"One's time for reading is so limited that it seems one might best spend it upon what one knows is good rather than take chances on what one is not sure of."

-Albert Jay Nock

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

The One with Fight Club

Title & Author: Fight Club by Chuck Palahniuk (222 pages)
Genre: Fiction--Novel
Completed: 15 August 2016

Summary & Review:
Trapped in a dead-end job with no prospects, no family, and no happiness, the unnamed narrator suffers from severe insomnia. The only way he can sleep is by visiting cancer support groups and crying his eyes out. That is the only way he can sleep, that is, until he meets Tyler Durden. After a night of drinking, Tyler asks him to punch him as hard as he can and the first Fight Club is born. As the club grows, it soon becomes about more than just letting out anger and aggression and morphs into Project Mayhem, a movement dedicated to the destruction of modern civilization. Can Tyler be stopped before it is too late?

Believe it or not, at its heart, Fight Club is a love story between the narrator and Marla, a girl he meets at one of his support groups. But, this is definitely not a Nicholas Sparks love story. Mixed in with the growing relationship between the two is anarchy, violence, schizophrenia, terrorism, and more.

The 1999 movie adaptation of this book was awesome and for a long time I was interested in reading the novel. Seeing the movie first kind of ruined the major revelation or surprise in the book, but oh well.

Rating: 6.5

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

The One with Me Talk Pretty One Day

362. Title & Author: Me Talk Pretty One Day by David Sedaris (292 pages)
Genre: Fiction--Humor
Completed: 9 August 2016

Summary & Review:
Humorist David Sedaris tackles topics from learning a foreign language to growing up in North Carolina with his trademark wit and incisive observations in this collection of short stories and essays.

I've previously read Sedaris' When You Are Engulfed In Flames and while I enjoyed some of that book, many of the chapters weren't really to my liking. Overall, this was a more enjoyable book. While not every story was laugh out loud funny, some were, which is an impressive feat for a book. Especially hilarious were his accounts of attempting to learn French.

Rating: 6.0

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

The One with In the Garden of Beasts

361. Title & Author: In the Garden of Beasts: Love, Terror, and an American Family in Hitler’s Berlin by Erik Larson (365 pages)
Genre: Nonfiction—History
Completed: 3 August 2016

Summary & Review:
Historian and college professor William Dodd was chosen as ambassador to Germany in 1933 just as Adolf Hitler and the Nazis were rising to power. An unlikely pick for an ambassador, the bookish Dodd stepped on many toes, both at home in the United States and in interwar Germany. Accompanying him was his wife and two twenty-something children, and together they witnessed as Hitler and the Nazis consolidated power and terrorized the German people.

This book was recommended to me by a friend and I was eager to read it. The subject matter is definitely something that interests me, but Larson took a rather strange approach to it. Rather than really delving into the details behind the Nazis rise and what it was truly like to live there during those early years of Hitler’s rule, he spent almost a third of the book discussing Dodd’s daughter Martha and her extensive love life. Not only did Martha have numerous affairs with married men including the head of the Gestapo, but she ended up spying for the Soviets against the United States and died in exile in Prague behind the Iron Curtain. Larson quoted Martha as saying how horrible the Nazis were but she completely embraced Soviet Communism which was responsible for millions more deaths than Nazism. Larson even had the gall to write, regarding Martha, “She died in 1990 at the age of eighty-two, not precisely a hero…”. Not precisely a hero?!? Not even close. In what world would she ever be considered a hero?

Anyway, I thought Larson’s pace was slow and his choice of emphasis puzzling so I doubt I’ll read any of his other works, despite them being best sellers.

Rating: 3.5

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

The One with Slaughterhouse-Five

360. Title & Author: Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut (274 pages)
Genre: Fiction—Novel
Completed: 23 July 2016

Summary & Review:
Billy Pilgrim, a gangly loner joins the Army during WWII as a chaplain’s assistant. After he is taken prisoner by the Germans in Luxembourg (“Been there!”) he is shipped to Dresden thirty days before the infamous fire-bombing and destruction of the city.

There is a lot of other random stuff in this novel, such as time-travel and space aliens, but I’m sure pretentious English Lit. majors see those as metaphors and symbols for the horrors of war, PTSD, etc. Blah, blah, blah. Look, this book was written in the Sixties, and that really explains the whole thing. As Paige recently said to me about a book she was reading, “not my cuppa hot chocolate.”

On another note, this was the first book I’ve read on a Kindle. Paige was kind enough to get me one for Father’s Day. While I’ve long been skeptical about abandoning physical, paper books I gave in so I could easily read in bed at night after Paige has gone to sleep. My verdict? I actually really, really like it. I have no intention of not collecting and reading physical books anymore, but this just allows me to read in situations that used to be very inconvenient to do so.

Rating: 4.5

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

The One with Alien Nation

359. Title & Author: Alien Nation: Common Sense About America’s Immigration Disaster by Peter Brimelow (293 pages)
Genre: Nonfiction—Politics
Completed: 23 July 2015

Summary & Review:
British-American financial and political writer (and immigrant) Peter Brimelow examines America’s immigration policy. He explores the history of immigration to the United States from before independence up until the present day, which was 1993 when the book was written. Brimelow discusses how the 1965 immigration act, as well as several subsequent bills, has waged demographic war on the historic American nation for little to no economic gain. To solve the problem, Brimelow suggests several measures that could be taken including repealing the 1965 immigration act, enforcing immigration law both at the border and within the country, drastically reducing the number of immigrants allowed annually, and changing our immigrations system to skills-based rather than family reunification-based.

This was a well-written book. Brimelow’s arguments were measured, rational, and thoughtful. If you found Ann Coulter’s excellent Adios! America to be a little too much, then this book is a nice change of pace. While Brimelow’s solutions weren’t exactly groundbreaking, that’s to be expected because this is not a hard problem to solve, technically. The issue is with the level of emotion, misinformation, shady kickbacks, ethnic lobbies, white-guilt and more wrapped up in the issue of immigration. I wish more people would read books like Brimelow’s, or Coulter’s.

One of my favorite points in this book was this: “The onus should not be on critics of current immigration policy to explain their motives. Instead, supporters of current policy must explain why they wish to transform the American nation as it had evolved by 1965.” (106) Exactly. Unless there is an actual, demonstrable benefit to immigration, why do it at all? The default should be none, with special exceptions receiving permission. We have no need for continued mass immigration, especially with the continued automation taking place in modern economies.

Rating: 8.5

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

The One with Sabriel

358. Title & Author: Sabriel by Garth Nix (491 pages)
Genre: Fiction—Fantasy
Completed: 28 June 2017

Summary & Review:
18 year old Sabriel has spent her life just outside the magical Old Kingdom, but her Father has done his best to train her in the ways of the Abhorsen, necromancers that return to Death things that never should have come back to Life. When her father goes missing, Sabriel must cross the wall back to the Old Kingdom and save him.

This was a fun fantasy and a fast read. Nix created an interesting world where two civilizations, one magical and one like early Twentieth Century reality, live side by side. Additionally, I loved the way that Nix depicted Death, not the act of dying but of the place or world of Death. I know that is strange to say, but it really was a fascinating take on it.

Rating: 7.0

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

The One with The Redneck Manifesto

357. Title & Author: The Redneck Manifesto by Jim Goad (255 pages)
Genre: Fiction—Politics
Completed: 18 June 2016

Summary & Review:
Self-proclaimed white trash Jim Goad explores the world of rednecks, hillbillies, trailer trash, and the rest of the white working class. Chapters include the history of the white working class and examinations of their working, recreational, and religious habits.

This was one of the least enjoyable books I’ve read in a long time. Goad, whose columns I’ve read and enjoyed online for a few years, seemed to just be trying too hard. It was all too clever, too snarky, too punk rock, too “screw you, man” by half. Granted, this was published in the late 1990s, so it could just be a product of that time period. Or maybe, since Goad was twenty years younger then than he is now, his political views weren’t fully formed. Whatever it was, I couldn’t wait to be done with the book.

Now, there were some interesting parts to it. The chapter exploring the history of white slavery and indentured servitude was fascinating, as was his deconstruction of current race relations. But, large parts of the book were just immature, counter-culture ravings.

Rating: 2.0