Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Top Ten Tuesday

Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by the girls over at The Broke and the Bookish. Every week they post a prompt and ask book bloggers to answer that prompt in the form of a top ten list.

This week's prompt is something very near and dear to my heart: Top Ten Favorite Kick-Ass Heroines

Growing up, books were my refuge. I would devour pretty much any book that I came across. It didn't matter what or who the book was about. If it had pages with words on it, it would probably find its way into my hands somehow.

As I got older and became more of a feminist, I became more critical of novels in terms of their portrayal of women. While, as a kid, I didn't pay attention too much to whether or not the female characters were weak or not, today it makes me want to scream every time I read a book with a Catherine or a Bella who can't stand on her own two feet without some man there to hold her up. I want to read books with female characters who are feisty and independent and self-sufficient. I want any daughters I might have to grow up seeing women take care of themselves rather than being constantly saved by some cardboard cutout of what an attractive man is supposed to be.

As always, I'm going to do this prompt a little differently. Along with five heroines that I think are awesomely kick-ass, I'll be listing five heroines that I cannot stand due to their needy, selfish, or oh-so-obnoxious nature.

Without further ado, I present to you my picks for the five best Kick-Ass Heroines in literature and five Heroines that Need to Be Smacked Upside the Head.

Top Five Favorite Kick-Ass Heroines

1) Valkyrie Cain (a.k.a. Stephanie Edgley) from Skulduggery Pleasant: I really can't get through a Top Ten Tuesday list without mentioning these books. Valkyrie is a smart-ass, sarcastic, independent, stubborn girl who can wield magic alongside some of the greatest mages of the day. Trained by the one-and-only Skulduggery Pleasant, Valkyrie stands against evil without needing to lean on a man for help. Sure, she's got a boyfriend but it's not hard to see that she wears the pants in the relationship.

2) Hermione Granger from Harry Potter: Hermione shows young girls that being smart is awesome. The most intelligent young witch of her age, Hermione knows all of the spells that keep Harry and Ron safe. She's the brains of the operation as well as the kind of girl that other people look to for help. That whole Ron and Hermione emo thing during the last couple of books kind of annoyed me, but she's still a strong role model.

3) Meg Murray from A Wrinkle in Time: Okay, this one's a bit dubious. Meg is very self-conscious and critical of herself. She's also very dependent on her brother, Charles Wallace, and their new-found friend Calvin for the entirety of this book. But she's loyal and loving and fiercely defends her family. In the end it is she who saves the day, showing that people can change and that love is a powerful deterrent to hate. She's a sympathetic character that I grew up identifying with and I think that I found strength in the strength that she discovers.

4) Lady Julia Grey from Silent in the Grave: The protagonist of Deanna Raybourn's addictive Lady Julia novels, this budding detective is far ahead of her time. Although she lives in the stifling Victorian Era, Lady Julia holds her own and doesn't let society hold her down...much. She manages to juggle propriety with her own brand of girl power and I love it.

5) Liesel Meminger from The Book Thief: Liesel is a smart, compassionate young girl living in Germany during World War II. Her story of struggle and survival is beautiful and haunting. I love how she manages to rise above the hatred and horrors that surround her.

Top Five Heroines that Need to Be Smacked Upside the Head

1) Bella Swan from Twilight: Oh, yeah. You knew she was going to make this list. This whiny, needy, dependent, sorry excuse for a heroine drives me up the wall. "Oh, you're going to stalk me? How sexy is that. God, Edward you're so beautiful and the sun shines out your ass." "Oh no! My boyfriend left me. I'm going to go kill myself now." "No one likes me. Well, except for every boy in the school. Le sigh. Life is so hard." "How can I possibly choose between the two of you? Let's see, which sounds more appealing? Necrophilia or bestiality?" She literally cannot do anything for herself. Although, maybe that's because Edward is an abusive, over-bearing boyfriend?

2) Edna Pontellier from The Awakening: The absolute definition of a selfish woman, this pseudo-feminist novel follows the life of an obnoxious woman who complains about just about everything and sleeps with, like, everyone because she thinks that will help her find herself. I am totally all for women exploring their sexuality. Don't get me wrong. My problem is that conflating sex with feminism is ridiculous and insulting. To make it even worse, Edna makes it seem like feminism is about being a bad mother and a horrible wife, which is even more ridiculous and insulting. Hate. Hate. Hate.

3) Juliet from Romeo and Juliet: This girl is, what, 16? Maybe? And she's found one guy she likes out of the, I don't know, hundreds of others that she could possibly meet and they have to be together forever and if not she's going to die? Basically Juliet teaches that boys are the only thing worth living for. Yeah, that's a great lesson for young women. *holds up sarcasm sign*

4) Catherine Earnshaw from Wuthering Heights: Bratty. Dithering. Obnoxious. Selfish. Oh, and completely rude to pretty much everyone. Also, she tortures Heathcliff and is basically responsible for his being a drunk wife beater. Awesome. Not.

5) Estella from Great Expectations: This is one of my favorite novels, but Estella is such a jerk that she needs to make this list. I can't even describe how horrible she is to Pip (and pretty much everyone else). She's selfish and rude and thinks that toying with people's affections is fun. Not exactly who I'd want to date, but whatever floats your boat, Pip.


Monday, October 29, 2012

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

Every Monday, Sheila at Book Journey hosts It's Monday! What Are You Reading? This is a chance for book bloggers to share what they read last week, what they are currently reading, and what they are reading next. It's also an opportunity for us to share other things that we did during the week. If you would like to participate, click on the links above.

Reading time has been so hard to come by in the past week because of all the hours I'm working. I feel really glad now that there are a ton of books that I never reviewed after I read them because I can go back and dig into those when I haven't finished anything. 

This past week I finally finished The Star Diaries by Stanislaw Lem and I started reading Robert Heinlein's Stranger in a Strange Land. I still need to find time to plop myself down in front of my computer so that I can read Something New, an e-book that I've had on my "Reading Now" list for weeks. (I promise I'll get to it this week, Ms. Lott!) This week I'll be tackling those two novels. After that, I have another e-book, Royal Flush by Scott Bartlett, to read and will be jumping into You by Charles Benoit. He apparently lives in the Rochester area and stopped in at the bookstore where I work. We got to talking about Banned Books Week and he mentioned that his novel had been banned at a school in Florida. My library happened to have a copy so I figured I'd give it a go. 

What are all of you reading this week?


Sunday, October 28, 2012

Out Amongst the Stars: A Review of Stanislaw Lem's The Star Diaries

Title: The Star Diaries
Author: Stanislaw Lem (translated by Michael Kandel)
Edition: Hardcover (Seabury Press, 1976)
Pages: 275
How I Came by This Book: I was looking for sci-fi authors I'd never read and Lem's name came up. I acquired this from the library I work at.

About the Author: Stanisław Lem (12 September 1921 – 27 March 2006) was a Polish science fiction, philosophical and satirical writer. His books have been translated into 41 languages and have sold over 27 million copies. He is perhaps best known as the author of Solaris, which has twice been made into a feature film. In 1976, Theodore Sturgeon claimed that Lem was the most widely read science-fiction writer in the world.

His works explore philosophical themes; speculation on technology, the nature of intelligence, the impossibility of mutual communication and understanding, despair about human limitations and humankind's place in the universe. They are sometimes presented as fiction, but others are in the form of essays or philosophical books. Translations of his works are difficult and multiple translated versions of his works exist.

Lem became truly productive after 1956, when the de-Stalinization period led to the "Polish October", when Poland experienced an increase in freedom of speech. Between 1956 and 1968, Lem authored 17 books. His works were widely translated abroad (although mostly in the Eastern Bloc countries). In 1957 he published his first non-fiction, philosophical book, Dialogi (Dialogues). Dialogi and Summa Technologiae (1964) are his two most famous philosophical texts. The Summa is notable for being a unique analysis of prospective social, cybernetic, and biological advances. In this work, Lem discusses philosophical implications of technologies that were completely in the realm of science fiction then, but are gaining importance today - like, for instance, virtual reality and nanotechnology. Over the next few decades, he published many books, both science fiction and philosophical/futurological, although from the 1980s onwards he tended to concentrate on philosophical texts and essays.

He gained international fame for The Cyberiad, a series of humorous short stories from a mechanical universe ruled by robots, first published in English in 1974. His best-known novels include Solaris (1961), His Master's Voice (Głos pana, 1968), and the late Fiasco (Fiasko, 1987), expressing most strongly his major theme of the futility of mankind's attempts to comprehend the truly alien. Solaris was made into a film in 1972 by Russian director Andrei Tarkovsky and won a Special Jury Prize at the Cannes Film Festival in 1972[7]; in 2002, Steven Soderbergh directed a Hollywood remake starring George Clooney. (from GoodReads)

Synopsis: Ijon Tichy is an amiable, innocent cosmic traveler with a magnetic attraction for mishaps of the most unusual kinds; his absurd adventures and misfortunes make pointed and occasionally not-so-gentle mockery of various twentieth-century beliefs and institutions.

Called into question as Tichy is best by mind-boggling time warps and "civilizations" that are curious, to say the least, are: science and the rational mind, human progress, the "rightness" of the  universe, theology and Christianity, the sanctity of life, motherhood--and a host of other things that we tend to take for granted, and even pride ourselves on.

In compensation for this intellectual rock-throwing, the reader will be entertained by Lem's masterful creations, including the sadomasochistic robots of Cercia (who talk like Chaucer), the squamp hunt wherein squamp (huge beasts with impervious armor) are literally invaded and conquered within, accounts of Tichy's unwitting cannibalism, and his personal quarrel with Plato.

The reader may find, however--and this is characteristic of Lem's deft satire--that the laughter is often at his own expense.

Review: I love satire and I love sci-fi, so a satirical sci-fi book was right up my proverbial alley. While I wouldn't really classify this as actual sci-fi, there are fantastical adventures in space, so I guess it fits the bill somewhat. It is first and foremost a satirical/philosophical kind of book. The tales of inter-galactic traveler Ijon Tichy turn a critical eye toward everything from Communism to history to the human race in general. And they do it with a wicked sense of humor. 

The novel is actually a series of short stories labelled as different voyages. The seventh voyage is about a time when Tichy went through a series of gravitational vortices and ended up with multiple versions of himself all quarreling with each other. The fourteenth voyage follows him as he visits another planet in order to hunt squamp. The twenty-first voyage is a philosophical treatise on the nature of life and forced evolution. As the translator's note states, the voyages are put in numerical order for this book (as Lem intended them to be read), but they weren't written in that order. Therefore, the stories vary in terms of structure, quality, length, etc., although they still carry the same darkly humorous tone and the same mockery of humanity and our history. As Kandel states in that note, however, "the reader, looking chronologically, will find a definite shift from playful anecdote to pointed satire to outright philosophy (p. 274)." As I didn't read them chronologically, I wasn't able to get a real sense of how he grew as an author in that way, but you can definitely see the differences in the stories throughout the book. 

Ijon Tichy is the only constant figure in these stories and is a pretty likeable fellow. He's a bit pompous and can be a little cantankerous, but he's funny and interesting and his observations about life, the universe, and everything are prescient. I think that in some ways he could be considered an unreliable narrator (especially after reading the twenty-eighth voyage, which I didn't really like), but I don't know if that was Lem's original intent or if that idea developed over the course of writing these stories. I think that if the stories were to be read in chronological order it would be easier to see Ijon's character development just like it would be easier to see Lem's development as a writer. Instead, the order of the tales leaves Ijon in a continuous limbo: here he's a bit of an oafish ass, there he's a more mature and more thoughtful person, etc. 

Some of the stories drag (I'm looking at you twenty-first voyage!), but others are a lot of fun to read. My personal favorites are the seventh, eighth, eleventh, and, especially, the twentieth. The fact that all of the stories have a unique feel, voice, and overall message make it an interesting book all around, but I prefer the more humorous/satirical stories to the philosophical ones. If you only read one of these stories, I would suggest the twentieth. It's about how Ijon is forced to go to the future to work with an agency trying to correct history and ends up making it worse (with a bit of a twist and a lot of punny plays on the names of historical figures). It's hilarious and thought-provoking. 

I think the main thing that The Star Diaries accomplishes is to make the reader think. You think about science and unbridled progress; you think about religion and whether or not its a good thing or a bad thing; you think about individualism and how horrible it would be to lose it; you think about humanity and how we would look to outsiders who live peaceful, constructive lives. 

I'm giving The Star Diaries 4 out of 5 Gabriels. It's a good book with some slow parts that kind of detract from the enjoyment of it. As much as I like reading books that make you think, I'd rather not get sleepy while I do it. Also, I REALLY hated the twenty-eighth voyage. I'd read the book again, but I'd skip certain stories the next time I did. 


Saturday, October 27, 2012

Guest Post: Donald Schlaich

Having a novelist for a boyfriend has its perks. For one thing, if I need to do some quiet time stuff during the evening I can say, "Why don't you work on your novel/blog/whatever it is that your brain is churning out at the moment?" For another thing, I can say, "Hey, why don't you write a guest post? I've been working almost 60 hours this week and my brain is empty."

Without further ado, I present to you Gabriel Reads' first guest post: 

Exploring and Building Creativity
By Donald Schlaich

Where do you get your ideas?

Well, you see, there’s this post office both in Duluth. You just send them a dollar every month and they send you ideas.

No, not really. But it was a line I’ve heard used by Michael Stackpole and I found it funny. After a certain point when you’re trying to be a writer you don’t seem to run out of ideas. But it’s getting the ideas started that’s probably the hard part for a lot of people.

I’m probably lucky, in that I’ve always been spinning ideas out of my head. I think that’s one big important detail, letting yourself be open to the idea of creating something, no matter how absurd. My brain has a kind of strange rest state (or maybe it’s always seemed like I’m the unusual one) where I’ll spin out fantasies, stories and ideas when I’m doing something else, no matter if it was pushing carts around a grocery store parking lot when I was in high school or just walking home from the bus station.

The second thing is I’ve always been a voracious reader, devouring whatever I can get my hands on, taking a recommendation from people for what’s a good book series to read or just grabbing something because it caught my eye (which was how I found the Stainless Steel Rat when I was a kid in the library). Seeking out new information and new stories means that you don’t become stagnant in your own art. It doesn’t matter that I don’t intend to be a great “Literary” author, reading everything that I can get my hands on helps me push my own skills further by learning how others tell their story.

The third thing that’s probably been a strong factor in not just bringing me to writing, but helping me to keep ideas flowing is that I’ve had an outlet to let me tell stories and work with others to tell stories. Hi, my name is Don, and I play Dungeons and Dragons. Playing tabletop roleplaying games has been one of my greatest creative outlets for the past decade and a half. It’s been a wonderful tool for helping me to think about stories and characters as they relate to each other. I’ve put on and taken off a dozen different personas in games over the last fifteen years, and it was in gaming that I first really found how to make the kind of characters who really come alive and live inside my head.

I doubt I’ve got the perfect solution to “How to get and keep your creative juices flowing”,  but what I’ve got seems to work for me, giving me a selection of ideas to pick from when I want to pick up and start a new project.

Thank you all for the loan of your time and your eyes. if you’ll excuse me, my protagonist has gone entirely too long without someone trying to end his life.


Thursday, October 25, 2012

Teach a Man to Fish: Cultural Illiteracy and the Decline of the Informed American

I need to talk about this or I will explode. Truly. The idea for this post has been kicking around in my head ever since a person who shall remain unidentified told me that President Obama wants to put tracking devices in our heads. "No he does not," I replied, rolling my eyes at what some people will believe. The response: "Yeah, I read about it on the internet."

Or maybe it started before that. Maybe it started when people started talking about Death Panels. Or the Mayan Calendar. Maybe it was the first time someone said to me, "Global warming can't exist because it's snowing." Or when I found out that a girl from my hometown had insults hurled at her while she was standing in line at the grocery store for sending a letter to the editor of our newspaper explaining that America was not founded as a Christian nation. Or a million other moronic things that I have had to hear over the last 26 years.

Let me state this all for you right now:
  • What you read on the internet isn't always true.
  • Death Panels don't frakking exist.
  • The Mayan Calendar is just the latest in a long history of "end of the world" scares.
  • Global warming doesn't mean that it won't snow in the winter.
  • And FYI, America wasn't founded as a Christian nation.

Now that we've gotten that out of the way, this is what I really want to talk about today: cultural illiteracy. Cultural ignorance. Cultural blindness. Call it what you want, we here in the States are suffering from a woeful (and, in some cases, voluntary) lack of information and understanding.

We are constantly bombarded by media reports and blog posts and politically-charged statements designed to stir up people's emotions and make them think, act, or vote a certain way. What they aren't designed to do is inform people or make them think for themselves.

What's worse is that we have been cowed into being mindless consumers of products, television shows, magazines, and the like. We have been nudged into believing what we see, hear, and read without being encouraged to find out the truth for ourselves. We have fallen into the trap of thinking that catching the newest episode of crap like Here Comes Honey Boo-Boo is far more important than picking up a book. We don't trust newspapers and yet we'll devour anything that's spewed at us from CNN or FOX News without question.

Americans can't explain how their government works. They can't concentrate on anything longer than 140 characters. They buy into sensation and hype rather than calm, rational, reasoned arguments. They are saddened by the death of a movie star, but don't bat an eyelash when they hear (if they hear) that tens of thousands of people have died in the Syrian clash. They'll even argue that it doesn't matter, that it doesn't affect them, and that they don't care what happens to other people. Oh, really, Mr. or Mrs. I-Followed-the-Royal-Wedding-More-Closely-Than-My-Own?

Right, because rich white people getting married is so important.

The people around me are far more likely to be able to tell you who their favorite celebrity is dating than they are to be able to tell you who their congressman or woman is. They can recognize singers or athletes on sight, but they can't name scientists, humanitarians, or civil rights activists.

And don't get me started on books. Everyone and their grandmother has read 50 Shades of Grey, Twilight, The Da Vinci Code, or whatever Nicholas Sparks crapfest has just come out. Ask them about titles of actual worth and merit and they'll look at you with a blank stare. Ask them to name the last non-fiction title they've read and you'll either hear "non-fiction is boring" or (gods-forbid) "I love Glen Beck." Gag me with a spoon.

People are actually walking around bragging that they don't read, don't follow the news, don't vote, don't...whatever. If you really think that those are things to brag about, then I really hope that you also don't complain about "the state of things today." If you can't inform yourself, you have no right to sit there and talk about how bad things have gotten. Your pride in your own ignorance, your refusal to be an informed citizen completely takes away your right to have an opinion.

Some people might read this and think that I'm being harsh. Damn right, I am! If you tell me that you believe something because you saw it on the internet or because you heard it from a friend, I'm going to ask you if you've looked into the issue. I'm going to ask you if you've done any research. If you tell me no, then I'm going to judge you. And I think I have a right to. We are living in an age where information is freely available in many forms, where you can easily find out what opposing viewpoints are saying, where you can form an informed opinion based on different facets of an issue.

Don't tell me you don't have time. Skip the latest episode of whatever craptastic TV show you want to watch and put on a documentary. Put down the romance novel you're reading and pick up a book on a topic you don't understand. Turn off CNN or FOX and turn on NPR or BBC or Al-Jazeera and find out what's going on outside of your bubble and what the rest of the world is doing/thinking/feeling/going through.

There's a whole big world out there, folks, and it doesn't look like this.

I'm calling for parents, teachers, politicians, and regular old individuals to encourage their children, their students, their constituents, and themselves to become informed. We've been living in a society where we've been handed fish for so long that we've forgotten how to fish. We've stopped thinking for ourselves and have let others think for us for far too long. Teach a man to "fish." Teach yourself to "fish." Become informed. Have an opinion based on fact rather than emotion. Don't depend on what you see or hear. Think for yourself!

We need to teach cultural literacy, critical thinking skills, and the beauty and benefit of fact vs. feeling. If we just buy into what we're told without thinking, we end up looking like complete idiots on national TV. I'm appalled that, as a nation, we spend more time researching which computer we're going to buy than we do researching issues and candidates and other things that actually matter. We're "informed consumers" of all the useless products that we buy, but we aren't informed consumers of information.

You can think that I'm being ridiculous or over-the-top or blowing things out of proportion. That's fine. I'm not, but that's fine. As long as we continue to pretend that ignorance is bliss or that it isn't an issue, we will continue to be uninformed and unlikely to make changes in our behavior. Think about whether or not you want to be one of those "dumb Americans" that people always talk about or if you'd actually like to be seen as someone who is open, informed, and able to talk about something without looking like you've spent the last fifty years in a bomb shelter.


Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Anthrax and SARS and West Nile, Oh My!: A Review of Marc Siegel's False Alarm: The Truth About the Epidemic of Fear

Title: False Alarm: The Truth About the Epidemic of Fear
Author: Marc Siegel
Edition: Hardcover (John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 2005)
Pages: 246
How I Came By This Book: Back when I was working on a book about blame in society (which didn't pan out, although I get tempted from time to time to go back and work on it again), I got this book out from the library.

About the Author: Marc Siegel, M.D., is a practicing internist, an associate professor at the New York University School of Medicine, and a Fellow in the Master Scholars Society at New York University. He is a columnist for the New York Daily News and Tribune Media Services, a member of USA Today's Board of Contributors, and a frequent contributor to the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, New York Post, Family Circle, and the Washington Post. Siegel has appeared regularly on the Today show, The Early Show on CBS, FOX News Channel, ABC News, CNN, and NPR.

Synopsis: Life today for citizens of the developed world is far safer, easier, and healthier than for any other people in history. Modern medicine has all but wiped out may diseases that once were common killers. Science and technology have given us countless devices that protect our bodies from injury, secure our property, and warn us of impending disaster. And modern intelligence gathering can pinpoint threats to our domestic security as they arise. So why is an epidemic of fear sweeping America?

The answer, according to nationally renowned health commentator Dr. Marc Siegel, is that we live in an artificially created culture of fear. From the anthrax panic to the SARS "epidemic," from "official" rumors of bioterror to Orange alerts to West Nile virus--the media continually bombard us with breaking news of yet another super-bug, terrorist plot, or natural disaster that's about to wreak havoc. Most of the time the disasters never materialize. But even if they did, the odds that any of us would suffer harm from them is infinitesimally small--especially when compared to the much greater risks of dying in a car accident or from coronary heart disease.

In False Alarm, Siegel identifies three major catalysts of the culture of fear--government, the media, and big pharma. And, with the help of fascinating, blow-by-blow analyses of some of the most sensational false alarms of the past few years, he shows how those big three fearmongers manipulate our most primitive instincts--often without our even realizing it--to promote their political agendas, boost their ratings, and sell their products.

In his role as a dedicated healer, Siegel offers his prescription for inoculating ourselves against fear tactics. He shows us how to look behind the hype and hysteria and helps us to develop the emotional and intellectual skills needed to take back our lives from fearmongers.

Review: Unless you were in utero at the time or lived under a rock, you experienced the atmosphere of terror that characterized the years 2001-2008. You may have been one of those people who feared that you'd be the victim of a terrorist attack (despite living in North Dakota) or one of the ones who dutifully (and, pardon the insult, dumbly) slapped some Saran Wrap over your windows with duct tape because the monkey-in-chief President Bush told you to do so. Maybe you wore a surgical mask to protect yourself from SARS, West Nile, Bird Flu, or whatever the disease-du-jour was. Or maybe, just maybe, you actually sat back and said, "You know what? This is ridiculous. What the hell are we all doing?"

Written in 2005, False Alarm explains why we all should have been like that last group of folks. Much like The Culture of Fear, Siegel shows how various entities within our society perpetrate fear of dangers that are either virtually non-existent or are highly unlikely to affect us. He also highlights actual dangers that are downplayed by society (cigarettes, for example). He talks about things like 9/11 from personal experience and tells anecdotes about people he knew who were consumed by fear about things that they heard about in the media. He also discusses the danger of putting too much stock in what the government and pharmaceutical companies try to sell you as being real, imminent threats.

There was a lot about this book that was fascinating and useful information. I had a few quibbles, however, that I need to address. First and foremost, what is it with authors who don't cite their sources?????????? (Yes, all the question marks are necessary.) While he provides a list of sources in the back according to chapter, I would have loved to have known, via footnotes, what information came from what source. Secondly, as much as I appreciated some of the personal anecdotes, a lot of the time it felt like he was going, "This is what I did and I'm super-awesome and the best doctor ever. Cower before me mere mortals." Okay, so that last sentence is a bit much. But you get the idea.

As someone who counts herself among the group of people who looked at how crazy everyone was getting and said, "Woah, slow down there. Stop Saran Wrapping your house and start thinking for yourselves," I appreciate books like this, books that show the reader how little they know. I think that when a book makes you go, "Huh, so that's the real story, eh?" it brings people a step closer to being able to stare an incorrect story on the news in the face and say, "You're not fooling me." Despite it's flaws, False Alarm does that. If only people would pick it and books like it up, maybe we'd have a better informed public, one that is less inclined to believe hype and hyperbole.

I'm giving False Alarm: The Truth About the Epidemic of Fear four out of five Gabriels.


Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Top Ten Tuesday

Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by the girls over at The Broke and the Bookish. Every week they post a prompt and ask book bloggers to answer that prompt in the form of a top ten list.

This week's prompt is: Top Ten Books to Get in the Halloween Spirit

I answered a very similar prompt last year called Top Ten Books to Read During Halloween. I haven't read anything since then because, frankly, I don't know enough about horror and have never gotten into the genre.

This week, I'm doing things a little differently. I'm letting you, dear reader, create my Top Ten List for me. In addition to any book recommendations that are left in the comments, I'll be looking through your Top Ten Lists to construct a list of Top Ten Horror Novels Gabe Should Read Before Next Halloween.

Check back here later in the day to see what books I've chosen. And don't forget to leave your favorite horror novel suggestions in the comments!


Monday, October 22, 2012

Exciting News!

So it's Monday. And you're probably saying to yourself, "Hmm...that's odd. Why isn't Gabe doing It's Monday! What Are You Reading?"? There's a very good reason for this. I promise.

I am, in fact, currently working on launching a secondary blog.

Yes, I'm nuts.

Yes, I'm already busy as it is.

Yes, I'm probably going to hate myself for it.

I feel like it's necessary, however. I post about books here seven days a week. I have no real place online to talk about other things--to post essays or non-book-related rants or just general musings about life. I also feel like this blog doesn't give people enough of a chance to get to know me.

In addition to the content you get here seven days a week, I'll be posting on my other blog about other things that I care about. You'll get to find out who I am as a person. Tell me that's not the greatest news you've heard all day. (I'm remarkably humble, aren't I?)

The Mind of Gabe is currently under construction but should be up and running by Tuesday morning, if not sooner.

Even though I'm not participating today, I'm still curious: what are you all reading?


Sunday, October 21, 2012

A Weekend Can Change Your Life: A Review of Michael Chabon's Wonder Boys

Title: Wonder Boys
Author: Michael Chabon
Edition: Paperback (Picador USA, 1995)
Pages: 368
How I Came By This Book: I watched the film first without even realizing that it was a book (which so often happens) and liked it so much that I wanted to read the novel.

(Photo: Sophie Bassouls/Corbis)
About the Author: Michael Chabon (b. 1963) is an acclaimed and bestselling author whose works include the Pulitzer Prize–winning novel The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay (2000). Chabon achieved literary fame at age twenty-four with his first novel, The Mysteries of Pittsburgh (1988), which was a major critical and commercial success. He then published Wonder Boys (1995), another bestseller, which was made into a film starring Michael Douglas. One of America’s most distinctive voices, Chabon has been called “a magical prose stylist” by the New York Times Book Review, and is known for his lively writing, nostalgia for bygone modes of storytelling, and deep empathy for the human predicament. (from GoodReads)

Synopsis: Grady Tripp is a middle-aged philanderer with a penchant for pot and failed marriages, who is unable to complete the long-awaited follow-up to his award-winning novel. His brilliant student James Leer is a troubled young writer obsessed with Hollywood suicides and prone to fabrication and petty thievery. In their odyssey through the streets of Pittsburgh, Grady and James are joined by Grady's pregnant mistress, his hilariously bizarre editor and an achingly beautiful student lodger. The result is a wildly comic, poignantly moving and ultimately profound search for past promises, future fame and a purpose to Grady's life.

Review: As I said up above, I saw the film first. I think that in the case of Wonder Boys that's okay. I might review the film at some point in the near future, so all that I'll say now is that the film and the book are so similar that, with only a few major differences, they're basically the same. I would still recommend both reading the book and watching the movie because, frankly, Wonder Boys has become one of my favorite books and one of my favorite films. But today, we'll talk about the book.

Chabon's prose teeter-totters between funny, profound, beautiful, and stark. The novel is well-paced, with only a few digressions into the past, and is bursting with human characters that suck you into a rather complicated plot. Let's see if I can explain this simply:

Tripp is a pot-smoking professor whose editor, Terry Crabtree, is coming into town to look at his latest manuscript. The problem is that, after seven years and over 2,000 pages, Tripp still hasn't finished writing it. His wife, Emily, has just left him because she found out that he was sleeping with Sara Gaskell, the Chancellor of the college for which he works. But what neither Emily nor the Chancellor's husband know is that Sara is pregnant with Tripp's baby. But wait, there's more. James Leer, Tripp's depressive writing student with the mysterious home life, throws his life into even more chaos when he kills Sara's dog to stop him from attacking Tripp. Now Tripp is traveling around the streets of Pittsburgh with James Leer in the passenger's seat and a dead dog in the trunk. The cops are looking for James, some guy is looking for Tripp's car, and, oh yeah, his student lodger, Hannah, is sort of in love with him. Throw in a beautiful transvestite, a trip to Tripp's ex-wife's house for Passover, and a whole lot of mixed signals and you have one of the funniest, most confusing, and ultimately life-changing weekends ever. Yeah, that's right. All of this happens over three days.

Chabon is amazing at juggling these interwoven plot threads and does so while creating rich and unique characters that you instantly identify with. Tripp, James, and Crabtree are three of the most memorable characters that I've encountered, but Chabon's whole cast is so much fun to read about. The characters are realistic and absurd, endearing and morally reprehensible. Because I had seen the movie first, I saw a lot of the characters as the actors who had portrayed them, but the casting was phenomenal so in this case it wasn't a hindrance to enjoying the book.

The dialogue is snappy and funny and moves the book along rather than weighing it down. Chabon is a terrific writer who brings Pittsburgh, a city that I know and love, to life. Tripp's first-person narration allows the reader to get inside his head, to live the weekend with him with no idea of what's coming next. We feel his anguish, confusion, embarrassment, and frustration. When he fails, we fail; when he triumphs, we triumph.

There were a few parts that dragged a little, mostly having to do with the second novel that Tripp has been attempting to write for years. These bits are a sort of satirical look at literary fiction and writers in general and don't take away from the novel all that much.

I'm giving Wonder Boys 4 out of 5 stars.


Saturday, October 20, 2012

Historically Hysterical: A Review of Adam Selzer's The Smart Aleck's Guide to American History

Title: The Smart Aleck's Guide to American History
Author: Adam Selzer
Edition: Paperback (Delacorte Press, 2009)
Pages: 326
How I Came By This Book: Adam Selzer was one of the authors who came to the Teen Book Festival in Rochester earlier this year. I snagged this book from the library before it was put into the display case because after flipping through it I realized that if I didn't read it right away I was going to explode.

About the Author: Adam Selzer is the author of How to Get Suspended and Influence People, Pirates of the Retail Wasteland, I Put a Spell on You, and Andrew North Blows Up the World. He grew up in the suburbs of Des Moines and now lives in downtown Chicago, where he can write in a different coffee shop every day without even leaving his neighborhood. In addition to his work as a tour guide and assistant ghostbuster (really), he moonlights as a rock star. Check him out on the Web at www.adamselzer.com.

Synopsis: Do you know America? No, I mean, do you really know America? Would you recognize John Adams in a lineup? Do you have any idea what was going on around here before 1776? Hmmm, I thought not. Well, you really need this book.

With the help of this book, you'll learn a nifty mnemonic device that will let you memorize all the forgettable presidents between Lincoln and Van Buren in order! (Spoiler alert: it involves pickles!) With the help of this book, you'll learn to concisely explain what World War I was all about. (Okay, just kidding about that last one. No one can do that.)

Not only will The Smart Aleck's Guide to American History increase your sorry historical knowledge, it will crack you up and give you material you can use to throw your teachers off-balance for entire class periods. Identify their lies! Point out their half-truths! And possibly, just possibly, get some extra credit.

Review: I'm a huge history nerd. No, really. I have a B.A. in history. I read books about history. I even bore you all with facts about history (see my Villain Week Day Six post). But you know what I don't do? American history. Yes, yes, I know. I'm an American. I should know this stuff. The thing is, that I do know it. I just don't really find it interesting. I was inundated and indoctrinated with American history for, you know, 13 years of my life. (A big shout-out to my teachers from Kindergarten to 12th grade!) What I want to learn about is other people. Other periods of time. So why in the hell did I find myself devouring a book about American history? Because it's frakking hilarious.

I've never read any of Selzer's books, but his humor makes me wish that I had. In fact, I'd like to see him do other Smart Aleck's guides (perhaps Ancient Greece???? *pleading looking in my eyes*). For those of you who are looking at the title or the synopsis and going, "A book about American history? Bor-ing." you are so wrong it's not even funny.

From the first page, Selzer has you laughing out loud (and learning!) with his recounting of the history of the U.S. of A. Going from the earliest parts of history to the 2008 election, Selzer takes the reader on a fascinating romp through the ages. With features like "Stupid Hats of History," mnemonic devices like "Have this pickle, then five pickles, buddy!" (Harrison, Tyler, Polk, Taylor, Fillmore, Pierce, and Buchanan), and devoting the penultimate chapter to going through the years 1947-1989 using Billy Joel's "We Didn't Start the Fire," Selzer takes what I (and many others) see as a dry boring subject and turns it into something you can enjoy.

My favorite part of this book are the mini-quizzes at the end of each chapter to help you "review." You'll find such deep questions as:

  • Are you going to eat that pickle?
  • Who was better-looking, Lewis or Clark?
  • What are some good ways to defend yourself against Civil War reenactors who disagree with your interpretation of the war? Keep in mind: some of these guys never wash their uniforms so they can get that authentic odor. If you come up with a good answer to this, send it in. Fast. Please. And keep in mind that we've tried restraining orders and holographic ghosts of Abe Lincoln.
  • What sort of mustache would you have grown during the war? (Girls: You have to answer this one, too. We're just trying to be fair.)
  • Which animal did Winston Churchill look most like?

You do actually learn things from this book and it clears up a lot of misconceptions and lies that are used to indoctrinate teach American school kids. While it's obviously designed for bored middle school and high school kids, I think a lot of adults will enjoy it as well. Yes, it's basically reading a textbook. But it's a textbook with a sense of humor and an author who knows how to engage the reader.

Things I learned from reading this book:
-One of the past presidents may have been gay (and no, I don't mean Abe Lincoln). (And yes, this fact does make me cheer inside. :D)
-Czar Nicholas II of Russia and King George V of England look like they could be twins.
-Barney mugging and flapper slang are the bee's knees!
-Teddy Roosevelt's daughter, Alice, is cooler than you.
-Even though he ended up doing something ridiculously stupid, General Custer was a genius who made general by the age of twenty-three. I'm twenty-six and still have trouble getting motivated enough to do laundry.

I'm giving The Smart Aleck's Guide to American History 5 out of 5 Gabriels.


Friday, October 19, 2012

Upcoming Reviews

So...I know I've been a bit unreliable this week, but I have good news, fair readers. My back is a million times better and I'm back to reviewing.

As I haven't finished reading either of the books I chose to read this week, I decided to go back to GoodReads and look at what I hadn't yet reviewed...and there are a ton of books. The great part about this is that I have some material to use in case I have a bad week. Here's a list of what will eventually be reviewed on this blog.

Definitely Will Be Reviewed
-Wonder Boys by Michael Chabon
-Everything is Illuminated by Jonathan Safran Foer
-Fight Club by Chuck Palahniuk
-That Hideous Strength by C. S. Lewis
-Perfume: The Story of a Murderer by Patrick Suskind
-False Alarm: The Truth about the Epidemic of Fear by Marc Siegel
-Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim by David Sedaris
-The Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury
-Dark Ages America: The Final Phase of Empire by Morris Berman
-Looking for Alaska by John Green

Might Be Reviewed
-Witches Abroad by Terry Pratchett
-Supernatural: Meetings with the Ancient Teachers of Mankind by Graham Hancock 
-Escape to Witch Mountain by Alexander Key
-Return to Witch Mountain by Alexander Key

I'm in the process of determining what will be reviewed this weekend, if anything. I have to work today until 3:30 and then I have another 25 hour weekend ahead of me. I'm hoping that I'll have The Star Diaries finished by the end of Saturday so that I can start in on next week's print book. Who knows when I'll have time to sit down and read my current e-book pick. Monday, maybe?

How have you all been this week?


Thursday, October 18, 2012

In Which I've Been a Bad Blogger...

The last few days I've been suffering from severe back pain. Being broke and not having health insurance preclude me from actually going to a doctor to find out why so I've been suffering at home and haven't been in much of a reading or blogging mood. In fact, to be perfectly honest, yesterday saw me parked on the couch in agony watching the first season of Torchwood which I had kept meaning to get into after I had finished catching up on the last six seasons of Doctor Who so that Don and I could watch the new season together. I'll probably be doing more of the same today.

We'll be back to regularly scheduled bloggy goodness when I stop feeling like a ninety-year-old.


Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Top Ten Tuesday

Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by the girls over at The Broke and the Bookish. Every week they post a prompt and ask book bloggers to answer that prompt in the form of a top ten list.

This week's prompt is: Top Ten Favorite Authors in X Genre

This prompt is a bit hard for me to answer because my reading tastes are so eclectic that I don't read too much of a single genre often enough and unless I REALLY like someone's writing style, I don't read everything an author has written. In an attempt to answer this, I offer my list of ten authors that have written fantasy novels that I could read over and over again.

1) Terry Pratchett, Discworld; Good Omens

2) Neil Gaiman, American Gods; Good Omens; Neverwhere, etc.

3) Clive Barker, Imajica; Weaveworld

4) Derek Landy, Skulduggery Pleasant

5) J. K. Rowling, Harry Potter

6) Michael Ende, The Never-ending Story

7) Madeleine L'Engle, A Wrinkle in Time, A Swiftly Tilting Planet, etc.

8) C. S. Lewis, The Space Trilogy, The Screwtape Letters

9) Brian Jacques, Redwall

10) Okay, so there is no ten. I obviously need to read more fantasy. There. I said it.


Monday, October 15, 2012

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

Every Monday, Sheila at Book Journey hosts It's Monday! What Are You Reading? This is a chance for book bloggers to share what they read last week, what they are currently reading, and what they are reading next. It's also an opportunity for us to share other things that we did during the week. If you would like to participate, click on the links above.

This past week has been super busy for me so I didn't really get a chance to do much reading. I'm working on improving my time management skills (because gods do they need it), so hopefully in the future I'll be able to accomplish more of what I'd like to do.

What I Read Last Week:
-Pick Your Poison: How Our Mad Dash to Chemical Utopia Is Making Lab Rats of Us All by Monona Rossol
-A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving

What I'm Currently Reading:
-Something New by Malena Lott
-Star Diaries by Stanislaw Lem

What I'm Reading Next:
-Stranger in a Strange Land by Robert Heinlein
-Royal Flush by Scott Bartlett

What are you reading this week?


Saturday, October 13, 2012


There's no post today or tomorrow (other than this post telling you there's no post today or tomorrow) because I've had an insanely busy week and I have to work twelve hours today and thirteen tomorrow. We will return to regularly scheduled content on Monday.


Friday, October 12, 2012

Reading Is a Gift: A Review of John Irving's A Prayer for Owen Meany

Title: A Prayer for Owen Meany
Author: John Irving
Edition: Paperback (William Morrow and Company, Inc., 1989)
Pages: 543
How I Came By This Book: I picked this up at my library as part of Banned Book Week.

About the Author: John Irving is the author of 13 novels, including The World According to Garp and The Cider House Rules. His award-winning novels are international best-sellers and Mr. Irving himself won an Oscar for his screenplay adaptation of The Cider House Rules in 2000.

Synopsis: "John Irving’s A Prayer for Owen Meany is the inspiring modern classic that introduced two of the author’s most unforgettable characters, boys bonded forever in childhood: the stunted Owen Meany, whose life is touched by God, and the orphaned Johnny Wheelwright, whose life is touched by Owen. From the accident that links them to the mystery that follows them–and the martyrdom that parts them–the events of their lives form a tapestry of fate and faith in a novel that is Irving at his irresistible best." (from GoodReads)

Review: John Irving's novel of friendship, faith, and martyrdom is a complex, warm, and ultimately fulfilling story. The richness of Irving's writing and the humanity of his characters leave an indelible mark on the reader. I went into this novel knowing nothing about it and never having read anything by this author; I came out of it desperately wanting to dive into his other novels.

Told by John Wheelwright, a bitter bachelor living and teaching in Canada but with an eye to the mistakes that his native United States is making, A Prayer for Owen Meany tells the story of John's childhood and young adulthood in New Hampshire alongside his best friend, the physically stunted Owen Meany, whose voice and faith are big enough to make up for his stature. Owen believes that he is the instrument of God and that he has been given his unforgettable voice, a permanent scream, for a reason. John, on the other hand, is doubtful of both Owen and of the God in which he so fervently believes. Interspersed with John's present-day narrative, the recollections of his youth create a beautiful novel that you'll want to savor. 

The novel has a depth to it that is practically indescribable. When you finally reach the conclusion, you realize that everything that has happened so far has led up to this moment; everything has a purpose. Just like Owen Meany's life, the events of this novel are predetermined. It's skill like this that makes me eager to read Irving's other works.

There's literally so much to say about this book that I don't even know how to say it all. In fact, I'm not even going to try. I can tell you that the dialogue is artfully constructed, the characters are amazing (if flawed), and Irving writes ridiculously well. A highly political novel, it helps if the reader has knowledge of both the Vietnam War and of the Iran-Contra Affair, but for those who didn't study history in college, there's always the magic of Google. 

I feel like saying anything more would rob people of discovering the wonder of A Prayer for Owen Meany. Just read it. Seriously. It takes a while to get through (it took me about a week), but it's more than worth taking the extra time to sit down and enjoy it. 

I'm giving A Prayer for Owen Meany 5 out of 5 Gabriels.

Favorite Quote:

"I learned it from you," I told him.


I wanted to post the video for Fun.'s "Some Nights" because I had heard the song quite a lot before reading this novel but I heard it in a different way after reading it: 

Review Later Today

Don and I went to dinner with a friend last night so I didn't have a chance to write today's review yet. I'm going to say that it should be up sometime before 5 but I can't promise that. I'll post it when it's done. :)


Thursday, October 11, 2012

Obligatory Morning Post

I really didn't have anything planned to post today so I'm just putting up some filler. Here are some things that are going on in my life currently.

*I finished A Prayer for Owen Meany yesterday so that review will be up tomorrow.
*I'm currently reading Something New and will be starting Star Diaries today so that I have both an e-book and a print book going at the same time.
*My sister is getting married on Halloween and I was dragged into being a bridesmaid so I only have a few weeks left to find a dress. And it has to be purple. *shudder*
*I know it's only October, but I'm already waiting for spring to start again. It's frakking cold in Rochester. Brrrrrr.
*My job at the bookstore is going great. It's nice to finally have extra money lying around. And I haven't bought a single book yet (despite all of the great sale prices). I think I deserve a medal.
*Last week was my six month anniversary. :)

I promise there will be really content tomorrow morning.


Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Hypochondriacs Beware: A Review of Monona Rossol's Pick Your Poison: How Our Mad Dash to Chemical Utopia Is Making Lab Rats of Us All

Title: Pick Your Poison: How Our Mad Dash to Chemical Utopia is Making Lab Rats of Us All
Author: Monona Rossol
Edition: Hardcover (John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 2011)
Pages: 241
How I Came By This Book: This was on the top shelf of my library's rotating collection and the cover caught my attention right away.

About the Author: Monona Rossol, an industrial hygienist, divides her time between inspecting work sites, training workers, and delivering expert testimony in court cases involving chemical exposure. She is the President and founder of Arts, Crafts and Theater Safety, Inc., and a regular guest on the Leonard Lopate Show on WNYC. She has lectured and consulted in the United States, Canada, Australia, England, Mexico, and Portugal.

Synopsis: Did you know that "nontoxic" usually means "never tested"? Or that many green cleaners are good for the environment but terrible for you? Are your air purifiers, counter cleaners, baby powders, and low-VOC paints doing more harm than good? Could the chemical stew we expose ourselves and our children to every day be causing the recent explosion of autism, diabetes, cancer, and other disorders?

In Pick Your Poison, chemist and activist Monona Rossol goes from under your sink to the halls of the powerful, tracing America's love affair with chemicals that kill, explaining how much worse the problem has gotten in the last decade. How bad is it? The terrible truth is that no one really knows, and neither the government nor the corporations seem eager to find out.

Review: There were another four or so paragraphs in the synopsis on the book jacket, but I think you get the idea, right? The basic gist behind Pick Your Poison is that there is not a single human population on earth that hasn't been exposed to hundreds of chemicals that are now in our bones and our blood stream, doing who knows what to our bodies. She calls for a global unification of standards regarding testing of and information about chemicals based on work being done in the European Union (because the U.S. is too far into the pockets of corporations to make changes that would benefit people) and gives tips on how we as consumers can cut down on the number of chemicals we buy so that we don't add to the stew that has already settled into our bodies.

Well-researched and written by an expert, Pick Your Poison is terrifying. It paints a grim picture of the state of our bodies and our environment due to greedy corporations making and selling products without thinking about the consequences of their actions. This book never gets maudlin or anything like that. While Rossol is occasionally sarcastic, this book is a mostly straight-forward exploration of how we got to where we are today and what can be done about it.

While I caution readers not to latch onto her theories about autism, diabetes, and the like without doing some research, she does make a good point about the accumulation of chemicals and their combined affects on the body that give weight to her calls to research these diseases and how they could be affected by what's languishing in our blood. She has been involved in numerous court cases about diseases like mesothelioma and is well aware of the biological consequences of exposure to chemicals. That most of the stuff that we use hasn't been tested means that we just don't know what is a carcinogen and what isn't. Scarier still is that there are chemicals that are structurally similar to things that are known to cause cancer, liver damage, etc. that are being used in place of banned chemicals without testing.

There were some editing issues that made me stumble a few times, but they don't take away from the book as a whole. While her sarcasm is understandable (here she's been fighting the good fight for decades and not seeing much progress), I felt that it was out of place in what was an otherwise serious book about a very serious subject.

Like most books of this sort, the author spends most of the book scaring the hell out of you and one chapter saying, "Well, I know that you all can't fully eliminate chemicals from your life, so here is a list of thirteen things that may or may not be feasible for you to do." I appreciate the tips, but I think that these should have been sprinkled throughout the chapters and then summarized at the end of the book. It took me a while to read this book due to Banned Book Week and by the time I got to the end of it I couldn't remember everything that she had said in the previous chapters. Her tips at the end are general. I would have liked specific products that could be used instead of the things she was discussing in each chapter clearly stated at the end of each chapter so that if I wanted to switch things out I would have an easy reference guide.

As someone who supports unions and the regulation of big business, this book only deepened my support. Anyone who can read this book and at the end of it say, "There's too much regulation" is either a CEO or a Republican politician. I highly recommend reading this book, especially if you have children (there's a lot of information about school supplies and toys that will make you feel ill), are an artist (seriously, you need to use protective gear when you do art), or are interested in helping the environment (just because it's green doesn't mean that it's good for you).

Read it. Take notes. Make some changes. We can't rid our bodies of the crap that's already there, but we can keep ourselves from accumulating some more if we're careful.

I'm giving Pick Your Poison 4 out of 5 Gabriels. It was a little too sarcastic in places and some of the scientific jargon was hard to follow. Also, it should come with a warning for hypochondriacs. Even my skin got creepy-crawly from time to time.


Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Top Ten Tuesday Rewind

It's Tuesday, which means it's time for Top Ten Tuesday, hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. This week is their Top Ten Tuesday Rewind, which means that I get to go back into the TTT archives and pick a prompt I hadn't done before or that I wanted to do again. Since I missed A LOT of TTT prompts, I'm choosing to do one that I missed out on doing before I returned to blogging.

This week's prompt: Top Ten Books I'd Give a Theme Song To

1) Looking for Alaska by John Green/"Holland 1945" by Neutral Milk Hotel: It's kind of interesting that I would choose this as the theme song for this book considering that it was featured in another John Green novel, Will Grayson, Will Grayson. I just think that it fits well with the themes of Looking for Alaska and the characters in the book.

2) Wonder Boys by Michael Chabon/"Worst Day Since Yesterday" by Flogging Molly: I swear I'm actually going to finish my review of this book (it's been sitting in draft form since last October), because I know there were several people looking forward to reading it. The disastrous events of the weekend that this book covers fit really well with this song of regret and sadness.

3) The Book Thief by Markus Zusak/"Paris Is Burning" by St. Vincent: Okay, so The Book Thief doesn't take place in Paris. But it does take place in World War II and I think that this song is hauntingly beautiful, just like Zusak's novel.

4) Fight Club by Chuck Palahniuk/"Fast Fuse" by Kasabian: This song's fast pace and lyrics about destruction and chaos are a perfect match for a fast-paced book about destruction and chaos.

5) The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman/"Danse Macabre" by Saint-Saens: This is one of my favorite pieces of classical music, both to listen to and to play. Its spooky atmosphere lends itself well to Gaiman's book, especially the scene where the townspeople dance the Macabray with the inhabitants of the graveyard.

6) Catcher in the Rye by J. D. Salinger/"Prisoner of Society" by The Living End: While the story of Catcher in the Rye takes place in the era of jazz, The Living End's "Prisoner of Society" is perfect for Holden's bratty "don't tell me what to do" attitude.

7) 50 Shades of Grey by E. L. James/"Master and Servant" by Nouvelle Vague: I've only read about five chapters of this book (I finished Catcher in the Rye about an hour and a half before I finished my shift at the bookstore, so I decided I'd start reading one of our copies just to see what all the hype was about), but I know enough about it to know that this song would be a great theme song for it. I first heard it in Secretary, one of my favorite movies ever, and it just screams sexy to me.

8) Good Omens by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett/"It's the End of the World As We Know It (And I Feel Fine)" by REM: I'd say this one's pretty self-explanatory (and kind of cliche).

9) Love at Absolute Zero by Christopher Meeks/"Lovefool" by The Cardigans: Gunnar Gunderson is pretty much the definition of "lovefool." Plus the quirky atmosphere of this song reminds of the book's own delicious quirkiness.

10) Me Talk Pretty One Day by David Sedaris/"The French Song" by Jesse Matheson: It's probably a little weird to give a theme song to a book of essays, but part deux of this book reminds me so much of this song (for which there isn't a good video out there and that makes me sad). After Matheson sings a bunch of stuff in French that doesn't make any sense, you find out in the chorus that: "I'm trying my best/I want to impress/And so I'm saying every single French word I know." Basically it's a song about a guy wanting to get laid and thinking that saying things like "computer" and "banana" in French are going to win this girl's heart. It just reminded me of Sedaris' hilarious story about trying to explain Easter in French and failing miserably.

Phew. That was actually a lot harder to do than I thought.