Good Book Hunting Late April-May 2009

I’ve fallen down on showing the oozing sores of my sickness, incessant and sometimes indiscriminate book acquisition. Maybe you thought that the state of the world has left me too depressed to go buy cheap books. Au contraire. Here are the results from four book fairs we’ve attended recently.

We went to a church in Lafayette Square, and it was bag day or pay a donation day or something. Regardless, we got a few:

Book fair at the church at Lafayette Park
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Some highlights include:

  • Several old Macintosh and Commodore 64 computer books.
  • Elements of Style, a copy to give someone.
  • Several eastern nation history books.
  • Two books I saw yesterday and almost bought: For the Love of Benji and Everyone Else Must Fail.
  • The novelization of the movie Krull.
  • A Philip K. Dick book, Our Friends from Frolix 8.
  • Allan Quatermain.
  • The Freddie Prinze Story. I think I’m volunteering to keep his memory alive. His son is on his own.

Total books bought: 60

Then, we went to the Kirkwood Book Fair and I got this:

Kirkwood book fair 2009
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  • A book of Currier and Ives prints.
  • Supercarrier, the novelization of the television series or the book the television series was based on.
  • A copy of The Lonely Ocean. This is the first instance of this book you’ll see here because unlike For the Love of Benji and Everyone Else Must Fail, I could not resist.
  • Ira Levin’s The Stepford Wives and Rosemary’s Baby. If I had seen them separately, I wouldn’t have bought them, but they were right next to each other. Does that make sense? That’s a rhetorical question.
  • Democracy in America.
  • A copy of The Octogonal Heart, a story about living in a local house.

Total books bought: 60 again.

I cannot recollect where this next book fair was. But I gots some books.

Where was I?
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  • Another gifting copy of The Elements of Style.
  • One Knee Equals Two Feet, a book about football by John Madden.
  • Life in the Age of Charlemagne. Sure, he was French, but he was the Magne.
  • Two books by Leon Uris, Trinity and Mila 18 because my mother-in-law asks me every couple of months if I’ve read anything by him. In a couple years, I will have.
  • A bound copy of the Constitution. Before it becomes contraband.
  • Teddy Bare, an old indictment of Teddy Kennedy. Came out right after Chappaquiddick.

Total books: 32

Then, yesterday, we went to the St. Charles Book Fair. I bought:

St. Charles Book Fair 2009
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Goodness. Highlights:

  • A pile of paperback novelizations and novel sources for films, including Outland, The Taking of Pellham 1 2 3, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Meatballs, and others.
  • A series by Jack Chalker. If they had them all, I said, I’d buy them. And I did. Which series? Hell if I know. I’ve shelved them and won’t find them for a decade now.
  • A couple of Classics Club books that I did not already have, honey. Give me some credit. Even for a happy accident such as this.
  • A Patrick O’Brian Master and Commander novel, The Ionian Mission. Seeing it made me slow down looking for others, but all I found was the first novel with Russell Crowe’s face on it.
  • Past Imperfect, a book about the study of history. I had also seen the Joan Collins autobiography of the same name, and when I unpacked the boxes at home, I feared in my bookzerker frenzy I’d bought the Collins book. Even I cannot explain why it happens, but I recognize it would not have been outside the realm of possibility that I’d bought it.
  • A single volume of three Heinlein novels. I was looking specifically for Heinlein novels, and I found some. And some others that were not Heinlein.
  • Star Trek Memories and Star Trek Movie Memories by Shatner. Because they had both near each other, like the Ira Levin books mentioned previously.
  • The Hungry Ocean, again. The next time I look tempted, someone tell me I already own all of Linda Greenlaw’s books.
  • A Ross MacDonald book, The Goodbye Look.
  • Two Walter Mosley books.
  • Two Sandford novels I didn’t recognize. That doesn’t mean that I didn’t read them and that I don’t own them. It just means that I didn’t recognize the ritualistic killing depicted on the jacket flaps.
  • A hardback copy of I’m No Hero to replace a paperback I’d bought previously.
  • A two record set of Shirley Bassey’s greatest hits. I blame Mark Steyn and the old Red 104.1.

Total books bought in the two hours: 91. And some calories burned lugging books.

Total bought for the month: 243. Or, to put it in perspective, 2 years and a couple months’ worth of reading.

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Book Report: Black Money by Ross MacDonald (1961)

When it comes down to it, of all the authors in the classical hardboiled canon, I will have read and reread Ross MacDonald’s Lew Archer novels the most. This comes because of an intersection of the availability of MacDonald’s work, mostly in Book Club Format, at book fairs coupled with my desire to reread the books (and only reading the books on my to-read shelves, natch). You cannot find many Chandler books out there, for example, so I don’t tend to pick them up on impulse and put them on my to-read shelves. As you know, I got lucky last year and re-read The Long Goodbye.

As you might know if you’ve paid attention lo these six plus years, I grew up reading the hardboiled fiction, and when I revisit it, I am struck anew again about how I prefer them to the modern crime genre like Sandford or (shudder) Pearson. The writing is punchier, and although the plots are convoluted, you get the sense throughout that the private eye is making progress throughout the book. It seems a lot of modern stuff involves some thrashing around, trying to provoke the bad guy, and then a sudden revelation at the climax.

In this book, Archer is hired to investigate the man who stole a rich young man’s fiance. The thief, purportedly a French nobleman in exile from the De Gaulle regime, isn’t who he says he is. The resulting unraveling touches on mobsters, infidelity, and murder in the enclave of an upper class California town.

Definitely recommended. I’ll probably read this again someday when I find it for a buck again.

Books mentioned in this review:

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A Question for Judge Sotomayor

Given that you, ma’am, have determined that judicial wisdom is racially or experientially relative with this quote:

I would hope that a wise Latina woman with the richness of her experiences would more often than not reach a better conclusion than a white male who hasn’t lived that life.

Could you please elaborate on the complete hierarchy of wisdom and jurisprudence in your worldview. For example, where do blacks and Asian-ancestored people fall? Are they above white males (probably) but below Hispanics? Also, how do substrata within the ethnic groups fall, for example Korean versus Pakistani or Mexican (Aztec-influenced) versus Guatamalan (more Mayan in identity)? Aside from national origin, are there other hardship modifiers to calculate, such as physical handicaps or socio-economic upbringing? For example, does a Caribbean with a limp trump the son of a Panamanian business leader?

As a white male blogger and hence probably less wise than a well-trained golden retriever, I’d like the complete scale to make sure we’re not settling for someone who is limited to the middle of the wisdom scale.

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Book Report: On Monday We Killed Them All by John D. MacDonald (1961)

Wow, if I’d known this first edition paperback was so valuable, perhaps I would not have cracked the spine. Internet prices for it range between $30 and $200. Who am I kidding? This is a John D. MacDonald book. My first of the year, I might add.

A small town cop picks his brother-in-law up at prison, where he’s served a five year sentence for manslaughter. The brother-in-law, like the wife, comes from the hill country, so he’s tough, but he’s also mean unlike the wife of the cop. It puts the cop in a bind, because the wife hopes the brother will reform and the cop knows he won’t and that he’s planning something. Something that starts with a prisonbreak.

As always, it’s a quick, engaging read from MacDonald. The characters are complex and the moral and philosophical questions require the characters to wrestle with their lives and their identities. I thought the end was a bit abrupt, though, and simplistic, but it does give the novel a compelling title.

Books mentioned in this review:

On Monday We Killed Them All

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Book Report: Patriots: Surviving the Coming Collapse by John Wesley, Rawles (2006)

Set in the near future, this book describes an internal collapse of the United States scenario where hyperinflation triggers looting, rioting, and general lawlessness throughout the country. A group of survivalists meet up at the Idaho farm of the group’s leader to weather the storm and ultimately help revive the United States.

I know this book gets a lot of cachet amongst the gunbloggers and Heinleinists out there, but as a novel, it’s a little weak. Okay, it reads like someone explaining his Twilight: 2000. We get the history of the preceding years of the group, their training, a rundown of their individual skills (scores), the preparation to the home in complete detail, and then the party assembles. Various members show up and debrief with their exciting stories of escape, presented not as narrative nor as flashbacks but as people debriefing. Then other members with unique and desirable skills show up. Then a couple of things happen where they defend the compound. Then they get some missions outside the compound, and the characters equip–in lavish detail–and go on the mission. Then the missions become disjointed, and we get an end that probably is intended as homage to Atlas Shrugged.

I bought the extended version of the book, so I might have paid extra for more exposition, particularly the preparatory work at the beginning that would disengage a casual reader. The book is chock full of good survival ideas, but the narrative lacks in pretty fundamental areas. It’s readable, though, so I guess that’s a testament to Rawles’s writing ability.

Books mentioned in this review:

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Book Report: Dave Barry’s Only Travel Guide You’ll Ever Need by Dave Barry (1992, 1999)

Now, Dave Barry is a humorist. He oozes absurdity so much he has to wear special clothing to keep from leaving a mess on furniture. Scott Adams can’t touch Dave Barry in the sustained funny department.

Smurphy T. Murphy loaned me a copy of Dave Barry’s history book in our shared Honors Western Civ class, and I read through it, not but not fast enough to avoid leaving a food stain when I returned it. That was 1989. This book came out in 1992, only three years later, and it’s taken me this long to read it.

It’s funny, but it’s also tragic in a way, because we know how Dave’s marriage to Beth will end, so the jokes about her divorcing him might have been funny then, but now they’re very sad.

A historical artifact and a funny book. Worth reading.

Books mentioned in this review:

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Why Not Go For The European Six Right Away?

Congress wants to make paid vacation mandatory:

Rep. Alan Grayson was standing in the middle of Disney World when it hit him: What Americans really need is a week of paid vacation.

So on Thursday, the Florida Democrat will introduce the Paid Vacation Act — legislation that would be the first to make paid vacation time a requirement under federal law.

Also, each citizen must make one trip to Disney World each decade.

Hey, Congress, you know what would bring down unemployment? Limiting maximum full time weekly hours to 32. That should reduce unemployment 20%!

Also, how about mandatory French training? Think of the educational jobs that would create.

(Link via Say Anything via Ace of Spades HQ.)

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An Idea Whose Time Hasn’t Yet Come, And Probably Never Will

Behold the mighty Fugoo:

Soon that “networked home” (once the stuff of animation and science fiction) could become a reality: This summer a group of personal computer veterans will start selling Fugoo, a brick-size box that will plug into specially outfitted home appliances and connect them to the Internet — and one another — via broadband wireless systems.

You know, that sort of thing has been available for several years–if not a decade–through the Smart Home catalog.

How does the latest and the greatest work?

Here’s how it works: Each Fugoo box is loaded with a Via Technologies processor and the Microsoft (MSFT, Fortune 500) operating system. It retails for $99. When a box is installed, appliances that have been outfitted especially for Fugoo are then able to talk to one another over a Wi-Fi network. The appliances can also retrieve information from the Internet, so your alarm clock could also tell you the weather, for example, or provide a traffic report. Once appliances are connected to the Internet, you can do all sorts of cool things: use a smartphone to remotely program the coffeemaker to have a fresh pot waiting for you when you get home from work, say.

The devil, you say! An alarm clock that can provide weather and traffic reports! Probably even specifically tailored to your local region through a complex proprietary algorithm. Wow! That’s so much more advanced than the $10 alarm radio I got as a Christmas present 20 years ago and continue to use today. And a coffee machine that automatically makes coffee. Wild!

The problem, though:

Before that can happen, though, Fugoo will need to cajole appliance makers and software developers alike to produce products that work with the Fugoo box, in much the same way Intel had to persuade the computer industry to embed Wi-Fi chips in laptops.

The company hopes that in the future, device manufacturers will simply build Fugoo capability into their products the same way that, say, your car might have a docking station for your iPod.

Do cars have iPod docks? I’ve seen the alternative input jacks, but not proprietary things like iPod docks.

Every couple of years, some company chases this pipe dream and gets some press coverage. But, really, do you want to hook your home appliances up to the Internet and its attendant hackers? I do not, and I don’t see any value in using a smart phone to check if my laundry is done.

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Book Report: Stick to Drawing Comics, Monkey Brain by Scott Adams (2007)

This book collects a number of blog posts from Scott Adams’ blog on or something. As such, it ultimately proves that Scott Adams is not really what he fancies himself, a humorist, but is a cartoonist with some good cartoon ideas.

Well, maybe he’s a humorist, but this particular book takes on more thoughtful themes such as evolution, free will vs. determinism, and whatnot, and Adams condescends and mocks those who disagree with him, since the evolved determinism he takes on faith are the positions of smart people. He uses a self-defense against the accusations of thoughtlessness by admitting he is thoughtless.

Sadly, the book diminishes Adams in my estimation. He has real insight into business foibles that he illustrates in the comics, but ultimately, this collection puts his thinking into the worst of condescending geek culture. I have worked with people like Adams. I haven’t been friends with them.

Books mentioned in this review:

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Book Report: Dash, P.I. by Carol Lea Benjamin (1997)

This volume collects two crime fiction novels by Benjamin, a dog trainer by trade. As such, they feature a well-trained pit bull named Dashiell and both novels involve other dogs and one involves the world of dog trainers.

I know a lot of women mystery writers turn out paperbacks in the mold of a woman detective with a twist of some sort, and I hadn’t really gotten into any before this volume. Normally, I hit on the normal hardboiled stuff or the eggs benedict they serve instead these days. But the books are light enough and breezy enough to enjoy.

Plus, you can tell a woman wrote these books, unlike other books written by men (Robert B. Parker) featuring women protagonists. I think the epistemological differences are subtly apparent in not only the language but also the focus.

So to make a long book short, I enjoyed it and would not only mind reading more by this author but in the genre.

Books mentioned in this review:

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Apple Is Mandatory

Class lectures? There’s an app for that: Journalism school to require iPod use:

Kayla Miller isn’t sure why she would need an iPhone or an iPod Touch in her courses at the University of Missouri, but she likes the idea of the school requiring students to have them.

“I don’t really see a need for them, but I think it’s cool,” she said.

After all, Miller, 19, said, if the devices are required — as they will be for all incoming journalism majors starting in the fall — many parents will feel like they have to buy them for their teens. Even though she’ll be a sophomore next year and won’t be required to have one, Miller said she might urge her parents to buy her one for her journalism courses, anyway.

The MU School of Journalism is requiring that all incoming freshmen have iPhones or iPod Touch devices to “help students adjust to freshmen year,” Associate Dean Brian Brooks said. “It also would allow them to record lectures and review it. Many schools are doing it now, and it seemed like a great idea to us.”

See, while you’re looking at Halliburton and Blackwater, the corporations favored by the cool and the hep are becoming mandatory.

And the worst part is the well-conditioned student who is in favor of compulsory iPods even though she doesn’t see the need for it. She just accepts that the authorities are compelling students for the better.

I’m not saying I fear for the future of this country, because that might imply I think this country has a future. Instead, here are real estate listings for Sandpoint, Idaho. Good luck.

(Hat tip to gimlet.)

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Book Report: Dark of the Moon by John Sandford (2007)

This is the Virgil Flowers book, although the difference between Flowers and Lucas Davenport is in their dress, their vehicles, their off-duty neat things, and that Flowers hasn’t married the love of his life and can pursue women. Like Davenport, Flowers is an ass man and spends a lot of the book commenting on women’s asses. Of course, I guess when you’re dealing with genre material, you really don’t get a broad variety of protagonists. And the book really doesn’t suffer from the similarities in the characters, unlike in, say, Robert B. Parker’s works.

The book takes place outside the twin cities, in small town Minnesota where a series of murders erupts with, dare I say it, ritualistic deaths? In a Sandford novel? Get out! No, really. Flowers works over the town, discovers many motives to kill a rich man who lived a lavish and swinging lifestyle in the early 1970s and earned the hatred of the townspeople in a business scam, and finally discovers the killer with a crack in the case that left me unsatisfied.

An average book, I suppose. At least Sandford didn’t feel the need to trash Bush here.

Books mentioned in this review:

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Book Report: You Can’t Get There From Here by Ogden Nash (1957)

This is a later volume from Nash, and it shows. His preoccupation with his children has passed onto his preoccupation with his grandchildren. His poetry is more gloomy amid the humor as he recognizes he’s aging and won’t be the young man again. Hence, it really doesn’t exhibit the playful nature of his earlier works which really is the strength of his poetry. As a Nash aficionado, I’m glad I read it, but it’s not a good starting point in his work.

Books mentioned in this review:

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In Some Bizarro World, It Would Be Called "Raising" Taxes

Obama to crack down on business taxes:

President Barack Obama plans changes to tax policy certain to be unpopular with corporations with international divisions and individuals who use tax havens.

Obama’s two-part plan, which he is slated to unveil at the White House on Monday, also calls for 800 new federal tax agents to enforce the system.

The president’s proposal would eliminate some tax deductions for companies that earn profits in countries with low tax rates, as well as consider U.S. citizens who use tax havens in the Bahamas or Cayman Islands guilty of violating U.S. tax laws.

It’s going to raise $21 billion a year in revenue, minus unintended consequences.

Or, to put it in perspective, 1/100th of the new deficit spending the President and the Democrat-controlled Congress has incurred. Not counting forthcoming cap-and-trade plans and national health care bills. And all unintended consequences forthcoming.

Full disclosure: This change will affect me because I am a capitalist Fat Cat who bought a couple hundred bucks’ worth of stock in a Taiwanese chipmaker, and I get to knock off the taxes I pay to the government of Taiwan. You know who else is a corporate Fat Cat in this scenario? Anyone with an International Fund selection in a mutual fund, 401(k), or retirement plan. You know, you.

Candidate Obama promised not to raise taxes on families making less than $250,000 a year or whatever. President Obama, though, has a different scale for determining feline weight.

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