Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Between The Lines

I've been reading a fair bit over the past wee while, thanks in part to receiving a Kindle for Xmas from Mither.

Here's what I've devoured over the past few months:

Catching Fire - Suzanne Collins
The second Hunger Games book. Not as good as the first, which was exciting (if a little predictable). But there were some interesting twists that took the story to new places...

Mockingjay - Suzanne Collins
...that were concluded in Mockingjay. The story seemed to lose its way a bit in the final chapter, but it was rounded off to a generally satisfactory degree.

Rage - Stephen King (writing as Richard Bachman)
For a short while, Stephen King wrote under the pseudonym Richard Bachman, just to see what it was like to be an unknown author again.

The education guide to a career is a great resource to use in jump starting your career as an author.

The first of the Bachman books I read was Rage, a book that has since been withdrawn from sale due to a high school shooter using it as inspiration for his rampage. Cleverly plotted, with well-crafted characters, Rage is well worth a read if you can find a second-hand copy.

The Ultimate Book of Useless Information - Noel Botham
I love useless facts. I've devoted almost my entire life to filling my head with facts that I will never need and should never use, but can't resist in a smart-ass way. I actually noticed some inaccuracies in this book, but read it cover to cover nonetheless.

Are You Dave Gorman? - Dave Gorman
I'm a long-term fan of Gorman (and his sidekick Danny Wallace), but it took me a long time to get round to reading the book that made his name. The devotion to duty, and the mental imbalance required, to spend months seeking out Dave Gormans from around the world is an endeavour that few would try, and fewer still could relay in such amusing fashion.

The Long Walk - Stephen King (writing as Richard Bachman)
My second Bachman book, The Long Walk was harrowing. Cleverly, it doesn't reveal itself fully until the end of the journey, so the plot is gradually revealed as the characters' long walk is taking place. Subtle genius.

Roadwork - Stephen King (writing as Richard Bachman)
Not as strong a story as Rage or The Long Walk, but Roadwork  gave a good study of one man's fight against the system, and his parallel descent into madness.

The Running Man - Stephen King (writing as Richard Bachman)
The movie may regularly recive an unwarranted kicking, but The Running Man gave us a dystopian future where people are hunted for sport on live TV. An obvious touchstone for The Hunger Games trilogy, the book is darker and less cartoonish than the Arnie blockbuster.

The Great Derangement: A Terrifying True Story of War, Politics and Religion at the Twilight of the American Empire - Matt Taibbi
Rolling Stone reporter Matt  Taibbi looks at the political divide in the USA, how its citizens are reacting and what it means for the world at large. Some of the character profiles are truly frightening, and it comes as a sobering thought to realise how many people go about the business of electing the most powerful person on Earth.

The Bedroom Secrets of The Master Chefs - Irvine Welsh
Welsh's post-Trainspotting work may have been on an ever-downward spiral, but they've always been a guilty pleasure of mine - there hasn't been one I haven't enjoyed. I love that they're set in the real Edinburgh, with real streets, real pubs and real shops. And his characters are genuinely gruesome. The Bedroom Secrets of The Master Chefs bore comparison with The Portrait of Dorian Gray, and I zipped through its funny and horrifying plot.

Charlie Brooker's Screen Burn - Charlie Brooker
On his day, there are few people funnier than Charlie Brooker. This book collects some of his TV columns, where he dismembers the offal paraded as prime time broadcasting in the UK. Generally hilarious, although as the book is more than 10 years old, some of the references fall flat today.

Under The Dome - Stephen King
The first half of this monster of a novel was as good as anything I've read for a while - a genuine "what the fuck is going on" situation brought to life with a lucid mix of characters. But I was ultimately disappointed with the pay-off - it was almost as if King himself had no real idea where to take the story and ended up with a "ach, that'll do". Frustrating considering how strong the first half was.

Life and Fate - Vasily Grossman
An epic novel set in the final days of World War II, as Russia and Germany fight for supremacy in Stalingrad. Translated from the original Russian novel written 60-odd years ago, it was far from an easy read. Some parts kept the imagination, but others dragged by for what seemed like the duration of the siege of Stalingrad itself. A massive undertaking, and not one to be considered lightly.

The QI Book of General Ignorance - John Lloyd and John Mitchinson
Another collection of trivia and usless facts, this book set about debunking many a myth. Very educational, even if a lot of the science involved went right over my head.

The Second QI Book of General Ignorance - John Lloyd and John Mitchinson
More of the same - the benefits of having a Kindle being that I now carry 500+ books with me wherever I go, and can appease my appetite for education and stimulation whenever I feel like it.

The Internet Is A Playground - David Thorne
David Thorne is a mad, hilarious, evil genius. His website at http://www.27bslash6.com/ is one of my favourite things in the whole world. This book collects the first batch of his internet postings, as well as a several exclusive to the book. Laugh-out-loud funny, even those stories I'd read several times before. I cannot recommend this book highly enough.

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