Over break I had the opportunity to actually do a fair amount of pleasure reading. Over the past semester the amount of time I spent reading things that were not for school took a sharp dive about half way through the term and it actually ened up taking me an unusal two months to finish Middlesex, by Geoffery Euginides [writer of the Virgin Suicides].
I had no shortage of books to read, as I am addicted to Amazon's effective combination of personally tailored recommendations and there very low cost used books option. Despite the fact that I have probably 4-5 books sitting unread, I constantly am looking at new material on Amazon, a practice that Wendy once pointed out to me is somewhat futile, as she suggested I read the books I already own first. Additionally, I somewhat regreted my Amazon patronage as I visited The Book Cellar in Brattleboro, VT over break. It is a great book store where the staff picks as well as the general selection is both unusual and of very high quality. As I browsed the books while in Vermont over break I was struck with the unfortunate situation of these small bookstores that offer such good material being driven out of business by the Amazon's of the world that out compete them simply because of the volume that the sell. Regardless, I would like to start patronizing these smaller bookstores again, but for now I guess my excuse is poverty.
Enough rambling though. On to the reviews:
John Stewart. America: Democracy Inaction.
This book was actually a gift from Conor. Also, I finished this book before break. As I sat giggling the whole way through the book cover to cover, I was brough back to the days when I loved reading Dave Barry. I would laugh so hard that I would want to read passages to my parents or friends, only to be unable to read alound because I would break into laughter. I am not sure if this is really a "book" in the sense of most of the books I read. It was set up in a very funny satire of your common middle school American Studies/Government text book. I believe anyone would find this book comical, regardless of political affiliation if they enjoy politics or if they are a fan of the popular Daily Show hosted by John Stewart on Comedy Central. If you are a fan of politics (or at least interested in politics) you will probably find this book especially funny as I did.
Gabriel Garcia Marquez. One Hundred Years of Solitude.
I read this book for a variety of reasons. The main reason was that when I went to see Salman Rushdie speak last spring, he said in the question and answer portion of his talk that this was one of the three books he would bring with him to a desert island, which I considered to be a pretty strong endorsement-- especially from such an icon as Rushdie. Additionally, this book won the Nobel Prize in 1982 and has the somewhat more dubious honor of being in "Oprah's Book Club." Also, in case you are interested Tom Hanks is reading the book in the very beginning of the hilarious Turner and Hooch.
O.Y.O.S. was one of those books that I know was a great novel, but I cannot tell you it grabben me in the same way some of my favorites have. Not to say that I am in anyway saying I was disappointed. The prose and method of storytelling in this book is incredibly rich and unusual. Over and over again I found that the book not only told me a story and brought me to a different place, but also brought me to a somewhat different reality.
I also found the book very interesting because of the, albeit somewhat indirect, commentary on Latin American history and culture. In college I did a large portion of my history major on Latin American history, which is in my opinion something most Americans do not know a great deal about post-spanish colonialism. The book does a good job of talking about the involvement of American/European business interests in Latin America in a way that is both interesting and also disturbing.
Finally, although my travels in Latin America were very very brief, my visit to Maraciabo, Venezuela and some of the surrounding areas gave me a chance to see a Latin America that I felt reflected in this book.
One Hundred Years of Solitude can be a challenging read (in my opinion), but ultimately a very rewarding one.
Al Franken. The Truth, with Jokes.
This book was a Christmas gift from Wendy's parents. I was very excited to get this book because when I had read the back cover of it in Target one afternoon, I started cracking up just by reading the back of the dust jacket.
Now, I am guessing some of you may not agree with Franken and may already be looking down your nose at me for reading this or including it my reviews, but let me say this:
1. This book was very very funny. Especially if you like Franken's dry humor, it is hard to to laugh out loud and be consistently entertained by this book.
2. Franken does a very good job of being critical of the present administration and among other things, the war in Iraq.
I do not feel the need to explain #1, so I am going to move onto #2. As I have admitted before, I was pretty strongly against Clinton while he was in office. I would honestly say that I have grown increasingly liberal as the Bush administration has remained in power. Thus, I think my enthusiasm for this book does not come so much from some sort of partisanship, but rather from a predisposition of always being critical of those in power. Personally, I see this as a good thing. People in power, such as George W. Bush or John Kerry for that matter, are, I am sorry- not every day people. The majority of white men running our country are extremely wealthy, to an extent that you and I will likely never achieve in our life times and owe their positions in large part to advantages they have had since birth that are not available to everyone. I am not saying this is a univeral truth, but it is certainly very common. Commentators like Franken do a good job of, if nothing else, pointing out the errors, inconsistencies, and more importantly- fraudulent or untruthful behavior of those in power. I do not see any of this as inherently awful-- but I do think that the watchdog function is invaluable. While you may question Franken's objectivity, I think he does a good job of being entertaining while uncovering important facts.
Additionally- the chapters that Franken devotes to DeLay and Abramoff is eerie to me this week as DC lobbyist Abramoff is indicted.