Townhouse Books

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

What We're Reading Now - Updates Anyone?

Jason: See what's on my bookshelf


Anna: Black Swan Green by David Mitchell. All the positive reviews of his earlier stuff, plus a good deal on Amazon...

Justin:

Amanda:

Emily: Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell. Next I have The Mysterious Flame of Queen Loana by Umberto Eco which I think Jason previously read. It's due back at the library soon so not sure if I'm going to get to it. [3-28-06]

Brian: Dialectology by J.K. Chambers - An overview of current trends and ideas in Dialectology.

Also, if you need recommendations on what to read and you're not down with Amazon's recommendations, you might try WhatShouldIReadNext.com. Enter an author's name and the name of one of their books and you're golden.

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Monday, March 20, 2006

The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky



This is a YA book set in 1991/1992. I enjoyed it very much. The main character is a freshman in high school who hangs out with a bunch of seniors. The book is constructed from a series of letters from this kid to an unknown reader, supposedly us. It reads like a diary in that the kid says a lot of things he wouldn't normally tell anyone. I enjoyed a lot of the honesty, and the mixed tapes. The problem I have with the book is that the parents never notice their child's descent into drugs and alcohol. He seems to spend many nights out late with these older kids. I assume that I won't be as good/bad of a parent, but who knows. By the end he fbegf bhg nyy bs uvf ceboyrzf naq unf fjbea bs qehtf naq nypbuby. Jurer ner gur nqqvpgf. Bu jnvg ur qbrf pbagvahr gb fzbxr ohg ur unf cebzvfrq uvf fvfgre ur jvyy dhvg.

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Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Toward the End of Time: John Updike

The used bookstore didn't have any of the Rabbit books that I wanted to read on a trip, so I bought this one on a whim. I thought it was extraordinary. And weird. There is a "plot" I could talk about, how the main character's name is Ben Turnbull, a retired lawyer who lives in Massachusetts, and that the book takes place in 2020 when the country is in some chaos after a Sino-American war, his wife, an affair, etc. ... but that's not what the book it about. It's about aging, sadness, death, language, the nature of time, and a whole lot about Ben's penis.


And some of the passages had me repeating a line weeks later or just cracked me up:

[Setting: Winter, he just heard his wife and a hunter outside and believe they may have caught a deer]

Without patience for socks, I stuck my naked feet into the loafers and, moving faster than I had for months, grabbed the old parka, with its seams leaking down, hung on the hook nearest the kitchen door downstairs. The cold outside was misty, and felt like shackles on my bare ankes. The day was still too young to have acquired horizons.


Shackles. Yes, exactly.

And:

Gloria is very beautiful," Beatrice said, but listlessly. "Maybe an aerobics class is what I need. That, or give up alcohol. They say you drop five to ten pounds right away. How do you find it, Ben, not drinking?"

"Like waking up in Kansas every morning. But at least you don't have a headache or a lot of fuzz in your mouth."


Kansas. Hee.

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Monday, March 13, 2006

Our "Gideon" Books

What is the book that you recommend to people over and over? I call it a Gideon book because it's the book you feel so passionate about that you would hand it out on the street.

Mine used to be "A Severed Head" by Iris Murdoch, but I haven't read it or recommended it in a few years. I take a slightly twisted pleasure in convincing people to start reading the Robert Jordan series, but less because I love it and more because I want to share the pain. I think I'm without one right now, so I'm curious to hear what everyone else answers.

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Monday, March 06, 2006

Kindred: Octavia Butler

Octavia Butler has been on my "read this some day" list for years, and I'm sad to say it was her obituary on Slate.com that finally motivated me to read one of her books. Kindred is the story of a modern black woman who involuntarily time travels to the antebellem southern plantation where her earliest known ancestor has not yet been born. She is compelled to save the life of the plantation owner's son again and again, because she realizes that her family's survival depends on his.

This novel is incredibly well-researched, and well-written in a way that many well-researched books are not. Rather than weigh down her story with tedious exposition, Butler places her protagonist in situations that illustrate the hardships and ironies of daily life on the plantation. The central time travel premise is the only fantastical element of the book, but that makes the character's adjustment to her situation so interesting -- without the aid of a babel fish or a hitchhikers guide, she must make sense of a culture with rules that are not only foreign, they are repulsive.

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Thursday, March 02, 2006

Technology for the rest of us: Nancy Courtney



A conference was held by the same title, and the organizer of that conference decided to ask the presenters to write chapters for this book. All of the articles pertain to current technologies that libraries should be aware of.

I found the book to be interesting and insightful. The authors of each chapter are the best in their particular field. Feel free to skip ahead to the chapter(s) that interests you. But, make sure you at least read the chapter on "Blogs and RSS".

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Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Quicksilver: Neal Stephenson

So everyone knows that I hate science, right? My excitement level about the the forces driving natural phenomena existing around me = so low it's barely measurable. Well, I just finished a novel about the Scientific Revolution in three days. I never would have finished it if I hadn't gotten stuck in an airport for four hours - it was long enough for me to resign myself to the science and get involved in the story.

Daniel Waterhouse is brilliant, but since he runs with a crowd that includes Isaac Newton and Robert Hooke he ends up being more of a chronicler of rapidly changing times. The novel shifts back and forth between Waterhouse as an old man and flashbacks to his youth and middle age. Halfway through, Stephenson leaves Waterhouse mid-Atlantic and introduces two new main characters. Their story wanders across Europe, eventually uniting with Waterhouse's flashback. The chronology takes a bit of effort, but the story is engrossing. It's a lovely re-realization at the end of the book that there are two more installments, already written. Next time I have a miraculous block of time open to me I'll pick up the next one!

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