Sunday, May 16, 2010

Book reviews

From my most recent trip to Nampa's woefully inadequate library.

Idaho's Constitution: The Tie That Binds, Dennis Colson. Generally dry and informative. C+

Killing Monsters: Why Children Need Fantasy, Super Heroes, and Make-Believe Violence, Gerard Jones. Take that, Mom! Note that Mr. Jones is a comic book author so there may be a certain conflict of interest. B-

Up Till Now, William Shatner and David Fisher. Is there some kind of school you go to if you want to be a celebrity autobiography ghostwriter? Because they all have the same writing style. Most of these anecdotes appear in Shatner's talk show "Raw Nerve." C+

The Book of General Ignorance, John Lloyd and John Mitchinson. Generally well-written, but I have two bones to pick: first of all, it's no mystery why the ancient Greeks and Egyptians didn't use steam power on a grand scale, it's because their metalworking wasn't advanced enough to create a large steam boiler, and secondly, I don't care if Henry VIII said he only had two wives, we fought a goddamn war so that we didn't have to listen to the king's patently false assertions of how many marriages he had. B

On the Wealth of Nations, P.J. O'Rourke. Watch this video. If you agree with the guy with hair, you'll give this book a D-. If you agree with the bald guy, you'll give it an A-

Baudolino, Umberto Eco. Signed up for medieval adventuring and got sideswiped by gnostic hippie bullshit. C+

More Information Than You Require, John Hodgman. Basically the same thing as The Areas Of My Expertise, but not as funny. Hodgman (who is apparently my #1 celebrity lookalike) cursed himself by including a Secret World Government Recognition Test in the book and now every nerd in the goddamn country is going to approach him in public and say "Then I presume you are a noble?" C+

Bobby the Brain, Bobby Heenan and Steve Anderson. Unremarkable. C

What Grandpa Laughed At, Homer Croy. This book was written in 1948, so its jokes date from the 1890s to World War I. A couple of them are actually kinda funny. C+

Your Flying Car Awaits, Paul Milo. Not as fun as a book about flying cars and robot butlers should be. C

Heidegger and a Hippo Walk Through Those Pearly Gates, Thomas Cathcart and Daniel Klein. Borscht Belty exploration of philosophers' theories on death. B

Concise Book of Lying, Evelin Sullivan. Not a how-to manual. B-

Odd Gods: New Religions and the Cult Controversy, James R. Lewis. Less informative than Wikipedia and with more typos. I gave up halfway through in order to watch "Batman: The Brave and the Bold" on Youtube. F

The Hit Charade: Lou Pearlman, Boy Bands, and the Biggest Ponzi Scheme in U.S. History, Tyler Gray. Note that the title is a little old, *NSYNC was not involved with Bernie Madoff. Author thinks he's clever, but he could've used an accountant's help when writing about the actual scheme. C

The Innocents Abroad, Mark Twain. Twain is so quintessentially American that we don't think of him riding horseback around the Ottoman Empire, but he did, and he wrote about it. Quotable as always (shades of Groundskeeper Willie arise when he describes the Italians as a nation of "macaroni-stuffing organ grinders"). A