Reading log: June 2012

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61018-books 053.jpg

Books acquired: “The Scarlet Pimpernel,” Baroness Orczy; “Treasure Island!!!,” Sara Levine; “Gently Down the Stream,” Bill McClellan.

Books read: “Children of the Streets,” Harlan Ellison; “The Son of Tarzan,” Edgar Rice Burroughs; “Daughter of Fu Manchu,” Sax Rohmer; “Methuselah’s Children” and “Orphans of the Sky,” Robert A. Heinlein.

Choosing my books by title is somewhat childish, admittedly — or playful, to be more upbeat — and this month I made it official by choosing books with titles concerning children.

The Ellison is a collection of circa-1960 fiction about juvenile deliquents; the Tarzan and Fu Manchu books are the fourth entries in their respective series (alas, son and daughter do not cross over and meet); and the two Heinleins are midcentury science fiction novels.

Best of the bunch was “Orphans of the Sky,” a neat religious allegory (with some “Idiocracy” thrown in) about an enormous spaceship that has traveled so long, for so many generations, that its occupants have no memory of Earth and don’t even understand they’re on a spaceship. Heh. The other Heinlein, about a secret society of long-lived people who have bred among themselves to extend life further, was less successful. The Ellison was all right, kind of a time capsule of its era, and the Fu and Tarzan books were good clean fun.

I’ll bring to the attention of commenter McBride that the protagonist of “Orphans” is named Hugh.

I bought all these books in the past, oh, eight years or so. These five bring me to 47 books read at the halfway point of the year. One hundred will elude me. Ninety may elude me. If I can finish 80 I’ll be happy.

OK, your turn. In the unlikely event that any of you have read any of the above, let us know; otherwise, let us know what you’ve been reading and how you’re doing on any personal reading goals. Do you anticipate a fruitful summer of reading or are you working like dogs?

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  • Will Plunkett

    I had a nice month, with an even 10 books read; up to 34 on the year so far. An extended out-of-state vacation gave me less time to read than a normal June would. Again, a grab-bag mix of book categories. And nope, I haven’t read any of yours this month, David.

    R. Zasio (The Hoarder in You) I saw it on the New Books shelf at the library. It confirms the fact that I am not a hoarder of items, but that I do have the common accumulation tendencies.

    J. Grubb (Scourge) A pretty good Star Wars novel. No familiar characters, to the general public.

    S. Graham-Smith & J. Austen (Pride & Prejudice & Zombies) Like the Lincoln/vampires story, you cant take it too seriously or else youll roll your eyes and groan. Its fun, a little too much vomit included, but tongue-in-cheek.

    P. Coelho (Aleph) I have liked almost all his works, but this one was the worst of his that I have read. Hes a character in it, to make it seem semi-autobiographical, but there are enough parts to make it clearly fictional. Fairly dull and boring.

    D. Hammett (Red Harvest) Id heard this was a better novel than The Maltese Falcon; it was pretty good, as most of his books are. A nice colloquial speech blast-from-the-past.

    H. Aaron & L. Wheeler (I Had a Hammer) Autobiography of the real home run king (sorry, Barry Bonds), who should be seen at the same level as Jackie Robinson for his contributions to baseball. Well told, honest.

    K. Jennings (Brainiac) Not as much about himself as the concept of trivia and knowledge accumulation. Well-written and informative, especially for someone like me whos tried out for the Jeopardy! game show.

    V. Sarkis (The Odyssey of an Armenian Revolutionary Couple) I met this author on the cruise vacation, and he signed and gave me his copy. Dreadful conditions during the 20th century genocide, but amazing personal struggles and survival.

    S. Sheldon (Tell Me Your Dreams) The librarys adult summer reading theme has dream in the name, this book has dream in its title, and I hadnt ever read a Sidney Sheldon book. Thats why I chose it. It was okay, but it did keep me interested and surprised through much of it.

    L. Kessler (The Happy Bottom Riding Club) I saw a PBS bio on early pilot Pancho Barnes, and sought out a book version. She probably deserves as much recognition for her efforts in pioneering airplane flight as Amelia Earhart, but her salty language and baffling choices make her more of a character than trailblazer in some eyes.

    [Thanks, Will. I've read one of yours, Hammett's "Red Harvest," which I too liked, although I wouldn't say it's better than "Maltese Falcon." -- DA]

  • John Clifford

    Yahoo, managed 2 this past month.

    Micro by Michael Crichton (posthumously) and Richard Preston. A story of advance technology that can shrink people down to 1/2″ in size and the world that they discover at that small size.

    Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson. A revealing, warts and all biography of the founder of Apple Computer, NeXT Computer, Pixar, and the man behind the “i” thingies.

    [Thanks for contributing to this blog thingie, John. -- DA]

  • DebB

    I continued with several of the mystery series I’ve been going through, reading 6-8 books by authors like Aaron Elkins, Joanne Fluke, Connie Shelton and Maria Hudgins.

    In addition, I also tried a new (to me) author, Ann Charles, reading her book “Nearly Departed”, the first in a series. Although I mostly enjoyed the book, the sexual tension between two main characters suddenly came to fruition at the end, and a large part of the last chapter verged on soft porn. I skipped over it, considering it rather gratuitous and unnecessary, for me at least. I probably won’t read another in the series.

    However, based on John Clifford’s recommendation last month, I purchased “The Curse of Capistrano” for my Kindle and loved it! Having grown up in Southern Cal, many of the place names were familiar, and it was fun to imagine what our megalopolis would have been like back then, when going from Los Angeles to San Gabriel meant an all-day horseback ride. I agree with John that Don Diego was a little one-dimensional. I also wondered how I would have felt reading it for the first time, not already knowing that he was Zorro. On the one hand, the surprise was spoiled for me. On the other hand, I was in on the secret!

    [You read a book recommended here by another commenter? That's cool! Makes this feel more like a real discussion. Thanks as always for contributing, Deb. And our blogger's beanie is off to you for reading 8 to 10 books last month. -- DA]

  • Doug Evans

    I can’t say I read 8-10 books this past month, but I read four… more than I’ve read in any month yet this year! Without further ado…

    * A Game of Thrones, by George R. R. Martin… The start of that giant fantasy series that’s been turned into that wildly popular HBO mini-series. Fun stuff! A lot darker and therefore probably more realistic than Tolkien… realistic, given dragons and magic spells and so on… Read for a book club, and therefore a rare moment in my life when a book I would choose on my own and a book assigned to me in a book club merge and become as one. And, hey, for more on Tolkien, keep reading below!

    *The Caves of Steel, by Isaac Asimov… The first of three robot/detective novels Asimov wrote featuring his popular (among Asimov fans) characters Elijah Baley (human) and R. Daneel Olivaw (robot) (note the “R.”; that’s the give-away). I read these back in junior high/high school and re-read them partly for the sentimentality but also to see if my opinion of Asimov’s writing has changed in the twenty-five years since then. I still like his stuff, but can now agree with a common critique of his writing that he can’t write female characters. (Notice the “now”… back in junior high/high school, I would have had no idea how accurate his portrayal of women was.)

    *The Naked Sun, by Isaac Asimov… The second in the above-mentioned series. Not much for me to add here, except that I was desperately trying to get the third book in the series read by the end of June so I could include all three here in this blog. Didn’t make it. Tune in next month!

    And, last but not least…

    *The Return of the King, by Tolkien… Finally finished my over-a-year-long reading of The Lord of the Rings to my daughter! She hung through all the way to the end… She did say, in a comment that LOTR fans will get: “I thought that when they destroyed the ring, the book would be over.” Chapters to go after that, it turns out, Miss Margot. (That’s my daughter.) I’m glad to have made it all the way… proud of Margot for sticking with it… kind of sad it’s done. A chapter of our lives is over.

    I’ve read three of the books mentioned above… Requiem for Methuselah, Red Harvest, and Brainiac… Nothing really to say except it’s always interesting for me to see what books others are reading that I’ve read.

    Happy reading, everyone! See you all next month!

    [Congratulations on reading the entire LOTR trilogy aloud to your daughter. That's quite an achievement and something she'll always remember. Now go take a throat lozenge. You deserve it. We'll see you next month with an Asimov book and who knows what else. -- DA]

  • Mark Allen

    Only six so far this year, putting me far behind the pace of others, including my own pace of 22 last year. However, my hoity-toit status based on egghead tomes shall remain unchallenged.

    Inside Apple: How Americas Most Admired and Secretive Company Really Works – Adam Lashinsky

    The Road to Verdun: World War I’s Most Momentous Battle and the Folly of Nationalism – Ian Ousby

    The Wehrmacht In Russia – Bob Carruthers
    (maybe made worse in the Kindle version, but it was poorly written and very poorly edited, almost like it was a translation)

    Bismarck: The Final Days of Germany’s Greatest Battleship – Niklas Zetterling

    On Killing: The Psychological Cost of Learning to Kill in War and Society – Lt. Col. Dave Grossman

    Why Classical Music Still Matters – Lawrence Kramer

    Im currently wading through:

    After Hitler: Recivilizing Germans, 1945-1995 – Konrad H. Jarausch

    Ball Four – Jim Bouton

    [Thanks, bro. Does this mean we'll hear from you in January about the books you read from July to December? -- DA]

  • Mark Allen

    Probably … although I’ve already blown two of my bullets by referencing books I’m still reading.

    T’ain’t easy being a Renaissance Man.