Category Archives: Books, Poetry & Language

Reading

I recently finished River of Smoke, the second book in the trilogy by Amitav Ghosh, which started with Sea of Poppies. This one is set mostly in China, in a community of European and Indian expats and is about the conflict over the opium trade. There’s also an interesting sub-plot about a young Frenchwoman’s search for a rare camellia that no European has ever seen except in an illustration. It took me a little longer to get into this one but it turned out to be at least as unputdownable as the first book, if not more so. I found myself feeling sympathetic to both sides in the conflict, not terribly unusual for me, when I think about it.

It will be a couple of months before the final book in this trilogy is published so for now it’s back to science fiction for a while.

Reading

My latest read was Sea of Poppies by Amitav Ghosh, the first book in the Ibis Trilogy. It is set in India in the first half of the 19th century and follows the changing lives of a number of characters, both Indian and European as well as one American, as they eventually come together on board the Ibis on a trip to the Mauritius islands.

Sea of Poppies is excellent and I highly recommend it. It’s a good picture of life in 19th century India and contains a little humor as well as drama. It did have a lot of words that were unfamiliar to me, mostly names of foods and articles of clothing and other items in Indian culture, but this did not cause me a great deal of difficulty. One thing that was odd about it – I’ve never seen this before – this author did not use any quotation marks. Once I got started though, I didn’t have any trouble with this at all. It’s easy enough to realize when a character is talking and after I got into the book I didn’t even notice the lack.

An interesting note about the physical book itself. I bought the dead tree version since the Kindle version was not significantly cheaper. I like to say that the format doesn’t matter; it’s the content that’s important, and I stand by that but there is a certain pleasure in holding an actual book and this one especially so. I was surprised by the weight of it and the pages are a higher quality paper than you usually see in paperbacks or even most hardbacks and just touching the pages and turning them is a treat. I ordered and received the second book in the trilogy, River of Smoke and was disappointed to find that its pages are merely what’s typical for paperbacks. Oh well. I was going to order Flood of Fire, the final book in the trilogy, but it’s not available, at least in the US, until August. Again, oh well.

Worst Sentences Ever Published

The Worst Sentences Ever Published in Books. It’s one of those annoying slide shows designed to get as many page views as possible so I’m going to list all the sentences here. You’re welcome.

“Aro laughed. ‘Ha ha ha,’ he giggled.”
(New Moon by Stephenie Meyer)

“It was about as distinctive as the most distinctive thing you could ever think of.”
(Killing Floor: The Jack Reacher Series by Lee Child)

“Physicist Leonardo Vetra smelled burning flesh, and he knew it was his own.”
(Angels and Demons by Dan Brown)

“I am all gushing and breathy—like a child, not a grown woman who can vote and drink legally in the state of Washington.”
(Fifty Shades of Grey by E. L. James)

“The TIE wibbles and wobbles through the air; careening drunkenly across the Myrran rooftops – it zigzags herkily-jerkily out of sight.”
(Aftermath: Journey to Star Wars: The Force Awakens by Chuck Wendig)

“One man came running off the corner to stop him, but Rambo kicked him away and then he was whipping left around the corner, and for now he was safe and he really got that cycle going.”
(First Blood by David Morrell)

“He did not trust the woman not to trust him. And he did not want to be mistrusted now.”
(Thank You, M’am by Langston Hughes)

“Overhanging her precarious body was a jaundiced face whose skin resembled a sheet of parchment paper punctured by two emotionless eyes.”
(Deception Point by Dan Brown)

“Jeez, he looks so freaking hot. My subconscious is frantically fanning herself, and my inner goddess is swaying and writhing to some primal carnal rhythm.”
(Fifty Shades of Grey by E. L. James)

“Like the wolf he was named for was he, he realized, for his life was solitary above all else.”
(Unicorn Vengeance by Claire Delacroix)

“For a minute, the three of them sat in silence, within the expensive, single-engine, overhead-wing, two-hundred-mile-per-hour, sixteen-mile-per-gallon, white and red and mustard-yellow, airborne cocoon.”
(Whispers by Dean Koontz)

“’Stop!’ I shrieked, my voice echoing in the silence, jumping forward to put myself between them.”
(New Moon by Stephanie Meyer)

“‘Fighter weather,’ agreed Lieutenant Colonel Bill Jeffers, commander of the 57th Fighter Interceptor Squadron, the “Black Knights,” most of whose F-15 Eagle interceptors were sitting in the open a bare hundred yards away.”
(Red Storm Rising by Tom Clancy)

“Her legs were quills. They were bundles of wicker, they were candelabra; the muscles were summer lightning, that flickered like a passing thought; they were captured eels or a cable on a windlass. Her thighs were geese, pythons, schooners. They were cypress or banyan; her thighs were a forge, they were shears; her thighs were sandstone, they were the sandstone buttresses of a cathedral, they were silk or cobwebs. Her calves were sweet with the sap of elders, her feet were bleached bones, her feet were driftwood. Her feet were springs, marmosets or locusts; her toes were snails, they were snails with shells of tears.”
(Silk and Steel by Ron Miller)

To be fair, some of those probably make more sense in context.

National Poetry Month

A poem for the kind of weather we are having right now. Waiting impatiently for the sun to come out.

The Rain by William Henry Davies

I hear leaves drinking rain;
I hear rich leaves on top
Giving the poor beneath
Drop after drop;
‘Tis a sweet noise to hear
These green leaves drinking near.

And when the Sun comes out,
After this Rain shall stop,
A wondrous Light will fill
Each dark, round drop;
I hope the Sun shines bright;
‘Twill be a lovely sight.

It will indeed be a lovely site when it finally happens. More rain poems

National Poetry Month

Another one by Carl Sandburg:

Calls

Because I have called to you
as the flame flamingo calls,
or the want of a spotted hawk
is called-
because in the dusk
the warblers shoot the running
waters of short songs to the
homecoming warblers-
because
the cry here is wing to wing
and song to song-

I am waiting,
waiting with the flame flamingo,
the spotted hawk, the running water
warbler-
waiting for you.

National Poetry Month: Carl Sandburg

It’s funny… if you ask me if I like poetry I would say yes and yet, I don’t seek out poetry. I appreciate poems that I encounter but I rarely go looking for them. I don’t know why that is but it can change.

I have always liked Carl Sandburg’s Fog. I saw it dozens of times in school – a short, charming little poem often used as an example of poetry that does not rhyme. Well, today I decided to look for more by Carl Sandburg and found a much longer poem that I like as well.

Prairie

I WAS born on the prairie and the milk of its wheat, the red of its clover, the eyes of its women, gave me a song and a slogan.

Here the water went down, the icebergs slid with gravel, the gaps and the valleys hissed, and the black loam came, and the
yellow sandy loam.
Here between the sheds of the Rocky Mountains and the Appalachians, here now a morning star fixes a fire sign over the timber
claims and cow pastures, the corn belt, the cotton belt, the cattle ranches.
Here the gray geese go five hundred miles and back with a wind under their wings honking the cry for a new home.
Here I know I will hanker after nothing so much as one more sunrise or a sky moon of fire doubled to a river moon of water.

The prairie sings to me in the forenoon and I know in the night I rest easy in the prairie arms, on the prairie heart.. .
.
After the sunburn of the day
handling a pitchfork at a hayrack,
after the eggs and biscuit and coffee,
the pearl-gray haystacks
in the gloaming
are cool prayers
to the harvest hands.

In the city among the walls the overland passenger train is choked and the pistons hiss and the wheels curse.
On the prairie the overland flits on phantom wheels and the sky and the soil between them muffle the pistons and cheer the
wheels.. . .
I am here when the cities are gone.
I am here before the cities come.
I nourished the lonely men on horses.
I will keep the laughing men who ride iron.
I am dust of men.

The running water babbled to the deer, the cottontail, the gopher.
You came in wagons, making streets and schools,
Kin of the ax and rifle, kin of the plow and horse,
Singing Yankee Doodle, Old Dan Tucker, Turkey in the Straw,
You in the coonskin cap at a log house door hearing a lone wolf howl,
You at a sod house door reading the blizzards and chinooks let loose from Medicine Hat,
I am dust of your dust, as I am brother and mother
To the copper faces, the worker in flint and clay,
The singing women and their sons a thousand years ago
Marching single file the timber and the plain.

I hold the dust of these amid changing stars.
I last while old wars are fought, while peace broods mother-like,
While new wars arise and the fresh killings of young men.
I fed the boys who went to France in great dark days.
Appomattox is a beautiful word to me and so is Valley Forge and the Marne and Verdun,
I who have seen the red births and the red deaths
Of sons and daughters, I take peace or war, I say nothing and wait.

Have you seen a red sunset drip over one of my cornfields, the shore of night stars, the wave lines of dawn up a wheat
valley?
Have you heard my threshing crews yelling in the chaff of a strawpile and the running wheat of the wagonboards, my
cornhuskers, my harvest hands hauling crops, singing dreams of women, worlds, horizons?. . .
Rivers cut a path on flat lands.
The mountains stand up.
The salt oceans press in
And push on the coast lines.
The sun, the wind, bring rain
And I know what the rainbow writes across the east or west in a half-circle:
A love-letter pledge to come again.. . .
Towns on the Soo Line,
Towns on the Big Muddy,
Laugh at each other for cubs
And tease as children.

Omaha and Kansas City, Minneapolis and St. Paul, sisters in a house together, throwing slang, growing up.
Towns in the Ozarks, Dakota wheat towns, Wichita, Peoria, Buffalo, sisters throwing slang, growing up.. . .
Out of prairie-brown grass crossed with a streamer of wigwam smoke—out of a smoke pillar, a blue promise—out of
wild ducks woven in greens and purples—
Here I saw a city rise and say to the peoples round world: Listen, I am strong, I know what I want.
Out of log houses and stumps—canoes stripped from tree-sides—flatboats coaxed with an ax from the timber
claims—in the years when the red and the white men met—the houses and streets rose.

A thousand red men cried and went away to new places for corn and women: a million white men came and put up skyscrapers,
threw out rails and wires, feelers to the salt sea: now the smokestacks bite the skyline with stub teeth.

In an early year the call of a wild duck woven in greens and purples: now the riveter’s chatter, the police patrol, the
song-whistle of the steamboat.

To a man across a thousand years I offer a handshake.
I say to him: Brother, make the story short, for the stretch of a thousand years is short.. . .
What brothers these in the dark?
What eaves of skyscrapers against a smoke moon?
These chimneys shaking on the lumber shanties
When the coal boats plow by on the river—
The hunched shoulders of the grain elevators—
The flame sprockets of the sheet steel mills
And the men in the rolling mills with their shirts off
Playing their flesh arms against the twisting wrists of steel:
what brothers these
in the dark
of a thousand years?. . .
A headlight searches a snowstorm.
A funnel of white light shoots from over the pilot of the Pioneer Limited crossing Wisconsin.

In the morning hours, in the dawn,
The sun puts out the stars of the sky
And the headlight of the Limited train.

The fireman waves his hand to a country school teacher on a bobsled.
A boy, yellow hair, red scarf and mittens, on the bobsled, in his lunch box a pork chop sandwich and a V of gooseberry pie.

The horses fathom a snow to their knees.
Snow hats are on the rolling prairie hills.
The Mississippi bluffs wear snow hats.. . .
Keep your hogs on changing corn and mashes of grain,
O farmerman.
Cram their insides till they waddle on short legs
Under the drums of bellies, hams of fat.
Kill your hogs with a knife slit under the ear.
Hack them with cleavers.
Hang them with hooks in the hind legs.. . .
A wagonload of radishes on a summer morning.
Sprinkles of dew on the crimson-purple balls.
The farmer on the seat dangles the reins on the rumps of dapple-gray horses.
The farmer’s daughter with a basket of eggs dreams of a new hat to wear to the county fair.. . .
On the left-and right-hand side of the road,
Marching corn—
I saw it knee high weeks ago—now it is head high—tassels of red silk creep at the ends of the ears.. . .
I am the prairie, mother of men, waiting.
They are mine, the threshing crews eating beefsteak, the farmboys driving steers to the railroad cattle pens.
They are mine, the crowds of people at a Fourth of July basket picnic, listening to a lawyer read the Declaration of
Independence, watching the pinwheels and Roman candles at night, the young men and women two by two hunting the bypaths and
kissing bridges.
They are mine, the horses looking over a fence in the frost of late October saying good-morning to the horses hauling wagons
of rutabaga to market.
They are mine, the old zigzag rail fences, the new barb wire.. . .
The cornhuskers wear leather on their hands.
There is no let-up to the wind.
Blue bandannas are knotted at the ruddy chins.

Falltime and winter apples take on the smolder of the five-o’clock November sunset: falltime, leaves, bonfires, stubble,
the old things go, and the earth is grizzled.
The land and the people hold memories, even among the anthills and the angleworms, among the toads and woodroaches—among
gravestone writings rubbed out by the rain—they keep old things that never grow old.

The frost loosens corn husks.
The Sun, the rain, the wind
loosen corn husks.
The men and women are helpers.
They are all cornhuskers together.
I see them late in the western evening
in a smoke-red dust.. . .
The phantom of a yellow rooster flaunting a scarlet comb, on top of a dung pile crying hallelujah to the streaks of daylight,
The phantom of an old hunting dog nosing in the underbrush for muskrats, barking at a coon in a treetop at midnight, chewing
a bone, chasing his tail round a corncrib,
The phantom of an old workhorse taking the steel point of a plow across a forty-acre field in spring, hitched to a harrow in
summer, hitched to a wagon among cornshocks in fall,
These phantoms come into the talk and wonder of people on the front porch of a farmhouse late summer nights.
“The shapes that are gone are here,” said an old man with a cob pipe in his teeth one night in Kansas with a hot
wind on the alfalfa.. . .
Look at six eggs
In a mockingbird’s nest.

Listen to six mockingbirds
Flinging follies of O-be-joyful
Over the marshes and uplands.

Look at songs
Hidden in eggs.. . .
When the morning sun is on the trumpet-vine blossoms, sing at the kitchen pans: Shout All Over God’s Heaven.
When the rain slants on the potato hills and the sun plays a silver shaft on the last shower, sing to the bush at the
backyard fence: Mighty Lak a Rose.
When the icy sleet pounds on the storm windows and the house lifts to a great breath, sing for the outside hills: The Ole
Sheep Done Know the Road, the Young Lambs Must Find the Way.. . .
Spring slips back with a girl face calling always: “Any new songs for me? Any new songs?”

O prairie girl, be lonely, singing, dreaming, waiting—your lover comes—your child comes—the years creep with
toes of April rain on new-turned sod.
O prairie girl, whoever leaves you only crimson poppies to talk with, whoever puts a good-by kiss on your lips and never
comes back—
There is a song deep as the falltime redhaws, long as the layer of black loam we go to, the shine of the morning star over
the corn belt, the wave line of dawn up a wheat valley.. . .
O prairie mother, I am one of your boys.
I have loved the prairie as a man with a heart shot full of pain over love.
Here I know I will hanker after nothing so much as one more sunrise or a sky moon of fire doubled to a river moon of water..
. .
I speak of new cities and new people.
I tell you the past is a bucket of ashes.
I tell you yesterday is a wind gone down,
a sun dropped in the west.
I tell you there is nothing in the world
only an ocean of to-morrows,
a sky of to-morrows.

I am a brother of the cornhuskers who say
at sundown:
To-morrow is a day.

National Poetry Month: Take Two, They’re Short

If you ever need to prove to someone that poetry is not all stuffy or hard to understand introduce them to the poetry of Ogden Nash. Some of his poems are fairly long and I might post one of those later but for today here are two very short ones.

The Dog

The truth I do not stretch or shove
When I state that the dog is full of love.
I’ve also found, by actual test,
A wet dog is the lovingest.

Several of Nash’s poems have only two lines.

The Parent

Children aren’t happy with nothing to ignore,
And that’s what parents were created for.

Poetry Month

April is National Poetry Month, as I found out from Byzantium’s Shores. I’m not going to post a poem every day. Obviously, it’s April 4th and I already haven’t. But maybe a poem now and then throughout the rest of the month. This is the first one that comes to my mind, an old favorite by Frances Darwin Cornford.

The Guitarist Tunes Up

With what attentive courtesy he bent
Over his instrument;
Not as a lordly conquerer who could
Command both wire and wood,
But as a man with a loved woman might,
Inquiring with delight
What slight essential things she had to say
Before they started, he and she, to play.

Reading

This week I finished Abaddon’s Gate, the third novel in James S.A. Corey’s Expanse series. This series just keeps getting better and better. Based on my past reading experiences, it’s kind of amazing to me that a space opera that doesn’t even have FTL can be so interesting and exciting. There are space ships and plenty of explosions and shooting for those who like that sort of thing and I do but what really impresses me is the real depth of the characters’ personalities.

And of course the writing itself is fantastic. I want to say it’s very intelligent. Here are two quotes that I particularly liked. These are just one page apart from one another.

If humanity were capable of being satisfied, then they’d all still be living in trees and eating bugs out of one another’s fur.

“Heroism is a label most people get for doing shit they’d never do if they were really thinking about it.”

Tempting as it is to binge on the whole series (six books total, I think) I am going to stick to my plan to take a break from it and read something completely different, a novel set in the real world but a part of it that is so far from the part that I’m familiar with that it might as well be another planet. That’s the greatest thing about books – they can take you anywhere, anytime.

The Book Was Better

We finished watching the SyFy series The Expanse, based on the books by James S.A. Corey. I had read Leviathan Wakes, the first book in the series a couple of years ago. In the middle of watching the series I decided to read the book again. At first this seemed like it might have been not such a good idea. The TV show doesn’t follow the book exactly and it was a little confusing to try to keep up with both at the same time but after a while I started to think of the show and the book as two different things. And I enjoyed both. Don’t be fooled by the title; it’s at least partially tongue-in-cheek. Of course books are almost always better but the series was excellent and I’m looking forward to next season.

After reading Leviathan Wakes I ordered the next two books in the series. Caliban’s War continues to follow the adventures of James Holden and crew. Holden is a really good guy who manages to annoy almost everyone in the solar system including some powerful people. The alien bio-weapon that caused so much grief in the first book is still around and evolving. And a bunch of new characters are introduced. It was a great read and I think I might have liked it better than the first book but I’m not entirely sure about that.

I just started the 3rd book in the series, Abaddon’s Gate, a couple of days ago. Thanks to these books I’m getting hardly anything done that I need to do or want to do, including taking time to write a decent review.

Discovering Simak

Last month one of the Kindle monthly specials was Way Station by Clifford D. Simak. I loved this book about a former Civil War soldier who hasn’t aged in 100 years and runs a secret way station, located in a remote rural area on Earth, for interstellar travelers. Not only is it an interesting story, it is beautifully written. The Wikipedia page says that his work is ” usually described as gentle and pastoral.” I would say that this is a perfect description. It’s very different from most of the science fiction I read and I like it. Not necessarily “better”; I just like variety.

And I can’t resist one brief quote from the story. (Deciding which one was difficult.)

“…it don’t matter much what any of us are, just so we get along with one another. If some of the nations would only take a lesson from some small neighborhood like ours – a lesson in how to get along – the world would be a whole lot better.”

I’m definitely going to look for more Simak.

Oh Yeah… That Book

If anyone out there is actually paying attention and hanging on my every word (which I doubt) you might remember that a while back I mentioned a book I wanted to post something about and wonder why I haven’t yet. Well, that was, or at least seems like, quite some time ago and I have moved on and really don’t want to go back to it but since I did mention it…

The book was Dhalgren by Samuel R. Delany. Do you ever quit reading a book in the middle? I used to never do that. It feels like giving up and I have read books that didn’t get really good until a third of the way or even halfway into the book. But more recently I have started to think that there are too many books out there to waste time on one that I’m not enjoying. And yet, I still find it really hard to quit. Dhalgren is long, weird, and gross and I thought about quitting many times, even when I was 80% of the way through it but I didn’t. I read the whole damned thing.

Why? Because even though it was weird and gross it was just interesting enough that I wanted to keep going to see what happened next and to see a couple of little mysteries solved but in the end (SPOILER ALERT) nothing was resolved. No mysteries solved, no questions answered. Nothing. It just ended. And yet, I still don’t feel like it was a complete waste of time. Or maybe I’m just telling myself that.

The setting is a mostly abandoned city where a few hundred people still live, in a sort of hippie or hoodlum existence, spending their time looting, fornicating, and sometimes having deep, philosophical conversations. There were a few lines that I’m sort of glad I didn’t miss even though I’m not sure it was worth reading the whole book to get these little tidbits of wisdom.

The strange machinery by which a reputation precedes its source we all know is faulty. Yet how much faith we put in it!

* * *

Never condemn a man in the living room for any indiscretion he has put on paper.

* * *

If people are busy living out myths you don’t like, leave them to it.

* * *

The problem isn’t to learn to love humanity, but to learn to love those members of it who happen to be at hand.

So was it worth reading the whole book to get a few good quotes? I still don’t know. But anyway, maybe it’s good to read an awful book once in a while. (not too often; maybe once every 10 years or so) Why? I don’t know that either but it just feels true somehow.

Reading

Partial Spoiler, Vessel by Andrew J. Morgan

First of all, I want to say that Vessel is a very good story – interesting, original, fast paced, good character development. A mysterious object appears near the International Space Station. The astronauts on board are unable to transmit any pictures or video of the object and eventually communications are cut off completely, then the astronauts begin to suffer mental breakdowns. Meanwhile on the ground, a journalist tries to find out what the government is covering up.

My only complaint about the book – and it’s a big one – is the ending. To be honest, I suppose it’s not a bad ending; it’s just not the kind of ending I like. The big question is never answered.

Books

I just finished reading Neal Asher’s Owner trilogy: Zero Point, The Departure, and Jupiter War. I have mentioned before that Asher’s novels are weird, extremely violent, and have an extraordinarily high body count but they’re fun, which might make you wonder what kind of person I am to enjoy them but don’t worry, I wonder that myself sometimes so I’m probably okay.

The Owner trilogy is set in a different universe from Asher’s popular Polity series of novels. In this trilogy a future Earth is ruled by a ruthless, corrupt, and inhumane “Committee”. Brilliant scientist Alan Saul is in a crate on his way to the incinerators after having been tortured to the point where he barely remembers who he is. He is rescued by an AI that merges with his mind, thanks to some experimental hardware installed in his brain, and manages to escape, leave Earth, take over a large space station, and kill most of the Committee. He then begins converting the space station into a starship. Meanwhile one of the few surviving Committee members, a psychotic woman who makes Hitler look like a boy scout, takes over as dictator of Earth.

At first I thought I wasn’t going to like this story but I quickly got into it. It’s really a very interesting and complex story with well developed characters. If you lean “Green” politically you will likely be offended, as Earth’s psychotic dictator is clearly a parody of Green politics. She loves the Earth and wants to restore it to its natural state and people are just in the way. On the other hand if you have Libertarian sympathies you will love it. Me? I tend not to care much about the author’s politics as long as it’s a good story and this one definitely is.

I recently bought my own copy of Brass Man. I had read a borrowed copy of it before but I wanted my own. I am thrilled, by the way, that it is what Amazon calls a “mass market paperback,” what I call a standard paperback, which, tragically, seems to be a rapidly disappearing breed. I hate those heavy, oversize paperbacks. I have actually had to start wearing a wrist brace because of them.

Anyway, I was going to start reading Brass Man but the husband is almost finished with the book he’s reading so I thought I’d let him read it first if he wants, since I’ve read it before. Instead I started Vessel by Andrew Morgan, a book I found in the Kindle specials a month or two back. So far, two chapters in, I’m not really excited about it yet but it’s looking like it could be interesting. Sometimes it takes a while to orient oneself when going from one universe to another.

A Word For Where I Live

“Boondocks” is an interesting word. (Well, it’s interesting to me) When I was little kid there was a song, Down in the Boondocks. It has a line that says, “People put me down ’cause that’s the side of town I was born in.” The side of town. So I grew up with a vague idea of it being the bad or poor side of town, likely somewhere near the docks because it contained the word “docks”. I mentioned that I was just a little kid, right?

It wasn’t until I was in high school (or maybe junior high) that I started hearing people talk about “the boonies,” as in, “I live out in the boonies,” meaning far outside of town. At the time I thought the word had merely morphed into the “new” form and meaning, as words often do. But according to Dictionary.com this usage is closer to the correct meaning of “boondocks”. “An uninhabited area with thick natural vegetation, as a backwoods or marsh” or “a remote rural area”. It comes from the Tagalog word “bundok,” meaning mountain.

I love words. And the Internet.

A Book About Football (NFL)

Several months ago Slow Getting Up: A Tale of NFL Survival From the Bottom of the Pile by Nate Jackson was on Amazon’s monthly “$3.99 or less” Kindle specials and since I watch football, and since the husband watches football and likes it somewhat more than I do (though I do sort of like it sometimes) I thought, “Why not?” I just, finally, a couple of weeks ago got around to reading it.

First of all, I must say I don’t think Mr. Jackson was expecting many female readers. Parts of the book contain crude language and TMI of the male sort. But, when I really think about it, there wasn’t a lot of that sort of thing so I made an effort to not be terribly offended.

Nothing in the book surprised me. I already had some idea of what goes on behind the scenes of NFL football but I think it was valuable to get a real inside human perspective on what it’s like to play in the NFL that you don’t get by listening to TV sports commentators casually talking about hamstring injuries and such. If you are a fan of NFL football you should read it.

A Book List!

The Guardian has a list of The 100 Best Novels Written in English. By blog tradition I should copy the whole list and bold the ones I’ve read or something like that but I’ve read so few of them I’m afraid that would look really sad if I did it that way. Besides, that’s too much work. So I’m just going to list the ones I’ve read with maybe a comment or two about them, then a second list of those I would most like to read.

Books I have read:

Gullivar’s Travels by Johnathan Swift – I had to read this one in high school. I have thought about reading it again.

Frankenstein by Mary Shelley – I have never been a fan of the Frankenstein movies but I was curious to know what the original story was like. As expected, it has very little in common with the popular culture image of Frankenstein.

The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket by Edgar Allen Poe – This was Poe’s only novel. I found it very interesting.

Moby Dick by Herman Mellville – I actually read this twice even though I wasn’t really impressed with it the first time. Actually, I think that’s the reason I read it again. It was a little better the second time around but still not one of my favorites.

The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde – Not much to say about this one. It was okay. And I mean that in a good way; it really was okay.

Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad – Did not care much for this one. One thing that seriously bugged me about this book was the description of the jungle at night as being absolutely silent. I have not been to Africa but I have been in my back yard at night and it is anything but silent. In the middle of the summer it’s actually quite loud and I’m sure Africa has it’s own insects and other night sounds. For me, that one detail made the whole novel ridiculous.

Brave New World by Aldous Huxley

The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck – A lot of Oklahomans hate this novel. I wasn’t around in the 1930s, of course, but based on Oklahoma today I would say its depiction of “Okies” was probably spot on, but far from being a complete picture of the state and its culture.

Nineteen Eighty Four by George Orwell – This book and Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World are depressingly real. The big question is, “Who is Big Brother?” I think we are – all of us. We are all Big Brother. Either that or Google is.

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee – Right now I’m not planning to read Lee’s other, recently released, book but I might read this one again.

Books on the list that I most want to read:

The Pilgrim’s Progress by John Bunyan

Emma by Jane Austen – Mostly because I haven’t read anything by Jane Austen yet and I feel like I should

Kim by Rudyard Kipling

Call of the Wild by Jack London

The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame – Ever want to read something just because you love the title?

Ulysses by James Joyce – I read somewhere that it is considered “difficult” therefore I want to read it.

A Passage to India by EM Forster – I’m rather fascinated by India. (Wait… Have I read this already or was that a different classic book about India? Hmmmm…)