Thursday, February 01, 2007

MINI BOOK REVIEWS


(picture found at attaboy.ca/goodies/desktopbg/ )


I have done a LOT of reading during the last four months or so. Here are some of the books I have finished. I sometimes read three or four books during a period of a few weeks. Some of these are ones I have been working on for the last six months and have just recently finished, and others are ones I have devoured in a few days.


STATE OF DENIAL by Bob Woodward - This book would be funny like a sitcom if the idiotic characters weren't running our country and trying to run the rest of the world at the same time. Woodward was late getting to the Bush-bashing party, but this isn't really Bush-bashing... it is a sad chapter in our history, and Woodward reveals much of what has made it that way.


UNCLE TUNGSTEN by Oliver Sacks - Memoirs of the childhood of the prominent neurologist. It is mostly about chemistry and physics, but Sacks is able to write about these scientific topics in very human terms that are mostly understandable to non-comprehending minds such as mine. Wonderful book.


THE MAN IN THE HIGH CASTLE by Philip K. Dick - PKD has become my new favorite author. This book is considered his crowning achievement by many sci-fi readers. The story is about the lives of several people during a time after World War II... when Germany and Japan were the victors. The story takes place in San Francisco and in the western U.S., areas mostly controlled by Japan. Jews must hide or be taken to the German-controlled eastern North America. The title character is the author of an alternative history book about what it might be like... if the U.S. had won the second world war! Fascinating, with good character development.


COUNTER-CLOCK WORLD by Philip K. Dick - Time has stopped and has gone into reverse. People are now living from grave to cradle, getting younger as life goes on. Businesses that resurrect the dead from their graves are becoming profitable. A couple of these outfits are vying to resurrect a highly-influential religious cult leader who will be coming to life just about any day. There are some who don't want the guy to live. Good social commentary, excellent story line.


LETTER TO A CHRISTIAN NATION by Sam Harris - This is kind of a screed, but if you have had it with the narrowness of fundamentalist religion and with what it has done to our country, this little book makes for a satisfying read. It may not pack the insights of another longer, similar book I'm currently working on, Richard Dawkins' "The God Delusion", but it carries a punch and does cause one to consider the ramifications of allowing evangelicals to have too much influence in our country.


WORSE THAN WATERGATE by John W. Dean - Former member of the Nixon administration tells about how the current Bush administration is indeed worse that Nixon's was, in a number of ways. The quest for power is described and analyzed. This is a quick read, and I found it very enjoyable.


THE THREE STIGMATA OF PALMER ELDRITCH by Philip K. Dick - This one describes a world where people can get deported to colonize alien planets. Using the drug Can-D is the only way many of the colonists can survive the dismal existence. Palmer Eldritch is basically the leader and protector of the free universe, and he's a fascinating character. When a new drug, Chew-Z is introduced to the characters in the book, they discover that the worlds they find themselves in are designed by Eldritch and that he is often present and controlling things. Scary and funny at the same time.


NOW WAIT FOR LAST YEAR by Philip K. Dick - Dr. Eric Sweetscent is hired to be personal physician to the most important (and maybe the sickest) person on Earth, Secretary Gino Molinari. Is the illness being used as a manipulative political tool? Meanwhile, Eric's wife is addicted to a drug that causes the user to experience shifts in the fabric of time. Eric ends up taking the drug in order to find ways to help his wife and to help Earth in what appears to be an unwinnable war.


HANNIBAL RISING by Thomas Harris - This book has all the usual demented gore and tragedy that one would expect from Harris. The prose is good. I'm not surprised there is already a movie coming out based on this book... Anyway, if you like his books, you will enjoy this one.


THE SHAPE SHIFTER by Tony Hillerman - Another nice mystery that takes place in the Navajo lands of Arizona and New Mexico, once again with Officer Jim Chee and retired police lieutenant Joe Leaphorn the main characters. It kind of plods along, but that's fine. There is plenty of mystery, some action, some great dialog between characters, and a good feel for life in the Navajo culture. I have read all of Hillerman's books, and I can give a "thumbs up" to all of them. Check him out!


THE LAST TEMPLAR by Raymond Khoury - This is another Dan Brown type thriller about a religious secret the Catholic Church is desperate to protect. Khoury is a screenwriter and producer for TV and film, and he has done a nice job writing this novel. Suspend your disbelief, and enjoy. It's a thick book, but a fast read.


THE CAMEL CLUB by David Baldacci - Bestseller about a group of conspiracy-theorist friends who get involved in something serious. It turns out one member of the group has a checkered past, in which he had something to do with intelligence. Well-plotted, doesn't take long to read, and has likeable if slightly underdeveloped characters.


THE DIVINE INVASION by Philip K. Dick - The world is a technologically-advanced police state. God is actually a being named Yah, living on another world. A "second coming" is underway, and some people are trying to sneak the prospective mother to Earth. Fun, fascinating, contains some spiritual insights. This one was written toward the end of Dick's life, when he had an intense spiritual experience that colored his last few books.


VALIS by Philip K. Dick - The first in his final trio of novels after his "awakening". One review describes this book as one in which God is not only a missing person, but also the perpetrator of the ultimate crime. There are some very dense philosophical passages here, but it thoughtful material, and worth a read. Plus, the main character's name is Horselover Fat!


THE MAN WHO MISTOOK HIS WIFE FOR A HAT by Oliver Sacks - This is a collection of writings on some of the oddest mental conditions I have ever heard of. In the title piece, a man can't recognize faces or objects... parts do not combine to make an understandable whole. Sacks describes twin math savants who have otherwise low IQs... There's one about a guy who kept falling out of bed because he thought his leg was detached and falling out of bed, so he kept having to try and catch it! These are simply amazing stories, told with great heart and with as much empathy as anyone could have for people with such odd conditions.


Next up on my stack of books there is a good-looking sci-fi book called "Century Rain" by Allistair Reynolds, sent to me by J. Marquis of "Major Conflict"! I also have more to read in Richard Dawkins' "The God Delusion" and in "Breaking Open the Head: A Psychedelic Journey into the Heart of Contemporary Shamanism" by Daniel Pinchbeck. There are probably a few other books I'm reading in that I can't remember at the moment.


From the above list of books, one might surmise that I can't seem to get enough Dick. Or that I am a Dickhead. I'm not that kind of guy, really! But I do love Philip K. Dick's mindbending books.


There are definitely too many books to read, and not enough eyes or time to read them all!

11 Comments:

Blogger Sheryl said...

Thanks for the book reviews, Snave. :-) I'm really bad about not reading, but it's interesting to hear what people are writing and reading about.

9:51 PM  
Blogger Lizzy said...

Me, too. I haven't been an avid reader in years, but it's good to have recommendations.

I have the John Dean book, but haven't read it yet.

7:35 PM  
Blogger J. Marquis said...

Good reviews, Snave. If we weren't such good friends I would say you're real a Dickhead.

I've been curious about the Harris book. It's interesting to see someone come right out and unapologetically bash religion in this country.

9:08 PM  
Blogger Tom Harper said...

God, am I illiterate or what. I haven't read any of those books, but they all sound good. Since I started surfing the net a few years ago, my book reading has gone way down. I've done a few posts about current books, but most of them were based on book reviews or interviews with the author and not the book itself.

Freakonomics is the only book I've posted on that I actually read (a great read, BTW).

11:35 AM  
Blogger Kvatch said...

Snave...if you've developed an interest in Philip K Dick, then might be so bold as to suggest Stanislaw Lem. Think you'd enjoy him. Start with 'Mortal Engines'. Fascinating book.

5:17 PM  
Blogger PTCruiser said...

Now you're just showing off, Snave.

6:16 PM  
Blogger Snave said...

Not necessarily, PT! 8-)> I've made some cool discoveries! Tom, I will have to check out "Freakonomics". Sounds like my kind of stuff. K, thanks for the Lem recommendation! Major, I think you'd like the Harris. L,you WILL like the Dean book!

10:12 PM  
Blogger james said...

I sooo want to read "The God Delusion."

I'm a big reader too. Right now I'm reading a book by Zen Buddhist master Thich Nhat Hanh titled, "The Heart of the Buddha's Teachings: Transforming Suffering into Peace, Joy and Liberation."

12:30 PM  
Blogger sumo said...

James...that is sooo such a good book! Snave...I too appreciate your recommendations...I have read some of them and enjoyed them immensely.

1:21 AM  
Blogger james said...

Sumo:

The God Delusion or Hanh's book? I just finished Hanh's book last night and it was great. I love everything I've read from him.

1:21 PM  
Blogger james said...

Sumo:

The God Delusion or Hanh's book? I just finished Hanh's book last night and it was great. I love everything I've read from him.

1:22 PM  

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