Thursday, December 23, 2010

Holiday Special: What We Have Been Reading

During the Holidays, our thoughts often turn to other subjects, including carols, presents, and of course, roast beast (unless you are vegetarian, then it might be who-hash).  But the holidays are often the time that we relax from our daily grinds, put up our feet, and enjoy a book.  We at SCOV Law are not immune to the siren's literary call, and we give you a roundup of the last five books that each of us have been reading.  Let us know what you think and more importantly, what you have been reading.  Happy Holidays and Enjoy.  

Gavin Boyles

Babies on the Move
 One of Thea's favorites - jolly pictures of chubby babies in strollers, papooses, backpacks, and sleds.

Star Wars - Anakin and the Clones
Liam loves this one even though it give him nightmares.

Goodnight Moon
I have this memorized, and I'm not ashamed to admit it.

Gerry [Tarrant] and Hans [Hussey]'s ping-pong filings in the Beaver Wood Biomass Public Service Board Application.
Bound in book form, this tome is a real up-and-comer.

Corwin on The Constitution of the United States (1953 edition)

Elizabeth Catlin

The Big Rock Candy Mountain by Wallace Stegner
Well written and engaging story, but I had to stop reading it about 2/3 of the way through because it was getting too depressing—a long series of bad decisions by a man and similarly bad decisions by a woman to stay with the man

Run by Ann Patchett
Enjoyable, surprising, solid Ann Patchett, great, deep/multi-layered characters

Excellent Women by Barbara Pym
Fairly hilarious story told from the first person perspective of a unmarried woman in WWII era England—she is unmarried and in her early 30s (a familiar state-of-life to me) but unlike the expectations of such a woman in that era, this is not the story of a woman desperately seeking a husband, she just has a pretty great time being kind of a busybody in parish life and knowing everything about everybody and having good strong opinions

The Horsemasters by Don Stanford and Christmas Horse by Glenn Balch
These are two 1950s or 1960s era horse books for children/teenagers that I picked up at a garage sale to satisfy my guilty pleasure in reading horse books with predictable story lines that teach lessons about hard work and devotion to horses paying off with gratuitous happy endings

Silas Marner by George Eliot
Currently reading, I always wanted to read something by Georges Eliot, and so far it has been a great story

Cara Cookson

Freedom by Jonathan Franzen
The great American family saga with all the 21st century quirks.  Franzen takes a leave-no-social-stereotype-unexamined approach, which I found a both head-nodding and somewhat goofy at times.

Half Broke Horses by Jeannette Walls
This pre-quel to Walls's The Glass Castle has been circulating the LSW offices ever since I put it down.  It's 'True Grit' woman-style.

American Pastoral by Philip Roth
Classic.  My first Roth experience did not disappoint me.

Most Wanted by Michele Martinez
Martinez is a former federal prosecutor who has taken up teaching at VLS.  She taught my Crim Pro and Procedure class. Her mystery novel series centers around a hot-shot Latina prosecutor in New York City, and they're a lot of fun to read. Just what my post-bar-brain needed.

Vermont Pleading and Practice 2010 Edition by BarBri Too bad that the court reorganization went into effect after this book went to the printers.  When I took the bar in July I wasn't concerned about taking a guess at the name of the court where Susie Seller should file her breach of contract complaint, because there was a chance that the examiners didn't know either.

Andrew Delaney

The Postman  by David Brin (1986)
A novel about a post-apocalyptic America. A guy ends up finding a U.S. Postal Service uniform on a dead U.S.P.S. worker and starts wearing it. He comes up with a story of a “Restored USA” and travels, bringing hope to near-defeated people on his “route.” At the same time, he’s very troubled because he’s lying to everyone he meets. They made a movie based on the book in 1997. I was sick; it was on the shelf; it got read.

Without Mercy by Jack Higgins (2006).
I’ve been reading Higgins since I was a little kid. Bought this one in the grocery store. For those not familiar, Higgins generally writes spy-novel type stuff that usually involves reformed IRA enforcers working for clandestine branches of the British government. Higgins’s characters are usually expert at the flicking-of-the-foot-to-dislocate-a-knee-cap-then-totally-kicking-the-bad-guy’s-arse move. Gee, I wonder why I liked this stuff so much as a kid . . . .

The Te of Piglet by Benjamin Hoff (1992).
Who doesn’t read a little Eastern philosophy involving characters from A.A. Milne’s famous Winnie-the-Pooh in their spare time? ‘Nuff said.  

Disorder in the Court: Great Fractured Moments in Courtroom History  by Charles M. Sevilla (1992).
A collection of law humor from actual transcripts. Fun stuff. For Example:

DA: Defense counsel is accountable to you [the jury].
Counsel: Judge, I object to that. I object to him referring to me as a cannibal, Judge. 
The Court: He said accountable.
Counsel: A what?
The Court: He said accountable, not a cannibal.
Counsel: It sounded like cannibal to me and I object.

Under the Dome by Stephen King (2009).
Somehow, Stephen King manages to take the most absurd ideas and make those ideas not only plausible but captivating. In this way, he’s much like a good defense attorney. This particular novel is about a town that ends up in an impenetrable bubble. In addition to the “deadly bubble,” there’s murder, corruption, small-town politics, and even a meth lab out in the woods. An interesting read.  

Christine Mathias

In Cold Blood by Truman Capote 
Capote's writing style captivated me from the first page.  Absolutely beautiful, poetic use of language, which is not something you often get from nonfiction works.  I loved the truly unique prospective on a murder trial - you know who the murders are at the very beginning, and for the most part, you know how the book is going to end, but the book is suspenseful and thrilling nonetheless.  Apart from the main story line, I also found the analysis of the impact caused by the murders on a small town to be quite interesting, as well as commentary on the appeals process.  

Quiet Your Mind by John Selby 
Someone gave this book to my fiancĂ© a while ago, and on a particularly stressful day, it sounded appealing.  It is essentially a self-help book on how to live a more serene, fulfilling life - kind of a westernized, dumbed down book on how to be zen.  Like most self-help books, it was extremely over-simplifying and supplied a few too many quick fixes.  It had a few good reminders on how to live in the present moment, and how forgiveness can better your life.  However, I think there are a lot better books on zen philosophy. 

Oil! by Upton Sinclair
A fascinating tale, ripe with commentary about capitalism and socialism.  I have to say that I found the first half of the book a bit more interesting, especially because I found "Dad" to be a fascinating character.  Towards the end, I felt it dragged on with borderline socialist propaganda.  Overall, a good read, but I could have done without the last few chapters

Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi 
This autobioraphical graphic novel about the author's life in Iran during the Islamic revolution is absolutely beautiful, intense, and something that will stick with you for a very long time.  It is deeply personal, honest, and unexpected.  Very highly recommended. 

Farewell, My Lovely by Raymond Chandler 
I adore this author, and of course Phillip Marlowe (the wisecracking private eye, and a repeating character in Chandler's books).  This book grips you from the first page, and it is quite an entertaining ride.  I think part of the reason I enjoy Chandler's books so much is that I identify with Marlowe - we're both small business owners trying to help people out of stressful situations.  However, I don't have to deal with people trying to kill me on a daily basis, at least not yet... 

Jennifer McDonald

Freedom by Jonathan Franzen 
A classic yet wonderfully irreverent and modern novel.

Summer by Edith Wharton  
Written in 1917, Wharton (The House of Mirth) tells a beautiful story (set in rural New England) of love, social restrictions and a woman who is almost, but not quite, modern by our standards. Many of the themes are still current, even though it will be hard to imagine how this subtle and tame story was shocking and scandalous in 1917.   

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo 
The Girl who Played with Fire 
The Girl who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest by Stieg Larsson 
I loved the first and second novels in this series but will reserve any comment on the third book for fear of a backlash on the SCOV blog.

Danielle Pennetta

The Closers by Michael Connelly 
A Los Angeles detective comes out of retirement and solves a cold case with his old partner, uncovering some shady characters in his own department that thwarted the initial solving of the case. 

The Fourth Hand by John Irving  
After a  journalist loses his hand to a lion, a woman comes forward and offers to donate her husband’s hand, and develops an intimate relationship with the journalist when she insists on “visiting” and sleeping next to the hand of her dead husband

The Heart of Dancing in the Rain by Garth Stein  
I am a HUGE dog lover and this is one of my favorite books – the story of a loyal dog owned by a race car driver that witnesses day/day how cancer and the ultimate death of the driver’s wife effects the family, and how the dog’s own death eventually effects his owner – a tear jerker for me! 

City of Thieves by David Benoff  
A story of a young boy’s journey across the country during war in Russia and his ultimate maturity and survival

Falling Man by Don DeLillo 
A story of a man that comes back to his family after being caught downtown during 911

Dan Richardson

Complete Tales and Sketches of Nathaniel Hawthorne 
There is something about winter in New England that makes an evening with Hawthorne one of life's greatest joys.

The New York Times Essential Library of Jazz by Ben Ratliff
Lists like the "100 Greatest Albums of All Time" are just asking for someone to disagree with them and knock them off their high and mighty pedestals.  Ratliff, however, is a pithy and persuasive critic, and his guide has the right balance between the usual suspects, new discoveries, and the criminally overlooked to merit a serious read.  For a good companion, Ratliff's book on Coltrane is a must-read for any budding or established jazz fiend.

Idiot America by Charlie Pierce
Not half as entertaining as listening to him on Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me.  Mr. Pierce still manages to make some fairly salient points on the wholesale and unquestioning acceptance of crank theories that have come to dominate national discourse instead of lurking at the margins, where they might be given greater scrutiny.

The Condemned of Altona by Jean-Paul Sartre
Sartre, it is what you read when you finish Camus.  It is a far better play to read than watch, I imagine.

The New American Splendor Anthology by Harvey Pekar
God rest his cranky soul.  This is a slice of prime Pekar from the 1980s when he was complaining on all cylinders and griping to David Letterman in front of a national audience.  It lacks some of the open-ended philosophical musings of his earlier pieces, but it has a strong sense of place and character.  Pekar was misunderstood in his time and will likely only persist amongst those who enjoy the flavor of a good kvetcher who has enough material to really get going.  Not to sell short the ground breaking nature of the work on display here both in story and art.  Pekar was generous with his collaborators and often the stories provide fertile ground for an artist to develop his or her voice.  Several artists including R. Crumb, Joe Sacco, and Allison Bechdel take their cut on the stories provided.  Given his influence, I hope that we see a flood of re-releases from Pekar's estate and eventually a definitive publication of all of the American Splendor back issues.

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