I was going to catch up on my book posts. Then I decided not to bother..I’d just make a list at the end of the year. Then I remembered the whole point of blogging about books was so I’d have some specific thoughts down in writing to reference later. Which I actually do sometimes. I’ve read some good ones lately that are already starting to fade. (Sigh.)
Book 17 – American Shaolin, by Matthew Polly
Book Club pick. Ivy League student goes off by himself to study kung fu with Chinese monks. In China. For God’s sake. It is far more coming-of-age and far less spiritual journey than I had imagined. There are some interesting insights into China circa-1993, but I found the descriptions of the kungfu training and competitions really tiresome.
Book 18 – The Night Circus, by Erin Morgenstern
Incredibly cinematic story about a travelling circus created to house the long-term competition between two young magicians. The world was imagined very well and the love story of the competitors was even half plausible. It is a bit of a slow burn and requires some patience. At the same time, it is so easy to visualize on a screen that I Googled and saw a film trailer. Hollywood is going to ruin it, so please read the book first.
Book 19 – Service Failure: The Real Reasons Employees Struggle with Customer Service…, by Jeff Toister
The answer is that it is usually policies and processes, as opposed to people, that make customer service so bad. No big surprise. The examples are heavy on the retail, which doesn’t help me quite as much at work, but make it easy to relate on a personal level. Also, it was written for managers, rather than actual customer service practitioners.
Book 20 – Trouble is My Business, by Raymond Chandler
I shouldn’t be allowed to count this, because I now understand it is one short story that was part of a larger book. But I didn’t know that when I downloaded it. I wasn’t particularly impressed. It seemed like…something Raymond Chandler wrote for a junior year assignment, and the lead was a chump version of Marlowe.
Book 21 – The Tiger’s Wife, by Tea Obrecht
It’s a fable or a parable or..one of those things. Young doctor in the Balkans goes out to the middle of nowhere to inoculate some kids just as her grandfather dies. She remembers her grandfather’s stories of “the deathless man”, who I was sure was going to be revealed as The Wandering Jew but was not. I like stories where Death shows up like a real character and makes people give some actual thought to their place in the universe. I gotta tellya, there is an actual tiger and I worried about him a lot. But it was worth it.
Book 22 – Life Itself, by Roger Ebert
I was at the library right after Ebert died and could not believe the audio version of his book was on the shelf. Read by Edward Hermann, thank you very much. I remember tweeting that when I got to the chapter about Siskel, I hit pause and got up to find tissues and ice cream. But I didn’t cry because I had already heard so many of the stories. He had a complicated relationship with his mother that might have had something to do with his complicated relationship with the bottle which might have had something to do with why he waited so long to get married. The true joy of this book for me was hearing Roger talk about his wife Chaz and their huge family. Also poignant was his description of losing the ability to speak, which made him an even more prolific writer. I might have to go back to his website and read every damn thing he ever wrote.
Book 23 – Drood, by Dan Simmons
First person fiction narrated by 19th century novelist Wilkie Collins. Seems to be a bit of a Salieri to Charles Dickens’ Mozart. He is also an opium addict. Historical fact – several years before his death, Charles Dickens was on board a train that derailed and killed a lot of people. In this fiction, Dickens describes to Collins a dark-cared Egyptian man named Drood who was present at the site of the crash. Mystery, mystery. Apparently Drood had been riding on the train in a coffin.
And so unfolds a dark epic of graveyards and mistresses and underground opium dens. People disappear and reappear and Collins thinks Dickens might be crazy, then might be a murderer, then might be an innocent under the influence of an evil supernatural beast. At some point in the book, when I decided I didn’t trust any of the theories on the table I remembered that the narrator is an opium addict and thus not a trustworthy witness.
This book is messed up. I loved it.
Books 24 – 26 – Three more Deborah Knott novels, by Margaret Maron
One in a carnival, one in the mountains and the one where the judge marries a childhood friend that was right under her nose the whole time. Finally catching up to that Christmas one that started me on this series in the first place.