Category Archives: In My Book

These Are Good Books — Read Them.

I had a goal to read one-hundred books in 2012. I failed. Although I only made it through about eighty-five books, I still feel accomplished to have added new entries into my library. What follows is a list of books that I read over the past year that I feel everybody should check out (click on the book covers for Amazon linkage).

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  • Wool Omnibus by Hugh Howey: While there is a large crowd of people who still shun e-readers as the inception of the book-pocalypse, e-readers have been nothing but positive for struggling, independent authors. Howey is an excellent example of this. While it is difficult to discuss anything about Wool without spoiling everything about the plot, suffice it to say that it is a post-apocalyptic drama focused around an isolated group of individuals trying to survive in a harsh environment.

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  • The Dresden Files by Jim Butcher: I don’t  usually go in for very long book series. This particular series about a wise-cracking wizard who resides in Chicago has over ten entries in it now, but the quality of the writing and the story only increases with each iteration. There is a valid comparison to be made to the X-Files in that some of the books are very much monster-of-the-week episodes, while others are focused more on the over-arching mythology that ties all of the novels together. Butcher finds a success through his flawless portrayal of humanity in a character (Dresden) while managing to truly bring the “urban” setting into life for the fledgling urban fantasy genre.

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  • Solar Clipper Trader Tales by Nathan Lowell: Science fiction has always been
    a favorite or mine, but it typically tends to favor either a lot of science or a lot of fiction. (Sometimes fiction that, even for Sci-Fi, can stretch the imagination). The books from this series by Lowell feature plot-lines are refreshingly simple. There is no grand enemy. There is no hero’s journey — mono-myth be damned! The science fiction is all in the setting while the story is driven by a young protagonist trying to make his way through a new life aboard a trading vessel. 

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  • Warbreaker by Brandon Sanderson: Sanderson is one of my favorite authors. While fantasy novels are popular right now because of popular media exposure (some still ride the Harry Potter train while others leech from Game of Thrones), Sanderson remains uniquely imaginative. While all of his novels feature inventive uses of magic, Warbreaker features the best combination of a unique magic system coupled with accessibility. Well-written characters? Sure. Humor? Definitely. Magic system based entirely around color? Definitely. 

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  • Airborn by Kenneth Oppel: Steampunk airships. Lost worlds. Alternate Earth biosphere. Classic adventure. This novel feels very much like a throwback to older tales such as Tin-Tin — there is an immediate sense of innocent adventure. The worst enemies are sky pirates and the greatest threats are those created by the environment. Enjoyable reading.

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Of course, my recommendations are fraught with biases toward fantasy and science. I admit that. I will assert, however, that good books are good books, regardless of genre. Even if you have not read or have not enjoyed science fiction or fantasy before, give one of the aforementioned books a shot — in the worst case, you’ll simply be supporting an author. Best case? Good book.

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In My Book: ‘The Newsroom’ and Optimism

Last night after watching the pilot episode of ‘The Newsroom’ on HBO, I updated a status to Facebook: “Any show that makes an oblique reference to ‘The Merchant of Venice’ is a show worth watching, in my book.”

This caused me to think — why do we say “in my book,” as if we are actually writing a book of our thoughts and opinions to share with the general populace? It doesn’t make much sense. It does, however, provide an excuse for a blog entry with a saccharin heading and category. Onward!

‘The Newsroom’ on HBO had one of the finest pilots that I’ve seen in recent memory last night (6.24). Aaron Sorkin, who is the show’s creator, is no stranger to politically infused primetime drama through proof of the smash show, ‘The West Wing.’

‘The West Wing’ inspired a generation of individuals to engage in a confusing and distancing political process through its depiction of hope in government. While it was, clearly, liberal wish-fulfillment, it was done exceedingly well.

‘The Newsroom’ begins a story set a few years in the past — a move that allows the show to become falsely prophetic. The pilot episode’s drama centered around the BP oil spill two years ago and how the news of the disaster was portrayed to the public.

Jeff Daniels (who plays cable anchor Will McAvoy) creates a character who is striving to break out of the polarized culture of broadcast journalism in an effort to create a news program like the good ol’ days.

While the effort is admirable, the notion that the nation needs news like it was in the past reeks of sentimentalism. “The good ol’ days” of broadcast journalism? I doubt that the individuals who viewed and created television news during the middle of the 20th century thought that they were in the literal prime-time of the genre.

That said, it is abundantly clear that there is a problem with the news media today. ‘The Newsroom’ is a fictional reaction to the polar opposite and dysfunctional networks of Fox and CNN. While it tries to play the middle of the road, it is clear that Sorkin is, again, promoting a liberal agenda within the series. Does this create a disconnect between the message of moderation with the juxtaposition of liberal ideology? It does not.

As the perceived “center” of political discussion in this country is, at the moment, to the right, a shift to the perceived left in ‘The Newsroom’ is really nothing more than a return to the original center. We are expected to engage — to discuss. We must question authority while we pay respect to it. To do so is not to become a Democrat or Indepedent — it is to become an informed citizen.

Hopefully, ‘The Newsroom’ continues forward with its strong message and stellar acting as the season progresses. I know I’ll be watching.

 

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