highlights

TheSympathizer

Thumbs up for The Sympathizer by Viet Thanh Nguyen. Literature.

The unnamed narrator, as he tells us in the first pages, can see two sides to all things. A hard trick to pull off for an author, but it flies. The narrator is a Communist (the story begins just before the fall of Saigon) though he to all appearances works doggedly on behalf of the Southern Vietnamese government-in-exile.… >> Read more

companytown

Thumbs up for Company Town by Madeline Ashby. Science fiction.

It seems strange that the word that would come to mind for a novel about a physically-disfigured young woman who works as a bodyguard for prostitutes on an oil rig in a gritty near-future Canada would be “sweet.” And yes, there’s murder and fighting and bombs, because it is after all a suspense story.… >> Read more

howtofailateverything

Thumbs up for How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big: Kind of the Story of My Life by Scott Adams. Psychology.

I’m allergic to self-help books—not because I’m not interested in getting better at being a human being, but because almost all of them are full of “follow your dreams and think positively and you will be happy and wealthy” advice, despite all of recorded history amply demonstrating that this is false.… >> Read more

The Quantum Thief cover

Thumbs up for The Quantum Thief by Hannu Rajaniemi. Science fiction.

So, to start with, wow. If you’ve read my review of the author’s Collected Fictions, a lot of that applies here too. If you haven’t read what I said there and are too lazy to click over, suffice it to say I Like This Author A Lot But He Will Make You Work.… >> Read more

Ninety Percent of Everything cover

Thumbs up for Ninety Percent of Everything: Inside Shipping, the Invisible Industry that Puts Clothes on Your Back, Gas in Your Car, and Food on Your Plate by Rose George. Nonfiction.

I asked a friend who is a merchant marine (and avid and critical reader) how he, as an insider, thought Ninety Percent of Everything stood up. It’s one of the best available, he said, and then went on to rant about John McPhee’s Looking for a Ship (“they fed him all sorts of bullshit.”) I would have enjoyed this book even if I hadn’t had a friend in the industry.… >> Read more

Speakeasy

Thumbs up for Speak Easy by Catherynne M. Valente. Fantasy.

A retelling of the fairytale “The Twelve Dancing Princess” set in the 1920’s. I don’t know if my ignorance of the original added to or subtracted from the pleasure I had reading this book. If it subtracted, it wasn’t much. This is one of those stories in which the glory is in the telling: it defines “luscious.” If you like prose as juicy as peaches, you’ll love this.… >> Read more