Thursday, October 15, 2015

Highly Recommended: "Dear Committee Members" by Julie Schumacher

Let me start by stating that Julie Schumacher's novel Dear Committee Members is funny. It's also witty, keenly observed, honest, and an absolute pleasure to read.

Written in monologic epistolary style, it features a year's worth of letters written by Professor Jason T. Fitger, tenured professor of creative writing at Payne University. In his mid-50s, Fitger's own creative writing and publishing has stalled. In its place, the day-to-day demands of his job, and in particular the writing of letters of recommendation (LORs), consumes all his time. But what letters they are! For example:

Internship Coordinator
State Senator Pierce Balnearo's Office
The Halls of Power
. . .
Melinda is intelligent; she is organized; she is well spoken. Given her aptitude for research (unlike most undergraduates, she has moved beyond Wikipedia), I am sure that she will soon learn that the senator, his leathern face permanently embossed with a gruesome rictus of feigned cheer, has consistently voted against funds for higher education and has cosponsored multiple narrow-minded backwater proposals that will make it ever more difficult for her to repay the roughly $38,000 in debt that the average graduate of our institution inherits - along with a lovely blue tassel-on the day of commencement.

A major theme in Fitger's LORs is society's deflation of the value of teaching young people how to think and write. Perhaps this sounds like dull reading, but author Julie Schumacher masterfully presents the subject with biting humor, often simply by speaking the truth using scrumptious word choice. And through these letters, some sent to prospective employers on behalf of students, others to faculty colleagues, his ex-wife, ex-girlfriend, and his publisher, Fitger himself is slowly revealed. Happily, under the crusty shell is a person we like.

I think Dear Committee Members is a wonderful book and highly recommend it.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Entertaining Read from Dennis Lehane: World Gone By (Joe Coughlin Series Book 3)

In World Gone By, it's the 1940s and Florida gangster Joe Coughlin is looking for financial opportunities that may arise from the war 'over there'. Joe is a rainmaker, and very good at this role. Although influential, Joe, who is of Irish descent, is no longer a big boss in the Italian crime syndicates. As threat to no one and a source of income, it comes as a great shock to Joe to learn that there is a contract on his life. How Joe handles the threat is the story of World Gone By.

Full of interesting characters and suspenseful plot twists, World Gone By is features plenty of gangster crimes but also philosophical reflections on the life. This novel can be enjoyed without reading the two earlier books in the series, The Given Day and Live By Night. That's what I did. Now, I will definitely seek out these other books.

As a side note, at this writing, the hardcover ($15.81) and Kindle copy ($14.99) of this book are practically the same price. If you buy the book, which format will you choose? Let's us know at the Facebook page.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Pulitzer Prize for Fiction: How Many Have You Read?

I was looking over this list of Pulitzer Prize winners and nominees and was surprised at how many of the books I had read. I seem to prefer books that are finalists rather than the year's prize winner. For example, I preferred Richard Ford's Let Me be Frank With You, a 2015 finalist, and Philipp Meyer's The Son, a 2014 finalist, over the books that were the winners in those respective years.

How about you: have you read many of these book? did you enjoy them? Check out the Facebook page and leave a comment!

Saturday, September 5, 2015

E-Book Prices

The Wall Street Journal reported on September 4 that sales of e-books have slumped for publishers who negotiated deals with Amazon to set the retail price for their books. There is debate as to whether the slump is due to higher prices or lackluster new titles.

My opinion is that buying a book is like placing a bet: you put your money down in hope of getting rewarded with a good read. Inexpensive e-books make it more likely that people will make those bets. I agree with the analysts who assert that when the price of an e-book is more than $10, people are going to slow down on taking a gamble on a good book.

And if e-books become as expensive as the hardcover edition of a book, keep a look out for the return of the used paperback pile in the office breakroom.

Monday, August 10, 2015

Book Confessions: No. 108

I've never read the classic vampire story, Dracula. My only vampire reads featured Lestat, the hero (?) from Ann Rice's saga, Interview With the VampireThe Vampire Lestat and The Queen of the Damned. That was enough. Vampires don't do well with overexposure.

Good books, though.

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Recommended Reading: Dry Bones: A Longmire Mystery by Craig Johnson

Dry Bones is another book in a series by Craig Johnson featuring Wyoming Sheriff Walt Longmire. I greatly enjoy these books and had fun reading Dry Bones, which concerns a tussle over a Tyrannosaurus rex skeleton. The usual cast of characters, including Walt's good friend Henry Standing Bear, are on hand to help Walt resolve a mysterious death and strange doings that arise in the book. Exciting and humorous, Dry Bones is an entertaining read.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Looking for an audio book? Check out the 2015 Audie Award Winners.

If a road trip is on your agenda this summer and you'd like an audio book for the drive, check out the list of winners of the 2015 Audie Awards.

Some award highlights:

Audiobook of the year: Mandela: An Audio History by Radio Diaries; narrated by Desmond Tutu, Nelson Mandela, and Joe Richman. HighBridge.

Humor: Yes, Please by Amy Poehler; read by Amy Poehler, Carol Burnett, Seth Meyers, Mike Schur, Eileen Poehler, William Poehler, Patrick Stewart, Kathleen Turner.

Audio Drama: The Hound of the Baskervilles by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle; read by the cast from the L.A. Theatre Works.