Maribou (maribou) wrote in 50bookchallenge,

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Eclipse in New Shelf; Nature for Dead Amateurs; Catching Alibi

Eclipse, by Stephenie Meyer
After I got my wisdom teeth out, I was in a lot of pain and exhausted and brain-hurty and I just needed something to completely distract me from what was going on and suck me into the story like when I was eleven. And this was EXACTLY what the dentist ordered.

Six-Legged Snakes in New Guinea, by Evelyn Cheesman
I was really interested by this book, and by its author, but I fear I was a bit too surly from the above-mentioned dental torment to fully appreciate it. Her (completely normal for the period and her upbringing) snarkiness about the native people she was more or less dependent on for survival was too frustrating. And being irritated by that took a substantial chunk out of my enjoyment of her intrepitude and scientific enthusiasm. Still I liked it rather more than I didn't like it and I will try reading another one of her books when I'm less snarly.

Best American Science and Nature Writing 2009, edited by Tim Folger and Elizabeth Kolbert
1) Future editors of this series should be limited to no more than ONE piece of flat-out polemic per volume.... yet again, I found this annoying. I just don't really WANT to read polemic, especially if it's only tangentially related to science and nature (see 2).
2) I really think they should probably rename this to Best American Technology, Science, and Nature Writing as (yet again) it took until about 50 pages in for me to hit anything that wasn't either polemic or strictly a tech piece, or both. Which isn't BAD but I've developed some sympathy for the people who complain about Stitches winning a YA award... I am probably as wrong as they are but I don't FEEL wrong, I tell you what.
3) Despite the above complaints, it was actually quite awesome and I still think Best American is a great set of series. I especially enjoyed Douglas Fox's piece on scientists doing experiments involving freezing mixtures of cyanide, ammonia, and ice for a really long time and seeing if and how much RNA is formed, Frederick Kaufman's tracking of human waste from toilet to fertilizer pellets, David Quammen's exploration of transmissible cancer in Tasmanian devils, Oliver Sacks' paen to Darwin's orchid research, and Patrick Symme's travelogue-cum-analysis about how Cuba is and isn't "green" . Also, Atul Gawande's medical horror story "The Itch" is brilliant, even better than the favorites mentioned above, but since when I read it in the New Yorker I was really really itchy for hours afterward, I did not reread it this time around. But you should read it if you haven't! It's brilliant!

Shelf Discovery, by Lizzie Skurnick
Fun set of essays about rereading teen classics. More specifically, they are mostly "girl books" (eg Judy Blume, Paula Danzinger, VC Andrews, etc.). Anyway, the book was a delight, especially the parts I hadn't already read online, and I especially enjoyed reminiscing/cracking jokes about the various books with my spouse. Good times!

Manhood for Amateurs, by Michael Chabon
Tore through these essays. I find Chabon compulsively readable, most of the time. Can't wait to read Waldman's Bad Mother for the complementary perspective.

No More Dead Dogs, by Gordon Korman
I have been laughing out loud at Gordon Korman novels for the last 25 years of my life. Quirky yet with a broad-based appeal. This one was not unlike Chris Crutcher, but more effervescent.

Catching Fire, by Suzanne Collins
I read this in 2.5 hours so I really can't tell you much about the style, characterization, or whatever - but damn, Collins sure writes a compelling yarn. Biting my nails for the next one.

A Is for Alibi, by Sue Grafton (reread)
This was just as satisfying as I remembered it being when I first read it 19 years or so ago. I was amused to read the descriptions of places I have now been that seemed impossibly exotic when I first read them.... same way I feel reading Edward Abbey or Tony Hillerman. I had forgotten how amusing Kinsey's voice can be... and the scary parts were genuinely scary even though OBVIOUSLY I know the protag is not in true jeopardy (considering we're on, what, U now??). But it FEELS like she is!! Anyway, I'm really looking forward to rereading the rest of these.

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