves with increasing ratios to do so. Then the bottom fell out. Two hedge funds at Bear Stearns collapsed due to their heavy investment in CDOs. Downgrades by the rating agencies forced many banks to write down their derivative assets, leading to billions in losses. Mortgage lenders like Countrywide failed, then commercial banks like Northern Rock. Bear Stearns blew up, with J.P. Morgan swooping in the buy them for a song. More write downs led Lehman Brothers bankruptcy and AIGs government rescue. The original team watched in horror as all this unfolded, but retained a belief that the instruments themselves were a useful way to manage risk, even if their abuse led to a financial crisis.

If you are at all interested in the how we got into this current financial mess, Tett's book is a good place to start. Earlier this year, I read William Cohan's account of Bear Stearns fall, The House of Cards. I found this a much more readable book.


Monday, August 03, 2009

Rapt by Winifred Gallagher

In Rapt: Attention and the Focused Life the author, Winifred Gallagher, does an excellent job of covering the relevant neurological and psychological knowledge of how attention works. But I was hoping for more "attention" to the "Focused Life" part of the book's subtitle. Still, there is a lot of good stuff in the book.

Gallagher starts by explaining the latest research on how attention works. She notes that attention is regulated in two ways. Top down attention is regulated by your will. The other, bottom up attention, is more reactive. Attention is multiplicitous. You can think of it as a series of "sensory dials" that allow you to "adjust the volume" of sensory information. For example, you can "turn down" visual information while "turning up" aural information, like when you close your eyes in order to listen more closely. Gallagher also stresses that attention generates a mental model of reality, meaning your experience of reality is one step removed from actual reality. She goes on to discuss how emotion influences attention. Our brains are more sensitive to negative stimuli than to positive stimuli, likely due to evolution. This phenomenon is called the negativity bias. On the other hand, there is a positivity offset, the tendency for us to more often remember positive events despite your attending more closely to negative ones. There are also a number of attentional styles along that vary along different axes. First is in what direction attention is focused, outwardly (extroversion) or inwardly (introversion). Second is on what type of events generally receive more attention, positive events or negative events. (This appears to be temperamental and independent of the negativity bias.) Finally, attention can be respondent, rapt attention to sensory experience, or instrumental, goal oriented attention.

After discussing the mechanics of attention, Gallagher goes on to make a number suggestions for improving your life based on knowledge of these mechanics. I was disappointed somewhat by this part of the book. Many of her suggestions are facile. However, there is something to be said having them explicitly suggested. The suggestions that most caught my eye were:

  1. Meditation can improve your ability to control your attention. This is possible due to brain plasticity, the fact that your brain can be physically changed by your experiences and actions.

  2. Pay attention to your family. Gallagher cites statistics that show the woeful inattention with which we treat each other.

  3. To make good decisions, be sure to pay attention to the right things. More specifically, Gallagher cites The Paradox Of Choice by Barry Schwartz and reiterates his suggestion of "satisficing." Satisficing is the difficult art of making a choice that satisfies you without over analysing or searching for the perfect choice.

Ultimately, what I got out of Rapt was the admonishment that controlling your attention can have a positive impact on your life. The Vietnamese Zen master Thich Nhat Hanh has a wonderful metaphor. What you pay attention to nourishes the seeds in your mind. If you pay attention to positive things in your environment, you will nourish the beautiful flowers of your mind. However, if you pay attention to negative things around you, you will nourish the rank weeds of your mind.

If you are interested in cognitive science or the mechanics of attention, you might enjoy reading this book. If, however, you are looking for some practical advice, it still might be worth a read, but is more likely better skimmed.


Saturday, August 01, 2009

Rhyming Life & Death

Rhyming Life & Death is a strange stream of consciousness multi-point-of-view novel by Israeli novelist Amos Oz. Nominally it is about eight hours of an unnamed author's life on a summer night in Tel-Aviv. The book jumped out at me from the New Books self at my local library. I picked it up in order to replace a book that fell off of my list for the Orbis Terrarum Challenge. Despite finding it touching in places, I was disappointed with the novel.


Saturday, July 25, 2009

Stiff by Mary Roach

Have you ever wondered about what happens to your body after you die? If you have, Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers by Mary Roach is the book for you. Roach writes about a number of ways in which the bodies of the dead are used: medical education and research, ballistics research, forensics research, etc. She also writes about the different final dispositions of the dead, the traditional burial, the more modern cremation, or even newer ones like composting and liquefaction. Not for the squeamish reader, Roach's book is a trip through the morbid afterlife of our bodies here on earth.

This was my second book by Roach. I thoroughly enjoyed my first, Bonk, finding it quite hilarious at many points. Stiff was a little disappointing. Her attempts at humor seemed more strained, perhaps because of the subject. It was, however, an fascinating book about a variety of topics. Overall I think I found this book disappointing because I had such high hopes for it given how much I liked Bonk. That being said, Stiff is a solidly enjoyable read. If you are curious or even just a very eclectic reader, I would suggest adding Stiff to your TBR.


Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Wordy Shipmates by Sarah Vowell

Wordy Shipmates by Sarah Vowell has been on my TBR list for a while. I cannot remember where I heard about it first, but as a regular listener of This American Life, I am somewhat familiar with her work. Wordy Shipmates is about the Puritans who founded Boston. No, not the Pilgrims of the cliché Thanksgiving parades, but the dour Calvinists of the Massachusetts Bay Colony. Vowell traces American Exceptionalism and even much of our democracy itself back to these people. Jumping off from the sermons of John Cotton, Vowell regales us with the tale of colonial Boston. She writes about the heated religious disputes between Cotton and his two nemeses, Roger Williams and Anne Hutchison, both of whom would be banished from the Massachusetts Bay Colony. Vowell also discusses the colonists relationship with the Native Americans, culminating in the brutal Peqoud War.

Vowell's writing is breezy and conversational. It is sprinkled with ironic humor, some of which made me laugh and then read aloud to my wife. Although some might not take kindly to her critique of both American Exceptionalism and a strain of anti-intellectualism that she feels springs in part from these colonists, I certainly enjoyed her book. Of particular interest to me was her discussion of the bookishness of these colonists in particular. For example, when a friend of John Winthrop's was trying to dissuade him from going to America, the friend wrote:

How hard will it be for one brought up among books and learned men, to live in a barbarous place, where is no learning and less civility?

Or perhaps when John Cotton escapes a certain prison sentence by coming to America because in prison there would be no opportunity for books or pens.


Thursday, July 16, 2009

House of Cards by William Cohan

House of Cards: A Tale of Hubris and Wretched Excess On Wall Street is an engaging look at the fall of Bear Stearns. Mr. Cohan makes an admirable attempt at explaining how the giant investment bank imploded. Unfortunately, I expected a better book. Cohan's book suffers from it's length and from the sheer number of people that about whom he writes. I found myself taking notes just to keep track of who was who. Also, at the end of the book, Cohan tacks on a little bit about Lehman Brothers bankruptcy. But this coverage of Lehman Brothers is shallow and irrelevant to the main story of the book, that of Bear Stearns.

My overall feeling about the book is that Cohan rushed to get it published, and his haste shows. It reminds me of Blaise Pascal's quip about writing a long letter because he didn't have time to make it brief. Perhaps Mr. Cohan didn't have time to make his book clearer and shorter.


Sunday, July 12, 2009

Sunday Salon

This week I wrapped up the Numbers Challenge, for which I read the following books:

  1. 39 Steps by John Buchan  review

  2. 7 Deadly Sins by Aviad Kleinberg  review

  3. A History of the World in 10 1/2 Chapters  review

  4. At Swim-Two-Birds by Flann O'Brien  review

  5. And Then There Were None (also published as Ten Little Indians) by Agatha Christie  review

I am currently reading House of Cards, a book about Bear Stearns and the crash of 2008. I started it earlier this year but put it aside. It grabbed my attention again this month, so I picked up and started reading it again. It is an interesting read so far, but it is sometimes difficult to keep track of all the names because the author quotes and talks about so many people. I continue to read What Is Ancient Philosophy? by Pierre Hadot, albeit rather slowly. I also started The Time Paradox by Philip Zimbardo (of the Stanford Prison Study fame) and John Boyd. In addition, I will be starting a novel too, I just haven't decided which yet. I am getting a little burned out on serious fiction, so I am probably going to read some easy fantasy or sci-fi. That would leave me reading four books at one time. How many to you usually read at once?

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

At-Swim-Two-Birds by Flann O'Brien

At-Swim-Two-Birds is such an odd and chaotic novel that it is really hard to review. It was so queer, in fact, that I cannot even really decide if I liked it or not. Nominally, it is about a sullen student of Irish Literature who is writing a novel about a novelist whose characters conspire against him. Perhaps enjoyable by those that like really strange novels, I found it more confusing than anything else.


Saturday, July 04, 2009

Bonk by Mary Roach

Bonk: The Curious Coupling of Science and Sex was a fantastic read! Mary Roach's book discusses a variety of topics from the multifaceted world of sex research. Despite the book's subject, or perhaps because of it, Roach can be hilariously funny. At times I laughed so hard there were tears in my eyes. Unfortunately, on the rare occasion, Roach's attempts at humor crossed over the line between funny and juvenile. But don't let that stop you from reading this fascinating and brilliantly funny book. Fair warning though, the book is not for those easily put off by frank discussions of sex.


For a preview of what you will find in Bonk, try listening to a talk she gave at TED:

Sunday, June 28, 2009

In The Land of Invented Languages by Arika Okrent

In the Land of Invented Languages by Arika Okrent is about artificially constructed languages. Okrent's style in this book closely resembles that of a travelogue. For several of the languages Okrent gives a little historical background mixed with a description of her personal experiences with the language in question. At times the material can be a little dry, it is linguistics after all. But don't let that discourage you because Okrent can be uproariously funny too.

I found the topic and Okrent's style so engaging, I read the book in a little over a day. I enjoyed it immensely, recognizing several of the languages she discusses. My only disappointment was that, at times, Okrent may have been a little too breezy. I would have enjoyed a little more background in linguistics and perhaps a more description of how the constructed languages she discusses worked.

If you don't know anything about artificial languages, Okrent is a capable tour guide. I would recommend this book to anyone interested in the geeky world of constructed languages, even if that interest is only a passing one.


Sunday, June 21, 2009

And Then There Were None

And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie is an iconic whodunit that lives up to its promise. The prose felt a little archaic, but the plot and mystery were compelling. If you are looking for a quick and enjoyable beach read, you won't go wrong with this mystery novel.

As an aside, I have decided to count this toward the Numbers Challenge. I believe it is within the rules because "None" is a number word in the same sense as "First". Also, this novel has also been published as Ten Little Indians, which would definitely qualify as a "Number" book.


The Overflowing Brain by Torkel Klingberg

In his book The Overflowing Brain: Information Overload and the Limits of Working Memory, Dr. Klingberg discusses what working memory is and how it is highly correlated with attention control, IQ, general intelligence, and problem solving ability. He goes on to explain how this topic relates to ADHD and the treatment of this disorder.

I have a B.S. in Psychology that is several years old, so I had high hopes of updating my knowledge about attention and working memory. But, I was disappointed to find the book did not really add much to my understanding of these topics. In addition, the quality of the book itself was underwhelming. There are numerous spelling mistakes and other typographical errors throughout the book. However, if you don't have the benefit of a Psychology degree and you can look past the typos, you might find this book to be an interesting book about how the brain works.


Sunday, June 14, 2009

7 Deadly Sins by Aviad Kleinberg

7 Deadly Sins by Aviad Kleinberg is an essay like book that takes the reader through ideas about sin from Jewish, Christian, and Classical perspectives. Kleinberg is quite erudite in his writing, citing a variety of sources. I found the book to be quite intriguing, but so wide ranging that it is hard to summarize. For anyone interested in the topic directly or just fascinated by religion or philosophy, I think 7 Deadly Sins would be a quick enjoyable read.


Monday, June 01, 2009

Movie Review: Up

This weekend my wife and I took our seven year old son, Cullen, to the movie Up. It is always a gamble when you go to a movie aimed at children. Many are a barrel of laughs for the child, but will bore the adults in attendance to tears. I am happy to report that this is not the case for Up. This movie is a wonderfully constructed story that is entertaining for children and adults.

As a boy, Carl Fredrickson worships his adventurer hero, Charles Muntz. The explorer is eventually disgraced as a fraud when he brings what scientists believe is a fake bird skeleton back from a trip to South America. Carl, on the other hand, soon meets a young girl, Ellie, who shares his passion for adventure. They become lifelong friends and eventually marry. Their whole life together, Carl and Ellie want to go on a South American adventure. But, life's little mishaps are always getting in the way. Sadly, Ellie dies before the two can fulfill their shared wish for adventure.

So, Carl decides to attach thousands of balloons to this house and fly away to South America in a bid to fulfill his promise to Ellie. But Carl didn't count on eight year old wilderness explorer Russell to be on his porch when he took off. So, Carl and Russell go on the adventure of a lifetime.

This movie is uproariously funny. I highly recommend it. If you don't have a child of your own to take with you, borrow one, or just go see it yourself.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

A History of the World in 10 1/2 Chapters by Julian Barnes

Julian Barnes A History of the World In 10 1/2 Chapters is a set of loosely connected stories revolving mostly around the story of Noah and the Great Flood. The first is a hilarious retelling of the story by a "stowaway" on the Ark. The second is an even funnier story of insects being tried in a criminal proceeding, made even funnier by the fact that the story appears to be based on actual historical documents of animals being tried during the middle ages. While the first two stories are funny, others are deeper, more thought-provoking. For example, Barnes tells the story of the Wreck of the Medusa and Gericault's famous painting of the same.

Barnes is known for irony and satire, and this book is no exception. If you like your humor sly and subtle, give A History of the World In 10 1/2 Chapters a try.


Monday, April 27, 2009

Musing Mondays

Do you read non-fiction regularly? Do you read it in a different way or place than you read fiction?

I read quite a lot of non-fiction on a regular basis. I think that I go in cycles. For a while I might read mostly fiction, but then I will start to read more non-fiction. But, I always have a non-fiction book in progress. It is just a question of how much time I spend reading each type of work.

For the most part, I read non-fiction at a slower pace than fiction. I am more likely to underline things or take notes in the margin (if I own the book). Finally, I am much more likely to purchase non-fiction than fiction. It seems to me that I refer back to non-fiction more often than I do to fiction. But, that being said, I am still a sucker for owning my own books.

The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz

The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz is nominally about Oscar, a Dominican nerd. But more than anything else, the novel is about a fuku, a curse that afflicts Oscar's family. What follows is the tale not only of Oscar and his misfortune, but the misfortune of his mother and grandparents as well. But, be warned. The novel is full of Dominican language and nerdish allusions.

Junot Diaz tells his tale with humor and tenderness. I thought this novel was absolutely fabulous. However, it may require a little work on the part of the reader. My twenty year old high school Spanish was no match for Diaz' Dominican idioms. Nor did I understand all the nerdy allusions throughout the novel. (I did, however, understand a little too many for my comfort, if you know what I mean.) The website The Annotated Oscar Wao provided all the help I needed. I would recommend the site to any reader that does not speak Spanish and/or was not a nerd during the eighties. I would also highly recommend this Pulitzer Prize winning novel.


King Solomon's Mines by H. Rider Haggard

King Solomon's Mines by H. Rider Haggard is a classic adventure tale set on the "dark continent" of Africa. It is the tale of three men on a search for a missing brother and the untold riches of King Solomon's Mines. It is full of wild animals, warring tribes, and an evil witch.

King Solomon's Mines is what could be called a good yarn, nothing special perhaps but enjoyable nonetheless. I definitely enjoyed it enough to add H. Rider Haggard's other classic tale, She to my TBR list.


Tuesday, April 21, 2009

It's Tuesday, Where Are You?

I am, despite its physical impossibility, in several places at once:

  1. I am in New York City on Wall Street trying to figure out what happened. (House of Cards by William Cohan)

  2. I am in Durban, South Africa, about to set out towards King Solomon's Mines (King Solomon's Mines by H. Rider Haggard)

  3. I am also in the lamely named Megacity. (For the screenplay I am writing for Script Frenzy.)

Red Harvest by Dashiell Hammett

Red Harvest by Dashiell Hammett is the story of an anonymous Continental op, a private dick, that is hired by newspaper man Donald Willsson to come to Personville for a case. As soon as he arrives in Personville, which is sometimes called Poisonville, his employer is murdered before they can meet. So begins the story of intrigue and deceit in which the Continental op finds himself in the middle of a war between four men who want to run Personville.

I was quite disappointed by this novel. I love the movie Yojimbo, which is said to based, in part, on Red Harvest. Perhaps this led me to set the bar too high, but I did not feel that Red Harvest lived up to its billing. It was entertaining, sure, but it really wasn't anything special. So, if you like noir, give it a try. Otherwise, you might want to look elsewhere for your fill of crime and punishment.


Monday, April 20, 2009

Musing Mondays

Coming towards the end of April, we’re a third of the way through the way through the year. What’s the favourite book you’ve read so far in 2009? What about your least favourite? (question courtesy of MizB)

That is a really tough question. I read a lot of fiction and non-fiction books. It is too hard to pick an overall favorite. So, as an added bonus for you the reader, I will pick my favorite of each.


The Housekeeper and the Professor by Yoko Ogawa is easily my favorite work of fiction so far. It is so elegantly written and it is a great story about friendship and love. I highly recommend it to you.


It is a tough choice, but I have to go with How We Decide by Jonah Lehrer. This is a book about the neuroscience of how we make decisions, which may sound dry and boring. It isn't! Lehrer begins each chapter with the riveting story of a really hard decision someone had to make: the pilot of a plane who cannot control any of the flight surfaces, a Lt. Commander who has just seconds to decide whether to fire on unknown targets threatening the lives of those serving on an aircraft carrier at war, and many more. It is a great book.

Least Favorite

All the Names by Jose Saramago. I know he is a nobel prize winner but I just cannot get into his novels. I abandoned this one earlier this month. It is the second one I have tried by him. I also attempted to read Blindness several years ago, but didn't get that far in that one either.

Silver Canyon by Louis L'Amour

Louis L'Amour's Silver Canyon is the story of Matthie Brennan, a drifter and gunslinger who rides into dusty town of Hattan's Point and finds more than he bargains for. Almost immediately, he finds the woman he loves and, he insists, is going to marry, Moira Macleran. To win her hand, Matt vows to settle down. He hears that there is a bitter, sometimes violent, dispute over the land of the Two-Bar Ranch. Sensing the opportunity to make a settled life that would allow him to marry Moira, Matt leaps into the fray by forming a partnership with the owner of the Two-Bar. What follows is an adventure, for Matt and the reader.

The plot, while intricate, is easily followed. L'Amour's prose is simple and clean, making the book an easy read. It was my first western and I have to say I enjoyed it more than I thought.


Sunday, April 19, 2009

Read-a-Thon April 2009 -- Hour 24

I made it! I finished Red Harvest by Dashiell Hammett this hour.

1. Which hour was most daunting for you?

The last one, it was really hard to stay awake.

2. Could you list a few high-interest books that you think could keep a Reader engaged for next year?

My books were pretty good overall, but nothing special enough to recommend specifically for the read-a-thon.

3. Do you have any suggestions for how to improve the Read-a-thon next year?

Nope! It is great as is.

4. What do you think worked really well in this year’s Read-a-thon?

The cheerleaders were relentless with their encouraging comments.

5. How many books did you read?

I read from 5 books and completed 4.

6. What were the names of the books you read?

  1. The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz

  2. On Love and Death by Patrick Suskind

  3. Silver Canyon by Louis L'Amour

  4. Red Harvest by Dashiell Hammett

  5. The Graveyard Book by N. Gaiman

7. Which book did you enjoy most?

The Graveyard Book, not only because it is a great story, so far, but also because I am reading it to my seven year old son.

8. Which did you enjoy least?

Red Harvest, but that may be just because it was my last read and I am so tired.

9. If you were a Cheerleader, do you have any advice for next year’s Cheerleaders?

I was a reader.

10. How likely are you to participate in the Read-a-thon again? What role would you be likely to take next time?

I am definitely game to be a reader again!

Final stats -- 709pp in 15:57:17 | 5 books read from, 4 books completed | awake for 24 (well, actually 25 1/2) hours.

To my fellow readers, good night or good day in whatever part of the world you live. Go to bed! To the cheerleaders, thank you for your encouragement. Finally to the organizers, thank you for making this event possible.

Read-a-Thon April 2009 -- Hour 23

Breakfast was yummy, but it did not wake me up. But with only one hour left, I am sure I will make it.

I am approaching the end of Red Harvest, but I don't think I will be able to finish it during the read-a-thon. I have 41 pages left, but I haven't been able to get anywhere near that number of pages in an hour in the last few hours of the read-a-thon. But, I will make a valiant effort.

Running stats: 668 pp in 14:51:47 | 5 books read from, 3 books completed.

Read-a-Thon April 2009 -- Hour 22

I have hit the dreaded wall! If I am still for more than a few minutes, I start to doze off. But it's OK, I just keep moving. I am going to try eating some breakfast to see if that helps. Only 2 hours left!!!

I continued to read Red Harvest in hour 22, although at this point I find myself rereading paragraphs when I start to lose track of what is going on. I'm sure this is a product of fatigue rather than poor writing on Hammett's part.

Running stats: 650pp in 14:07:41 | 5 books read from, 3 books completed.

Read-a-Thon April 2009 -- Hour 21

In this hour, my caffeine has deserted me. I started doing that thing where you start to fall asleep, but when your head falls you immediately awake. So, I made myself another cup of tea. I continue to read Red Harvest at a crawling pace. But, just like the end of a marathon, as long as you keep moving forward, you will reach the end.

Running stats: 631 pp in 13:32:38 | 5 books read from, 3 books complete.

Read-a-Thon April 2009 -- Hour 20

Still awake, still reading Red Harvest, still reading slowly.

Running stats: 612pp in 12:53:51 | 5 books read from, 3 books completed.

Read-a-Thon April 2009 -- Hour 19

I am starting to get into Red Harvest now. I am also feeling a little more awake now. It is a little after 2:00 a.m. here in the Houston area. I just might be getting my second wind. Hopefully it can carry me to the finish.

Running stats: 586pp in 12:07:53 | 5 books read from, 3 books completed.

Read-a-Thon April 2009 -- Hour 18

All right! The tea has helped a little. I have also started standing to read instead of sitting. Lying down is definitely out.

This hour I continued reading Red Harvest. The story hasn't really grabbed me yet. I am reading much more slowly than I did earlier in the day. It might take longer for me to get into the book because of the more leisurely pace.

Running stats: 565pp in 11:28:17 | 5 books read from, 3 books completed.

Read-a-Thon April 2009 -- Hour 17

I started Red Harvest this hour. I also started to become quite sleepy. I have brewed a cup of tea. I hope that helps.

Jessica's mini-challenge:

1. Go back to your blog, and tell us about the books you’re rereading during the mini-challenge. Maybe post a picture of each book and describe why you love it enough to reread it.


2. Go back to your blog, and give us a list of your top favorite rereads of all time. You know, those books that you can go to time and time again for comfort and escape. Again, pictures are good. :)

I am not re-reading any books during the read-a-thon. At least I don't plan to. I am not really much into re-reading at all, to be honest. There are only a few works of literature that I have returned to:

  • Gilgamesh

  • The Iliad and The Odyssey by Homer

  • Beowulf

  • The Mahabharata by Vyasa

Running stats: 542pp in 10:50:07 | 5 books read from, 3 books completed.

Read-a-Thon April 2009 -- Hour 16

In this hour I finished Silver Canyon by Louis L'Amour. I read this for the Colorful Reading Challenge. My next book, Red Harvest by Dashiell Hammett, is also for the Colorful Reading Challenge.

It was in this hour that my wife went to bed. So now the house is silent. Without the hustle and bustle of family, I can finally focus on reading. But of course, now that it is getting later, I find myself getting sleepy. And the quiet is so conducive to sleep ...

Running stats: 522pp in 10:19:21 | 4 books read from, 3 books completed.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Read-a-Thon April 2009 -- Hour 15

Alas, story time did not continue into this hour. My son became cranky and so my wife decided it was bed time. After help putting him to bed, I continued reading Silver Canyon. I have enjoyed it more than I expected. I am hoping to finish in in the hour 16, or early in hour 17.

Running stats: 462pp in 9:21:35 | 4 books read from, 2 books completed

Read-a-Thon April 2009 -- Hour 14

This hour I read some more of Silver Canyon. But I also got to read my son part of The Graveyard Book for story time, which will continue into the next hour.

Running stats: 424pp. in 8:42:42 | 4 books read from, 2 books completed.

Read-a-Thon April 2009 -- Hour 13

I am still reading Silver Canyon by Louis L'Amour. I am starting to get into the story now. I wish I had held this book in reserve though. The plot, while engaging, is hardly difficult to follow and the author's prose is clear and simple. This would have been a good book to read later, when I am very tired. Oh well. I am too interested now to put it aside.

Running stats: 400 pages in 8:09:43 | 4 books read from, 2 books completed.

Read-a-Thon April 2009 -- Hour 12

Halfway there! This hour I continued to read Silver Canyon. I also had dinner which has given me a renewed vigor. Also, the storms have abated and I can look out on blue skies over Texas this evening.

The newest mini-challenge is the mid-event survey:

1. What are you reading right now?

Silver Canyon by Louis L'Amour

2. How many books have you read so far?

I have read from 4 books so far. Of those 4, I have completed 2.

3. What book are you most looking forward to for the second half of the Read-a-thon?

I am most looking forward to story time this evening when I get to read The Graveyard Book to my son.

4. Did you have to make any special arrangements to free up your whole day?

Yes. My wife and son have been pretty cooperative in allowing me time to do this. I am grateful to them for that because I have enjoyed myself so far.

5. Have you had many interruptions? How did you deal with those?

I have really only had three classes of disruption. First, normal family stuff. I helped my wife cook dinner, I watched my son when my wife took a nap. The second was eating. I was able to read during some of those two disruptions, but just let the rest be a break. The third disruption was the stormy weather that plagued the Houston area for most of the day. I really don't like thunderstorms. They distracted me, but I just tried to keep on reading.

6. What surprises you most about the Read-a-thon, so far?

I don't remember as many people participating last time, so that surprised me.

7. Do you have any suggestions for how to improve the Read-a-thon next year?

Nope. I think the Read-a-Thon is great the way it is!

8. What would you do differently, as a Reader or a Cheerleader, if you were to do this again next year?

Nothing really. Maybe I would like a better chair to sit in, perhaps, but that's about it.

9. Are you getting tired yet?

I am getting tired, but fortunately I do not feel sleepy yet.

10. Do you have any tips for other Readers or Cheerleaders, something you think is working well for you that others may not have discovered?

Nothing really. Although I would like to applaud the Cheerleaders. It lifts my spirits when I read their comments.

Running stats: 380pp in 7:40:35 | 4 books read from, 2 books completed.

Read-a-Thon April 2009 -- Hour 11

This hour I continued reading Silver Canyon. It is kind of interesting because I have never read a western before. It is pretty good, but so far nothing really special.

Running stats: 356 pages in 6:56:10 | 4 books read, 2 books completed.

Read-a-Thon April 2009 -- Hour 10

I didn't get much reading done this hour. I started Silver Canyon by Louis L'Amour. I have only read the first two chapters, but it starts off at a rip-roaring pace.

My eyes are starting to sting a little and I am getting a headache. I tried to get a good night's sleep last night, but I awoke in the middle of the night and slept restlessly, if at all, after that. It is unfortunate that I am feeling this way this early in the Read-a-Thon. But, if it was easy, everybody would do it, right?

Running stats: 333 pages in 6:37:08 | 4 books read, 2 completed.

Read-a-Thon April 2009 -- Hour 8 & 9

The thunderstorms here got so bad during hour 8 I thought it prudent to turn off all my computer equipment, so I shall combine hours 8 & 9.

First, the mini-challenge for hour 8:

  1. What is the name of your local library? What city is it located in?: I am fortunate to have two local library systems to use. The Fort Bend Public Library System (mostly the First Colony Branch in Sugar Land) and Houston Public Library System.

  2. How often do you go to the library? If you're a regular, do the staff know you?: I probably go to the library twice a week. I am sure the staff recognizes me, but I wouldn't say the know me. When I lived in a smaller town outside of New Orleans called St. Rose, I got to know a couple of the librarians, but here the libraries are much busier.

  3. Do you browse while you're there or just pick up items you have placed on reserve?: Oh I browse! I cannot go into the library without at least perusing the New Books shelves. But most of the time I feel compelled to walk through the stacks to see if there are any interesting books that remains undiscovered.

  4. What is your favorite thing about your local library?: The books, of course!

During the last couple of hours I finished The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao (yeah!!!) and read a little bit of The Graveyard Book to my seven year old son. I will provide a full review of Junot Diaz' book in a day or two. As for The Graveyard Book, it is fabulous. I read it aloud for story time. My son, wife, and I are enjoying it immensely.

Running stats: 315pp in 6:16:57 | 3 books read, 2 books completed.

Read-a-Thon April 2009 -- Hour 7

This hour the storms continue unabated, and I continue my reading of The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao. I have less than 100 pages now, so hopefully in the next hour or two I will be moving on to another book, probably Silver Canyon by Louis L'Amour

Running stats: 224 pages in 4:39:26 | 1 book completed.

Read-a-Thon April 2009 -- Go For A Walk?

The challenge for this hour is go for a walk. Well, as you may have gathered from my previous posts, that is kind of a problem here in the Houston area. We're getting some really nasty thunderstorms here (severe thunderstorm warnings, tornado warnings, flood watches, the whole enchilada). So, no dice on the walk.

When I look outside I see dark clouds, and so much rain that it is pooling in large puddles in the street (which is normal for this area). We are in for a little bit more stormy weather, but hopefully by later this afternoon all these thunderstorms will be out of here.

I took some pictures, but the camera is set up for my wife's computer, so she has to put them on her laptop and send them to me. I will post then when I get them.

Here are the pictures I took:

Read-a-Thon April 2009 -- Hour 6

I read some of The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, had lunch (which my lovely wife brought to me), and checked the weather frequently to find out about the yucky weather we are having.

Running Stats: 200 pages in 4:10:15 | 1 book completed.

Read-a-Thon April 2009 -- Hour 5

I finished On Love and Death by Patrick Suskind and started back on The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao. Meanwhile, the storms here in Houston are getting nastier.

Running stats: 177 pages in 3:19:07 | 1 Book Completed

Read-a-Thon April 2009 -- Hour 4

During hour 4 I decided to take a break from The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao. I started On Love and Death by Patrick Suskind. It is a very short book of 76 pages. I didn't quite finish it this hour. I will do so in the next hour before returning to The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao.

Running stats: 150 pages in 2:49:49

Read-a-Thon April 2009 -- Hour 3

Still working my way through The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao. What started as a very funny book has become a little sad now. But it is still a great read so far.

The weather here in the Houston area is turning nasty. I don't like thunderstorms and we're getting some doozies here this morning. I know some others are buried in snow, but how is the weather where you are? Is it conducive to your reading?

Running stats: 95 pages in 2:09:47

Read-a-Thon April 2009 -- Introduction Post

Three facts about me:

  1. I am a married to a wonderful woman and together we have a really great son.

  2. I am a freelance programmer/stay-at-home-dad.

  3. I am doing Script Frenzy this month too.

How many books do you have in your TBR pile for the next 24 hours?

See my pre-read-a-thon post.

Do you have any goals for the read-a-thon?

I would, of course, like to stay up and read during the entire 24 hours. I think I can do that, I did last year. I also would like to finish The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, Silver Canyon, and Red Harvest. But at my current pace, that isn't likely to happen. But most of all I want to have fun!

Where are you reading from today?

Right now, from my home office. But I will be reading from several different places in the house. As a matter of fact, in the next hour I plan to read while walking around a little bit.

If you’re a veteran read-a-thoner, Any advice for people doing this for the first time?

I have done one other Read-a-Thon. But my advice comes more from running several marathons. Pace Yourself! This is going to be a long event. Don't come out of the gates at a sprint. You will pay for it later. Take breaks. Get up and walk around. Rest your eyes by looking at stuff in the distance every so often. But most of all, even though it may get grueling, have fun!

Read-a-Thon April 2009 -- Hour 2

I am still reading The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao. I feel like I read a little more slowly this time. It seemed there were more allusions or Spanish expressions to look up in the chapter I just finished.

Running stats 57 pages in 1:21:49.

Read-a-Thon April 2009 -- Hour 1

For the first hour, I read from The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz. I have enjoyed the book so far. It is quite funny. My only complaint is that there are quite a few Spanish expressions in the book that I cannot read. However, I did find The Annotated Oscar Wao where you can find translations. Others have complained about the allusions to sci-fi/fantasy culture, but as a geek, I have understood most of them.

This is my second Read-a-Thon. This time I decided to use a stopwatch to keep track of how much time I spend actually reading. My running total on time 0:46:43. In that time I have read 32 pages.