Monday, October 04, 2004

Booklist 2004 - Part 6

It's been a while since the last book list post so for those of you who are newer to the blog or those of you who've ignored the previous lists and are suddenly curious... As of this writing, I have read 51 books this year and am in the midst of two right now. I set myself a goal to read more books this year after having read an average of 20 or so books in each of the last few years while watching hundreds of movies. I wanted 2004 to get more into the books and ease up a bit on the movies (I've seen 45 thus far). Anyway, back in July, I started these posts to provide you all with a list of the books I've been reading this year along with some commentary (and a neat little link to where you can read some more or purchase the book for yourself).

And now, the list continues:

34. Oh, The Things I Know! by Al Franken

I enjoyed this book as it is a quick read and a change of pace from the political writings that Franken is becoming better known for. Having successfully carved out a niche with his brilliant political wit (often exposing the conservative dingbats for the “idiots” they are), this book falls short of preconceptions. However, if you can put aside those preconceptions, and not expect Franken’s earlier Saturday Night Live persona Stuart Smalley, you may just get a laugh or two from this brief read.

35. Oxymoronica by Dr. Mardy Grothe

If you enjoy exploring language, in particular, the English language, you are going to enjoy this book. A straightforward look at the oxymoron as a tool, it’s use, particularly by people of historical interest or other fame, and the interesting twist Grothe adds with the idea of the term “oxymoronica - (OK-se-mor-ON-uh-ca) noun, plural: Any variety of tantalizing, self-contradictory statements or observations that on the surface appear false or illogical, but at a deeper level are true, often profoundly true. See also oxymoron, paradox.”

36. The Thomas Berryman Number by James Patterson

If you’ve read these book posts, you know how I feel about Patterson. I decided that I waned to go back into his catalog and read his entire body of work starting from, well, the beginning of course. In this, his first book, Patterson takes his lead character through an exhausting series of murder and intrigue. Throw in a love interest and you have all of the necessary elements tied neatly together with a fast paced storyline that clearly is just the beginning of Patterson developing the style that will eventually make the Alex Cross series so incredible.

37. The Greatest Generation by Tom Brokaw

I wrote an entire post about this book on July 1st. You can refer to the archives on the right to access it. In short, it was an amazing book.

38. Perfect I’m Not by David Wells

Most of what I would say about this book is expressed in the many commentaries you’ll find on I am a fan of baseball and a fan of David Wells. Wells has intensity on the field that sometimes gives him the mystique of a heroic sports figure and sometimes that of a childish fool. Through all of it, Wells apologizes for nothing and remains true to himself. All in all, an interesting story about an interesting man but not without its flaws.

39. The Season of the Machete by James Patterson

Patterson’s second book and the first of the many I’ve read that I can honestly say I didn’t like. The story was scattered and the characters didn’t really gel. I felt zero attachment to anything that happens in this story.

40. The Giver by Lois Lowry

I discovered this book completely by accident which is what makes it all the more special to me. I was at an conference related to Academic Computing and in reviewing a college’s use of an Internet based system to present the “one book” learning concept – found this book.

Though written for the “young adult”, don’t prejudge this book by its intended audience. I’m sure you’ll agree that people of all ages can learn life lessons at any age. This is a powerful story with powerful characters that is sure to stimulate your mind and conceptions of a perfect world.

41. The Pleasure of My Company by Steve Martin

Ever wonder if your collective neuroses are preventing you from living the live you want to live and finding the love of your life? Meet Daniel Pecan Cambridge, he’s crazier than you, far deeper into his neuroses than you are into yours, and yet, somehow exists in his own world.

This story made me laugh but also made me think hard because we see the Cambridge character through his own eyes while often getting a glimpse of how he is perceived by the narrowed world that surrounds him.

42. Song of Susannah by Stephen King

The sixth book in the Dark Tower series chronicles Susannah Dean, “a crippled, black, schizophrenic, civil rights activist-turned-gunslinger whose body has been hijacked by a white, pregnant demon from a parallel world that keeps a seven-volume story bracingly strong as it veers toward its Armageddon-like conclusion.”

After the very long awaited fifth book, the incredible “Wolves of the Calla”, King slows the pace slightly as we await the conclusion in book seven. Since these book reviews are getting more and more difficult for me, I am going to refer you to a review on the link that mirrors my own opinions without me having to find my own words to express them (yes, it’s something of a copout but I am tired already):

Reviewer: A. Hart (MI)
I was never incredibly compelled by Susannah/Detta/Odetta in the previous books but this one changed my opinion of her. Susannah is incredibly strong, and her struggle with Mia is haunting. Mia is actually a very interesting character. I don't fear her, I don't really like her, but I pity her. However, I felt that the Mia's story and the truth of her "chap" was a bit contrived. Especially his name and his purpose (no spoilers here, but if you read it, you may roll your eyes like I did.)
I also love the pairing of Eddie and Roland. I think Eddie makes Roland feel as if he is still a part of his old ka-tet of long ago, and they bring out the strength in each other.
Jake, Callahan, and Oy's mini-tet was also interesting, and I wish there had been more of them in this novel, but I have a feeling they'll hold an incredibly important role in the next book. The change in Jake is fascinating. He knows his purpose now, and he is no longer a boy. He has been to war and seen death and he is hardened but not emotionless. Also, I am incredibly attached to Oy at this point. I think that King's inclusion of himself in this book was brilliant. I can't wait to see what role he'll play in the last novel.
I also enjoyed the poetry at the end of each chapter. Kind of summed things up.
Over all, this prelude to the final battle is full of suspense and intrigue. I found it haunting and intriguing. Bring on the final battle! I can hardly wait.


Michael said...

Gotta say, while I've enjoyed the Dark Tower series and found myself intrigued by the way King seems to be bringing his entire career to a huge conclusion that hinges on the outcome of Roland and company's quest (to the extent of referencing his previous works (The Stand, 'Salem's Lot) and referencing this work in his newer novels (Hearts In Atlantis, and to a degree, From A Buick 8)), I was somewhat disappointed with Song Of Susannah. I think any novelist, even one of King's stature and fame, who includes himself as a pivotal character in his largest work with nary a hint of having his tongue in his cheek, is letting his ego run out of control. In general, I liked the book, but the inclusion first of Father Callahan and then of King himself really irked me.

I've read everything King's ever written, and I have always shared his belief that the story can often be more important than any amount of clever wordplay. This time, though, I think he's lost the plot. I can see what he's doing and why, but the whole idea just grates.

Chris said...

I too have read all of King's works and actually thought similarly when he became a character in the book. I wa able to get past it and see it as kind of interesting as well as egotistical and the interesting won out. I have book 7 just to the right of me which I will start in the next few days.

JohnnyD said...

Chris: Long time listener, first time caller. In "Hearts in Atlantis," Ted Brautigan tells Bobby that there are two kinds of fiction he's likely to come across: great stories told poorly, or mediocre stories told beautifully; it's unlikely the twain would ever meet. I think the Gunslinger series is indeed a great, sweeping epic (I'm about half way thru "The Dark Tower" now) and the interconnectedness with other, earlier books is great fun for Constant Readers like you and me. I just wonder if it's as much fun for the casual reader, as in King's storytelling, he makes lots of assumptions of the reader's knowledge of events that took place earlier in the series, or even in other, seemingly unrelated books. Point being, I'm loving it, but I can see how it might not make a whole lot of sense to people. I haven't decided whether I like his insertion of himself into the storyline, but I think there is enough self-deprecation to make it tolerable. I look forward to hearing your opinion of the final chapter. Long days and pleasant nights, pally.

Byagi said...

I'm reading the dark tower myself and happen to be about to the middle. Simply amazing the way everything is coming together. Its been hard to stop reading and do anything constructive - like go to work. Can't wait to read the ending.

Thanks for your book list. I'm adding to my list of books to read.