June Booklist

Well, there’s nothing like procrastinating until the end of the month to put up a monthly post that usually finds its way to the Interwebs no later than the 7th of any month …

Contact by Carl Sagan.

Dune by Frank Herbert.

The Passage by Justin Cronin.

A Case of Exploding Mangoes by Mohammed Hanif.

Spies of the Balkans by Alan Furst.

Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurty.

I remember traveling into DC to see Contact, way back when it came out in — I want to say 1996 — at the Uptown Movie Theater (and now I live just a few blocks away!) It was only my second movie there (first was Dances with Wolves, which I found ridiculously boring, but have come to appreciate in later years). What a wonderful movie, and yet it took nearly fifteen years for me to read the source material, by noted astronomer Dr. Carl Sagan. The movie sticks very close to the book (obviously, there are liberties taken), yet, watching the film shortly after finishing the book, I couldn’t help but notice how true to the spirit of the novel it stayed. Here’s a fun fact: Francis Ford Coppola is a real fucking douchebag, as he filed a posthumous lawsuit against Carl Sagan SIX DAYS after Sagan died! What a douchenozzle.

Dune was a total impulse buy. It’s always been something I’ve resisted in the past, but there’s something about a 40% coupon and a $7.99 book that I find hard to resist (oh, I know what it is: it’s the price). I’m familiar with the story: I saw both the David Lynch film (years and years ago), and the Sci-Fi miniseries. Fortunately, those had both faded from my consciousness enough that the book was new and fresh and wonderful. That said, I’ve no desire to read the remaining books in the cycle, and certainly not the continuation by Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson (which I’ve heard are just awful).

I was on the fence about Justin Cronin’s The Passage, and finally snagged it as reading material for my trip to Boulder (my sister got married!). Okay, so here we go: it’s the first of a trilogy, and if you’ve ever read Stephen King’s The Stand, this is going to feel familiar to you: population decimated by disease, elderly wise black lady, all hope rests on a child, and they’re going to Colorado. But it’s really not much like King’s amazing apocalyptical masterpiece at all. It was a tremendously enjoyable read, although I will admit, one scene in particular (where a previously assumed dead villain jumps out of a compartment he couldn’t possibly have gotten to) had me rolling my eyes.

When I first started working at the Bookstore, I worked with a six-foot tall Swedish lady named Rebbecca. She got pregnant and moved back to Sweden, but one day, we were both trying to hunt down a book called A Case of Exploding Mangoes for a customer. Is that not the most hilarious title you’ve read, or what? Let me answer for you: yes, it is. I spotted this in the Boulder Bookstore (which is lovely, truly amazing — I was so tempted to move to Boulder just so I could work there!) on the remainder table, and snapped it up. I finished it the next day waiting for my flight at Denver International. Great, funny, amazing.

Our Mystery/Thriller section at the Bookstore is packed with a lot of novels set in WWII, but that aren’t particularly suspenseful, or thrilling. Or, for that matter, mysterious. They’re just sort of blah. Furst’s name was first given to me (hahahahahaha) by a dude at one of my professor’s post-semester parties at her Baltimore home, probably seven or eight years ago. He only had a handful out at the time, but he publishes one a year: they’re all spy novels, set in Europe in World War II, featuring protagonists only loosely connected to the Allied powers, but who struggle against the Nazi War Machine none-the-less. I won’t say Spies of the Balkans is Furst’s best (my personal favorite is Dark Voyage), but it’s a solid entry, and worth the investment of time.

I’d only just begun to read Larry McMurty’s Lonesome Dove by the end of June, but as you might guess, by the time I got around to writing this post, I’d finished it. I will say this: it was far, far better than I had any expectation of it being. A further review will follow for my recap of my July reading (and with luck, you won’t have to wait a week for that).

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