ii. books to be read.

This is the second installation of five books I still haven’t read but should and definitely plan to. I know, I’m ashamed. Feel free to judge me. Here we go:

The Truth of All Things by Keiran Shields

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Blurb: When Deputy Marshal Archie Lean is called in to investigate a prostitute’s murder in Portland, Maine, he’s surprised to find the body laid out like a pentagram and pinned to the earth with a pitchfork. He’s even more surprised to learn that this death by “sticking” is a traditional method of killing a witch.
Baffled by the ritualized murder scene, Lean secretly enlists the help of historian Helen Prescott and brilliant criminalist Perceval Grey. Although skeptical of one another’s methods, together the detectives pursue the killer’s trail through postmortems and opium dens, into the spiritualist societies and lunatic asylums of gothic New England. Before the killer closes in on his final victim, they must decipher the secret pattern to these murders–a pattern hidden within the dark history of the Salem witch trials.

Note: I really love the title of this story; it speaks to me. Also, how cool is the author’s name? Keiran Shields. It sounds like the covert name of an international spy or something. Personally, if I was a leader of a Colombian drug cartel, I’d love to get killed by someone called Keiran Shields. I don’t know, that’s probably weird. Anyway, who doesn’t love a good ol’ detective story?

Something Missing by Matthew Dicks

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Blurb: A career criminal with OCD tendencies and a savant-like genius for bringing order to his crime scenes, Martin considers himself one of the best in the biz. After all, he’s been able to steal from the same people for years on end—virtually undetected. Of course, this could also be attributed to his unique business model—he takes only items that will go unnoticed by the homeowner. After all, who in their right mind would miss a roll of toilet paper here, a half-used bottle of maple syrup there, or even a rarely used piece of china buried deep within a dusty cabinet?

Even though he’s never met these homeowners, he’s spent hours in their houses, looking through their photo albums and reading their journals. In essence, Martin has developed a friendship of sorts with them and as such, he decides to interfere more in their lives—playing the part of a rather odd guardian angel—even though it means breaking many of his twitchy neurotic rules.

Along the way Martin not only improves the lives of others, but he also discovers love and finds that his own life is much better lived on the edge (at least some of the time) in this hilarious, suspenseful and often profound novel about a man used to planning every second of his life, suddenly forced to confront chaos and spontaneity.

Note: I am seeing a criminal/detective pattern here, which is quite odd since I don’t tend to lean that way. Anyway, this story seems like an interesting twist of guardian angel, thievery, and meddling in one another’s life.

The First True Lie by Marina Mander

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Blurb: Meet Luca, a curious young boy living with his mother, a taciturn woman who every now and then tries out a new father. Luca keeps to himself, his cat, Blue, and his favorite toys—words. One February morning his mom doesn’t wake up to bring him to school, so Luca—driven by a deep fear of being an orphan—decides to pretend to the world that his mom is still alive. At first it’s easy. Luca dresses himself for school, makes sure Blue gets his dinner, and manages to avoid nosy neighbors. He and Blue camp out in the living room and embark on imaginary expeditions to outer space, and Luca dreams about marrying his school crush, Antonella. Soon, however, the laundry starts piling up, the fridge emptying—and the smell of Mama’s decaying body begins to permate the apartment. 

As Luca grapples with what to do, we ultimately witness something much more poignant than the morbid circumstance—a young boy’s journey to the point at which he can say: “I am no longer an orphan. I am a single human being. It’s a matter of words.”

Note: As absolutely morbid as this sounds, I’m intriguid.

The Unthinkable Thoughts of Jacob Green by Joshua Braff

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BlurbIt’s 1977. Jacob Green, a Jewish kid from suburban New Jersey, sits on the stairs during his family’s housewarming party, waiting for his father, Abram–charming host, everyone’s best friend, and amateur emcee–to introduce him to the crowd. Housewarming parties, Annie Hall parties, and bar mitzvah parties punctuate Jacob’s childhood and require command performances by all the Green family members. But when the confetti settles and the drapes are drawn, the affable Abram Green becomes an egotistical tyrant whose emotional rages rupture the lives of his family.

Jacob doesn’t mean to disappoint his father, but he can’t help thinking the most unthinkable (and very funny) thoughts about public-school humiliation, Hebrew-school disinclination, and in-home sex education (with the live-in nanny!). If only his mother hadn’t started college at thirty-six (and fallen for her psychology professor). If only he were more like his rebellious older brother (suspended from Hebrew school for drawing the rabbi in a threesome with a lobster and a pig). If only Jacob could confront his overbearing father and tell him he doesn’t want to sing in synagogue, attend est classes, write the perfect thank-you note, or even live in the same house with Abram Green. But, of course, he can’t. That would be unthinkable.

This self-assured, comic, yet piercing first novel deftly captures the struggle of an imperfect boy trying to become a suitable son.

Note: This is a book I can’t say much about except that when I finally turn that last page and I’ll write a review here, I can’t hope but wonder what it’ll be like.

Hills like White Elephants by Ernest Hemingway

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Blurb: The story, told nearly in its entirety through dialogue, is a conversation between a young woman and a man waiting for a train in Spain. As they talk, it becomes clear that the young woman is pregnant and that the man wants her to have an abortion. Through their tight, brittle conversation, much is revealed about their personalities. At the same time, much about their relationship remains hidden. At the end of the story it is still unclear as to what decision has or has not been made, or what will happen to these two characters waiting for a train on a platform in Spain.

Note: It’s a short story, I know, but I still wanted to add it so I wouldn’t forget that THIS NEEDS TO BE READ.

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books to be read.

I have a long list of books I want to read, but just don’t have the time to. I’ll edit this every time I finish one of the books, and maybe even try to post a review of each after. (All blurbs most likely taken from Goodreads or Amazon.)

Catcher In The Rye by J.D. Salinger

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Blurb: The Catcher in Rye is the ultimate novel for disaffected youth, but it’s relevant to all ages. The story is told by Holden Caulfield, a seventeen- year-old dropout who has just been kicked out of his fourth school. Throughout, Holden dissects the ‘phony’ aspects of society, and the ‘phonies’ themselves: the headmaster whose affability depends on the wealth of the parents, his roommate who scores with girls using sickly-sweet affection.

Lazy in style, full of slang and swear words, it’s a novel whose interest and appeal comes from its observations rather than its plot intrigues (in conventional terms, there is hardly any plot at all). Salinger’s style creates an effect of conversation, it is as though Holden is speaking to you personally, as though you too have seen through the pretences of the American Dream and are growing up unable to see the point of living in, or contributing to, the society around you.

Written with the clarity of a boy leaving childhood, it deals with society, love, loss, and expectations without ever falling into the clutch of a cliche.

Note: Yeah, yeah, I know. How can a book junkie NOT have read this all-time classic? Well let me assure you, I am making it my business to read it before the school year is over. Also, I find the name Holden strangely attractive, which didn’t affect my obsession with reading this book, I just wanted to tell you.

Exchange by Paul Magrs

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Blurb: Following the death of his parents, 16-year-old Simon moves into his grandparents’ claustrophobic bungalow, which quickly becomes a refuge from his bullying peers. United by their voracious appetite for books, Simon and his grandmother stumble across the Great Big Book Exchange—a bookshop with a difference. There they meet impulsive, gothic Kelly and her boss, Terrance—and the friendships forged in the Great Big Book Exchange result in startling and unsettling consequences for all of them.

Note: The first thing that caught my eye in this book was the author’s impossible to pronounce name (Magirs? Magers? Seriously, where is that syllable?), and then the synopsis. Well, actually it was recommended to me but I am not counting that. Since I have so many books lining up to be read (this list doesn’t cover even half of it), it’s really hard to get me to read a book just by recommending it. So this book speaks for itself. I don’t know too much about this book but I am really excited about it.

Round Ireland with a Fridge by Tony Hawks

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Blurb: Have you ever made a drunken bet? Worse still, have you ever tried to win one? In attempting to hitchhike round Ireland with a fridge, Tony Hawks did both, and his foolhardiness led him to one of the best experiences of his life. Joined by his trusty traveling companion-cum-domestic appliance, he made his way from Dublin to Donegal, from Sligo through Mayo, Galway, Clare, Kerry, Cork, Wexford, Wicklow–and back again to Dublin. In their month of madness, Tony and his fridge met a real prince, a bogus king, and the fridge got christened. They surfed together, entered a bachelor festival, and one of them had sex without the other knowing. And unexpectedly, the fridge itself became a momentary focus for the people of Ireland.

Note: Doesn’t the blurb just make you want to travel round soggy Ireland carrying around a very heavy fridge too? I heard of this book from John Green, author of many great books including The Fault in Our Stars, when he posted a video on Youtube of a list of underdog books people should read. It sounds like one of those very funny and insane books that can cheer you up at bad times.

The Last Summer of Reason by Tahar Djaout

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Blurb: This elegantly haunting work of fiction features bookstore owner Boualem Yekker, who lives in a country overtaken by a radically conservative party known as the Vigilant Brothers, a group that seeks to control every aspect of life according to the precepts of their rigid moral theology. The belief that no work of beauty created by humans should rival the wonders of their god is slowly consuming society, and the art once treasured is now despised. Boualem resists the new regime with quiet determination, using the shop and his personal history as weapons against puritanical forces. Readers are taken into the lush depths of the bookseller’s dreams, the memories of his now empty family life, and his passion for literature, then yanked back into the terror and drudgery of his daily routine by the vandalism, assaults, and death warrants that afflict him.

Note: This is probably the book I am looking forward to read the most. Not just for being such an interesting topic, but also for its backstory. Tahar Djaout, the author, was assassinated in 1993 by Islamists for writing books like The Last Summer of Reason. I cannot begin to explain the irony of it all. And really, it just shows to further prove Djaout’s whole point of writing the story.

The Dead Do Not Improve by Jay Caspain Kang

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Blurb: Exceedingly unique, pulsing with vigor and heart, and loaded with fierce, fresh language, The Dead Do Not Improve confirms Jay Caspian Kang as a true American original. When struggling writer Philip Kim is dragged into a complex mystery after his neighbor is murdered, Sid Finch, a homicide detective bitter about everything except his gorgeous wife, and his phlegmatic, pockmarked partner, Jim Kim, land the case. Philip becomes the baffled focus of an elaborate, violent scheme that seems tied to his neighbor’s murder, and the cops think he might be involved. With an intelligent narrative voice that that moves effortlessly between hilarity, satire, poignancy, and madcap digressions, Kang has written a trippy, self-aware novel obsessed with the Virginia Tech massacre, surfing, and identity.

Note: I absolutely love this cover, and sometimes I just can’t stop staring at it. Funny thing: I actually thought the title was The Dead Do Not Approve for the longest time. Oh well.


I don’t want to make this post any longer so I have decided to post my to-be-reads five at a time. Meanwhile, feel free to vote for whichever book you enjoyed the most (if you’ve read some of them), think I should read first, or didn’t read either but find the most interesting.

-TheAltReader