1994 Wunderfool Reading List

Rating Guide
**** Stop reading this review and get this book
*** Definitely worth your time
** Not bad, but not a must-read, either
* Better than reading the shampoo label, maybe
no stars Reading this may damage your brain
MOTS = More Of The Same (Not necessarily bad. See previous reviews of same author.)

  1. ** From Beowulf to Virginia Woolf: An Astounding and Wholly Unauthorized History of English Literature, Robert Manson Myers. This was a fairly amusing little book with a jacket blurb by Bob Darden. It really gets rolling in the last 3 chapters or so, with jewels like “King George III died of a cerebral hemorrhoid” and “‘I am; therefore I think.’ which is getting Descartes before the horse.”
  2. **The Stainless Steel Rat for President, Harry Harrison. MOTS.
  3. *** Boy’s Life, Robert McKammon. An excellent story of a 12-year-old boy in the style of Bradbury’s Dandelion Wine and Something Wicked This Way Comes, but definitely of the 90’s. More like a mix of Bradbury and Stephen King. The guy is a good story teller, but goes a bit off the deep end occasionally. Not quite the stylist Bradbury was, but gives King a good run for his money. Not as gory as King, thankfully. Probably the most disgusting and revolting scene in the book, the one I wish he had left out, was the story of a girl eating a booger in church. Yeeeech!
  4. *** The Canary Trainer, Nicholas Meyer. From the guy who brought you The Seven-Percent Solution (excellent) and The West End Horror (not so great) comes another post-canon Holmes work worth reading. The beginning is a bit slow, and the footnotes a bit excessive, but overall a good book.
  5. ** The Stainless Steel Rat Saves The World, Harry Harrison. I know, I know, but it’s the last one I have. MOTS.
  6. *** Monsignor Quixote, Graham Greene. Excellent story of an apparently aimless modern-day quest by a supposed ancestor of the fabled knight. A humble and perhaps ineffectual priest is unexpectedly promoted to monsignor and is booted from his parish by the antagonistic and jealous bishop. He gains a travelling companion of the recently deposed mayor, who is a communist, and they spend the book trying to convert each other. Involves the struggle with faith and doubt, Quixote believing that a faith that is not tortured by doubt is no faith at all, or at least not worth having. His nightmare was of Jesus being rescued from the cross by 10,000 angels and the whole world knowing for a certainty of his divinity.
  7. ** Inside Out, Dr. Larry Crabb. Carole gave me this book over a year ago. I tried to start it once, but couldn’t get into it. I tried again and once I got past the first 3 or 4 chapters it picked up. It basically maps out renewing the inner man, dying to self, and a that kind of stuff, in a fairly practical way. However, it could have been done in less than half the space. And I would have read it a whole lot sooner if it had.
  8. *** Talking God, Tony Hillerman. MOTS, but this one happens mostly in Washington D.C. and is pretty violent.
  9. * A is for Alibi, Sue Grafton. I decided to check this series out to see if it was worth getting into. After all, there would be at least 25 other books to read, right? Then we could move over to the Greek alphabet and other cultures. But I didn’t care for it much. The main character has too much moral confusion and does stupid things, like getting emotionally and sexually involved with a main suspect. I guess I should be thankful it was heterosexual.
  10. *** The Mosquito Coast, Paul Theroux. Excellent writer, good material. More graphic but somehow less depressing than the movie. Excellent example of what Scott B. could become if he just put his mind to it. If I had been writing this story, I would have had the father gasp, “See, I was right,” just before he died. However, in the book this would be impossible since vultures attack him and pull out his tongue. (A graphic scene which doesn’t occur in the movie. I think the movie streamlined the story and made it more forceful without sacrificing too much.)
  11. ** See, I Told You So, Rush Limbaugh. MOTS. If you listen or watch, there’s no reason to buy the book, except to make a point.
  12. ** The Gentle Art of Smoking, Alfred Dunhill. Nice but dated reference book on the history of the tobacco industry and the manufacture of cigars, cigarettes, and pipes.
  13. **** Body and Soul, Frank Conroy. An excellent novel based on music. The transcendent beauty of music is eloquently described. This book is a legend if for no other reason than I got it on the book club’s recommendation and I liked it. It should have come with a CD. Recommended reading.
  14. *** The Book Of Guys, Garrison Keillor. A great book, very entertaining in spots, a little slow in others. Not recommended for prudes. I found it interesting that he redid “How the Savings and Loans Were Saved” in here under the heading “George Bush”. It remains to be seen if he will whip on the Clintons like he has on the Republicans.
  15. *** Pi in the Sky: Counting, Thinking, and Being. Interesting book, but not as startling as Hoffstadter’s. It has some good quotes before some of the sections.
  16. *** The Comedians, Graham Greene. One of his better novels, although the ending just seemed to peter out without going anywhere. Interesting that he is preoccupied with 1) Catholicism, 2) Communism, and 3) Latin America.
  17. *** The Seven-Percent Solution, Nicholas Meyer. Excellent post-canon Holmes story involving Freud.
  18. *** Disclosure, Michael Crichton. Real page-turner from the man who brought you The Andromeda Strain, and Jurassic Park. Novel of high-tech intrigue, sexual harassment, and virtual reality. Very raw sex scene, however.
  19. **** The Moonstone, Wilkie Collins. Excellent detective novel written by a contemporary of Dickens about the time of the American Civil War. Some very excellent quotes, most by Betteridge, the steward at the manor, and an excellent character, Miss Clack, a prudish, interfering spinster. “We were not a happy couple, and not a miserable couple. We were six of one and half a dozen of the other. How it was I don’t understand, but we always seemed to be getting, with the best of motives, in one another’s way. When I wanted to go upstairs, there was my wife coming down; or when my wife wanted to go down, there was I coming up. That is married life, according to my experience of it.” “There’s good sense, Mr. Franklin, in our conduct to our mothers, when they first start us on the journey of life. We are all of us more or less unwilling to be brought into the world. And we are all of us right.” “Here I am, with my book and my pencil — the latter not pointed so well as I could wish; but when Christians take leave of their senses, who is to expect that pencils will keep their points?” Highly recommended reading.
  20. * The Difference Engine, Golding and somebody else. Interesting novel speculating on the world if Babbage had been able to mass-produce his Analytical Engine and usher in the information age a century sooner. I hated the authors’ cinematic style, frequently describing scenes as if giving camera cues and instructions. I disliked the extensive and graphic digression into scenes with prostitutes. I despised the ending which degenerated into cryptic reports of apparently unrelated items. However, if I interpreted everything correctly, the authors postulate the premature derivation of Godel’s Theorm which somehow wreaks havoc and chaos on society and introduces unreliability in the computing machines of France. You got me. Not recommended, but I wish somebody would read it so I could find out if I understood any of it at all.
  21. *** 24 Short Stories by Dorothy Parker. I expected more clever stuff, but it was predomiately depressing stuff. Still an interesting read.
  22. *** It Was On Fire When I Lay Down On It, Robert Fulghum. Pretty good, several nice pieces. Recommended reading.
  23. *** Focault’s Pendulum, Umberto Eco. This one really slowed my schedule down. It had its moments, but had way too much arcana. I guess that’s the Italian aspect. An American author wouldn’t have buried the plot and action in so much research. I guess I’ll have to read his first novel, Name of the Rose see if the movie cleaned up all the slow parts or if he just went crazy on his second novel.
  24. * Blind Date, L. Stine. Found this is Sarah’s stuff and had to read it to find out what she was reading. Pretty good writer for juvenile literature, but this is about 4 years ahead of her, in my estimation.
  25. *** Something Fresh, P.G. Wodehouse. Blandings novel. MOTS.
  26. *** Summer Lightning, P.G. Wodehouse. Blandings novel. MOTS.
  27. * Outcry in the Barrio, Freddie Garcia. Typical junkie converted story, poorly written, but for some reason I found it remarkably moving.
  28. *** America, B. C., Barry Fell. Excellent 1976 book about established civilizations of ancient Celts in New England, Lybian language influence in the Zuni language, Semitic (Arabic, Phonecian) influence in the Pima language, and other thangs. Why haven’t we heard of this stuff before?
  29. ** Padre, Robin Hardy. MOTS.
  30. *** Listening Woman, Tony Hillerman. MOTS. Leaphorn novel with no mention of wife, dead or alive.
  31. ** Parallel Time: Growing up in Black and White, Brent Staples. Highly disappointing auto-biography. From the blurb in the book club I got the impression this book offered insight into Staple’s struggle to escape from the destructive elements of the ghetto culture without losing his identity as a black man. Instead it was just a chronicle of what happened to him, without any generalization or application to the specific identity/culture problem. It leaves you to draw your own conclusions. The problem with that is that I already have drawn my own conclusions. I was looking to Staples to either validate or enlighten them. He did neither.
  32. **** The Silent Gondoliers, S. Morganstern. Excellent book by a remarkable author (The Princess Bride). Highly recommended.
  33. ** Billy Bathgate, E.L. Doctorow. Good writer, material didn’t particularly interest me. Too much sex for my taste.
  34. ** The Man Who Turned Into Himself, David Ambrose. Good story, interesting ideas.
  35. *** Colored People, Henry Louis Gates, Jr. This was the book I was looking for when I bought Parallel Time, although I didn’t know it. Great book, recommended reading.
  36. ** A Nun in the Closet, Dorothy Gillam. Occasionally clever story by the author of the Polifax series. About on par with Polifax, but it seems she just can’t resist inserting Eastern mysticism (see review of The Clairvoyant Countess in a previous year) and, in this case, social conscience. Forgettable.
  37. ** What the Bible Really Says, Barthel somebody. Mildly interesting. The most interesting thing is how the name Jehovah came about. It seems that the name of God, YWYH, is too sacred to be pronounced, so the Jews used Adonai instead. So, everywhere YWYH appeared in the text, they wrote A O A I above it (the vowels from Adonai.) Later translators who didn’t realize this merged YWYH and AOAI to get YAWOYAHI, Yahweh, or Jehovah. Sort of blows the doors off the Jehovah Witness presupposition that they are the only true church because they are called by the name of God, eh?
  38. ** The Moviegoer, Walker Percy. I had to read this after I read that Walker Percy was Bill Bennet’s favorite novelist. I will admit he is good, but I’m not enthralled, yet. I’ll reserve judgement until I’ve read a few more.
  39. ** Red Sky at Morning, Richard Bradford. I bought this book because the name of the author. It is actually a decent book. I laughed out loud several times.
  40. *** Fahrenheit 451, Ray Bradbury. Daniel is reading this for his English class, so I picked it up and re-read it. It is a bit tedious in the beginning, but still a great classic, particularly the words of the professor.
  41. *** Classic Christianity, Bob George. Good exposition of the doctrine of grace.
  42. *** The Scarlet Pimpernel, Baroness Orczy. Great book written in the first half of this century that reads like Dickens.
  43. * Freudian Fraud, E. T. Torrey. A book Dangerous Dan gave me for my birthday. I only read it when eating by myself, so it only took me 6 months to read it. Mildly interesting.
  44. *** West of Eden, Harry Harrison. From the author of the Stainless Steel Rat series, a very intriguing series about what might have happened if the alleged comet hadn’t hit the earth 65 million years ago and mammals and reptiles evolve simultaneously into sentient species.
  45. **** Anguished English, Richard Lederer. Hilarious. Recommended reading
  46. * Charade, John Mortimer. Remarkably dull early effort from the maker of the great Rumpole.
  47. *** The Ghostway, Tony Hillerman. MOTS.
  48. ** Why I Am Not A Christian, Bertrand Russell. A collection of essays. Intriguing in parts, ho-hum in others, not compelling.
  49. *** Who Stole Feminism, Christina Hoff Sommers. Very entertaining and informative. Recommended reading.
  50. *** Orient Express, Graham Greene. Pretty decent book, sort of funky ending. Typical Greene.
  51. ** Portofino, Frank Schaeffer. Novel by the Jr. Schaeffer. Not a great writer, but a decent one. Some entertaining spots, picks up as it goes along.
  52. *** Grendel, John Gardner. Very good book, but not for the average reader. Would probably bore most folks. I saw a play based on this book about 15 years ago. It was strange, but good.
  53. ** Seven Promises of a Promise Keeper, collection. Not bad.
  54. ** The Union Club Mysteries, Isaac Asimov. Clever but forgettable.
  55. **** The Selfish Gene, Richard Dawkins. Excellent. Highly recommended reading.
  56. ** The Crossing, Cormac McCarthy. Got it through the BOMC, it was all the rage, but I’m not sure why. It didn’t do much for me.