The Book: William Hartson, THE ENCYCLOPEDIA OF USELESS INFORMATION. Sourcebooks paperback original, 2007. Very good condition (spine slightly creased, already).
First read: Still reading
Owned since: 2007
"Useless information" is an oxymoron. How could any information not be useful, under the right circumstances? As I like to say, you never know. Did you know, for instance, that it is possible to distill enough cyanide from watercress to kill someone? I didn't either, until I had this book. It would take a lot of work and there are probably easier ways to rid yourself of undesired company -- plus, I don't know where to get watercress in any quantity -- but still, it's a fact that might come in handy someday.
This book was a gift from my friend Linda, and I hope she kept a copy for herself. Thanks, Linda!
Didn't blog yesterday because I spent a good chunk of the day at Volkswagen of Alexandria. My car developed a sudden and dramatic oil leak that needed immediate attention. Fortunately, the cause was relatively minor, and took only a couple of hours to fix; $235 later, I'm back on the road.
It's hard to read when I'm visiting family, and anyway it's time for the Best of the Year list... as usual, not all of these books were published in 2007, I just happened to read them this year. Check back next Friday for the second half of the list.
Best Books I Read in 2007
Megan Abbott, QUEENPIN. Megan Abbott published a full-length novel and edited a collection of short stories this year, and those were good, too, but my favorite work of hers this year was this novella about a young woman who has to choose between the people she loves. This is noir; of course she loves herself best.
Linwood Barclay, NO TIME FOR GOODBYE. I read so many books that claim to be thrillers that it's always a surprise to find one that is thrilling. Fourteen-year-old Cynthia Bigge wakes up one morning to find her mother, father and brother gone -- with nothing to indicate where they'd gone. Twenty-five years later, Cynthia starts to get phone calls, e-mails and even mementos that suggest at least one member of her family is still alive. Cynthia's husband Terry, who narrates the book, is torn between wanting to support her and wondering whether she's losing her mind.
Joshua Ferris, THEN WE CAME TO THE END. Believe the hype. I've never read a better description of the dotcom boom and bust, and the first-person-plural narration pays off beautifully on the very last page.
Judith Freeman, THE LONG EMBRACE: Raymond Chandler and the Woman he Loved. A book I wish I'd written, a look at Raymond Chandler's 30-year marriage to the mysterious Cissy, who was 20 years his senior. It's also a wonderful look at the role Los Angeles played in Chandler's fiction.
Joe Hill, 20th CENTURY GHOSTS. A friend of mine was disappointed that this collection is not really a book of ghost stories, although it does include a couple of classics. Instead, it's an introduction to an author who's going to do great things. The best story in the book is the joyful, surreal "Pop Art," about the narrator's friendship with a boy who happens to be inflatable.