Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance

zenandZen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance
by Robert Pirsig
1974 (1999) / 403 pages
read by Michael Kramer 15h 58m
rating: 8.5 / non-fiction classic – philosophy
(both read and listened)

Reading this book for the second time 40 years after the first time I was really nervous that it couldn’t hold up to the life-changing experience it was the first time I read it.   It didn’t quite make it to that level,   but at the same time I wasn’t disappointed because it was still a very good read,  especially toward the end.   But I’ve sometimes thought along these philosophical lines for years so …   Besides,  I’m now in my mid-60s and this is the 21st century.  At this age,  the word”quality” probably needs to better defined (if possible) and in this age “technology” is no longer a matter of motorcycle maintenance.  lol  A huge chunk of the book is really based on nostalgia for Pirsig/Phaedrus.  >>>>MORE>>>>

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Days of Rage:

daysofrageDays of Rage: America’s Radical Underground, the FBI, and the Forgotten Age of Revolutionary Violence
by Bryan Burrough
2015 / 608 pages
read by Ray Porter 22h 13m
rating:  8.5 (for literary value mainly) /  20th cent US (“true” crime?)

I needed some good nonfiction,  I’m interested in the subject of the Weather Underground and other radical groups of the 1970s, and this is a brand new look back.

It’s certainly comprehensive although from what I read there are entirely too many sources which are labeled as “anonymous.”    Also unfortunately,  there’s virtually nothing about what was actually in the voluminous tracts the groups  themselves wrote – what they said about the wrongs they were trying to correct,  what they said about themselves at the time.

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The Paying Guests

payingThe Paying Guests
by Sarah Waters
2014 /  576 pages
read by Juliet Stevenson 21h 26m
Rating-  DNF – /  (less than 0 – I returned it)

Warning – this is a rant.  I am disgusted with this book – I don’t even like straight romance novels – this is a lesbian romance in a gothic setting so there’s huge suspense and a big old house and so forth – I’m not crazy about gothic either – not usually.  At least Amazon gives warning – Audible doesn’t – that I saw.

But why in the world do I keep listening?  >>>>MORE>>>>

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A Spool of Blue Thread

spoolofA Spool of Blue Thread
by Anne Tyler
2015/ 368 pages
read by Kimberly Farr 13h 23m
rating 5 (enjoyed parts of it)  / contemp fiction

I haven’t read a book by Anne Tyler in a long time because – well –  I’m not her biggest fan.  The few I’ve read have been okay basically,  but nothing to “watch this author” about.  Yes,  if your preference is realistically presented and character-driven novels Tyler might be your author.  For me,  great characters are wonderful,  but I prefer idea- and plot-driven novels – just a preference.  Tyler’s writing is adequate – actually, it’s pretty nice considering the kind of books she writes – the effect of accumulated details and pitch-perfect dialogue draws the reader in and she structures the novels well enough there is some tension somewhere – in a bare-bones frame story if nothing else.   >>>>MORE>>>> 

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The Man in the High Castle

pkdmanThe Man in the High Castle (review)
by Philip K. Dick
1962/ 259 pages
rating 9 / classic sci-fi (alternative history)

(This review contains no spoilers – the Notes section does –)

This book is only 250+ pages on my Kindle and PKD’s books and stories are complex and thought-provoking,  they are not known for being difficult reads.  So I expected an enjoyable little quickie-jiffy – HA!   I got involved.  I got really involved.  I read slowly, taking a lot of breaks,  savoring the concept, the themes, the plot and Googling a fair amount for background, context and specifics.  I didn’t want it to end so reading took me about a week with a couple other books on the side and ending up with a NOTES page as well.

This was written back in 1962 so it might seem dated to some readers,  but to me 50+ years ago makes it a classic and I get a little peek at what the world was like in 1962.   >>>>MORE>>>> 

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The Word Exchange

wordexThe Word Exchange
by Alena Graedon
2014/370 pages
read by Tavia Gilbert/Paul Michael Garcia / 16h 23m
rating:  4 / contemporary fiction (tech-dystopian)

Whew – long, long, long and although the concept is terrific the execution is a bit too convoluted.   I wanted to like this book – as a reading junkie and word lover with a great appreciation for dystopian fiction it sounded like it was right up my alley.   Alas,  I’m not sure why but it fell short of any mark.

The setting is a dystopian future where the use of a smart phone-like device called the Meme has hampered out ability to speak and then language itself is mangled and corrupted by technology and a greedy drive for money.   Otherwise normal people who are addicted to their devices turn aphasic (non-verbal).  And then comes a version of the Meme called the Nautilus which sticks to the user’s skin.  >>>>MORE>>>>


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Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania

deadwakeDead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania
by Erik Larson
2015/448 pages
read by Scott Brick 13h 4m
rating:  8.5  /  popular history
* both read and listened –

This is the 100th anniversary year of the sinking of the Lusitania so I suppose there is a bit more information being published.  I know barely the basics about the sinking of the Lusitania,  a fast and luxurious Cunard cruise ship destroyed by a German submarine in the early days of WWI – many, many people killed.   Larson says in the “Note to Readers” that he was surprised when he started delving into the details- there is a lot of info,  some of it “deliberately muddled.”   He also states in those Notes that “…this is a work of nonfiction.  Anything between quotation marks comes from a memoir, letter, telegram or other historical document.”  No matter how Larson has styled this book,  with an emphasis on suspense,  I rather enjoy that sometimes.   >>>>MORE>>>> 

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