A Reader's Guide to Unfamiliar Literature
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What I'm Currently Reading

"Chez Moi" by Agnes Desarthe
"Animal, Vegetable, Miracle" by Barbara Kingsolver

just finished:
"The Last Colony" by John Scalzi


San Diego, CA, USA

About Me

Avid bookcrosser and book swapper!

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Authors Added By judygreeneyes

Author Comments

about Ernest Cline 2014-10-18 15:20:47

I recently read "Ready Player One". The unabridged audio version, which I listened to in my car, is read by Wil Wheaton, which is pretty fun in itself. He does a nice job of bringing Wade, the ~18 year old protagonist, to life. I think if I had been able to read this book through without those pesky interruptions, like work and sleep, I would have done it. It is totally engaging, funny, suspenseful, intriguing, and enjoyable. It was hard to stop listening every time I pulled into a garage to park. It is near future sci-fi, takes place around 2044, so not so far into the future that non-scifi fans could not enjoy it. A large part of the story is the Oasis, a huge virtual reality world into which most humans stay plugged as much as possible, because life on Earth is not so great, and in the Oasis anything can happen.

One of the reasons I think this book might be interesting to a book club is that even though it takes place about 30 years in the future, it is still really about human relationships, family (or the lack thereof), corporate bad behavior, poverty, problem-solving, and use of technology, all of which make for a good tale and a good discussion.

about Jonathan Carroll 2013-01-22 17:47:30

I am currently reading Jonathan Carroll's "The Wooden Sea" thanks to SqueakyChu's bookcrossing bookray. I really love this story and this author's voice and can't wait to read more by him.

about Zadie Smith 2011-01-19 14:20:39

I read On Beauty in the last few years. I loved the story, the diversity of the characters, and the insiders view of academia. The various relationships/interactions between black and white characters as well as the challenges experienced by the children of a black mom and white dad were very interesting.

about Sarah Stonich 2011-01-19 14:01:18

I recently read "These Granite Islands". It was a beautiful story that takes place in the 1930's and in the present day in Minnesota. The author does a wonderful job of evoking time and place. It is a love story, a mystery, an historical novel... I recommend it.

about Ann Patchett 2010-09-19 01:03:55

Ann Patchett is one of my very favorite writers. I fell in love with "Bel Canto", and immediately went out and found copies of all of her other books, each of them a gem. The most recent I read and loved was "Run", a story about politics and family.

about Pat Conroy 2010-09-19 00:33:28

My first exposure to Pat Conroy was a very long time ago, when I saw the movie based on "The Water is Wide", in which Conroy is played by Jon Voight. My favorite book is Beach Music, followed by The Prince of Tides. I haven't read one I didn't like.

about Bill Bryson 2010-09-19 00:30:55

My first Bill Bryson book was "A Walk in the Woods". I listened to the audio version on my ipod. It was read by the author and was hysterically funny. Very engaging.

about Charles De Lint 2010-09-19 00:26:30

Charles De Lint is a most amazing author. His writing can be thought of as urban fantasy. The settings are most frequently those with which we are familiar -- downtown neighborhoods, city streets. De Lint sees the magic all around us. I first fell in love with "The Little Country", then moved on to all of the Newford books. Magical, each one.

about Spider Robinson 2008-04-04 17:13:30

He has been one of my favorite authors since I was in college. I started with "Callahan's Crosstime Saloon" and never looked back. The entire Callahan series is a trip. I also recommend Mindkiller and Antinomy, plus the Stardance series written with his wife Jeanne.

about John Varley 2008-04-04 15:37:05

John Varley has long been one of my very favorite writers of science fiction. My first encounter with him was the Gaea trilogy (Titan, Demon, and Wizard), which I have read several times since the eighties. I can recommend any of his novels or short stories. Aside from the trilogy, I strongly recommend The Persistence of Vision.

Title Comments

about A Visit From the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan 2015-08-18 22:12:07

I really enjoyed listening to the audio version of this book, the reader was quite excellent. I loved the life and personality she brought to the prose. The prose itself is smart and evocative, edgy but compassionate. I could easily picture the characters and situations. Benny Salazar was an interesting character who moved through many pieces of this disjointed tale through the lives and times of quite a few people, ending up around the year 2020. Many of the characters were somehow involved in the music industry, many were involved with drugs, most or all were self-destructive to some extent or were closely affiliated with self-destructive people (which is also self-destructive). It's not the kind of story you could say has an exact plot or beginning and ending. It's more a conglomeration of people living overlapping lives with varying degree of success, with Life and Time as the goons, getting in the way bigtime. Music and technology also played their influential roles. In many reviews I read, people were put out by the lack of exact plot, by the plethora of characters. But life is exactly like that, isn't it? Too little plot, too many characters, and life and time beat us up. Great story!

I love this man. Bill Bryson is very near the top of authors I would love to meet and talk with or go listen to. He's a wonderfully creative writer, both historically interesting and hysterically funny. I love that he narrates his own audio books. This is a wonderful view into life in 1950's Iowa and laugh-out-loud funny like all of his books.

about A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson 2015-08-18 21:47:44

I listened to this book on my ipod. It could have been dull, but it never was. I had the sense of being with Bryson and Katz as they trudged along, in the heat, cold, snow, rain, bugs, hunger, exhaustion, and incredible vistas, eating Snickers and raisins and dreaming of steak, pie, and showers. I loved the bits and pieces of factual information about the Appalachian Trail and the National Park Service that were woven in along the way. I'm not a backpacker, mostly an infrequent day-hiker, but this book made me want to head on out...

Reading it on audio was a real bonus also, since it was read by Bill Bryson.

about A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson 2015-08-18 21:46:43

I wasn't sure which kind of history Bill Bryson was taking on in this book (I thought maybe the history of human civilization), but I knew just because he wrote it, I would enjoy it. In this book Bryson takes on the daunting task of explaining where our universe came from, what astronomers, physicists, chemists, geologists, and many other scientists have learned over many years about our universe, about quantum mechanics and particle physics, about atoms and molecules, the origins of life and the evolution of humans. It is mind-boggling to think of all the research he had to have done and internalized in order to have written such a coherent and engaging account of it all. The result is a book that is so interesting and also amusing, engaging, thought-provoking and entertaining. Bill Bryson has the rare ability to take (I truly believe) ANY topic and make it interesting. Too bad we can't clone him and fill all of the American classrooms with him.

Highly recommended. I read this on audio, which was really special since it is read by the author himself.

about The Art Forger by Barbara A. Shapiro 2015-08-18 21:29:19

This book was difficult to put down - a pretty good whodunit. I stayed up tonight to finish reading it. So much of the drama happens right at the end, and I really wanted to know how it ended. I was fascinated by all of the details of how a a good forgery is accomplished, and what it takes to paint in that style at all. All of the layers of paint and drying time involved, it's amazing. I can't imagine having either the talent or the patience. The author did a perfect job of explaining the painting process and also showing the manic nature of an artist's life while they are in a deeply creative period. It was a great illustration of the difficulty of authenticating a piece of art, especially when people can't help seeing what they want to see. Then there's the question of what a person would be willing to do to own something magnificent, something that has really captured their heart. I wonder how that translates into the non-art world. What would I be willing to do to be (rightfully or wrongfully) at the top of the heap in my profession?

My book group really enjoyed this book.

about WWW: Wonder (WWW #3) by Robert J. Sawyer 2015-08-18 21:12:35

I loved this entire series. Great fun in sci-fi with development of an artificial intelligence and its interactions with humans. Lots of Sawyer's personal politics thrown in. I recommend the whole series! Read them in order.

about Special Topics in Calamity Physics by Marisha Pessl 2015-08-18 21:05:30

This was the most unusual and interesting book I read in 2008. I really loved the story, told in 1st person by the teenage narrator, Blue Van Meer. Her voice is unique, and the style of the "memoir" is a course outline, with each chapter titled as a book title, and each paragraph being heavily annotated with references to all sorts of works of fiction, non-fiction, and reference works.

The story is about the relationship between Blue and her controlling and opinionated father; it is also about her coming of age while spending her last year of high school at a private school in North Carolina.

Per New York Times (8/26/06)
The novel is about a precocious adolescent, Blue van Meer, and her widowed father, Gareth, a brilliant, charismatic professor. The two live a peripatetic existence, traveling from college to college, driven by forces only revealed to Blue by the death of Hannah, a popular teacher at her school.

Blue is relentlessly intellectual, making incessant literary references, whether to Argos, the dog who recognizes Odysseus on his return home, or Dante’s love, Beatrice Portinari. Then there is “the late great Horace Lloyd Swithin (1844-1917), British essayist, lecturer, satirist and social observer” who, like a number of authors cited by Blue, was invented by Ms. Pessl.

“She filters every life experience she has through books,” Ms. Pessl said last week of her main character. “A lot of the references are tongue-in-cheek.”

The chapters are also named after great books like “Madame Bovary” and “Howl.” ”I didn’t name the chapters to be intimidating,” Ms. Pessl said. “Being assigned those books and having to trudge through them is as much a rite of passage as going to the prom.” The book is illustrated by the author’s teenage-style drawings.

about Life After Life by Kate Atkinson 2015-08-18 20:59:09

What a glorious story this is. I have a feeling I'll be recommending to others for a long time but will never quite be able to tell them what it is about. That's OK - if they read it, they'll understand :) I thoroughly enjoyed the characters, the frequent disorientation of time displacement, and the time frame of WWI to WWII in London and surroundings. The simultaneous complexity and clarity of the story are dazzling. Highly recommended!

This book, 2nd in the series, is an excellent continuation of the tale. It also provides some more of the back story from The Passage. It was so nice to finish The Passage one day and drop right into this 2nd book the next day. Still great story-telling, great characters and complex plot, very creepy world.

about Mary and O'Neil by Justin Cronin 2015-08-18 20:52:31

What a beautiful story, full of people I cared about and both the happy and sad sides of life, love, family. Justin Cronin's prose is gorgeous, intimate. He so perfectly describes feelings in just the way they truly feel, the way I wish I could describe them. This is the 3rd of his books that I have read, and he is becoming a very favorite writer. I don't think that "a novel in stories" describes this book for me. It sounds like a collection of related short stories, but many books have chapters that are in different time periods, focusing on some characters and not others, etc. It felt like a very cohesive novel to me, and difficult to put down. Really wonderful, recommended for anyone who loves beautiful prose and stories about families!

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