January through April, 2010

Nineteen Eighty-FourNineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell
Publisher: Secker and Warburg
Released: June 8, 1949
Pages: 328
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The year 1984 has come and gone, but George Orwell's prophetic, nightmarish vision in 1949 of the world we were becoming is timelier than ever. 1984 is still the great modern classic of "negative utopia"—a startlingly original and haunting novel that creates an imaginary world that is completely convincing, from the first sentence to the last four words. No one can deny the novel's hold on the imaginations of whole generations, or the power of its admonitions—a power that seems to grow, not lessen, with the passage of time.

There probably isn’t much that can be said about Nineteen Eighty-Four that everyone hasn’t already heard about it, but it holds up. Of this and Animal Farm, I’d say I like Animal Farm better, but 1984 is still an absolutely essential read.

The Gun SellerThe Gun Seller by Hugh Laurie
Publisher: Heinemann
Released: May 1, 1996
Pages: 338
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When Thomas Lang, a hired gunman with a soft heart, is contracted to assassinate an American industrialist, he opts instead to warn the intended victim - a good deed that doesn't go unpunished. Within hours Lang is butting heads with a Buddha statue, matching wits with evil billionaires, and putting his life (among other things) in the hands of a bevy of femmes fatales, whilst trying to save a beautiful lady ...and prevent an international bloodbath to boot.

Hugh Laurie is a funny guy on television, so obviously a book written by him should be good as well, right? Well, it’s much better than it could have been, and definitely has legs to stand on beyond being written by a well-known name. The jokes do feel a little forced at times, but a fun read never the less.

The Audacity to Win: The Inside Story and Lessons of Barack Obama's Historic VictoryThe Audacity to Win: The Inside Story and Lessons of Barack Obama's Historic Victory by David Plouffe
Publisher: Viking Books
Released: October 15, 2009
Pages: 400
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David Plouffe not only led the effort that put Barack Obama in the White House, but he also changed the face of politics forever and reenergized the idea of democracy itself. The Audacity to Win is his story of that groundbreaking achievement, taking readers inside the remarkable campaign that led to the election of the first African American president.

For two years Plouffe worked side by side with Obama, charting the course of the campaign. His is the ultimate insider’s tale, revealing both the strategies that delivered Obama to office and how the candidate and campaign handled moments of great challenge and opportunity. Moving from the deliberations about whether to run at all, through the epic primary battle with Hillary Clinton and the general election against John McCain, Plouffe showcases the high-wire gamesmanship that fascinated pundits and the drama and intrigue that captivated a nation.

The Audacity to Win chronicles the arrival of a new moment in American life at the convergence of digital technology and grassroots organization, and the exciting possibilities revealed by a campaign that in many ways functioned as a $1 billion start-up with laser-like focus and discipline. In this extraordinary book, David Plouffe unfolds one of the most important political stories of our time, one whose lessons are not limited to politics, but reach to the greatest heights of what we dream about for our country and ourselves.

Audacity to Win is the story about the Obama campaign. I’d had the ending spoilt for me before I read the book, but I still enjoyed the book a lot. I’m the kind of person to whom “behind the scenes of a presidential campaign” is an immediately appealing premise. I think anyone who thinks they would enjoy that would also enjoy this book, though those who don’t think they would probably wouldn’t.

The Long Dark Tea-Time of the SoulThe Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul by Douglas Adams
Series: Dirk Gently #2
Publisher: William Heinemann
Released: October 10, 1988
Pages: 306
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When a passenger check-in desk at London's Heathrow Airport disappears in a ball of orange flame, the explosion is deemed an act of God. But which god, wonders holistic detective Dirk Gently? What god would be hanging around Heathrow trying to catch the 3:37 to Oslo? And what has this to do with Dirk's latest--and late-- client, found only this morning with his head revolving atop the hit record "Hot Potato"? Amid the hostile attentions of a stray eagle and the trauma of a very dirty refrigerator, super-sleuth Dirk Gently will once again solve the mysteries of the universe...

Again, it’s almost a shame that the Hitchhikers series is as good as it is, because of the way that has overshadowed the Dirk Gently series in Adams’ authorship. The Dirk Gently books are wonderful, easy, fun, reads – and this one is no exception.

The MetamorphosisThe Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka
Publisher: Kurt Wolff
Released: January 1, 1915
Pages: 201
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"As Gregor Samsa awoke one morning from uneasy dreams he found himself transformed in his bed into a gigantic insect. He was laying on his hard, as it were armor-plated, back and when he lifted his head a little he could see his domelike brown belly divided into stiff arched segments on top of which the bed quilt could hardly keep in position and was about to slide off completely. His numerous legs, which were pitifully thin compared to the rest of his bulk, waved helplessly before his eyes."

With it's startling, bizarre, yet surprisingly funny first opening, Kafka begins his masterpiece, The Metamorphosis. It is the story of a young man who, transformed overnight into a giant beetle-like insect, becomes an object of disgrace to his family, an outsider in his own home, a quintessentially alienated man. A harrowing—though absurdly comic—meditation on human feelings of inadequacy, guilt, and isolation, The Metamorphosis has taken its place as one of the most widely read and influential works of twentieth-century fiction. As W.H. Auden wrote, "Kafka is important to us because his predicament is the predicament of modern man."

The Metamorphsis was even stranger than I had expected it to be, and that is saying something. It was also shorter than I had expected it to be, allowing me to read it all during a single train-journey, which was actually quite a good setting in which to read this. I’m not sure I can say that I liked this (at least not in the way that I can say that I liked The Trail), but it’s certainly very interesting, and it did leave me feeling satisfied.

Lord of the FliesLord of the Flies by William Golding
Publisher: Faber and Faber
Released: September 17, 1954
Pages: 288
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Lord of the Flies is an allegorical novel by Nobel Prize-winning author William Golding. It discusses how culture fails, using as an example a group of British schoolboys stuck on a deserted island who try to govern themselves with disastrous results. Its stances on the controversial subjects of human nature & individual welfare versus the commonweal earned it position 70 on the American Library Association's list of the 100 most frequently challenged Books of 1990–2000. The novel was chosen by TIME as one of the 100 best English-language novels from 1923 to the present.
Published in 1954, Lord of the Flies was Golding's first novel. Tho it was not a success at the time—selling fewer than three thousand copies in the USA during 1955 before going out of print—it soon went on to become a bestseller. By the early 1960s it was required reading in many schools & colleges. It was adapted to film in 1963 by Peter Brook & in 1990 by Harry Hook.
The title is said to be a reference to the Hebrew name Beelzebub (בעל זבוב, Ba'al-zvuv, "god of the fly", "host of the fly", lit. "Lord of Flies"), a name sometimes used as a synonym for Satan.

Lord of The Flies was one of the books I bought in case I needed to read it for school, but ended up not having to read. I enjoyed it quite a bit, it’s a good story, and I think it has aged very well.

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