A Walk in the Woods (Bill Bryson): I reread this for the second time. Still the funniest travel book you’ve ever read in your life. Bill Bryson is your average middle-aged person, who decides one day that he wants to hike the Appalachian Trail. After all, he takes good long walks every day, this will be just a lot of them put together, right? Much hilarity ensues. All Bryson books are good, but this one is the best.
Since Then (David Crosby): This is David Crobsy’s second autobiography. Since he wrote the first one, enough has happened to make a whole second volume. Having read it, I agree. This guy is amazing. He can’t go ten days without almost dying, almost killing someone, becoming a millionaire, donating sperm for famous lesbians, going bankrupt, going homeless, almost dying again, finding long lost children, forming a band with said children, and so on. The man has lived.
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (J.K. Rowling):Awesome! It’s hard to review without giving away any spoilers, so I can’t say much. I was very impressed how all the plot twists were completely fair. Everything you knew was wrong, but for valid reasons, she never deliberately led you to believe one thing and then set you up for the twists, the twists were natural. I’ll stop there.
The Black Swan: (Nick Taleb):This one has gotten a lot of press. Black Swan events are those that are so far outside normal probability we don’t think about them in the normal course of life. Hurricanes are normal events. Katrina destroying New Orleans is very improbable, perhaps a black swan. The transformative power of the Internet, 9/11, these are Black Swan events. Taleb’s got an attitude. You don’t often read a book centered on mathematics that has such a strong point of view. It’s very refreshing. I intended to read his other book, Fooled by Randomess.
The Golden Compass (Phillip Pullman):I had intended to make a standalone post about this book. It’s fantastic. I have recently been re-reading some of the kids books I used to love. Some of them stand up, some don’t. The Dark is Rising stinks. As an adult, it’s laughably dumb. Pullman’s stuff is intelligent. The first two books of this trilogy were incredibly well done. They are childrens books, but very readable by adults. If you read just the first book, you will have a hard time understanding why the Right is so mad about this. Once you get into the trilogy, it is very clear. I’ll leave it at that to avoid spoilage. Sadly, the third book is simply ridiculous. It has cool moments here and there, but can’t deliver on the promise of the first two books.
Empire Falls (Richard Russo): I love Richard Russo. I first learned about him from the movie Nobody’s Fool (with Paul Newman), which had such an interesting style and feel to it, unlike any other movie I’d seen. I finished Empire Falls last night, I was up until 1:00 am finishing it out. It won the Pulitzer Prize, and deservedly so. This is what got me thinking about Pulitzer Prize books.
Soon I Shall be Invincible (Austin Grossman): Actually, I haven’t read this yet, but it will be on top of my next Amazon order. Most of you know I used to be very tight with Austin, and I can confidently say, if he wrote it, it’s good. (The other reviewers are all saying the same thing by the way, not just me.) Update:Yes, it’s very very good!
Sacred Games (Vikram Chandra): This is another one of those books where talking about the plot doesn’t tell you much about the book. A policeman in India successfully captures/kills the local mafia chief. Chapters alternate between the stories of the policeman and the gangster, and of course more is revealed. Whatever. It’s a wonderful book to read. Full of life and atmosphere, all kinds of interesting characters brewing in an enormous soup of life. I’ve never been to India, and yet I feel like I took a long trip there.