What’s Cool on JP’s Kindle

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I finally caved.  This self proclaimed bibliophile traded in his cherished flyleaf, raised bands, and back bindings for the latest upgrade to Gutenberg’s printing press: the Kindle.  Perhaps it was my gluttony run a muck and Kindle’s promised ability to hold 3,500 books.  Perhaps it was my instant-satisfaction-addiction and Kindle’s amazing delivery of a book in under sixty seconds via its 3G network.  Perhaps it was Kindle’s battery life that can get through Herman Melville’s tale of the angry whale and still leave a few leisurely hours for Tolstoy’s War and Peace.  Whatever the case the print purists of the world will never forgive me, and techno-nerds are welcoming me home.

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As a regular facet of my presence on the web I will be updating the books I am reading on my kindle.  I regularly have five books of more going at a time (different genres of fiction, non fiction, light, heavy, pulp, literary).  My reading mood changes like the weather, and my moodiness demands variety.  Currently when you slide the power button on my Kindle’s bottom edge the following book titles appear on my home screen:

Keigo Higashino, The Devotion of Suspect XIshagami is a tortured mathematician at an underachieving high school; tortured because his brilliant mind must teach high school math to make a living, and tortured because his awkward socially inept self is secretly in love with his beautiful neighbor Yasuko.  When a villain from Yasuko’s past arrives unexpectedly and is murdered by Yasuko and her daughter Misato, Ishagami takes it upon himself to protect Yasuko and Misato from the prying police detectives.  Will Ishigami’s brilliant mind succeed in leading the police off the trail of the real killers?  And to what length will Ishigami go to secure a future for Yasuko and Misato?  Keigo Higashino is a Japanese author who’s story invites us into a world of deception and dangerous devotion.

Jared Diamond, Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fate of Human Societies–(from the Amazon.com Review) Explaining what William McNeill called The Rise of the West has become the central problem in the study of global history. In Guns, Germs, and Steel Jared Diamond presents the biologist’s answer: geography, demography, and ecological happenstance. Diamond evenhandedly reviews human history on every continent since the Ice Age at a rate that emphasizes only the broadest movements of peoples and ideas. Yet his survey is binocular: one eye has the rather distant vision of the evolutionary biologist, while the other eye–and his heart–belongs to the people of New Guinea, where he has done field work for more than 30 years.

George R. R. Martin, A Game of Thrones: A Song of Ice and Fire: Book One–(from Amazon.com Review) Readers of epic fantasy series are: (1) patient–they are left in suspense between each volume, (2) persistent–they reread or at least review the previous book(s) when a new installment comes out, (3) strong–these 700-page doorstoppers are heavy, and (4) mentally agile–they follow a host of characters through a myriad of subplots. In A Game of Thrones, the first book of a projected six, George R.R. Martin rewards readers with a vividly real world, well-drawn characters, complex but coherent plotting, and beautifully constructed prose, which Locus called “well above the norms of the genre.” Martin’s Seven Kingdoms resemble England during the Wars of the Roses, with the Stark and Lannister families standing in for the Yorks and Lancasters. The story of these two families and their struggle to control the Iron Throne dominates the foreground; in the background is a huge, ancient wall marking the northern border, beyond which barbarians, ice vampires, and direwolves menace the south as years-long winter advances. Abroad, a dragon princess lives among horse nomads and dreams of fiery reconquest. There is much bloodshed, cruelty, and death, but A Game of Thrones is nevertheless compelling; it garnered a Nebula nomination and won the 1996 Locus Award for Best Fantasy Novel.

What Used to Be Cool on JP’s Kindle

Kurt Vonnegut, Slaughterhouse Five–Billy Pilgrim has become unstuck in time.  This condition is brought about by Pilgrim’s alien abduction to the planet Tralfamadore.  The result causes Pilgrim’s life to be played out before the readers eyes in an anachronistic snippets of hysterical misfortune.  The novel should not be mistaken for a comedy however.  The events of Billy’s life, including the fire bombing of Dresden which occurs while Billy is a P.O.W. held in ‘Slaughterhouse Five’, offer a poignant social commentary, and are in parts autobiographical, chronicling Vonnegut’s own experiences as a POW.

Madeleine L’ Engle, A Wrinkle in Time–We all read it as a kid and now I am reading L’Engle’s classic to my children each night before bed.  Meg, Charles Wallace, and Calvin are special.  In the hunt for Meg and Charles’s missing father the three will find out just how special they are.  Remember again the terror of It and the power of the Tesser.

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Anne Lamott, Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life–Think you’ve got a book inside of you? Anne Lamott isn’t afraid to help you let it out. She’ll help you find your passion and your voice, beginning from the first really crummy draft to the peculiar letdown of publication. Readers will be reminded of the energizing books of writer Natalie Goldberg and will be seduced by Lamott’s witty take on the reality of a writer’s life, which has little to do with literary parties and a lot to do with jealousy, writer’s block and going for broke with each paragraph. Marvelously wise and best of all, great reading.

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William Gibson, Neuromancer–If owning a Kindle didn’t make me a techno-nerd then plugging Gibson’s book that launched the so-called ‘cyberpunk’ generation certainly will.  Neuromancer is a brilliantly written (literary) sci-fi thriller about a washed up space cowboy named Case who is given a second chance to live life as cyber-hacker in a dangerous world of theft and espionage.  The novel’s brave new world is fueled by Gibson’s creative vision exploring the interface of human physiology and computers.  Gibson’s novel is the first to win the holy trinity of science fiction: The Hugo Award, the Nebula Award, and the Philip K. Dick award.

Paulo Coelho, The Alchemist (10nth anniversary edition)Santiago is an Andalusian shepherd boy who is encouraged by a mysterious figure to go in search of his dream–a hidden treasure somewhere in the vicinity of the Egyptian pyramids.  What follows for Santiago is a magical tale of great adventures and challenging life lessons.  Along the way Santiago learns of the fabled Alchemists who can help Santiago find ‘the soul of the world.’  In the company of the Alchemist Santiago discovers that every second spent chasing his dreams is a second’s encounter with God and eternity.  This book by Brazilian author Paulo Coelho is hailed as a modern classic.  Currently it is translated into 67 languages making it the most translated book by a living author.

Barry Cunliffe, Druids: A Very Short IntroductionThis is a non-fiction work I am reading from the ‘Very Short Introduction’ series of books to give me an overview of the history of Druidism for a fiction piece I am working on.  Cunliffe is a professor of European Archaeology at Oxford University.  From the Amazon.com review: The Druids have been known and discussed for at least 2400 years, first by Greek writers and later by the Romans, who came in contact with them in Gaul and Britain. According to these sources, they were a learned caste who officiated in religious ceremonies, taught the ancient wisdoms, and were revered as philosophers. But few figures flit so elusively through history, and the Druids remain enigmatic and puzzling to this day. In this Very Short Introduction, one of the leading authorities on British archaeology, Barry Cunliffe, takes the reader on a fast-paced look at the ever-fascinating story of the Druids, as seen in the context of the times and places in which they practiced. Sifting through the evidence, Cunliffe offers an expert’s best guess as to what can be said and what can’t be said about the Druids, discussing the origins of the Druids and the evidence for their beliefs and practices, why the nature of the druid caste changed quite dramatically over time, and how successive generations have seen them in very different ways.

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