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39. Coal: A Human History, by Barbara Freese

Another commodity biography, yay! A quick read, pretty well-written. And, contrary to some reviews I saw (most of which were admittedly from mining families) about as fair as one could be without being terribly biased. It isn't biased to spend a significant proportion of the book talking about the health and environmental issues related to heavy coal use. It's reality.

40. A Clockwork Orange, by Anthony Burgess

I've seen the movie before, back when I was binging on classic SF. I think I saw it the day after I watched 2001 for the first time. Anyways, the book is indeed very much like the movie, or vice versa. A finely crafted work about a thoroughly reprehensible person. It does remind me a little of American Psycho, but more topically than anything else. For one, I hated American Psycho. The non-gore segments were flat-out boring 80s narcissism, and difficult to read through, and the gore was so far over the top that it was impossible for me to read. What A Clockwork Orange has that American Psycho doesn't is Nasdat. And it's not just the barely decipherable slang, though that's obviously a big part of the book's legacy. There's something about how the language flows that keeps you going (it helps that there's a lack of loving, overly graphic descriptions of the violence- it's vaguer, and has more impact aside from just grossing you out). Burgess is just a better writer, I'd say. Oh, and a note- the final, 21st chapter is omitted from most editions, since it was gone from the first American edition and therefore doesn't factor into the movie. The movie, and most books available now, end at chapter 20. And well they should. The 21st chapter doesn't leave the reader with nearly the impact that the 20th does. The American publishers that insisted on cutting it were right. I don't often say that a book is better off abridged, but this is one.

41. The 13 Clocks, by James Thurber

I read this based off the lovingly enthusiastic reviews of Neil Gaiman, and I'm very glad I did. It's very much a fairy tale, which I love. After I finished it, I thought of Phillip Pullman's equally fairy tale-like, and equally wonderful, Clockwork, and I wondered if Pullman inspired Thurber at all. Maybe not, but I love both.
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September 2011

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