The New York Times Won’t Give Me A Job Book Review: Spook, Everything Bad Is Good For You, and Born to RockMonday, September 24th, 2007
It’s a strange thing that I’m only a voracious reader when I’m in New York — there’s something about the subway and me that synergizes into this perfect reading robot, when normally I get distracted like a fat kid with the worst case of ADHD after only a few minutes.Â (Maybe it’s like that thing with babies only being able to sleep when being rocked, or something.)Â Whatever it is, I’ve read more in the last three weeks than I have in almost four months.
Spook: Science Tackles the Afterlife, by Mary Roach has been on my reading list pretty much since I realized that such a book existed, and each curosory glance I took at the local Borders only made me want this book more.Â If you’re morbid, or just fascinated, or at all scared of death or curious about the ever after (if in fact there is one), I highly recommend you read this: Roach is approachable and funny and manages, amazingly, in a book about death and what if anything lies beyond, to never at all be dour or depressing.Â I burned through this book over the course of three days, and although it started to drag a bit in the middle — Roach is clearly far more fascinated with ectoplasma than anybody should be — it picks up again in the end.Â She writes about the science of the afterlife, and she’s just as amused by words like derierre and nasty sex trivia as you are — it reads like a conversation with a friend, and those are my favorite nonfiction books.
A book that seemed like it was going to be awesome but clearly thought way too much of itself was Everything Bad Is Good For You, by Steven Johnson.Â The thesis of the book — that pop culture is actually making us smarter, if not better people — is lucid, and well-articulated…over, and over, and over again.Â For an author appealing that pop culture has made us into fast integrators of information, he writes for the lurching dinosaur.Â I wanted to like it, a lot, I really really did — but I packed it in around page 74.Â Thumbs down for excellent idea and bad execution.
Meanwhile, I got home 40 minutes late today because, on my way home from work, I swung past the 58th St. branch library and picked up my reserved copy of Born to Rock, by my one true love, Gordon Korman, and started to read it on the 6 train going toward Union Square.Â It’s a story about a Young Republican (serious) who finds out, just as he’s about to head off to college (sort of), thatÂ his father is a thrasher punk legend and that he was conceived in a night of alcoholic, drug-addled passion by his puzzle-working mom.Â Oh, and it starts with him getting a cavity search.Â I almost missed getting off at Union Square (I was at page 25 at that point); and then I did miss getting off at my stop on the L, because by the time I looked up (page 75), I was already like, in Pennsylvania or something.Â And because I didn’t learn my lesson, I read it walking to the train in reverse, and managed to get on the wrong one again.Â At this point (page 113), I was tired, sweaty, feeling stupid, but too gleeful over the pure, unbridled awesome that is this book to do anything but enjoy the extra time in the train to do some more reading.Â Guys, I’m halfway through this book — it’s been in my possession less than three hours.Â For those of you who tired of his mass market paperback action series for the last decade, I can confidently say: Korman is back.Â And oh my God, is it ambrosial.