John Heaton (jheaton) wrote,
John Heaton

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Book dump: March 2008

I just realized I never posted the books I read during the month of March. I remember starting work on a post, but I can't find any trace of it. Oh well.

The Canon: A Whirligig Tour of the Beautiful Basics of Science by Natalie Angier
There was a lot of interesting stuff to be found in this books, and I learned a few things, but I found Angier's writing style very distracting. You could tell she was trying really hard to be witty and clever, but her efforts fell flat more often than not.
Bridge of Sighs by Richard Russo
If Richard Russo isn't my favorite author, I'm not sure who is. I didn't like Bridge of Sighs as much as my favorite of his book, Straight Man, but I did like it more than I did his previous novel, the Pulitzer Prize-winning Empire Falls. (Though I concede Empire Falls was probably better. I just didn't like it as much.)
A Person of Interest by Susan Choi
Loosely based on the Unabomber case, A Person of Interest sort of an anti-thriller, in that it tells a story that could be told very effectively as a thriller -- an innocent man comes under suspicion for the murder of a colleague, and goes on the run to track down the real killer! -- in a decidedly unthrilling way, concentrating on the emotional impact the murder and subsequent investigation has on him. Well written, but a little flat.
Walden Two by B. F. Skinner
Living Walden Two by Hilke Kuhlmann
When I read Walden Two for the first time in college, I found Skinner's utopian vision very appealing, and even briefly flirted with the idea of trying to join a real-life community based on his ideas. So when I heard about Living Walden Two, I knew I had to track down a copy. It's a study of various attempts to establish communes following the Walden Two model and how they, almost without exception, discovered that Skinner's fictional community could not be recreated in real life. I found it fascinating; I wish I'd had a chance to read it in college.
Doctor 13: Architecture and Mortality by Brian Azzarello and Cliff Chiang
I thought this was great, a fun (and beautifully drawn) metatextual romp through some of the sillier back alleys of the DC Universe. Part of the fun for me was seeing all these weird, obscure characters in action, and that part of me wonders if that the presence of, say, Infectious Lass or Genius Jones might make this story kind of impenetrable to people who haven't read a lot of DC Comics. But the rest of me thinks it's not necessary to know about them in advance, and that the theme of the story -- that creators cannot fully control their creations once they've been made available to the world at large -- would be accessible and appreciable by pretty much anyone in any fandom, be it Star Wars, Buffy, LOTR, Harry Potter, or whatever.
Keeper by Greg Rucka
Greg Rucka is, oddly enough, a character in the graphic novel listed above (he's the one in the Wonder Woman mask), so it's kind of funny that I finished Keeper so soon after Architecture and Mortality. Keeper is not quite up to the standards of Rucka's later work, but it was his first book, so I'll cut him a little slack.
The Party Faithful: How and Why Democrats Are Closing the God Gap by Amy Sullivan
An interesting analysis of how the Democratic party lost touch with religious voters and the efforts now underway to reconnect with them. Speaking as a religious progressive and life-long Democrat (Well, OK, I voted in the Republican presidential primary in 1988, and I've voted for a few other Republicans and Independents here and there), I find that encouraging.
Playing for Pizza by John Grisham
Subject matter aside -- it's about a washed-up pro quarterback who signs a contract to play for the Parma Panthers of the Lega Nazionale Football Americano Italiano, a.k.a. NFL Italy -- this reads just like pretty much every other John Grisham novel. Which is not a bad thing, in my opinion; Grisham may not be a great author, but he's a hell of a storyteller.

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