Thursday, October 16, 2008

The Big Book Post

I've done a terrible job making book posts lately, so here's one big post to get caught up. I'm listing these in order of preference, although it's tricky, since the subject matter varies so widely.

Watchmen (Alan Moore, Dave Gibbons) I have no idea why I had never heard of this book, but it's utterly sensational--not just a great graphic novel, but a great novel by any standard. Like all great science fiction, it explores what it means to be human, but it does so in extraordinarily thoughtful and poignant ways. One particular scene (on Mars) is as poignant a scene as anything I've ever read, and it's deeply moving. This is one of those books that you treasure, and I'm very much looking forward to the day when Eli is old enough to read it.

A Terrible Glory: Custer and the Little Bighorn - the Last Great Battle of the American West (James Donovan)
This book is just riveting--there's no other way to describe it. Even both The Battle of Little Bighorn happened over a century ago, the writing is so vivid that it feels like it's actually happening as you turn the pages. The amount of detail is tremendous, but it never becomes ponderous. It's a terrific, fascinating read.

The Big Over Easy: A Nursery Crime (Jasper Forde)
So if nursery rhyme characters lived in the real world, and there was a special branch of the police called the Nursery Crimes Unit, then the death of Humpty Dumpty would be cause for an investigation, right?

Why yes, it would.

The Big Over Easy is a wildly funny book, mostly because its world is both ridiculous and utterly consistent, and Forde is entirely ingenious, both in concept and execution.

Uncle John's Triumphant 20th Anniversary Bathroom Reader
I still remember the People's Almanac very fondly, a popular series of books in the late 70s and early 80s. They were a fascinating compendium of obscure historical facts, and when the series ended, I was totally disappointed. Uncle John's isn't quite the same, but it's the closest I've found, and it's the largest collection of oddities I've ever found in printed form. If you ever wanted to know about the Poy Sang Long (a coming of age ritual of the Shan people in Myanmar), or the Basillic (the largest cannon ever built), then this is the book for you.

All Governments Lie: The Life and Times of Rebel Journalist I. F. Stone (Myra MacPherson)
Every high school student in the country should be given a copy of this book to read for Government class. This is an excellent read, both to explain who I.F. Stone was as a person and why he was so profoundly important to journalism (back in the day when journalists had a spine).

Boys Will Be Boys: The Glory Days and Party Nights of the Dallas Cowboys Dynasty (Jeff Pearlman)
Parts of this book just left me speechless. If you ever wanted to know what life in the NFL was like in the early nineties, then this book is pure gold. Pearlman interviewed everyone, seemingly, except Emmett Smith, and the stories he uncovered will make your jaw drop to the floor about every fifth page.

The Prize : The Epic Quest for Oil, Money & Power (Daniel Yergin)
A book I was reading on the Great Depression referenced The Prize as the definitive history of the oil industry. It's incredibly dense, so be forewarned, but I think "definitive" is a fair description. It also provides an entirely new perspective on understanding how the world came to be what it is today, including the critical role of fuel in both World Wars (which I had never been aware of before). And even though it's dense, it's colorful, because the history of the oil industry is full of bizarre and roguish characters.

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