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Reading Diary for 1998

  and earlier
"Touch & Go"
by Eugene Stein
Touch & GoPretty solid collection of short stories; Stein has a definite touch of O. Henry to him.

"My Brother Joseph"
by Eugene Kennedy
My Brother JosephFormer priest and longtime friend reminisces about late Cardinal Joseph Bernardin. (See full review.)

"A German Picturesque"
by Jason Schwartz
A German PicturesqueJason Schwartz has a very distinct style – here's hoping he does something with it someday. (See full review.)

"Cocaine Nights"
by J.G. Ballard
Cocaine NightsNominally a whodunit, "Cocaine Nights" is really more of a Ballard tale: Hinting at the dark side of human possibility. (See full review.)

"Feeding Frenzy"
by Stuart Stevens
Feeding FrenzyGreat premise: Visit all the four-star restaurants from the Michelin Guide. Unfortunately, Stevens loses interest about two-thirds of the way through, and it shows. (See full review.)

"A Separate Peace"
by John Knowles
A Separate PeaceI first read this in Junior Great Books in either seventh or eighth grade, and had carried much of it with me since. Decided to revisit it, and while reading it as an adult brought a different perspective that changed the experience, it remains a remarkable book – one of the few I read as a child that retained its magic into my adulthood.

"A Man on the Moon"
by Andrew Chaikin
A Man on the MoonCompanion to the PBS series of the same name, Chaikin's book captures the sense of purpose and possibility that marked the Apollo program. (See full review.)

"The Angry Clam"
by Erik Quisling
The Angry ClamMocks self-help books with tongue firmly in cheek. (See full review.)

"Life on the Edge"
by Michael Gross
Life on the EdgeAn interesting look at the way life forms adapt to some pretty in hospitable environments, from acid to scalding hot water to the Antarctic permafrost. At times too technical for a lay audience, though. (See full review.)

"Slaughterhouse Five"
by Kurt Vonnegut Jr.
Slaughterhouse FiveSomehow I managed to get through high school and college without reading this. A friend turned me onto it, though, and I can see why so many professors and teachers assign it. One of the most effective uses of surrealism in fiction, and wonderfully paced.

"A Walk in the Woods"
by Bill Bryson
A Walk in the WoodsOne of the very funniest writers working today, Bryson tackles the Appalachian Trail in this book. (See full review.)

"Shadow of a Star"
by Alfred K. Mann
Shadow of a StarThe story is interesting: How scientists discovered a supernova by accident, and what they learned from it. The telling of that story is much less interesting. (See full review.)

"What's Going On"
by Nathan McCall
What's Going OnPowerful essays address contemporary American society from the perspective of the black inner city. (See full review.)

by A.M. Sperber and Eric Lax
BogartBio on Bogie manages to remain very readable while still presenting the kind of serious academic research and analysis usually reserved for dead generals or presidents. (See full review.)

"Japanese by Spring"
by Ishmael Reed
Japanese by SpringAn often-wonderful skewering of political correctness and cultural myopia that gets too convoluted at the end. (See full review.)

"The Pillars of Hercules"
by Paul Theroux
The Pillars of HerculesTravel writer takes time to travel entire shoreline of the Mediterranean, from Gibralter back to its opposite in North Africa – and complains the whole time! He'd have been better off staying home in his barcolounger with the remote in one hand and a Pabst Blue Ribbon in the other; would have spared us the misery of reading his book, too.

"Written in Stone"
by Sanford Levinson
Written in StoneA rather serious, heavy look at the way public monuments from the past are currently being politicized. Interesting topic, but Levinson doesn't do much with it. (See full review.)

"Hunting Down the Universe"
by Michael Hawkins
Hunting Down the UniverseHawkins' pet theory is that the majority of the universe's matter is undiscovered, and consists of small (relatively speaking) black holes with the mass of Jupiter formed during or immediately after the Big Bang. (See full review.)

by Steve Aylett
SlaughtermaticHyperkinetic futuristic (and ultimately absurdist) tale of gritty urban living, this book is more about style than story – but what style! (Read full review.)

"Before the Beginning"
by Martin Rees
Before the BeginningBritain's Royal Astronomer provides an easy-to-understand overview of the current state of cosmological theory – from quantum physicss to black holes to dark matter. A nice companion to "A Brief History of the Universe." (See full review.)

"Fatal Terrain"
by Dale Brown
Fatal TerrainCheap knock-off of Tom Clancy's style, Brown's stories all seem to revolve around B-52 bombers. (See full review.)

"The Life of the Cosmos"
by Lee Smolin
The Life of the CosmosAstronomer Smolin puts forth the interesting theory that universes descend from one another, like life forms, and that like life, they evolve from generation to generation. (See full review.)

"Thrown-Away Child"
by Thomas Adcock
Thrown-Away ChildNew York Irish cop Neil Hockaday follows his new Creole bride Ruby Flagg back home to New Orleans to meet her family – and, of course, gets caught up in a local murder case.

"Devil's Heaven"
by Thomas Adcock
Devil's HeavenThomas Adcock is the most literary of mystery writers, a modern Dashiell Hammett who's Sam Spade is New York detective Neil Hockaday, an Irish-American through and through.

"Speaking Freely"
by Nat Hentoff
Speaking FreelyPart 2 of his autobiography (follows "Boston Boy") lovingly caresses jazz and iconoclasts of all stripes. (See full review.)

"A Century of Jazz"
by Roy Carr
A Century of JazzAmbitious coffee-table size book on jazz, but with some significant flaws. (See full review.)