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First Try–July Reading June 29, 2007

Posted by skinbad in Literature, Science.

Hard-covered books break up friendships. You loan a hard covered book to a friend and when he doesn’t return it you get mad at him. It makes you mean and petty. But twenty-five cent books are different. — John Steinbeck

OK. The suggestions from the nominations thread were fed into the Library of Congress’s Super Duper Biblioputer and this is what came out:


The computer very nearly chose Elmore Leonard’s Cuba Libre because it was from an author several IBers liked, it could help people actually learn something from the historical fiction standpoint, and it probably wouldn’t be too heavy. The “don’t kill us with anything too heavy for the summer” thing weighed heavily in the calcuations. The reviews for Cuba Libre were a definite mixed bag though. A lot of Leonard fans thought this wasn’t really one of his best.

Elephant Song was chosen for the following scientific reasons:

  • An old friend has been telling me for years to read Wilbur Smith and I never have. I think Michael has recommended him before.
  • I once spent a couple of months in The Congo, Uganda, and Kenya visiting a Peace Corps buddy, so I’m obviously an acknowledged expert on African affairs.
  • Some of the used sellers at Amazon have it (with shipping) for under five bucks.
  • I have an uncle named Wilbur.

I propose the following schedule:

  • August–Dave, Eddie (historical/military)
  • September–Kevlar, Lipstick (back to school, something good for the brain)
  • October–R.G., Russ (something fun)
  • November–Geoff, Mrs. Peel, and, if it can be done safely, WP (something that will reel non SF readers into your lair)
  • December–Laura (sentimentality that will make us cry)
  • January–Sobek (winter doldrums would be a good time for War and Peace)
  • February–Michael, Brew, and Muslihoon (religious/philosophical, non-Lutheran)
  • March–Pupster and Harrison (travelling and drinking)
  • April–Compos (anatomy or music–sorry dude, none of the women wanted to work with you)

Did I leave anyone out? Sorry if I did. Any IB commenters are more than welcome to make recommendations. I’m thinking it might be easier for two or three to come up with something than the whole group, so collaborate a little if you can. I would say shoot for about a week’s lead time to let the group know what you came up with. If you find this to be an annoying pain in the ass, that’s OK. Don’t worry about it. I’ll choose something. This is supposed to be low pressure and fun.


1. carin - June 29, 2007

Oooh, a book club. I’m game. I’d better hurry up and finish what I’m reading.

2. Anonymous - June 29, 2007

Enas Yorl hasn’t commented in ages. Maybe the seductive lure of collaborating with Compos will bring the boy back.

3. kevlarchick - June 29, 2007

Above was moi

4. Retired Geezer - June 29, 2007

Cool, my library has a copy (actually 11). I ordered it so I can get a head start.

Skinbad, you *did* tell Russ he has to come to Idaho for the meetings, didn’t you?

5. daveintexas - June 29, 2007

For those of you who like me are not familiar with the writer or the story:


The price is right.

Some romance, more sex, lots of bloody fighting and international intrigues

I likes me some of all of that. I think I will order it now.

Ok, done. I have to take a trip in July and I needed something to read on the plane. DONE!

6. eddiebear - June 29, 2007

So, I guess the dealie is that I read a book and then report on it.

If so, I have a few ideas for my turn.

7. skinbad - June 29, 2007

Welcome Carin. Enas, if you are lurking, you can jump in with any group. Seems like he is an SF fan as well. Library option is smart, just throw down some jargon on them and they’ll know you are a reading bad-ass who is not to be messed with. “You don’t have it? Well I would like you to I.L.L. it for me pronto.” R.G., I told Russ you are willing to compromise on a meeting site. Said you would be go as far east as Pocatello. Dave, it also has “cardboard characters” so it’s got that going for it–

8. daveintexas - June 29, 2007

it actually sounds cool to me. and you and I get to collaborate.

gosh I haven’t written a book report in a long time

9. skinbad - June 29, 2007


We’ll try to read it with you. So you have to appeal to the lowest common denominator group a little bit. As well as negotiate with Dave. And good luck with that.

10. Tushar D - June 29, 2007

>>Hard-covered books break up friendships.

They break up friendships in other ways too. Your friend loand you a hard-cover book. You read it on the train, the binding gets damaged and a few pages come loose. You glue them back, and realize that one of them is glued a bit off. You try to loosen it, so you can re-glue it. You end up tearing it. Now you are afraid to return the book, and find excuses like, ‘I did not get time to finish it’.

Just write him a check and get it over with. And never borrow books from anyone again.

11. eddiebear - June 29, 2007


This is one I have at home. I recommend it and if someone wants the copy, lemme know, and I’ll mail it to you.

12. daveintexas - June 29, 2007

Way back when my wife and I were dating, I loaned her my copy of The Once and Future King. I’m one of those guys who won’t even dog ear a page, so I take pretty good care of books.

She tends to be very hard on books.

I saw it at her apartment and it looked like she had driven her car over it a half dozen times, and I gave her a bunch of grief about it.

So that was a long, lonely week.

13. Wickedpinto - June 29, 2007

Most of my recommendations were philosophical texts! I only rec’d one sci-fi book, and one dystopia.

Also, don’t forget to keep gibson (the lazy mans intro) or one of my favorite of all time sci-fi books “fleet action” by william R. Forschein.

You know exactly what is gonna happen in the first hundred or so pages, and you spend the next 200 on the edge of tears with the clear determination of the author to express what it is these people must experience. I loved that book, and it reads faster than an article about lesbian exploration.

14. Wickedpinto - June 29, 2007

one of those guys who won’t even dog ear a page,

I would always get angry when I would lend paperbacks to friends and they would split the spine. That was just irritating to me, but then again, I’m a close reader, even though I have excellent eyesight.

15. wiserbud - June 29, 2007

Remember a few weeks ago when Michael was wondering when would be a good time to end this blog?

16. skinbad - June 29, 2007

Dave–you have to keep your eye on the big picture, as well as on the sparrow. Wiser–RAGE, RAGE against the dying of the offshoot moron blog.

WP, our library has two huge sets of what are supposed to be classic SF works. Very few of the authors ring any bells at all with me. I’ll have to see if we have the ones you recommend.

17. harrison - June 29, 2007

March–Pupster and Harrison (travelling and drinking)

*gears start turning*

18. Wickedpinto - June 29, 2007

When it comes to sci-fi knowitallism, I think it’s sinistar, and I know pixie, but I think sinistar has a large sci-fi collection, When it comes to histories I think rosetta is a good reference, since the he/she has been a researcher and partial contributor on at least two that I have heard of.

19. Sobek - June 29, 2007

Can you calrify the rules a bit? I didn’t realize there was a book report due — I thought we would all just read and discuss.

20. Wickedpinto - June 29, 2007

If it’s about book reports, I will be all about David Drake.

Cat’s got a feel, at least among contemporary novels I’ve read in the last year.

Oh, Scalzi’s fun, but he’s so derivative in concept that I’m not impressed, I like his form, and his clear adhoration for sci-fi, but the overall story’s have been done, and I’ve read them.

At least with gibson, he was among the first, and he did it in a way that was so confusing and new that you couldn’t help but NEED to re-read his work.

21. skinbad - June 29, 2007

In no way do I want to conflict with your aversion to writing at length about things you have read. No book report is necessary. People can chime in during the month if they want with questions or comments and then we should probably have a Final Thoughts post before moving on to the next book. We can also, as Geoff suggested, slow it down if we actually do something as rich with substance as War and Pease. Maybe that would be a two-monther.

22. Wickedpinto - June 29, 2007

OH! another of my favorites!!!

Heinlein fans always mention “moon is a hard mistress” which is very good, but in a political way, “stranger in a strange land” makes virtually no sense, but it is brilliantly written in a political sort of way, but one of my favorites is “tunnel in the sky.” a very “lord of the flies” only it’s written from the sense that rational minds ultimately win, not that all people are selfish fools.

Another book I liked, though the premise is more than a little weak but very interesting is Piers anthony’s “Macroscope.”

Just the concept of Schoen is more than a little awesome.

It’s less about the conflict of the situation, and more about hte conflict of a person, and thats rather well done. Much better than Anthony’s later disturbing books that consist of WAY too much pedophilic concepts like the fractal series, and the later xanths, and his Firefly story are just disturbing.

Not to mention portions of the xanth series.

23. Wickedpinto - June 29, 2007

Never even tried war and peace.

24. daveintexas - June 29, 2007


or not. Really, I can live with either approach. All kidding aside (Dave never does this) I thought it would be a big long comment thread.

Dude, he totally laid her out. She was DYIN for it

Yeah. Just like my cousin in 76.

oh wait. did I say that out loud?

25. geoff - June 29, 2007

but I think sinistar has a large sci-fi collection

…I’ve got almost 2000 paperbacks myself.

26. Pupster - June 29, 2007

“March–Pupster and Harrison (travelling and drinking)”

I’m waaaaay ahead of you pal.

27. Wickedpinto - June 29, 2007


Mind if I winter over some time?

28. geoff - June 29, 2007

Mind if I winter over some time?

I should take a picture of the collection, but it’s double-stacked on the shelves, so it’s kind of hard to appreciate in all its glory.

29. Sobek - June 29, 2007

I read Macroscope in High School. It was an interesting read, but I don’t read enough sci-fi to know if it was comparatively good or not. His explanation of how wormholes work was pretty cool.

If I get to pick, I might go with something shorter. I’ve been meaning to re-read Franz Kafka’s The Trial, and that thing is so loaded with stuff to talk about you’ll never run out in this lifetime.

I’ve got a couple of russian novels lying around I’ve been meaning to get to. Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina, Pasternak’s Dr. Zhivago, Dostoevsky’s House of the Dead and The Idiot. Any of those would be fun. And probably less daunting than War and Peace.

30. skinbad - June 30, 2007

I haven’t read much Russian stuff. I thought Gogol’s Dead Souls was pretty damn good though. The Brothers K was pretty good, but I wouldn’t be able to tell you much about it. It just didn’t stick in there very well.

If we had one long thread for each book, what would be the easiest way to get to it as it gets pushed down the page? Create a tab? Link in the sidebar?

31. Michael - June 30, 2007

If we’re going to go Russian, I suggest Crime and Punishment.

32. Retired Geezer - June 30, 2007

I’m thinking a smaller Russian book; One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich,” by Alexander Solzhenitsyn.

I think more of us would make it through the book.
It’s probably easy to get a copy.
It’s very powerful and eye opening.

just sayin’

33. geoff - June 30, 2007

Always meant to get around to reading The Gulag Archipelago.

Hey, you know there are a lot of seminal conservative texts that wouldn’t be bad to go through. Stuff by Hayek or Locke or guys like that. I also wouldn’t mind a rousing romp through one of George Lakoff’s books – poking holes in his arguments would be fun and rewarding.

On the darker side, one of the “we screwed up in Iraq” books would be very germane.

34. Wickedpinto - June 30, 2007

My art fag roommate said he refused to talk to me after I bashed . . . . whats his name? “tropic of cancer?” that guy henry miller? after reading “the collossus of marousai” or however it’s spelled.

Until I read his collection of chekov (spelling) play’s short stories.

I’ll be damned if he didn’t talk directly towards me for that full week.

35. TattooedIntellectual - June 30, 2007

I’ll throw something in that’s not quite so heavy. Read Bill Bryson–he’s originally from IA and writes travel novel type things. Very funny! Outside of that, most of what I’m reading at the moment is fairly technical, and I’m not sure just how deep y’all want to delve into Animal Behavior/Cons Biology 🙂

36. BrewFan - June 30, 2007

skinbad, I put up a thread for you and linked it in the blogroll.

TI, I feel your pain. My ‘reading time’ is currently devoted to such classics as ‘XML Programming for .Net’ and ‘XML Web Services Step-by-Step’

37. lauraw - June 30, 2007

Ditto on Bill Bryson. A Walk In The Woods was very good.

38. Dave in Texas - June 30, 2007

Read The Gulag Archipelago when I was busy getting thrown out of college in 79 (I think).

First time I really challenged the stuff we were fed in high school about the moral equivalence of communism. When you get smacked in the face with that kind of brutality and horror, on such a massive scale, you face evil. It was probably the first step for me toward the rationality of conservatism.

Oh, and it’s depressing as all hell. The meme we were fed back then was it was all Stalin and the forced labor camps were dismantled in the 50s, but that was bullshit. It started with Lenin (leftists refused to smear him with this evil, and disgrace his “purity”), and the camps didn’t shut down until the fall of the Soviet Union.

This brutality has been repeated in every communist state. China, Vietnam and Cambodia, NK, Cuba… all of them knew to sustain the state you had to use slaves.

39. Retired Geezer - June 30, 2007

^ Very well put, Dave.

Geoff had a good point too about going through some conservative texts.

Since most of us lean that way anyway, it would better equip us to refute Andy Liberals.


Beach reading is fine but I guess I’d feel better about myself if I recommended A Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich.

40. harrison - June 30, 2007

The meme we were fed back then was it was all Stalin and the forced labor camps were dismantled in the 50s, but that was bullshit.

That sort of thought is still prevelant in Russia today. There are plenty of statues of Lenin still standing in most towns. I was asking my honey about it while in St. Pete last week. She said they remain standing “because it’s our history. Among the general population “there is no anger at Lenin.”
Me? I would have blown up every one.

41. Dave in Texas - June 30, 2007

Kruschev made it practically a daily talking point, someone had to be blamed and he blamed it all on Stalin.

Not to say Stalin didn’t use it to its full extent, and yeah, he is the greatest mass murderer in all of human history, but AS showed how it began with Lenin, he planned it to sustain his new state of the people”.

42. eddiebear - June 30, 2007


Another good analysis of life under Communism was “Darknes at Noon” by Koestler and “A Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovitch” by AS.

I read “Gulag”, and could never get over the extent of torture that went on. For me, the most striking story was when several guys were called into the prosecutor’s office. One guy was ashen when he came out saying he got 5 years, while another guy was laughing as though he beat the system by bragging about only getting 15 years.

43. eddiebear - June 30, 2007



Just as in Animal Farm, somebody always had to be blamed. IN AF it was Snowball. In the post-Stalin era, it was Stalin or some other “counter-revolutionary”. During Stalin, it was Trotsky, Bukharin or any other of the original crew (except Lenin).

44. Russ from Winterset - June 30, 2007

Something fun? I think a little Hunter S. Thompson might fit right into THAT category. The only question is do we go with Hell’s Angels, the trip to Vegas, or the 1972 campaign trail?

The book recommendation meeting is in Idaho? At Camp Geezer? Yeah, like I couldn’t use a week of shooting, riding & trying to tame Spudder instead of the usual soul-sucking work.

45. Retired Geezer - June 30, 2007

You forgot huntin’ and fishin’ and floating the Boise river. (depending on the time of year.)

46. Sobek - June 30, 2007

What was your address again, Geezer?

47. Michael - July 1, 2007

We can also, as Geoff suggested, slow it down if we actually do something as rich with substance as War and Pease.

Hooh Boy! A book like War and Pease is going to be a real challenge for us morons. Maybe we could do the Classics Illustrated comic book version of War and Pease. I mean, c’mon, consider the audience here.

I’m just sayin’. If we do War and Pease, I’m buying the Cliff’s Notes.

48. eddiebear - July 1, 2007

All Russian novels are the smae (and similar to the country):
long, bleak, depressing and no end in sight.

49. eddiebear - July 1, 2007


Can we watch the Fiesta Bowl again?

I have to admit, that was one college game where I actually was excited at the end. I was up with my daughter, trying to get her to fall asleep, when the final minute of play and OT took place.

50. Michael - July 1, 2007

Can we watch the Fiesta Bowl again?

It’s a book club, you frickin’ idiot!!!

You know, those paper thingies.

51. eddiebear - July 1, 2007

Books? Damn! I thought this was a construction paper project.

Never mind.

52. Retired Geezer - July 1, 2007

Can we watch the Fiesta Bowl again?

They have that DVD playing all the time in the various Wal*Marts.

And there is usually a crowd around, especially toward the end.

Hey, I got a copy.

I hope they don’t screw up the Movie based on the BSU season.

I think it’s going to be called “Out of the Blue” (Blue Turf ya know).

53. eddiebear - July 1, 2007

Well, since I have been told I have to deal in book form

*kicks dirt and mutters*

I have something as well. How about a book about a baseball team from a midwestern city that limps into the playoffs only to win the world series?

Or, how about another baseball team that can never win since 1908?

54. Wickedpinto - July 1, 2007

You mean like this eddie?

My personal favorite is number 10, but the whole list, if you know the history, is pretty friggen funny.

55. monkeyman - July 5, 2007

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