Monday, October 31, 2011

Scouring Books: The James Bond Files Volume 1

The James Bond Files Volume 1
(Casino Royale, Moonraker, Live and Let Die)
by Ian Fleming

Originally published in 1953-55, these are the first Bond books (having been endorsed by Javier Marias in Your Face Tomorrow, they now have an official litarary pedigree for me, but I had this collection before I found that out), which didn't become popular reading material until the films began being made, but even then, I'm not sure many have actually read them, which is certainly a little strange. I'm glad to have at least some of them in my collection.

Bookshelf status: unread.

Scouring Books: Mockingjay

by Suzanne Collins

Originally published in 2010, this is the conclusion to the Hunger Games trilogy. Part of why these books became so popular is that everyone began to realize they were at least better-written than Stephenie Meyer's Twilight Saga, and so it was assumed that if young readers had to read these kinds of books, they might as well be led to believe that Collins wasn't just writing better, but wasn't writing drivel. Don't exactly count on that assessment. I got this to round out the aborted reading group experience, but I'm not sure if or when I'll actually read it.

Bookshelf status: unread.

Scouring Books: The Hunger Games

The Hunger Games
by Suzanne Collins

Originally published in 2008, this is the basis of next spring's hotly-anticipated film, and the start of a three-volume series that has come to succeed the Twilight Saga in the hearts of young adult readers. The only problem is, it's not really very good. It's readable, sure, and features a strong female protagonist, but not very flatteringly. Katniss Everdeen exists in an American that has been torn apart, and basically feeds on itself, forcing an annual reality show contest on the descendents of an unsuccessful rebellion. Katniss is a survivor, but Collins doesn't really distinguish her feelings about survival from her ability to survive, her conviction to rise above the system from being drawn into its most frivolous features. It's all the more horrifying that Katniss, and indeed everyone else, so willingly submits to a system where children are forced to fight to the death, and easily establish enemies within these scenarios...Anyway, I read this and its sequel, Catching Fire, as part of a theoretical reading group that never got off the ground. Part of the problem readers have is that the younger ones are actually encouraged to read this kind of material.

Bookshelf status: read.

Scouring Books: The Memory Palace of Matteo Ricci

The Memory Palace of Matteo Ricci
by Jonathan D. Spence

Originally published in 1984, this is another touchstone that explores an important piece of history as relates to our modern world. Spence explores the true story of Matteo Ricci, a European who sought to bring Christianity to China during the Ming dynasty in 1577, touching on a cultural juxtaposition that persists to this day, despite changes in both realms since that time.

Bookshelf status: unread.

Scouring Books: The Black Album

The Black Album
by Hanif Kureishi

Originally published in 1995, this is a book that became increasingly important yet has still not achieved its level of literary significance. Kureishi dove into the curious world of inexplicable Islamic fanaticism years before the rest of the world did. This is not a book that is against Islam by any means, nor am I as an individual, but a fundamental element of our modern world is a religion that hardly seems to want to be a part of it, not as ascetics, but as people (at least at the fundamentalist level) violently reject those who don't embrace their values. The so-called Arab Spring we've experienced this year may actually be remedying this. One way or another, this is an important work of fiction.

Bookshelf status: unread.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Your Face Tomorrow: Initial Thoughts

Having now finished the first volume of Javier Marias's Your Face Tomorrow (Fever and Spear), I think I can begin to voice an idea of what the ultimate objective of this work.

Obviously, it's a tale of observation. Covering a period of time that stretches from WWI to the present day, Marias has attempted to explain the modern psyche, how we approach each other as human beings, as feeling individuals, as selfish individuals, as observers. Most of us, as Marias argues, are not observers. His central figure is one, and he is surrounded by others like himself, a mentor he talks extensively with, and another he works under, and these relationships and how they are formed and their goals are the crux of the opening volume.

What I admire about YFT is that it is a work that is consumed with thought, it is a work that fully gives itself to the possibilities of literature as a unique medium, as extended meditations, not simply narrative (except it's as pure a narrative as you're likely to find), not a slave to plot. Marias seems aware of what he's doing, how it deviates from expectations most readers will have about what a book is supposed to do, and why many readers will shy away from YFT, even if it speaks the same language we all do. The narrative obsesses over language, over communication, knowingly, as the basis of all modern interaction, how it's been corrupted by increased self-importance, by a reluctance to question and simply to accept that things are as they are.

The first volume is an explanation and origin of this phenomenon. I cannot say what the next two volumes accomplish; that is what I am continuing to discover. I know now as I previously suspected, that this is an important work, a seminal work, not just for the author, but for literature, today, yesterday, and tomorrow. It's all about potential, human potential, what may happen, what humans can do if pressed. It's James Bond and Sherlock Holmes and Ishmael rolled into one.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Scouring Books: A Brief History of Robin Hood

A Brief History of Robin Hood
by Nigel Cawthorne

Originally published in 2010 to coincide with the great but underrated Ridley Scott/Russell Crowe Robin Hood flick, this is a history of the folk hero. I like to consider myself fairly thorough when it comes to the past, not just real events and literary giants, but cultural memory. Years ago I picked up a similar book on Zorro, a character with about several centuries less background than Robin Hood, so I was extremely pleased to see this released.

Bookself status: mostly unread.

Scouring Books: Cahokia

by Timothy R. Pauketat

Originally published in 2009, this book explores some forgotten history of the North American continent, a Native American metropolis in what is now known as St. Louis. Most such cities are better identified in Central America. That's what makes this book so interesting.

Bookshelf status: unread.

Scouring Books: The Crimean War - A Reappraisal

The Crimeal War: A Reappraisal
by Philip Warner

Originally published in 1972, this book covers one of Britain's famous military moments (as featured in "Charge of the Light Brigade"), another element of my self-education.

Bookshelf status: unread.

Scouring Books: Galapagos

by Kurt Vonnegut

Originally published in 1985, this is one of the many other books Vonnegut (Slaughterhouse-Five) wrote, a part of a selection I scored earlier this year for free, just a ton of his books. I'm not completely sure that he actually had more books as memorable as S-5 in him, but I guess I'll find out.

Bookshelf status: unread.

Scouring Books: The Earth Moves

The Earth Moves
by Dan Hofstadter

Originally published in 2009, this book covers Galileo's battle with the Roman Inquisition. Galileo has been one of my favorite historic/scientific figures. He's certainly well-known, but I think he's one of those people that school has tended to de-emphasize in recent decades; in fact, much of classical learning almost no longer exists, so my personal interest is mostly self-initiated, and another of the things I've been working on.

Bookshelf status: unread.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Recommendation: Feeding on Dreams

Feeding on Dreams: Confessions of an Unrepentant Exile
by Ariel Dorfman

For: People who may have been intrigued by Roberto Bolano.

Dorfman's book is about exile from Chile (from political situations featured in Bolano's By Night in Chile), the effects of leaving and then returning home.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Reading List: Your Face Tomorrow

Your Face Tomorrow
Volume One: Fever and Spear
Volume Two: Dance and Dream
Volume Three: Poison, Shadow and Farewell
by Javier Marias

When I say that I'm kind of accidentally American, it's from suggestions friends have made that I would probably make a pretty good European. This is just my own example, but I seem to be more likely than the average reader to be excited by the prospect of an ambitious literary project, of which this is probably the next great example (after Bolano's 2666, naturally). American bookstores can barely seem to acknowledge Marias (though strangely I discovered Your Face Tomorrow when the final volume was inexplicably carried upon hardcover release), though he seems to be one of the great voices in the modern novel. Like Bolano, Marias appropriates what appears to be a fairly standard pop fiction standard in the role of the investigator, and tries to be a little expansive about it.

Reading List: I'll Mature When I'm Dead

I'll Mature When I'm Dead
by Dave Barry

Dave's latest book of humor is like a greatest hits collection of his patented brand of social commentary, just to remind everyone that you probably shouldn't expect him to lighten up in "retirement." Also includes dead-on parodies of the TV show 24 and the Twilight Saga, and his unlikely bid at Hollywood immortality (it involves chickens).

Friday, October 21, 2011

Reading List: The Little Prince

The Little Prince
by Antoine de Saint-Exupery

Thanks in part to G. Willow Wilson's excellent comic book Air, I became aware of the young reader classic, but saw it often (and sold many copies) at work, so it was only a matter of time before I got around to reading this imaginative tale about a pilot who crashes his plane...and then meets a most extraordinary individual. Another extremely short book, by the way.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Reading List: Antwerp

by Roberto Bolano

For the most part, Bolano specialized in novella-length books (Savage Detectives and 2666, obviously, being the exceptions). Antwerp is practically the rule. It's probably also the book Bolano himself was most proud of, and most attached to, holding onto it for some twenty years. The story is made up on fifty-six installments, making it perhaps an ideal example to sell Bolano on to even the most skeptical readers. This is exactly the kind of reading the most begrudging student should be exposed to (an irony, since Bolano was a voracious student of literature).

Reading List: Roberto Bolano - The Last Interview

Roberto Bolano: The Last Interview & Other Conversations

The final interview (from July 2003), a few others, and overview from Marcela Valdes (including some great insight into 2666) make this an invaluable gift to Bolano fans, which is to say fans of literature.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Reading List: By Night in Chile

By Night in Chile
by Roberto Bolano

The late Bolano gained an everlasting fan in me with the posthumous 2666, one of the great works of literature, centered in part on a novelist an unlikely assortment of characters become involved with, whether they know it or not. In its first section, a group of literary critics unite around an obscure European writer, and feel compelled to seek out, no matter how difficult, each of his published works. Well, I know the feeling, except Bolano is a South American writer. Rarely have I felt compelled to reach as much of the collected works of a writer as I can find (Melville is the only other example besides Dave Barry). By Night in Chile was the first of Bolano's works to receive an English translation, so it's fitting to be the first of his books after 2666 for me to read. I haven't yet completed my collection, but it's maybe halfway or better there, so not too bad on that score. This particular book is about a hundred fifty pages, one long paragraph, so I have to pick my spots as to when I'll be reading it, but naturally, I love what I've already found in the first few pages. He was a true master of literature, who understood his unique privilege and spent his fifty years adoring it, as few others have before or since. He also understood that it's a difficult live to attain, and how that's a shame, that so few people appreciate the written word, which is as true in 2011 as it was in 2003, when he died. This blog is in its own way a tribute to his enduring spirit, so it's fitting to find myself a fan of Roberto Bolano.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Scouring Books: T. rex and the Crater of Doom

T. rex and the Crater of Doom
by Walter Alvarez

Written in 1997, this is a thrilling account of how Alvarez and other scientists determined the probable cause of extinction for the dinosaurs (traced back to said crater in the Yucatan Peninsula). As I've noted previously, I don't tend to read a lot of nonfiction, other than biographical material or humor from Dave Barry, but this is an example of informative literature that blatantly hooks readers with their romantic Indiana Jones notions into following Alvarez down the informative rabbit whole of science. I know there are plenty of writers who seek to accomplish exactly this kind of experience, but rarely with as much panache.

Bookshelf status: read.

Scouring Books: Everyman's Poetry

Everyman's Poetry
by Jonathan Swift

One of the things that sucks about the poetry (or any other) establishment is that it's automatically assumed to be a member you not only must respect and appreciate the poetry canon, but you must have revered and absorbed it, not based on any merits you yourself may have come to admire, but because it's there, and it's assumed that you must. I read a fair bit of poetry in college, and found that the University of Maine was a pretty good place to find acceptance into the poetry scene, but as a whole, like I've said, the greater poetry scene is good for snobbery, exclusivity (to the point where almost nobody actually cares about poetry, even though it used to be a bona fide cultural institution). Long story short, Jonathan Swift is one of the old poets I would champion without hesitation, not just because I also admire his prose works, but because he can also turn a wicked verse.

Bookshelf status: this particular volume, unread. Because the air of poetry in the modern age is prohibitive.

Scouring Books: Good as Gold

Good as Gold
by Joseph Heller

Published in 1976, this is, remarkably, another book by Catch-22 author Joseph Heller. The unfortunate thing about striking on a success in literature is that readers are not so prone to readers more of your work. I guess it's assumed that an author who had one touchstone probably won't have another in them, and so that's one of the things that bothers me about the way most people treat literature, that they don't, like Roberto Bolano expresses in 2666 (featured on the right side of the blog as a Buy This! book) during a frantic search of fictional author Benno Von Archimbaldi's complete works, actually like to continue reading someone who has really impressed them. Pop fiction gets this treatment; that's why bookstores are crammed with the collected works of your favorite romance and mystery/thriller writers, but not of someone like Heller. It's just assumed he had one good book in him, and the others probably aren't quite worth remembering, too (a catch-22!). Anyway, I came across Good as Gold at a bargain book sale, and didn't hesitate to pick it up. But...

Bookshelf status: unread. For now.

Scouring Books: The Divine Comedy

The Divine Comedy
by Dante

Otherwise known as the source of Dante's Inferno, the one everyone knows, but also includes, as far as the whole cycle goes, Inferno, Purgatory, and Paradise. When I was studying this one in high school, we actually watched Bill & Ted's Bogus Journey (second most awesome school experience, after a college class clip from Life of Brian), as a comparison. It's one of those classics works of literature people barely know but have at least heard of.

Bookshelf status: probably needs a reread.

Scouring Books: The Adventures of Tom Sawyer

The Adventures of Tom Sawyer
by Mark Twain

From 1876, this is the little book that's continually under the threat of being upstaged by its literary cousin, Huckleberry Finn, which is considered more important. Maybe, but Tom Sawyer's more fun, and how often does a fun book starring a kid whose feet remain grounded in the real world stand the test of time, aside from Dickens? Tom's the quintessential American youth, and that's what's helped it stick around for so long, helped give Mark Twain his reputation, and inspired disciplinarians everywhere to make sure the culprit actually paints the fence. A book that every kid who can't understand the appeal of books not inspired by the success of Harry Potter can actually enjoy.

Bookshelf status: read.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Scouring Books: Devil in the White City

Devil in the White City
by Erik Larson

Originally published in 2003, this is just one of the books for which Erik Larson has become known, a classic work of historical nonfiction that cleverly traces the Chicago World's Fair of 1893 with a series of brutal murders that took place at the same time. I suspect some readers take a fair amount of solace in nonfiction when they find novels too difficult to choose, since popular books like this perform the very same functions (and the really interesting novels will combine fiction with nonfiction in imaginative ways). Larson is definitely a storyteller, which is exactly what this one's about. I don't read a lot of nonfiction, because much of it is this creative, so this is all the happier the exception.

Bookshelf status: read.

Scouring Books: Slaughterhouse-Five

by Kurt Vonnegut

Originally published in 1969, this may on the surface appear to compete with Catch-22 as a definitive novel of modern war, but I think I prefer to consider it as one of the more innovative science fiction tales of the last half century, from a writer who was able to do exactly what he wanted to, a truly rare accomplishment. The Hollywood version almost ruined my memories of it, though, from a University of Maine classroom, marking another rare accomplishment, in that the tired old adage that "the book was better" actually rings through with this one.

Bookshelf status: read.

Scouring Books: Catch-22

by Joseph Heller

From 1961, this is already a classic, but I wonder just how far it can go into the annals of history. As far as I'm concerned, it's the definitive novel about war in the modern era, a work of comic genius and brilliant insight (there's a reason why the phrase "catch-22" was instantly adopted into the lexicon). Here's a little catch-22 about my particular copy of Catch-22: I originally borrowed my brother's copy when I read it several years ago, and so I returned that one in good faith, but loved the book so much I knew I had to have one of my own. Several years later, I found a copy in a bookstore reduction sale, the catch being that it was defective, with a notable printing error, Chapters 13, 14, and 15 (or about thirty pages) missing. I bought it anyway. Unique edition, right? When I eventually read it again, I won't know what I'm missing anyway...

Bookshelf status: technically, read.

Scouring Books: The Hunchback of Notre-Dame

The Hunchback of Notre-Dame
by Victor Hugo

Originally published in 1831, and a huge favorite from my high school literature days (from the same Prudence Grant class that led to my continuing interest in the Canterbury Tales), a classic that truly deserves perpetual publication on its own merits (not strictly, as I suspect some are, based on their historical significance, and not just the ones you might immediately consider), possibly directly recommended to anyone who has ever considered themselves to be an outcast. Eventually became one of the most unlikely Disney animated movies.

Bookshelf status: read.

Scouring Books: Somewhere in Advance of Nowhere

Somewhere in Advance of Nowhere
by Jayne Cortez

Originally published in 1996, this is a book of poetry. Correct, a book of poetry, something that's hard to find many current cultural touchstones over (unless you're Billy Collins are somesuch current favorite), given that you pretty much need to be immersed directly in the poetry scene to know anything about poetry that you won't find in a schoolroom or odd public offering (I would tend to caution those). As such, Ms. Cortez comes from my college days, the University of Maine in Orono, where there's a vibrant scene one would like to perhaps permanently reside in, if that were possible without some kind of tenure. This is an odd remnant from those days.

Bookshelf status: at the very least, needs to be reread.

Reading List: The Casebook of Victor Frankenstein

The Casebook of Victor Frankenstein
by Peter Ackroyd

Ackroyd has been a favorite of mine since The Plato Papers (a featured Buy This Book! on the right side of the blog), a whimsical look at the future and our ability to accurately interpret the past, plus some philosophy. Since he's a British writer who's best known for his biographies, Ackroyd doesn't get a lot of love from American readers, which is a terrible shame, because he demonstrates one of the purest loves of literature you're likely to find anywhere. As the title of this book might suggest, this time he's taking a look at Mary Shelley's famous work, interposing as he likes to do famous figures, events, and his own imagination. I've been reading Ackroyd at a tempered pace, mostly because like I said, he's difficult to outright find in the States, short of ordering him off the Internet (which isn't always the answer it seems to be, as Hub City is meant to suggest, it's remarkably easy to find other things worth reading). Happily, he's already been on the Reading List several times in the recent past. He'll show up again, too.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Reading List: Bridge to Never Land

Bridge to Never Land
by Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson

This one was actually inserted into the List recently, due to a complicated series of circumstances. The short of it: When Bridge was published a few months back, I was working the Borders liquidation process, which necessarily obscured my perception of the new release process. It was by coincidence that I was made aware of its release as quickly as I was, and even more coincidental that Peter and the Sword of Mercy, the fourth in Barry and Pearson's Starcatchers series, came up on the List when it did. So I read that one and decided to go ahead and read this one next.

Bridge is a roundabout continuation of the Starcatchers books, which revisited the concept of Peter Pan for the 21st Century, crafting it into an adventure/thriller narrative. Sword of Mercy finally got around to Wendy; this one is Barry and Pearson riffing on their own mythmaking, updating the timestamp to the present day and a new set of protagonists, a pair of squabbling siblings who discover the books they've read (and of course Barry and Pearson themselves wrote) actually refer to real events. It's now like Peter Pan meeting Dan Brown, basically.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Scouring Books: Brocabulary

by Daniel Maurer

Originally published in 2008, this is a typical bookstore humor section inhabitant, which I choose to believe was inspired by the show How I Met Your Mother, which features a character named Barney Stinson, who's famous for such inventions as The Bro Code and The Playbook, fictitious guidebooks that were later made published reality, and can be found in said bookstore section.

Sample Brocabulary:

flirtchase - A flirtatious purchase made for a woman in lieu of coming right out and sying you want to do her.

Bookshelf status: unread so far, because I love Bros, just not that much. Yet.

Scouring Books: Leaves of Grass 150th Anniversary Edition

Leaves of Grass 150th Anniversary Edition
by Walt Whitman

Originally published in 1855, this is one of the most famous collections of poems in American literary history, and this particular edition reprints the original version (since Whitman had a habit of pulling a George Lucas and constantly revising it throughout his lifetime). Includes famous works like "Song of Myself" and "I Sing the Body Electric." Also includes an introduction from noted literary scholar Harold Bloom.

Bookshelf status: read.

Scouring Books: Where White Men Fear to Tread

Where White Men Fear to Tread
autobiography of Russell Means w/Marvin J. Wolf

Originally published in 1995, this is the autobiography of one of the towering Native Americans of the 20th Century. You may be forgiven for not knowing there were towering Native American figures in the 20th Century, because when this subject is talked about at all, it's the wars of other centuries, trails of tears, and that Indian who literally shed a tear in a TV commercial people bring up, not to mention casino money and a few pop figures. In fact, if it weren't for the entertainment world and a few sports figures, you might be forgiven to forget there are actually any Native Americans still in existence. Russell Means dedicated his life to the continuing struggle of the Indian cause, which included iconoclastic moments at Mount Washington, Plymouth Rock, and Wounded Knee. He ran for the presidency in 1988. This book stands as a testament to his legacy, whether the general public has been aware of it or not.

Bookshelf status: unread so far.

Scouring Books: Atlas Shrugged

Atlas Shrugged
by Ayn Rand

Originally published in 1957, this is perhaps one of the giants of 20th Century literature. It was also one of the most popular books of the early recession a few years back, or so I noticed while working in a bookstore, even before the feeble movie was made (the first part was released earlier this year). I was always slightly aware of Rand's presence in the world of literature, but had never had a real reason to factor her into my own experience. A friend of mine in college once listened to an audiobook of Shrugged, and I experienced a little of it with him (later on, another acquaintence provided me with a similar taste of Jack Kerouac's On the Road; I guess books about transportation of some kind make ideal traveling material). When I started working in a bookstore, it was hard to overlook the giant Rand volumes, and so I eventually picked this one up. I saw a Gary Cooper version of The Fountainhead before discovering that perhaps most readers of Ayn Rand are of a peculiar political bent, as Rand herself was. Whether or not her ideas actually have merit might remain to be seen, once I actually read this one.

Bookshelf status: unread so far.

Scouring Books: A Tale of Two Cities

A Tale of Two Cities
by Charles Dickens

Originally published in 1859, this is one of those incredibly famous books I'm not sure many people have actually read. Dickens is well-known, of course, for Oliver Twist and A Christmas Carol, both of which have been regular and steady elements of modern pop culture, and everyone at least knows "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times..." How many people actually know what the book is actually about? Dickens developed a fast and considerable reputation in his day as perhaps the most acclaimed English novelist of the 19th Century, but it's been fashionable since then to underestimate his actual worth. It's strange that in Two Cities he seems to have written a story of the French Revolution that the great Russian voices of that age (here I'm thinking of Dostoyevsky, who happens to be my choice) would have probably found formidable. But I was never asked to read this book in school, and in fact, was never asked to read Dickens as a whole. It's strange that so famous a writer probably isn't actually read that much.

Bookshelf status: unread so far.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Scouring Books: Mr. Palomar

Mr. Palomar
by Italo Calvino

Originally published in 1983, this is from noted literary writer Calvino, best-known for If on a winter's night a traveler. I was at one point scheduled to read Calvino for a class in college, but the original professor was felled by ill-ness (and replaced, clumsily, by three graduate students who happened to have been in the class; one of them had been a friend from an earlier class, but I'm afraid the relationship was strained by this strange juxtaposition, since the professor had been a particularly inspired one, and he would have always been hard to replace). Anyway, so I was half-inspired to buy this book because of its name, which happened to share a term I'd used in my self-published book (you can find that in links to be found in my profile, and if you can't find that, then I'll just have to ignore your ignorance). Calvino is known as a literary writer, as I've said, which is important, because I like to believe that the best literature is "literary" literature, not "pop" literature in the form of James Patterson (which is not to say James Patterson isn't good, because he's writing in the tradition of Agatha Christie and Dashiell Hammett), or even the stuff you'll find in your bestseller lists or Oprah selections (though The Story of Edgar Sawtelle came pretty close), but speculative, inventive, thoughtful, insightful fiction. There really isn't much of that, and given the kind of writers drawn to that sort of thing, the results are always bound to be spotty. I found Calvino, at least in Mr. Palomor, to be a little lightweight. But he does have the reputation, so maybe when I get around to If on a... I'll think differently of him.

Bookshelf status: read.

Scouring Books: Longitudes and Attitudes

Longitudes and Attitudes
by Thomas L. Friedman

Originally published in 2002, this is just one of Friedman's insightful analyses of America's place in the global community. In college, I was asked to subscribe to the New York Times for a semester, and it was Friedman's Op-Eds that frequently captured the bulk of my interest. I don't tend to read a lot of political books, and in truth haven't read any other book by Friedman, but this is one of those exceptions that not only proved the rule (that most political books are indeed political) but that sometimes it doesn't matter.

Bookshelf status: read.

Scouring Books: Snow Country

Snow Country
by Yasunari Kawabata

Originally published in 1956, this is a classic of world literature I read several times in school, and as such is one of those rare books I really enjoyed reading, well, in school. I don't usually read books more than once, I might also stress, so the fact that I really didn't mind doing so in an environment that sometimes leads to the murder of readers hopefully says something. It's an elegiac romance between the traveling Shimamura and the geisha who unexpectedly captures his heart.

Bookshelf status: read.

Scouring Books: Boomsday

by Christopher Buckley

Originally published in 2007, this is a modern political satire from the author best known for Thank You For Smoking, which was later made into a film starring Aaron Eckhart. As the title may suggest, the book deals with the Baby Boomer crisis in a way that Jonathan Swift (by way of A Modest Proposal) would certainly approve.

Bookshelf Status: read.

Scouring Books: Love, Stargirl

Love, Stargirl
by Jerry Spinelli

Originally published in 2007, this is a sequel to Stargirl, and tracks the title character's evolving romance with Leo in a series of letters. Spinelli won me over when I was in grade school with the brilliant Maniac Magee, and while I hadn't gotten around to reading more of his books, I was more than happy to find this one years later.

Bookshelf status: read.

Reading List: Peter and the Sword of Mercy

Peter and the Sword of Mercy
by Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson

This is the fourth in the Peter and the Starcatchers series, originally published in 2009. I've been a big fan of Dave Barry since his days as a syndicated humor columnist, as well as from the tangentially related Dave's World sitcom starring Harry Anderson. The Starcatchers series began as a sort of prequel to J.M. Barrie's Peter Pan, or perhaps more accurately an alternate origin story that rode the wave of Harry Potter-inspired young readers fantasy series that continues to this day. The Starcatchers series itself was intended to conclude with three books, but has since grown to include not only Sword of Mercy but this year's Bridge to Neverland.
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