Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Splash du Jour: Tuesday

I ask you right here please to agree with me that a scar is never ugly. That is what the scar makers want us to think. But you and I, we must make an agreement to defy them. We must see all scars as beauty. Okay? This will be our secret. Because take it from me, a scar does not form on the dying. A scar means, I survived.
-- Chris Cleave, Little Bee --

Have a great Tuesday!

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Going For Gold

I really liked the last book I read and wanted to recommend it to my readers, even though I may be one of the last people on earth to have discovered Chris Cleave's work. Which is to say, you've maybe already read Gold. Or Little Bee. Or Incendiary. His books sell like hotcakes, and he is the kind of author who enjoys a word-of-mouth cult following. There's a light, humorous way he gets his serious message across that tends to lend itself to the idea that all your friends should read the book, too. 
That is at least how I felt, and feel, about Gold.
It's about Olympic-level cycling.
No it isn't.
He just uses the phenomenon of Olympic competition to tell the deeper story of how love is really the prize in life everyone strives hardest to achieve and maintain.
It just runs deeper, love does.
It's a brilliant book that makes one realize that a medal, even a gold one, is in the end, well… metal. The true desire to care for other human beings is the lifeblood that makes us who we are.
Rather than go on about it, I will include here a clip of the author himself, explaining the gist of his book. If you haven't read it yet keep your eye open for it in your travels. The book accelerates, the last half better than the first -- like a good race. And the final 75 pages will have your heart pumping as if you yourself were pushing past the wall of physical and emotional endurance in the bright lights of the velodrome.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Splash du Jour: Thursday

I say that humans are the only ones in this world that need everything within it...But there is nothing in the world that needs us for its survival. We aren't the masters of the earth. We're the servants.
-- Joseh Boyden, The Orenda --

Have a great Thursday!

Monday, January 19, 2015

Splash du Jour: Monday

Other writers are like a garden diligently planted and watered, but Shakespeare a forest where the oaks and elms toss their branches to the storm, where the pine towers, where the vine bursts into blossoms at its foot. Whenever I read Shakespeare -- if it ever happens that I fail to find some new beauty, some new presentation of some wonderful truth, or another word that bursts into blossom, I shall make up my mind that my mental faculties are failing, that it is not the fault of the book.
-- Robert G. Ingersoll --

Have a great Monday!

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Remaindered Books

I'm quite a fan of "remaindered books". I think it goes hand in hand with the fact that I am also a fan of "not spending money". But seriously, I do love to browse those "Bargain" sections of large bookstores and see if anything new has found its way to that level of price reduction since the last time I checked… which means usually like, the day before today! Remaindered books are printed books that are no longer selling well and whose remaining unsold copies are being liquidated by the publisher at greatly reduced prices. "Sometimes at upwards of 80% off," he said while salivating. Often they appear shortly after the initial hardcover sales of a new release have given way to the newly minted trade paperback version. While the publisher takes a loss on the sales of these books, they are able to make some money off the sale and clear out space in the warehouses. So if you are able to nab a good one, it's a win-win situation! Most will have that slash of felt-tip marker ink across the top or bottom of the book's pages, near the spine, and this is done to prevent the book from being returned and mistakingly redeemed at full value.
Anyhoo -- I just wanted to say that over the years I have found terrific books -- tons of them, really, as remainders. I once thought that their banishment to the Bargain section was synonymous with the fact that they were not a good book. And while this is sometimes the case, it is not necessarily so. Some of the best books I have ever read have been rescued by me [from a certain death by shredding, no less] and thoroughly enjoyed even though their saleability did not meet the publisher's expectations. But then again, my criteria for book buying has never been in step with what most of the world is reading. I'm an odd fish, in that respect. 

So, remaindered books. Trust yourself to buy them. The fact that they're there doesn't ipso facto mean they're bad.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Splash du Jour: Wednesday

While I am opposed to all orthodox creeds, I have a creed myself; and my creed is this. Happiness is the only good. The time to be happy is now. The place to be happy is here. The way to be happy is to make others so. The creed is somewhat short, but it is long enough for this life, strong enough for this world. If there is another world, when we get there we can make another creed.
-- Robert Green Ingersoll, spoken in 1894 --

Have a great Wednesday!

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Splash du Jour: Tuesday

I've developed a great reputation for wisdom by ordering more books than I ever had time to read, and reading more books, by far, than I learned anything useful from, except, of course, that some very tedious gentlemen have written books.
-- Marilynne Robinson, Gilead --

Have a great Tuesday!

Friday, January 09, 2015

Splash du Jour: Friday

Umm... is it just me? Or does Ellen DeGeneres look a lot like Henry David Thoreau?

Have a great Friday!

Wednesday, January 07, 2015

Favorite Books of 2014...

Last year was not a benchmark year for me, reading-wise.
Nor, blogging-wise.
I'm speaking of quantity, in both respects.
In all, I read 46 books, which is well below my average amount -- but if you count The Luminaries as being longer than four normal novels -- hey, now I'm past 50.
Speaking of which, I turned 51 last year, too -- so maybe that has something to do with it all. Early onset senility?
At any rate -- I thought I would drop by just long enough to mention some books that really impressed me, throughout the year. It's actually hard to narrow it down to a select few -- and forgive me, but neither do I have the time tonight to really expound much upon any of them. 

[Have you ever heard more disclaimers in a single blog-posting?]…
What do I mean when I say a book "impressed" me?
I mean -- I read them quickly, and they entirely arrested my attention, throughout.
And based on that simple criteria, here are my selections of really great books from the past year:

Firstly, An American Tragedy [circa 1925, no less] by Theodore Dreiser. The story of young Clyde Griffiths, who ultimately forfeits his life in desperate pursuit of success. I found it riveting throughout, and it remains my favorite read of the year.
And now, in no order of supremacy -- others that I loved: 

The Tortilla Curtain, by T.C. Boyle. This guy is one of my favorite living writers. An illegal Mexican immigrant sneaks over the border and tries to make his way in the good ol' U.S. of A. With his pregnant lover. It does not work. Boyle tells a rip-roaring, relevant story. 
Tipping The Velvet, by Sarah Waters. Does this writer ever really miss the mark? I think not. It has all the terrific twists and turns and taboo-shearing ribaldry that make her one of my favorite writers.  
The Children Act, by Ian McEwan. In this, his latest work, McEwan rivals his own talents in Atonement and On Chesil Beach -- showing us that literature is alive and well in the world. I could not put the thing down until the last page.
Dirty Love, by Andre Dubus III. This collection of inter-connected short stories -- honestly, with every story I stopped and had to ask myself, "What kind of beer is this guy drinking?"
I need to go out and pick up some of that * * * * ing beer!
Maddadam, by Margaret Atwood. In my opinion, the best volume of her end-times trilogy. Having said that, it's not really a stand-alone, I do think you need to read the other two first, to get the full whammy. The pigoons in this one take center-stage.
When Nietzsche Wept, by Irvin D. Yalom. A deep psychologically challenging fictionalized portrait of the tormented soul of Nietzsche. It was wonderful to read such a richly satisfying novel, and discover such a fine author. 
The Executioner's Song, by Norman Mailer. Over a thousand pages. None of them boring. This is the true-life story of convicted killer Gary Gilmore of the 1970's. A man who challenged the state of Utah to put him to death. To execute him. He wanted no appeals, no mercy. This book has the power to challenge ideologies concerning the idea of capital punishment. 
What is it we are accomplishing, when we kill someone who has killed someone?

I also must mention that I read a non-fiction book that I want to highly recommend.
Albert Speer: His Battle For Truth, by Gitta Sereny. Anyone interested in the Nazi-era would do well to read this book. It weighs about 40 pounds, but seriously, I was riveted to Sereny's depiction of this war-criminal who escaped an almost sure sentence of death, during the Nuremberg Trials.

And now, to 2015. I'm well on my way to a terrific year of resolving to read more, blog more, think more. And to being increasingly aware of the fact that the world of reading and learning is the world in which I find myself the happiest.
I started off by buying a brighter light-bulb for my reading lamp -- oh the wonders of IKEA© -- to help with my decreasing levels of eyesight, as I ascend ever further into the interesting world of this next half-century of life…