Saturday, December 2, 2006

Books

* <-----------> ** <-----------> *** <-----------> **** <----------> *****
Easy - - Pretty Easy - - Moderate - - Pretty Challenging - - Challenging

Forgotten New York, by Kevin Walsh
$17.95 at Bn.com ISBN: 0060754001
** (pretty easy)
I became aware of this recently published guidebook when the publisher sent me an advanced copy. It's terrific if you're planning a trip to New York City and want to hit up a few interesting sites in one neighborhood. There's a lot of cool stuff in here. Not really something you'll read from cover to cover, more a book of reference to flip through and, if you are planning a visit, to stick in your backpack to refer to while trolling the city streets. Roosevelt Island hosts a few interesting spots I wasn't aware of: a lighthouse, an abandoned Smallpox Clinic, some weird railroad bridges. Take it along if you've already seen the big "tourist" spots and are ready for something a bit more off-the-beaten-track.
The Lost Language of Cranes, by David Leavitt
$14.95 at Bn.com ISBN: 1582345732
** (pretty easy)
I'll be the first to admit: gay fiction is usually pretty terrible. Here's one of the rare exceptions. Two young gay men start to feel a connection, set against the backdrop of their parents' lives: one raised by two gay men, the other by loving yet traditional and repressive "red state" folks. In neither case are the parents all that they seem. Leavitt creates characters who seem very natural, and has a knack for weird environments, like one when thousands of lab mice escape onto the New York City streets. Light, fun, and very sensitive. And just enough spicy sex scenes to k
eep you reading without turning into something degrading.
Slaughterhouse Five, by Kurt Vonnegut
$7.99 at Bn.com
** (pretty easy)
SH5, Vonnegut's darkly exciting story about the bombing of Dresden during the last phase of World War II, has been a staple for troubled high-school boys since my day and beyond. The chapters are nice and short, the story easy to follow. Vonnegut was a prisoner of war: an American soldier captured in a German city as the Americans bombed it. He was one of a few survivors who took shelter in a slaughterhouse. Man's inhumanity to man is the theme. Parts deserve to be read and re-read. Highly influential in the lives of a lot of guys my age (20s-30s
). This might make a good stocking-stuffer this holiday season for the punk kid in your life.
Siddhartha, by Herman Hesse
$5.99 at Bn.com ISBN:
0553208845
** (pretty easy)
Hesse's fictional account of the life of the Buddha asks a timeless question: what's it all about? Young Siddhartha wants to know where enlightenment can be found: in the pursuit of scholarship under his father's watch, with the ascetic Samanas, a sect dedicated to meditation and self-denial. Naturally in the end Siddhartha realizes that the answer he's been looking for was in himself all the time. Very easy to read, an entertaining story that makes a good introduction to eastern thought. You don't need to know anything about Buddhism to follow along, enjoy, and discover a few new ideas of your own.

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