It is the end of May, and that also means the end of school and a whole wonderful summer ahead during which time I will become a father and tackle some reading that I just wasn’t quite ready for during the school year. Also, as I am about to read Kavalier and Clay and have no interest in Oscar Wao, it is time for a new book queue which will follow the main entry. So, without further ado…
1. A Brief History of Time by Stephen Hawking (5.0/50): A very excellent book and a wonderfully easy read. I knew a fair bit of what was in here already, but the the things I hadn’t learned were very easy to understand. It’s a nice bonus that Hawking has a good sense of humor (he sees fit, at one point, to throw in a limerick). Especially worth reading were the bits on black holes (Hawking is among the foremost experts and is responsible for much of what we know about them). Highly recommended.
2. Julius Caesar by William Shakespeare (5.0/5): My students read this in class. It says something about a play when sophomores reading it doesn’t ruin it for you. Caesar is one of my favorite Shakespeare plays. Some of the speeches Antony is given are particular beautiful.
3. The Communist Manifest by Karl Marx (3.0/5): Interesting, if a bit didactic. Like most political writing it fails to acknowledge the validity of opposing viewpoints. Still, it makes criticisms of capitalism that still ring very true many years later.
4. The House on Pooh Corner by A.A. Milne (5.0/5): I liked this even more than Winnie-the-Pooh. Milne says a great deal more in this (it is clearly aimed at slightly older children than the first book) without losing any of the light humor or lazy-stream story telling that makes everything about Pooh so wonderful. I will be reading this my daughter. Hopefully many times.
5. All the King’s Men by Robert Penn Warren (5.0/5): I made it a point to reread this book after negative reactions to it from several people I respect. I don’t know what made them unhappy. It is a wonderful book and still sits up near the very top of the list for me. It is very dense, but Warren’s prose is so carefully constructed and beautiful that I never found myself wanting to hurry through anyway. You get to know so many characters and their actions are described with such beautiful, heart-stopping accuracy that you find yourself feeling almost as they feel. This is the kind of book that made me want to be a writer. Just perfect.
6. When You Are Engulfed in Flames by David Sedaris (4.0/5): I think I’ve read all the available Sedaris now. This book was very good, though not as good as Me Talk Pretty or Corduroy and Denim. The firs half is a bit weak, but along about page 150, it really picks up and is more or less fantastic all the way through to the end. It was nice to see Sedaris get a bit more personal in this one as many of these stories are more about his personal than has generally been the case. It’s certainly among his most honest work.
7. The Te of Piglet (3.0/5): This was okay. I didn’t enjoy it nearly so much as The Tao of Pooh. Hoff gets very preachy in places and does a poor job explaining some of his points. Most harmful is his semi-frequent failure to see and acknowledge the flaws in some of his own arguments. In places it reads more as a screed against Western society than a truly Taoist text.
Summer Book Queue:
Tomcat in Love by Tim O’Brien
Gun with Occasional Music by Jonathan Lethem (finally found a copy)
The Hangmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
The Physics of the Impossible by Michio Kaku
Summerland by Michael Chabon
The Children of Hurin by J.R.R. Tolkien
The Abstinence Teacher by Tom Perotta
Animal Dreams by Barbara Kingsolver
The Chracter of Physicla Law by Richard Feynman
All the Pretty Horses by Cormac McCarthy