34. A Person of Interest by Susan Choi
I didn’t care too much for this book. Mostly because I didn’t really care for the main character. He was just kind of pathetic, and even though he never really did anything wrong I just didn’t feel sorry for him when he wound up in all kinds of trouble that wasn’t his fault. The main character is Lee, a long-ago Japanese immigrant to the US, who is a math professor at a small mid-western college. I got really annoyed by the fact that for some reason he was only ever referred to as Lee, while every other character in the book got both a first and last name. I hate it when authors do crap like that. The book begins when the professor in the office next door to him is killed by a mail bomb. The FBI eventually designates Lee as a “Person of Interest” in the investigation, thinking he knows something about who the terrorist is. Meanwhile all the people in the town decide that Lee must be the killer. The story also goes back in time covering how Lee met his ex-wife, and his relationship with her ex-husband who Lee begins to suspect is the real killer. I give it a 4 out of 10.
33. Capote in Kansas: A Ghost Story by Kim Powers
A fictional tale based on reality concerning Truman Capote and Harper Lee. The book begins with Capote contacting Lee towards the end of his life after 20 years of estrangement. He claims to be seeing the ghosts of some members of the family he chronicled in In Cold Blood as well as one of their murderers. The story goes back and forth between the present and past referring to Capote and Lee’s friendship as children and their time in Kansas while Capote was working on In Cold Blood in the past and Capote’s bizarre behavior in the present and how it affects Lee. It was a quick read. It wasn’t a great book, but I did find it kind of interesting because it had lots of information I didn’t really realize about Capote and Lee’s friendship. While I was reading it I kind of wondered how much of the story was actually based in fact. The author wrote an afterward that pretty much outlined which parts of the story were fact and which were embellishments, which I really appreciated. I give it a 6 out of 10.
32. Beautiful Boy: A Father’s Journey through his Son’s Addiction by David Sheff
Sheff writes about his son’s addiction to meth and other various drugs. He talks about his son’s childhood and his eventual descent into addiction, recovery, and relapse, and how this all affects him, his wife, and their other 2 children. He also delves into the science of addiction meeting with many doctors and reading lots of material to learn as much as he can about the subject. A compelling book that gives great insight into the destruction that an addict can cause not only to himself but to his family as well. I give it a 9 out of 10.
As an aside, Nic Sheff, the son, wrote a book about his addiction called Tweak, which was published within 2 weeks of his father’s book by another publisher. I was hoping to read them back to back, but I am still waiting to get Tweak from the library.
31. Here if You Need Me by Kate Braestrup
A true story in which Braestrup describes how she wound up becoming a chaplain for the Maine game wardens after the death of her husband and father of her four children. She describes what compelled her to go to seminary and then to take the job that she did. She also tells a lot of stories about what she does on the job. It was an interesting, sad, and also heartwarming book. I give it an 8 out of 10.
30. Another Thing to Fall by Laura Lippman
Laura Lippman’s newest book featuring her signature character Tess Monahagn. Lippman uses her insider knowledge of shooting television shows in Baltimore for the base of the story (her husband is David Simon writer/producer of The Wire). Tess accidentally stumbles into a shoot and is subsequently hired to keep an eye on one of the show’s stars who has been involved in some mischief and also in light of some pranks being pulled on the set. Like the other books of Lippman’s I’ve read it’s okay. A quick fairly entertaining read, but nothing special. I give it a 6 out of 10.
29. Soon I Will Be Invincible by Austin Grossman
This book is about superheroes and villains. The set-up is alternating chapters written by the villain Dr. Impossible and one of the newer superheroes Fatale, who is a newly created cyborg. The book goes into the backstory behind how Dr. Impossible became a villain and the relationships between him and the other superheroes in the book. It took me awhile to get into the book. I didn’t really like it very much until about halfway through. Then I got drawn more into the story. I was disappointed in that I don’t think the author explored some of the interesting things he touched on in much detail or really at all for some of them. Oh well, I guess there’s only so much space. I give it a 6 out of 10.
28. Change of Heart by Jodi Picoult
I would say this is probably my least favorite novel that I’ve read by Jodi Picoult. I got interested enough in the story that I was anxious to see how things were going to turn out, but I just didn’t really care that much for the story. It revolves around a man who has been sentenced to death for killing a little girl and her stepfather. The mother was pregnant at the time, and now 11 years later her daughter is in need of a heart transplant. The killer’s death sentence is about to be carried out, and he wants to donate his heart to the little girl after he is killed. There are also some weird things that happen that make people think this killer may possibly be the second coming of Christ. Jodi Picoult novels always have twists at the end. I did figure out one of them, but I didn’t see the last one coming so I guess it’s good she can still keep her readers guessing after all this time. I give it a 6 out of 10.
27. The Age of American Unreason by Susan Jacoby
In this book Jacoby discusses why Americans are so uninformed about everything from culture, to science, to politics, etc. The book was actually different than I expected. I was expecting the whole book to be about stuff in the present, but she actually started all the way back with the founding of the country and moved through history describing things throughout the history of the country that have caused Americans to be ignorant. I found it to be an interesting book, but I didn’t necessarily agree with everything she said.
Mostly I took issue with her stance on religion, specifically what she calls Fundamentalist Christians. She does distinguish them from Evangelical Christians. I would guess in her scheme of things I would fall into the Evangelical category. She does try to indicate that she believes there is a difference, but she doesn’t do a very good job. She indicates in the book that she was raised Catholic and has since become an atheist. Thus she pretty much says that anyone who actually believes in God is an idiot even if they’re not the offending Fundamentalists who are the ones who don’t believe in evolution,e tc.
I don’t disagree that there are some pretty ridiculous Christians out there, who I think give Christianity a bad name. Not only do they hold some erroneous beliefs, but they try to make everyone live under them.
But I am a Christian and I consider myself an intelligent person. I am well-educated, I believe in evolution, I don’t think homosexuals are going to hell, I don’t believe it’s my job to impose my beliefs on others. So I kind of took offense to the fact that Jacoby basically says that the only reason religion exists is as a comfort for people in horrible circumstances and that anyone looking at our country based on it’s religious makeup would think it was a backwards third world country.
But I did think it was interesting reading even if I don’t agree with everything she says. I give it an 8 out of 10.
26. Gang Leader for a Day: A Rogue Sociologist Takes to the Streets by Sudhir Venkatesh
Sudhir Venkatesh’s work appeared in the book Freakonomics in the chapter about the earnings of gang members, and how the lower level members barely earn minimum wage. He also has written a previous book called Off the Books: The Underground Economy of the Urban Poor, which I read last year. This book details his time hanging out with the Black Kings at the Robert Taylor Homes in Chicago over a series of years. He turned the information he collected during that time into his dissertation, and later into the previously mentioned books. It was an interesting book, although I felt like I didn’t get a very personal look at a lot of people he interacted with. I give it a 8 out of 10.