Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Guilty by Reason of Stupidity

I've been reading a lot of short books recently, since I've been listening to audiobooks that are long and complicated. There are only so many plots I can follow! This was a fun little book. It's by Joel Seidemann, and gives details about different silly legal cases, like the one where a man sued himself, and the one where a woman faked her own death to get out of a speeding ticket. A good quick read as we get into the stressful holiday season.

Monday, November 17, 2008

The Heretic's Daughter

Written by Kathleen Kent, this book is narrated by Sarah Carrier, the daughter of Martha Carrier, who was accused and hanged as a witch during the Salem Witch Trials. I have never been a huge reader of historical fiction, but recently I have been reading a few, and as it was around Halloween, I was intrigued by the witch aspect. I grabbed this on audio, and I was so glad I listened to it. The reader, Mare Winningham, was fantastic. She sounds exactly like I would imagine someone from this era would sound, with just the slightest bit of an accent. I was entranced all the way through this novel, not just by Winningham's reading, but by the fascinating storyline. You know in the first chapter that Martha Carrier does not survive the book, so it's the story of her family that really drives the novel. It was the perfect title for the season. Now it's on to Christmas!

Friday, November 07, 2008

101 Spy Gadgets for the Evil Genius

Another in this series of electronics books. This one features instructions on how to convert an old VHS camcorder into night vision goggles, plans for a laser microphone, homemade laser perimeter sensors and more. It's not as "sciencey" and more hands-on than some of the other "evil genius" books.

Electronic gadgets for the evil genius

It's a book of science fair projects for adults! By adult, of course, I mean anyone with permission to meddle with potentially hazardous and (more potentially) michievous electronic components. Sample projects include a plasma gun (yes, really), Tesla coils, lasers and more. Good fun for those interested in physics.

Dune Messiah

This is the second installment in the famous Frank Herbert sci fi series. I wrote about the fantastic audio version of Dune previously. This set features the same cast and high quality. As for the book, it's more philosophical than the first, meditating on the intersection of government and religion, and with drastically fewer sandworms and explosions. Still, it's an engaging work.

Drink: A Cultural History of Alcohol

This is more than anyone ever wanted to know about alcohol. It starts at the beginning, portraying the slaves that built the pyramids as being pretty much pickled on the couple gallons of ale given to them daily by their Egyptian overseers. It goes on in that vein. Along the way, there are some interesting tidbits about culture for those who enjoy trivia. For instance, did you ever notice many of Shakespeare's villains drink beer while his protagonists sip ale or wine? Probably not. But they do: Elizabethan England was experiencing a shift in drinking habits. Foreign-brewed beer (basically ale with more sophisticated bewing and hops) was gaining ground, but ale was seen as a more patriotic beverage. Interesting stuff, but a little esoteric for many.

Monday, November 03, 2008

More Information Than You Require

John Hodgman was once a lowly author and former professional literary agent, until he was asked to be on the Daily Show following the publication of his first book, The Areas of My Expertise. Both that book and this new one, More Information Than You Require, are books of knowledge and trivia with one catch: Hodgman made it all up. Most of us know the author from those pesky Mac commercials--he plays the PC--but he's hardly the bumbling guy he plays. Rather, he's an expert humorist. The book had me constantly laughing out loud. I was also fortunate to hear Hodgman on NPR by chance, which was also hilarious. Here's a link to his appearance on the Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me program.