I’ve started writing individual thoughts for each book I read per week in my Weekly Updates posts. Look at those to stay on top of what I’m reading. At the end of the month, I’ll list all the books read here with a mini-review of each.
Top Pick: Horns by Joe Hill
Also reviewed in my weekly updates.
If you’re looking for books to read in March, start right here with Horns by Joe Hill. This is one of the more intriguing and well-balanced novels I’ve read in a while.
First there’s the plot. Main character Ig woke up after a long night of drinking with a hangover and horns on growing of his head. Yes, like devil horns. Along with the horns comes the ability to see into someone’s mind at just a touch. Along with other’s telling him their sins. Both things are more of a boon than a gift.
On top of this, is the real meat behind the story. About a year ago, Ig had been accused of raping & killing his girlfriend after they had a loud public break-up. He was never charged nor cleared. Using his new-found ability to see people’s memories at just a touch, he is able to go back in time and discover what happened that night.
Hill technique of writing different perspectives from different characters works very well. Some characters are left in the dust but that can’t be helped. Everyone in the book is terrible. Except Ig and his girlfriend I guess. I suppose we would all sound terrible if you only knew us by our sins.
The book doesn’t go too supernatural or too horror at all. It is curious and adventurous. You really start to feel for the main character which is a strange emotional conflict because at the same time he is turning into a devil. The ending was all that I hoped it to be. No letdown. No soft ending.
I haven’t read any other of his novels but am certainly looking forward to what Hill brings us in the future.
I recommend Horns if you like light supernatural or light mystery novels.
The Signal and The Noise by Nate Silver
As a web analyst and someone who likes numbers & spreadsheets, I thought this would be more interesting than it was. Silver stays to his argument pretty well, which is that forecasts should be flexible to various environmental changes (whether that’s biological or economical).
Unfortunately, his writing and multiple examples muddle this argument throughout the entire book. He is very long-winded and repetitive. For a book on numbers, there are far too many words.
His examples are good, following the recent economical recession, baseball, and the weather. The weather section was the most interesting for me, probably because it directly affects me most regularly. With that said, reading this did motivate me to watch Moneyball, which I recommend. In fact, I suggest watching that movie over reading this book – something I don’t do very often.
I recommend The Signal and The Noise if you like economics.
Gun Machine by Warren Ellis
Warren Ellis is known as a comic book writer and that is very clear in the novel Gun Machine. It is also clear that without the support of illustrations, Ellis cannot tell a complete story.
I absolutely loved this story right up until the end. Seriously, the last 5 pages were SO BAD that it completely ruined everything before that. Which is a shame because boy were the first parts good!
Ellis does a great job setting a scene and atmosphere. Since the story is set in NYC (kind of in this world, kind of not), there were definitely times that I felt creeped out reading this in my apartment alone. There is a real sense of fear, dread, and mystery built around the killer. Unfortunately, what starts out as brilliantly ominous turns into a joke by the end of the book.
I recommend Gun Machine, if you like comics, detective stories, and creepy atmosphere’s. With that said, be prepared for a shallow ending.
Welcome to Shirley: A Memoir from an Atomic Town by Kelly McMasters
Also reviewed in my weekly updates.
This part memoir-part environmentalism story works surprisingly well. This is the book The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks tried to be. McMaster’s grew up in the Long Island town she writes about, providing the reader with a unique and emotional perspective of growing up in a town where the near-by national laboratory happens to have a leaky reactor. The juxtaposition between her warm childhood memories in the first part of the book, with the sudden change in tone when the community starts getting sick is a perfect balance.
The second part of the book involves more of her research and discussions on activism within the community. The first part is straight-forward memoir. I could complain that the research is a bit soft but it’s actually perfect for the type of story she is trying to tell. Being able to see the experience through the eyes of someone who lived through it and just as important as reading legal transcripts and government reports.
I recommend Welcome to Shirley: A Memoir from an Atomic Town if you like memoirs, like Long Island area stories, like reading about the health impact of toxins released into the environment.
Butcher’s Crossing by John Williams
Butcher’s Crossing by John Williams (not that John Williams) is a tricky one. The writing is great as to be expected. The plot is very western as it’s about buffalo hunting and exploring the wild west. It is West in the sense that the only female characters in the book are whores. And the novel focuses on four men. One man in particular reminds me of the gruff western characters in True Grit. Then another man is softer, fresh from an Ivy League school on the east coast wanting to explore the new wild country. This should be a coming-of-age tale but falls a bit short.
The middle section of the book is pretty dry and I almost gave up on it, thinking I already knew the ending. But Williams surprised me. The ending was not quite what I expected and actually pulled everything together very well. But first, you have to get through some pretty gruesome buffalo hunting scenes involving killing animals for hide (and leaving the rest of them to rot). Williams also goes into detail on the skinning process. It was a little bit graphic and I have no idea if it was accurate.
There is kind of a lesson told in the story but again falls short there too. After some thought, I’m really not sure what the story was supposed to tell. A lot of it was predictable and then nothing really happened afterward. This is the second Williams book I’ve read so I might wait some time before checking out another one.
I recommend Butcher’s Crossing if you’re interested in westerns, men’s men, and hunting.
The Power of Less by Leo Babauta
I love Zen Habits but really did not enjoy this book. Leo Babauta has a great personality, a good life story, and excellent writing style. Zen Habits is very easy to read and never comes off preachy. This book would have been better as a collection of his essays or even an autobiography type of story.
Unfortunately, it is straight-forward self-help which really leaves little explanation of how to do anything. Babauta can write too well to be using bullet points.
I recommend subscribing to Zen Habits for motivation and productivity. Skip the book.