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Archive for the ‘Setting: Europe’ Category

16. “Me Talk Pretty One Day,” David Sedaris

June 1, 2011 Leave a comment

I remember this being funnier.

Page count: 272
Page total: 4,380

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35. “The Ridiculous Race,” Steve Hely and Vali Chandrasekaran

June 13, 2010 Leave a comment

This book was actually legitimately funny, which is a welcome change in most things labeled “humor.” In a largely-true story, two friends decide to travel around the world in opposite directions without using airplanes. The prize is “a bottle of Kinclaith 1969. This was the most expensive Scotch available in Los Angeles. It cost so much that upon paying for it I thought I might throw up.”1 Flights of fancy do not count as flying, though they do explain my characterization of this book as “largely” true.

Along the way, they become interested more in the unspoken Awesome Contest, with Steve taking a container ship from LA to Beijing, trekking through Mongolia, riding the Orient Express. Vali starts with an excursion to a Mexican Jetpack maker and wends his way through the middle east and Cairo.

Page count: 315
Page total: 8,752

1. It’s so expensive that if you run a search for “Kinclaith 1969,” the price will not pop up. This is to protect your fragile sensibilities. I finally found it listed as £531.91, which I refuse to convert into actual dollars.

30. “The Book of Salt,” Monique Truong

May 22, 2010 Leave a comment

Really beautiful, but incredibly dense. It took me forever to get through.

This is the first-person account of Binh, GertrudeStein and Alice B. Toklas’ Paris cook.

Page count: 261
Page total: 7,534

26. “The Mother Tongue,” Bill Bryson

May 11, 2010 Leave a comment

This was a very enjoyable book. It’s full of neat little bits of trivia, yet manages to be well-integrated, informative, and funny, much more than a mere collection of quirky facts.

One of the interesting things that Bryson points out early on is that English is the only language that has a book which compiles words with the same meanings (EG, a thesaurus). Most other languages would find little use in this because their lexicons tend to be smaller, with fewer shades of meaning. In another language, you’re only happy to see someone, not glad, or pleased, or joyous, or ecstatic, or chuffed (though if you’re me, you’re more likely to be chafed, annoyed, put-off, irritated, perturbed, aggrivated, or generally bothered).

Page count: 244
Page total: 6,416

25. “Hunger: An Unnatural History,” Sharman Apt Russell

May 8, 2010 Leave a comment

An interesting book, but one that didn’t really capture me. It began with a frame about the author’s own body during a fast, but it didn’t continue, despite what the table of contents led me to believe. That’s all and good by me, though, as a first-person account of hunger isn’t what I was looking for.

There were some very interesting anecdotes– especially the Minnesota hunger experiments, which have spawned more than a few searches of the BPL databases, but the first and third parts dragged for me. The concept of hunger artists is weird and interesting, though. Apparently it was all the rage for people to do David Blaine-esque stunts where they set up in the town square and didn’t eat for a month just to show they could.

Page count: 230
Page total: 6,172

2. “The Diving-bell and the Butterfly,” Jean-Dominic Bauby

November 12, 2009 1 comment

It was good!

This is the memoir of Jean-Dominic Bauby, the editor of the French fashion magazine Elle. It recounts his experiences with Locked-In Syndrome, which he experienced following a stroke. It is written in a series of short chapter’s. Bauby’s writing is lyrical. Each of the chapters feels almost like a stand-alone story– a function of Bauby memorizing each chapter in the early mornings before his transcriber came. She then would say the letters of the French alphabet in descending order of frequency and he would blink when she hit the appropriate letter. An entire book written this way! According to Wikipedia, the book took about 200,000 blinks to write and an average word took approximately two minutes.

Page count: 144
Page total: 218

38. “Angels and Demons,” Dan Brown

June 6, 2009 Leave a comment

Better than “The Da Vinci Code.”

Page count: 573
Page total: 18,087