Book review: Outlander

By , July 30, 2011

By Diana Gabaldon

Every summer I try to pick some outrageously long book for my summer vacation – mostly, I’m sure, because somewhere in the dark recesses of my brain I feel like I’ll have more time to read.

Yeah right. As my non-reading family likes to tell me, vacation is for vacation, not reading. (shrug)

So anyway, this year I decided to tackle Outlander by Diana Gabaldon (which I did at least start on the penultimate day of my vacation, thank you very much). There are other Outlanders out there, but I’m sure they can’t be as good as this one. As the author’s website says, this book has “history, warfare, medicine, sex, violence, spirituality, honor, betrayal, vengeance, hope and despair, relationships, the building and destruction of families and societies, time travel, moral ambiguity, swords, herbs, horses, gambling (with cards, dice, and lives), voyages of daring, journeys of both body and soul…”

Or a little something for everyone, if you will.

The basic premise: Claire is a modern day Brit who is magically transported 200 years into the past, to Scotland just prior to the Jacobite rising. There she meets Jamie – a red-headed Scot, and together the two begin their adventures.

Thank you to all the 974 people (I counted) who recommended this book to me. It was worth every one of its 850 pages. Epic, yes, but definately not stuffy or boring.

Outlander just celebrated its 20th anniversary, so that could account for some of the renewed interest, but if you haven’t had a chance to read this one, I highly recommend it (me and 983 other people – a few more read it while we were chatting).

What else do you have to do? It’s too hot to be outside…

Happy reading…
:) Amanda

PS There are seven total books in this series – each as long as the last. So if you are looking for something to keep you safe in the air conditioning until, say, Christmas when it finally cools off, this is the series for you.

Book Review: Submarine

By , July 26, 2011

by Joe Dunthorne

“When I am very sad, I tend toward symbolism,” reveals Welsh teen Oliver Tate, the character at the center of Submarine, as he navigates the path he used to walk with his now ex-girlfriend.  Submarine is not the kind of book I normally consume (mysteriescookbooks, and cat psychology), and I almost put down Joe Dunthorne’s novel due to the selfishness and cruelty Oliver exhibits towards others.  But I reminded myself “its just fiction, silly!”, and continued to read for the smartly eloquent and effortlessly hip writing.  By the end Oliver Tate kind of gets his comeuppance, which left me satisfied and reminiscing about American novels like Thumbsucker, and The Basic EightRichard Ayoade (whom you might know from The Mighty Boosh and The IT Crowd)  adapted the screenplay and directed the 2010 film based on the novel, which is set to come out on DVD this fall.           -crystal

Take a Road Trip…with Zombies!

By , July 12, 2011

Looking for audio books that are humorous and filled with the undead? If you’ve yet to check out Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, your next road trip will be a perfect opportunity.   It’s two parts Pride and Prejudice, one part zombies.   For those purists who find this idea repulsive, several of my Austen-devoted friends really enjoyed and laughed at this book.  And while we’re talking parodies and mashups, check out The Zombies of Lake Woebegotten, where all the women are brave, the men pure of heart, and the zombies are starving for brains.  On a slightly related note, it’s not too early to start planning for this year’s Zombie Walk!

Popmatic Podcast July 2011

By , July 12, 2011

Silence : Lectures and writings by John CageIn honor of our nation’s independence we bring you a Sousa-less run down of our favorite American musicians. Name a Canadian and you get kicked out. And what Tickles Our Fancy: icy mountains, old clothes, and internet security fails. We’re a wily bunch!

Check out items mentioned during this episode from Nashville Public Library (worldcat list)

Works by Chet Baker

Book review: The Information

By , July 11, 2011

The Information: A History, A Theory, A Flood
by James Gleick

This is book is a history of information theory and an examination of how this theory impacted other scientific fields and society as a whole. The gist of information theory is that it measures information quantitatively regardless of meaning. Thinking about information in this way helps a lot when thinking about quantum physics and molecular biology. The theory originated within electrical engineering and it is there; e.g., digital formats, microcomputers, and the internet, that it affects our everyday lives the most. Or maybe it is our DNA where it affects us the most? You will learn a lot about the unsung heroes who created our conceptions of contemporary scientific ideas. Though Gleick profiles a lot of  scientists with nova-like minds, it feels like the book is a tribute to Claude Shannon. If you read between the lines, Gleick feels maybe Shannon hasn’t gotten his due in popular culture as much as other one name science icons.

For subject matter as inherently mathematical (and some would say dry as Jeff Fisher’s mouth the day he got fired) Gleick’s book is very engaging. I listened the audio version, so extra kudos to reader Rob Shapiro for enlivening the text. You will learn a heady amount about randomness, codes, symbolic logic and talking drums but Gleick doesn’t do a good enough job tying it all together. Individual chapters will blow your mind but the whole book doesn’t hang together well. Nor does it explain how Shannon’s information theory led to the internet (at least enough to satisfy me) despite the fact the book is marketed as such. Considering the difficulty of the task at hand, I’ll give Gleick a pass. This book will put a new wrinkle on your brain.

Recommended for science nerds, math wonks, snoot librarians, or anyone who made it past the sentence “this book is a history of information theory…”

But yeah, Claude Shannon deserves a postage stamp.

Fourth of July pick: Ray

By , July 4, 2011

by Barry Hannah

This book has nothing specifically to do with the Fourth other than the bottle rocket on the cover, but it still seems like an appropriate selection because once it starts burning it doesn’t stop until everyone is drunk, sweaty and maybe one the of the kids should go to the hospital.

Ray is a small town doctor in the deep south that struggles with his personal addictions and the quirks of other addicts that infiltrate his conscious. As a physician, he sees it all. He judges naught. His own jumps on and off the wagons of sobriety and fidelity have given him a stoic view. Ray’s mind gets lost sometimes though in memories of his time flying jets in Vietnam and texts of Hernando de Soto’s conquest of Alabama. The insomnia and liquor don’t help this phenomena much. But sometimes Dr. Ray is clean and strait and loves his second wife and she loves him back just the way he likes.

No one writes like Barry Hannah. His prose is firecrackers. Ray is poetry.

Book Review: Battle of the Ice Road Truckers

By , July 2, 2011

You’ve seen them on TV as they “dash for the cash.” Now you can bring them home to your house as you “speed to read.”

That’s right, both Hugh Rowland and Alex Debogorski have written books chronicling what life is like as an Ice Road Trucker.  Let’s compare and contrast, shall we?

Cover: On Thin IceIRT BOOK #1: On Thin Ice
By Hugh Rowland

Rowland, aka The Polar Bear, has been a driver with IRT since the beginning of the show (5 seasons now!). Originally from Canada, Hugh has been running the ice roads for almost 30 years. He’s a little rough around the edges, but suprisingly committed and focused on his work.

On the TV show, Rowland comes off as pompous and gruff, but after reading this book, I have more respect for the man and everything he’s accomplished. The guy has always been an enterprising go getter – and he made a $30,000 deal when he was just 12.  His book is great at giving us more behind the scenes info on what it’s like to be an ice road trucker.

IRT BOOK #2: King of the Road
By Alex Debogorski

another 30 year vet on Canada’s dangerous ice roads, Alex, on the other hand, never met a story he didn’t like to tell. Pretty much everything he says starts with, “Ok, this one time a buddy and me…”

It’s not a bad trait, and each story is pretty interesting, it’s just that Alex doesn’t even start talking about life on the ice roads until the last quarter of the book.  It’s kind of sad, really, because Alex is such a nice guy, and he’s one of my favorite drivers on the show, but sometimes I just wanted to yell at him – get to the point! I wish he would have talked more about driving and less about all the wild and crazy times he had growing up.

So the winner of this Battle of the Ice Road Truckers is…

Hugh The Polar Bear Rowland!  Yeah!!!!

Ok, now the skinny on how to bring these books home with you today (or in the near future): The library has Hugh’s book in our system, so all you need to do is put a hold on one today. Unfortunately, we don’t have Alex’s book ready, but if you access our Interlibrary Loan Service, we’ll be happy to get it for you. Also, feel free to check out July’s Popmatic Podcast, where we briefly discuss the world of IRT.

Then tune in on Sunday nights at 8 on The History Channel to watch IRT with me.

Happy reading and keep on truckin’…
:) Amanda

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