26. Without Copyrights: Piracy, Publishing, and the Public Domain by Robert E. Spoo
Spoo delves into the history of U.S. Copyright Law specifically focusing on the lack of protection for foreign authors prior to the United States signing on to the Berne Convention. He particularly focuses on the late 1800s and early 1900s when the lack of laws or convoluted laws that left little protection allowed the works of foreign authors to enter the public domain in the United States and thus be published against the authors’ wishes and/or without remuneration to them. He focuses particularly on Ezra Pound and James Joyce in their fight against this practice and the story of Samuel Roth who attempted to profit from the loopholes in the copyright law but who was going against the established publishing customs of the time that attempted to make up for the lack of legal standing of foreign authors. If you are at all interested in copyright law its a fascinating read. I give it a 7 out of 10.
25. The Execution of Noa P. Singleton by Elizabeth L. Silver
Noa P. Singleton is an inmate on death row 6 months away from her execution. She was convicted of killing a young girl named Sarah but never explained what happened on the day of the shooting even as a defense at her trial. Suddenly Sarah’s mother Marlene shows up claiming to no longer believe in the death penalty and saying she wants to help Noa get her sentence commuted as long as she will set the record straight on what happened. The story moves in flashbacks to how Noa, Sarah, and Marlene are connected and to finally reveal what happened on that fateful day.
The book was ok. It kept me engaged enough mostly just to find out what did actually happen, but for the most part it wasn’t a very well written book. I didn’t find the characters believable and most of the time their actions didn’t really make any sense. There are definitely better suspense novels out there. I give it a 5 out of 10.
24. Manicpixiedreamgirl by Tom Leveen
I am by far not the target audience for this book, which first is a young adult novel and second I suspect may be aimed at boys as the protagonist is a teenage boy. The story centers around a teenage boy named Tyler who has been pining after his dream girl Becky for three years while also dating another girl named Sidney. One fateful night brings everything to a head with the story moving back and forth between what is happening that night and all the moments over the past three years leading up to it.
I enjoyed reading the book, but was largely annoyed by the fact that Becky was this huge enigma throughout the entire book. I realize that she is supposed to in some respects be a dream girl not based in reality but in a teenage boy’s fantasy. However, based on what you as the reader and Tyler find out about her over the course of the book makes it really hard for me to see why he would continue pining for her when he seems to have a perfectly great girlfriend. Maybe that’s the point? I don’t know. I just had a hard time buying it.
As an aside I felt even older reading the book because one of the characters is supposed to be big into music and at one point references a song off of Tom Petty’s “Wildflowers” album calling it classic rock. That album came out when I was in high school and I realize that the character was right. Sigh. I give it a 6 out of 10.
23. The Brain That Changes Itself: Stories of Personal Triumph from the Frontiers of Brain Science by Norman Doidge
Don’t let the size of this book fool you, it’s actually a really quick read. First you can chop off about 100 pages from the page count unless you plan to read through all the footnotes. Second the type is big so the remaining 300 or so pages go by really quickly. I read this book for one of my book clubs and we actually had a great discussion around the book. The central conceit of the book is that the brain is much more malleable and has much more plasticity than science has typically thought. The author presents evidence for this through a variety of unrelated stories. At first I was concerned that it was going to be a lot of unscientific case studies, but that wasn’t really the case. He presents a lot of scientific research along with some case studies but all written in a very accessible way. I was definitely curious about some of the things he presented particularly one of the treatments for stroke victims he focused on. If you are at all interested in the brain I would recommend checking this book out. I give it a 7 out of 10.
22. American Savage: Insights, Slights, and Fights on Faith, Love, Sex, and Politics by Dan Savage
If you are familiar with Dan Savage and can read the title of the book you pretty much should know what you’re going to get here. It’s a book of essays on exactly what the subtitle says it is. I imagine if you’re reading this book then you have read or listened to other stuff that Dan Savage has put out into the world, in which case you’re not going to find anything new or earth shattering here. However, if you like his writing then this book is worth a read. I certainly don’t agree with everything he has to say, but he definitely has his perspectives and sticks to them. I give it a 6 out of 10.
21. The Burgess Boys by Elizabeth Strout
The titled Burgess Boys are brothers Jim and Bob. Both have left the small town in Maine where they grew up for life in New York City, Jim as a famous lawyer and Bob as a legal aid attorney. They are both drawn back to the town and the secrets from their past when their nephew is arrested for the hate crime of throwing a decapitated pigs head into a mosque. The bonds of their family are changed forever when secrets from the past and present come out.
This was a fairly enjoyable book to read. Strout does a good job of creating the relationship between the two brothers though I found the nephew to be lacking in depth despite much of the plot revolving around him. Though I liked it while I was reading it I found it largely forgettable after the fact. There wasn’t really anything in that stuck with me. I give it a 6 out of 10.