"The book I'm looking for,' says the blurred figure, who holds out a volume similar to yours, 'is the one that gives the sense of the world after the end of the world, the sense that the world is the end of everything that there is in the world, that the only thing there is in the world is the end of the world."
- Italo Calvino, If on a winter's night a traveler
Tuesday, November 16, 2010
Mini Reviews November 2010
I read a lot of things that are worth reading, but not particularly worth talking about for very long. So in between my long-form book discussions, I think I'll have little mini-reviews of exactly those kinds of things. I'm in the middle of graduate school applications, so it will probably be at least a month before I write another long book review. This should tide you over until then! (What more do you want from me, you monsters!)
The Body in the Library by Agatha Christie
I <3 English mysteries. I love to read them, especially after a long day, or when I'm particularly tired. They are the doughnuts of my literary diet. That sounds condescending, but it isn't really. Doughnuts are great! Who doesn't like doughnuts? And like most doughnuts, The Body in the Library was pretty great and pretty forgettable. And I'm already ready for another one.
The Omnivoire's Dilemma by Michael Pollan
I've been pretending that I'd already read this book for a LONG time. I didn't know if I would ever really get around to it. I figured most of its lessons had trickled down into the culture, and I sort of thought I "got" the essential features of the food movement. But apparently in the world of Food and Agriculture, the devil is in the details. The book is so much more than just an indictment of monoculture. It's also an expedition across the landscape of American food production in all its iterations, and all the stops on the trip are fascinating. Pollan's writing is even-handed, kind to all his subjects, and about as readable as non-fiction gets this side of Malcolm Gladwell.
The Word for World is Forrest by Ursula K. Le Guin
Ursula K. Le Guin is my favorite science fiction writer, probably. Her writing is clear and fast, but also poetic and intellectually energizing. I found this little book one fall a few years ago. My girlfriend and I were driving around Green Bluff, an area of small farms and orchards north of Spokane, visiting pumpkin patches and apple orchards. We stopped at an old home that had been converted into an antique store. Tucked away inside of an old armoire or rolltop-desk I came across this little 90 page novella that I had never heard of. It sat on my bookshelf unread until a week ago. It's very good! Certainly, its worth the few hours or so it takes to read. The story will be exceedingly familiar if you saw Avatar last year. The book is charming and sometimes-obvious, and feels special and welcoming.
Open by Andre Agassi
This book was much better than I thought it would be. I couldn't care less about tennis, but I could not put this thing down. Agassi is an incredible character--a perfectionist driven by a monster father, a man who loathes the sport at which he excels. There's not much more to say about it. Philip Roth should just steal the character type for his next novel and win another Pulitzer.