Friday, March 30, 2007

The Friday Fluff: What are you reading?

I typically have about 2 to 3 novels and 1 nonfiction book I'm actively reading. My usual routine is to have one "work of literature", one "worthless escapist novel", and one history/politics book on hand. Lately, I've fallen into a rut. My non-fiction book is quite good, but given the size of The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, I'll likely add another nonfiction to mix in with it. I've also strip mined most of my favorite authors' works by now (Rand, Adams, Vonnegut, Capote,...) as far as novels are concerned. I've recently picked up Poirot and the Ender's series but I'd like a bit more variety on the novel side. I'd like to hear what you've recently read and enjoyed. I'll also share my recent reads and what I thought about them. Please categorize into fiction and non-fiction.


Dante said...

The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich (William Shirer) - Excellent book but it's VERY long. I'm over 200 pages into it and WWII hasn't even started yet but Shirer is one of the best nonfiction writers I've read. The only knocks on this book are Shirer's tendency to inject personal opinion on occasion where it's not really appropriate and the age of the book preventing it from having the newest information available (not that much is different).

Three Roads to the Alamo: The Lives and Fortunes of David Crockett, James Bowie, and William Barret Travis (William C Davis) - This book is very meticulous and has little to do with the actual battle at the Alamo. IT primarily covers the lives of Crockett, Bowie, and Travis leading up to the fight. The only problem I have with it is that the author takes the stance on Crockett's death that has the least corroboration to back it up and really muffs the explanation of why he takes this view.

MacArthur's War: Korea and the Undoing of an American Hero (Stanley Weintraub) - Far too many writers fawn over MacArthur so I went out of my way to find one that would pull no punches. Instead I got a mudslinging debacle of a book. I'd avoid it at all costs.

Ender's Game (Orson Scott Card) - The mid-80's was still a time when science ficiton was dominated by the poorly written space operas. It's almost as bad today with the poorly written Tolkien knockoffs. I neve bought Ender's Game because on the cover it looked like the rest of the space opera crap. It's quite a bit better than that though. It's a story about gifted children, the military, and quite a few topics that are very relevant in today's world. If you can stomach the cover, it's worth a read.

Murder on the Orient Express (Agatha Christie) - This is a Poirot mystery with a conclusion that was quite ingenious at the time but has been done quite a bit since. It's still well written and worth a read.

Fletch (Gregory MacDonald) - After spending a long time out of print, this masterpiece and its sequels are back. Read it. Even if you're only a casual mystery reader, you won't be disappointed. It's a bit more serious and dark than the movie but still with plenty of humor interjected.

The Fountainhead (Ayn Rand) - This was nowhere as good as Atlas Shrugged. It was somewhat interesting but I think I would've enjoyed this one more if I had read it before Atlas. I did find myself quickly skimming most of the courtroom scene where Rand uses a trial as a soapbox for her to explain her political views. It's still an interesting story though and worth the $3 used I paid for it.

Doctor Who: City of the Dead (?) - Yes, I read Doctor Who novels (or at least I used to before they dumbed them down for the new series). This one is set in New Orleans but the setting really added to atmosphere more than it was vital to the story. It introduces some interesting characters and ignores the story arc elements present in other Who novels around that time that are both tedious and poorly thought out.

liberalandproud said...

Fiction: just finished The Memory Keeper's Daughter by Kim Edwards. May be a little bit of a chick book, but I think anyone could get something from it. Tells the story of one family's downward spiral from 1964 to the eighties, due to a terrible lie.
NonFiction: currently reading The Year of Magical Thinking, Joan Didon's account of her grieving process after losing her husband to a sudden heart attack. Also may be thought of as chick lit, but is an undeserved categorization.

patsbrother said...

Regarding The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich (which I concur is a spectacular work of hisory): please note all the times Shirer refers to Goebbels (at least I think its Goebbels) as "the corpulent" or "the obese". Then, go look at the picture in the insert (if your copy has an insert). The man looks like your average middle aged American male. Damn our desk-ridden lifestyle! (Spoken like a true future desk worker.)

I'm currently reading The Count of Monte Cristo, which is simply awe-inspiring in its structure, considering someone somewhere performed a head count and came up with 400 as the number of characters in the book. It is simply amazing, and I still have 400 pages to read. Damn law school and the impediments it presents!

Also, John Steinbeck's Travels with Charley in Search for America. If you like a doggerly old man and his musings on whatever (which are usually both funny and incisive, and always written elegantly), then you may want to read this.

Dante said...

I don't often reread books, but I've seriously considered rereading the Count of Monte Cristo. It was one of the few good books we were assigned in high school and I imagine I'd get a lot more out of it reading at my leisure than I did by skimming in class right before a test.

Leigh C. said...

Vikram Seth's "A Suitable Boy". It's a work of fiction that is almost as long as "War and Peace", only it is much better reading, all about a family in Nehru's India in the early 1950's.

I'm slogging my way though a book called "Dark Horse" about James Garfield's election and assassination, and I'm finding myself engrossed in the political intrigue of the Republican National Convention, circa 1870 or so. Good stuff.

Christopher said...

My reading habits tend to sku towards books that are a bit dated, mainly because I love the discount bins.

"Tempting Faith" by David Kuo: A religious conservative tell-all (more like tell-some) dealing with the mishandling of faith-based initiatives by the G.W.B. administration.

"Fast Food Nation" by Eric Schlosser: aka. The Jungle part deux. You'll never eat at McDonald's or Subway again.

"Magical Thinking" by Augsten Burroughs: If funny were paper, Augusten Burroughs would be Kinkos.

the lady said...

Being the book snob that I am, I don't have too much fiction on my shelves that's not classical fiction. That being said, I recently forced myself to read both of Dan Brown's big sellers (Angels and Demons and DaVinci Code). I really don't get what all the hype was about. They are good stories at the core but really, what was the religious-right so up in arms over. Otherwise, I'm finally taking the time to fully read "Midnight in the Garden..." by John Berendt. He has a nice writing style and this book flows with in-depth character descriptions so far...
For classic literature, I like Austen (Emma and Sense and Sensibility being my favorites)and Dumas (I like Man in the Iron Mask more than Count of Monte Cristo). I really liked Edith Wharton's "House of Mirth" and Sylvia Plath's "The Bell Jar". Dante, I agree with your Rand statement. I too read them in "reverse" order and found Atlas to be much more thought-provoking (hence the dagny in my email address).
But when I just need to read without thinking to put myself to sleep, I have to admit the Harry Potter series works well. Yes, I'm one of "them"!!