Monday, November 01, 2004


This post is a continuation of one I wrote back in early August. Since that time I’ve finished off thirteen books, and just on the chance you might be interested, here they are. As with the last listing, let’s start with most recent and work backwards:


The Boy Who Would Live Forever, Frederick Pohl. Fred Pohl picks up the threads of the Heechee saga that he began in 1978 with the landmark novel Gateway. It’s good to see many of the old, familiar characters again…and to meet new ones.

The Plot Against America, Philip Roth. Paranoid “what-if” story of a pre-WW II America in which Charles A. Lindbergh, famous aviator and Nazi sympathizer, is elected President. Entertaining but marginally plausible alternative history, with a liberal dose of Rothian angst.

Anything You Can Do, Darell T. Langart. Early 1960’s-vintage science fiction, about the attempt to capture an alien invader who ritualistically kills and eats his human victims. What “Predator” could have been had it been written for a three-digit IQ target audience.

The Greatest Generation, Tom Brokaw. The story of the generation that fought World War Two and came back to create a prosperous new postwar America, told in vignettes about (mostly) random individuals and families.

The Foods of Israel Today, Joan Nathan. Cookbook that explores the multitudinous ethnic influences in modern Israeli cuisine. It ain’t just falafel anymore.


Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Julia Child. A culinary essential. Child’s recent death inspired me to (finally!) purchase this excellent book, one that literally changed the way Americans look at food and eating and helped pave the way for today’s foodie culture. Hmmm, is that a good thing?

The Gefilte Variations, Jayne Cohen. Updated versions of classic Jewish recipes.

Created in Darkness by Troubled Americans: The Best of McSweeney’s, Humor Category, various authors. Anyone who knows me knows that I am a McSweeney’s fan, as well as an occasional contributor to their website. My only regret is that none of my crap made it into this book – but that should not keep you from reading it and laughing hysterically.

Settling Accounts: Return Engagement, Harry Turtledove. From the master of the alternative history genre, the first installment in yet another trilogy that explores a world in which the War Between the States had a different outcome. It’s the 1940’s, and a new world war begins when Jake Featherstone, fascist dictator of the Confederate States, attacks the USA. Turtledove’s writing has become more formulaic, but you still want to see how the damn story will turn out.

Peace Kills, P. J. O’Rourke. More twisted humor from the self-titled Republican Party Reptile, this time exploring the topic of war in today’s terrorism-filled world.


Weapons of Choice, John Birmingham. Scientific experiment gone awry results in a mid-21st century battle fleet traveling back in time to the Battle of Midway. A little like “The Final Countdown,” that movie with Martin Sheen and Kirk Douglas in which the U.S.S. Nimitz gets zapped back to just before the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. Birmingham’s novel, however, delves into the inevitable social conflicts between 1940’s-era Americans – pre-civil rights and pre-feminism – and a race, nationality, and gender-integrated fighting force from a century later. Can two such vastly different versions of America see themselves as sharing the same national identity?

Gunpowder: Alchemy, Bombards, & Pyrotechnics, Jack Kelly. The history of gunpowder and its impact on the development of modern nation-states. Fascinating book – featuring lotsa shit blowing up!

Throwing the Elephant: Zen and the Art of Managing Up, Stanley Bing. A useful guide to navigating the jungles of the Great Corporate Salt Mine and dealing with the fauna encountered in one’s daily life there. Bing is entertaining and enlightening at once. What is the sound of one hand clapping…at your performance review?

Now for the stats. Since August, I’ve read 17 books (the ones above plus a couple mentioned in my last bookpost) – of these, 53% is nonfiction, 47% fiction. The fiction is split equally between science fiction and what I loosely refer to as “other fiction.” I’ve categorized Roth’s book as “other fiction” (rather than SF) on the strength of his reputation as a mainstream fiction writer – you are free to do otherwise if you’re that anal.

Ah, is that the Postal Service truck I hear? Perhaps…yes, yes, it is! Another package! With a book inside! Quick, must hide from SWMBO!

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