21. On Writing, by Stephen King. This one has been on my want-to-read list for years. I can see why it is so highly recommended by writers. King keeps his advice succinct, and he relates it as only he can- with his humor and no-punches-pulled style. This book is just fun to read on its own, and offers a lot of insight into King himself - his struggles with writing and working with publishers, his family life, his struggle with alcohol addiction and even the horrific accident that nearly killed him. King follows his own advice in show, don't tell, and even the sections that aren't obviously a lesson are still lessons in good storytelling. Can't get better than this- an entertaining read that also offers solid advice on the craft of writing.
22. The Killer of Little Shepherds, by Douglas Starr. Anyone interested in true crime stories and forensics should read this. Part of the story follows Joseph Vacher, who was compared to Jack The Ripper. When finally caught and put on trial, Vacher would confess to killing 11 people - mostly preteen and teenage boys and girls, several of them shepherds (hence his nickname used in the title). He may have been responsible for more than double that number. The book also tells the equally fascinating story of Dr. Alexandre Lacassagne, one of the fathers of forensic scientists and one of the most respected forensics experts in France. Many of his observations and discoveries are still used today (for example, identifying a gun used in a crime by the grooves on the bullet). The research and list of sources is extensive, but Starr keeps the book highly readable. I really like the sidenotes on the comparisons with Sherlock Holmes, which was contemporary for that time. I kept thinking Sherlock Holmes when Lacassagne was described. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle did not model Holmes after Lacassagne, but there are some similarities- and many differences. It was neat reading the commentary from Lacassagne and other forensics experts on Holmes; it's much like the opinions of today's investigators on the CSI shows and similar fare. Interesting, and nice exposure to the latest scientific developments, but too deus ex machina and too quick. Much was made, for example, how Holmes never conducted an autopsy.
23. The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, by Douglas Adams. My only regret reading this book is waiting so long to pick it up. This is hilarious, full of droll humor and hilarious observations. A lot of memes and geek in-jokes are more clear, too. In the book, Arthur Dent is saved from being part of Earth's annihilation by his longtime friend Ford Prefect, who just happens to be an alien. Their adventures include meeting with a whole bevy of quirky characters, such as a depressed robot and an annoyingly helpful ship. It's hard to do a review without giving away too many spoilers, but as I said, this book is a lot of fun.
24. I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings, by Maya Angelou. An incredible book, about Maya's childhood and teen years in Stamps, Arkansas and, later, San Fransisco. Angelou just has this way of writing that is both sheer poetry and searingly blunt at the same time. She and her brother bailey were raised by their grandmother in Stamps for most of their childhood, before moving to live with their mother. She describes her life in a deeply segregated and often impoverished time, looking at both the issues affecting the nation as well as the issues of growing up. Angelou describes trying to find her place in the world, when she sees herself as not really fitting in anywhere. She relates her rape by a much older man as a child, one of the most heartbreaking sections. She describes how books and the written word slowly brought her back into the world. A beautiful and honest memoir from an incredible woman.
Currently reading: Great Expectations by Charles Dickens, and Breakfast of Champions by Kurt Vonnegut.