A blog for the literate middle aged man with the interests of an 11 year old boy.
2018-2019 BBC Book Calendar
Vacationland: True Stories from Painful Beaches, by John Hodgman, 267 pages: Hodgman, known primarily for playing the neurosurgeon on Battlestar Galactica, collects a series of comedic travel essays. The book jacket has endorsements from a who’s who of liberal glitterati, including Jon Stewart, Sarah Vowel and friend-of-the-book-club Michael Chabon. Says Seth: “Okay, we always seem to get in trouble with travelogs by clever satirists, but I really like Hodgman.” Ranked 4th.
Six Wakes, by Mur Lafferty, 400 pages. Sci fi mystery. Clones on a space ship far from Earth investigate their own murders. Ranked 8th.
Sick Puppy, by Carl Hiassen, 341 pages: An eco-terrorist (Yup, it’s a Hiassen novel) gets revenge on a political fixer who make the mistake of littering right in front of him. Robert says “The Florida Man’s Elmore Leonard. Like the durian fruit of Indonesia, his plots are both tropical and pungent. At 341 pages, this one is about as skinny as he gets.” Ranked 13th.
Longform Literature Month: Syllabus courtesy of Robert.
The Waterknife, by Paolo Bacigalupi, 386 pages: Those of us who date back to the early days of the book club, i.e. the Michaels and me, will remember Bacigalupi for The Windup Girl, which kicked off the long tradition of post-apocalyptic BBC selections. It was pretty good. The Water Knife is near future mystery novel set after the Colorado River has dried up and the fight over water rights has become deadly serious. Like people kill people and stuff. Colorado writer. Fun for the EPA members of the group. Tied for 1st.
Space Opera, by Catherynne Valente, 304 pages: Hey, where did this one come from? The spiritual successor to Douglas Adams, a story about a fading glam rock superstar who is tapped to play in a galactic musical competition where the stakes are the survival of mankind. This one is so good, I subverted democracy to bring it to you.
Death and Life of the Great Lakes, by Dan Egan, 384 pages: A Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reporter details the manmade changes in the last 200 years that have altered and imperiled the Great Lakes, and discusses what can be done to save them. It has maps! Also, was a finalist for the Pulitzer. And maps! Ranked 7th.
Borderline, by Mishell Baker, 401 pages: Hard to improve on the Amazon description here: “A cynical, disabled film director with borderline personality disorder gets recruited to join a secret organization that oversees relations between Hollywood and Fairyland.” Ranked 12th.
Podcast Month: Podcast TBD.
My Favorite Thing is Monsters, by Emil Ferris, 386 (comic) pages. Very well reviewed graphic novel set in 60s Chicago, where 10 year old tries to solve the murder of her upstairs neighbor, a holocaust survivor, told through a series of interconnected stories in the present and the past. Comix month lives! Tied for 1st.
Uproot: Travels in 21st Century Music and Digital Culture, by Jace Clayton, 289 pages. The author is an amateur DJ who put a mix for his friends online, only to have it become an international hit. This book is his guided tour of the effect of the internet and globalization on music, musicians and the business of music production. From Amazon: “With humor, insight, and expertise, Clayton illuminates the connections between a Congolese hotel band and the indie-rock scene, Mexican rodeo teens and Israeli techno, and Whitney Houston and the robotic voices is rural Moroccan song, and offers an unparalleled understanding of music in the digital age.” Ranked 11th.
Red Notice, by Bill Browder, 417 pages. Non-fiction account by Browder, a businessman making his fortune in the early days after the fall of the USSR, and the story of his fight to expose the corruption and punish the Russian government for the prison death of his Russian lawyer, Sergei Magnitsky. Tied for 5th.
This Could Hurt, by Jillian Medoff, 376 pages. From Amazon: “A razor-sharp and deeply felt novel that illuminates the pivotal role of work in our lives—a riveting fusion of The Nest, Up in the Air,and Then We Came to the End that captures the emotional complexities of five HR colleagues trying to balance ambition, hope, and fear as their small company is buffeted by economic forces that threaten to upend them.” Tied for 5th.
The Power, by Naomi Alderman, 341 pages. A 2016 science fiction novel that showed up on a huge number of 10 best of 2016 lists, and was nominated by Mark no less. A near future novel where teenage girls develop the power to cause agonizing pain or to kill, upending the social structure. Joss Whedon, no stranger to superpowered teenage girls, gushes about this one. Ranked 3rd.
The North Water, by Ian McGuire, 272 pages. Also on a slew of “best of” lists, the story of two men in a life or death struggle aboard a whaling ship in the North Sea. The Sunday Times sums it up as: “Blood, blubber and appalling human violence saturate a tale of a doomed 19th century whaling voyage to the Arctic.” Ranked 10th.
The Saints of Rattlesnake Mountain, by Dan Waters , 216 pages: Short story fiction set in the American Southwest. Stories of spiritually lost people finding redemption and faith in the desert. Of note, not in paperback, and even the Kindle version is $25. Ranked 9th.