First Monday Book Day: Now You See Me…

Back in college I took a two-semester course called "Great Books," wherein all we did was read and discuss (and I suppose there were some papers?) great books.  The professor provided a list of 100 great books (it wasn't the Time 100, or any other known list, just the professor's own, but there was obviously a substantial overlap with such lists) and we read maybe 12 - 15 books a semester.  A couple times a year I'll pick up one that I haven't read yet.  Someday I'll get through the list.  Maybe.

Anyway, over the past several months I managed to slog my way through one of the books on that list: Ralph Ellison's Invisible Man.  I see why it was on the list, because it's certainly an "important" novel.  But good grief was it boring.  Most of the books on that Top 100 list are actually enjoyable reads (some of them surprisingly so).  This one was not.  For those who don't know (and I admit, I didn't before reading it), the story follows a young African-American in the late 1920's/early 1930's, and basically has him bounce from one thinly veiled social criticism to another.  There is a solid use of irony, and I expect discussing the book as you read it would make for a more rewarding experience.  But as a story itself, it's fairly bland.  In some ways it reminded me of Kafka's The Trial, with the futile struggle of an individual against unknown powers who aren't really understanding the experience and importance of the individual (at least, that's what I remember about Kafka...).

On a more rewarding note, I also read some comics this past month.  Specifically, I caught up on the end of Amazing Spider-man, which was pretty cool.  I don't want to give any spoilers, so if anyone wants to talk comics, we can drop spoilers in the comments... They've moved on to a new story that they're calling The Superior Spider-man.  I've only read the first one so far, and my initial thought is that this is an awful lot like what they did with the Venom story way back when, but it's not a bad thing to revisit in a slightly different way.  The other comic I read for a while was Calvin and Hobbes.  Basically, now that I have kids, I appreciate its brilliance even more.  Everyone should have children, just so they can experience Calvin and Hobbes in a new way.  Unless you already had kids when you read it, of course.

Finally, there's been some talk amongst DPWY and myself (and others?) to read The Brothers Karamozov.  I'm game.  I'm working on some other projects right now, so my reading time will be lower (but we got rid of cable, so my reading time will be higher?), so I'm going to go ahead and get a running head start.  DPWY indicated he was going to get some other things in first.  I suspect he'll still beat me to the end of the book.  But if anyone wants to join us, please do!

39 thoughts on “First Monday Book Day: Now You See Me…”

  1. Finished Cloud Atlas. I liked it, but didn't think it was anything special.

    I have scans of the first 500-some issues of Amazing Spider-man. I read the first 50-60 before stopping. I would say more, but I remember very, very little of it.

    1. I didn't tune into ASM until I was in high school... late 400's I think? Maybe late 300's... I don't remember. I then tuned out entirely until maybe a year or two ago, and I've picked it up casually since then. I enjoy just grabbing one off the shelf at Barnes and Nobles, sitting in the store and reading it, free of charge. Works well.

  2. I enjoyed the story lines behind Jack McDevitt's Patricia Hutchins books, so I decided to give his other series a go. These revolve around Alex Benedict, an antiquarian of the future, and his assistant (and starship pilot) Chase Kolpath. Most of the books are told through Chase's eyes, and she mostly plays the Watson to Benedict's Holmes as they attempt to solve some long buried mystery (and hopefully bag a slew of valuable antiques to sell as well). Polished off A Talent for War, Polaris, Seeker, and am currently reading The Devil's Eye.

    On my last flight to Omaha, the passenger next to me noticed what I was reading and commented that he'd read all McDevitt's books.

  3. I'm about halfway through volume 1 of Shelby Foote's The Civil War and find it unbelievably engrossing.

    Last month, I read The Tycoons by Charles Morris and, despite it being slightly disorganized, really enjoyed it.

  4. Still "Our Band Could Be Your Life" and "Rise and Fall of the Third Reich" for me. I did get to read the sections on The Replacements and Sonic Youth on Monday while at work.

  5. I haven't done a ton of reading lately. I've read three of the Walking Dead graphic novels, but that's about it. I do have a trip to Orlando coming up, so I'm going to see if I can actually get somewhere with the Wheal of Time books I still have to read.

      1. For me, they are kind of a mash-up between the Redwall books and George R.R.R.R.R. Martin's Song of Ice and Fire series. Robert Jordan was nowhere near the writer that Martin is, but the series is entertaining enough. Or I'm easily amused enough.

      2. I very much enjoyed the first 5 or so books. Its good entertaining reading, but nothing overly complicated. The biggest problem is that it starts to slog down a bit because there are just. so. many. books. (GRRM is hopefully doing a great service to his story by limiting it to seven books.) At this point, I just want to finish the series to say I saw it to the end.

        1. Jordan definitely hailed from the L. Ron Hubbard school of writing. And, like Hubbard, he keeps producing new books after his death.

        2. I very much enjoyed the first 5 or so books. Its good entertaining reading, but nothing overly complicated. The biggest problem is that it starts to slog down a bit because there are just. so. many. books.

          I'm on the same page with cheaps. It happens to be page 788 of the eighth book, I believe.

          Great initial concept, wonderful characters, but it ends up drowning in detail and minutiae as the storylines drag along. At this point, I plan to wait until the last book has been written, and then go and re-read the entire series in one shot.

              1. Now if only we are able to live in a world where "A Song of Ice and Fire" is completed, preferrably by the same author.

        1. For some annoying reason, the libraries around here only carry the frickin hardcovers. I picked ten and eleven up today because of my trip next week, but they are going to sa-huck to carry around.

  6. I've picked up and put down BroKaz a couple of times. I'm looking for a new book to read while before a book comes in from the Library. Maybe I should try it again.

      1. I always found the problem of evil discussion to be more engaging than the Grand Inquisitor, but they're really all part and parcel.

          1. Ostensibly I've read that one. It didn't really grip me in the first 50 pages like some of his other ones, and it was spring semester senior year so... I did read Demons though, which is fanfreakingtastic. My top 10 books list has 3 Dostoyevsky. That might be my top 5 even. I'll make sure The Idiot is the next one I pick up again, and I'll push through. In a year or two.

  7. Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close - Good but not great.
    Casino Royale - James Bond. Enough said.
    The Pragmatic Programmer: From Journeyman to Master - A bit dated but a nice collection of tips.
    The Red House - Booo. I can't believe I finished this one. Looking at online reviews, I probably shouldn't have.

    Right now I'm reading the Lord of the Rings for about the 100th time, while someone I know well is reading it for the first time. It has been interesting. I'm finding that I really miss a lot of things that happen in the books, that don't appear in the movies.

  8. Thanks, Phyllo, for taking the book post this month. To all Citizens: I do not have a proprietary lock on the First Monday posts, as evidenced by my frequently tardy and/or lame write-ups.

    I've started (about 50 pages in) John Helyar's The Lords of the Realm: The Real History of Baseball, and anticipate writing it up for the March First Monday post.

      1. It seems a tad bit disjointed so far. Great short sketches/anecdotes, but I'm not yet really seeing a forest, or even a wooded glade. Just a lot of trees. Still, entertaining. I'm just a bit past the introduction of Marvin Miller.

  9. I had another good month, reading-wise.

    The Flame Alphabet by Ben Marcus - This was well-written, and worth the read, but I didn't love it. For a book this weird, that inhabits so desperate of a world (children's language has become toxic to adults), I was just never surprised. There were things that didn't make sense to me, but not enough things that didn't make sense for a reason.

    Angelmaker by Nick Harkaway - Enjoyed this. It was a fun sci-fi mystery read that occasionally crossed the line from fun to cheesy. A clockwork doomsday device has been discovered (and maybe turned on?) and the ensuing chaos surrounds a clockmaker with ties to his gangster father's past.

    Threats by Amelia Gray - I am conflicted about this book. It was quirky and I am a fan of unreliable narrators. This book was very upfront about its narrator's unreliability which made it interesting watching him and the other characters navigate their worlds shattered by grief. It created an interesting world, and I liked the little glimpses that she gave to certain events. Unfortunately, it didn't add up to a plot that grabbed me as much as it could have. I hope I didn't miss something, I would certainly read other books by Gray.

    A Memory of Light by Brandon Sanderson & Robert Jordan - Loved it. The 200-page "Last Battle" chapter was absolutely killer. The ending after that didn't quite match up to that, and it was very strange to read this knowing that this was it for these characters. As always in the WoT, there are legitimate criticisms to be made of this book, but I was pleased with the way it ended, and thought Sanderson did an admirable job with his three contributions.

    Zona: A Book About a Film About a Journey to a Room by Geoff Dyer - A long rambling essay about Stalker, a film by Andrei Tarkovsky. After seeing the movie for the first time, I liked being able to spend a little bit more time with it as I read the book. It reads as a kind of recap of the movie that digresses into information about the production, personal recollections and opinions of the author. Unfortunately, as the book went on, I realized that I didn't particularly care for, or agree with the author. I understand what he was trying to do with this book, and I think it succeeded here and there. Not enough for me to recommend it, though.

    Sovereignties of Invention by Matthew Battles - Mentioned these stories last month, I enjoyed it but thought the front half of the book was better than the last half. My favorite was probably the title story or maybe the first one "Dogs in Trees".

    Cataclysm Baby by Matt Bell - 26 apocalyptic stories told from the perspective of fathers with inhuman or deeply flawed children. There are some really good moments in this one, but not enough. All the stories are grim and disturbing. The best of them, for me, was when they were a bit more metaphorical and a little less brutal.

    Animal Collection by Colin Winnette - Really really good. "Giant Panda" was my favorite. I put the book down after I read that one and had to think about it for quite a while. There were lots of very good stories here, and a few great ones. This book was part of my effort to read some books from small, independent presses this year (available for $12 from Spork Press)

    I mentioned last month that I was trying to keep better track of the short stories I read this year. If anyone is interested, I've started a spreadsheet (me? a spreadsheet? believe it) with links to what I've read. Things I particularly enjoyed are highlighted.

    1. A Memory of Light by Brandon Sanderson & Robert Jordan

      Boo. I'm too cheap for the hardback. Waiting for the paperback to come out.

    2. Re: Battles
      Wrote this last month, but kindof late. In case you didn't see it:

      I've got three left, but "For Provisional Description of Superficial Features" is my favorite of the Battles stories.
      Actually made me think of something you would've written for Spookymilk, Ghostman. A bit too pointed in its cultural criticism for your voice, but other than that it's close.

  10. Recent reads:

    Kim (Rudyard Kipling) - long, weird read - Twain'esque
    The Good Thief's Guide to Venice (Ewan) - noir, library book
    Istanbul Passage (Kanon) - post war espionage

    Just ordered from the 'zon:
    The Pushcart War - heard a recent review, sounded cool

Comments are closed.