I've been trying to read more lately. Over the past year couple years, I've accumulated a couple dozen books that I still haven't read. As part of my Spend Less Money You Stupid Bastard campaign, I've been a buying freeze on literature until I can catch up on the piles of books that haven't been cracked yet. This is what I've read lately.
Fast Food Nation, by Eric Schlosser
The first couple chapters of this were a little dry and slow-going, but it got pretty interesting after that. It's unbelievable how much power corporations like McDonald's wield in worker and food safety legislation. I almost never get fast food (unless I'm on a road trip), but this book gave me a few dozen more reasons not to.
Fight Club, by Chuck Palahniuk
It's hard to read this book without comparing it to the movie as you go. I really like both the movie and the book, but for different reasons. Obviously, there are things about any story that can be expressed in a book much better than in a movie, but the movie did a great job of telling it. If I had read the book first, I don't think I would have expected that the movie could be any good.
But this isn't about the movie, it's about the book. Palahniuk is one hell of a story teller, and I'm certainly not the first to point this out or get all fan-boy about it, so there's really no point in going on much about it. We all know the story and most of you have probably already the book, so why bother?
Invisible Monsters, by Chuck Palahniuk
According to Wikipedia, Palahniuk wrote this one first but it was rejected by publishers for being too disturbing, so he wrote Fight Club to disturb them even more. However, Invisible Monsters is, hands down, WAY more fucked up. I'd try to explain the plot if I thought I could. The last quarter of the book is made up almost entirely of weird plot twists that make you think, "I should have seen that coming," but you really shouldn't have seen that coming.
I, Lucifer, by Glen Duncan
This one wasn't as good as I was hoping it would be. Lucifer spends a month in the body of the cleverly-named Declan Gunn (hint: re-arrange the author's name) and writes a book about the experience as he goes, in a style that loses its novelty in the first couple chapters. Parts of it were pretty interesting, but on the whole, lackluster.
The Pirates! In An Adventure with Communists, by Gideon Defoe
If Douglas Adams grew up on Monty Python, then developed a pirate fetish and a passing interest in communism, this is what you'd get, and it's absolutely hilarious. It's a short one - only took me an afternoon - and would probably make a pretty funny movie. This is actually the third in the series - The Pirates have also had adventures with Charles Darwin and Ahab.
Conservatize Me, by John Moe
In the vein of Supersize Me, a liberal NPR host from Seattle spent a month immersing himself in conservatism to see if he could convert himself. He met with a bunch of people and found that there's a lot of diversity of opinion among conservatives, including several that don't really want to have anything to do with the Republican party. It's easy to forget that the Rush Limbaughs and Bill O'Reillys don't accurately represent everyone on the right (to be fair, we've got our Michael Moores). With politics as polarized as they are these days, most of my perspective of the right comes from angry old guys hollering on TV (as Colbert told O'Reilly the other day, "They criticize what you say, but they never give you credit for how loud you say it.")
He's also a really funny guy. One of my favorite quotes is about gay marriage:
It was the old reductio ad absurdumm where you take a position for the sake of argument, arrive at a ridiculous result, and then use that ridiculous result to discredit the original position. The same way that conservatives argue that if The Gay is allowed to marry, before long people will be marrying logs and buildings and the 1975 Steelers. It would be ridiculous to marry the Steelers (even though the strength of that defensive line would be an asset to any marriage), therefore it's ridiculous for two consenting adults in a long-term stable relationship to decide for themselves that they want to get married and register for a toaster.
Jokes aside, it was nice to get a glimpse of the perspective of real people on the right. It's easy to forget how much we DO agree on when most political discussions devolve into shouting matches about issues that, in the grand scheme of things, are pretty insignificant.