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Last of the Book Reports for Now

So my excuse for posting my final book report a day late is that I did not get off the couch yesterday due to extreme exhaustion and nausea. I’m still not exactly entirely well today, but I can sit up.

Nonfiction reading ranged all over the place this time out. I read Million Dollar Consulting in order to understand Brent’s theoretical underpinnings for his consulting work. Pretty much every time I read a business book I get all itchy. The most itchy part of this particular book was that its focus was on how to make the most money. The author does also want his work to be interesting, but ultimately it’s about the dollar signs. I’m one of those crazy people who would like to do good work, right work, and hope that it produces a living. That said, the book seems practical and no-nonsense. It also led to interesting conversations between Brent and me.

I read The Fatigue Prescription out of my continuing delusion that I will find the magic something-or-other to make me not exhausted all the time. This book was not it. It does collect all the helpful suggestions out there into one place, so someone wanting the stuff at one fell swoop might find it useful, but I’m already clear on the exercise and food and stress thing.

By contrast, A Whole New Mind was fascinating. The premise of the book is that automation and outsourcing are eroding the potential for pure left-brainers to make a living in our culture. What is needed is right-brainers who can integrate and design and plan. The writing was unusually good for the type of book it is. I like that there are suggestions for building right-brain skills at the end of each chapter.

I loved Into Africa, a book about Livingstone and Stanley. Adventures! Near death experiences! Africa! Colonialism is depressing, but what seems to have motivated Livingstone at least was the thrill of pure discovery. Books about people who do crazy, interesting stuff and survive to tell about it appeal to me.

In poetry, the theme was books with translations in parallel to the originals. I read Seamus Heaney’s translation of Beowulf and loved it. I have a fondness for really old epics anyway, but this translation blew doors on previous ones I’ve read. My favorite part is after Grendel is killed and Beowulf has to take on Grendel’s mom. Don’t mess with the mamas. Not that it turned out too well for this particular mama.

I also read Ingeborg Bachmann’s Darkness Spoken. Not the most cheerful collection of poetry, but moving and powerful. I’d recommend it.

Which brings me back to fiction. I finished the collected works of Barry Eisler so far by reading Inside Out and Fault Line. Good high-voltage action books for people who like to see some portion of the Bad Guys get dismantled violently.

I finally finished Anansi Boys. I had got stuck in the middle. It will never be my favorite Gaiman book, but I enjoyed it at last. I wrote about it before, so I won’t go repeating myself.

The Tower, The Zoo, and the Tortoise was utterly charming. A Yeoman Warder has to deal with his grief over his son’s death while corralling numerous species as the animals the Queen has received as gifts are moved to the Tower of London. Chaos ensues. Among other things, a parrot repeats the amorous cries of illicit lovers, an extremely rare specimen teeters on the brink of extinction, and ravens behave maliciously.

Dream of the Red Chamber seems at one point to have belonged to Rick since it has a UCD used book price tag on it. In short, it is a Chinese soap opera. Unless you prefer to think of it as a family saga. Either way, it’s full of intrigue, sex, and money with the occasional detour into poetry and myth. I liked it.

The Ambassadors also has a certain amount of soap-opera-ness, if soap operas exist in a world with sentences a page long. The fiancé of a rich woman is sent to France to encourage her son to leave his mistress and take up his rightful place in the family business. Seductions abound if one is patient enough to wait for them. I will keep it.

The Amazing Elizabeth also turned me on to In the Mother’s Land. I loved it. A matriarchal society struggles with a variety of challenges. Faiths are questioned. And a nifty twist for an end. It reminded me of The Handmaid’s Tale without the deep gloom and doom, but that might be just a weird association of my own rather than anything inherent in either book.

Finally, I borrowed Wolf Hall from Syd. It was fascinating historical fiction. The writing was terrific, the events absorbing. I will simply complain that the book just ended. Not in the horrible cheating sort of way that Infinite Jest did, but not for any particularly compelling reason. In case I was missing something obvious, I asked Syd about it and he agreed with me that it was odd and abrupt. Entirely worth reading, even with that caveat.

And now I can get back to reading for the next contest.

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