I've been busy reading for my Sitzbook book-a-week project, but I've not been as busy writing my reviews. Since I made it a goal to write a review of each book I read for the project this year, I decided to do a condensed review for a few books, like I did earlier in the year.
For each book today, I'll focus on The Good, The Not-So-Good, and Should You Read It? Also, I took all the pictures (see more here) for these reviews so if they're crappy or boring, sorry. But they're books, not fashion models, so there's really only so much you can do to make them interesting.
Narcissus and Goldmund by Hermann Hesse
The Good: This is the story of a young man (Goldmund) who abandons the life of a monk to see the world. Narcissus is his mentor. It's a good example of friendship overcoming obvious boundaries and restrictions. Classic Hesse.
The Not-So-Good: It wasn't as good as I remembered from the first time I read it, about 12 or 13 years ago. But it was still good.
Should You Read It? If you like Hesse, you probably already have. If not, you should read this, but maybe don't read it closely after or before Siddhartha, since the two books have quite a few similarities and parallels. Or, do read them back to back and compare the two. I'm not your mamma, so I'm not going to tell you what to do.
Seven Years in Tibet by Heinrich Harrer
The Good: Another book by a German-language author with an alliterative name, but this is nonfiction. It was given to me by my friend Brad when we visited him last year. I chose to read the book before our upcoming trip to China to find out anything and everything I could about the country, which has been in control of Tibet since the time this book was written. It also talks quite a lot about the Dalai Lama, since Harrer met him while in Tibet. That was interesting, since the Dalai Lama was a young man when the story takes place.
The Not-So-Good: Not much, although there wasn't really anything in the book about China per se except negative comments, which I guess could be expected, considering the author's viewpoint.
Should You Read It? Yep, you probably should.
A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson
The Good: Another one of Bill Bryson's excellent books. My brother Paul gave me this for Christmas. Bryson recounts his attempt to walk the whole Appalachian Trail from one end to the other. Bryson's accompanied by his friend Katz and, as usual, by his own always-excellent dry humor.
The Not-So-Good: Only the parts where he mentions how overuse, over-development, and the Forest Service have all managed to screw up huge swaths of the Trail and the national parks, as well as the areas around them.
Should You Read It? Yes, and then read the rest of Bryson's books. Do it now!
How To Sharpen Pencils by David Rees
The Good: Although this book doesn't seem like it could possibly be serious at first glance, it actually is. If you read this, you'll learn how to sharpen number 2 pencils using numerous techniques. Having said that, though, there are many hilarious parts in this book. I've long been a fan of David Rees since his years as the writer for the comic Get Your War On, and this book displays some of that same humor, albeit in a less-vulgar, more-subdued way. The book is great, though.
The Not-So-Good: That Rees has only written this book so far (not counting his collections of GYWO comics). I hope he keeps it up!
Should You Read It? Yes, especially if you're a "writer, artist, contractor, flange turner, anglesmith, or civil servant," as the cover describes its intended audience.
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by J.K. Rowling
The Good: Rowling got rid of the the stupid house elf Dobby, who so irritated me in the second book (this is book number three). You also get the sense while reading this book that she'd figured out in what direction she wanted to take the overall story line of the series, so there doesn't seem to be as much "filler" as book two. Also, I must mention here that this is obviously a book for kids, so any attempt on my part to analyze or over-analyze it may just seem stupid. It's not Shakespeare, of course, but for a kids' book, it's pretty dang good.
The Not-So-Good: OK, are we seriously going to have 30 or 40 pages at the start of each Harry Potter novel describing how he has to spend his summers with the Dursleys, his adoptive aunt, uncle, and cousin? We get it: they're really shitty people. Let's get going with the action already! Same goes with anyone with the last name Malfoy.
Should You Read It? If you're reading the series, yes, probably. If you're not, then just see the movie.
I Am America (And So Can You!) by Stephen Colbert
The Good: I've only seen a few episodes of Colbert's show on Comedy Central, but what I've seen has been pretty funny. The book's premise is that he's the same person as he is on his show: a pompous, egotistical, right-wing political pundit. And it's funny, although not as laugh-out-loud funny as the Daily Show's America (The Book) "textbook."
The Not-So-Good: The format on the Kindle really messed up the pictures and graphics, but that's hardly the book's fault.
Should You Read It? Sure, if you find it for sale or used. But that's pretty much my take on most any book.
So, that's it for now. Have you read any of these books? If so, any comments?
Thanks for reading, and have a great night!