What Are You Reading?

July 13, 2012

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I’ve had my Kindle out quite a bit lately, and I’ve found some pockets of time in which to read.  Here’s a rundown of my past, present, and future reading.


I’ve written about my favorite author, Lawrence Block, on many occassions.  He’s primary a mystery writer, but he also writes a monthly column for Linn’s, a stamp collecting magazine.  Block has collected many of these columns into a Kindle book, Generally Speaking.

I’ve been snapping up pretty much any Block Kindle book that’s avaialble for a good price, and I think I got this for $2.99 (it’s $4.99 now).  I don’t actually collect stamps, but I don’t collect baseball cards, so I assumed there would be enough parallels to make the book interesting.

Generally Speaking is an interesting insight into the hobby itself.  While it does cover topics related to the stamps themselves, there’s also a bit of travel, geography, history, and zoology included, as Block shares his experiences as a collector.  One interesting tidbit is that Block and his wife are world travellers and make an attempt to buy a stamp and have it canceled at the post office of each country they visit.

I learned quite a bit about stamp collecting while reading the book.  More importantly, though, it was a very interesting read.


I bought Water for Elephants several months ago, and it had languished on my digital bookshelf (digital end table?) since then.  I read the first few pages, didn’t particularly like the way the book started and stopped reading it.  Recently, I decided to give it a second chance to plowed through the first few pages to see if I could get to a part of the book I liked.

At this point, I’m about a third of the way through.  Based on what I’ve read, and some foreshadowing in the beginning, I have an idea how this may turn out, but there are a lot of unknowns that have to unfold.  While most of the book occurs 70 years in the past, we occassionally get a present day scene of the narrator, who is now in his 90s.

A very interesting tale so far, and I’ve found myself peeking ahead on my Kindle.

I do wonder, though, why the Waterford Crystal company didn’t introduce a line of Waterford Elephants around the time the movie came out.


Once I finished with Water for Elephants, I’ll likely sit down with an old favorite, Lawrence Block’s Burglars Can’t Be Choosers.  The Burglar books are funny, and I just realized that it’s been a while since I’ve read one.

I’m also being tempted by the siren call of The Hunger Games.  I very rarely re-read books so soon after reading them for the first time, but I may make an exception in this case.

What about you?

Now it’s your turn – what are YOU reading these days?

Give An Author A Second Chance

June 27, 2012

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Lawrence Block & Robert Silverberg

Lawrence Block (left) & Robert Silverberg

Regular readers know that my favorite author is Lawrence Block.  Block has been writing since the 1950s, and continues to write new work.  About a decade ago, a friend gave me Burglars Can’t be Choosers, and I was hooked.  In pretty quick succession, I read all of the burglar books and also started working my way through Block’s Matt Scudder books.

There are ten Burglar books and seventeen Scudder novels (plus a short story anthology).  I’ve put more than a few dollars in Block’s pocket over the years.  I’ve also read some of his books on writing, and of course his short story omnibus Enough Rope.

Block also has three series of novels based on the following characters:

  • Evan Tanner – Tanner has the sleep center in his brain destroyed as the result of a war injury, and is now incapable of sleep.  He uses the extra eight hours of each day to learn about a myriad of topics, and manages to get himself involved in a lot of international escapades.
  • Keller – A professional hit man who actually had a conscience.
  • Chip Harrison – A private detective who works a boss who is infatuated with Nero Wolfe.

On the surface, I should love two of these characters.  The destroyed sleep center aspect of Tanner is cool, as well as his interesting take on politics.  Keller is a hit man who spends his spare time (and money) collecting stamps, of all things.  I’ve never read Nero Wolfe, so the Chip Harrison novels wouldn’t be something that would necessarily be my cup of tea.

So I bought a Tanner and Keller book.  I hated them and wasn’t able to finish them.  I was disappointed that I was unable to appreciate books written by my favorite author, but fiction is very much a matter of taste, and I simply didn’t like them.

Fast forward five or six years.  I was in the public library looking for some audio books to read.  I saw a Keller book.  On a whim, I decided to give it a shot.  I was surprised to discover that I enjoyed the book immensely.  I read the other Keller books and liked all of them.  I liked them so much that I pre-ordered the upcoming Keller book, Hit Me.  The book doesn’t come out until February, but I’ve had my pre-order in for a couple of months.

I also rediscovered Tanner.  My rediscovery in this case was two-forked.  It turns out that Tanner was a favorite character of a good friend’s dad.  The friend’s dad served his country in Vietnam, raised his son alone after his wife deserted them, and fought a courageous battle against cancer – an outstanding role model for his son and the community.  After he passed away, I often thought of reading some Tanner books, just to see if I could see the same things he saw in them.  A bit later, I read Lawrence Block’s Afterthoughts, a collection of the forewords and afterwords from his books.  Block’s thoughts about the Tanner books were the clincher – I needed to give them a second chance.  I found out that I liked the Tanner books as well.

I have yet to read the Chip Harrison books … but I’m sure that in time I will.

If you have every given up on an author, or on a book, I urge you to give it a second chance a bit later.  The years won’t change the text in the book, but they will change you, and you may appreciate the book more.

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