Sunday, July 02, 2023

6 Month Reading Roundup

I guess this is pretty much what the Blog has become, after 21 years.  I'd been making the effort to post every month or so there for a while, but I'm guessing I just wasn't up for it, early in the year.  Sudden job change, and all that.

The first couple months of this year, I feel like I didn't have much of an attention span.  I also wasn't driving 45 minutes or an hour every day, so my audiobook time was diminished.  

Things have picked up, and I'm doing a little better mentally, so I'm trucking along.  There have been a few more re-reads than in years past.  Just wanted to revisit a couple things, I guess.

A quick list of what I've been reading the first half of this year:


Light in August    by William Faulkner.

I've always listed Faulkner as a favorite, but I just hadn't read anything of his in four or five years.  Pulled this one off the shelf.  Originally read as part of Dr. Kerrick's American Lit (or perhaps his Southern Lit) class.  This one's brutal.  And oddly funny.  Calling something "the most human" of somebody's work isn't a great descriptor, but this one seems the largest and most complete examination of humanity, in Faulkner's world.  It's a favorite.  

Secret Windows: Essays and Fiction on the Craft of Writing    by Stephen King

A companion piece to On Writing which I read in late 2022, it was a Book of the Month Club selection way back when.  Part of the continuing project.  Mostly a collection of forewords with a couple of essays and articles thrown in.  On its own, it's not much special, but I do like it as a companion piece.....

Bullet Train  by Kitaro Isaka

The novel on which the Brad Pitt flick (which I liked rather a lot) is based.  More philosophical, and definitely less Looney Tunes than the film adaptation, I kinda liked it.

The Gettysburg Campaign: A Study in Command   by Edwin Coddington

This came from the library of my late friend Kevin Britton.  Kevin passed a year ago (give or take a day) in a motorcycle accident.  He, our friend Eric and I had gotten together only a week prior at a Tennessee Smokies baseball game.  Late in the year, Eric gave me came from Kevin's library.  It was fitting, because it seemed like Kevin and I would trade books once a year, and end up reading a couple more based on the recommendations of the other.

As for the book, it's dry, but fascinating.  A strong look at the political and pragmatic pressures on all bodies involved with directing the battle.....


K: A History of Baseball in Ten Pitches   by Tyler Kepner

I dug this one.  I learned a bit, which is impressive, considering that I think I know everything about baseball.....

Glitches and Stiches   by Nicole Givens Kurtz

A bit of Cybernoir.  A gift from my buddy Dino.  Cyberpunk, in general, isn't my cup of tea, but this one was grounded enough as a noir-ish police procedural that I blew through it in a couple days.  Big props to Kurtz for her depiction of Anxiety in the workplace.

True Grit  by Charles Portis

Another re-read.  It's turned into an annual re-read, for me.  I first read this back in the 80' Great Aunt Mae gave me a box of books that had been sitting in a closet at her house.  There were a lot of 60's and 70's TV and film adaptations, along with a handful of James Blish's Star Trek Readers, Ray Bradbury's The Martian Chronicles, and a copy of True Grit.  I read it, but in all honesty, it didn't leave a huge impression, except for a couple of images (Rooster Cogburn kicking the boys off the porch for taunting a mule; and the finger chopping scene, both of which matched up very well with the Coens' depiction in their film adaptation).  It's absolutely a helluva read.  Highly recommended.

Number One Walking    by Steve Martin and Harry Bliss

A Christmas gift from my mom, it's a graphic novelesque look at his career, mostly after Standup.....


Get Ready: A Champion's Guide to Preparing for the Moments That Matter  by Buzzy Cohen

Buzzy's book had popped up in a couple places, but I decided to listen to it after hearing him talk about it on the Jeopardy podcast.  Not a bad listen, and not as Jeopardy-centric as I'd thought going in.  Good primer in prepwork, especially valuable for those not used to it.  I like to think of it as a bit of a Type A Primer for Type B personalities.

The Grand Scheme of Things by Ian Strang

I've followed this guy on Twitter for a while, and he's a funny cat.  Picked up his book, which I enjoyed.  It was  bit long, but on the whole, I dug it.

The Stand  by Stephen King

I've been doing a chronological read-through of King's work, and I'd not wanted to double back, but for some reason, The Stand has a way of pulling me out of a funk.  Add to that, I'm not a great fan of the stuff that King first put out after his van accident, so I jumped into this one.  Thoughts this time around?  Franny sure gets the short end of the stick in the last 1/3 of the novel....she's largely the heart of the book, if not its conscience.  She's relegated to backup character by the time Stu and company wander out to Las Vegas.....

Wait for Signs  by Craig Johnson

A collection of short stories surrounding Walt Longmire.  Shyam made this one our route listen.


The Strange by Nathan Ballingrud

I think it's my favorite thing I've read this year.  A bit of True Grit meets The Martian Chronicles, run through Ballingrud's Weird Horror filter.  I give this one a high recommendation.

The Cruellest Month    by Louise Penny

Another series Shyam has gotten me into.  I don't know why I keep coming back to the Inspector Gameche books, but there's something affirmative in Gameche's kind nature.

Bone in the Throat    by Anthony Bourdain

It's not bad, but it can't seem to find a balance that it's comfortable with between humor and gravity.  In my head, I'd cast Brad Garrett as Tommy's Uncle, using his Jimmy John's commercial persona.  His final outcome was great.....

Hell's Angels: a Strange and Terrible Saga    by Hunter S. Thompson

I've had this on my shelf for 25 years, buying it during my initial HST phase.  I read 6 or 7 of Thompson's books in that wave, but not this one, for some reason.  Pulled it off the shelf and read it.  Not bad.  It's probably Thompson at his most journalistic, though he admits that he didn't know if it were researching or slowly getting absorbed during his travels. 

The Donut Legion   by Joe R. Lansdale

Without meaning it to, this became my doctor waiting room book.  Between visits for myself and my Mom, I read this in four different appointment sittings.  Good southern-fried romp from Joe.  Doesn't set the world on fire...well, except for one plot point.....


Dreamcatcher    by Stephen King

Part of the continuing project.   I didn't care for this one when it came out, and I cared for it less the second time around, in 2023.  

It's not bad, necessarily, so much as it feels like two or three novel ideas welded together.  Part of me always wondered if the genesis of the idea didn't come in the 70's or 80's, when a sort of constant background antagonist were the government agents employed at "The Shop."

I will note that this was written largely during his recuperation from that van accident.....

Shoeless Joe    by WP Kinsella

Another re-read.  I'd actually picked up a copy for my nephew, and I decided to re-read it so I could check for objectionable material that I might have forgotten (there isn't much, aside from some sadly casual racism).  The Field of Dreams adaptation is superior, but it does lose some of the Magic Quest feel that Ray's journey to pick up JD Salinger and Moonlight Graham takes.....

Found: an Anthology of Found Footage Horror Stories   edited by Andrew Cull & Gabino Iglesias

A Kindle read.  Read a story every few days for a couple months.  It's a bit of a mixed bag.  Too many "transcripts" as a plot device.  "Green Magnetic Tape" is pretty effective....and oddly, I liked Andrew Cull's intro to the collection very much.

Pigs  by Johanna Stoberock

An Audible listen.  Stoberock appeared on Jeopardy and mentioned her book.  An odd, dark fairy tale of a novel....Stoberock turns a good phrase.

Rivers of London by Ben Aaronovitch

A fun read....we listened to this one while going over the mountains to North Carolina for a delivery.


Ball Four    by Jim Bouton

Another one that I'd picked up for my nephew.  Another one re-reading to check for objectionable content....maybe there is some, but I read this when I was 12, so I'm pretty sure he can handle locker-room talk.  

There is no better book written from inside the game of baseball.

Bouton is candid about himself, serious and self-deprecating, in his chances in playing for the 1969 expansion Seattle Pilots, and later, the contending Houston Astros.

There aren't many times I'll recommend listening to the audiobook before I would reading the work itself, but this is one of them.  Bouton's rendition of his work is astounding, from getting tickled remembering stories from the season, to getting heartbroken recounting the death of his daughter in a traffic accident in one of the 10-year updates.

Harold by Steven Wright

Steven Wright's non-sequitur ode to daydreaming in school.

Harold is a third-grader, and this novel recounts his daydream one afternoon in the late 1960's.....the timeframe is wobbly, occasionally referencing things much later.  Our narrator addresses such anachronisms simply:  mind your own business.

Hilarious, and occasionally angry.  I was touched a couple of times.  In many ways, I was Harold.  In some, I still am.

She Rides Shotgun   by Jordan Harper

The route listen.   Well put together.

Lock-In   by John Scalzi

A romp.   


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