Books Read February 2011

Home Land by Sam Lipsyte

Reminded me of HOT TUB TIME MACHINE. The looming shadow of the past affects the present continually. No one seems able to move past their nostalgia for high school. The ex-principal is a delightful character, a nearly tragic figure. Is it an epistolary novel if the target is a high school alumnus newsletter/message board? What a desperately funny novel.

A Guide to the Good Life: The Ancient Art of Stoic Joy by William Irvine

Or, how to appreciate the fleeting time we all have on this Earth while we can. Contemplate loss in order to find joy in what you have. Cultivate patience in the face of irritation and pain.

The Lost Gospel of Judas Iscariot: A New Look at Betrayer and Betrayed by Bart Ehrman

The most amazing thing about this book: that a 2,000 year old book spent a decade mouldering in a bank deposit box in a strip mall in New Jersey. Also, the restoration work done on the manuscript is simply boggling in its delicacy. The main idea of the Gospel of Judas is that he is the secret hero and fulfiller of Christ’s ultimate plan to die. Interesting stuff, but I probably could have read a long-essay version and been just as happy.

The Fuller Memorandum by Charles Stross

The third novel in the Laundry series. Evil sorcerous cult seeks to summon a demon to destroy the world. Pretty fun stuff. But so gloomy! Also, if you haven’t, you’d want to read the previous Laundry stories first.

The Anti-American Manifesto by Ted Rall

Yeesh. Is there any corporate, governmental, institutional, infrastructural system in this country that’s not completely broken?

The Warded Man by Peter Brett

A man versus nature story. Only “nature” in this case are demons that attack everyone, everywhere, every night. Some interesting ideas that Brett explores pretty thoroughly. Like, hey, people would be pretty messed up if they were threatened with extreme, violent death every night of their lives.

The Possessed: Adventures with Russian Books and the People Who Read Them by Elif Batuman

A series of what are basically travel essays, plus thoughts on Russian novels. Highly engaging. Far more entertaining that you might expect considering the subject matter. The essay on the Tolstoy conference was probably the one I enjoyed the most. Read for “Who Killed Tolstoy”, “Summer in Samarkand”, and “The Possessed”.

Extra Lives: Why Video Games Matter by Tim Bissell

One man’s experience with video/computer games. A series of essays, really. They’re not quite reviews and not quite biography. Still, the subtitle should probably be “Why (Some Specific) Video Games Matter(ed) (To Me)”. If you like video games, you’ll probably like this. If you don’t like video games, this book would provide you with ammunition to support your feelings. Very readable.

The Last Brother by Nathacha Appanah

Beautifully written. Tragic. A story of an old man’s childhood recollections written by a young woman. Powerful stuff.

Voluptuous Panic: The Erotic World of Weimar Berlin by Mel Gordon

Or What Happens When Everything Collapses and People Get Desperate. Also, how not to establish your world-changing organization as a long-term entity.

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