wed, 03-jan-2018, 19:32

Well that was disappointing. I’ve read some of George Saunders’s short stories and was entertained, but I didn’t much enjoy Lincoln in the Bardo. It’s the story of Abraham Lincoln coming to the graveyard to visit his newly dead son William, told from the perspective of a variety of lost souls that don’t believe they’re dead. There was no plot to speak of, and none of the large cast of characters was appealing. I did enjoy the sections that were fictional quotes from contemporary histories, many of which contradicted each other on the details, and some of the characters told funny stories, but it didn’t hold together as a novel.

Widely acclaimed, winner of the Man Booker Prize, on many best of 2017 lists. Not my cup of tea.

Music I listened to while reading this:

  • Carlow Town, Seamus Fogarty
  • You’ve Got Tonight, Wiretree
tue, 02-jan-2018, 15:18

It’s one day until The Tournament of Books announces the list of books for this year’s competition, and I’ve been reading some of the Long List, including the book commented on here, Elan Mastai’s All Our Wrong Todays. I throughly enjoyed it. The writing sparkles, the narrator is hilarously self-deprecating, and because of the premise, there is a lot of insightful commentary about contemporary society.

The main plot line is that the main character grew up in an alternative timeline where a device that produces free energy was invented in 1965 and put into the public domain. With free energy and fifty plus years, his world is something of a techonological utopia (especially compared with our present). However, for reasons best left unspoiled, he alters the timeline and is stuck here in our timeline with the rest of us.

The narrator on waking up for the first time in our timeline:

Here, it’s like nobody has considered using even the most rudimentary technology to improve the process. Mattresses don’t subtly vibrate to keep your muscles loose. Targeted steam valves don’t clean your body in slumber. I mean, blankets are made from tufts of plant fiber spun into thread and occasionally stuffed with feathers. Feathers. Like from actual birds.

While there’s a lot of science-fiction concepts in the story, it’s really more of a love story than what it sounds like it’d be. There were a couple plot points I probably would have written differently, but the book is really funny, touching and thoughful. I highly recommend it. Best book I’ve read in 2018 so far…

A couple other quotes I found particularly timely:

Part of the problem is this world is basically a cesspool of misogyny, male entitlement, and deeply demented gender constructs accepted as casual fact by outrageously large swaths of the human population.


People are despondent about the future because they’re increasingly aware that we, as a species, chased an inspiring dream that led us to ruin. We told ourselves the world is here for us to control, so the better our technology, the better our control, the better our world will be. The fact that for every leap in technology the world gets more sour and chaotic is deeply confusing. The better things we build keep making it worse. The belief that the world is here for humans to control is the philosophical bedrock of our civilization, but it’s a mistaken belief. Optimism is the pyre on which we’ve been setting ourselves aflame.

Music I listened to while reading this book:

  • Jesus Christ, Brand New
  • House of Cards, Radiohead
  • Conundrum, Hak Baker
  • Die Young, Sylvan Esso
  • Feat & Force, Vagabon
  • No War, Cari Cari
tags: books  Elan Mastai 
sun, 01-feb-2015, 08:48

I’ve been a bit behind on mentioning the 2015 Tournament of Books. The contestants were announced last month. As usual, here’s the list with a three star rating system for those I've read: ☆ - not worthy, ☆☆ - good, ★★★ - great.

Thus far, my early favorite is, of course, The Bone Clocks by David Mitchell. It's a fantastic book, similar in design to Cloud Atlas, but better. Both All the Light We Cannot See and Dept. of Speculation are distant runner's up. All the Light is great story, told in very short and easy to digest chapters, and Speculation is a funny, heartrending, strange, and ultimately redemptive story of marriage.

tue, 07-jan-2014, 05:47

The list of books for the 2014 Tournament of Books has been released. Once again, I plan to keep the list up to date with what I’ve read and whether I thought each book is good enough to win. One star (☆) means I didn’t like it but managed to finish it, two stars (☆☆) means I liked it but I didn’t think it should win, and three stars (★★★) means it was one of the better books I read this (or last) year and I’d be happy if it won the Tournament. The last several years my personal favorites going into the contest have been eliminated, but thus far I haven’t been disappointed with the eventual winner.

Pre-Tournament Playoff Round

I’ve got a lot of reading to do between now and March, since I’ve only read two of the seventeen books chosen. Some seem like pretty obvious choices, but at least half of them are unfamiliar to me. And I just started reading The Flamethrowers, so I can’t even start on these until I’m done with that book. The good news is that all of them are available as eBooks from my local bookseller (Gulliver’s Books). That probably means they are in Amazon’s Kindle library as well.

Start reading!

fri, 21-dec-2012, 05:52

The 2013 Tournament of Books book list came out yesterday: ToB selections

Here they are, with three star rating system for those I've read, ☆ - not worthy, ☆☆ - good, ★★★ - great. I couldn’t finish Ivyland and wasn’t interested in Dear Life at all, so neither of those are contenders for me.

Main tournament:

Pre-Tournament Playoff Round:

I’ve now read all the main tournament books I’m going to, and two of the “Iraq / Afghanistan” books that are in the Pre-Tournament Playoff. My current pick is Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk, but I wouldn’t be upset if Building Stories, The Fault in Our Stars, Gone Girl, HHhH or Bring Up the Bodies wound up winning. The Orphan Master’s Son is also excellent, but maybe a shade below the other five. Still left to read is the other pre-tournament pick (and the two others I don’t want to waste my time on…).

Updated 2013-01-28

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