August 2010 Recommended Reading List

As you can tell, I wrote this at the beginning of September.  And I’m posting late. I’d planned to post before I left.  But here goes….

Boy, I read a lot in August.  Boy, did I not like most of it.  Including a mystery novel by an acclaimed writer whose work I had read before. This book was a “breakout” novel that won a variety of awards.  I don’t get it.  I really don’t.  I figured out the mystery 20 pages in.  While the characters were good and the setting spectacular, the plot was no great shakes.  I kept expecting it to get better which, I recall, I did with a previous book by this author.  Clearly, I don’t much like her work.

I also read a lot of romance, which I liked, but nothing struck me as recommendable.  And a nice novel in a series by a writer whose work I love but again, it wasn’t spectacular.  I have high hopes for September.  I have two 20+ hour plane flights, and 14 books on my Kindle.  I should encounter something good.

August, 2010

Blum, Deborah, “Mind Tricks For The Masses,” On Wisconsin, Summer, 2010.  On Wisconsin is the alumni magazine for the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where Blum teaches.  Earlier this year, I recommended her Poisoner’s Handbook.  This article is also a history of science article, with a UW twist.  It’s about Joseph Jastrow, who founded the UW’s psychology department.  But Blum contends that his greatest contribution was popularizing science.  I agree.  The article is well written and fascinating, about someone I’d never heard of before.

Carter, Scott William, “Black Lace and Salt Water,” A Web of Black Widows And Other Stories of Loss and Love, PS Publishing, February, 2010. I read this story just after Scott wrote it, long before any editor saw it, years ago now, and I remember it in vivid detail.  I don’t often remember stories this clearly, which tells you just how wonderful it is.  Worth the price of the entire collection.

Carter, Scott William, “A Christmas in Amber,” The Dinosaur Diaries And Other Tales Across Space And Time, Fantastic Books, February, 2010.  I loved this story when I first read it in Analog, and I love it now.  Another memorable story by Scott.

Carter, Scott William, The Dinosaur Diaries And Other Tales Across Space And Time, Fantastic Books, February, 2010.  Scott asked me to put a quote on this collection—and I did.  Quotes are not something I give lightly.  The collection is filled with memorable stories, topped by “A Christmas in Amber,” which I mentioned above.  Find this.  You’ll enjoy it.

Carter, Scott William, A Web of Black Widows And Other Stories of Loss and Love, PS Publishing, February, 2010.  This is a beautiful short collection of Scott’s marvelous short fiction, much of which I read at the workshops I mention.  Some I read in magazines.  You can get an electronic edition of this book, but order the lovely hardcover.  It’s a beautiful book filled with wonderful stories.

Ephron, Nora, The Girl Who Fixed The Umlaut,” The New Yorker, July 5, 2010.  Those of you who took my advice and read Stieg Larsson’s trilogy will love this short humor piece. It went viral when it came out, but you can still enjoy it.  Maybe more so now that you’ve read the books…

Grann, David, “Mysterious Circumstances,” The Devil And Sherlock Holmes, Doubleday , 2010.  Grann’s first essay in a book of nonfiction essays about crime is the story of a Sherlock Holmes scholar who might have been murdered, but who might have committed suicide—with a garrote.  (Ick.)  Fascinating look at scholarly fandom, and at people who devote their lives to the study of other people’s lives—sometimes in the extreme.

Grann, David, “True Crime,” The Devil And Sherlock Holmes, Doubleday , 2010. I read this in slightly different form in The New Yorker when the article first appeared.  This about the Polish novelist who detailed his “perfect” crime in his literary novel.  The essay reads like a great detective story, in which the nonliterary detective has to become a literary scholar of another man’s  life to solve a crime.  Hmmm… Sounds like a theme. And it is, but only in the opening section of the collection.  Others don’t go into this kind of depth.

This particular essay does examine, in uncomfortable detail, how much novelists put themselves into a book—and whether or not they should.

Kleypas, Lisa, Love in the Afternoon, St. Martins Paperbacks, 2010.  Love in the Afternoon is part of Kleypas’ Hathaway series.  I’ve enjoyed these before, but I’d really been looking forward to this one.  It’s about Beatrix Hathaway who is…unusual.  Partly because she collects animals (the way my husband does), and partly because she’s outspoken.  She falls in love with a man who comes back from war badly damaged.  This is a marvelous book about the healing power of love—and it’s the story Beatrix deserves.  A good book in a good series.

Rosellini, Lynn, “The DNA Detective,” More Magazine, June 2010.  This fascinating article is about Colleen Fitzpatrick, who looks for missing persons, using DNA.  If you watch CSI or if you are a science geek like I am, you’ll find this mesmerizing.  People have amazing jobs, and this is one of them.

Smith, Dean Wesley, “Luck Be A Lady,” Kindle edition, WMG Publishing, 2010.  For years, Dean has written Poker Boy stories, about an unlikely superhero whose power is…playing poker.  I love these stories, which have appeared in a variety of diverse anthologies.  He’s finally getting them up on Kindle.  In this one, Poker boy has to save Lady Luck—who is not quite what you expect.

Smith, Dean Wesley, “Old Girlfriend of Doom,” Kindle edition, WMG Publishing, 2010.  Another Poker Boy story.  I love these things—and would love them, even if I didn’t know Dean.  In this story, Poker Boy goes up against the Silicon Suckers.  You figure it out….

Smith, Dean Wesley, “Sighed The Snake,” Kindle edition, WMG Publishing, 2010.  Finally, Poker Boy gets to save the world, using his poker-playing superpower.  It’s a head-shaker, like all Poker Boy stories.  And I mean that in a good way.

7 responses to “August 2010 Recommended Reading List”

  1. Aidan Fritz says:

    I also enjoy the reading list. I often pick out articles or stories I want to read from your list. This time, I discovered that I missed “The Girl Who Fixed the Umlaut” (I have a New Yorker subscription, but missed it). Wow, that was good, particularly for someone who has walked past that apple store and most of those streets and understood the reference to “burning church street”. Fun.

  2. Thanks so much for the kind words, Kris. Very much appreciated. And Steve, there’s a couple dozen stories that I wrote early on that Kris just smiled and said, “Well, chock this one up to practice.”. Thankfully, she’s forgotten those. Thankfully, so have I.

    • Kris says:

      I smiled? You’re welcome, Scott. Good stories.

      I’m glad you enjoy the rec reading list, Jen. For a while, I wasn’t sure anyone even read it. Then I got a few private comments, and now blog comments. (Yay!) I’m happy to point out good writing, no matter where I find it. I feel like I should be reading more blogs, but I feel like I should be reading more everything. All the time. Sleep is overrated, I think.

  3. Jen says:

    The smorgasbord of selected readings you share are always worth the wait! I stayed up past midnight last night reading some of the suggested titles. I liked the character Lisbeth right away in “The Girl Who Fixed the Umlat”. Her sassy self-talk and sense of humor drew me in. I thought the solution to the problem in the story was akin to the “softer side” of duct tape remedies. 🙂 Hailing from Wisconsin and having a degree in psychology mandated I read “Mind Tricks For The Masses”. My favorite quote in the piece was this, “He insisted that the study of human behavior was not an abstract endeavor but the stuff of everyday life.” Any teacher who would bring Harry Houdini into their classroom has my admiration. Speaking of admiration, Dr. Fitzpatrick certainly deserves it for following her passion for science and geneaology. “DNA Detective” had me cheering for her creativity and spirit. Who wouldn’t root for someone who uses their gifts to help others? Thanks for sharing Kris!

  4. Steve Lewis says:

    Great reading list, Kris. I’ve been meaning to pick up some of Scott’s short stories and haven’t gotten around to it. Too busy lately, but I’m definitely going to get “The Last Great Getaway of the Waterballoon Boys” (how could I not with a title like that?). I like Dean’s Poker Boy stories, as well, and “The Old Girlfriend of Doom” is a doozy. I love the way Poker Boy describes his powers. Again, great list and, as odd as this may sound, I aspire to be on one of these some day. Hey, a guy can dream, can’t he? (grin).

    • Kris says:

      Not odd at all, Steve. You’re not the first person to tell me that you’ve aspired to this.

      I’m glad you like Dean’s stories as well. I love them. He’s got a Poker Boy novel I think people should read, but it’s a hard sell. We’ll see if WMG will do it. I like that book a lot.

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