Reading log: July 2012

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Books acquired: none

Books read: “A Memory of Murder,” “A Medicine for Melancholy,” Ray Bradbury; “At the Mountains of Madness,” H.P. Lovecraft; “Mail-Order Mysteries,” Kirk Demarais; “The Mad Morality,” Vernard Eller; “Of Mice and Men,” John Steinbeck; “The Marx Brothers at the Movies,” Paul Zimmerman and Burt Goldblatt; “The Mask of Fu Manchu,” Sax Rohmer.

Mm-mm! July’s reading was made up of books with a couple of M’s in the title. As organizing principles go, that’s moderately mad, but it was as good a reason as any to get to a clutch of eight (!) books that have lingered unread on my shelves for far too long. (Alas, I ran out of time to read four more: “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance,” “Murders in the Rue Morgue,” “The Man Who Sold the Moon” and “From Metal to Mozart.”)

My selections encompassed two Ray Bradbury collections, one compiling his early pulp detective fiction, the other a 1959 book of fantasy and mainstream stories; an H.P. Lovecraft horror collection; an amusing book revealing what you really got if you responded to mail-order ads in comic books for U-Control Ghosts, Sea Monkeys and the like; a book about the 10 Commandments and modern morality illustrated with satirical examples from Mad magazine and written by a La Verne professor of religion; a Steinbeck classic almost everyone has read; a film-by-film guide to the Marx Brothers; and the fifth in the Fu Manchu series of thrillers.

“Of Mice and Men” was, naturally, the best of the above, although I liked them all to varying degrees. “Mail-Order Mysteries” was especially entertaining to this longtime comics fan and made me glad I never wasted my money on any of the novelties. The Mad book was perhaps the oddest of the plethora of Mad mass-market paperbacks, a sort of “Gospel According to Peanuts” effort. I wrote an obituary about the author a few years ago but hadn’t read his book until now.

I’d read the Steinbeck and “A Medicine for Melancholy,” albeit three decades ago; the others I’d never read. “Mail-Order” was a Christmas gift last year, most of the rest were purchased this century and the Marx Brothers book has, embarrassingly, been in my collection since my teens.

What have you folks been reading?

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  • DebB

    I continued a few of the mystery series I’ve been reading, and also read a couple books by new-to-me authors.

    Continuing series: Death on the Aegean Queen by Maria Hudgins; Obsessions can be Murder by Connie Shelton; Dead Men’s Hearts and Twenty Blue Devils by Aaron Elkins; Carrot Cake Murder and Cream Puff Murder by Joanne Fluke.

    New-to-me authors: Simon Said by Sarah Shaber; A Deadly Blessing by Kathy Bennett.

    The Aaron Elkins series (which I like a lot) features a forensic anthropologist who studies ancient and no-so-ancient bones. The Sarah Shaber series has a similar theme, featuring a historical anthropologist. I enjoyed the first book, with a few misgivings, so I may try the second book to see if I continue to like the series.

    The Kathy Bennett book is the first in a new series featuring an LAPD detective. The author herself is retired LAPD, and her experience combined with so many familiar locations make for an interesting book. A little more sexually explicit than I like, but I’m willing to give her second book a try whenever it’s released.

    [So you had an eight-book month too, eh, Deb? I like your balanced approach: a few books by authors you like, coupled with a few by unfamiliar authors. -- DA]

  • Will Plunkett

    With my last month of free time, I was able to read 20 books in July. Not really any theme overall, but there were some mini-themes, I guess. Im up to 35 books this summer, and 54 on the year. Dont know how many more Ill get to, but I want to at least read one a month.

    [RIP authors in 2012] Bradbury, R. (The Illustrated Man; I cant believe I hadnt read this one yet. Now my favorite RB book) and Sobol, D. (Encyclopedia Brown & the Case of the Disgusting Sneakers; loved these as a kid, but I dont know if theyd hold up in todays youth world as well)

    [Star Wars] Miller, JJ (Lost Tribe of the Sith: The Collected Stories; 8 ebooks and a new epilogue all together) and Fry, J. (SW:The Essential Guide to Warfare; textbook style history based on wars and battles)

    [Science-Fiction] Idle, E. (The Road to Mars; the Monty Python actor wrote a comedy in space, which was so-so humor-wise but decent in sci-fi style), Niven, L. & EM Lerner (Fleet of Worlds; about a future Earth and the aliens that humans serve), and Wells, HG (The War in the Air; a fictional world war using airplanes and zeppelins written before WWI)

    [Westerns] Estleman, L. (The Branch and the Scaffold; Ive read several of his books, usually good details and characters, this was fictionalizing real Old West judge Parker) and Underwood, P. (Ben Cooper: US Marshall; honestly, I chose it because I hadnt read a U author this year)

    [Related to movies] Pearlman, G. (Young Frankenstein; movie adaptation of the film was nowhere as good as seeing the gags), Hickman, T. (Wayne of Gotham; another re-telling of Batmans origin, which seems to have influenced some of the Dark Knight Rises film), and Riordan, R. (The Lightning Thief; young adult series of Percy Jackson, son of Poseidon)

    [English and writing] Yagoda, B. (When You Catch an Adjective, Kill It; based on all 9 parts of speech, it gives rules and mistakes) and Camacho, A. (Bookmarked; a collection of student essays on significant quotes from books theyve read)

    Feherty, D. (A Nasty Bit of Rough; a fictional golf club in Scotland, written by the golf commentator)

    Oates, JC (_) Most repulsive book I have ever read; I wont even list its title.

    Phillips, SE (Dream a Little Dream; example of a romance novel that I read each year, just because, and since the RC summer theme of Dreams was in the title)

    Queen, E. (Ten Days Wonder; another by the classic mystery author/detective/character, with quite a few surprises)

    Stein, M. (How the States Got Their Shapes; history of why the borders of the US states are what they are)

    Tracy, K. (Jerry Seinfeld: The Entire Domain; biography of the comic, written soon after the TV series ended)

    [Oh, for a month when I could read 20 books. Way to go, Will. I owned, and probably read, the Young Frankenstein novelization as a beardless youth, back in the days when movie and TV tie-ins were common, and often kind of pointless. -- DA]

  • John Clifford

    Took me a while (A very busy couple of weeks). While not anywhere near as prolific as Will, I did manage to read two books last month.

    The Snowman by Jo Nesbo. A detective story set in Norway, by Norway’s answer to Stieg Larsson. Well crafted and a pleasurable read (this is the second of his books that I’ve read).

    The Life of Cola Di Rienzo by an anonymous contemporary author. The trials and tribulations of Ni-Cola Di Rienzo who for a brief period was the leader of the Roman people during the period when the Papacy had relocated to Avignon, France. The story of a good guy who gets power, abuses is, loses it, gains it back, and then is ousted and executed. A great primer for Pomona politics.

    [Heh. John, thanks for chiming in. It's not a Reading Log without you. Still waiting to hear from Doug Evans. Doug? -- DA]

  • Bob House

    I can’t keep up with any of you, but have recently started re-reading “Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail ’72″ and “The Selling of the President 1968″ to remind me how long long American politics have been screwed up. It may have gotten worse lately, but for many years campaigns have had nothing to do with managing or bettering the country. Also picked up “The Big Lebowski and Philosophy” because I am troublingly devoted to the movie. It’s real (can we ever know what’s real?) philosophers writing about aspects of the film.

    [Welcome (or is it welcome back?) to the Reading Log, Bob. I haven't read any of those, although I have read "The Boys on the Bus," about the reporters covering the '72 campaign. -- DA]

  • Doug Evans

    I’m here! Having been paged two comments above… At this point, I was just thinking of saving it all for September’s update, but having been called out by name, I have no choice! (And consider me properly flattered!)

    Four books finished in July…

    Robots of Dawn by Isaac Asimov. The third in Asimov’s robot detective trilogy. The first two books were published in the fifties; the third, by reader demand, written and published in the ’80s… by which time Asimov was less interested in things actually happening in his books and more interested in his characters’ talking about things that happened before the book began and might happen in the future if they don’t figure things out by lots of talking. I first read these back in high school and have been meaning for nostalgia’s sake to go back and reread for some time now… Having satisfied that urge, I probably won’t go back again. Nicely sentimental, though!

    The Drop by Michael Connelly

    and…

    Taken by Robert Crais

    and…

    Chasing Midnight by Randy Wayne White

    Lumping all these together because they are a good representation of my summer reading. All these are series authors with recurring characters. I was successfully entertained by all of them. See you next year, series authors!

    For August, I’ve started four books (which is a typical thing for me to do) and finished one of them… The fall semester starts next week, which always slows me down, so we’ll see how I do. That’s a cool-looking Steinbeck edition up there, by the way. Happy reading, everyone!

    ["See you next year, series authors!" "See you next year, Doug! Don't forget to...wait, 'write' is what we do." Thanks for letting your fans know that you finished the robot series since your June Reading Log comment. -- DA]