Tuesday, May 3, 2005

BOOKS: Books I Read, April

If Blogger ever stops screwing up long enough to let me post this, it's Books I Read, the April 2005 edition! (January, February and March, respectively, can be found here, here, here) Definitely read less last month, between heavy workload and desire to spend more of my dwindling free time with the boy... Five books vs. eight in March. Ah well. I still strive on!

"Angels & Demons" by Dan Brown. I felt like a light "airplane read" after all my heavy reading in March, so I dug into this book by the writer of the entertaining enough "Da Vinci Code." Quite by coincidence it turned out to deal with the death of a pope and terrorist machinations around the conclave to replace him, so it felt topical. Not great literature, but I have a weakness for thrillers based on arcane history, and it "keeps the blood moving." Succumbs to ever-escalating ridiculous plot twists and explosions about two-thirds through, but still not a bad read.

"Notes From A Small Island" by Bill Bryson. I love Bryson's conversational, intelligent and witty nonfiction, including such books as "In A Sunburned Country" and "A Short History of Nearly Everything." This is one of his earlier works, and I have to admit preferring his later ones -- the smart-ass tone is a bit more strident in his earlier books than the gentler satire he later developed. Still, it's a good travelogue he takes of England as he prepared to move to America, exploring Britain and the quirks and contradictions of its culture. Worth reading if you're a fan of the man.

"Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close" by Jonathan Safron Foer - check out my full review of this one here.

"Into The Wild" by Jon Krakauer (re-read). Doing one of my periodic "purges" of the bookshelf I came across this paperback I hadn't read in years, and what a fine little book it is. The true story of Chris McCandless, a privileged teenager who abandoned traditional civilization to wander America, eventually setting out to live off the land in raw Alaska - where he met his final fate. This smart, sad book says a lot about the conflict between the modern world and what we idealize about nature, about being young and hopeful, and how unforgiving the woods can be. Worth reading, and reading again.

"Voice Of The Fire" by Alan Moore. This strange, glittering book deserves a full post of its own, and hopefully sometime soon I'll do that (although you can head over to Jog's blog for some great readin' on it that's much smarter than anything I would write). This is the only prose novel by Moore, whom most would consider the greatest comics writer of all time. Experimental, with highly visual and baroque prose, it's 12 interconnected stories that take place in Moore's English hometown of Northhampton over the past 6,000 years or so. Horrible deaths, the collision between magic and Christianity, and strange symbols are repeated and echo throughout. It's not easy reading - the first 40 pages or so are narrated in a bizarre pidgin English by a feeble-minded Neandarthal boy and it goes slowwwwww - but it casts its own unique spell, wrapping up with a fourth wall-breaking blood and fire conclusion narrated by Moore himself. It's not always successful, but it definitely tries hard to be something new.

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