Friday, July 09, 2021

2021 Mid-Year Reading Roundup

Well, I published this, and it looks like I accidentally deleted everything past February.  Such are the joys of Blogger.  I mean, if this were 2004, I'd talk about moving to another platform, but considering I apparently can't be bothered to write anything on here more than once a month, I guess we'll just shrug it off as one too many wires in plugged into the socket, and just try again. 

A blog post?  What???W?W???

It's June, and here's a brief roundup of what I've been reading in the early part of 2021:


Four Past Midnight, by Stephen King

Continuing re-read project.  Couple of these are a bit more taut than I remember.  Secret Window, Secret Garden feels like a flipside companion piece to The Dark Half....

The Fighting Bunch: The Battle of Athens, by Chris DeRose

Easily the best (and most and best researched) volume on the Battle of Athens I've read. 

The Searcher,  by Tana French

I liked it, but it didn't hold the same amount of water as most of her work.  Had one particular plot point that pulled the rug out from under me, and I just couldn't get into it like her best work.

Who Censored Roger Rabbit? by Gary Wolf

Fun, if clunky.  Definitely a book improved on with its film adaptation....

We Promised You a Great Main Event: an Unauthorized WWE History, by Bill Hanstock

Meh.  Google journalism.  But maybe the best you'll find, since a good oral history would be next to impossible.


The Spy with No Pants by John Swartzwelder

I think I love these Swartzwelder books more than I love baseball, pizza or professional wrestling.

The Empire Strikes Back: From a Certain Point of View, edited by 

Meh.  There are a couple good ones, but four or five months later, I don't remember a thing I read in this.....

Dark Tower: the Waste Lands   by Stephen King

So much fun.  I mentioned when I read Drawing of the Three last year that the section where Eddie meets Roland is maybe some of the finest writing King has put to page in his career.  But as a story, the Waste Lands is where the Dark Tower finds its feet.  It starts cooking with gas, and this remains one of my favorite King books.

The History of the Ancient World   by Susan Wise Bauer

A commute that I wished I'd read instead.   I can visualize a lot, but for some reason, I don't see maps well.  I need the visual aid.   That said, this is a well put together work, and I'll be reading her follow up on Ancient Rome very soon.

Night of the Mannequins   by Stephen Graham Jones

Quick, fast paced, weird horror.  Stephen Graham Jones is moving quickly up my list of favorite writers.  I wanted this one to end a little more ambiguously, but I still enjoy this one very much.  In a quick Twitter review, I mentioned that it made me want to watch the movie Twister, for some reason.  To which SGJ responded: "I can't stop watching Twister...."


A Song with Teeth   by T Frohock

This might be my favorite new read this year.  I love a nice period piece, and Frohock's Los Nefilim covers a stretch in European history (fantastically, using an adverb that works on a couple levels) that I am just now coming to in my personal reading.  I'm picky about both fantasy and historical fiction, but Frohock zeroes in on exactly what I've been looking for with this series.....

Medallion Status     by John Hodgman

Hodgman had popped up on a couple of podcasts I'd listened to just prior to this, and in one, he was plugging this read.  I like a guy who can turn a good phrase, and for months since, I've been referring mentally to eggs as disgusting snotty chaos.

Sidelined: Sports, Culture and Being a Woman in America by Julie DiCaro

I've been reading DiCaro's work for years....since way back in the blogging days.  We've followed each other on Twitter, and sadly, I've seen a lot of the disgusting shit people say to and about her.  Posting my review brought an odd amount of heat from the same trolls.  This was a good read, and I've passed a couple copies out to friends......


T-Rex and the Crater of Doom   by Walter Alvarez

A Kindle/Lunchtime read.  As much about the scientific process as it is the end result.  Dry, but enjoyable.

American Gods  by Neil Gaiman

A commute listen.  My friend Jillian was reading this, and asked if it was worth finishing.  It's actually a better listen than a read.  Gaiman's work feels better aurally, if that makes any sense.  Also, I need to go to Rock City again...I haven't been since the second grade....

Miami Blues    by Charles Willeford

This came recommended by a Bill Ryan piece I read here.  I dug it.  It tickles the part of my brain that digs the Flannery O'Connor, Eudora Welty brand of Southern Gothic.  Grotesquely hilarious enough that I laughed until I cried about Hoke Mosely's dentures.

Needful Things    by Stephen King

The last Castle Rock story.  This one was a big deal to me back in the day.  Reading it now, it represents the best of King's instincts (his love of his small towns, the decency and lack thereof in everybody, King's astute memories of childhood), and also his worst (he gets maudlin, and saccharine sweet at the weirdest times...also, a couple of the threads tying to other Castle Rock works just feel forced...the whole Ace Merrill bit really, really grinds at me).  Still, this one ends in a whirlwind, and I ended up liking it very much the second time around, nearly 30 years later....


American Moonshot: John F. Kennedy and the Great Space Race  by Douglas Brinkley

A commute listen.  Digs hard into the politics of the space race.  Made me think hard about Werner von Braun.....

Smoke Gets in Your Eyes and Other Lessons from the Crematory    by Caitlin Doughty

I'd had this one on my shelf for a while, and finally sat with it.  Good read on the American take on Death, as part of our culture.....

The Dark Horse    by Craig Johnson

I read this one during my May vacation.  Does it say much about me that I was more worried for Walt's dog than I was the child when both went missing?

Mongrels   by Stephen Graham Jones

This one's strong.  Legitimately creepy, with an air of melancholy that pervades, but doesn't overwhelm the thing.  

The Blizzard of '88    by  Mary Cable

A 1.99 Kindle read.  Actually kinda neat to read in a very hot grocery store backroom, and thinking that standing, trapped on a pier during a blizzard, to be rescued with your coat frozen to you doesn't really sound all that bad.....


Gerald's Game    by Stephen King

A Commute listen.  I liked it better than I remembered, but I still think the ending is a cop out.  I didn't like a couple of the revelations in those final chapters.  They felt cheap.

The Perfect Storm    by Sebastian Junger

 I didn't mean to re-read this one, but due to a remodel at work, my attention span was a little lacking.  This one, even as much as I like it, reads like a long magazine article....

Some Assembly Required    by TJ Condon

A friend of mine wrote this from her own experiences with her husband's wait for a liver transplant.  Tara's a natural storyteller, and this one reads very quickly.  She translates a hellish experience with grace and humor.  I bought a couple copies to pass out to people.....

Frankenstein    by Mary Shelley

I bought a copy with illustrations by the late Bernie Wrightson, this being a reprint of a Marvel project from way back when.  I forget who had the original Marvel copy back in high school, but I always dug it.  This is actually my first time through the book itself, though.  I made an aborted attempt in the eighth grade or so.  I dug it, though, and not just for the drawings!

The Ninth Metal   by Benjamin Percy

The commute listen.  There were seeds of good stuff in here, but none of it every really bore fruit.  I finished, but I didn't care for this one too much.

Fishing for Dinosaurs and other Stories   by Joe R. Lansdale

The kindle/lunchtime read.  I'd read a couple of these in other places and forms, but enjoyed the collection overall.  Black Hat Jack is definitely a favorite....

My Year Abroad    by Chang-Rae Lee

Shyam got me a subscription to a book club from Powell's, and this was the first of this year's editions.  I liked it...bombastic and funny.  I will say that the dialog felt wooden, from time to time, but on the whole, I enjoyed this one very much.


The Premonition: a Pandemic Story    by Michael Lewis

I'll go ahead and include this one, since I'm re-writing.  The commute listen.  Lewis delivers an interesting read....the conundrum of the last year is that if your measures work, then everybody will say it was overkill.  Of particular interest (and a subject for future reading), how a potential outbreak of Swine Flu during the Ford administration helped shape our country's disjointed responsed to Covid-19......