August 09, 2005
37. Harry Potter & The Half-Blood Prince, J. K. Rowling
I was late reading this, but will still endeavor to keep my comments spoiler-free. That said, ARRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRGH! Where's book 7?
In some ways, not as dark as OOTP, but in others, darker still. I think I'm going to need to sit down and read the series from cover to cover again, just to watch how things progress. As always, Rowling does an excellent job with the character's development, especially the kids. She writes them believably at whatever age they are. I'm glad Harry seems to have gotten over his angry-yelly phase.
Still a fan, and definitely eager to see what happens in the last book.
36. The Hedonism Handbook, Michael Flocker
What a delightful little bit of fluff this was. The central message, in case the title wasn't a giveaway, is this: Let go, enjoy life, relax. Here're some ways to do it.
Flocker takes a tongue in cheek look at various ways and reasons people have resorted to different vices, from sex to drugs to spending money to eating... and so on. Furthermore, he provides some excellent justifications for indulging in any or all of the above, depending on your preferences. Interestingly, he also suggests that moderation can be and is a vital part of a hedonist's lifestyle.
Definitely a cheerful little book, and anyone's bound to come away with a few more ideas of ways to have fun.
35. Captain Alatriste, Arturo Perez-Reverte
This is one of the books that came to my attention only because I found some reviews for it at work. After reading the first couple reviews, I knew I wanted very much to get my hands on it. It was quite an enjoyable little swashbuckler (especially coming on the heels of Allende's Zorro), and I look forward to reading more of the series, due out next year (they've already been published in Spanish, but the English translations are just starting to trickle out). My only complaint is that the ending seemed to come too abruptly. I know, it's part of a series, and there's more story to come, but even for a series novel, it felt too truncated. Or maybe that's partly because I zipped through it so quickly. In any case, my love of historical novels is being completely revitalized by this and a few other books I've read this year.
34. Against Depression, Peter D. Kramer
I found myself nodding emphatically for much of this book. It was a hard read, largely because there's a lot of technical stuff in it, but Kramer has a way of explaining depression that completely removes any and all stigma to it. If you want to understand major depression better, the large section where he explains, in fairly clear English, the current research on the disease is alone worth the price of the book.
He also takes an interesting look at the cultural history of depression as a sort of replacement for TB as a disease that only "refined" people suffer from. And of course, he deals with the old saw about "What if Van Gogh had been prescribed Prozac?", i.e., Artists Must Suffer For Their Art. That question, in fact, is what drove Kramer to write and book, and he dismantles that argument in favor of untreated depression pretty handily.
33. Zorro, Isabel Allende#
This is one of the few books I've heard on audio that I now HAVE to own a copy of. Blair Brown's reading was flawless, and her Spanish accent, at least to me, sounded perfect. The story itself is a literary rendering of the equivalent of a comic's origin story. We get to see how Zorro became Zorro, and what a trip it is. Allende does an excellent job of explaining how our hero came by his collection of skills, without sounding like she's trying to dryly explain some high character sheet stats (you gamers will understand that one).
Like all good swashbucklers, there's a lot of humor in Zorro, but there's a lot of pathos and adventure and excitement and romance too. Allende managed to work the formula without being formulaic. The identity of the initially unnamed narrator won't surprise anyone who's been paying attention, but by the time you get there, the narrator's identity doesn't matter nearly as much as the hero's. Definitely have to read this one again.
June 12, 2005
32. Traveling Mercies, Anne Lamott
There just aren't enough words for my growing love of Anne Lamott. I know her brands of Christianity and spirituality aren't for everyone, but wow do they speak to me. She has a way of soothing my soul, of saying the things I need to hear, even if maybe I didn't want to hear them. I'd thought about grabbing the book and listing some quotes here, but there's just too much. There's too much goodness in this book to pick just one or two quotes.
I have almost nothing in common with Lamott, who is a single mother and recovering addict and alcoholic. What we do have in common is a belief in a God of love and social justice, and that all of the dogmatic crap people tend to get so bogged down in is a gigantic waste of time. She reminds me that Christianity can (and should) have room for everybody, regardless of our personal differences.
31. G is for Gumshoe, Sue Grafton
It always surprises me to discover that I enjoy the mystery genre. I rarely pick it up willingly (as was the case with this one--I was in a situation with nothing else around to read) with the sole exception of Agatha Christie. But I had fun with this book. It's pretty much exactly what you're looking for when you're looking for a series mystery. The dialogue is snappy, the main character is quirky and interesting, and the mystery gets solved in 250 pages or less. There was nothing deep here at all, just pure brain candy. I may surprise myself and go looking for a few more of the books in the series.