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May 2012 Book Club Newsletter

This  was a slow book month for me. I had a speaking trip and another coming up that I was prepping for, lots of work on the book manuscript (about to officially send it off to my editor!), and a fast four year old who seems to be getting more inquisitive, not less. All good things.

But I still got some reading done. Here’s what I read in April. After that I’ll give you the book club selection for May.

My favorite this month was:

What We Believe but Cannot Prove: Today’s Leading Thinkers on Science in the Age of Certainty, edited by John Brockman

I expected this book to be scientists whaling on religion, but that couldn’t have been further from the truth. Instead, this is a book of eminent scientists and thinkers discussing their own pet scientific theories–things they believe (and believe will be proven), but that simply can’t be proven yet. Some of the essays are a couple of paragraphs, none are longer than a couple of pages.

Have you ever considered that intelligent life on earth exists because long, long ago, it was fertilized by alien spores? Well, you’re not alone. A fun, provocative read.

Moby Dick by Herman Melville

For maybe the 12th time, I went through Moby Dick again. This time it was a Librivox recording on my new iPhone (finally gave in).

As I said on the blog recently, if you think you hate Moby Dick but if you want to give it another try, just skip to the Ahab sections and see if that helps. He’s my favorite literary character.

Still need convincing?

Nathaniel Philbrick, author of In The Heart of The Sea, wrote a great essay on why he thinks Moby Dick remains essential reading.

The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach

Similar to A Prayer for Owen Meany, The Art of Fielding revolves around an errant baseball on an unfortunate collision course. The lives of several characters intertwine on a college campus and the burgeoning stardom of a phenom shortstop…who suddenly loses his edge after…well, you’ll see.

Brought back lots of little league memories for me.

Mary Poppins by P.L. Travers

On our NYC trip in June we got invited to the musical Mary Poppins, so I figured I should finally get around to reading the books. This short book is much darker and way more charming than the Disney movie. I also love the artwork.

The Dunwich Horror (in Spanish) by HP Lovecraft

After some confusing conversations at work, I’ve realized that my Spanish is slipping badly.  The solution? HP Lovecraft in Spanish, of course! Was this helpful? I think so–I learned that the word “aquelarres” means “Witches’ Sabbath,” which I’ve never been able to work into a conversation until now.

The Great God Pan by Arthur Machen

Usually, Lovecraft leads me to Machen leads me to Poe, but this time I stopped at Machen and read Pan again. This might be my favorite horror story. It conveys a sense of sickening dread that is all too rare in horror.

Machen can create a mood of unspiraling doom that many other horror writers would envy.

The moral here: steer clear of lovely women who are as disturbing as they are exquisite. Also: if you run into Pan, don’t look at him.

Variant by Robison Wells

A teen dystopian tale that happily had nothing to do with vampires, werewolves, or state-mandated fights to the death. Variant is about a boy who, after leaving his umpteenth foster home, joins a schools that is not quite what it seems. (are they ever, in books?) The first in a trilogy, with a twist I did not manage to see coming.

There was more, but nothing that I absolutely loved. I read a lot of essays and newspapers, but that’s boring to talk about.

What we’re reading in May

Grab yourself a copy of Moby Dick and read some of the Ahab scenes.

If you can’t get through the rest of it, that’s fine. I just want to be able to talk about Ahab with you geniuses. And of course, if you want to read the whole thing, more power to you. It’s worth it!

As always, if anything you read on this list is meaningful to you, I only ask that you steer other people towards the books that move you or change you. And if you know someone who would enjoy the newsletter, please forward it to them. There were a ton of new members this month, I’m very excited to have you all here.

Also, I’ll have the American Gods discussion up in the next couple of days while I’m traveling.

Thanks as always, matey

Josh Hanagarne




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