Monday, February 01, 2010

Books Read in January

I started 2010 with a pledge to review books immediately after I read them...and now, as I write this on the afternoon of the 30th, I have a stack of sixteen books -- nearly everything I've read this month -- sitting on my printer, still waiting for me to write about them. What's that they say about good intentions?

Well, I've still got a day and a half, to either bulk this post out with quick thoughts or write longer pieces, so let me see what I have to work with:
  • Masashi Kishimoto, Naruto, Vol. 40 (1/4)
    First Sasuke -- who used to be one of Naruto's friends, way back in the beginning of the series, but has been on a train-with-nasty-villains-so-I-can-get-strong-enough-to-claim-vengeance-on-my-older-brother track for quite a while now -- has a big battle with one of the powerful ninja of the Akatsuki. And then Naruto's mentor, Jiraya, (I've set his name in apposition to differentiate him from Naruto's other mentors) travels to a secret village and discovers some of the secrets of the leader of the Akatsuki, who -- no surprise here to anyone who knows how adventure fiction works -- has a secret connection to Jiraya's own past, and is notably more powerful than anyone suspected. Going into that story, I was assuming Jiraya would be killed to show how powerful Lord Pain is. (And, if you have a name like "Lord Pain," you'd better be a world-class badass, just to keep people from laughing at you.)
  • Steven Brust, Dzur (1/4)
  • Kazuto Okada, Sundome, Vol. 6 (1/5)
  • Masashi Kishimoto, Naruto, Vol. 41 (1/6)
    And this volume follows the one above, being almost entirely Jiraya and his frog buddies (I am not kidding) battling Lord Pain. He's not dead as of the end of this one, but I'm still not betting heavily on his survival.
  • Mark Stein, How the States Got Their Shapes (1/6)
  • Charlito & Mr. Phil, editors, Awesome 2: Awesomer (1/7)
  • Joann Sfar, Lewis Trondheim & Manu Larcenet, Dungeon Parade, Vol. 1: A Dungeon Too Many (1/8)
  • Jim Massey & Robbi Rodriguez, Maintenance, Vol. 3: Fighting Occupants of Interstellar Craft (1/11)
  • Jasper Fforde, Shades of Grey (1/11)
  • Craig Ferguson, American on Purpose (1/14)
    Ferguson grew up in Scotland -- you might have noticed his accent -- and recently became a US citizen; he tries to tie the two together in this memoir. Actually, his move to and eventually success in America comes towards the end of this quite entertaining book, and it's more of an afterthought than something central. Like most memoirs, American on Purpose is most engaging and interesting when its subject is young, callow, stupid, and/or doing self-destructive things. Ferguson is an alcoholic who has been dry since the early '90s, so there's quite a lot of self-destructiveness to get through along the way. (Though the book covers his early years in better detail than it does the '80s; looking back at the book, that decade may well seem like a blur to Ferguson at this point, something that he can only make sense of through his documented public work rather than through his own memories.) Ferguson has a Scotsman's charm and vocabulary; he's a great guide through his own life and gets off some excellent passages and thoughts. (Ferguson previously wrote a novel, as well as several produced screenplays; he's a "real writer" as much as he is anything else.) No one ever needs to read a celebrity memoir, but this is an excellent example of the genre, from someone old enough to look back and who did enough in his time worth looking back on.
  • Bill Willingham, Mark Buckingham, et. al., Fables, Vol. 12: The Dark Ages (1/14)
  • Mike Mignola, John Arcudi, & Guy Davis, B.P.R.D., Vol. 11: The Black Goddess (1/15)
  • Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner, Superfreakonomics (1/21)
  • Brian K. Vaughn, et. al., Ex Machina, Vol. 8: Dirty Tricks (1/22)
  • Dash Shaw, The Unclothed Man in the 35th Century AD (1/25)
  • Paul Collins, The Book of William (1/25)
  • Nick Bertozzi, The Salon (1/27)
  • Ted Rall & Pablo G. Callejo, The Year of Loving Dangerously (1/28)
  • Alexander Jablokov, Brain Thief (1/28)
  • Paul Hornschmeier, Mother, Come Home (1/29)
Since my last pledge went so well, I might as well share my new one. Besides trying to work down the giant stacks of comics -- which is always a plan, but rarely a reality -- I'm now trying to alternate genre (SF/Fantasy) books with other books, since I suspect I get more people interested in Dzur and Shades of Grey than in The Book of William and Superfreakonomics. Of course, I'm not promising it will happen -- just saying, in public, that it's my plan.

(Later: well, much more of the weekend of the 30th and 31st got taken up with reading, thinking, and writing about the Amazon/Macmillan affair, and less than expected on writing about the above books. Those titles will turn into links in the near future, but they're not ready yet.)

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