Books

Hey, look! Another repository for a list of media I consume! This is Phase 1 in my inevitable takeover of Oprah’s book club vis a vis bloody coup d’etat. That being said, here you’ll find some of the books I’ve recently read AND enjoyed. So, if I read the latest biography of Paris Hilton or historical account of ExxonMobil’s founding and don’t find it to my liking, it won’t end up here. Thus, I offer my services as book reviewer, sans actual review.

Last updated 6/24/2011

moneyball Moneyball by Michael Lewis

Billy Beane, the Oakland A’s general manager, is leading a revolution. Reinventing his team on a budget, he needs to outsmart the richer teams. He signs undervalued players whom the scouts consider flawed but who have a knack for getting on base, scoring runs, and winning games. Moneyball is a quest for the secret of success in baseball and a tale of the search for new baseball knowledge—insights that will give the little guy who is willing to discard old wisdom the edge over big money.

game of thrones A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin

Long ago, in a time forgotten, a preternatural event threw the seasons out of balance. In a land where summers can last decades and winters a lifetime, trouble is brewing. The cold is returning, and in the frozen wastes to the north of Winterfell, sinister and supernatural forces are massing beyond the kingdom’s protective Wall. At the center of the conflict lie the Starks of Winterfell, a family as harsh and unyielding as the land they were born to. Sweeping from a land of brutal cold to a distant summertime kingdom of epicurean plenty, here is a tale of lords and ladies, soldiers and sorcerers, assassins and bastards, who come together in a time of grim omens.

Here an enigmatic band of warriors bear swords of no human metal; a tribe of fierce wildlings carry men off into madness; a cruel young dragon prince barters his sister to win back his throne; and a determined woman undertakes the most treacherous of journeys. Amid plots and counterplots, tragedy and betrayal, victory and terror, the fate of the Starks, their allies, and their enemies hangs perilously in the balance, as each endeavors to win that deadliest of conflicts: the game of thrones.

the wave The Wave by Susan Casey

For centuries, mariners have spun tales of gargantuan waves, 100-feet high or taller. Until recently scientists dis­missed these stories—waves that high would seem to violate the laws of physics. But in the past few decades, as a startling number of ships vanished and new evidence has emerged, oceanographers realized something scary was brewing in the planet’s waters. They found their proof in February 2000, when a British research vessel was trapped in a vortex of impossibly mammoth waves in the North Sea—including several that approached 100 feet.

As scientists scramble to understand this phenomenon, others view the giant waves as the ultimate challenge. These are extreme surfers who fly around the world trying to ride the ocean’s most destructive monsters. The pioneer of extreme surfing is the legendary Laird Hamilton, who, with a group of friends in Hawaii, figured out how to board suicidally large waves of 70 and 80 feet. Casey follows this unique tribe of peo­ple as they seek to conquer the holy grail of their sport, a 100­-foot wave.

In this mesmerizing account, the exploits of Hamilton and his fellow surfers are juxtaposed against scientists’ urgent efforts to understand the destructive powers of waves—from the tsunami that wiped out 250,000 people in the Pacific in 2004 to the 1,740-foot-wave that recently leveled part of the Alaskan coast.

Like Jon Krakauer’s Into Thin Air, The Wave brilliantly portrays human beings confronting nature at its most ferocious.

the road The Road by Cormac McCarthy

A father and his son walk alone through burned America. Nothing moves in the ravaged landscape save the ash on the wind. It is cold enough to crack stones, and when the snow falls it is gray. The sky is dark. Their destination is the coast, although they don’t know what, if anything, waits them there. They have nothing; just a pistol to defend themselves against the lawless bands that stalk the road, the clothes they are wearing, a cart of scavenged food–and each other.

The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold

When we first meet 14-year-old Susie Salmon, she is already in heaven. This was before milk carton photos and public service announcements, she tells us; back in 1973, when Susie mysteriously disappeared, people still believed these things didn’t happen. In the sweet, untroubled voice of a precocious teenage girl, Susie relates the awful events of her death and her own adjustment to the strange new place she finds herself. It looks a lot like her school playground, with the good kind of swing sets. With love, longing, and a growing understanding, Susie watches her family as they cope with their grief, her father embarks on a search for the killer, her sister undertakes a feat of amazing daring, her little brother builds a fort in her honor and begin the difficult process of healing. In the hands of a brilliant novelist, this story of seemingly unbearable tragedy is transformed into a suspenseful and touching story about family, memory, love, heaven, and living.

City on the Edge by Mark Goldman

At the beginning of the twentieth century, the city of Buffalo, New York, looked toward a future of great promise. During this era, the city was the host of a prestigious world’s fair, The Pan American Exposition, and an industrial behemoth, the Lackawanna Steel Company, had just opened its doors. Buffalonians at this time had every reason to believe that these massive and impressive signs of progress augured well for the balance of the century.

One hundred years later, at the beginning of the twenty-first century, Buffalo is on the verge of bankruptcy, and a new generation of citizens looks back wistfully, wondering what happened and where, now, they are headed.

In a sweeping narrative that speaks to the serious student of urban studies as well as the general reader, Mark Goldman tells the story of twentieth-century Buffalo, New York. Goldman covers all of the major developments:

· The rise and decline of the city’s downtown and ethnic neighborhoods
· The impact of racial change and suburbanization
· The role and function of the arts in the life of the community
· Urban politics, urban design, and city planning

While describing the changes that so drastically altered the form, function, and character of the city, Goldman, through detailed descriptions of special people and special places, gives a sense of intimacy and immediacy to these otherwise impersonal historical forces.

City on the Edge unflinchingly documents and describes how Buffalo has been battered by the tides of history. But it also describes the unique characteristics that have encouraged an innovative cultural climate, including Buffalo’s dynamic survival instinct that continues to lead to a surprisingly and inspiringly high quality of community life.

Finally, it offers a road map, which—if followed—could point the way to a new and exciting future for this long-troubled city.

The Book of Basketball by Bill Simmons

There is only one writer on the planet who possesses enough basketball knowledge and passion to write the definitive book on the NBA.* Bill Simmons, the from-the-womb hoops addict known to millions as ESPN.com’s Sports Guy, is that writer. And The Book of Basketball is that book.

Nowhere in the roundball universe will you find another single volume that covers as much in such depth as this wildly opinionated and thoroughly entertaining look at the past, present, and future of pro basketball.

From the age-old question of who actually won the rivalry between Bill Russell and Wilt Chamberlain to the one about which team was truly the best of all time, Simmons opens–and then closes, once and for all–every major pro basketball debate. Then he takes it further by completely reevaluating not only how NBA Hall of Fame inductees should be chosen but how the institution must be reshaped from the ground up, the result being the Pyramid: Simmons’s one-of-a-kind, five-level shrine to the ninety-six greatest players in the history of pro basketball. And ultimately he takes fans to the heart of it all, as he uses a conversation with one NBA great to uncover that coveted thing: The Secret of Basketball.

Comprehensive, authoritative, controversial, hilarious, and impossible to put down (even for Celtic-haters), “The Book of Basketball” offers every hardwood fan a courtside seat beside the game’s finest, funniest, and fiercest chronicler.

* More to the point, he’s the only one crazy enough to try to pull it off.

Under the Banner of Heaven by Jon Krakauer

On July 24, 1984, a woman and her infant daughter were murdered by two brothers who believe they were ordered to kill by God. The roots of their crime lie deep in the history of an American religion practiced by millions…

In Cold Blood by Truman Capote

On November 15, 1959, in the small town of Holcomb, Kansas, four members of the Clutter family were savagely murdered by blasts froma shotgun held a few inches from their faces. There was no apparent motive for the crime, and there were almost no clues. As Truman Capote reconstructs the murder and the investigation that led to the capture, trial, and execution of the killers, he generates both mesmerizing suspense and astonishing empathy. In Cold Blood is a work that transcends its moment, yielding poignant insights into the nature of American violence.

Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton

An astonishing technique for recovering and cloning dinosaur DNA has been discovered. Now, one of mankind’s most thrilling fantasies has come true. Creatures extinct for eons now roam Jurassic Park with their awesome presence and profound mystery and all the world can visit them–for a price.

Until something goes wrong…

Replay by Ken Grimwood

Jeff Winston was forty-three and trapped in a tepid marriage and a dead-end job, waiting for that time when he could be truly happy, when he died.

And then he woke up and he was eighteen, with all his memories of the next twenty-five years intact. He could live his life again, avoiding the mistakes, making money from his knowledge of the future, seeking happiness. Until he dies at forty-three and wakes up back in college again…

Children of Dune by Frank Herbert

The sand-blasted world of Arrakis has become green, watered and fertile. Old Paul Atreides, who led the desert Fremen to political and religious domination of the galaxy, is gone. But for the children of Dune, the very blossoming of their land contains the seeds of its own destruction. The altered climate is destroying the giant sandworms, and this in turn is disastrous for the planet’s economy. Leto and Ghanima, Paul Atreides’s twin children and his heirs, can see possible solutions – but fanatics begin to challenge the rule of the all-powerful Atreides empire, and more than economic disaster threatens…

No Country For Old Men by Cormac McCarthy

Llewelyn Moss, hunting antelope near the Rio Grande, instead finds men shot dead, a load of heroin, and more than $2 million in cash. Packing the money out, he knows, will change everything. But only after two more men are murdered does a victim’s burning car lead Sheriff Bell to the carnage out in the desert, and he soon realizes how desperately Moss and his young wife need protection. One party in the failed transaction hires an ex–Special Forces officer to defend his interests against a mesmerizing freelancer, while on either side are men accustomed to spectacular violence and mayhem. The pursuit stretches up and down and across the border, each participant seemingly determined to answer what one asks another: how does a man decide in what order to abandon his life?

The Human Stain by Philip Roth

It is 1998, the year in which America is whipped into a frenzy of prurience by the impeachment of a president, and in a small New England town, an aging classics professor, Coleman Silk, is forced to retire when his colleagues decree that he is a racist. The charge is a lie, but the real truth about Silk would have astonished his most virulent accuser.

Coleman Silk has a secret. one which has been kept for fifty years: from his wife, his four children, his colleagues, and his friends, including the writer Nathan Zuckerman, who sets out to understand how this eminent, upright man, esteemed as an educator for nearly all his life, had fabricated his identity and how that cannily controlled life came unraveled.

Shutter Island by Dennis Lehane

The year is 1954. U.S. Marshal Teddy Daniels and his new partner, Chuck Aule, have come to Shutter Island, home of Ashecliffe Hospital for the Criminally Insane, to investigate the disappearance of a patient. Multiple murderess Rachel Solando is loose somewhere on this remote and barren island, despite having been kept in a locked cell under constant surveillance. As a killer hurricane bears relentlessly down upon them, a strange case takes on even darker, more sinister shades–with hints of radical experimentation, horrifying surgeries, and lethal countermoves made in the cause of a covert shadow war. No one is going to escape Shutter Island unscathed, because nothing at Ashecliffe Hospital is what it seems. But then neither is Teddy Daniels.

A Civil Action by Jonathan Harr

Children in Woburn, Massachusetts began getting leukemia in unusually high numbers in the mid-1960s. At about the same time, the water from two local wells began to taste of chemicals. Despite the complaints of local residents, the wells were not permanently closed until 1979. The site was put on the federal Superfund list, but the leukemia cases continued to mount. Five families from the area hired a law firm in 1980, and in 1982 their attorney filed a complaint. This is the story of that lawsuit, in which the defendants were W.R. Grace and Beatrice Foods, who owned the facilities which the plaintiffs claimed caused the solvent trichloroethylene to contaminate the wells. This is a story of how the law is administered, and how, somewhere in that process, justice gets lost.

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