Tag Archives: 52 books 52 weeks

52 Books: Weeks 49 – 52

52books december

Here we are. 52 weeks after I set my goal of reading 52 books in 2012, and I made it! This past month was a bit of a challenge, as I had six books to read, but I made it a little easier on myself by only reading books that were 150 pages or less. With that as my criteria, I actually charged my way through the last six books in only two weeks. So if you’re looking for some good, short reads to help you get to your goal, or just get you back into the habit of reading, these are some really good choices.

The Old Man and the Sea

When I first started getting back into reading eight years ago or so, I specifically wanted to read a lot of the books that most people read in grade school that I either hadn’t gotten to, or had completely forgotten about. The Old Man and the Sea is definitely one of those quintessential books that most people read at some point before graduating high school, and at only 96 pages you can even get through it in one sitting. On the surface, it’s the story of an elderly Cuban fisherman catching an enormous marlin, but the themes of the book go much deeper. Beautiful book, if you haven’t read it yet, but it high on your list.

The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway – 4 stars


Einstein’s Dreams

This was recommended by my best-friend-in-law Tasci, and I’m really glad she suggested it. I have a rule when rating books, that I won’t give out a 5-star rating unless I’ve read a book at least twice; I’m breaking my rule on this one, because I loved it so much. Each chapter in this book is a fictionalized examination of a universe in which time, or the way we are affected by time, is somewhat different than we know it. In one world, time is circuitous, so that all of life’s events repeat over and over. In another, time moves more slowly as your elevation increases. But while it sounds like a scientific thought exercize, it’s really more of a philosophical investigation. At 144 pages, it’s really the perfect book to spend a rainy, thoughtful weekend with.

Einstein’s Dreams by Alan Lightman – 5 stars


The Stranger

I’m sure I’ve read this at least twice before, but all I really remembered was that it focused on a man who killed an Arab on the beach, and was standing trail for his crimes. I don’t think I’ve been in a place before where I could really appreciate the story for the themes the author was trying to explore until now, so I’m glad I gave it another read. Only 123 pages long, it’s not a huge commitment, and it’s really not as heavy as the philosophers among us would have us believe. Or at least it doesn’t have to be. At the very least, it can just be read as an interesting story of a troubled man’s life, and it’s perfectly enjoyable at that level. If you haven’t read this classic — or at least haven’t in the past five or ten years — maybe it’s time to give it another try.

The Stranger by Albert Camus – 4 stars


The Lemur

I found this book listed on the Lawrence Public Library’s blog post featuring 50 good books, 150 pages or less. It didn’t have great reviews, but the story sounded interesting, and I’m glad I gave it a shot. It’s not the best mystery I’ve ever read, but it was a short 132 pages and I was able to knock it out in just more than a day. It’s nothing memorable, but it was an enjoyable whodunit style novel.

The Lemur by Benjamin Black – 3 stars


The Time Machine

The classic story of time travel, Morlocks and Eloi. I was shocked at how quickly Wells jumped right into the story, without nearly the amount of setup that went into the movie version. While the result is a compact 104-page read, it was surprisingly difficult to get through. Something about the writing style of these older books makes it a little more sluggish to get through. Not to say it isn’t well written or enjoyable, but just noticably more concentration was required to get through it. If you’re into science fiction at all, though, you owe it to yourself to read this classic from one of the fathers of the genre.

The Time Machine by H. G. Wells – 4 stars


Overgrown: Tales of the Unexpected

For my last book, I decided to read this collection of short stories from a collective of Columbus-based authors. Some were very good, some were mercifully short, but overall it was a very easy 112 page read. I don’t completely understand how the seven stories were supposed to be connected thematically, but that may be nitpicking. At the crazy-low price of $4, I will definitely check out some of the other collections from the Columbus Creative Cooperative.

Overgrown: Tales of the Unexpected by Various, Columbus Creative Cooperative – 3 stars


That about does it! I’m planning on a wrap-up article early next month, featuring my top 10 books that I read in 2012, along with some details about my reading challenge for 2013, so be sure to check back.

How did you do on your reading challenge? Any goals you’re setting for yourself in 2013?

52 Books: Weeks 46 – 48

52books november

October was a pretty crazy month and I was only able to read one book, so I knew I had some catching up to do if I was going to meet my goal of 52 books in 2012. In order to help get back on track, I decided that my November reading would consist solely of books 350 pages or less. I managed to get six books in over the past month, so here’s a quick look back at what I’ve been reading.

The Long Earth

My good friend Jason has recommended many of the books I’ve read over the years, and this recommendation didn’t disappoint. I’ve always been a sucker for scientific “what if” scenario books, where the author explores what would happen to our society of some random change was thrust upon us. The Long Earth explores the question of what would happen if it was suddenly discovered that there were an infinite number of earths, and that anyone could travel through them with almost painless ease. Suddenly gold and silver isn’t quite as rare as it once was, entirely new continents are available for exploration and development, and overpopulation is a concept that simply doesn’t exist anymore. I really enjoyed reading this book, and the only reason I’m docking it any stars is that I wish it had explored the idea a bit further, and possibly not let me down quite as much on some of the big mysteries that were presented early on.

The Long Earth by Terry Pratchett and Stephen Baxter – 3 stars


The Sense of an Ending

I’m actually not sure how this book ended up in my to-read shelf, but I’m glad it was. I was browsing my list for something short to read, and stumbled upon this one. It’s an interesting story about our perception of ourselves and our life experience, and how malleable it is based on how we choose to remember things. Tony, the story’s protagonist, is a middle-aged man who is suddenly put faced with dealing with some events from earlier in his life, and he gradually realizes that the things that happened when he was younger didn’t go exactly as he had recalled, and perhaps he didn’t behave quite the way he remembers behaving. I wasn’t completely sold on the way the book was wrapped up, but the style of writing really spoke to me. Lots of highlighted quotes in this book, and definitely a story I’ll be going back to in the near future.

The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes – 4 stars



I love Kurt Vonnegut. He writes with an honesty that I really enjoy. His final novel, Timequake, is a strange mashup of memoir and fiction that was a little hard to follow at times, but it had a really conversational tone that I had fun reading. I’m quite certain that I ended up highlighting at least 25% of this book as I read it, and while it wasn’t a very cohesive book, I was absolutely worth the time.

Timequake by Kurt Vonnegut – 4 stars


Blue Like Jazz

This was “the book” in Christian circles several years back, with everyone insisting that it was amazing and that it would change the way you thought about your faith. On our drive out to California in 2009, January and I read a different Donald Miller book to each other and I remember really enjoying it, so I was hopeful that I would also enjoy this earlier work of Mr. Miller’s. Unfortunately, I felt like it just came across as a strange mix of self-deprecating and self-congratulatory. Repeatedly, the author would write about some thoughtless, thing he did back when he was younger and it turned out to be something really smart instead. It just got kind of grating. I have no doubt that the author is a good guy, but it just didn’t feel all that genuine.

Blue Like Jazz by Donald Miller – 2 stars


In Cold Blood

Truman Capote’s classic non-fiction novel about the murder of a family in rural Kansas in the 1950’s. My problem with this book may have been my expectations. I didn’t really know much of anything about the actual events the book was based on, but I was expecting a sort of true crime novel, and that’s not really what I got. There was no mystery, no suspense. Within the first chapter, Capote tells you exactly who perpetrated the murders, and then just spends hundreds of pages going over what happened, from the days before the murders through the prosecution and sentencing, and agonizing detail. “Agonizing” being the key word here. I was just really bored through the entire book, with the exception of the killers’ confession.

In Cold Blood by Truman Copote – 2 stars


Me Talk Pretty One Day

This is the book I was referring to when, on speaking with January one of the first times we met, I said that I didn’t “read books other people read.” This book seemed to be everywhere at the time, and I think I found it kind of annoying. I did read David Sedaris’ Holidays on Ice a few years ago and really enjoyed it, so I thought I’d finally give this one a chance. Like Holidays on Ice, this is a collection of short stories, and it’s really easy to read. Each chapter took anywhere from 5-15 minutes to read, so this was a great one to read in small bits over the course of a day or two. If you like clever, self-deprecating humor, definitely put this one on your list.

Me Talk Pretty One Day by David Sedaris – 3 stars


One month and six books left to my goal of 52 books in a year, and I’m feeling pretty confident. The holiday season will be busy, but I’m also taking a week off work between Christmas and New Years, so I’m hopeful that six more short books won’t be hard to pull off. Check back in January for my final reviews, after which I will, naturally, put together a top ten list of this year’s best books and quotes.

52 Books: Weeks 41 – 45

It’s a short one this month. With all the work we’ve been doing on The Salt Mines, I’ve been left with very little time to do any reading. In fact, the only reading I was able to get in was a furious 48-hour session during a business trip to DC. But one book is still progress, so here’s the review.

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

I wasn’t 100% sure what to expect when I started this book. It’s one that pretty much everyone has been aware of since becoming super popular over the past several years, but I still didn’t really know anything about it. I got the vague impression that it was very raw and gritty, and while it didn’t turn out to be that intense, it was still fairly dark. If you’re as unfamiliar with the story as I was, I won’t spoil anything for you, but it’s a pretty heavy mystery novel wherein the protagonists are working to solve a crime whose trail has, at least seemingly gone cold more than forty years prior. As with many grand crimes of this scale, nearly everybody comes under scrutiny at some point, and by the end nobody is really left untouched by what is discovered. Really easy read, and if you enjoy crime novels it’s definitely recommended.

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson – 4 stars


So, two months to go, and 12 books to read. Check back next month, when I review six very short books.

52 Books: Weeks 37 – 40

I’ve been reading a lot of fiction this year. An awful lot of fiction. Of the 35 books I’ve read since January, a scant 5 of them are nonfiction. In an effort to tip the ratio away from such a fiction-heavy rotation, I decided that September would be “nonfiction month.” I have many more fiction books that I’m eager to check out, but it seemed like a good idea to take a month out from the world of the made-up and invest a little time what actually is and has been.

Salt: A World History

My best-friend-in-law Tasci recommended this book a few months ago, so I was willing to take a chance on this seemingly bland topic. Get it? Salt? Bland? Nevermind. Salt is something we don’t think much about these days, but for thousands of years it helped shape the course of history. Up until a hundred years or so ago, salt was a relatively rare substance and those who controlled the salt controlled the power of commerce. The book was really interesting, but a bit dry at points. I really enjoyed the parts discussing the scientific makeup of salt, as well as the role salt played in early US history. If you’re a history buff, it’s worth checking out, but be prepared for a few slow parts.

Salt: A World History by Mark Kurlanski – 3 stars


Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking

I’m an introvert. I know this may surprise a lot of people reading this, but it’s true. It’s not easy being an introvert in an extrovert’s world, but that’s the situation I’ve found myself in for the past 34 years. This book does a really nice job detailing the differences between introversion and extroversion, and makes the case for a better understanding between people of each persuasion. Really, though, I mostly recommend this book for people who have important people in their lives who are introverts, whom they want to understand better, especially extrovert spouses and parents of introverts. It will give you a good introduction into better understanding how we work.

Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain – 4 stars


Nigger: The Strange Career of a Troublesome Word

Boom. There it is. “The N-Word.” In the history of the spoken word, perhaps no other word has had as much power to anger, infuriate, subjugate, or at the very least make people uncomfortable. This book covers the history of the word, the history of its acceptance and use in the popular culture, and the way in which it has been dealt with in recent history since becoming widely recognized as taboo. It was definitely an uncomfortable read, but sometimes uncomfortable subjects need to be addressed. I’m not certain I agree with the author’s conclusions about the words appropriateness or the way it should be handled, but I think it’s a subject should perhaps be tackled head-on instead in hushed whispers behind closed doors.

Nigger: The Strange Career of a Troublesome Word by Randall Kennedy – 4 stars


Then Everything Changed: Stunning Alternate Histories of American Politics: JFK, RFK, Carter, Ford, Reagan

After reading Stephen King’s 11/22/63, I was really interested in the idea of how American history — and world history — has hinged on a series of small events, and how radically things might have been different had things gone another way. Then Everything Changed explored this very question in a handful of specific events: The near-assassination of JFK in 1960, JFK’s assassination in 1968, and a critical gaffe in during the 1976 Presidential debates. After getting into this book, I’m not sure that it’s accurately categorized as “nonfiction,” as the assumptions the author makes about these “alternate histories” take a few liberties that could be construed as far-fetched. Obviously, we have no way to know what actually would have been, but Greenfield makes an entertaining guess. Definitely recommended for history buffs who want to debate the author’s story, but also very much recommended for people of my generation, born just after these events took place, who don’t know a lot about the twenty critical years in US history before the 1980’s.

Then Everything Changed: Stunning Alternate Histories of American Politics: JFK, RFK, Carter, Ford, Reagan by Jeff Greenfield – 3 stars



52 Books: Weeks 32 – 35

augustreading andy

I’m officially back on track for my goal of reading 52 books this year! My nightstand this month has hosted a wide variety of genres, from Irish detective mysteries to graphic novels to science fiction, it’s been a full month. Here’s a quick overview.

Cloud Atlas

I was really, really conflicted about this book. Although I read it very quickly, it took me a considerable amount of time to decide if I thought it was a 2-star book or a 4-star book. I’m giving it the benefit of the doubt for now and going with a 3-star rating, simply because it did hold my attention and keep me interested. The problem with this book isn’t necessarily that it’s trying too hard — Lord knows how many authors do — but that one feels the author is constantly winking at the reader, trying to remind the reader of how clever he is. And I’m just not convinced that it worked.

I realize that my review really doesn’t tell you anything at all about the book itself, so here’s the long and the short: Cloud Atlas is a collection of six stories that take place over a span of  3 centuries interwoven together in a way that shows how the main character of one story affects the protagonist of the next. Like a matryoshka doll, Cloud Atlas takes you through the story within the story down all six levels, and then back out again. Every story is written in a different style, and while I found some of them harder to get through than others, I did appreciate each story’s “voice” fitting the time period. 

I’m sure you’ll hear a lot of hype about this book over the coming months, as the movie adaptation is due out this fall. If the movie trailer catches your attention, give the book a shot. If you can forgive the author’s occasional self-imporance, I think there’s a decent story in there.

Cloud Atlas, by David Mitchell – 3 stars


Broken Harbor

I do love a good tragedy, and Tana French never fails to make me want to blow my brains out in the best way possible. This is the fourth book in her Dublin Murder Squad detective series, in each of which she tells the story of a lead detective in an Irish police force as they try to solve a particular crime. This book focuses on a triple-homicide in an abandoned housing development: A man and his two children are found murdered, with the wife as the sole survivor of the attack. Dublin Murder Squad’s top detective Mick “Scorcher” Kennedy and his rookie partner are put on the case, and things slowly unravel from there. 

I loved French’s first three books, and she didn’t let me down on this one either. If you like mystery books, definitely start with In the Woods and work your way through the series. I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.

Broken Harbor, by Tana French – 4 stars


Jericho Season 3: Civil War

Jericho is one of those TV shows that I’ve been aware of for a while, but never had the time to check out. The first season premiered in 2006 and was cancelled after lackluster ratings. The fans convinced the network to bring the show back, but it was finally put to rest after another half a season. Earlier this year, I finally got the chance to watch this show on Netflix and really enjoyed it. It’s the story of a nuclear attack on the United States as seen through the eyes of a small Kansas town. The first half of the season, in fact, the viewer is kept as in the dark as the town is and the details are slowly revealed as news makes its way to the town.

Jericho Season 3: Civil War is the continuation of the the Jericho story and picks up directly after the events of the TV show’s second season. This isn’t some fan fiction; It was actually written by the TV show’s writers. I’ve never been a big comic book guy, but I was interested in knowing what the writers had planned, so I gave it a shot. Overall, there wasn’t a whole lot of meat to the book — and maybe that’s just how comic books are? — but I did enjoy seeing where the show was going. If you saw the TV show and are hungry for more, it’s worth a read. Otherwise, there’s not a lot of point in it.

Jericho Season 3: Civil War, by Don Shotz – 3 stars


Chicago’s Bridges

The author of this book happens to be my second cousin, and he recently had his first book published. I never really gave bridges a whole lot of thought, but I’m a little more knowledgeable about them after having read this short book. Having spent a few years living in Chicago, it definitely put the subject matter in a light that made it a lot more interesting. If you’ve ever wanted to know about the history of the various types of moving bridges in America, this is a great short read on the subject.

Chicago’s Bridges, by Nathan Holth – 4 stars


Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?

I love Philip K. Dick as much as the next guy, but man are his books hard to get into. I love his short stories (Paycheck, The Minority Report, The Golden Man), but his full-length novels are just really hard for me to work through for whatever reason. Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? is the book that the highly-successful 1982 movie Blade Runner was based on. There are quite a few differences between the movie and the book, but the basic premise of a bounty hunter chasing down a group of six androids illegally on Earth remains. There are lots of philosophical questions about the nature of existance, but overall I was just kind of slogging through the book. Dick does short stories really well, but it seems like when he tries to devote more than fifty pages to a story it gets kind of rough.

Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, by Philip K. Dick – 3 stars


The Dog Stars

Earlier this month I decided to go camping. Just me and my dog, Gus. I recognize that some may find the idea of camping in the woods without any company other than your dog a horrifying thought, but to me it sounded like a perfect 24 hours; No obligations, no distractions, just relaxing in the quiet of the outdoors. The only advanced technology I took with me was my circa 2007 phone-calls-only cell phone and my second generation Kindle. I planned to spend at least 75% of my time reading by the campfire, so I wanted to make sure my Kindle was loaded with some books appropriate for camping with one’s best four-legged friend.

The Dog Stars the a post-apocalyptic story of a man and his dog who live in an airplane hangar in Colorado. For the nine years since a superflu wiped out 99% of the world’s population, they’ve spent their days taking daily perimeter checks in a 1956 Cessna plane. Their only company is their gun-nut neighbor who helps them defend their land from the occasional roving gangs.

While there’s nothing amazing here, it was a good read and really enjoyable. After setting up camp and getting a fire started, I sat down and read through the first 60% of this book in one go, stopping only to roast a hot dog or throw another log on the fire. If you’re up for yet another post-apocalyptic journey of self-discovery, you could do a lot worse than this book.

The Dog Stars, by Peter Heller – 4 stars 


Travels with Charley: In Search of America

After tearing through The Dog Stars in my first day camping, I moved on to another story about a man and his dog. In 1960, John Steinbeck set out on a cross-country roadtrip with his French standard poodle, Charley, in an attempt to rediscover the America that he had lost touch with over the years. Appropriately, my opinion of this book matches nearly exactly with Steinbeck’s experience on the road; We were both excited and eager at the beginning, and slowly lost interest over the course of the journey. There are easily a hundred quotables here, but the overall journey grew somewhat scattered and tired almost as quickly as it began. 

Overall, though, I did enjoy the story and the writing. Travels with Charley serves as something of a bookend to Kerouac’s On the Road. Written nearly ten years earlier by a man thirty years younger, it’s full of excitement and hope that only a man first discovering America, without any expectations, can have. Travels with Charley, on the other hand, is scattered with disappointment at not finding what was expected.

Travels with Charley: In Search of America, by John Steinbeck – 4 stars


Selected Stories of Philip K. Dick

After the somewhat disappointing Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? I felt like I had to get a few of Dick’s short stories back into my system. This collection features some of my favorites, including Beyond Lies the Wub, Paycheck, and The Minority Report. Great collection, if you haven’t read much of Philip K. Dick’s work, this is a great introduction. 

Selected Stories of Philip K. Dick, by Philip K. Dick – 4 stars

52 Books: Weeks 23 – 31

My reading list has seen some pretty good action over the past few weeks. I’m currently halfway through my goal of reading 52 books this year, and my to-read is is still stocked full of titles I’ve been looking forward to reading for a while. Let me give you a quick rundown of what I’ve been reading the past few months.


I don’t read a lot of Stephen King’s work, but the premise behind his latest book was intriguing. If you had the opportunity to go back in time and prevent an atrocity from happening, would you do it?  I’m not going to give you and spoilers, but that’s essentially the premise behind King’s 11/22/63, in which the protagonist goes back to the year 1958 and must wait out the five years, working toward the ultimate goal of preventing the JFK assassination. It was a pretty hefty read at nearly 1,000 pages, but it was a pretty easy read. Very entertaining and definitely recommended if you’re looking for a smart, but not too complicated read.

11/22/63, by Stephen King – 4 stars



My good friend Jason has mentioned this book off and on for a couple of years, and I finally got around to reading it. At the surface, it’s a story about a brilliant programmer who programs a computer system that, on the event of his death, begins carrying out a programmed mission. To go into more detail might spoil the story a bit. The characters were a bit two-dimensional, but the author clearly has a really solid grasp of the technical details he was talking about, and I appreciated that the technical details weren’t just glossed over, but were actually explained assuming the reader had a moderate background on how today’s technology works. That may not be a safe assumption for all readers, but it was for me and it made the read that much more enjoyable. Not a masterpiece, but a good technological thriller.

Daemon, by Daniel Suarez – 3 stars



Daemon definitely left me wanting to know what happened next, so I was glad that I had the sequel ready to go. Pretty much “more of the same,” which was a good thing. I could spend an afternoon debating some of the themes of the books and how I felt about where the author took the book, but for a short review I’ll just say that it was a good follow-up, very smartly written, and didn’t get too bogged down in sharp deliniations between the “good guys” and “bad guys.” Realism like that always makes for interesting reading.

Freedom™, by Daniel Suarez – 3 stars


A Wild Sheep Chase

As I’ve mentioned before, Haruki Murakami is one of my favorite authors, and A Wild Sheep Chase is one of my favorite books of his. It’s the surreal story of a pretty typical, self-described mediocre man in his early thirties who is suddenly tasked with a seemingly impossible task. This task, if not completed, has dire consequences attached to it, so he has little choice in the matter as to whether or not he will attempt it. On the surface it’s certainly something of a mystery, but I feel like it has a bigger metaphorical message about the time most thirty-somethings go through when they have to learn to leave some of their youthful selves behind or else fall into backwards-focused medicrity. It’s something of a “coming of age” for those of us past our youths, but before midlife. 

A Wild Sheep Chase, by Haruki Murakami – 5 stars


Hear the Wind Sing

It was my second time reading A Wild Sheep Chase, but I only just recently learned that it’s actually the third book in a series — The Trilogy of the Rat. Hear the Wind Sing is the first in the series, and is actually Murakami’s first book. It was only recently translated and released in the States, and it’s apparently very hard (and expensive) to find a physical copy of the book. Thank God for the ebooks. The book’s direction is pretty meandering, and the style is a little rough, but knowing where the trilogy was going gave me a pretty good appreciation for this first book. If you’re a big Murakami fan it’s worth giving a read, but probably not worth going out of your way for if you aren’t.

Hear the Wind Sing, by Haruki Murakami – 3 stars


Pinball, 1973

The second in The Trilogy of the Rat, this is a book I actually started reading more than two years ago and just couldn’t get into. The style is even more disjointed than Hear the Wind Sing, and frankly I just didn’t find it very interesting. It features the same narrator as the other books in the series, but it just feels more like “here’s what happened to me during a span of a year or so” wherein he doesn’t end up anywhere other than where he started. It does fill in the gaps between the other two books, but it didn’t serve much purpose apart from that.

Pinball, 1973, by Haruki Murakami – 2 stars


The Age of Miracles

January heard about this book and the premise sounded interesting, so we thought we’d try reading this one together. The world’s scientists one day discover that the Earth is slowly descelerating by a matter of minutes every day, and this is the story of this world as seen through the eyes of an 11-year-old girl. At first, I expected it to be a sort of science fiction thought experiment in what would happen in a world like this, and while it does address a lot of the scientific “what if” questions, it’s really more of a coming-of-age story for the narrator. The author’s writing is super heavy with the metaphors, linking what is happening to the planet to the struggles of being a teenage girl, but it was an enjoyable, winsome read. It somehow reminded me a lot of The Brief History of the Dead, which I read a few years ago and remember enjoying.

The Age of Miracles, by Karen Thompson Walker – 4 stars



This is a tough one to rate. On the one hand, The Afghan Whigs are one of my favorite bands from the 90’s. I’ve listened to their albums for years without knowing a whole lot about the band’s history, and I enjoyed learning a little more about their background and the process that went into one of my favorite albums. On the other hand, the writing itself wasn’t very good. It had that feel when you can tell the author has a thesaurus on their desk, and they just keep looking up other ways to say “great” or “album” because they feel like they’ve said the word too many times. I almost felt like I was reading narration for a VH1 “behind the music” episode. In some ways that’s a good thing; When discussing certain songs, I could actually hear the music as a backdrop to the narration. All that to say that if you’re a fan of Greg Dulli or The Afghan Whigs, it’s definitely worth your time.

Gentlemen, by Bob Gendron – 3 stars


So here we are. 31 weeks in, 26 books down. Goodreads tells me that I’m 4 books behind, so I’ve got a little work to do to get caught back up, but I’m on a pretty good pace. I’ll have an update for you again next month, but in the meantime please hit me up with any recommendations. I’m trying get in a wide variety of styles of books, so I’d love to read anything that you think would be worth checking out.


52 Books: Weeks 19 – 22

mayreading andy

My book selections were really all over the place in May. Sex, bureaucracy, and the apocalypse! Here’s a quick rundown of what’s been on page one of my Kindle this past month.

My Horizontal Life

I’m embarrassed at having read this. Embarrassed for myself, for the author, and for humanity as a whole for rating this as a four-star book. I actually started reading this one more than two years ago while we were on the road to California. It was in the “top downloads” list on Amazon, so January downloaded the sample to our Kindle. The first chapter was a cute story from the author’s childhood about walking in on her parents having sex, and it was admittedly pretty funny, so we went ahead and bought the rest of the book. Unfortunately, the rest of the book is a pretty raunchy depiction of the author’s very involved and very depraved sex life from that point on. Don’t get me wrong, I’m no prude, but this book is such a cringefest that the only response it left me with was embarrassment and pity for the author’s sad, sad existence. 

My Horizontal Life, by Chelsea Handler – 2 stars


Lord of the Flies

I can’t believe I made it 34 years without reading this classic. To be honest, I think it’s something about the classic cover art that turned me off. I’m glad I finally got around to it, though, and I was glad to learn that I’m not beyond being appalled by a story like this. It was so painful to read and I was left genuinely saddenned for most of the characters. Seriously, I was so sad reading about Piggy at the end of the book that it ruined my whole evening.

Lord of the Flies, by William Golding – 4 stars


The Trial

It really says something that I’m rating this one lower than My Horizontal Life. This is my second attempt at this book, and it’s just awful. I know from cultural references to the book that it’s supposed to be about the tedium and unfairness of bureaucracy, but really it’s more about the self-important central character’s inability to act even remotely like a normal human being or to handle his situation with even an ounce of humility. Ultimately, I got about 80% through this book before giving up. Given the fact that the author himself never actually finished this book, I don’t feel too bad saying the same.

The Trial, by Franz Kafka – 1 star


On the Beach

This is the world’s most optimistic book about the end of the world. As the entire northern hemisphere has already been depopulated at the hands of numerous atomic bombs, the rest of the world can only wait as the radiation slowly works its way south. And how do they deal with it? By looting, rioting, killing and generally going crazy? Nope. They have a few boat races, continue to do their jobs, and thoughtfully wait to see what happens. Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t a criticism — I really enjoyed the story, I’m just not sure how realisitic it is. That aside, I became genuinely invested in the characters and had a strong respect for nearly everyone’s sense of duty and propriety, right up to the end.

On the Beach, by Nevil Shute – 4 stars



52 Books: Weeks 10 – 18

aprilreading andy

I have a lot of catching up to do on my reading goal, so this post is going to be a short one. Things in March got a little off track, as I felt very much more like watching movies than I did reading. And I’m not even talking about good movies, I’m talking about watching the entire Transporter and Mission: Impossible series. Those were dark days, but I’ve since gotten my Kindle recharged and am determined to get back on track


The Hunt for Red October

This is the one that really got me hung up. It took me a little more than a month to read this one. I really did enjoy it, although it did delve into a lot of details on a lot of things that didn’t feel overly necessary. There was one chapter in particular where Clancy went into a lot of detail to introduce a new character, only to have him die in a helicopter crash mere pages later. Worth the read, but I’m not sure I can say when I’ll be ready to read the next in the Jack Ryan series.

The Hunt for Red October, by Tom Clancy – 3 stars


On the Road

I’m allowing myself to re-read a maximum of one book per month this year, and in April I decided to crack open this classic again. I read it for the first time almost exactly ten years ago, and I loved it even more this time than I did then. Some things you love and you can’t really put a finger on exactly why, and this is one of those books for me. It gives me a strange sense of nostalgia for a time that I didn’t even live in, reading about Sal Paradise and Dean Moriarty discovering themselves and America, living life on their own terms with all of the good and the bad that comes with it. It’s the perfect balance of hopeful youth and mild despondence. More than that, though, it reminded me of my life when I read it the first time, in April of 2002, and all of the good and bad that came along with it. I look forward to reading it again, perhaps in April of 2022, and feeling those same emotions about this current time in my life.

On the Road, by Jack Kerouac – 5 stars


First Meetings

I almost violated my rule on only re-reading one book per month by opening up Ender’s Game again. January was reading that this month, and it made me want to go back to this wonderful book. Instead, I read this collection of short stories from the Ender series. The first two stories are a more in-depth introduction to Ender’s dad, John Paul, and how he was almost recruited for Battle School when he was just a child and how he met Ender’s mother while attending college. The third story is the original version of Ender’s Game, and really just focuses on the period after Ender begins training with his own Dragon Team in Battle School. The final story takes place several hundred years after the events of Ender’s Game, and explores a little bit of Ender’s life while in exile. I enjoyed all the stories, but they were really just a taste of the brilliance of the full version of Ender’s Game. Definitely worth a read just to fill out your understanding of the series, and certainly a quick read, but nothing amazing.

First Meetings, by Orson Scott Card – 3 stars


After Dark

Haruki Murakami is one of my all-time favorite authors, but this is the one book if his that got away from me. The English version of this book was published in 2007 and I remember first trying to read it while January and I were on our makeup honeymoon on Sanibel Island. For whatever reason I just couldn’t get into this book back then and I ended up putting it down after only reading a quarter or so of it. I picked it back up this month, all these years later, to give it another shot. I must have just not been in a reading mood the first time around, because this time I got through it all very easily. It’s pretty typical of Murakami’s work, featuring a cast of interesting characters with their own quirks and mysteries, but I can’t say it was my favorite of his books. Worth the read if you’ve read everything else he’s written and just want more of the same, but there’s no new ground covered here. If you haven’t read The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle or A Wild Sheep Chase yet, I’d recommend those instead.

After Dark, by Haruki Murakami – 3 stars



52 Books: Weeks 6-9


Samedi the Deafness

There seem to be three unofficially sanctioned responses to this book: You may heap praise on the author for his brilliance, you can say that you didn’t understand it but it’s probably brilliant anyway, or you can say that you didn’t understand it and you’re a little pissed off about that. I’m really not sure which camp I fall in. Really, reading this book was kind of like watching a David Lynch movie. David Lynch movies can be very enjoyable if you’re aware that you’re watching a David Lynch movie. You know that there are layers you’re supposed to get, if you’re clever enough, and even if you aren’t clever enough you can enjoy the story and certain elements for what they are and the way they’re presented. The problem is that I wasn’t aware that I was watching a David Lynch movie. As a result, I found myself unfulfilled on the promise that I was given in the first chapters. Samedi the Deafness gives the illusion that it is a spy thriller — a mystery — that will be unfolded over the course of its 300 pages. That’s not to say it isn’t a spy thriller / mystery, or that it isn’t resolved in the end, but it didn’t play out in the way one expects it to. I don’t like to read the “dust jacket” review before starting a book, but in this case it would appear that I should have. This book really wasn’t the book I was lead to believe it was, and as a result don’t feel very qualified to give it a rating, or make a recommendation about whether or not one should read it. The book is what it is.

Samedi the Deafness, by Jesse Ball


Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close


I’m a little conflicted about how to rate this book. I’m really trying hard to stop throwing out four- and five-star reviews so much, but this book really did move me more than most books do. It’s a really well told story on the nature of dealing with and moving past loss, and how different people handle the loss of a loved one. It’s one of those books that I’m really glad I read, yet I’m not sure I would recommend to just anyone. Some may find it simply depressing, or even emotionally manipulative, but I found it to be really sweet and thoughtful.

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, by Jonathan Safran Foer – 4 stars

Along Came a Spider


I very vaguely remember watching this movie a decade or so ago, and I know this series has a couple dozen books, so it has to be good. Right? Wrong. I was, however, genuinely curious about how it would wrap up, so I did manage to read clear to the end. I don’t think I’m spoiling anything by telling you that this is the story of a kidnapping by a supposed schitzophrenic sociopath. And, of course, the big question is whether or not he’s really schitzophrenic or just faking everyone. Really, though, I just didn’t care. Like all of the other characters, he just wasn’t at all believable. Granted, it is the first in the Alex Cross series, so maybe Patterson’s writing has improved since this one was released, but I’m really not all that interested in finding out.

Along Came a Spider, by James Patterson – 2 stars

52 Books: Weeks 1-5


Five weeks into 2012, and I’m already ahead of the game! Following a year where I only read four books, I’m looking to increase my pace to a one-a-week schedule. During weeks one through five, I managed to finish a total of eight books. The following is a brief, spoiler-free review of what I’ve been reading the past few weeks.

The Maze Runner Trilogy

Of the four books I read in 2011, three of them were young adult fiction. Just about everyone has read the Hunger Games trilogy by now, and I’m no exception. On the heels of these books, which I enjoyed greatly, it was recommended that we try the Maze Runner series as well. The general feel of the series is very similar to that of The Hunger Games. Thomas, a teenage boy, wakes up in an walled-in glade with forty or fifty other boys. None of them remember how they got there, and they are surrounded on all sized by an enormous maze. They have spent the last two years trying in vain to solve the maze when Thomas shows up. In the days following Thomas’ appearance, though, everything changes forcing them to up their efforts very quickly.

If I hadn’t read The Hunger Games, I might think more highly of this series. The idea in general is an interesting one, it just felt very poorly executed. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a very engaging series, and I read through it very quickly. All three books are a very easy read, but easy isn’t always good. The best way I can describe the series is that it was a great idea that I wish a better author had tackled. That said, the author is working on a fourth book — a prequel — and despite my lukewarm feelings about the series I will probably read that as well.

The Maze Runner, by James Dashner – 3 stars
The Scorch Trials, by James Dashner – star2_new
The Death Cure, by James Dashner – star2_new


The Road


It’s no secret that I like depressing books. This is my second time reading this book through, and I can absolutely say that it has become one of my favorites. It’s the story of a father and son in post-apocalyptic America, trying to make their way east to safety. If you’re reading the book just for the facts of the story — the state of the world they are in and the events that happen to them — it is incredibly dark and depressing. What I love about this book is the bond between father and son and the father’s steadfast determination to watch out for his son and get him to safety, no matter the obstacles. Even in the face of near death and starvation, over and over, he puts the wellbeing of his boy before his own. While it is absolutely a sad story, I always find a strong element of hope that there exists something in our human nature that can push good to the forefront even in horrible circumstances.

The Road, by Cormac McCarthy – 3 stars


A Short History of Nearly Everything


This one is a minor cheat. I started reading this in early November, but put it on the back burner a month later, only to return to it this past month. A Short History of Nearly Everything, by Bill Bryson, it a fairly comprehensive view of the history of everything we know about the world we live in, from a layman’s perspective. Bryson points out that we grow up knowing about the layers of the earth, volcanos, evolution, space, atoms, etc. but there are so many things that go unanswered. Like, how do we know how old the universe is? What causes ice ages? If an atom is made up of mostly empty space, how does everything hold together?

I enjoyed what I learned from this book, but as you might expect from a book with such diverse subject matter, there were parts that I had to force myself to read through. I found myself really enjoying the parts about geology, space, and our universe’s origins, while barely staying awake during the parts dealing with quantum physics, atoms, and molecular studies. Regardless, the fact that a non-scientist like Bryson dedicated some serious time to answering these questions for other non-scientists is greatly appreciated. It’s a bit of a commitment, but it’s worth a read if you’re at all curious about the state of science and how we know what we know about the world today.

A Short History of Nearly Everything, by Bill Bryson – 3 stars


Of Mice and Men


After lagging behind January on several books, we decided that we would pick a book and read it at the same time. When I finished up A Short History of Nearly Everything, January still had a day or so on her current book. I sorted my “to read” list on Goodreads by length to pick out the shortest one, and Of Mice and Men turned out to be it. It’s the story of two migrant field workers, George and Lennie, who travel to various farms to make a living hoping to one day save up enough money to buy a little place of their own where they can “live off the fatta the lan’.” Lennie is a mentally disabled oaf of a man, and George does his best to look after him as they travel around working the fields. It’s a great — but not happy — story and at barely 100 pages it really should be on everyone’s reading list.

Of Mice and Men, by John Steinbeck – 3 stars


The Night Circus


I loved this book. I recently realized that, when rating books, I have a tendency to be a little too generous with five-star ratings and almost never dole out one- or two-star reviews. Consequently, I have decided that I won’t give a five-star rating to any book that I have only read once. That said, I think The Night Circus could one day be a five-star book for me. I knew almost nothing about the book when I started reading it and I’m glad I didn’t spoil it by reading the dust jacket intro. In that spirit, I won’t say much except that it’s the story of an extraordinary circus at the turn of the 20th century which is the site of a battle between two magicians and their students. The Night Circus was as magical and enchanting as you would expect a book about a magic circus to be. I believe this is Erin Morgenstern’s first novel, which is very impressive given the quality of the writing. I will say, though, that the last 10% of so of the book lost me a little. I’m not entirely sure I’m on board — or even very clear — with the resolution, but the first 90% was so enjoyable that I’m sure I’ll be back for a second read before too long.

The Night Circus, by Erin Morgenstern – 3 stars



I didn’t know a lot about this book going into it, apart from what I had gleaned from the trailer of the 2002 film adaptation. I haven’t read much science fiction, though, and it seemed like a good introduction to the genre. The more I think about it after having read it, though, the more it feels like a philosophy book. I kind of expected a standard science fiction story, where the visiting humans encountered an alien presence and either overcame it or succumbed to it, but Solaris didn’t really end up being about that. Rather, it was more about the nature of communication, as well as the nature of desire and love. I very much enjoyed the story, despite some long, descriptive passages of Solaririst history and geography that wasn’t entirely necessary. But really, it was barely 200 pages so a little extra backstory on the planet isn’t unreasonable. I did appreciate how well thought-out the history of the planet was. It gave me a better sense of the scope of human experience with the planet and its inhabitant, even if reading through it all left me waiting for the story to get “back to the action.” It was a good, easy read and left me curious to see how certain aspects of the book were handled by the various film adaptations.
Solaris, by Stanislaw Lem – 3 stars