Monday, December 15, 2008


The Elisson Bookshelf

Being yet another installment in a series entitled “What I’ve Been Reading Lately.”

My last Bookshelf Post was, appropriately enough, on April Fool’s Day, over eight months ago. And now, what with all of the holiday gift shopping going on in these short weeks before the year-end frenzied confluence of Christmakwanzakah, it’s an excellent time for me to stand here in my Bully Electronic Pulpit and pontificate about what I have been reading. Who knows? Perhaps you may be influenced by my impeccable Literary Selections unto the point of purchasing them for yourself...or giving them as gifts. Or picking ’em up at the library, the most economical alternative.

Here’s what I have read since early April:

  • The Ten-Cent Plague: The Great Comic Book Scare and How It Changed America - David Hadju

    A look at the world of pre-Code comics and the paranoid cultural struggle that led to their replacement by the sanitized tripe with which we are all too familiar. Carefully researched and entertainingly written.

  • Lost Horizon - James Hilton

    The book that gave us the term “Shangri-La,” this was the first novel ever to be published in paperback.

  • Fail-Safe - Eugene Burdick, Harvey Wheeler

    Another golden oldie, I remember this being an extremely popular and topical novel during the height of Cold War paranoia. It was released in October 1962, the same month as that monumental exercise in brinksmanship, the Cuban Missile Crisis. Even as a mere ten-year-old, I was fully aware that my world was on the verge of going up in nuclear flames. What I didn’t know was just how close a call we had...and that there were nuclear warheads sitting in Amityville, just one town to the east, which made us a primary target.

  • Siddhartha - Hermann Hesse

    Practically everyone I knew read this book while in college. I waited. But I read it in Japan, in a traditional Japanese ryokan in Kyoto, the perfect setting for a story about a man’s lifelong search for enligtenment.

  • The Omnivore’s Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals - Michael Pollan

    The story of where our food comes from...and why, if we are what we eat, we Americans are really nothing so much as giant ambulatory corn chips. Fascinating, entertaining, depressing, and enlightening.

  • Kindred - Octavia Butler

    A masterful novel from the late writer, one of the rare People of Color writing in the SF field.

  • The Shell Game - Steve Alten

    Oil industry thriller, rife with spelling and usage errors to the point of being unintentionally humorous.

  • Duma Key - Stephen King

    King’s best novel in years. Boogitty boogitty!

    Rant - Chuck Pahlaniuk

    This guy’s novels are in a bizarre class by themselves.

  • Who Stole The Funny? - Robby Benson

    A story set in the world of television, hysterically funny despite being peopled exclusively with one-dimensional characters.

  • In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto - Michael Pollan

    A follow-up to The Omnivore’s Dilemma, this book is more prescriptive and less entertaining, with a message that can be condensed into seven short words: “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.” Words to live by.

  • Disguised As Clark Kent: Jews, Comics, And the Creation of the Superhero - Danny Fingeroth

    Fascinating topic; alas, the writing is repetitious and dull.

  • The Kill Artist - Daniel Silva

    The first of Silva’s Gabriel Allon series. Taut, fast-paced thriller, perfect beach reading. My friend Gary got me hooked on Silva’s books, and I started devouring them (as you will see). I can polish one of these off in a day or two.

  • The English Assassin - Daniel Silva

  • The Confessor - Daniel Silva

  • 211 Things a Bright Boy Can Do - Tom Cutler

    A lot like The Dangerous Book for Boys, but much edgier. A somewhat abashed recommendation from David Bogner (Treppenwitz).

  • A Death in Vienna - Daniel Silva

  • When You Are Engulfed in Flames - David Sedaris

    More nutty essays. The title comes from hotel room instructions Sedaris saw while staying in Hiroshima. Imagine that: Entertaining Translations in Japan.

  • Little Brother - Cory Doctorow

    A cautionary SF tale with political overtones, examining the consequences of having an overzealous Homeland Security organization.

  • I Was Told There’d Be Cake - Crosley Sloane

    David Sedaris with a vagina.

  • The McSweeney’s Joke Book of Book Jokes - McSweeney’s

  • Prince of Fire - Daniel Silva

  • Liberal Fascism - Jonah Goldberg

  • The Messenger - Daniel Silva

  • The Secret Servant - Daniel Silva

  • The Year’s Best Science Fiction: Twenty-Fifth Annual Collection - Gardner Dozois (editor)

    Crammed full of excellent short fiction, it took me a full month to work my way through this tome.

  • Final Theory - Mark Alpert

  • The Man with the Iron Heart - Harry Turtledove

    In which Turtledove posits an alternative world where the Nazis prosecute an effective resistance post-WWII, echoing the real-world experience in Iraq.

  • Ender in Exile - Orson Scott Card

    Card revisits his Ender series, this time writing a genuine sequel to the brilliant Ender’s Game

  • Moscow Rules - Daniel Silva

Whew. Thirty books. Eight months.

Right now I’m in the midst of Gregory Maguire’s Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West (much darker than the stage musical version). Lots more books to read...and if I don’t figure out what to do with the old ones, the Missus may have me sleeping in the basement...

So: What have you been reading lately?

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