Friday, November 23, 2007

You Can Get Arrested For That

2 Guys, 25 Dumb Laws, 1 Absurd American Crime Spree, by Rich Smith.

Quickie recap: Rich Smith and his buddy Bateman are two Cornish dudes who decide to visit America with the intention of breaking just some of the many senseless laws on their books.

Quickie review: Smith is no writer. He's still young enough that writing a series "I was so wasted..." stories still appeals to him. But the fact remains that his adventure was one worth writing about, and you can't help but admire his determination, if not always his execution. This was a fun book to read, one that reminded me a lot of my own youthful self. Travel is good, spontaneity is good. Reading about them is a perfect bath time indulgence.

Quickie recommendation: You know you want to.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

TheWhite Album

by Joan Didion.

Quickie recap: Through a series of literary essays, Didion recounts her life and life in general during the 1960s - unrest, paranoia, drugs, psychological difficulties, the whole thing.

Quickie review: Didion has a distinct style and is gifted at observing the world around her. She can put her finger on exactly the thing that bugs everyone without our really being able to distinguish it. Does that make sense? If the 60s had a pulse, then Joan had her finger on it and was willing to tell the rest of us just where we stood. This book is an exciting throwback, and Didion is always a pleasure to read.

Quickie recommendation: Sure thing.

The Dirt on Clean

An Unsanitized History, by Katherine Ashenburg.

Quickie recap: Over the years, clean has meant many things to many people - to us, it means soap and water, but to others, wetting the body was to be feared and "cleaning" was "achieved" through applying oils, or raking the skin, or simply changing one's shirt. From bath houses to deodorant commercials, Ashenburg explores a topic we can all relate to (though clearly some more than others).

Quickie review: Not since Mary Roach's Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers have I been so excited over a non-fiction book. Ashenburg is precise and well-researched, but the book thrives because she injects it with lively anecdotes. Ranging from the humourous to the outrageous, The Dirt on Clean serves as a reminder as to where plagues came from, and how germ warfare continues to be waged against us even today. Reading this actually made me giddy in a way that only a finely written book can.

Quickie recommendation: You have to love a book that can entertain AND inform. They're rare gems, so when you come across one, it's your duty to tell the world. Dear world: read it!

**Check it out in the book lounge!

Thursday, November 15, 2007


Travels into Several Remote Nations of the World, in Four Parts By Lemuel Gulliver, First a Surgeon, and then a Captain of several Ships, by Jonathan Swift.

Yes, it is crazy that I have never read this book. Now that we've all agreed, let's move on.

Quickie recap: Gulliver is not a smart man. After suffering through 2 ship wrecks and spending long periods in captivity among strange people sometimes even on the threat of death, he refuses to learn his lesson and subjects himself twice more.

Quickie review: The first two voyages, to Lilliput the land of the little, and Brobdingnag, land of giants, were my favourites. They were engaging and exciting, and even a little titillating - Gulliver is accused of treason after extinguishing a fire by urination in Lilliput and is exposed to much cleavage in Brobdingnag. I can appreciate that Swift was almost parodying the "tall tale" story telling of seamen, but after the first two great adventures, I found myself rooting for his wife to take him by the ear and compel him to stay the hell home. But out he goes again, to that dangerous place between Japan and California where he encounters flying islands, immortals, historical figures, and finally, a race of civilized horses that show him what base creatures humans are - and so when he is finally "rescued" home against his will, he cannot reconcile living among the "yahoos" he has come to feel inferior. Swift uses these encounters to point out how ridiculous royalty and government are and I have a strong suspicion that if I knew more about British history, I would have gotten more out of this text. However, even without this meaning-behind-the-meaning interpretation, I found Gulliver's Travels to be a bit unexpected, mostly enjoyable, and I am glad to finally be able to cross it off my list.

Quickie recommendation: I suppose yes.

Monday, November 12, 2007


by Frank Herbert.
Quickie recap: There is nothing quickie about this book. Basically, a tribe of people is trying to make their home on this desert-y planet, but boy do they have trouble.
Quickie review: Most people know that science-fiction is not my cuppa, but I did manage to enjoy this book anyhow. It took a while to get into it, but I find that any time you have to jump into an alternative universe it takes time to build a frame of reference. Once this was accomplished, I really liked the pacing, the foreshadowing, the little hints along the way.
Quickie recommendation: If you're a sci-fi lover, then you've doubtless already read this one. Otherwise, I suppose I would say that this is a pretty good representation of the genre and not too daunting for newbies.


by Jane Austen.

Quickie recap: Eight years ago, Anne Elliot gave in to persuasion, to her regret, and didn't marry the man she loved. Now he's back, but he's sniffing around some other hussy's petticoats!

Quickie review: Shorter and simpler than her other novels, this one pays tribute to women "past their first youth" and to self-made men.

Quickie recommendation: If you are predisposed to Austen - yes. Otherwise, if you're only going to read one or two, there are worthier examples of her work.

A Question of Blood

by Ian Rankin.
Quickie recap: Detectives Rebus and Clarke are sent to a private school where a gunman has just shot several students before turning the gun on himself. The case seems pretty open and shut, except for the motive...but of course, if it was, it wouldn't be much of a book.
Quickie review: I've never read Rankin before despite him being "one of Britain's leading novelists in any genre" according to the cover, which is probably pretty biased. It was decent. Not great, but okay. I was able to make it all the way to the end, and that's more than I thought I would be able to say.
Quickie recommendation: Meh.

The Wealthy Barber

by David Chilton.
Quickie recap: A fictional barber dispenses savvy financial advice while fictional characters get their hair cut.
Quickie review: The farce of the barber was a bit much for me, though I can certainly understand the need to "spice up" what might otherwise be a dry subject. But let's face it - dry is dry, even coming from a barber's mouth. The advice is solid, but it's a book for Americans; only the basics apply to everyone.
Quickie recommendation: Still probably a worth while read, but not super impressive.


by J.M. Coetzee
Quickie recap: David Lurie leaves his professorship amid scandal and goes to live with his daughter in rural Africa where his original disgrace starts to look tempting by comparison.
Quickie review: There were parts of this book that literally gave me a sore stomach. It was at times an uncomfortable read, but it obviously has the power to elicit a response, so I have to give it props.
Quickie recommendation: If nothing else, this was a brilliant insight into an interesting culture.
**Check it out at the Book Lounge!