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   Reading List
         some excellent books

Earth authors have written some wonderful books. Here are brief reviews of some of my favorites, in no particular order.

(The titles link to Amazon pages where you can see more details about the books, if you like. If you buy them through these links, I get a referral fee; that's fine, but I also recommend supporting your local booksellers and lending libraries.)

Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of Nimh

   Robert C. O'Brien

In this delightful children's book, Mrs. Frisby--a mouse--must enlist the aid of wise and mysterious rats to save her nest from the farmer's plow. The writing offers a vivid sense of place and scale, giving you the feeling of being three inches tall yourself, and the rodents' adventures are suspenseful and fun. If you missed this one when you were young, find a child to read it to; you'll both enjoy it.

The Dot and the Line: A Romance in Lower Mathematics

   Norton Juster

Juster's math-happy wit (familiar to many from The Phantom Tollbooth, his Alice-in-Wonderland-esque masterpiece) lends itself perfectly to this clever tale of a line trying to win the affections of a dot. ("She lacks depth," the line's friends tell him.) This charming mini-classic is just plain fun.

Codex Seraphinianus

   Luigi Serafini

This is one of the strangest books ever published. It's an encyclopedia of a surreal alternate universe, written in an undecipherable script and illustrated with detailed color drawings of bizarre plants, animals, tribes, costumes, tools, historical events, architecture...the tome really seems comprehensive, despite being utterly incomprehensible. The Codex is out of print and hard to find, but there are some tantalizing excerpts available on the web.


   Joseph Heller

This book is an astonishing, unforgettable literary experience. It is a dizzying, harrowing satire on the horrors and the absurdities of war and life. A relentless whirlwind of grim black comedy, surreal paradox, and existential horror make a combination so unique, only a quote can begin to convey it:

"What the hell are you getting so upset about?" he asked her bewilderedly in a tone of contrite amusement. "I thought you didn't believe in God."

"I don't," she sobbed, bursting violently into tears. "but the God I don't believe in is a good God, a just God, a merciful God. He's not the mean and stupid God you make Him out to be."

Yossarian laughed and turned her arms loose. "Let's have a little more religious freedom between us," he proposed obligingly. "You don't believe in the god you want to, and I won't believe in the God I want to. Is that a deal?"

This kind of moebius-twisted logic reminds me of the bizarre conversations Alice has Through the Looking Glass. But here, Alice is a reluctant soldier, Wonderland is at war, and the stakes are life and death. As the New York Times says on Catch-22's back cover, "It will not be forgotten by those who can take it!"

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Last update for this page: 16 April 2007
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