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{Book Review}

{Favorite Reads of 2005}


As I find new hobies by the minute, time becomes an issue when it comes to whatever it is I'm reading. So this past year I tended to read more essays, short stories and graphic novels than ever before. Here are some of my favorites.

Bob Dylan- Chronicles Vol.1
I guess it should really come as no big surprise that Bob Dylan's memoir (much like his music) is riveting and full of insight and depth. Chronicles Vol.1 begins with Dylan's move from Minnesota to Greenwich Village circa 1960 and brings to life all the influential books he discovered, the establishments he frequented and the people he met. Greenwich Village comes alive through the pages as Dylan reflects on poignant moments in his life and encounters with people whom he found inspiration in (i.e. Thelonious Monk, Gorgeous George, Jack Dempsey, and Frank Sinatra Jr.). Dylan comments on the sorry state of radio (…some things never change). "I still kept turning the radio on. probably more out of mindless habit than anything else. Sadly whatever it played reflected nothing but milk and sugar and not the real Jekyll and Hyde themes of the times. The ‘On The Road’, ‘Howl’, and ‘Gasoline’ street ideologies that were signaling a new type of human existence weren't there, but how could you have expected it to be? 45 records were incapable of it."
You also get a real sense of his love for written word- "There was a letter from Archibald MacLeish waiting for me on the table. MacLeish, Poet Laureate of America-one of them. Carl Sandburg, poet of the prairie and the city, and Robert Frost, the poet of dark meditations were others. MacLeish was the poet of the night stones and the quick earth. These three were the Yeats, Browning, and Shelley of the new world, were gigantic figures, had defined the landscape of twentieth-century America. They put everything in perspective. Even if you didn't know their poems, you knew their names". He even slams the door on truth- "Truth was the last thing on my mind, and even if there was such a thing, I didn't want it in my house. Oedipus went looking for the truth and when he found it, it ruined him. It was a cruel horror of a joke. So much for the truth. I was gonna talk out of both sides of my mouth and what you heard depended on which side you were standing. If I ever did stumble on any truth, I was gonna sit on it and keep it down". Chronicles explores critical junctures in the early years of his rise to stardom and works it's way unto what would be called the later stages of his career. Simply put this memoir is a literary must for Dylan fans as well as those less enthusiastic to his music.

Chuck Klosterman- Killing Yourself To Live
Once again Klosterman’s uses his trademark ability to find meaning in pop culture. Here's a few exerpts:
(discussing his cd collection) "Another 30 percent of those 2,233 have been played less than five times, including one (The Best of Peter, Paul and Mary) I’ve never even listened to once-it’s still wrapped in cellophane (I store it next to a used copy of Hüsker Dü’s Zen Arcade in the hope that they will slowly fuse into a Pixies’ B-side collection."
"There are a lot of drunks in this world, but people in the Midwest drink differently than everywhere else I’ve ever been; it’s far less recreational. You have to stay focused, you have to work fast, and you have to swallow constantly."
"For a time, I thought it was Robert Plant’s overt misogyny fused with Jimmy Page’s obsession with the occult, since that combination allows adolescent males to reconcile the alienation of unhinged teenage sexuality with their own inescapable geekiness."

Lewis Black- Nothing's Sacred
Lewis Black has been a comic for the last 34 years...building a career out of yelling and screaming. With Nothing's Sacred Black delivers a collection of rants against stupidity and authority that are both hilarious and informative.

Sarah Vowell- Assassination Vacation
I sorta have a thing for NPR's “This American Life” contributing writers and I'm not exactly a history buff, but I find myself engulfed while reading about how Sarah Vowell spent a considerable amount of time and effort trekking to places associated with events of national tragedy...namely, the murders of Presidents Lincoln, Garfield and McKinley.

Chieh Chieng- A Long Stay in a Distant Land
Chieng's debut novel is a family saga told through short and funny vignettes that span through three decades of the Lum family of Orange County, CA. in surprising detail.

David Sedaris- Children Playing Before a Statue of Hercules
Sedaris put together an A-list anthology of his favorites that includes Katherine Mansfield's "The Garden Party," Flannery O'Connor's "Revelation," as well as stories by Alice Munro, Lorrie Moore, Tobias Wolff, Jhumpa Lahiri, Dorothy Parker and Patricia Highsmith. The epilogue (by Sarah Vowell) explains that the proceeds from this collection go to a nonprofit tutoring program designed to help students learn to write.

Nick Hornby- A Long Way Down
A Long Way Down is a novel about four people who meet in an unlikely way and dislike, yet understand each other. Not Hornby at his best but then again this guy could write the same word over and over and I'd probably say it was genius.

Robert Kirkman and Tony Moore-The Waking Dead
The Waking Dead is a wonderful example of just how engaging a well thought out zombie-horror story can be. Even non-zombie lovers can get a kick out of this on-going graphic novel.

Greg Pak and Greg Tocchini - 1602: New World
1602: New World is a 5 issue Marvel Comics Limited Series that is the sequel to the 1602 Miniseries (by Neil Gaiman). The story re-imagines marvel heroes in the year 1602...the plot in New World brings us from England to Roanoke where the hunt for the witchbreed continues.


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