"A brilliant work of scholarship from one of the foremost intellectuals of his era. Studies the human creative act using both literary and scientific methods of explanation. The first half of the book is the most fun, full of insight and literary references. The second half delves into the science of his claims and is slower going, but is still enthralling."
"Lyrical and flowing tale of a man who collects rents for his slumlord brother and how his personal shell is cracked open by the people he comes across in his rounds. A disjointed kaleidoscope of characters and a beautiful writing style carry the novel, though some of the metaphors for Moonbloom's awakening are hit much to strongly and much too often."
"Imaginative and intelligent work of science fiction that tells the tale of North American civilization recovering after nuclear war. The plot focuses on a group of monks who worship a patron saint, Leibowitz, who was an engineer before the war and focused his life on protecting human knowledge afterward, a tradition the monks continue through the next 1600 years."
"Classic memoir from De Quincey concerning his longtime use of opium during a time when it was legal and widely available. The highlight is the sequence concerning his dreams. Everything builds up to this short passage, but its worth slogging through a lot of rambling drivel to get to it. Decent, but a curiosity these days more than anything."
"Novel about a struggling writer in late 1930s Los Angeles. Pose flows and has great lyrical moments, a style woven into the DNA of many writers to follow. Interesting, but having read so much of the type of work this inspired I found the source tedious. Good, but I'm half-hearted in my praise."
"A novel concerning an obsessive man who imprisons a young woman. Told from both the man and woman's perspectives, it's a look at obsession, class conflict and friction between different modes of living. Starts off feeling bland, then it seems as if its trying to force its ideas too hard, but it all pulls together smoothly in the end."
"Tale of fantasy and madness set in the 19th century Jewish ghettos of Prague. The title figure isn't the well-known golem, but rather a catalyst for the action surrounding the narrator. Disjointed and full of fascinating diversions."
"A fairly thorough and well-explained history of alchemical practices and practitioners. Strongly focused on the technical aspects of the pseudo-science, with some discussion of its symbolic and mystical elements."
"A philosophical work that tackles some of the problems of existentialism and modern alienation. The author uses literary and historical examples to deal with the issue of "the outsiders," those in society who have become dissatisfied with modern life. Thoughtful, if not always thought-provoking."
"One of the early works of alternate history, though with a totally different purpose than what that genre eventually came to. Dick uses the tale of an America that lost WWII and is ruled by Japan and German as a reflection on the nature of reality and authenticity. One of his best, most fully realized works."
"The memoir of a German soldier in WWI, this reveals the harsh life of a front line fighter on the losing side of one of history's bloodiest conflicts. Junger skips politics and context, making this a straight meditation on war and soldiering."
"Decent enough minor work from Baldwin detailing a man's affair with another man in early 1960s Paris. Fairly mundane plot and rushed characterizations would leave this nothing but a brief melodrama if it weren't for Baldwin's often sparkling prose."
"Examination of the role infectious disease has played in shaping human history. Revealing work that foreshadows Jared Diamond's "Guns, Germs and Steel" by around 30 years, though with a more limited focus."
"A collection of three of Brautigan's strange, funny books. The language is rich with invention, though it makes for light reading. "Trout Fishing in America" is a straight out classic, not really a novel and not really poetry, but a meditation on prose, Americana and whatever happened to be going through the author's head."
"Classic of unintentional humor. Intended to teach English to Portuguese students, yet written by a man who possessed a French to Portuguese phrasebook and a French to English dictionary but no knowledge of English. Great for those into absurd humor, but this kind of thing has become so common that it sometimes reads like a long email forward."
"The first book in Peake's "Gormenghast" trilogy. Tells the story of the inhabitants of a large, crumbling castle, all obsessed with the ancient rituals and ceremonies that seem to have no purpose. Pure, unadulterated atmosphere and poetry."
"The first book in Davies' classic "Deptford Trilogy." Tells the story of a scholarly young man whose life is changed by a chance throwing of a snowball. Explores the connections between myth, religion and history. Brilliant storytelling."
"The second book in the "Deptford Trilogy." This continues the tale through the psychoanalysis undergone by the son of one of the characters in the first book. Wonderful storytelling mixed with Jungian psychology."
"Classic anthology of science fiction stories from what at the time was considered the hot young turks of modern sci-fi. Philip K. Dick, Philip Jose Farmer, J.G. Ballard and John T. Sladek lead the pack, but the whole thing is a must-read for sci-fi fans."
"Excellent true crime work that exhaustively tells the story of the Zodiac killings that terrorized the Bay Area in the late 1960s and 70s. Touches on areas of police procedure, symbology and the author's own growing obsession with the killings, the latter adding an interesting subtext."
"One of the better of Dostoevsky's lesser novels, dealing with political intrigues, scandal and madness that invades a small town. A wide cast of characters, some grotesque humor and an expansive plot make it an interesting read."
"A mythical tale of sorts taking place in a post-nuclear war world. A young woman from one of the few civilized cities takes up with a band of barbarians. The language is beautiful, but it's like a parable that isn't a parable for anything. You can tell why her short stories are held in such high regard, but this might not be the best introduction."
"Story of a young man who becomes obsessed with the failure to communicate directly, an obsession fueled by his stuttering. Decent entry into the "quirky family story as told by dysfunctional outsider" genre of literature with an often adroit use of language, but the book ironically fails to communicate anything of value."
"Big epic tale of the collapse of Southern society during the Civil War, told from the perspective of a hard-headed former belle. Addictive and told in bold strokes, though the author's opinion on the history leaks in to the point of diatribe, and the racism ranges from mild to grating. Great entertainment, if you can swallow its failings."
"Another in my project to dig up Barthelme's original short story collections. If you don't know Barthelme, go for "60 Stories". If you do, this has some gems you will be hard pressed to find elsewhere. Lot of storyless rambling in this one, but even at his most (seemingly) senseless, the pure rush of his language in invigorating."
"The first of the "Maigret" mysteries I've read. It's detective fiction boiled down to its essence, just a problem and a search for its solution, with a detective who hardly seems to exist as a character, except for that he is someone interested in the "why" as much as the "how." Simple and effective."