Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Books

What am I reading these days?

A few months ago, I came to a very difficult realization: I have read basically all of the poker strategy books out there that I'm interested in reading. I've read Doyle, Sklansky, even modern guys like Lindgren and Negreanu on no-limit holdem. I've read all the Sklansky, Ed Miller, Jen Harman and others on limit holdem. I've read Ciaffone, Cloutier, Farha and others on Omaha. Todd Brunson and others on Stud. I've read the mtt-focused works, ranging from my boy Arnold Snyder to Michael Craig's Full Tilt tournament strategy guide, Gus Hansen, Rizen, PearlJammer et al and many, many others. I've read the sitngo-focused books -- mostly Colin Moshman but a few others as well. And I've pored through the cash game offerings from the old-time greats as well as Antonio Esfandiari, Barry Greenstein and countless others. When it comes to reading about poker methods, at this point in time I have basically read all that I care to read. For many years this was not the case, and I could always just hit up Amazon or Barnes & Noble and head to the poker books section, knowing there was always something more for me to read in this area. Now, the well has pretty much run dry at this point, I'm sure due to a combination of my having read so much as well as the dearth of new poker strategy books being published these days, and this leaves me scrambling to find something new and exciting to read about these days.

I went through a baseball book period for a while there earlier this year, and I read some really good stuff, much of it recommended by former baseball player and slumpbuster king Miami Don. And I enjoyed it. But then quickly I read all the baseball books I was interested in reading, and soon it was time to find something else. Then a few months ago, CK recommended a book called The Time Traveler's Wife for those of us big Lost fans out there who were looking at another 22 years until the next (and final) season of the best show of the millennium, and I picked it up from Amazon pretty quick. CK had indicated that it was a pretty decent book with a well-developed story and some interesting ideas for those interested in time travel. And I have to say, I agree with that assessment overall, having finished the book some time ago now.

Author Audrey Niffenegger does an interesting job of weaving what could be a very complex story together in a way that presents itself somewhat lightly to the reader, clueing us in right from the beginning to the fact that protagonist Henry (Eric Bana) randomly travels through time, without any control over the situation, and has been for much of his life. Unlike where Lost went astray in Season 5, Niffenegger takes great pains not to focus too much on the minutiae and possible paradoxes involved, instead taking as I mentioned what I view as a more light-handed approach to the whole time travel paradox situation. Like we saw near the end of Lost Season 5 with Miles, in Niffenegger's theory of time travel it is perfectly acceptable for the same person to travel back in time, run into himself, and even interact with himself in ways that could profoundly affect the past self's life going forward. Although time travel can always be a complicated subject, I thought Niffenegger did a great job of simply presenting things the way she wishes, and then just moving on rather than continuing to dwell on the paradoxes, the inconsistencies and the potential brain benders that can always result from any complex story that involves time travel.

The time travel aspect is the best part about The Time Traveler's Wife, and I think it makes for what is ultimately an interesting enough plot for someone who is in to Sci Fi (or Sy Fy as the case may be), time travel, or even just in to Lost and looking for some light reading to carry you over until next season begins. I will admit, however, that I didn't find much else in the book particularly moving. Ultimately, this is a book about a timeless love story, and I have to admit that most aspects of that angle were a bit wasted on my typical man, asshat frat crew self. I am sure there are loads of women out there who would long endlessly for the mystery and beauty of a love so pure and wonderful that it can span generations, multiple timelines, and a near-eternity of time spent together and apart. But I could have taken or left most of those aspects of the book. The reason I found it enjoyable really was Niffenegger's somewhat unique take on handling the whole time travel thing, and if you're interested in that stuff then you might enjoy this book despite the persistent love story themes that were hard to avoid throughout.

I had almost forgotten to finish this book review after starting it a couple of months ago, but then out of nowhere the other day I see this commercial on tv and, although the sound was down so I could not hear anything that was said on the commercial, from the pictures it looked to be describing the story of a guy who continually disappears randomly while running into the love of his life over the course of his and her lifetime. My interest perks up, and wouldn't you know it, it turns out they are coming out with a movie of this book sometime in August I believe. And while the female lead -- Rachel McAdams, who played Owen Wilson's love interest in Wedding Crashers among other roles -- is someone I like well enough, who has to turn up as the male lead in this film? None other than Eric Bana, who not only starred the worst Hulk movie humanly possible, but also managed to play the lead in Lucky You, easily the worst poker movie every filmable. So, even though I enjoyed this book and got to read it before the movie so as not to spoil my own enjoyment of the story, I will really be torn about going to see any flick starring the guy who is probably the worst actor of our time other than perhaps Nicholas Cage.

If you're really looking for something that hits on many of the same time travel themes as you saw this past season in Lost, and if you are a female type or a man in touch with his feminine side, then The Time Traveler's Wife is a pretty decent read. I give it a 6.5 or 7 out of 10 overall. But I can't recommend the movie with that clown in the lead role. And, I would also mention here again one of my all-time favorite books, Replay by Ken Grimwood, as probably the single best place I would recommend starting for someone who is more interested in more of a man's story about time travel, inspired by many of the same ideas raised in Lost Season 5.

So what else should I be reading out there? Anybody have any good suggestions?

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8 Comments:

Blogger Fuel55 said...

Amazing Adventures Kavalier and Clay by Chabon

Jitterbug Perfume by Robbins

Times Arrow by Amis

3:12 AM  
Blogger BWoP said...

Ditto Fuel on both Kavalier and Clay and Jitterbug Perfume. Haven't read that Amis book, so I can't comment.

3:18 AM  
Blogger HighOnPoker said...

Do you like poker biographies? If you haven't read Moneymaker's book, it's actually very enlightening. Other good ones (that I think you may've already read) include Matusow's new book, the Stu Ungar bio and Amarillo Slim's book.

4:15 AM  
Blogger NewinNov said...

I bit overhyped but I still enjoyed OUTLIERS by Malcolm Gladwell.

9:51 PM  
Blogger Hammer Player a.k.a Hoyazo said...

Fuel and CK: Those titles sound super ghey, all three of them. Am I honestly going to like these books?

Jordan, those are all awesome suggestions. I actually just ordered the Matusow book the other day (will read it soon), and I had read somewhere else about the Moneymaker book actually being better than expected mostly due to the realizations he has come to about his run and his poker performance with some time to reflect. I may check all of those you mentioned out.

What else is out there? I'll read anything, any genre, it just has to be interesting and good.

11:28 PM  
Blogger BWoP said...

Kavalier and Clay is simply amazing. Do you like comic books? It's the story of two cousins (one who left Prague when the Nazis were doing evil things to the Jews) who start a comic book in the 1940s in NYC. Brilliantly written.

1:50 AM  
Blogger KajaPoker said...

You will probably read through the Matusow book in about 2 hours. It's a fun read. I wrote about it on my blog. It's shorter than most of your posts :-)

Now I seem to remember you are a member of the tribe. So maybe you want to check out all the Holocaust books I've been reading lately:

Right now I am reading "History on Trial: My Day in Court with a Holocaust Denier" by Deborah E. Lipstadt, about a huge libel suit filed in England against Prof. Lipstadt by David Irving, the uber-douche Holocaust denier. It's a legal battle as well so you might enjoy that aspect too. Very good book.

I would skip "Defiance: The Bielski Partisans" by Nechama Tec, because unfortunately it is just not written well. I am sure there is an amazing story there and I have not seen the movie yet, but I just couldn't get through this book.

Another one I am reading which is very interesting is "Who Will Write Our History?: Rediscovering a Hidden Archive from the Warsaw Ghetto" by Samuel D. Kassow, which not only touches on the actual Warsaw Ghetto life but gives a very interesting background on the political and social life of pre-war Jews in Poland. If you've ever heard of the Oyneg Shabes Archive - this is the book about it and Emanuel Ringelblum who created it.

Last but not least, "The Lost: A Search for Six of Six Million" by Daniel Mendelsohn. This book is interesting in some ways and annoying in others. The inclusion of old testament comparisons to the authors life and experiences were too simplistic in my opinion and there is a lot of repetition. But I think you will like the writing style which is similar to yours. Mendelsohn is a true New Yorker and was even the book critic for New York magazine for a few years. His sentences go on forever with a thousand commas and by the time you finish one you don't even remember where it started.

Well, that's it for me. Dark subject, but well worth the time. One can only read about poker and time travel so much.

9:57 AM  
Blogger BLAARGH! said...

I'll throw my vote in for Kavalier + Clay. Never got to Times Arrow, but London Fields and Money are 2 you will probably like - Amis is a frigging freak. Not so sure you will like Robbins - don't think he's really your style Hoy.

CK + Fuel - have you read Red Earth and Pouring Rain? If not, you HAVE to. One of the best books I've read in many years - from your other choices here I'm positive you will like it. Again, probably not a Hoy book.

As for films/timetravel... you might like Primer if you haven't seen it Hoy. Well done indie film, a little under budget on effects, but good writing.

http://www.netflix.com/WiMovie/Primer/60034782?trkid=814537

2:49 AM  

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