Monday, December 22, 2014

The Ax

The Ax
by Donald E. Westlake

Burke Devore is a middle-aged manager at a paper company when the cost-cutting ax falls, and he is laid off. Eighteen months later and still unemployed, he puts a new spin on his job search -- with agonizing care, Devore finds the seven men in the surrounding area who could take the job that rightfully should be his, and systematically kills them. Transforming himself from mild-mannered middle manager to ruthless murderer, he discovers skills ne never knew ne had -- and that come to him far too easily.

Thursday, November 27, 2014


by Stephen King (as Richard Bachman)

Rage (originally titled Getting It On) is the first novel by Stephen King published under the pseudonym Richard Bachman in 1977. It was collected in 1985 in the hardcover omnibus The Bachman Books. The novel describes a school shooting, and has been associated with actual high school shooting incidents in the 1980s and 1990s. As a result, King has allowed the novel to fall out of print.

Charlie Decker, a Maine high school senior, is called to a meeting with his principal over a previous incident in which he struck his chemistry teacher with a pipe wrench, leading to the teacher's hospitalization and Charlie's suspension. For unknown reasons, Charlie subjects the principal to a series of insulting remarks, resulting in his expulsion. Charlie storms out of the office and retrieves a pistol from his locker, then sets the contents of his locker on fire. He then returns to his classroom and fatally shoots his algebra teacher. The fire triggers an alarm, but Charlie forces his classmates to stay in the room, killing another teacher when he enters. As the other students and teachers evacuate the school, police and media arrive at the scene.

Over the following four hours, Charlie toys with various authority figures who attempt to negotiate with him, including the principal, the school psychologist, and the local police chief. Charlie gives them certain commands, threatening to kill students if they do not comply. Charlie also admits to his hostages that he does not know what has compelled him to commit his deeds, believing he will regret them when the situation is over. As his fellow students start identifying with Charlie, he unwittingly turns his class into a sort of psychotherapy group, causing his schoolmates to semi-voluntarily tell embarrassing secrets regarding themselves and each other.

Interspersed throughout are narrative flashbacks to Charlie's troubled childhood, particularly his tumultuous relationship with his abusive father. Several notable incidents include a violent disagreement between two female students, and a police sniper's attempt to shoot Charlie through the heart. However, Charlie survives due to the bullet striking his locker's combination lock, which he had earlier placed in the breast pocket of his shirt.

Charlie finally comes to the realization that only one student is really being held against his will: a seeming "big man on campus" named Ted Jones, who is harboring his own secrets. Ted realizes this and attempts to escape the classroom, but the other students brutally assault him, driving him into a battered catatonic state. At 1:00 p.m., Charlie releases the students, but Ted is unable to move under his own power and remains. When the police chief enters the classroom, the now-unarmed Charlie moves as if to shoot him, attempting suicide by cop. The chief shoots him, but Charlie survives and is found not guilty by reason of insanity, committed to a psychiatric hospital in Augusta until he can answer for his actions.

The final chapters contain an inter-office memo concerning Ted's treatment and prognosis at the hospital where he is now a patient, and a letter from one of Charlie's friends describing assorted developments in the students' lives during the months following this incident. The story ends with Charlie addressing the reader: "That's the end. I have to turn off the light now. Good night."

Sunday, November 23, 2014

The Razor's Edge

The Razor's Edge
by W. Somerset Maugham

The Razor's Edge is a book by W. Somerset Maugham published in 1944. Its epigraph reads, "The sharp edge of a razor is difficult to pass over; thus the wise say the path to Salvation is hard," taken from a verse in the Katha-Upanishad.

The Razor's Edge tells the story of Larry Darrell, an American pilot traumatised by his experiences in World War I, who sets off in search of some transcendent meaning in his life. The story begins through the eyes of Larry's friends and acquaintances as they witness his personality change after the War. His rejection of conventional life and search for meaningful experience allows him to thrive while the more materialistic characters suffer reversals of fortune.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

'Salem's Lot

'Salem's Lot
by Stephen King

'Salem's Lot is a 1975 horror fiction novel written by the American author Stephen King. It was his second published novel. The story involves a writer named Ben Mears who returns to the town where he lived as a boy between the ages of 9 through 13 (Jerusalem's Lot, or 'Salem's Lot for short) in Maine to discover that the residents are all becoming vampires. The town would be a location that would be revisited in the short stories "Jerusalem's Lot" and "One for the Road", both from King's 1978 short story collection Night Shift. The novel was nominated for the World Fantasy Award for Best Novel in 1976. In 1987, it was nominated for the Locus Award as the All-Time Best Fantasy Novel.

The title King originally chose for his book was Second Coming, but he later decided on Jerusalem's Lot. King stated the reason being that his wife, novelist Tabitha King, thought the original title sounded too much like a "bad sex story". King's publishers then shortened it to the current title, thinking the author's choice sounded too religious. 'Salem's Lot has been adapted into a television mini-series twice, first in 1979 and then in 2004. It was also adapted by the BBC as a seven part radio play in 1995.

In two separate interviews, King said that of all his books,  '​Salem's Lot was his favorite. In his June 1983 Playboy interview, the interviewer mentioned that because it was his favorite, King was planning a sequel, but he has more recently said on his website that since The Dark Tower series already picked up the story in the novels Wolves of the Calla and Song of Susannah, he felt there was no longer a need for one. In 1987 he told Phil Konstantin in The Highway Patrolman magazine: "In a way it is my favorite story, mostly because of what it says about small towns. They are kind of a dying organism right now. The story seems sort of down home to me. I have a special cold spot in my heart for it!"

Players First

Players First: Coaching from the Inside Out
John Calipari

In Players First, John Calipari relates for the first time anywhere his experiences over his first four years coaching the Kentucky Wildcats, college basketball’s most fabled program, from the doldrums to a national championship, drawing lessons about leadership, character, and the path to personal and collective victory.

At its core, Calipari’s coaching philosophy centers on keeping his focus on the players—what they need to get the best out of themselves and one another. He is beloved by his players for being utterly honest with them and making promises that he always keeps, no matter what. He knows that in this age, they come to Kentucky to prepare for the NBA; every year he gets players who in a previous era would have gone directly into the pros from high school but now have to play college basketball for one year. Calipari has fought against this system, but he has to play within it, and so he does, better than anyone.

The result is an extraordinary leadership challenge: every year Coach Cal gets a handful of eighteen-year-old kids who have been in a bubble for the previous four years at least, filled with hype about their own greatness, and they come to Kentucky feeling sure that they will play for their coach only for seven months before they go on to greater glory. Every year, he has to reinvent his team. After his 2012 NCAA championship, it was particularly dramatic; he lost his first six players in the first round, meaning that someone who couldn’t even start for Kentucky was a first-round draft pick.

The overall record at Kentucky, and for his career, puts Calipari in the pantheon of the greatest coaches in the history of the game. Bold, funny, and truthful, like Coach Calipari himself, Players First is truly the first deep reckoning with the meaning of his experiences and the gifts of insight they offer.

Masque of the Red Death

"Masque of the Red Death"
by Edgar Allen Poe

"The Masque of the Red Death", originally published as "The Mask of the Red Death: A Fantasy" (1842), is a short story by Edgar Allan Poe. The story follows Prince Prospero's attempts to avoid a dangerous plague known as the Red Death by hiding in his abbey. He, along with many other wealthy nobles, has a masquerade ball within seven rooms of his abbey, each decorated with a different color. In the midst of their revelry, a mysterious figure disguised as a Red Death victim enters and makes his way through each of the rooms. Prospero dies after confronting this stranger, whose "costume" proves to have nothing tangible inside it; the guests also die in turn.

The story follows many traditions of Gothic fiction and is often analyzed as an allegory about the inevitability of death, though some critics advise against an allegorical reading. Many different interpretations have been presented, as well as attempts to identify the true nature of the titular disease. The story was first published in May 1842 in Graham's Magazine. It has since been adapted in many different forms, including the 1964 film starring Vincent Price. It has been alluded to by other works in many types of media.

"The Beautiful Stranger"

"The Beautiful Stranger" 
by Shirley Jackson

In “The Beautiful Stranger,” Margaret, a housewife unhappy in her marriage, retrieves her husband at the train station, despising “the sight of his hands on the wheel” as they drive home. It’s never clear what’s gone wrong between them; we know only that Margaret considered his business trip “a good time to get things straight” and to “try to get a hold of myself again.” Suddenly, though, when they get home, Margaret realizes that the man she’s picked up is not the same one she dropped off. Her husband has been replaced by a double. The two of them never raise the subject, though Margaret believes they are both in collusion about the switch, and the narrative, streamed through her narrow perspective, denies us an answer about the “stranger’s” true identity. Is Margaret suffering from Capgras delusion? Or has she simply chosen, for her own happiness, to believe her husband is someone else? Is he truly another man? Are suburban husbands really that indistinguishable?

Jurassic Park

Jurassic Park
by Michael Crichton

Jurassic Park is a science fiction novel written by Michael Crichton. Often considered a cautionary tale on unconsidered biological tinkering in the same spirit as Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, it uses the metaphor of the collapse of an amusement park showcasing genetically recreated dinosaurs to illustrate the mathematical concept of chaos theory and its philosophical implications. In 1993, Steven Spielberg adapted the book into the blockbuster film Jurassic Park. The book's sequel, The Lost World (1995) was also adapted by Spielberg into a film in 1997. A third film, directed by Joe Johnston and released in 2001, drew several elements, themes, and scenes from both books that were ultimately not utilized in either of the previous films, such as the aviary and boat scenes. A fourth entry directed by Colin Trevorrow, is set for theatrical release on June 12, 2015.

The novel began as Crichton conceived a screenplay about a graduate student who recreates a dinosaur in 1983. Eventually, given his reasoning that genetic research is expensive and "there is no pressing need to create a dinosaur", Crichton concluded that it would emerge from a "desire to entertain", leading to a wildlife park of extinct animals. Originally it was told from the point of view of a child, but Crichton changed it as everyone who read the draft felt it would be better if told by an adult.

The Shining

The Shining
by Stephen King

The Shining is a horror novel by American author Stephen King. Published in 1977, it is King's third published novel and first hardback bestseller, and the success of the book firmly established King as a preeminent author in the horror genre. The setting and characters are influenced by King's personal experiences, including both his visit to The Stanley Hotel in 1974 and his recovery from alcoholism. The novel was followed by a sequel, Doctor Sleep, published in 2013.

The Shining centers on the life of Jack Torrance, an aspiring writer and recovering alcoholic who accepts a position as the off-season caretaker of the historic Overlook Hotel in the Colorado Rockies. His family accompanies him on this job, including his young son Danny, who possesses "the shining," an array of psychic abilities that allow Danny to see the horrific past of the hotel. Soon, after a winter storm leaves them snowbound, the supernatural forces inhabiting the hotel influence Jack's sanity, leaving his wife and son in incredible danger.

The Shining was adapted into a feature film in 1980 by director Stanley Kubrick, with a screenplay co-written with Diane Johnson, which is regarded by some as one of the greatest films of all time. King himself was disappointed with the film, stating it had abandoned several of his book's major themes. The Shining was later adapted into a television mini-series in 1997, closely monitored by King to ensure it followed the book. King wrote the series himself and was reportedly unable to criticize the Kubrick version due to his contract.

Monday, September 22, 2014


by Stephen King
Second Reading

Carrie is an American epistolary novel and author Stephen King's first published novel, released on April 5, 1974, with an approximate first print-run of 30,000 copies. Set in the then-future year of 1979, it revolves around the eponymous Carrietta N. "Carrie" White, a shy high school girl who uses her newly discovered telekinetic powers to exact revenge on those who torment her — in the process, causing one of the worst local disasters in American history. King has commented that he finds the work to be "raw" and "with a surprising power to hurt and horrify." It is one of the most frequently banned books in United States schools. Much of the book is written in an epistolary structure, using newspaper clippings, magazine articles, letters, and excerpts from books to tell how Carrie destroyed the fictional town of Chamberlain, Maine while exacting revenge on her bullying classmates.

Several adaptations of Carrie have been released, including a 1976 feature film, a 1988 Broadway musical, a 1999 feature film sequel, a 2002 television movie, and a 2013 feature film remake.

The book is dedicated to King's wife Tabitha: "This is for Tabby, who got me into it – and then bailed me out of it."

King's 1979 novel The Dead Zone mentions the book in connection with a fire at another high school prom.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Two Years Before the Mast

Two Years Before the Mast
by Richard Henry Dana, Jr.

Two Years Before the Mast is a memoir by the American author Richard Henry Dana, Jr., published in 1840, having been written after a two-year sea voyage starting in 1834. A film adaptation under the same name was released in 1946.
While an undergraduate at Harvard College, Dana had an attack of the measles which affected his vision. Thinking it might help his sight, Dana left Harvard to enlist as a common sailor on a voyage around Cape Horn on the brig Pilgrim. He returned to Massachusetts two years later aboard the Alert (which left California sooner than the Pilgrim). He kept a diary throughout the voyage, and, after returning, he wrote a recognized American classic, Two Years Before the Mast, published in 1840.
Dana arrived in Alta California when it was a remote province of independent Mexico, and no longer Spanish colonial Las Californias. He gives descriptions of landing at each of the ports up and down the California coast as they existed then. The ports served (south to north) the Mission San Diego de Alcalá, Mission San Juan Capistrano, Pueblo de Los Angeles (and Mission San Gabriel Arcángel), Mission Santa Barbara (and Presidio of Santa Barbara), Presidio of Monterey, and Presidio of San Francisco with their very small settlements and surrounding large Mexican land grant Ranchos. He also describes the coastal Indigenous peoples, the Mexican Californios' culture, and the immigrants and traders influences from other locales.
The headland bluffs near Mission San Juan Capistrano presented an obstacle to taking the cow hides to the beach for subsequent loading onto the ship. So Dana, along with others of the Pilgrim's crew, tossed the hides from the bluffs, while spinning them like a frisbee. Some hides got stuck part way down the cliff and Dana was lowered with ropes to retrieve them. The headlands, along with the adjacent present day city, took on Dana's name as Dana Point.
Being an intelligent and educated person, he learned Spanish from the Californian Mexicans and became an interpreter for his ship. He befriended Kanakan (native people of the Sandwich Islands—Hawaiian Islands) sailors in the ports, one of whose life Dana would save when his captain would as soon see him die. He spent a season on the San Diego shore preparing hides for shipment to Boston, and his journey home. Dana also makes a tellingly accurate prediction of San Francisco's future growth and significance.

The Cat Who Walks Through Walls

The Cat Who Walks Through Walls
by Robert A. Heinlein

The Cat Who Walks Through Walls is a science fiction novel by Robert A. Heinlein published in 1985. Like many of his later novels, it features Lazarus Long and Jubal Harshaw as supporting characters. A writer seated at the best restaurant of the space habitat "Golden Rule" is approached by a man who urges him that "Tolliver must die" and is himself shot before the writer's eyes. The writer — Colonel Colin Campbell, living under a number of aliases including his pen name "Richard Ames" — is joined by a beautiful and sophisticated lady, Gwendolyn Novak, who helps him flee to Luna with a bonsai maple and a would-be murderer ("Bill"). After escaping to the moon, Gwen claims to have been present during the revolt described in The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress.

 Still pursued by assassins, Campbell and Novak are rescued by an organization known as the Time Corps under the leadership of Lazarus Long. After giving Campbell a new leg to replace one lost in combat years before, the Time Corps attempt to recruit Campbell for a special mission. Accepting only on Gwen's account, Campbell agrees to assist a team to retrieve the decommissioned Mike, a sentient computer introduced in The Moon is a Harsh Mistress. Engaged in frequent time-travel, the Time Corps has been responsible for changing various events in the past, creating an alternate universe with every time-line they disrupt. Mike's assistance is needed in order to accurately predict the conditions and following events in each of the new universes created. Campbell's frequent would-be assassins are revealed to be members of contemporary agencies also engaged in time manipulation who, for unknown reasons, do not want to see Mike rescued by the Time Corps. During the mission, Gwen is grievously wounded and Campbell loses his foot again, though the Time Corps succeed in retrieving Mike. The story ends with Campbell talking into a recorder (presumably the source of the first-person narrative) reflecting on the mission and his relationship with Gwen.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

The Dead Zone

The Dead Zone
by Stephen King

 The Dead Zone is a horror novel by Stephen King published in 1979. It concerns Johnny Smith, who is injured in an accident and enters a coma for nearly five years. When he emerges, he can see horrifying secrets but cannot identify all the details in his "dead zone", an area of his brain that suffered permanent damage as the result of his accident. Much of the novel is played out against the historical backdrop of the 1970s. The story might be based on self-proclaimed "psychic" Peter Hurkos, who received a head injury in a fall from a ladder, and afterward claimed to be able to know things about people by touching objects that belonged to them, (psychometry). The Dead Zone was nominated for the Locus Award in 1980.

The book is dedicated to King's son, Owen.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

So Paddy Got Up

So Paddy Got Up: An Arsenal Anthology
edited by Andrew Mangan

So Paddy Got Up is a unique collection of writing about Arsenal Football Club. Edited by Andrew Mangan, founder of Arseblog, it features bloggers, writers and journalists reminiscing, eulogising, analysing and waxing lyrical about everything from the club’s humble origins to where it finds itself now, from great players to great managers, from tactics to fans to stadia to kits, amongst many other things.

Contributors include Amy Lawrence, Paolo Bandini, Philippe Auclair, Gunnerblog, Goonerholic, East Lower, Michael Cox and many more.

It’s by far the greatest Arsenal anthology the world has ever seen.

Friday, August 1, 2014


Superpuppy: How to Choose, Raise, and Train the Best Possible Dog for You (How to Choose, Raise, and Train the Best Possible Dog for You)
by Jill and Daniel Pinkwater

First published more than 20 years ago, Superpuppy was instantly celebrated for its unique approach to dog training, which emphasizes the importance of understanding a dog"s personality. Clarion is proud to announce the publication of a revised edition, updated for contemporary readers and featuring brand-new cover art. Award-winning authors Jill and Daniel Pinkwater share their enthusiasm and knowledge in this accessible guidebook. Readers will find advice on all aspects of puppy care, from how to pick the right puppy to the proper way to housebreak and train it. Enlivened by personal anecdotes and enhanced by black-and-white illustrations, the new Superpuppy is sure to be embraced by loyal fans as well as a new generation of dog enthusiasts.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

The Fault in Our Stars

The Fault in Our Stars
by John Green

The Fault in Our Stars is the sixth novel by author John Green, published in January 2012. The story is narrated by a sixteen-year-old cancer patient named Hazel, who is forced by her parents to attend a support group, where she subsequently meets and falls in love with the seventeen-year-old Augustus Waters, an ex-basketball player and amputee.

 The title is inspired from Act 1, Scene 2 of Shakespeare's play Julius Caesar, in which the nobleman Cassius says to Brutus: "The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, / But in ourselves, that we are underlings."

 The story takes place in Indianapolis, Indiana, where sixteen-year-old Hazel Grace Lancaster reluctantly attends a cancer patients' support group at her mother's behest. Because of her cancer, she uses a portable oxygen tank to breathe adequately. In one of the meetings she catches the eye of a teenage boy, and through the course of the meeting she learns the boy's name is Augustus Waters.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

The Pearl

The Pearl
by John Steinbeck

When Coyotito, a very young child, is stung by a scorpion, Kino, his father, must find a way to pay the town doctor to treat him. The doctor denies Kino for having no money and it makes him enraged. Shortly thereafter, Kino discovers an enormous, lucid pearl which he is ready to sell to pay the doctor. Everyone calls it "the Pearl of the World, " and many people begin to covet it. That very night Kino is attacked in his own home. Determined to get rid of the pearl, the following morning he takes it to the "pearl buyers auction" in town; however, the "auction" is actually a corrupt sham and always has been. The "buyers" normally pretend to auction each pearl and pretend bid against each other, but in reality they are all paid a salary by a single man, they all turn the pearls over to him and he resells them outside the village, thus cheating the locals. The corrupt pearl buyers try to convince Kino that the pearl is the equivalent of "fools gold" and they refuse to pay any more than incredibly low amounts of money.

Kino decides to go over the mountains to the capital to find a better price. Juana, Kino's wife, sees that the pearl brings darkness and greed, and sneaks out of the house late at night to throw it back into the ocean. When Kino catches her, he is furious, attacks her, and leaves her on the beach. While returning to his hut with the pearl, Kino is attacked by an unknown man who he stabs and kills. Kino thinks the man has taken the pearl, but Juana shows him that she has it in her possession. When they go back to their hut, they find it has been set on fire. Kino and Juana then spend the day hiding in the hut of Kino's brother Juan Tomás and his wife, gathering provisions for their trip to the capital city.

Kino, Juana, and Coyotito leave in the dark of the night. After a brief rest on their journey in the morning, Kino spots trackers he believes are following them. Well aware they will be unable to hide from the trackers, they begin hiking into the mountains. They find a cave near a natural water hole where the exhausted family hides and waits for the trackers to catch up to them. Kino realizes the must get rid of the trackers if they are to survive the trip to the capital. As he prepares to attack, the men hear a cry like a baby's, though they decide it's more like a coyote with a litter. One of the men fires his rifle in the direction of the crying, where Juana and Coyotito lie. Kino kills them but realizes that something is wrong; he climbs back up to the cave to discover that the man's shot has killed Coyotito. In the morning, Kino and Juana return to La Paz with Coyotito's dead body wrapped in a sling. No longer wanting the pearl, Kino throws it back into the ocean.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Our Man in Havana

Our Man in Havana
by Graham Greene

 Wormold is a vacuum cleaner salesman in a city of power cuts. His adolescent daughter spends his money with a skill that amazes him, so when a mysterious Englishman offers him an extra income he's tempted. In return all he has to do is carry out a little espionage and file a few reports. But when his fake reports start coming true, things suddenly get more complicated and Havana becomes a threatening place.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014


by Kurt Vonnegut

Slaughter House Five deserves its reputation of being a piece of great American literature. The book follows a young man, Billy Pilgrim through his life. Billy believes aliens, tralfamadorians to be exact, have abducted him. We assume that it's through these aliens that he learns to time travel, a skill he frequently uses. In the book Pilgrim bounces around time to all the various portions of his life, many times returning to World War II where he was captured, taken prisoner, and held in slaughterhouse five in Dresden, Germany. He seems to be defined by this moment in his life as he frequently returns there. If you know anything about Vonnegut, you know that he too was held in Dresden, Germany when the city was firebombed. This is the major setup for this antiwar novel as Dresden was home to over 100,000 persons while at the same time Dresden didn't have any industry lending itself to the war effort. Obviously you wander, "Then why was this city bombed? What advantage came from killing well over 100,000 thousand civilians?" One of the major themes of the book is fate. The prayer of serenity appears twice in the book stating that we need to change the things we can and be wise enough to know which things we cannot change. Also the Tralfamadorians speak of fate. They say they know how the universe is going to end, but they do nothing to stop it. Vonnegut seems to say that yes, war is one of those things we cannot avoid, but we need to change the things we can about it, like the atrocious bombing of Dresden. Overall, the book's message is clear, and Vonnegut delivers his message in a very accessible way. The story of Billy Pilgrim is enjoyable to read, and contains more than dry philosophy that some antiwar novels are filled with.

River Monsters

River Monsters: True Stories of the Ones that Didn't Get Away
by Jeremy Wade

Called “the greatest angling explorer of his generation” (Independent on Sunday), Jeremy Wade, host of Animal Planet’s wildly popular TV series River Monsters, takes viewers where no wildlife program has gone before, revealing the creatures that lurk in the murky depths of our planet’s inland waterways. Now, Wade goes truly beneath the surface, disclosing full details of how he tracks down and catches each species while also recounting the off-camera highlights of his extraordinary life. From his arrest as a suspected spy in Southeast Asia to a plane crash in the Amazon, every page of River Monsters is packed with adventure. Each chapter unfolds an enthralling detective story, where fishermen’s tales of underwater man-eaters and aquatic killers are subjected to scientific scrutiny. Follow Wade step-by-step as, armed with just a fishing line, he closes in on his prey and separates fact from fiction. From the heart of the Congo, where he wrestles with supernatural goliath tigerfish, to the depths of the Amazon, where the most feared creature is one that could fit in your palm, the results are fish of staggering proportions and terrifying demeanor. Wade also reveals monsters from upcoming episodes, including deadly electric eels, a giant described as a cross between a shark and a chainsaw, and a snake-like beast that truly is the stuff of legend.

In the tradition of the most gripping adventure writing, River Monsters shows that there’s more to this world than what’s visible on the surface. As Wade says, with a fishing line anything is possible—sometimes it can even reveal the future, or at least one possible version of it. In similar fashion, Wade’s writings are much more than exhilarating stories: they reveal a vision of the world more awe-inspiring than any individual myth made flesh. Ultimately, River Monsters explores the real mysteries that still exist, capturing the story of one man’s obsession—and his relentless pursuit of the truth.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Heart of Darkness

Heart of Darkness
by Joseph Conrad

While transporting ivory along the Congo River, Charles Marlow hears whispers about the enigmatic Mr. Kurtz, who has apparently become ill while stationed upriver. Arriving at the Inner Station, Marlow confronts the nature of Kurtz’s mysterious illness, his ties to the local native tribes, and his slow decline into madness.

Friday, May 16, 2014

In Cold Blood

In Cold Blood
by Truman Capote

On November 15, 1959, in the small town of Holcomb, Kansas, four members of the Clutter family were savagely murdered by blasts from a shotgun held a few inches from their faces. There was no apparent motive for the crime, and there were almost no clues.

 As Truman Capote reconstructs the murder and the investigation that led to the capture, trial, and execution of the killers, he generates both mesmerizing suspense and astonishing empathy. In Cold Blood is a work that transcends its moment, yielding poignant insights into the nature of American violence.

Monday, May 5, 2014

The Red Badge of Courage

The Red Badge of Courage 
by Stephen Crane

The Red Badge of Courage is a war novel by American author Stephen Crane (1871–1900). Taking place during the American Civil War, the story is about a young private of the Union Army, Henry Fleming, who flees from the field of battle. Overcome with shame, he longs for a wound, a "red badge of courage," to counteract his cowardice. When his regiment once again faces the enemy, Henry acts as standard-bearer.

Although Crane was born after the war, and had not at the time experienced battle first-hand, the novel is known for its realism. He began writing what would become his second novel in 1893, using various contemporary and written accounts (such as those published previously by Century Magazine) as inspiration. It is believed that he based the fictional battle on that of Chancellorsville; he may also have interviewed veterans of the 124th New York Volunteer Infantry Regiment, commonly known as the Orange Blossoms. Initially shortened and serialized in newspapers in December 1894, the novel was published in full in October 1895. A longer version of the work, based on Crane's original manuscript, was published in 1982.

The novel is known for its distinctive style, which includes realistic battle sequences as well as the repeated use of color imagery, and ironic tone. Separating itself from a traditional war narrative, Crane's story reflects the inner experience of its protagonist (a soldier fleeing from combat) rather than the external world around him. Also notable for its use of what Crane called a "psychological portrayal of fear", the novel's allegorical and symbolic qualities are often debated by critics. Several of the themes that the story explores are maturation, heroism, cowardice, and the indifference of nature. The Red Badge of Courage garnered widespread acclaim, what H. G. Wells called "an orgy of praise", shortly after its publication, making Crane an instant celebrity at the age of twenty-four. The novel and its author did have their initial detractors, however, including author and veteran Ambrose Bierce. Adapted several times for the screen, the novel became a bestseller. It has never been out of print and is now thought to be Crane's most important work and a major American text.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

The Descent of Man

The Descent of Man, and Selection in Relation to Sex
by Charles Darwin 

The Descent of Man, and Selection in Relation to Sex is a book on evolutionary theory by English naturalist Charles Darwin, first published in 1871. It was Darwin's second book on evolutionary theory, following his 1859 work, On the Origin of Species. In The Descent of Man, Darwin applies evolutionary theory to human evolution, and details his theory of sexual selection. The book discusses many related issues, including evolutionary psychology, evolutionary ethics, differences between human races, differences between sexes, the dominant role of women in choosing mating partners, and the relevance of the evolutionary theory to society.

The Origin of Species

On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection 
by Charles Darwin

On the Origin of Species, published on 24 November 1859, is a work of scientific literature by Charles Darwin which is considered to be the foundation of evolutionary biology. Its full title was On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life. For the sixth edition of 1872, the short title was changed to The Origin of Species. Darwin's book introduced the scientific theory that populations evolve over the course of generations through a process of natural selection. It presented a body of evidence that the diversity of life arose by common descent through a branching pattern of evolution. Darwin included evidence that he had gathered on the Beagle expedition in the 1830s and his subsequent findings from research, correspondence, and experimentation.

 Various evolutionary ideas had already been proposed to explain new findings in biology. There was growing support for such ideas among dissident anatomists and the general public, but during the first half of the 19th century the English scientific establishment was closely tied to the Church of England, while science was part of natural theology. Ideas about the transmutation of species were controversial as they conflicted with the beliefs that species were unchanging parts of a designed hierarchy and that humans were unique, unrelated to other animals. The political and theological implications were intensely debated, but transmutation was not accepted by the scientific mainstream.

The book was written for non-specialist readers and attracted widespread interest upon its publication. As Darwin was an eminent scientist, his findings were taken seriously and the evidence he presented generated scientific, philosophical, and religious discussion. The debate over the book contributed to the campaign by T. H. Huxley and his fellow members of the X Club to secularise science by promoting scientific naturalism. Within two decades there was widespread scientific agreement that evolution, with a branching pattern of common descent, had occurred, but scientists were slow to give natural selection the significance that Darwin thought appropriate. During the "eclipse of Darwinism" from the 1880s to the 1930s, various other mechanisms of evolution were given more credit. With the development of the modern evolutionary synthesis in the 1930s and 1940s, Darwin's concept of evolutionary adaptation through natural selection became central to modern evolutionary theory, and it has now become the unifying concept of the life sciences.

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Sixes and Sevens

Sixes and Sevens
by O. Henry

The first collection of humorous short stories from the author of The Four Million, his stories deal for the most part with ordinary people: clerks, policemen and waitresses and often use twist endings which turn on an ironic or coincidental circumstance in his stories. Most of his stories are set in his contemporary present, the early years of the 20th century. Many take place in New York.

 O. Henry was the pen name of American writer William Sydney Porter whose clever use of twist endings in his stories popularized the term "O. Henry Ending."

Saturday, April 19, 2014

The Selfish Gene

The Selfish Gene
by Richard Dawkins

 The Selfish Gene is a book on evolution by Richard Dawkins, published in 1976. It builds upon the principal theory of George C. Williams's first book Adaptation and Natural Selection. Dawkins used the term "selfish gene" as a way of expressing the gene-centred view of evolution as opposed to the views focused on the organism and the group, popularising ideas developed during the 1960s by W. D. Hamilton and others. From the gene-centred view follows that the more two individuals are genetically related, the more sense (at the level of the genes) it makes for them to behave selflessly with each other. Therefore the concept is especially good at explaining many forms of altruism. This should not be confused with misuse of the term along the lines of a selfishness gene.

An organism is expected to evolve to maximise its inclusive fitness—the number of copies of its genes passed on globally (rather than by a particular individual). As a result, populations will tend towards an evolutionarily stable strategy. The book also coins the term meme for a unit of human cultural evolution analogous to the gene, suggesting that such "selfish" replication may also model human culture, in a different sense. Memetics has become the subject of many studies since the publication of the book.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Of Mice and Men

Of Mice and Men
by John Steinbeck 

Of Mice and Men is a novella written by Nobel Prize-winning author John Steinbeck. Published in 1937, it tells the story of George Milton and Lennie Small, two displaced migrant ranch workers, who move from place to place in search of new job opportunities during the Great Depression in California, United States.

Based on Steinbeck's own experiences as a bindlestiff in the 1920s (before the arrival of the Okies he would vividly describe in The Grapes of Wrath), the title is taken from Robert Burns' poem "To a Mouse", which read: "The best laid schemes o' mice an' men / Gang aft agley." (The best laid schemes of mice and men / Often go awry.)

Required reading in many schools, Of Mice and Men has been a frequent target of censors for vulgarity and what some consider offensive and racist language; consequently, it appears on the American Library Association's list of the Most Challenged Books of 21st Century.

Monday, March 31, 2014

Shark Dialogues

Shark Dialogues
by Kiana Davenport

A giant, image-fevered, luxuriantly wordy saga of a Hawaiian family, focused on the powerful person of a ``life-giver, life-taker'' who encapsulates in her 80-year history the harsh realities and saving myths of Hawaii's native peoples. Throughout, there burns a carefully trimmed flamelet of rage at what Davenport (Wild Spenders, 1984, written as Diana Davenport) sees as the progressive pollution of the islands and the decimation of the people by the greedy commercial interests of, mainly, the US.

In 1834, a one-eyed cannibal (he ate his captain in a lifeboat) from New York married a Tahitian princess, who gave him a dowry of black pearls. Eventually, after years in which the foreign land-grabbers move in and a queen is deposed, the pearls come to beleaguered Pono, the dream-teller, a gold-skinned beauty. And at 16, Pono awakens from a shark-dream to watch Duke, ``huge, dark,'' a pure Polynesian, riding the surf ``like a god.'' She and Duke have four daughters, although Duke, a leper, must remain in the colony. After years of grinding work and humiliation, years in which daughters were expendable, Pono, at her coffee plantation, summons her granddaughters, who are still fearful of this awesome woman and her cane of human veterbrae (once attached to a foe).

The granddaughters arrive: a veterinarian from Manhattan; a lawyer from Australia; the slave/wife of a Japanese Mafia bigwig; one dying of lupus. Also at Pono's home are her ancient, chattering, beloved friend Run Run and her grandson. A mix of races, the women wait for family knowledge. In spite of a death, a run-in with terrorists, and the love-death of Duke and Pono, the scattered family remains whole, with the vision of Pono ``sizzling through the paralysis of mediocre lives.'' As in many such myth-drenched tales of precariously surviving peoples, the characters tend to be inflated into a windy symbolism. Pono, howver, is memorable, the scenery intoxicating, the indictments sobering, and although the dialogue blooms into the pretentious (``Sometimes, child, we die in metaphor''), Davenport has the goods--mainly a powerful narrative surge--to get away with it. With a welcome Hawaiian glossary.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Dance Dance Dance

Dance Dance Dance 
by Haruki Murakami

 The novel follows the surreal misadventures of an unnamed protagonist who makes a living as a commercial writer. The protagonist is compelled to return to the Dolphin Hotel, a seedy establishment where he once stayed with a woman he loved, despite the fact he never even knew her real name. She has since disappeared without a trace, the Dolphin Hotel has been purchased by a large corporation and converted into a slick, fashionable, western-style hotel. The protagonist experiences dreams in which this woman and the Sheep Man — a strange individual dressed in an old sheep skin who speaks in unpunctuated tattoo — appear to him and lead him to uncover two mysteries. The first is metaphysical in nature, viz. how to survive the unsurvivable. The second is the murder of a call-girl in which an old school friend of the protagonist, now a famous film actor, is involved circumstantially. Along the way, the protagonist meets a clairvoyant and troubled 13-year-old girl, her equally troubled parents, a one-armed poet, and a sympathetic receptionist who shares some of his disturbingly real visions.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Life in the Aztec World

Handbook to Life in the Aztec World 
by Manuel Aguilar-Moreno

Since its violent dissolution in 1521, the Aztec Empire of Mexico has continually intrigued us. Recent discoveries resulting from the excavation of the Templo Mayor in the heart of Mexico City have taught us even more about this fascinating culture. The increasing recognition that the achievements of Mesoamerican civilizations were among the most sophisticated of the ancient world has led to a demand for introductions to the basic methods and theories of scholars working throughout the region.

Handbook to Life in the Aztec World gathers the results from recent archaeological discoveries and scholarly research into a single accessible volume. Organized thematically, the handbook covers all aspects of life in the Aztec world: Mesoamerican civilizations and Aztec archeology; evolution of Aztec civilization; geography of the Aztec world; society and government; religion, cosmology, and mythology; funerary beliefs and customs; Aztec art; Aztec architecture; Nahuatl literature; the calendar, astronomy, and mathematics; economy, industry, and trade; daily life; the Aztec after conquest and today. Each chapter includes an extensive bibliography, and more than 165 original line drawings, photographs, and maps complement the text. Handbook to Life in the Aztec World provides all the essential information required by anyone interested in Aztec history or culture.

Letters of Hernan Cortes to Emperor Charles V (#1)

Letters of Hernan Cortes to Emperor Charles V (Volume 1)
Edited by John Greenway

These five letters by the Spanish Conqueror Hernando Cortes were written to the Emperor Charles V of Spain between the years 1519 and 1526. They describe the earliest discoveries of the mainland, the perilous trek into hostile country, the capture of the Aztec capital, the extension of Cortes power throughout Mexico, the expedition to Honduras, and the organization and ordering of the Spanish empire in the new world.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Ghost Train to the Eastern Star

Ghost Train to the Eastern Star: On the tracks of 'The Great Railway Bazaar'
by Paul Theroux

Sigmund Freud suffered from a phobia of train travel that he called Reisefieber. Paul Theroux suffers from the opposite: a love of railways that is close to a compulsion. In 1973-74, Theroux traveled (mostly) by train from London to Tokyo via India and South-east Asia, before returning on the Trans-Siberian Express to his point of origin. That four-month journey was written up as "The Great Railway Bazaar" (1975), the book that made Theroux's reputation as a travel writer. Other train-track epics followed: "The Old Patagonian Express" (1979), down through Central and South America, and "Riding the Iron Rooster" (1988), back and forth through China not long before Tiananmen. And now he's back on the tracks.

Back on his own tracks, in fact, for in "Ghost Train to the Eastern Star," Theroux retraces the route he took in "The Great Railway Bazaar." The idea, as he explains at excessive length in the first chapter, is to audit the changes that have occurred in Europe and Asia since he first traversed them - and also to hunt the "specter" of his younger self. It's the kind of project that only a man secure in his own self-esteem could undertake: an auto-pilgrimage, a grand homme's homage to, well, himself. But then Theroux has never been overburdened by modesty. Although he has claimed that a prerequisite of traveling responsibly is avoiding arrogance, his previous travelogues have all been pungent with self-regard. "Ghost Train" is no different. The story is told over the course of 32 chapters and nearly 500 pages.

Each chapter corresponds to a segment of the overall voyage, and each involves at least one rail journey, many of them on night trains. In this way we trail Theroux trailing himself: train after train, city after city, country after country. A typical chapter consists of local-colorish place descriptions, cutaways to relevant historical background, encounters with various people (writers, prostitutes, businessmen, fellow travelers) and sundry riffs on pretty much anything that occurs to Theroux. ("Why," he contemplates, "is the motor-way culture drearier in Europe than anywhere in America?") These elements are grouted together with accounts of trains caught and meals eaten, the details of which readers may find of less interest than Theroux does. ("I ... ordered a half bottle of white Burgundy, salad and bouillabaisse marseillaise ... with croutons and rémoulade.") Theroux has long enjoyed a pugnacious relationship with other writers, and his bellicosity remains in evidence in "Ghost Train."

V.S. Naipaul is, as usual, upbraided for being boastful, younger travel writers are dismissed as "opportunistic punks" and Prince Charles is rapped over the knuckles for his diary's "breezy generalizations" about travel. Yet throughout this book, Theroux is regularly boastful, opportunistic - and breezily generalizing. Arriving in Turkey, he recalls nostalgically how "on my first trip I had summarized Turkey as a peasant economy with colorful ruins." Georgia, he concludes within days of arriving, is "a supine and beleaguered country of people narcissistic about their differences." China apparently "exists in its present form because the Chinese want money."

In the desert of Turkmenistan, his eye is snagged by a pretty woman: "Her beauty in this crusted wasteland was like a metaphor for Turkmenistan: lovely people, awful place." Most of these generalizations are intellectually intolerable, some are banalities masquerading as profundities and a few just fail to make sense: "A train station is a little democracy in which everyone has a right to exist on the presumption that he or she might be waiting for a train."

The book's extraordinary closing paragraph consists of a series of generalizations laid end to end, in a crescendo of blaring sententiousness: "Most people on earth are poor. Most places are blighted and nothing will stop the blight getting worse. Travel gives you glimpses of the past and the future. ... No one on earth is well governed. ... The going is still good."

Monday, January 27, 2014

Master and Commander

Master and Commander  (Aubrey-Maturin #1)
by Patrick O'Brian

This, the first in the splendid series of Jack Aubrey novels, establishes the friendship between Captain Aubrey, R.N., and Stephen Maturin, ship's surgeon and intelligence agent, against a thrilling backdrop of the Napoleonic wars. Details of a life aboard a man-of-war are faultless rendered: the conversational idiom of the officers in the ward room and the men on the lower deck, the food, the floggings, the mysteries of the wind and the rigging, and the roar of broadsides as the great ships close in battle. It is the dawn of the nineteenth century; Britain is at war with Napoleon's France. When Jack Aubrey, a young lieutenant in Nelson's navy, is promoted to captain, he inherits command of HMS Sophie, an old, slow brig unlikely to make his fortune. But Captain Aubrey is a brave and gifted seaman, his thirst for adventure and victory immense. With the aid of his friend Stephen Maturin, ship's surgeon and secret intelligence agent, Aubrey and his crew engage in one thrilling battle after another, their journey culminating in a stunning clash with a mighty Spanish frigate against whose guns and manpower the tiny Sophie is hopelessly outmatched.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

The Conquest of New Spain

The Conquest of New Spain 
by Bernal Diaz del Castillo

 "The History of the Conquest of New Spain is a subject in which great interest is felt at the present day, and the English public will hail these memoirs, which contain the only true and complete account of that important transaction. The author of this original and charming production, to which he justly gives the title of 'The True History of the Conquest of New Spain,' was himself one of the Conquistadores; one who not only witnessed the transactions which he relates, but who also performed a glorious part in them; a soldier who, for impartiality and veracity, perhaps never had his equal. His account is acknowledged to be the only one on which we can place reliance, and it has been the magazine from which the most eloquent of the Spanish writers on the same subject, as well as those of other countries, have borrowed their best materials. Some historians have even transcribed whole pages, but have not had sufficient honesty to acknowledge it. The author, while living, was never rewarded for the great services he had rendered his country, and it is remarkable that, after his death, his very memoirs were pillaged by court historians, to raise a literary monument to themselves."

Friday, January 10, 2014

Journey to the River Sea

Journey to the River Sea
 by Eva Ibbotson

Journey to the River Sea is an adventure novel for children written by Eva Ibbotson and published by MacMillan in 2001. It is set mainly in Brazil early in the twentieth century and conveys the author's vision of the Amazon River.

 It was a finalist for all of the major British children's literary award, winning the Smarties Prize, ages 9–11, and garnering an unusual commendation as runner-up for the Guardian Award. Anne Fine, British Children's Laureate (2001–2003) and one of three former winners on the Guardian panel, wrote that "we all fell on Eva Ibbotson's perfectly judged, brilliantly light to read, civilised Journey To The River Sea, in which we are shown how, as one of the characters reminds us, 'Children must lead big lives... if it is in them to do so.' Oh, please let her write another book as fine as this, because, in any other year, we would have handed her the prize without a thought."

 Maia is an orphan living in the Mayfair Academy for Young Ladies in England. However, word comes from Mr. Murray, a lawyer and her guardian, that he has found her relatives who are willing to take her in, called the Carters. Along with a governess, Miss Minton, Maia goes by sea to Manaus, Brazil. On the ship, she meets a boy named Clovis King, who is traveling with his adoptive parents. He wishes to go back to England, to his foster mother, but the Goodleys (the acting troupe) won't let him. Maia promises that she will go and see his play once in Brazil.

Friday, January 3, 2014


by Robert Louis Stevenson

Kidnapped is a historical fiction adventure novel by the Scottish author Robert Louis Stevenson. Written as a "boys' novel" and first published in the magazine Young Folks from May to July 1886, the novel has attracted the praise and admiration of writers as diverse as Henry James, Jorge Luis Borges, and Seamus Heaney. A sequel, Catriona, was published in 1893. As historical fiction, it is set around 18th-century Scottish events, notably the "Appin Murder", which occurred near Ballachulish in 1752 in the aftermath of the Jacobite Rising. Many of the characters, and one of the principals, Alan Breck Stewart, were real people. The political situation of the time is portrayed from different viewpoints, and the Scottish Highlanders are treated sympathetically.