Sunday Evening Book Chat

Been a while since we had one of these, hasn’t it? Couple people on the previous thread were talking about the Travis McGee novels, all of which I read & mostly enjoyed during my misspent youth, although I still prefer John D. MacDonald’s other books — All These Condemned, Cancel All Our Vows, Please Write for Details, Contrary Pleasures, Condominium, One More Sunday. I started reading them when I was very young, because he was one of my dad’s favorite non-sf writers and so the paperbacks were right at hand. MacDonald’s style was very much “of his time” — I think he’s being rediscovered as an expert guide to the Mad Men era — but it was his frequent digressions on proper conduct and his Roman stoicism at the decline of all good things in our tawdy modern world that kept me reading.

And his various “damaged knights in battered armor” characters are an ever-popular stereotype of modern fiction, some of it pulp (Elliot Spencer in LEVERAGE could be McGee’s grandson — illegitimate, of course.) Castle Freeman doesn’t put out nearly enough books for my appetite, but I recommend him wholeheartedly.

I just finished Craig Johnson’s Junkyard Dogs, sixth in his Walt Longmire series, and it may be my favorite so far. If you read the Amazon reviews of Johnson’s books, the readers who give him five stars say he never writes the same book twice, and the readers who give him one star say the same thing. (In my opinion this is a good thing; the writers of serial characters, going back to at least Arthur Conan Doyle and certainly not excepting Travis McGee’s inventor, have tended to treat their literary offspring with increasing brutality as they grow bored with & resentful of the ‘celebrity’ that their voracious readers relentlessly demand. Giving MacDonald the National Book Award for The Green Ripper seemed like one of those Oscars that go to a long-respected aging actor for a third-rate film; part consolation prize, part hint that he should consider retiring.)

Craig Johnson’s lead character/narrator Sheriff Walt Longmire is not a glamorous Loner/Drifter/Man of Mystery, like McGee; Longmire has a dead wife and a much-loved grown daughter and a 523-person Wyoming town (including a handful of deputies) to anchor him firmly. But he also has a history behind him — as do his citizen charges and deputies — and it’s those histories and their grinding intersections that power Johnson’s novels.

What I’m reading right now is Tawni O’Dell’s Coal Run, which features another deputy-sheriff narrator caught at a particular tectonic intersection of bad old history and new potential violence. But the main character of all O’Dell’s novels is the Appalachian coal country of southern Pennsylvania, and the voices of the people who love and hate and can’t escape the beautiful countryside and the ugly violent things mining corporations have done to it and to them. I don’t know that county, but I grew up with people of similar background and with the same shared habits (good and bad) and O’Dell has a fine ear for their talk.

So… what have you been reading lately? Anything to recommend?

186 replies
  1. 1
    redshirt says:

    Game of Thrones (A Song of Ice and Fire). Not sure I’d recommend it unless you’re already a fan of the genre. I’m not, but I have enjoyed them. The first 3 books way more than the last two, though.

    I’m a sucker for “World Building” and there’s plenty of that in this series.

  2. 2
    Steeplejack says:

    @Anne Laurie:

    Couple people on the previous thread [. . .].

    Jee-sus. First Cole, now you?! Balls. Breakin’ ’em.

  3. 3
    aimai says:

    Just finished Bujold’s new Vorkosigan novel, Vorpatril’s Alliance (or something). I sped through it. It is more fun than Cryoburn, which was terribly sad, but very light weight. It has about it the feeling of an Anne McCaffery junior romance. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

    I’m reading a book on the invention of france in a geographic and cultural sense, its pretty good.

    Other than that I have no new fiction that I’ve found. I’ve read every Thomas Perry and Lee Childs and I find you can’t really go back to some of these books, no matter how engaging you found them to begin with.

  4. 4
    Shinobi says:

    I’ve been catching up on books from Felicia Day’s Vaginal Fantasy Bookclub. (mostly fantasy novels with a romance component.) Just finished a steam punk trilogy about pirates zombies, nanotech and other awesome things, starting with The Iron Duke.

    I am also reading Nate Silver’s book and at some point am going to start Cloud Atlas.

  5. 5
    Raven says:

    I’m readin Joseph Anton: A Memoir, by Salman Rushdie. Too soon for a report. I bought “All In” after I saw Paula Broadwell on Mornin Joe. It was pretty boring and bailed after about 50 pages.

  6. 6
    ms badger says:

    Thanks for the suggestions. X-mas shopping started today and you have all really helped.

  7. 7
    RSA says:

    Lately I’ve been reading urban fantasy; I like Harry Connolly’s Twenty Palaces series (sadly no more) and Mike Carey’s Felix Castor books. Well-written for the genre.

    Also, I hope no one minds if I pitch a popular science book I just got published last month, about computing. I talked about it recently in a Big Idea post on John Scalzi’s Whatever blog.

  8. 8
    Corner Stone says:

    (Elliot Spencer in LEVERAGE could be McGee’s grandson—illegitimate, of course.)

    I don’t watch the TV show as I find it dull, but from what I remember of Elliot he is nothing like TM. Travis was all elbows and knees and long arms and timing. He took his shots but waited til someone started puffing.
    Elliot is a ruthless stud who takes down multiple targets.
    Maybe Elliot is the proto-TM with more understanding of who he is and what it means to beat someone but IMO he doesn’t have any of the preternatural understanding of why someone is what he is that TM did.
    I don’t know, just don’t see it.

    Plus, I’m just not a fan of that TV show.

  9. 9
    AliceBlue says:

    I’ve just started Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn. Next up is Murder in Peking, a true story of the murder of a young Englishwoman just before the Japanese invasion.

  10. 10
    Mnemosyne says:

    I haven’t started them yet, but I bought the first two Maisie Dobbs mysteries while we were on vacation last month. Especially apropos today since they take place in the aftermath of WWI and Maisie is a former Army nurse.

  11. 11
    Corner Stone says:

    I just can’t get into anything new. My brain stops after a certain point. Doesn’t matter what it is.
    But I can re-read a Louis L’Amour schlock in about 30 minutes and move on.
    I need a sabbatical.

  12. 12
    Raven says:

    @RSA: Hmm, I’m old and I do a lot of work with faculty in online education. I think this could be very helpful to me, do you care which vendor we use?

  13. 13
    The Fat Kate Middleton says:

    @Shinobi: Cloud Atlas is gorgeous – and so is the author’s other novel, The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet. They’re two entirely different novels – I could hardly believe they were written by the same person. But I love it when a writer can do that.

    Right now, I’m back to reading Dennis Lehane again – just finished Darkness, Take my Hand, and started his new one, Live By Night, just yesterday. God, what a wonderful writer he is – really one of the best American writers around today, I think.

  14. 14
    Brian S says:

    I just started T Cooper’s Real Man Adventures out soon from McSweeney’s (it’s the Rumpus Book club selection this month) and it’s amazing. It’s hard to categorize, but I’d say it’s closer to memoir than anything else, mainly about Cooper’s experiences while transitioning.

  15. 15
    The prophet Nostradumbass says:


    This post on Mashable is pretty interesting. Some of the comments are absolutely priceless, too.

    For a book suggestion, how about Chris Hayes’ Twilight of the Elites?

  16. 16
    Groucho48 says:

    Amazon is putting out the Travis McGee books on Kindle in early January. Going to grab a bunch for sure.

    Just finished re-reading Rise and Fall of the Third Reich. Haven’t read it in 40 years or more. Liked it then, like it better now that I have a much better grasp of the context than I did in my younger years. Picked it up on Kindle (No, I am not an Amazon shill) pretty cheaply.

  17. 17
    The Fat Kate Middleton says:

    @AliceBlue: Gone Girl is heaps of fun, as are all of Flynn’s books, actually.

  18. 18
    Valdivia says:


    I’ve read a few of those and enjoyed them. Enjoyable easy reads.

  19. 19
    redshirt says:

    @RSA: Congrats! Sounds interesting.

  20. 20
    RSA says:


    Hmm, I’m old and I do a lot of work with faculty in online education. I think this could be very helpful to me, do you care which vendor we use?

    Cool, thanks. I’m going to talk with a group of high school computer science teachers this week, to see if they might find it useful for themselves or their students.

    Assuming I understand the vendor question correctly: I’m just happy if people get something out of the book, however they get hold of it.

  21. 21
    J. Michael Neal says:

    I’m working my way through Malazan: Book of the Fallen. It’s grim fantasy for those who think that The Song of Ice and Fire isn’t long enough. I’d read eight of them previously but finally gave up and waited for the series to be finished.

    Reading them a second time, and in close succession, exposes a lot of the flaws. The time line, both prior to and then during the series, makes no sense at all. It’s really way too long and ought to have been split into three different series: one of the Genabackis campaign; one for Sha’ik’s rebellion in Seven Cities; and one for the Kingdom of Lether and the Tiste Edur. The presence of the Crippled God in the background of everything just does not provide enough glue to justify stapling all of it together.

    Erikson also needs to cut *way* down on the number of PoV characters he uses. The books are sprawling and complicated enough without introducing a new protagonist who dies five pages later. Really, it’s one of a number of symptoms of an author who doesn’t have the self-discipline not to include every little idea that he has. Somewhere along the line he lost the thread of what it all is supposed to be about.

    I’m now in the middle of the eighth book again and I’m running out of momentum. I think there’s a possibility I’ll just never finish them. So I can’t really recommend them.

    On the other hand, I read Guy Gavriel Kay’s The Sarantine Mosaic not long ago and I can’t recommend them highly enough. It’s based on the reign of Justinian the Great. I love Kay to begin with and these two books along with Tigana are just marvelous.

  22. 22
    Anne Laurie says:

    @Corner Stone: Heretic! :) LEVERAGE is one of the few shows the Spousal Unit and I both love.

    Elliot is a different kind of fighter than Traveis McGee because ‘we’ (the audience, also the writers) have become a lot more sophisticated about the MMA kind of hand-to-hand fighting that Elliot does. He’s also informed by another fifty years of American disillusionment — he knows that he is permanently damaged, that he’s committed sins for which no forgiveness is possible. From his perspective, there’s no repair for the parts of his psyche that have been crippled; his usefulness to the world is in using his skills to keep other people (especially children) from suffering similar damage. I like the Elliot Spencer character, and I also admire the way Christian Kane (& the writers) have kept Spencer balanced on the edge between Dumb Muscle and Psycho Killer.

    (Of course, since we don’t have cable, I’ve only seen the show through the end of Season Four. But Elliot gives Nate a wonderful “Don’t be like me, it’s not worth becoming the guy I see in the mirror every morning” speech in the final episode that had me tearing up.)

  23. 23
    RSA says:

    @redshirt: Thanks! It was fun to write.

  24. 24
    Bmaccnm says:

    I’m reading American Nations By Colin Woodard. The cover blurb bills it as “A history of the eleven rival regional cultures of North America.” I grew up in New England and have lived in New Orleans, Appalachia, Arizona and Oregon. The book helps me articulate my lived understanding that we are not all alike underneath, that there were fundamental differences between my world view and the views of my native New Orleanian and Kentuckian neighbors. I’ve also developed a much deeper knowledge of post-revolutionary American culture. In tenth grade US History class I never heard about inter-colonial intrigues and marauding gangs of victorious revolutionaries attacking loyalists. Next up- Howard Zinn’s “A People’s History.”

  25. 25
    Chris says:

    For those who like spy/historical fiction, two recent discoveries – the two Corsican books by William Heffernan (“The Corsican” and “Corsican Honor”) are pretty good, especially the latter. In a nutshell, Cold War politics and the CIA-Corsican Mob connection, set in Vietnam in the first case, Marseilles (in the fifties, eighties and nineties) in the second case.

    In the same vein, “Killing Che,” though I forget the author. It’s what it sounds like. Even more cynical than the previous two books, not as well written and slightly too pro-Che for me, but the setting still made it worth reading in my case.

    Comic books – I finally read “Knightfall,” which the last Batman was based on. Really good, but the best parts aren’t actually the ones with Bane, it’s what comes after.

    Oh, and for Star Wars junkies, Mercy Kill. Finally an X-wing book, first in thirteen years!

  26. 26
    DrBDH says:

    Thinking Fast and Slow; Signal and the Noise.
    The two most important books about rational reality since Darwin.
    Read, absorb, march out into the darkening fields of ignorance that still threaten our country.
    We all operate mentally at a primitive level, using intuitive heuristics to respond to challenges. Nate Silver has shown us a way to go beyond that. It’s cognitively hard but essential and the right wing will never embrace it. We can win without moralizing, if we educate.

  27. 27
    SFAW says:

    The Man Who Saved the Union by H.W. Brands
    Beat to Quarters by C.S. Forester
    Fibreglass boats: fitting out, maintenance, and repair
    Galapagos by Vonnegut
    The Great Derangement by Taibbi

    In the queue:
    Raylan by Elmore Leonard
    When the Killing’s Done by Boyle
    Pity the Billionaire by Thomas Frank
    Lionel Asbo by Martin Amis

    On their way:
    The Generals by Thomas Ricks
    The Unknown Ajax by Billy Corgan Trent Reznor Georgette Heyer

    If I’m feeling especially masochistic:
    Paul Clifford

  28. 28
    The Fat Kate Middleton says:

    I read way too much, so I shouldn’t even get started, but here are some of the best I’ve read recently, besides those I just mentioned:

    The Reservoir, by John Milliken Thompson
    Still Alice, by Lisa Geneva
    This is How You Lose Her, by Junot Diaz
    The Water Theatre, by Lindsay Clark
    Broken Harbor, by Tana French
    Reservation Road, by John Burnham Schwartz

    I’ll stop now – these are all wonderful, guaranteed.

  29. 29
    Raven says:

    @RSA: I did Kindle for my iPad.

  30. 30
    The Fat Kate Middleton says:

    @DrBDH: ooooh, this sound terrific. I’m there.

  31. 31
    Reasonable 4ce says:

    “A Big Win for America and a Loss for the Mainstream Media”

    Funny, that’s exactly what I said last Tuesday night.

  32. 32
    Anne Laurie says:

    @The prophet Nostradumbass: Funny thing is, I scheduled this post an hour before it popped up, because I didn’t want to bigfoot Dennis.

  33. 33
    The Fat Kate Middleton says:

    @SFAW: Galapagos was the only book by Vonnegut I disliked – and Fiberglass Boats has great characterization, but not much in the way of plot.

  34. 34
    DrBDH says:

    I just reread Huckleberry Finn for the umpteenth time. There is no better description of the wingtard mind. Help your wingtard neighbor/friend/coworker understand Huck’s decision to free Jim and they will be transported to the light side.

  35. 35
    The Fat Kate Middleton says:

    #29, above – Lisa GENOVA.

  36. 36
    The prophet Nostradumbass says:

    @Anne Laurie: I’m just joshing you. It would be nice if more of you scheduled things.

  37. 37
    andynotadam says:

    I’ve been re-reading books that had a big influence on me when I was in junior high and high school (for better or worse). I just reread Hunter Thompson’s Hell’s Angels, a book I had to hide from my mother by putting electrical tape on its spine. Completely inappropriate material for a 12 year old, but there you go. Up now is The Electric Kool Aid Acid Test, which follows on from Thompson’s book. I’ve also got One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest” which ties to both of the others, given Kesey’s flirtation with the Angels. Also on the list is Catch 22, and Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail. Not sure where I’ll go from there.

    BTW, I too love the Travis McGee books, and loved how they touched on the environmental rape of Florida that influenced many other writers including Carl Hiassen.

  38. 38
    RSA says:

    @Raven: Wow. Thanks. I don’t know what to say…

  39. 39
    SFAW says:

    @The Fat Kate Middleton:
    Agree re: Fibreglass Boats. But I’m reading it for the pictures, not the articles. Or is it the other way around?

    Picked Galapagos because of something I read on (I think) BJ. Don’t know if I’ll love, hate, or be neutral about it.

  40. 40
    piratedan says:

    @J. Michael Neal: then you may enjoy Glen Cook’s The Black Company series a bit more.’s

    just finished re-reading Cornelius Ryan’s The Longest Day and working my way thru Martin Walker The Cold War

  41. 41
    Tara the Antisocial Social Worker says:

    @SFAW: It was a dark and stormy night. Suddenly a shot rang out. A door slammed. The maid screamed. The beagle typed, “the end.”

  42. 42
    SFAW says:

    @Tara the Antisocial Social Worker:

    Of course.

    ETA: And thanks for the concise plot summary, you’ve saved me a lot of effort. (If reading four panels can be considered “effort”, that is.)

  43. 43
    The Fat Kate Middleton says:

    @SFAW: Have you read any of his other books? After Galapagos, I went on to Deadeye Dick, which I loved.

  44. 44
    The Fat Kate Middleton says:

    @Tara the Antisocial Social Worker: Hey, Tara, I could be wrong (I was wrong once), but I think it was you I had a conversation with about Broken Harbor on GOS.

  45. 45
    piratedan says:

    @Bmaccnm: that American Nations was a very intriguing read…. it does provide some telltale insights into our Southern Brethren

  46. 46
    Steeplejack says:


    I really liked the first few of those, and then I lost the mo’. It seemed like they took on an anachronistic overlay of modern pop psychology. It was a slight but noticeable effect; that’s as close as I can come to describing it. But it’s a good series going in. You’ll know if and when you want to stop (obviously). And I don’t know that I stopped; I just put them on hiatus for a while.

  47. 47
    Raven says:

    @RSA: Nothing to say, I had to deauthorize and reauthorize my kindle thingy but it’s up and running. I always equate the understanding to old west gunfighters, there is always someone faster than you. I work around all kinds of DBA’s and techies that I don’t even know what they do. Compared to them I don’t know shit. I also have tons of friends and family that come to me for help all the time. This book looks as if it can help me.

    Well, the first paragraph of Chapter One is right on target. 5 year old is about right!

  48. 48
    SFAW says:

    @The Fat Kate Middleton:

    Many years ago, I read all of his stuff, i.e. all that was available at the time. Recently, not so much. I probably should, but I’m lazier than most.

  49. 49
    Tara the Antisocial Social Worker says:

    Recently finished A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius, by Dave Eggers. I don’t read a lot of memoir, but this one was well done, dealing with painful topics by loading up on snark and self-mockery.

    Also reread Shakespeare’s Measure for Measure and concluded that politicians haven’t changed much over the last few centuries, especially when it comes to sex, hypocrisy, and abuse of power.

    Currently working on Sir Walter Scott’s Ivanhoe. Haven’t really gotten far enough to decide if I’d recommend it et.

  50. 50
    The Fat Kate Middleton says:

    OT: It was 61 degrees in western Iowa when we woke up this a.m. – it’s now 21 degrees, heading for 16 tomorrow. Uggghh.

  51. 51
    Tara the Antisocial Social Worker says:

    @The Fat Kate Middleton: No recollection of that, which could mean it was someone else, or it could just mean I’m getting old.

  52. 52
    SFAW says:

    @The Fat Kate Middleton:

    If it were Ohio, the people still waiting to vote would be having a rough time of it.

  53. 53
    The Fat Kate Middleton says:

    @Tara the Antisocial Social Worker: I liked the Egger book very much … am still trying to start his book Zeitoun, about Katrina. One of my favorite theater memories is seeing Measure for Measure performed by the Royal Shakespeare Theater, as performed in a 1930’s gangster setting. So, so cool.

  54. 54
    The Fat Kate Middleton says:

    @SFAW: Oh, yeah. We always worry about the weather here on election day. We lucked out this year, even though the day started with rain. I just have to say – what a great, great day that was. It made me so proud to be an American voter and campaign worker.

  55. 55
    Tara the Antisocial Social Worker says:

    @The Fat Kate Middleton: What I enjoyed about the Eggers book was how he’d detail his grandiose fantasies, the good ones and the paranoid ones. Leaving his little brother with a babysitter and driving off insanely convinced that the sitter was going to do something horrible. Imagining that his new magazine startup was going to Change the World. The sort of fantasies that it’s normal to have but embarrassing to admit to. Easy to read it and think “Wow, this guy’s as crazy as I am” (admittedly with better reason).

  56. 56
    Xecky Gilchrist says:

    Just re-read William Gibson’s “Idoru”, a longtime favorite. How can you go wrong with a book that has this passage in it?

    “[our audience] is best visualized as a vicious, lazy, profoundly ignorant, perpetually hungry organism craving the warm god-flesh of the anointed. Personally I like to imagine something the size of a baby hippo, the color of a week-old boiled potato, that lives by itself, in the dark, in a double-wide on the outskirts of Topeka. It’s covered with eyes and it sweats constantly. The sweat runs into those eyes and makes them sting. It has no mouth, Laney, no genitals, and can only express its mute extremes of murderous rage and infantile desire by changing the channels on a universal remote. Or by voting in presidential elections.”

  57. 57
    RSA says:


    I always equate the understanding to old west gunfighters, there is always someone faster than you. I work around all kinds of DBA’s and techies that I don’t even know what they do. Compared to them I don’t know shit.

    I’m the same way. It’s been maybe twenty years since I worked as a software engineer, and so most of my students and certainly the professional IT people around me know more than I do about a lot of the practicalities of computing. It’s a big field of knowledge.

  58. 58
    burnspbesq says:

    I thought “The Racketeer” was Grisham’s best in a long time.

    Currently reading “The Devil’s Derivatives,” by Nicholas Dunbar.

    Waiting oh-so-impatiently for the next Easy Rawlins book, which is due sometime around the middle of next year.

  59. 59
    Constance says:

    I’m reading Craig Johnson’s first book, A Cold Dish. Read seven and eight then decided to read the series from the beginning. He is funny–a good thing. Just finished The End of Your Life Book Club which got me to the library for Herman Wouk’s Marjorie Morningstar and Michener’s first, The Fires of Spring. Read both about 50 years ago and wonder how they hold up.

  60. 60
    SFAW says:


    Waiting oh-so-impatiently for the next Easy Rawlins book, which is due sometime around the middle of next year.

    I thought Mosley decided to stop writing Easy stories. Is my memory playing tricks, or did he change his mind?

  61. 61
    Steeplejack says:

    If you like historical mysteries, I must recommend Jason Goodwin’s series about Yashim, an “investigator” and fixer working in and around the Ottoman court circa 1840: The Janissary Tree, The Snake Stone, The Bellini Card, An Evil Eye. Very well done, and Goodwin knows his stuff: he wrote the well received nonfiction volume Lords of the Horizons: A History of the Ottoman Empire.

  62. 62
    catclub says:

    @Tara the Antisocial Social Worker: I was about to bring up that Lincoln in later life said that he limited his reading to Shakespeare and the Bible.

    I would suggest Proust, Joyce, and Dante, also.

  63. 63
    Raven says:

    @RSA: The fact that I found work in it is proof of just how big it is!

  64. 64
    MonkeyBoy says:

    I’m currently reading Rabid: A Cultural History of the World’s Most Diabolical Virus – by Bill Wasik, Monica Murphy.

    I didn’t know that

    1) People in the terminal stages have uncontrollable orgasms and men can ejaculate 25 times a day.
    2) Rabies was recognized as a communicable disease in ancient times though the medical profession waffled over this up till Pasteur.
    3) Our notions of vampires, werewolves, and even demonic possession were probably derived from rabies.

    and all sorts of other stuff.

  65. 65
    Steeplejack says:

    And up next for me is Jean Zimmerman’s The Orphanmaster.

    Marilyn Stasio, The New York Times Book Review, July 1, 2012:

    Set in New Amsterdam in the mid-17th century, Zimmerman’s nicely flowing narrative is animated by robust characters who thrive on the edges of civilization. Hardy Dutch colonists are the main inhabitants of this bustling community, but traders and adventurers from many nations, along with Native Americans and Africans, all intermingle here “in a fluid, uneasy mix.”
    Among them are a number of orphans, some shipped from the Netherlands, put into the care of the novel’s most intriguing character, Aet Visser, who places these children with families in need of servants or laborers. Money changes hands in such transactions, which doesn’t trouble Visser; but he does become alarmed when children begin to disappear amid rumors of a flesh-eating “demon-beast” known to the Algonquins as a witika.
    The cause of the missing children is also taken up by Blandine van Couvering, a shrewd young “she-merchant” establishing herself in a cutthroat trading business that strikes her as “a delightful game.” Like the orphanmaster, Blandine is an unconventional figure. Whether she’s wheeling and dealing with fur trappers at a remote outpost, cocking a “pin-fastened, smoothbore” musket or flirting with a debonair English spy who has come to New Amsterdam on a murderous mission, this self-sufficient heroine proves quick and resourceful enough to thrive in the New World.

  66. 66
    MikeJ says:


    I’m the same way. It’s been maybe twenty years since I worked as a software engineer, and so most of my students and certainly the professional IT people around me know more than I do about a lot of the practicalities of computing.

    Don’t be too impressed because somebody knows the flavour of the month web development framework. A good programmer who doesn’t know the framework you’re using is more useful than a bad programmer who does. And a good programmer already knows what he needs the tools to do, she just needs to find the syntax.

  67. 67
    Raven says:

    @MikeJ: Uh, right, I was gonna say that.

  68. 68
    Honus says:

    Reading old stuff. Rex Stout, which is the best. Any of his Nero Wolfe books from 1935 through 1975, almost every line is perfect. Also been reading the early Richard Stark books again. It’s been a while so I don’t remember the plots.

  69. 69
    SFAW says:


    A good programmer who doesn’t know the framework you’re using is more useful than a bad programmer who does.

    Something tells me you’ve never been in HR/recruiting. (In this instance, “recruiter” is not the same as “headhunter.”)

  70. 70
    Steeplejack says:

    And where are Valdivia and Handsmile? We need to pick up the thread with Walker Percy’s The Moviegoer. I got derailed because of life upheavals this summer.

  71. 71
    MikeJ says:

    @SFAW: No, I’ve had to deal with the people the HR sent over who couldn’t code their way out of a paper bag but knew which buzzwords to put on a CV.

  72. 72
    Kay Eye says:

    Kate Atkinson’s Jackson Brodie books – Case Histories is a good start. I dusted off my library card, put aside my Kindle and saved some money, and now order up available titles on inter-library loan most of the time.
    I also send a hand-written letter nearly every day to someone or other, my personal program to save our post office. Try it, you’ll like it.
    Still remember fondly Rex Stout’s Nero Wolfe series.

  73. 73
    Steeplejack says:


    Nero Wolfe is another series I’d like to go back and reread, or at least sample. Some of the early ones were pretty formulaic, but there are some gems. In particular, I remember one of the last ones–A Death in the Family?–that is an allegory for the whole Nixon clusterfuck. A longtime series character turns out to have gone over to the dark side.

    ETA: Just checked Wikipedia. It’s A Family Affair (1975), the last entry in the series.

  74. 74
    FuriousPhil says:

    I realized I have the Petraeus bio hero worship slash-fic on my shelf but never got around to reading it after I finished Thomas Ricks’ two books on Iraq, Fiasco and The Gamble.

    I got sort of weary reading military history though, so I started in on Stendahl’s The Red and the Black.

    I noticed a couple of fantasy readers in the thread too, so I’m going to recommend Patrick Rothfuss (The Name of the Wind, The Wise Man’s Fear). Erickson and Martin are good writers, but multi-book epics are incredibly difficult to pull off. Rothfuss focuses on story, and it’s some of the best fantasy I’ve read.

    My winter project is to read the Patrick O’Brien novels and build a wood model kit of the H.M.S. Victory. Overambitious probably.

  75. 75
    Schlemizel says:

    I know I’m late to this particular party but I am just finishing up Maddow’s “Drift” – very worthwhile read. I’m sure it has been discussed here already

  76. 76
    KG says:

    @redshirt: I’ve been working on those too. Into A Dance With Dragons now. I love the fact that it’s a little bit f everything, the fantasy/scifi, the gret character development, political intrigue, and I am finding I like epics more than serials.

    I need to get back to writing my own novel(s), but need a new table/desk

  77. 77
    SFAW says:


    Yeah, it’s all about knowing which terms will keep you from getting filtered out by the HR software. Because it saves the company so much money to hire clueless recruiters, I guess.

  78. 78
    Brother Shotgun of Sweet Reason says:

    @Corner Stone:

    I can re-read a Louis L’Amour schlock in about 30 minutes and move on.

    Me too. I have all of ’em in a box in the garage. Sackett’s Brand is the one I go back to most often. Sacketts from all over the West head out to help out one of their own.

    “I hear the Lazy A has 40 gunslingers who cornered a Sackett under the Mogollon Rim.”
    “We better ride fast then, we want to get there before he kills ’em all.”

  79. 79
    Brother Shotgun of Sweet Reason says:

    @Groucho48: You might like Shirer’s Berlin Diary. Gives the background of what his life was like in Germany and how he got the info he needed to write Rise and Fall.

  80. 80
    Bruuuuce says:

    @Anne Laurie (OP): Did you deliberately omit The Girl, The Gold Watch, and Everything from your list of MacDonald’s other books? It may not be his best work (though it’s up there), but it’s probably his most popular aside from the Travis McGee books.

    I’m alternating between two books at the moment: The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay by Michael Chabon (having previously finished his The Yiddish Policeman’s Union; yes, I’m working my way through his bibliography) and Discount Armageddon by Seanan McGuire. Not sure if it’s that this book doesn’t start out with the kind of bang her others (including the ones she’s published as Mira Grant), but I’ve been able to leave it, where her other work grabs me by the collar until done.

  81. 81
    Dr. Omed says:

    Partial list of books read in 2012 (so far), in no particular order

    Salem Witch Judge: The Life and Repentance of Samuel Sewall
    by Eve LaPlante

    The City in Mind: Meditations on the Urban Condition
    The Long Emergency
    The Geography of Nowhere: The Rise and Decline of America’s Man-made Landscape
    by James Howard Kunstler

    Brave New World and Brave New World Revisited
    by Aldous Huxley

    The Party’s Over: Oil, War, and the Fate of Industrial Societies
    Peak Everything: Waking Up to the Century of Decline
    by Richard Heinberg

    Wednesday is Indigo Blue: Discovering the Brain of Synesthesia
    by David Eagleman and Richard Cytowic
    Incognito: The Secret Lives of the Brain
    by David Eagleman

    Debt, the First 5000 Years
    by David Graeber

    Incompleteness: The Proof and Paradox of Kurt Godel
    by Rebecca Goldstein

    Reflections on Kurt Godel
    by Hao Wang

    Acrosanti, An Urban Laboratory
    by Paolo Soleri

    The Ruin of the Roman Empire
    by James J. O’Donnell

    Blowback: The Costs and Consequences of American Empire
    Dismantling the Empire: America’s Last Best Hope
    by Chalmers Johnson

    The Social Conquest of Earth
    by Edward O. Wilson

    A Short History of Progress
    by Ronald Wright

    Through the Language Glass
    by Guy Deutscher

    1491: New Revelations of the Americas before Columbus
    1493: Uncovering the New World Columbus Created
    by Charles C. Mann

    The Age of the Pussyfoot
    by Frederick Pohl

    Ecological Imperialism: The Biological Expansion of Europe, 900-1900
    Children of the Sun: A History of Humanity’s Unappeasable Appetite for Energy
    By Alfred W. Crosby

    Gunpowder: Alchemy, Bombards, and Pyrotechnics: The History of the Explosive that Changed the World
    by Jack Kelly

    The Society of the Spectacle
    by Guy Debord

    The Female Thing: Dirt, Sex, Envy, Vulnerabilty
    by Laura Kipnis

    Elixir: A History of Water and Humankind
    by Brian Fagan

    Dog Sense
    by John Bradshaw

    Armies of Heaven: The First Crusade and the Quest for Apocalypse
    by Jay Rubenstein

    by Rachel Maddow

  82. 82
    The prophet Nostradumbass says:

    @Steeplejack: have you seen the Nero Wolfe TV series that was on A&E about 10 years ago? It was really good. Timothy Hutton as Archie, Maury Chaykin as Wolfe. Despite good ratings, it was apparently canceled because it was “too expensive”.

  83. 83
    Steeplejack says:


    If you haven’t read the O’Brian novels, you are in for a treat. They are really a monumental achievement. Not only “ripping good yarns” but a portrait of British society over a 20-year period (circa 1800-20). A huge cast of fully developed characters that age realistically over that time. Jane Austen with guns. I’m slowly rereading them again now.

  84. 84
    Steeplejack says:

    @The prophet Nostradumbass:

    I did see some of those. I thought they were pretty good but didn’t really do justice to the novels. They were a little too light in tone. But I thought the acting was good, and I was sorry to see the series get the ax.

  85. 85
    TheMightyTrowel says:

    @Bruuuuce: I deeply love Michael Chabon.

    I just finished Justin Cartwright’s Other people’s money – good, but not as good or dark-funny as I was led to believe.

    I’m in the middle of Hilary Mantel’s epic A place of greater safety – a largely dialogue driven, relentlessly accurate and terrifyingly funny account of the French revolution as seen through the lives, eyes and personal relationships of Danton, Robespierre and Desmoulins. I’m a historical fiction nerd and this is one of the most incredible piece of HistFic I’ve read – though not as mature in style or structure as her more recent double booker winning series on Thomas Cromwell (which, if you haven’t read them, READ THEM).

  86. 86
    J. Michael Neal says:


    then you may enjoy Glen Cook’s The Black Company series a bit more.

    I might. Maybe I should read them for the fourth time just to be sure . . .

    Yeah, The Black Company is awesome. It’s that rare long series that keeps getting better as you go. Read now, the first three are good but nothing really special, although they were groundbreaking at the time they were released. Once Cook had imitators he raised his game.

    Glittering Stone (which comprises the last four novels) is just staggering. In addition to having great characters and a gripping plot, Cook manages to really explore some interesting themes including just what history, both as a thing and as a discipline, is.

    Cook is an interesting author. Unlike a lot of people, I can’t stand the Dread Empire books. The read like the outlines of stories that might be interesting if better written. On the other hand, his stand alone sci-fi novels such as A Passage at Arms and The Dragon Never Sleeps are quite good.

    And, of course, the Garrett, P.I. novels are a must read for anyone who likes pulp noir and fantasy novels.

  87. 87
    TheMightyTrowel says:

    @Steeplejack: Also, patrick o’brien gifted me with a life long love of 17th/18th century boats. I spent so much time staring at models figuring out the rigging that I fell in love with them as I was reading all the books several years back.

  88. 88
    Pooh says:

    I just finished “The Passage” and “the Twelve” by Joseph Cronin. The first especially is pretty gripping if you like your post apocalypse with a hint of the supernatural.

  89. 89
    Yutsano says:

    @TheMightyTrowel: Shouldn’t you be snogging young lady? Or is the other half still en route?

  90. 90
    piratedan says:

    @J. Michael Neal: LOL… always good to meet another fan of the series…. I tend to pop thru them once every two years (along with the Flashman books

  91. 91
    Groucho48 says:

    @Brother Shotgun of Sweet Reason:

    Thanks! Yeah, I read it a few years ago. Very interesting. Definitely a first draft of history kind of book.

    I read it in conjunction with Isherwood’s Berlin Stories, one of which was the basis for the play/movie cabaret. The two different perspectives really help giving insight into Berlin in those times

  92. 92
    Brother Shotgun of Sweet Reason says:

    Currently reading “Berlin Noir”, three mystery/thriller novels by Phillip Kerr, set in Nazi Germany just before the war. The protagonist is an ex-Kripo investigator.

    Alan Furst got me hooked on novels from the 30s and 40s. I hear that Eric Ambler is the next author I have to check out.

  93. 93
    TheMightyTrowel says:

    @Yutsano: It’s mid afternoon on Monday. Sadly, I’m at work. However, to allay your evident worries, much snogging has been had and will continue to be had once I go home. ;-)

  94. 94
    E. says:

    Just finished Sinclair Lewis’s Main Street (published in 1920) and could not have picked a better guide to the 2012 electorate. It struck with deadly accuracy. I am still a little shell-shocked, in fact.

  95. 95
    Corner Stone says:

    So. Louis L’Amour has a fictional historical novel The Walking Drum.
    I love that time period, even given who knows what research Louis did.
    Anything similar to this I can check out?

  96. 96
    Dimmic Rat says:

    I’m rereading Rush Limbaugh is a Big Fat Idiot It’s amazing how many battles we are still fighting to this day. Also I forgot what a tool Phil Gramm was.

  97. 97
    JohnnyMac says:

    There are essays about most of the crime/mystery novelists mentioned here (and about a hundred more) in a new book called, “Books to Die For'” edited by John Connelly and Declan Burke. Full disclosure, I wrote the essay about Trevanian’s “The Main,” that’s in there.

  98. 98
    TheMightyTrowel says:

    @TheMightyTrowel: Oh! Tongue in cheek (only sort of) recommendation for lovers of Austen and O’Brian: there are a number of “Age of Sail” romance novels out there, many of them with gay themes. The best, by far, is Lee Rowan’s Royal Navy series. Silly, fun, explicit and highly recommended.

  99. 99
    windpond says:

    I’m reading The End of Your Life Book Club, by Will Schwalbe. Thoughtful, well-written and includes many other books that I now have waiting to read on my ipad.

  100. 100
    Yutsano says:

    @TheMightyTrowel: Yay! I fond snogging healthy, especially with the gent you care for so much. :)

  101. 101
    handsmile says:

    I love these threads for the recommendations of books that have never crossed my radar, the brief descriptions of which can’t help but pique interest. Among those encountered here are Bmaccnm’s American Nations and Steeplejack’s The Orphanmaster. Thanks! At the same time, I have to confess that the mystery genre just isn’t my thing.

    Two recommendations of mine, fiction and non.

    Ambrose Bierce: The Devil’s Dictionary, Tales & Memoirs
    A Library of America volume of significant works by this underappreciated 19th-century American writer and journalist. While best known for his short-story, “An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge,” his cynical lexicon The Devil’s Dictionary can be justly compared to works of Twain and Melville.

    The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined by Steven Pinker
    An astonishing and provocative volume, abundantly documented, on the subject of violence, arguing that “we may be living in the most peaceful era in our species existence.” A radical departure, in subject if not method, for Pinker, internationally celebrated for his pathbreaking work in neurolinguistics and cognitive science. By no means an easy read, but unforgettable.

    If that book is Graham Robb’s The Discovery of France, you’re in for a great treat. Stick with it. (If it’s The Invention of Paris by Eric Hazan, you’re even luckier!)

    @The Fat Kate Middleton:
    I must tell you I’m in awe of your range and discerning taste!

  102. 102
    Mnemosyne says:

    For people who like historical mysteries, try Kate Ross’s all-too-brief Julian Kestrel series. She unfortunately died of cancer after finishing the fourth book, but if you’re interested in the Regency period, you’ll like them. A lot of interesting plot points turn on the social mores of the time.

  103. 103
    Steeplejack says:

    @Brother Shotgun of Sweet Reason:

    Berlin Noir is good, and Philip Kerr continues the series with an interesting plot twist: he skips over World War II and picks up Bernie Gunther’s story immediately afterwards. Various bits and pieces fall into place as you go along, and it’s an interesting approach.

    I haven’t read any Eric Ambler in a really long time. He might be a little dated. But worth a go.

    You might also be interested in David Downing’s series of novels about Anglo-American journalist John Russell in Germany before and during the war: Zoo Station (2007) and Silesian Station (2008) are the first two. I’ve only read the first one, but it’s pretty good.

  104. 104
    MikeJ says:

    @E.: Main Street added to my nook.

  105. 105
    TheMightyTrowel says:

    @Yutsano: I’ve been a HUGE fan of snogging since I was 13. No signs of a diminishing interest as I age.

  106. 106
    The prophet Nostradumbass says:

    @handsmile: there’s a really interesting biography of Bierce that came out in 1999 called Ambroce Bierce: Alone in Bad Company by Roy Morris Jr. It’s a good read.

  107. 107
    👽 Martin says:

    Per TPM, very cool Latino polling.

    Breakdowns by nationality (Mexican, Cuban, etc), state, age, income, us/foreign born etc. Includes polling on most important issues (jobs leads over immigration in many places), Obamacare, etc. Compare Cubans to all other groups.

  108. 108
    Mary G says:

    Somehow in my earlier life I missed out on Dickens. I read and loved all the McDonald books in the 70s, though.

    All I knew of Dickens was “A Christmas Carol” and that just the story thru various movies. I have been having a wonderful time reading Dickens for free on Kindle. Really loved Bleak House, David Copperfield, Great Expectations. Now I am on the Pickwick Papers but having a little trouble keeping up the enthusiasm.

    I read Gillian Flynn’s Dark Places and loved it. I’m working my way thru the Overdrive queue for Gone Girl.

  109. 109
  110. 110
    Felonius Monk says:


    catching up on books from Felicia Day’s Vaginal Fantasy Bookclub.

    That’s for me — ’cause at my age they are just a fantasy.

  111. 111
    Elie says:

    Doris Kearns Goodwin’s “Team of Rivals”. Damned good read that is perceptive and sensitively written — you get a real sense of Lincoln and his team — And let me add, the movie Lincoln –like /Wow —

    Very very good

  112. 112
    MikeJ says:

    @Mary G:

    All I knew of Dickens was “A Christmas Carol” and that just the story thru various movies.

    This Christmas Balloon-Juice will do its own episode like every other sitcom. John Cole will be visited by DougJ as the ghost of blog past, SP&T asd the ghost of blog present, and uhm, I haven’t really thought this trough. But somebody should. Also too, there should be a Marley.

  113. 113
    Mnemosyne says:

    @Mary G:

    I’ve read some Dickens, but never got around to Great Expectations, so I’m working my way through that now.

    I’ve been doing kind of a half-assed “books I never read in high school” thing, so now I’ve finally read The Great Gatsby. Not sure why, but we never got around to that one in AP English.

  114. 114
    Brother Shotgun of Sweet Reason says:

    Thanks to all for the recommendations. I think I’ve got enough to last me into the summer. Thanks to Anne Laurie for the post, also, too.

  115. 115
    Steeplejack says:


    Mclaren as Marley?

    An earlier thread today reminded me that the Blackadder “Christmas Carol” is pretty funny. Robbie Coltrane is particularly good as the Spirit of Christmas.

  116. 116
    PPOG Penguin says:

    @DrBDH: “Thinking Fast and Slow” is a terrific book. Kahneman’s experiments and reports are relevant to so many areas of life as well as being fascinating for their insights into how we think and how we value things. Also a great foil to our ‘Homo economicus’ libertarian friends – not ideological by any means, but a convincing account of how and why we are not purely rational economic calculators. And wonderfully readable into the bargain.

  117. 117
    Felonius Monk says:

    A couple of weeks before the election I went back and read Zane Grey’s Riders of the Purple Sage which was first published in 1912, I believe. Although it was pretty much a random pick — I wanted to read a western — it was kind of interesting in light of current events because it dealt heavily with the mendacity of certain Mormons and the hero Lassiter has a reputation for eliminating certain miscreants of the Mormon persuasion.

    Does anyone know if a movie was ever made of this Zane Grey novel?

  118. 118
    handsmile says:

    @The prophet Nostradumbass:

    Grateful for that unfamiliar reference. Appreciate your taking the time to alert me!

    @Mary G:

    As you may know, this is Dickens’ bicentennial year. What exquisite timing on your part! Much of my own fiction reading this year has been devoted to him, re-reading favorites and finally getting to some I missed (e.g., Little Dorrit (magnificent!), Barnaby Rudge (rather less so). You’ve already taken up and appreciated his two greatest masterworks (imo), Bleak House and Great Expectations; before your enthusiasm flags, do consider Hard Times and A Tale of Two Cities. As one of Dickens’ earliest novels, The Pickwick Papers is more a picaresque tale, a series of clever episodes rather than a fully integrated work (also too imo).

  119. 119
    PPOG Penguin says:

    @Brother Shotgun of Sweet Reason: Loved “Berlin Noir,” but oh so bleak. I found the last book hardest of all, stripping away the hope of liberation in favour of a relentless misery and fear. He has recently released some sequels – the one I read was okay but not as good as the trilogy. He has a few other books but I wasn’t much taken with them.

  120. 120
    auntieeminaz says:

    Rereading Just Kids by Patti Smith since I recommended it to my neighborhood book club and I am the discussion leader. Also, too, Alan Furst’s Mission to Paris.

  121. 121
    SFAW says:

    @Felonius Monk:

    Does anyone know if a movie was ever made of this Zane Grey novel?

    Yeah, about five times. A lot of early stuff (i.e. pre-1940).

    Great book, and – like you – Romney’s candidacy brought it to mind.

  122. 122
    seaboogie says:

    @andynotadam: Well, you were much more precocious in your reading than I was at age 12 – I was digging through my Mom’s bottom drawer and discovered Xaviera Hollander’s “The Happy Hooker”, which I have never felt a need to re-read. Catch 22 was a part of my autodidact young adulthood though, and the movie could never capture the wonderful absurdity of the printed version.

    What we have to hide from our parents…and they from us….

  123. 123
    danielx says:

    Last read the Travis McGee books a LONG time ago, but still love them. From what I can tell, the forces motivating Florida politics haven’t changed a whole lot since the books were written, although a lot of the dialogue (internal and otherwise) sounds dated.

    However – other good stuff –

    Anything by Allen Furst. Night Soldiers is probably the best, but all his books take you right to a particular time and place – Europe during the period 1936-1945.

    Anything by James Crumley, but try to find Bordersnakes. You just know any book in which the two chief characters are named Milo Milodragovitch and C.W. Sughrue is going to be interesting. (“That’s Shug as in sugar and Rue as in rue the goddamn day.”) Time and place again, this being amazingly enough the U.S./Mexican border in the last 1990s.

    History – currently re-reading The Coldest Winter by David Halberstam. About the Korean War and the political environment in the United States at the time, and chronicles the details of various American successes and catastrophes. Descriptions are very evocative, the worst probably being the Second Division being shot to pieces in a six mile long ambush.

    Also, too – Douglas MacArthur was a deranged egomaniac.

  124. 124
    Higgs Boson's Mate says:

    Alternating between Iain M. Banks’ Surface Detail and The Portable Jung, edited by the late Joseph Campbell.

    The Banks book is sci-fi, another of Banks’ Culture novels. He writes big, multi-threaded far-future novels with strong characters and well-woven plots.

    I usually read a non-fiction and a fiction book, alternating between the two. No plan, no clever juxtapositions, it just seems to make both books more enjoyable for me.

  125. 125
    Higgs Boson's Mate says:

    My dad, a Navy man who fought through the Pacific campaign from the day his ship was bombed at Pearl Harbor, always referred to MacArthur as “Dugout Doug.” He despised him.

  126. 126
    Alison says:

    Damn, late to this thread and I’m too lazy to read through it all. But I already have ~40 unread books on my shelves and an Amazon wishlist of about 200 more, so…LOL

    A few recent reads I’ve enjoyed:
    *Trampling Out the Vintage (about Chavez and the UFW, and a far more balanced look than what I’ve heard about other accounts. It’s loooong but very worth it if you’re interested in the subject)

    *Sex and Punishment: Four Thousand Years of Judging Desire

    *Tomatoland: How Modern Industrial Agriculture Destroyed Our Most Alluring Fruit

    *Wolf Hall – this is the first book in Mantel’s trilogy, which won the Man Booker, which I finally read once the second book in the trilogy won her SECOND MB – loved it entirely, can’t wait to get to the next

    *The World We Found – interesting tale of four female friends in India and the paths their lives have taken over the years. A good friendship sketch, IMO.

    *State of Wonder

  127. 127

    I’m reading Jo Walton’s Among Others, a Hugo and Nebula Award winner in 2011. It’s a coming-of-age and boarding school story, but it’s more. Cory Doctorow’s blurb is about perfect: “A hymnal for the clever and odd — an inspiration and a lifeline to anyone who has ever felt in the world, but not of it.”

  128. 128
    Hypatia's Momma says:

    Just finished Bill Mauldin; a life up front. Excellent book.

    Just started Great Tang records on the Western Regions. Also, re-reading <a href="Molesworth.

  129. 129

    Some titles from the last year:

    Bligh!: The Whole Story of the Munity Aboard H.M.S. Bounty, by Sam McKinney

    For fans of the HMS Bounty story or 18th century British Navy stories.

    The Drowned and the Saved, by Primo Levi

    One of those books I think everyone in the world should read.

    Postwar: A History of Europe Since 1945, by Tony Judt

    An attempt to answer the question, ‘How did we get to where we are now?’ Not a complete set of answers, but a really good start.

    Nations and Nationalism since 1780: Programme, Myth, Reality, Eric J. Hobsbawm

    Not the only or even the best book on the questions of nation and nationalism, but one of the few that are essential.

    A Peace to End All Peace: The Fall of the Ottoman Empire and the Creation of the Modern Middle East, by David Fromkin

    Reading the last half of A Peace to End All Peace I felt like I was reading the history of the Bush/Cheney foreign policy.

    Don Quixote, by Cervantes.

    I read this together with Professor Roberto González Echevarría’s excellent lectures on Yale Open Courses.

  130. 130
    Mnemosyne says:


    Feh. If you want inappropriate books, try reading The World According to Garp at around age 12.

    I swear that between the Ellen Jamesians and the boyfriend’s penis getting accidentally bitten off, that freakin’ book scarred me for life.

  131. 131

    @Brother Shotgun of Sweet Reason: Yes. Ambler should be next, if you want “in between the wars” novels.

  132. 132

    @Felonius Monk: Five times, the most recent of which was 1996. It starred Ed Harris and Amy Madigan.

  133. 133
    third of two says:

    Also late to the thread.

    Recently finished Wittgenstein’s ‘Philosophical Investigations,’ recommended
    GG Marquez’ autobio “Living to Tell the Tale,” recommended
    S Baron Cohen’s “Science of Evil,” not recommended
    Jesse Bering’s “Belief Instinct,” recommend
    Zizek’s “Living in the End Times,” recommend

    Stephen King’s “Under the Dome” do not recommend
    Stephen King’s “A Buick 8” meh
    James Rollins “Devil Colony” do not recommend
    John Grisham “The Appeal” recommend
    Clive Cussler “Artic Drift” puke

  134. 134
    Spaghetti Lee says:

    I’ve actually been considering reading Infinite Jest for the first time because I bullshitted my book-snob uncle into thinking I actually have read it, and knowing him he’ll probably bring it up next time he sees me. Callow motivation on my part, sure, but I’ve been meaning to read it anyway. I don’t read nearly as much as I should.

  135. 135
    Phoenician in a time of Romans says:

    @J. Michael Neal:

    I’m working my way through Malazan: Book of the Fallen. It’s grim fantasy for those who think that The Song of Ice and Fire isn’t long enough. I’d read eight of them previously but finally gave up and waited for the series to be finished.

    I suggest you also look at Glen Cook’s “Black Company” series and Steven Brust’s “Vlad Taltos” series. You might find Joe Abercrombie’s “The Blade Itself” trilogy worth looking at.

  136. 136
    Alex says:

    For a detective series I can’t think of anything better than the books of K.C.Constantine, set in small town Pennsylvania.

    Lately, having become thoroughly fed up with magical realism and apocalyptic stream of consciousness drivel, I’ve taken refuge with Esa de Queiroz and Edith Wharton, both of whom I really would like to recommend.

  137. 137
    Grover Gardner says:

    I’m reading Donna Leon’s Inspector Brunetti series. I avoided them for a long time, thinking that if there were so many they couldn’t be all that good. In fact they are very diverting, very human and thoughtful. The plots aren’t much to write home about but Brunetti is an engaging character.

    Anyone who loves war fiction should not miss Anton Myrer’s ONCE AN EAGLE. It’s a big, solid American saga, told from the POV of a professional soldier but with an clear anti-war bias. Someone above mentioned MacArthur and he plays a brief, albeit significant, role in the story.

  138. 138
    Grover Gardner says:

    Oh, and Timothy Egan’s bio of Edward Curtis is worth reading. Not very long and quite interesting. I had no idea theat he was viewed pretty much as an abject failure during his lifetime and died in poverty.

  139. 139
    Phoenician in a time of Romans says:

    Okay, let’s see:

    JUST completed – Glen Duncan _The Last Werewolf_ and _Tallula Rising_. They’re at about 180 degrees from the Twilight series; visceral tales with lots of sex and violence about, well, the last of the werewolves.

    NEXT up (well, after finishing a F Paul Wilson novel) is the latest Culture novel from Iain M Banks _The Hydrogen Sonata_. I’m looking forward to that; the series has been mentioned above, and my favourite was _Excession_.

    READ this year Charlie Stross’s _The Apocalypse Codex_ – I was sent a revision copy by Charlie when he was writing it, but I never managed to finish my notes on the thing and send them back to him. Not too bad – but it suffers from “middle book” syndrome. The next story in the series will involve CASE NIGHTMARE GREEN starting…

    Also Ken Macleod’s _Newton’s Wake_, which is a very confident post-singularity fiction piece. It reminded me of the RPG Eclipse Phase.

    Also plenty of others I can’t recall offhand. A lot of trash, some non-fiction. I literally get paid to read for a living (magazine articles) – how sweet is that?

  140. 140
    Tim I says:

    Thanks for bringing up the Longmire books. I love the TV series. Please don’t hate me for being ignorant rabble. oh bibliophiles. I’m as addicted to TV and movies as I am to print. I’m ordering the Longmire books tonight.

  141. 141
    Tehanu says:


    Hi aimai, I just finished the Vorpatril book too — actually, I tore through it the first night I had it, then re-read it more leisurely. I love Ivan but I was a little bit let down because he doesn’t really have a Big Moment when he realizes he’s in love … it just sort of happens and I really wanted more drama, I guess. Or more laughs; Tej’s family were more annoying than amusing. But I am glad that Ivan got to be chivalrous and romantic just the same.

  142. 142
    Cmm says:

    Recent reads:

    –The Given Day by Dennis Lehane – his most recent book is a sequel to this one, which is part family saga/character study and part historical novel of Boston in the years immediately following the end of WWI. Highly recommended, really brought that time to life. It is largely forgotten today how terrifyingly unstable that period felt at the time. Still processing the horrors of the Great War, the uncertain peace, economic recession, labor unrest, communist and anarchist agitation, and on and on. Plus Lehane’s Boston lens lets some big incidents be worked in naturally, especially the Boston Police strike of 1919 but also the beginnings of the flu epidemic and the molasses flood. Fantastic story and characters, and I am really looking forward to the next book in the series.

    –The Physician by Noah Gordon – cannot recommend this book highly enough. Very immersive novel of very early Middle Ages following an orphan boy who first apprentices as a barber/surgeon in England, then, wanting to learn true medicine and become a physician, travels across Europe to Persia, along the way crafting an identity as a Jew, because Christians were not permitted by either Christian or Moslem authorities to study in the great universities of the Islamic world, but Jews were. The book is roughly in three parts, the boy’s youth and apprenticeship, his young adulthood and the steps he takes to change his identity, and then his time as a medical student in one of the great cities of Persia. It is rare that a fairly well known book/author has not at least crossed my radar but I had never heard of it before it was offered as a $1.99 special on Kindle. I was blown away by it. I love a deep historical novel that really puts you into that time and place, and both The Physician and The GIVEN day did that for me. THe Physician is supposed to be coming out as a movie within the next year or so and I can’t wait to see it brought to life!

    It is hard to find a “next read” after reading two books back to back which were so very good, so I read two of the 4 novellas in Stephen King’s Full Dark No Stars and re-read The Shining, which I had not revisited since the 1980s. I do reread some King favorites more often but I disliked the main character of The Shining so much that even though the story was good I never had much urge to reread. This time as a middle aged adult rather than a late teen, I could appreciate Jack’s struggles more but still found him to mostly be a jerk. Got more admiration for the book, though, able to see better how gradually King ratchets up the tension by making the most mundane objects–an elevator, a fire extinguisher, a clock–into increasingly malevolent entities.

    Just finished The Shining and casting around thru my extensive Kindle archive for a next read. Flirting with a very standard historical romance but it hasn’t really grabbed hold yet.

    Audiobooks–recently listened to Oliver Twist, a Dickens novel I never read in school. If you like Dickens or want to give him a try, check Audible for the Dickens novels read bymSimon Vance. He is a fantastic reader and really made me appreciate the comedic bits and authorial asides the way Dickens in print never has for me. Now on a Terry Pratchett tear, listened to the first 2 Disc World novels and just started the third, Equal Rites.

    Yay books/reading thread!

  143. 143
    Valdivia says:


    I was writing down all the books you recommended because you always read things that are in my wheelhouse. :)

    Yes: we must get back to The Moviergoer!

  144. 144
    Cmm says:

    I am in the really dozen part of my shift now, when the radio is quiet and it is hard to stay awake,

  145. 145
    MikeJ says:

    @Cmm: Bad news if you’re a disk jockey.

  146. 146
    Cmm says:

    Nope, different kind of radio!

  147. 147
    burnspbesq says:


    I thought Mosley decided to stop writing Easy stories. Is my memory playing tricks, or did he change his mind?

    The last time I looked at his website, there was a reference to a new Easy book. Which surprised me, as I was pretty certain he had killed hom off at the end of Blonde Faith.

  148. 148
    third of two says:

    Not really into the audiobook thang, yet somewhat addicted to old radio mysteries via podcast. Example.

  149. 149
    Raven says:

    Aite where’s that auto thread?

  150. 150
    Raven says:

    But Broadwell’s father said Sunday his daughter is the victim of character assassination and implied the bombshell story is just a smoke screen for something bigger.

    “This is about something else entirely, and the truth will come out,” Broadwell’s dad, Paul Krantz, told the Daily News outside his home in Bismarck, N.D.

    “There is a lot more that is going to come out,” said Krantz, claiming he was not allowed to elaborate. “You wait and see. There’s a lot more here than meets the eye.”

    Read more:

  151. 151
    aimai says:


    Its the discovery of France, by Robb. Significantly easier reading than the *&^% Three volume set by Nora that I’m also struggling with. The best book I ever read on France is the cheesily entitled either Forbidden Paris or Hidden Paris–really, I have no head for titles these days. But it is a fantastic work that begins with the pre-roman times and runs straight up. It really makes the city and its eternally refreshed population come alive.I had no idea how foreign the city was to the Royal family at all periods of its history. I am struggling with the Hare with the Amber Eyes as well.


  152. 152
    Elizabelle says:

    Thank you for all of the great recommendations.

    Just read a lesser mystery novel which shall not be named; heroine is a Minnesota TV reporter.

    A few chapters in, she described a prior shootout in her TV studio, which killed the news director and an anchor and wounded others.

    She was going for horror and sympathy, but I burst out laughing, and never stopped.

    General contempt for TV news there.

    In fairness, author and her heroine depict what gets not reported when emphasis is “news on the cheap.”

  153. 153
    cmm says:

    I am such a lib. I read that quote from Broadwell’s father and I think 1) okay from N. Dakota, white male, probably over 60 so prime tea party/Fox News/Benghazi or other conspiracy demographic plus 2) sticking up for his flesh and blood so probably nothing there…then I think, oh geez what if there is though…what if Obama ends up s distracted as Clinton from all the slow motion scandal investigations o god o god.

    Agh. It would be so much easier to be the kind of true believer who still thinks there were WMDs and Scalia is a constitutional genius…

  154. 154
    aimai says:


    I loved Jo WAlton’s book about Dragons–someone online recomended it as “Trollope with Dragons” and it really is. Her books about an alternate England, Farthing and Ha’penny are both chilling.

    Went back and found the name of the “”best book on paris” because it was driving me crazy:

  155. 155
    Raven says:

    I pay all this money for access to this blog and have to put up with a thread that started at 9:45 last night, wtf-k?

  156. 156
    WereBear says:

    @Groucho48: Travis McGee on Kindle? My dream comes true!

    I have semi-promised Mr WereBear that some books I can’t let go of will be converted to digital. This would let me do… all of them.

    Aside from everything else, John D. McDonald is a wonderful writer. I learned so much from reading all his books; the way to use verbs. Pithy characterizations. And the way to plot that surprises the characters, which surprises the reader.

    Yes, his characters are a mirror of Mad Men attitudes; but women were never things. They had their own aspirations and talents and even got a chance to use them.

    And I loved The Green Ripper. He took a classic revenge plot and made it breathe.

  157. 157
    arguingwithsignposts says:

    @Raven: LOL. I was thinking the same thing.

  158. 158
    SFAW says:


    The last time I looked at his website,

    See, if you were as lazy as I, you wouldn’t have gone there, and your anxiety (from waiting for his new one) would be reduced.

    Be that as it may: thanks very much for the heads-up, I hope it happens. (I mean, how many times did he try to kill off Mouse?)

  159. 159
    SFAW says:


    It would be so much easier to be the kind of true believer who still thinks there were WMDs and Scalia is a constitutional genius…

    What are you trying to say? I have it on good authority – someone who has seen the “Whitey” tape – that the WMDs will be found any day now.

    And Scalia’s ability to make his rulings based on the long-held legal doctrine of “Originalism, Except When It Would Screw the Right Wing” is a paragon of legal taureus excrementum.

  160. 160
    SFAW says:


    Because he is so concerned about unhappy customers, Cole will be sending you a refund check Real Soon Now.

    Expect it to arrive sometime after either:
    1) Dick Morris makes a correct prediction
    2) Ewick son of Ewick’s son says something neither insane nor assholish
    3) Fox News gets a grip on reality

  161. 161
    Emma says:

    @aimai: I just finished Captain Vorpatril’s Alliance myself. I giggled the whole way through. It was more of a comedy of manners than anything else, and it fulfilled my expectations for Ivan to the nth degree. I wept at the end of Cryoburn. This was the perfect follow up. Where she’ll take the series now that both the bad boys of Barrayar have become respectable government functionaries, God only knows.

    These days I’m doing a lot of reading on gardening, especially the English cottage garden, trying to work out how to reproduce the effect with tropical plants.

  162. 162
    Steeplejack says:

    @Higgs Boson’s Mate:

    I like Banks’s Culture novels, but Surface Detail was a hard slog for me. The “manufactured hells” thing was very depressing, for some reason, and once you “got it” it just kept being pounded in. Ugh. But I’m not sorry I read it.

  163. 163
    J R in WV says:

    I’ve always enjoyed all of McDonald’s work, Travis’s stories as well as the many other novels.

    An earlier version of the tough investigator is Rex Stout’s Nero Wolfe and his hands-on sidekick, Archie Goodwin. They all hold up for a second reading on a trip.

    I like SciFi a lot, and one of my favorite authors is Iain M Banks, who writes complex novels about a far future civilization he calls the Culture. If you like space opera military work, John Ringo’s series are all pretty interesting, although I could do without the skewering of liberal sterotypes and strawmen he can’t seem to resist. The best series (to me) is the one with a nuclear submarine turned into a starship, and crewed with regular USN crew and computer/science geeks, who are necessary for keeping the starship functioning, but who don’t fit into a Navy mold very well.

    Charles Stroess writes about a dark future full of math-based sorcery that, each time it is used, weakens the border between our normal world and a Lovecraftian world filled with monsters from other universes, monsters that regard people, indeed anything living, as lunch, or worse.

    S M Sterling has a series about Nantucket swept into the past, maybe 350 years ago. And Eric Flint used a similar hook to move a mining town from W Va into 17th century Germany, where the United Mine Workers of America and modern technology and engineering have an immediate impact on the religious wars rending Europe into a plague-ridden bloodbath.

    That’s probably enough for now. Ms JR likes Doris Lessing and Joyce Carol Oates, a little too cerebral for me, but lots of folks here might enjoy either of them. Oates said her writing just comes and flows from her hands, without her intellect being much involved.

    Of course Steven King is famous for referring to his “boys in the basement”, who compose his fiction. Whatever gets the words on paper for me to read is what I say.

  164. 164
    Birthmarker says:

    @andynotadam: Your teen reading was almost exactly like mine!! I threw in a lot (all) of Steinbeck and Hemingway and Fitzgerald and Salinger.

    Zeitoun is a good book. So is Namesake, by an Indian author who I am too lazy to google.

  165. 165
    Brother Shotgun of Sweet Reason says:

    @Alison: If you like Tomatoland, see if you can find The Story of Corn. It’s the only food you need: it can be starch, sugar, protein, or oil. And it was worshipped as a God!

  166. 166
    Bago says:

    Why is shooting people in the face with semen considered more important than shooting people in the face with bullets? Seriously, the money spent on semen could be better allocated on finding the owner of bullets.

  167. 167
    gogol's wife says:

    As usual I missed all the fun by sleeping at night. I’m reading Trollope, The Way We Live Now, a kind of Bernie Madoff story. It’s taking me six months to read it, but it’s very amusing. I loved Wolf Hall and am looking forward to the next vacation to read the sequel. Ambler is great. Try the novel that the fabulous movie Topkapi was based on, I think it’s called The Light of Day.

  168. 168
    Rekster says:

    Here are some Kindle books that are reasonably priced that I really like a lot:

    Brett Battles: Jonathan Quinn series. It’s important to read in order. Though if you start with “Becoming Quinn” it will help.

    Gary Ponzo: Nick Bracco series, read in order.

    Not inexpensive:

    Daniel Silva: Gabriel Allon, read in order

  169. 169
    SBJules says:

    I read the Travis Mcgee books long ago & picked one up recently. I could not remember why I liked them( Gone Girl was a dud to me. I’m reading a Maisie Dobbs book, Elegy For Eddie. She is a wonderful writer. I’m in the library line for the Lehane.

  170. 170
    rachel says:

    @aimai: I liked Cryoburn a lot.

    Vorlynkin choked. “Do you have any idea how many different crimes you’ve just rattled off?”
    “No, but it might not hurt to make up a list, should your lawyer need it. Could speed things up, in a pinch.”

    I even thought that what happened at the end was inevitable (and considering what happened in Shards of Honor would not have been entirely unwelcome to Aral),

    But Captain Vorpatril’s Alliance is a nice amuse bouche after all that stress.

  171. 171
    J R in WV says:



    Don’t ever forget that Amazon can attach to “your” Kindle and remove content from it without your permission. Actually, you probably “give” them permission by clicking on the “I Agree” to your one-sided agreement when first booting the device up.

    Not too long ago they published an e-book that lots of people bought, then discovered that Amazon had not actually received legitimate e-publication rights, so they just went and pulled the book from every Kindle out there. If you got your copy from some other authorized source, too bad.

    Just sayin’

    J R in WV

  172. 172
    handsmile says:

    @gogol’s wife:

    On the chance you return to this thread: several years ago [crikey, Wikipedia informs me 10 years ago], PBS/Masterpiece Theater presented an adaptation of The Way We Live Now that I found utterly absorbing and which prompted me to tackle the work. David Suchet offers an indelible portrayal of Augustus Melmotte.

    Of course, I have no idea whether you enjoy such television adaptations and I should note that it was written by Andrew Davies, a somewhat controversial figure for his Austen adaptations (though his recent one of Little Dorrit I thought superb).

  173. 173
    Valdivia says:


    Biggest grin. I saw that. And loved it. And found it timely to our own times.

  174. 174
    handsmile says:

    Hey there! :)

    Hope you had a marvelous visit to the urban hellhole and a scintillating meet-up among the BJ illuminati/inebriati.

    And it appears our esteemed colleague in matters lit’ry, Steeplejack, has resuscitated here the moldering notion of a group reading of The Moviegoer. We must strategize.

    An email will be dispatched later today.

  175. 175
    cckids says:

    @Mnemosyne: I’ll match that; get caught reading Wuthering Heights by a nun in 2nd grade. You’d have thought it was all-out p0rn. Plus it truly screws up thoughts of what relationships should be like.

  176. 176
    Hob says:

    just finished:

    Aleister Crowley: The Nature of the Beast (Colin Wilson): Highly recommended, and an interesting example of “skeptical woo” (i.e. Wilson says of course there’s no such thing as demons, but obviously ESP exists so Crowley was a deluded psychic– but he also picks apart Crowley’s beliefs in purely psychological terms)

    The Hypo (Noah van Sciver): Comic-book historical fiction about Abraham Lincoln as a young broke lawyer, mostly focusing on his struggle with depression and his iffy social skills. Short and a little unfocused but really engaging.

    Slant (Greg Bear): Science-fiction thriller, sequel to Queen of Angels but more conventional, didn’t like it much except for the AI characters. Bear is such an odd duck – a hard-SF writer who’s really more of a fantasy writer at heart, or at least I think he gets way more interesting when he dabbles in weird irrational stuff.

    currently reading:

    Why Mrs. Blake Cried (Marsha Keith Schuchard): About the amazing quantity & variety of sexually unconventional religious pre-hippiedom in 18th century England. Not much good as a Blake biography, but the background is great.

    The Voyeurs (Gabrielle Bell): Semi-autobio comics stories about 30ish artists in NYC– which sounds terrible, but she’s very funny and low-key and I love her drawings. She describes Internet brain-rot very well.

    Orlando Furioso (Ariosto): I’ve been getting through this very slowly because I keep trying to make notes on all the plot threads. It’s amazingly fun, and not having any previous experience with Renaissance romances I was surprised by its, shall we say, flexible attitude toward morality in general.

  177. 177

    @aimai: She deliberately wrote in Trollope’s style for that one. She makes switching styles look effortless, which I’m sure it isn’t.

    Have you ever read her story of the birth of Christ from Joseph’s point of view?

  178. 178

    @aimai: She deliberately wrote in Trollope’s style for that one. She makes switching styles look effortless, which I’m sure it isn’t.

    Have you ever read her story of the birth of Christ from Joseph’s point of view?

  179. 179

    @aimai: She deliberately wrote in Trollope’s style for that one. She makes switching styles look effortless, which I’m sure it isn’t.

    Have you ever read her story of the birth of Christ from Joseph’s point of view?

  180. 180
    SFAW says:


    I guess you really like Walton? (Yes, I realize it’s a FYWP post.)

    Have you ever read her story of the birth of Christ from Joseph’s point of view?

    I tend to lean toward Chris Moore’s account of His later years, written from Biff’s point of view.

  181. 181
    Don says:

    Nobody’s mentioned Donald Westlake so I will. The man who brought us the incredibly gritty Parker (under his psedonym, Richard Stark) also birthed a long-running series of comic crime novels about sad-sack John Dortmunder and his crew. The first one is The Hot Rock.

    They’re pretty light and quick reads and I wish they’d put them out in some 2 or 3 book volumes. I think they’re worth every penny but I hate telling people to spend $7 on what’s a pretty short book by contemporary standards. Though if you don’t mind dead tree editions there’s no shortage of cheap used editions.

  182. 182
    Phoenician in a time of Romans says:


    Slant (Greg Bear): Science-fiction thriller, sequel to Queen of Angels but more conventional, didn’t like it much except for the AI characters. Bear is such an odd duck – a hard-SF writer who’s really more of a fantasy writer at heart, or at least I think he gets way more interesting when he dabbles in weird irrational stuff.

    Hmm. Try Greg Egan some time for weird hard sf. Some of his are nearly unreadable, some are brilliant. Try finding “Quarantine” to start with, and tehn maybe try his short stories.

  183. 183
    gogol's wife says:


    Thanks, I’m sure you’re long gone, but I haven’t seen that one, although I’m aware of it and hope to see it after I finish the novel. I haven’t liked some of Andrew Davies’s work, but I believe he did the GREATEST PRIDE AND PREJUDICE EVER, the one with Colin Firth’s indelible Darcy.

  184. 184
    Don says:

    I created a Balloon Juice group over on Goodreads; I assume I’m not the only one of us here to use it, so it seemed like a good way to share recommendations in a more linkable form. It’s open to everyone – just follow the link and you can add books etc.

  185. 185
    WereBear says:

    @J R in WV: I’m aware of that, thanks.

    I grew up reading Sturgeon and Bester and Ellison, Wyndham and Brunner. I don’t know if it is me, or the books, but it’s difficult for me to find science fiction I like any more.

  186. 186
    RSA says:

    @MikeJ: Good advice.

Comments are closed.