A.J. Jacobs: The Year of Living Biblically

So here’s the elevator pitch for The Year of Living Biblically: this guy, technically Jewish, but secular — an avowed agnostic, actually — decides that for one full year he will follow the laws and commandments of the Bible. All of them. Literally. (Except for those it would be criminal to follow.) (He also ignoresContinue reading “A.J. Jacobs: The Year of Living Biblically”

A.J. Jacobs: The Guinea Pig Diaries

In his introduction, Jacobs lays asserts that his participatory journalism draws on the tradition of writers like Nellie Bly and John Howard Griffin (the author of Black Like Me). But I would assert that he also belongs somewhere along the continuum of writers like Dave Barry and Mark Leyner, who blur the lines between theContinue reading “A.J. Jacobs: The Guinea Pig Diaries”

Catherine Jinks: The Reformed Vampire Support Group

The Reformed Vampire Support Group is maybe the most original vampire novel I’ve ever read that actually uses the word “vampire.” With a few deft twists to the rules of the legend, Jinks inverts the dynamic of the modern sexy, super-strong bloodsucker. Her vamps don’t have super strength or magically accelerated healing. They can’t fly,Continue reading “Catherine Jinks: The Reformed Vampire Support Group”

Stacey Jay: You Are So Undead to Me

If the title didn’t already clue you in, the final sentence of the back cover blurb perfectly telegraphs You Are So Undead to Me‘s tone: “Her life — and more importantly, the homecoming dance — depends on it.” In the first volume of Jay’s post-Buffy zombie franchise, reluctant zombie “Settler” Megan Berry is at leastContinue reading “Stacey Jay: You Are So Undead to Me”

Steven Johnson: Mind Wide Open

Steven Johnson opens his whirlwind tour of modern brain science asserting his intent to deliver a “long-decay” idea in each chapter: the sort of thought that will resonate with you after you finish the book, even possibly altering your behavior. And he delivers at least a few that stick for me. I learned things aboutContinue reading “Steven Johnson: Mind Wide Open”

Steven Johnson: The Ghost Map

The Ghost Map is the sort of book that could be filed in a number of sections of a bookstore or library. Its wide-ranging approach convinced me that I need to read everything else Johnson writes. It’s nominally the history of the London cholera epidemic of 1854, and of the two men who traced itContinue reading “Steven Johnson: The Ghost Map”

Syrie James: The Lost Memoirs of Jane Austen

The Lost Memoirs of Jane Austen is the most recent book to explore the fundamental seeming contradiction of Austen — how was she able to write about romance with such clarity and conviction, when her own life history appears to include no more than a youthful crush? It also takes advantage of several of theContinue reading “Syrie James: The Lost Memoirs of Jane Austen”

Dianna Wynne Jones: Dark Lord of Derkholm

The central premise of Dark Lord of Derkholm seems like such a natural hook on which to hang a comic fantasy that I’m surprised it hasn’t been done to death: there’s a big market for people who want to play at being a Frodo-style hero, triumphing over fearsome evil against long odds, so generic fantasylandsContinue reading “Dianna Wynne Jones: Dark Lord of Derkholm”

Maureen Johnson: Devilish

Maureen Johnson’s Devilish commanded my attention as soon as I heard first of it (via Westerblog, of course). The potent combo of demonic subject matter, a Providence RI setting, and a cover that evokes one of my favorite Penelope Houston albums added up to a heaping helping of positive associations and I requested Devilish fromContinue reading “Maureen Johnson: Devilish”