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Finish Line 2011 > Scott's 52 in 2011

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message 1: by Scott (last edited Jan 04, 2012 08:07AM) (new)

Scott Seaborn (sseaborn) | 131 comments After completing my 2010 goal of 50 books, I'm upping the ante to 52. I'll be focusing my reading on the Modern Library Top 100-- and books that I can find for free on my Kindle. Looking forward to 2011!

52 Books in 2011
1. Sister Carrie by Theodore Dreiser ****
2. 1984 by George Orwell *****
3. Foundation and Empire by Isaac Asimov ***
4. Life: Keith Richards by Keith Richards ****
5. Cat's Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut ****
6. Inherent Vice by Thomas Pynchon *
7. The Big Short: Inside the Doomsday Machine by Michael Lewis *****
8. How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe by Charles Yu ***
9. After the Quake by Haruki Marakami **
10. Tropic of Cancer by Henry Miller ****
11. Zeitoun by David Eggers *****
12. Full Dark, No Stars by Stephen King ****
13. A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius by Dave Eggers *
14. American Gods by Neil Gaiman ***
15. The Coming of the Third Reich by Richard Evans *****
16. A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan ***
17. Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card ***
18. The Dharma Bums by Jack Kerouac **
19. Wizard and Glass by Stephen King ****
20. Cannery Row by John Steinbeck ****
21. Creationists: Selected Essays: 1993-2006 by E.L. Doctorow ***
22. Area 51: An Uncensored History of America's Top Secret Military Base by Annie Jacobsen ****
23. Moonwalking with Einstein: The Art and Science of Remembering Everything by Joshua Foer *****
24. Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck ****
25. Those Guys Have All the Fun: Inside the World of ESPN by Tom Shales ***
26. The Crossing by Cormac McCarthy ***
27. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by JK Rowling ****
28. Stories of Your Life and Others by Ted Chiang ****
29. The Psychopath Test: A Journey Through the Madness Industryby Jon Ronson
30. Breakfast of Champions by Kurt Vonnegut
31. The Prince of Tides by Pat Conroy
32. Killing Floor by Lee Child
33. Everything That Rises Must Converge by Flannery O'Connor
34. Casino Royale by Ian Fleming
35. Ready Player One by Ernest Cline
36. Crisis Economics: A Crash Course in the Future of Finance by Nouriel Roubini
37. Matterhorn by Karl Marlantes
38. Linchpin: Are You Indispensable? by Seth Godin
39. Switch: How to Change Things When Change Is Hard by Chip Heath
40. Presentation Zen: Simple Ideas on Presentation Design and Delivery by Garr Reynolds
41. Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier
42. Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov
43. Quantum of Solace: The Complete James Bond Short Stories by Ian Fleming
44.Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson
45. I, Robot by Isaac Asimov
46. The Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury
47. Second Foundation by Isaac Asimov
48. Scorecasting: The Hidden Influences Behind Sports and How Games Are Won by Tobias Moscowitz
49. Bossypants by Tina Fey
50. The Marvelous Land of Oz by L. Frank Baum
51. In Defense of Food: An Eater's Manifesto by Michael Pollan
52. Revelation Space by Alastair Reynolds
53. Poetics by Aristotle

message 2: by Scott (last edited Jan 24, 2011 01:27PM) (new)

Scott Seaborn (sseaborn) | 131 comments #1. Sister Carrie by Theodore Dreiser Sister Carrie by Theodore Dreiser ****

Sister Carrie was a sucker punch-- it lured me in with the expectation of country mouse/city mouse tale, and landed an uppercut to the jaw and a solid kick to the groin instead.

When I graduated from college, I moved across the country for a girl... who quickly became enamored with a dude with a real job and subsequently cheated on me. The dude with the job paid for all her drinks and took her shopping-- while I ate mac and cheese from a box, lit cigarettes from my electric stove, and stewed in my own despair. I obsessed about a strategy for winning her back, instead of focusing on getting my life back on track.

My experience didn't exactly mirror Sister Carrie's, but the story hits close to home. Dreiser takes love and romance down from their lofty pedestals and smashes them into a billion tiny pieces. Naturalism on display-- in all its pessimistic glory.

Dreiser tiptoes on the fringes of misogyny, generalizing women as shallow actresses using men to climb the social ladder. However, there is a strong woman (or two...maybe?) who defies the social norms of the 1900s and shows a little self respect when she discovers her husband's secret double-life. And the men? They come off looking even worse than the women. The dudes are fueled by pure ego, and will do anything necessary (lie, steal, cheat) to improve their status. Sister Carrie is a primer for those wanting to know how not to be successful at life.

I wouldn't call this "an epic," but Dreiser has a lot to say about society and man's nature. The main characters are thoroughly unlikable...but engaging. Their lives are car crashes.

Garrison Keillor once called this book "unreadable" and said that if the censors had been victorious and wiped this work from the map, we would not miss it. To me, this is a ringing endorsement of the highest magnitude, since I think Keillor is one of most dreadfully boring people alive (he should totally hang out with Ellen Page). I totally recommend this book to anyone who hates romanticism or plans to read the entire Modern Library Top 100.

message 3: by Scott (last edited Jan 26, 2011 02:11PM) (new)

Scott Seaborn (sseaborn) | 131 comments #2. 1984 by George Orwell 1984 by George Orwell

Let’s review 1984:
Reagan signed legislation to outlaw Russia forever …“We begin bombing in five minutes”
The United States dominated the Los Angeles Olympics!!
Van Halen released their signature album…’1984’
The last remaining parts of DeLorean Motor Company’s factory stock were shipped to OH..and used to build a time machine in 1985

1984 was a fantastic year!! Unless your name was Winston Smith.
Winston was your typical white collar professional/bureaucrat who spent long days doing menial work and daydreaming of love and violence against co-workers. One day, the cute girl in the blue overalls passes him a love note, and they begin a secret intra-office affair. For her, it’s just sex sex sex all the time. For him, he’s found a soulmate—someone who won’t judge his paranoid delusions and conspiracies. Eventually, Winston decides to take their relationship to the next level: he reads ‘the book’ to her. Leon Trotsky…errr… Emmanuel Goldstein’s philosophical writings validate Winston’s crazy thoughts—and puts Julia to sleep--- and---

I don’t want to spoil what happens next… but to say 1984 was a rough year for Mr. Smith would be an understatement.

Ok, so the plot’s a little mundane (see above), but that didn’t stop me from enjoying this book’s political allegory. Orwell delivers a compelling message about human nature and society—a message that has been GREATLY misinterpreted over the past 50 years. I’ve seen the Tea Party and other Libertarian groups mistakenly lump Orwell into the same anti-government canon as Ayn Rand. Orwell, a known proponent of democratic socialism, was trying to convey a message larger than “government= evil.” Instead, Orwell used 1984 to illustrate how the pursuit of absolute power can corrupt even the most noble ideologies (ie: Socialism). 1984 is a treatise against the tyranny of Stalinism and its corruption of Socialist ideals—so, I’m just not understanding how/why this book has become so embraced by Conservatives. My guess? They haven’t actually read it (they’ve spent the last 10 years finishing Atlas Shrugged and the Constitution) I might not know their exact reasons for being pro-Orwell, but I imagine their ‘logic’ looks like the following:

- Big Brother is 1984’s villain > Big Brother represents the government > government is evil > Therefore, Orwell hates government and believes in free market capitalism and/or anarchy.

Using the same logic….
- Cain is a villain in the Bible > Cain is a big brother > Therefore big brothers are evil > God hates big brothers > Orwell and God both hate big brothers > therefore God hates government and is a free market capitalist and/or anarchist. See how fun and easy it is to manipulate logic. *Now* I can see why Ingsoc took so much enjoyment from manipulating language and controlling history. The Party wasn’t seeking power—they were seeking amusement.

I highly recommend 1984 to everyone…especially my conservative friends. Very thought-provoking and disturbing.

message 4: by Ann A (new)

Ann A (readerann) | 796 comments Scott wrote: "#2. 1984 by George Orwell 1984 by George Orwell
Interesting analysis. I just read 1984 a few years ago at the insistence of my daughter, who read it for a high school class and loved it. I agree Orwell's message has often been misinterpreted. Wouldn't a conversation with him be fascinating?

message 5: by Scott (last edited Jan 26, 2011 04:13PM) (new)

Scott Seaborn (sseaborn) | 131 comments Ann wrote: "Scott wrote: "#2. 1984 by George Orwell 1984 by George Orwell
Interesting analysis. I just read 1984 a few years ago at the insistence of my daughter, who read it for a high school class and loved ..."

He's a VERY interesting character. I've read a few of his essays about his own personal beliefs and experiences, and would love to read his entire collection of essays (A Collection of Essays)-- I think it's 1,500 pages or so.
It's funny, most of my high school English class read 1984, but a few of us were selected to read We: The Living... so I'm glad I went back and re-read 1984 20 years later. It was much better than We...

message 6: by VWrulesChick (new)

VWrulesChick | 351 comments Thanks for the review on 1984, I read it last year and had mixed feelings about it. Though this year, I came across another book sorta similar, but different. If I can be so bold and recommend, The End of Marking Time by CJ West The End of Marking Time by C.J. West

Enjoy ! (email the author on Goodreads and he can provide a free copy for your Kindle or other)

message 7: by Scott (last edited Feb 06, 2011 05:56AM) (new)

Scott Seaborn (sseaborn) | 131 comments #3. Foundation and Empire (Foundation Series #2) by Isaac Asimov Foundation and Empire by Isaac Asimov

When we last left the Foundation….
Luke had just blown up the Death Star.
Vader was spinning out-of-control in space.
And Carrie Fisher was putting copious amounts of Hoth snow up her nose.

Oh wait… wrong space epic.

Foundation and Empire is the second installment of The Foundation series—and even though it’s a little more story and less exposition than its predecessor (Foundation), it still feels like this is a set-up for something much bigger. Even the cliff-hanger ending suggests that the story is going to bigger and better places. So instead of enjoying the story-at-hand, I kept wanting the story to go in a different direction.

I haven’t read much Asimov, but his characters are a little too lifeless for the universe he’s created. There’s no doubt that he’s crafted one of the most imaginative settings ever—but it’s a shame he’s populated that universe with dullards. I wanted to ditch the characters in this story and move on to another place in the universe (Second Foundation) where the characters might more interesting. Even though I really enjoyed the story, I’m still trying to figure would motivate anyone to travel intergalactically with a clown.

Overall, Foundation and Empire seemed like a giant prelude to the final book of the original trilogy- but I’m very interested to see how this all plays out.

And more thing… way too many characters with similar names. It took a lot of brain power to figure out who was who.

message 8: by Susanna (new)

Susanna (jb_slasher) Scott, thanks for giving my Sunday morning a fun start. I just bought Foundation And Empire and started reading your review and burst out laughing for obvious reasons. So thanks for that. :)

message 9: by Scott (last edited Feb 28, 2011 01:27PM) (new)

Scott Seaborn (sseaborn) | 131 comments #4. Life Keith Richards by Keith Richards Life by Keith Richards

I know it's only rock n roll, but I like it, like it, yes I do

I hate to spoil the book, but Life is not Keith Richard's posthumous autobiography. Somehow he managed to live until the end...and then revealed the secret of life: pharmaceutical grade smack and his secret recipe for Bangers and Mash.

There's no doubt that Keef should be D-E-A-D. This cat has 19 lives (one for each nervous breakdown?).

This is not your ordinary drugs, sex, and rock-n-roll story-- obviously, Keef can't tell us about his life without including 500 pages of sex, drugs, and rock-n-roll, but I assure you that his autobiography covers much more than the obvious. It's a story of passion and brotherhood.

His fame may have enabled him to live a life without boundaries, but it was the Stones and his passion for becoming a better musician that kept him ultimately grounded. In the studio, he wasn't the out-of-control degenerate one might expect. He took his craft seriously-- and expected the same out of the other band members. He described his life-long search for The Lost Chord and how he used open tuning to create his unique sound.

When Keef wasn't writing or recording, he was in close proximity to TROUBLE. Since it's coming from his POV, other people always seem to be bigger junkies or unable to handle their drugs (ex: John Lennon). At one point, I felt like he justified his drug use-- and even said that he's not advocating using heroin, BUT if you do it's ok if it's pharmaceutical grade. It's the street smack that's unhealthy for you, not the stuff produced by Merck. For the most part, drugs were all fun and games--until his friends started to die or their lives started to crumble. Being in the Stones may have given him access to any drug imaginable, but being in the band may have saved his life too. The band gave him purpose-- something that many of the other tragic characters in his life lacked.

Keef made it clear: the Stones weren't his friends-- they were his family, his brothers. I found it interesting that throughout his life, women came and went, but the Stones stayed together... for the most part. When Mick (ie: Brenda) tried to start a solo disco/pop career, Keef went off the rails. In Keef's mind, leaving the band to tour with another group of musicians-- playing Stones music-- was the ultimate betrayal. (I got the sense that it was like finding your dad having an affair with your mom's brother.) Like most families, each member had significantly different interests and personalities, and the only common thread seemed to be their music-- and no one, not even the face of the band, was bigger than the band itself. Mick's solo career was a separation, but never a full divorce. The trust between Mick and the band had been broken, but they were able to reconcile their differences, return to the studio, and tour for another 15 years. Personally, I thought they lost a step on their post-Steel Wheels albums, and I wonder how much could be attributed to the growing dysfunction between band-members?

In the end, I'm glad Keef lived long enough to tell his story-- it's absolutely a Life worth re-telling.

I'd recommend Life to anyone-- especially fans of the Beatles, Pirates of the Caribbean, Charlie Sheen (who's probably using Life as a How-To manual), or home-cooks searching for a great Bangers and Mash recipe.

message 10: by Chris (new)

Chris (chrismd) | 408 comments Scott wrote: "#4. Life Keith Richards by Keith Richards Life by Keith Richards

I know it's only rock n roll, but I like it, like it, yes I do

I hate to spoil the book, but Life is not Keith Richard's posthu..."

Great review!

message 11: by Ann A (new)

Ann A (readerann) | 796 comments I second that! Great review!

message 12: by Donna (new)

Donna | 1350 comments Mmmm Bangers & Mash... It'd be worth it just for that!

message 13: by Scott (last edited Mar 11, 2011 01:46PM) (new)

Scott Seaborn (sseaborn) | 131 comments Cat's Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut Cat's Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut

In the game 'cat's cradle,' two people take turns making shapes out of string. I'm not sure what the point of the game is-- or how you win or lose. I think it just keeps the kids busy.

In the book Cat's Cradle, scientists take turns developing weapons of mass destruction. There's really no reason to build them --and ultimately, no one really benefits from the ability to destroy the world. Building weapons just keeps the scientists busy.

What I really loved about this book is that Vonnegut presents a compelling case that evil isn't humanity's biggest threat--it's humanity's stupidity. A person who builds a world-destroying weapon, may not necessarily be a diabolical genius. They may be motivated by the benign pursuit of scientific advancement. Unfortunately, humanity has stopped questioning why scientists are creating world-destroying weapons in the first place. Is finding a new way to kill the world really a 'scientific advancement'--or is it a sign that humanity really hasn't progressed at all? Afterall, we've been trying to kill each other since the beginning of time.

Throughout history, millions of people have died because the masses failed to question our most sacred institutions-- religion, science, and government. Vonnegut uses Cat's Cradle to illustrate how our blind faith and stupidity will lead to mankind's ultimate conclusion: total annihilation. And leave it to Vonnegut to make armageddon really damn funny too.

I highly recommend Cat's Cradle... but I suggest that you read it before we destroy the Earth!

message 14: by Donna (new)

Donna | 1350 comments Or as the late great Michael Crichton put it: too busy wondering how they can to wonder if they should. Great review.

message 15: by Scott (new)

Scott Seaborn (sseaborn) | 131 comments #6. Inherent Vice by Thomas Pynchon Inherent Vice by Thomas Pynchon


There are 4 possible explanations for this incoherent mess of a book:

1) Pynchon soaked up a lifetime's worth of dope, sat at his typewriter, and banged out this little masterpiece of stoner fiction. Like many works of art created under the influence of THC, the final product is understood by the artist, but it makes no sense to the audience. It reminds me of a guy I knew who used to drop acid, sit in a field with his guitar, and write songs. When he wrote the songs, they were "genius,"-- when he played the music for his friends, it sounded like the masterpieces my 3-year old plays on her recorder.

2) Pynchon had been struggling with writer's block--and after repeated viewings of The Big Lebowski, he tried his hand at writing a prequel. Due to legal threats from the Coen's, he changed the names and places. I'm sure the Coen's would still like to sue him for stealing their main character (The Dude) and inserting him into this travesty.

3) Pynchon is a genius. Inherent Vice is meant to simulate the effects of habitual drug use. After every three pages, I caught myself asking "what just happened?" The plot is so convoluted, that I kept forgetting what had already happened. The main character (The Dude...errr... Doc) keeps wandering from character to character, scene to scene, having conversations that may or may not be related to his assignment (finding a missing person?) and always related to the drug du jour. I think Pynchon crafted the story so that the reader would be just as lost as confused as Doc....and it worked magnificently.

4) Pynchon is a genius... and I just didn't get it. Me not have MFA....

This novel fails on all levels---intentionally or not.

message 16: by Scott (last edited Apr 14, 2011 12:11PM) (new)

Scott Seaborn (sseaborn) | 131 comments I've been keeping my reading pace....but haven't had a ton of time to write my reviews! Time to play catch up!

#7. The Big Short Inside the Doomsday Machine by Michael Lewis The Big Short: Inside the Doomsday Machine by Michael Lewis

Hands down, the scariest and saddest book I've read in years.

I don't need to remind anyone of the Mortgage Bubble Collapse. Sadly, it's almost three years later and millions of homeowners remain underwater, life's savings have been disintegrated, and the American Dream seems like a figment of our collective imagination. And for three years, everyone has pointed the finger of blame at the party across the table: blame the homeowner for purchasing a home they couldn't afford; blame the banks for targeting people who couldn't afford the loan; blame home-builders for over-building; blame the Fed for keeping rates low; blame Obama for...well, because he gets blamed for everything.

The Big Short doesn't point the finger of blame (but by the end it should be pretty obvious who the finger should be pointed at). Instead, Lewis tells the story of 3 men who bet against the mortgage loans the top banks were making and uses their experiences to explain why the market crashed so spectacularly.

By design, the mortgage industry was (still is?) a giant clusterf*ck-- and Lewis does an AMAZING job simplifying such a complex system. To boil it down to an even simpler level:

Banks made millions of subprime loans to people who would never be able to afford their house after the teaser rate expired....

Why? Because banks could make even more money from these same customers when they were forced to re-finance after the teaser period ended.

The banks took these subprime loans and bundled them up (securitized) with other "good" loans to mitigate the risks. Then the banks sold these securities to investors (or the securities were bundled into other securities).

The ratings agencies (S&P) would give these securities a AAA rating... without knowing what loans were actually in the bundle.

NO ONE knew what loans were in the bundle....

Until an investor with Asperger's decided to read the fine print and figure out which securities were actually AAA-worthy. The answer? None. So he started to place bets against these securities-- believing they would eventually default.

And they did.

Obviously, there's more to the story, but it's absolutely amazing that the nation's largest banks recklessly gambled with our houses-- they LOST and LOST BIG--- and it's the middle class that will pay for it for decades. All the while, these same banks are recording record-level profits, and the number of bank executives who have been charged with criminal acts still stands at ZERO. In fact, the execs who were actually fired for their gross negligence made out with tens of millions of dollars in payouts and are still employed on Wall Street.

If you're familiar with Lewis's other books, he tends to use the personal stories of a few people to paint a much larger picture. In this case, the people and the picture are fascinating-- and it should be required reading for anyone who owns a home. I would suggest that it should be required reading for MBA students, but they'd probably use it a textbook in their "Methods for Screwing People" course. (Interestingly enough, many aspiring Wall Street crooks told Lewis that his first book, Liar's Poker , was a great primer for making money)

Maybe out of the ashes of the 2008 collapse, Wall Street banks and ratings agencies will find true north on their moral compasses? Sadly, I won't be holding my breath.

I still don't understand how we could let any of this happen in America...

And yes, people who purchased their homes with "too- good-to-be-true" loans should be accountable for their actions too-- and is a brilliant example of why we need better financial literacy in this country.

message 17: by Donna (new)

Donna | 1350 comments Learn how money works? Only buy what we can afford? In America? Surely you jest.

message 18: by Scott (last edited Aug 29, 2011 06:20AM) (new)

Scott Seaborn (sseaborn) | 131 comments I'm sooo far behind with my reviews!!! Too much reading, working, and raising my little girls....and little time for reviews (especially reviewing books like "A Heartbreaking Work...."). So here are my condensed 5-second reviews of the books I've read recently....

#8. How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe by Charles Yu How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe by Charles Yu : Quick and entertaining metafiction overdose

#9. Tropic of Cancer by Henry Miller Tropic of Cancer by Henry Miller: Sleazy dirtball living in Paris defining what it means to be an 'artist'-- never dull and no real plot-- but worthy of the Top 100 Books of All Time

#10. after the quake by Haruki Murakami After the Quake by Haruki Murakami: Forgettable short stories set after the 1995 Kobe earthquake. Nothing memorable-- and not sure what the point of this collection is.

#11. Zeitoun by Dave Eggers Zeitoun by Dave Eggers: Scariest book I've ever read-- and it's nonfiction. This is nightmare fuel-- suggesting that "America: Land of the Free" is more of a corporate tagline than a reality.

#12. Full Dark, No Stars by Stephen King Full Dark, No Stars by Stephen King: Exceptional collection of disturbing stories. Less supernatural than normal King-- felt more like 'Silence of the Lambs' than 'The Shining.'

#13. A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius by Dave Eggers A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius by Dave Eggers: WORST. BOOK. EVER. Holy crap. Obituaries are more entertaining.

#14. American Gods by Neil Gaiman American Gods by Neil Gaiman: Awesome premise with 'ok' execution. A little too ambitious and kinda meanders for 200-300 pages--but overall worth the read.

message 19: by Scott (last edited May 25, 2011 12:12PM) (new)

Scott Seaborn (sseaborn) | 131 comments #15. The Coming of the Third Reich by Richard J. Evans The Coming of the Third Reich by Richard Evans

I decided to go back to my "history major" roots and tackle the first book of Richard Evans' "Third Reich" trilogy. The Coming of the Third Reich is an extremely accessible account of the Nazi Party's ascent following WWI. Evans approaches the topic from almost every conceivable political and cultural angle, and methodically builds a case as to HOW Hitler and the Nazis were able to acheive power.

Like any responsible historian, Evans allows the facts to tell the story and avoids interjecting his own opinion. HOWEVER, I found it impossible not to form my own opinion about how similar 1932 Germany is to 2011 America. For example.... let's play NAME THE POLITICAL PARTY....

Which political ideology are these actions associated with?

- Branded everyone left of center as Marxists, and believed the greatest threat to the country was Marxism.
- Wanted to return the country to the greatness it had experienced when it was founded.
- Engaged in policies to purge civil servants and educators from their positions because of their political beliefs.
- Used propaganda to spread falsehoods about people of minority Faiths-- and used those lies to incite fear and violence against them.
- Degraded the unemployed, attacked labor unions, and eliminated state-funded health insurance.
- Believed concentration camps and torture against political enemies was justified because they were threats to the nation.
- If you disagreed with their methods, they would brand you as Un-German/un-American.
- Emphasized social solidarity and extreme nationalism to unite party members-- who were primarily uneducated and rural.

If you answered: The National Socialist German Worker's Party (aka: NSDAP or NAZI) then you'd be CORRECT. However, I'll accept other answers too....ones that might be more familiar to Americans who've been paying attention to today's politics. And just for the record.... just because the word Socialist is a part of the Nazi's name, it doesn't mean they were actually Socialists. In fact, the entire raison d'etre of the Nazi Party was to destroy Marxism. According to Hitler: "Never, never will I stray from the task of stamping out Marxism... there can only be one victor: either Marxism or the German people! And Germany will triumph!" So it's pretty clear....Nazis hate Socialists and the entire Left.

Ok, so I may have been a little harsh towards a certain American political party/movement. "Hey! How dare you compare Nazis to Party! The Nazis were reprehensible and killed millions of people via genocide." True-- and I'm not saying they're the SAME-- I'm just saying there's a couple of similarities (see above) that concern me a little....

...and speaking the Holocaust... Evans approaches the topic in a matter-of-fact manner that's aboslutely chilling. At the end of this volume, the Final Solution had not yet started...but plans for exterminating the Jews was well under way. Extermination of the Jews was always part of the Nazi ideology-- there was a unimaginable contempt for Jews from the start and it fueled the party's ideological beliefs. After Hitler's rise, Jews were immediately removed from influential positions, detained, deported....and murdered. The concentration camp in Dachau was operational and detaining Jews before Hitler even assumed power via the Enabling Act. In 1933, the foundation was in place for the mass extermination... and I have no idea WHY or HOW the international community allowed this to happen during the 6 years preceding WWII.

The Coming of the Third Reich is a BRILLIANT and FASCINATING book that should be a reading requirement in every high school and college in America.

message 20: by Scott (last edited Jun 15, 2011 07:31AM) (new)

Scott Seaborn (sseaborn) | 131 comments #16. A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan A Visit From the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan

I felt lie I was reading Cloud Atlas for Dummies. It's not a dumb book--it just seems like Egan is paying homage to David Mitchell's novel. She uses multiple forms of storytelling (including the famous PowerPoint chapter) and genres, changing POV's, and a shifting timeline to tell a rather mundane story. In fact, I remember more about the form of the novel than the actual story itself....

In my Cloud Atlas review, I called it pretentious and written for MFA alums. Egan's novel is MUCH more accessible-- but I think it suffers from the same "hey look at me, I know how to write in multiple styles and forms" syndrome that Mitchell's novel does. It calls too much attention to the author, and not enough attention to the characters and story....

message 21: by Scott (last edited Jun 15, 2011 07:23AM) (new)

Scott Seaborn (sseaborn) | 131 comments #17. Ender's Game (Ender's Saga, #1) by Orson Scott Card Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card

Ender's Game is regarded as one of the best sci-fi books of my generation-- so I approached it with lofty expectations. Most of the book is very tactical and involves Ender leading groups of children into battle simulations. I found the simulations very repetitive and unfulfilling. Ender's personal development remained stuck in neutral-- until the final pages of the novel. Ender's Game is redeemed by its final act, but I wish the rest of the book was as interesting.

**One of the dangers of reading a book with a lot of praise is that it has to be truly exceptional if it's going to meet those lofty expectations. In this case, I think it's a good book that's a victim of hype.**

I'm debating whether or not to continue reading the rest of the series....anyone out there who can recommend the next books?

message 22: by Scott (last edited Jun 28, 2011 06:53AM) (new)

Scott Seaborn (sseaborn) | 131 comments #18. The Dharma Bums by Jack Kerouac The Dharma Bums by Jack Kerouac

So....I couldn't quite figure this book out. At first, I thought Kerouac was mocking the 'dharma bums,' and making fun of their flaky conversations and pretentiousness....but noooooo.... Kerouac was EMBRACING the dharma bum lifestyle.

The Dharma Bums reminds me of a group of friends I had in college that spent a year of their time (and parents' money) to follow Phish around on tour. They went from one unexciting locale to another and sat around campfires until dawn,while drawing hits from giant bongs and discussing what Buddha's favorite type of snack food would be if he were alive today. They had no responsibilities, and they were free to do whatever they wanted until their parents cut off their funding. Fifteen years later... most of them have jobs on Wall Street, and they're all making way more than me.

The dharma bums are flakes... they are Holden's "phonies." Kerouac... errrr... 'Ray' lacks authenticity. I get the feeling that Kerouac had problems connecting with other people, so he read a book about a topic people know very little about (Buddhism) so that he could have a hook or a conversation starter. Knowing crap about Buddhism doesn't make you as boring at parties... it just makes you boring the other 99% of the time.

I might have disliked Kerouac's 'characters,' but I did enjoy the travelogue aspect. Not because of his exciting adventures-- considering his adventures were typically as exciting as a 3rd grade spelling bee. No, I thought it was cool that he kept traveling to places I've lived. Although, if you haven't lived in Greenville, SC or Portland, OR, then you probably won't enjoy this aspect as much as I did....

Who WOULD enjoy this book? Poets...and...ummm.... Phish-heads?
Who knows?

message 23: by Scott (last edited Aug 29, 2011 06:21AM) (new)

Scott Seaborn (sseaborn) | 131 comments #19. Wizard and Glass (The Dark Tower, #4) by Stephen King Wizard and Glass by Stephen King

Why did it take me so long to discover The Dark Tower series?!?! Wizard and Glass is another awesome addition to the story of the Gunslinger and his Ka-Tet.

Based on the reviews, I thought this part of the story would be the most difficult to plod through. Roland is a fantastic character, but I thought a prolonged flashback to his youth would kill the momentum of his journey towards the Dark Tower. I could not have been more mistaken. I really enjoyed the hell out of Roland's backstory-- it really added some new dimensions to his character and his quest.

Now the question is... continue on to Wolves of the Calla or wait for The Wind Through The Keyhole to come out next spring?!

message 24: by Scott (last edited Aug 29, 2011 06:18AM) (new)

Scott Seaborn (sseaborn) | 131 comments Once again, I've fallen behind in my reviews... so here are my quick-takes on my last couple of months of reading...

#20. Cannery Row by John Steinbeck Cannery Row by John Steinbeck: Another great Steinbeck short-story!!

#21. Creationists Selected Essays, 1993-2006 by E.L. Doctorow Creationists by EL Doctorow: Snooze fest. This literary criticism is sometimes interesting...but mostly laborious. Very high brow, and meant for an MFA....

#22. Area 51 An Uncensored History of America's Top Secret Military Base by Annie Jacobsen : Area 51: An Uncensored History by Annie Jacobsen: If you're looking for documented evidence of extra-terrestials hanging out in the desert, then keep looking. This is a fantastic history of the nuclear arms race and top secret aircraft.

#23. Moonwalking with Einstein The Art and Science of Remembering Everything by Joshua Foer Moonwalking with Einstein by Joshua Foer: I mistakenly picked this one up thinking it would be a 'How To' book (not everyone knows that Albert pioneered breakdancing). Fortunately, this turned out to be an amazing read...and *did* provide some great tips to improve your memorization skills. In fact, I finished the book over a month ago and I still remember Claudia Schiffer swimming in cottage cheese...

#24. Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck: I enjoyed this a helluva lot more than when I read it in sophomore English!

#25. Those Guys Have All the Fun Inside the World of ESPN by James Andrew Miller Those Guys Have All the Fun by Tom Shales: Did I learn more than I ever wanted to know about ESPN? YES. Was it 800 pages of pro-ESPN propaganda? YES. Do I appreciate what the network has done to/for sports? Not really... I think their on-air personalities are among the most annoying and entitled people on earth. Do I miss the Olbermann/Patrick Sportscenter? YES....

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Scott Seaborn (sseaborn) | 131 comments #26. The Crossing (Border Trilogy, #2) by Cormac McCarthy The Crossing by Cormac McCarthy: I still don't know what to think about this one. It's like a western version of "The Power of Myth," but more...boring.

#27. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (Harry Potter, #4) by J.K. Rowling Harry Potter & The Goblet of Fire by JK Rowling: Ok...NOW I understand why Harry Potter is so awesome. A lot darker and more adult than the first 3 books....

#28. Stories of Your Life and Others by Ted Chiang Stories of Your Life by Ted Chiang: Science-Fiction at its absolute best! Some of the most thought provoking stories I've read in a long time.

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Scott Seaborn (sseaborn) | 131 comments #29. The Psychopath Test A Journey Through the Madness Industry by Jon Ronson The Psychopath Test by Jon Ronson: I thought this would be a How-To Manual for spotting the psychopaths in my I was slightly disappointed. Still an entertaining read!

#30. Breakfast of Champions by Kurt Vonnegut Breakfast of Champions by Kurt Vonnegut: Vonnegut is a genius. Period. My only question is: How did anyone ever make a movie of this!??!

#31. The Prince of Tides by Pat Conroy The Prince of Tides by Pat Conroy: What an excellent book to read while vacationing with my family on Edisto Island, SC (Colleton County for those familiar with the book). I really enjoyed the history of the Wingo clan, and could have done without the Lowenstein plot and the sappy Epilogue.

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Scott Seaborn (sseaborn) | 131 comments #32. Killing Floor (Jack Reacher, #1) by Lee Child Killing Floor by Lee Child

Jack Reacher. Bad ass.

Jack's a stranger in a strange town. Winds up in Georgia searching for the killer of a famous blues musician... that's totally irrelevant to the story. The main plot is much more interesting and clever.
Jack has sex with the first woman he meets... cue the contrived love story.
Jack is the smartest man in America. His deductive reasoning makes Sherlock Holmes look like Forest Gump.
Jack believes in justice, but not in the legal system. Commit crime and do the a shallow grave.
Lee Child writes in short, choppy sentences (see examples above)-- and if you skip through the sex and/or driving scenes, you can read this 550 page book in an hour.

OVERALL.... despite the glaring flaws of Child's first 'Jack Reacher Novel," it's still an entertaining read. I want to read a few more Reacher novels before Tom Cruise comes and destroys the entire franchise -- it's impossible to picture Cruise as Reacher--what the hell is Hollywood thinking?!

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Scott Seaborn (sseaborn) | 131 comments I have some catching up to do on my reviews...

#33. Everything That Rises Must Converge by Flannery O'Connor Everything That Rises Must Converge by Flannery O'Connor

Absolutely loved these stories! Dark and surprisingly funny.... I'm ready for some more of her work!

#34. Casino Royale by Ian Fleming Casino Royale by Ian Fleming

I have no idea where the movie-version of James Bond came from... the literary-version is a super-serious misogynist.

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Scott Seaborn (sseaborn) | 131 comments #35. Ready Player One by Ernest Cline Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

Awesome 80's nerd nostalgia!! Ranked this one as my Goodreads Book of the Year.

#36. Crisis Economics A Crash Course in the Future of Finance by Nouriel Roubini Crisis Economics by Nouriel Roubini

Learned a lot about the root causes of the global economic meltdown....and managed to not slit my wrists. Economics is known as the "dismal science" for a reason...

#37. Matterhorn by Karl Marlantes Matterhorn by Karl Marlantes

Stunning. A great alternative to the Hollywood "happy ending" version of war. Given Marlante's account of the most screwed up situation ever, I can't help to wonder how similar other conflicts have been to Vietnam.

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Scott Seaborn (sseaborn) | 131 comments #38. Linchpin Are You Indispensable? by Seth Godin Linchpin by Seth Godin

Not too bad for a business book. Typically, business authors regurgitate common sense, go on speaking tours, write follow-up books restating the content from the first book, and then 'retire' on a tropical island. Godin's likely following this business author model, but Linchpin is genuinely informative--and really made me view my professional career path a little differently.

#39. Switch How to Change Things When Change Is Hard by Chip Heath Switch by Chip and Dan Heath

Just another business book...I'm sure the Heath Brothers are sitting on the beach in front of their tropical villa, laughing about the time they made money from re-stating the obvious....

#40. Presentation Zen Simple Ideas on Presentation Design and Delivery (Voices That Matter) by Garr Reynolds Presentation Zen by Garr Reynolds

After my boss told me I need to work on my presentation skills, I decided to give this manual a try (it was recommended on a 'personal MBA' website). I'll save you the trouble of reading this book by offering what I learned:
Keep it simple
Use stock images without words on slides
Don't use bullet point on slides
Use Powerpoint to present ideas...use handouts to present data
Go to youtube and watch other speakers--and learn from them

I just saved you a trip to the library.

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Scott Seaborn (sseaborn) | 131 comments #41. Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier

I've never been into gothic maybe this wasn't the book for me. I thought it was 'ok,' but a little long and dry. The last 100 pages made it worth the read, though.

#42. Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov

Often cited as one of the greatest books of the 20th Century... did it live up to the hype? Naw. Not really. I probably need to pursue an MFA to fully appreciate this novel, BUT it was extremely thought-provoking.

I found the whole ordeal particularly disturbing-- on the surface, Humbert Humbert's character is a disturbing psychopath that will haunt my nightmares only my daughters are out of college. Beneath that layer, Nabokov has given us the "Great American Novel"-- and what he says about our culture is even more disturbing than a man who likes little girls.

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Scott Seaborn (sseaborn) | 131 comments #43. Quantum of Solace The Complete James Bond Short Stories by Ian Fleming Quantum of Solace by Ian Fleming

I could barely keep my eyes open for this collection of short stories. Boring.

#44. Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson

EXCELLENT biography of the world's biggest asshole. Seriously. I think it's most telling that Isaacson spent 95% of the book documenting the history of Apple, NeXT, and Pixar-- and virtually no time is spent on Jobs's personal life, beyond the poor decisions he made as a husband and father. His story reminded me of the Cornelius Vanderbillt biography I read last year-- the man was all business, with virtually no regard for personal relationships.

message 33: by Scott (last edited Dec 14, 2011 11:27AM) (new)

Scott Seaborn (sseaborn) | 131 comments #45. I, Robot by Isaac Asimov I, Robot by Isaac Asimov

A sci-fi classic! Much more enjoyable and intelligent than the Will Smith disaster from a few years ago.

#46. The Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury The Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury

This novel felt like a series of episodes from the original Star Trek. Both were allegories for what was happening at the dawn of the Atomic Age/Cold War America--and both could be downright creepy (kinda like the Twilight Zone).

#47. Second Foundation (Foundation, #3) by Isaac Asimov Second Foundation by Isaac Asimov

Less epic in scope than its predecessors, but I actually enjoyed this Foundation the most. Like Asimov's other novels, very intelligent and thought-provoking.

...ok, time to finish FIVE books before the end of the year!! Yikes!!!

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Scott Seaborn (sseaborn) | 131 comments DONE!!!! 53 books crushed in 2011!!! Bring on 54 in 2012!

#48. Scorecasting The Hidden Influences Behind Sports and How Games Are Won by Tobias Moskowitz Scorecasting by Tobias Moscowitz

#49. Bossypants by Tina Fey Bossypants by Tina Fey

Yep. That's me. A dude that read a book for chicks... and glad I did. She's a brilliant comedian!

#50. The Marvelous Land of Oz (Oz, #2) by L. Frank Baum The Marvelous Land of Oz by L. Frank Baum

Baum was totally smoking something while writing his Oz books!

#51. In Defense of Food An Eater's Manifesto by Michael Pollan In Defense of Food by Michael Pollan

Thought this was a recycled follow-up to Omnivore's Dillema. Not much that's new here. There's only so many ways to say: eat less processed foods.

#52. Revelation Space (Revelation Space, #1) by Alastair Reynolds Revelation Space by Alastair Reynolds

Excellent debut novel! Very intriguing plot that worked my brain hard up to the very end. My only real criticisms... he often killed the page-turning momentum by going heavy on the science and exposition AND too many 'revelations' happened off-page...less talking, more action, please!

#53. Poetics by Aristotle Poetics by Aristotle

Very insightful for those interested in the craft of writing. Boring for those not interested.

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