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Category: Library Bookspotting

My year of reading Stephen King (et al)

Before 2021, I had never read a single Stephen King novel. The only Stephen King work I had read was “On Writing,” which was required reading in the same college creative writing classes I took which told us if you write genre fiction (like King) you are sellout trash. (I’m paraphrasing of course).

Every October, however, I indulge in a month-long binge of horror movies, and in 2020 I watched all adaptations of Stephen King novels, wondering to myself why I’d never read a single one even though I knew I enjoyed the movies. (This year, notably, I watched the entire Friday the 13th series and did not come close to enjoying them all.) The answer, of course, is that it was hammered into me that commercial fiction like King’s wasn’t worth my time.

Of course that’s a ridiculous notion. Commercial fiction is successful for a reason – people like it! People read it! I dismissed silly things like romance novels as having no literary merit, forgetting the fact that my favorite author of all time – John Updike – wrote some highly pornographic shit. Just because it’s Pulitzer porn doesn’t make it any less porn. King is arguably the most successful commercial author of my lifetime, and for the first time I felt like I was missing out on something, so I decided to spend the year reading as many Stephen King novels as I could – helped by the fact that my public library had pretty much all of them for free.

I read 19 (and a half – I’m nearly halfway through the 3rd book in the Dark Tower Series) Stephen King novels in 2021 – and here are my drawn conclusions:

  • My favorite: 11/22/63. It was the most compelling story for me, and I loved watching it all unfold.
  • Honorable mentions: The Stand, The Outsider, and The Dead Zone. Yes, I listened to all 47 hours of the newest mega-edition of The Stand.
  • My least favorite: Gerald’s Game. I’m glad she survived and all, but fuck that book.
  • Dishonorable mentions: Rose Madder and The Long Walk
  • Every woman in King’s books has to have perfect boobs because in the real world, women don’t have perfect boobs.
  • I bristled at hearing the N word used so often, but it just goes to show how recently that kind of speech wasn’t a big deal in commercial fiction.

I’ve also made a point to discard another indoctrination from my college days – if I don’t enjoy a book, I will no longer power through and finish it. Life is too short to feel read things I don’t like. If I don’t want to keep reading after 100 pages, I don’t.

Outside of Stephen King, I read 55 books and had a goal of only 35. My top 5, in no particular order, were:

  • Hollow by Owen Egerton
  • 11/22/63 by Stephen King
  • The Motion of the Body Through Space by Lionel Shriver
  • Smoke Gets In Your Eyes by Caitlin Doughty
  • House of Sand and Fog by Andre Dubus III
  • Self Care by Leigh Stein

Here’s my 2021 Goodreads reading challenge, in case you’re curious.

My goal for 2022 is to read 60 books, and hopefully none of them are my own, because I am tired of reading it! And I will keep working my way through Stephen King’s backlist, even if I hate the way he talks about every woman having perfect boobs, because his work still has a great deal of literary merit (not Gerald’s Game, though).

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Library Bookspotting – January/February

Howdy folks! My library volunteer time has been a little strained as my day job takes up more of what should be my personal time, but as I just accepted a new job elsewhere that should change a bit, and I can do these posts a little more regularly! Here are the gems I uncovered so far this year.

IMAG0219You all know how often and eagerly I rib poorly-titled popcorn adult mystery titles, but this one, a mystery about a Rabbi’s wife with a stereotypical Jewish foodstuff in the title (which I’m sure was meant to be a play on the Evita song but last I knew ‘pastrami’ didn’t rhyme with ‘Argentina’) is walking far too fine a line with a Jewish stereotype and almost crosses over into racist territory. Or maybe I just need to lighten up and roll my eyes like I do with “Chihuahua of the Baskervilles”.


 The reason I found this juvenile nonfiction biography humorous is not only because this book seems to fly off our shelves courtesy of those afflicted by Bieber fever, but also because this book made my biceps hurt it is so thick. Bieber is what – 16? And yet his 100% official (whatever that means) biography is something like 1000 pages long. And this says just getting started… can’t wait to read volume 2 here in another 16 years.

IMAG0223This is the unofficial cookbook. They can’t stress that enough. They try, even going so far as to include a long-winded disclaimer that this cookbook was not authorized or written by Rowling or her publisher. I don’t know why they didn’t go as far as to say these recipes did not come from Professor Magonagle’s doctoral thesis or that getting actual mudblood as an ingredient is not without risk. After all, they wanted to make sure everyone knew that despite this being the unofficial cookbook, not in use at Hogwarts, this book is a New York Times Bestseller. So THERE!

IMAG0230This book caught my eye about 2 days after I read an article about a parent who appealed her daughter’s F grade on a paper, a grade given because of plagiarism, because it was the mother and not the daughter who wrote the paper. I’ll come right out and say that past grade… 6? I probably would not be able to solve my child’s math problems (they underline math, I think in an attempt to be funny). But just judging from the cover, I immediately jumped to 2 conclusions: either the author is indulging in an environment of overparenting where children rely on their parents to do their homework for them for fear they will fail at life if they get one F, or it’s just a misguided attempt to be helpful to parents who (like me) are mathematically challenged. Either way, your kid needs to solve his own damn math problems and forget everything after College Algebra like the rest of us!

IMAG0234Pretty is as Pretty Dies. A standard punbelievable title for a popcorn adult mystery novel. This alone would make me giggle and roll my eyes. But WTF is this cover art, apart from good old-fashioned nightmare fuel? Garden gnomes and pretty should never be used in the same sentence, a rule I would extend to cover art and titles. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to do a sweep of my property to make sure there are no killer garden gnomes in the immediate vicinity before this image keeps me awake at night.

That’s it for now! Stay tuned for odd, silly, and mind-boggling library finds next month!

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Library Bookspotting December 2012

It was a December to remember at the branch library I volunteer at here in town. Here are my finds for the month, and the end of the year.

IMAG0216Sometimes, I see a book whose cover is so bad and so boring, I think I could probably do a better version of it in Notepad. This is one of them. Of course, there is no shortage of books designed to scare people about what they put in their children’s bodies, so why wouldn’t there be a handful of them for easily persuadable pet owners? And at the very least, they could have borrowed one of those pitiful-looking faces that we see in those Sarah McLachlan commercials. “I will vaccinate you…”

IMAG0215I know I have made fun of some punbelivable adult mystery titles before, especially those that play on classic literature, but this one really takes the cake. It’s just… shameful. Even the chihuahua on the cover is like “This is so wrong”. I can only imagine it is about a mystery-solving chihuahua whose ghost haunts the Baskervilles, a 2-bedroom apartment complex in suburban Salt Lake City.

IMAG0214Again, this is one of those book covers that is so literal, so boring, and so shoddily put together that it’s just laughable. Then again, if you’re learning how to hunt open country mule deer by reading a book, you’re kind of asking for it. I thumbed through this one a bit, just because I wondered what kind of content actually goes into an instructional text on deer hunting, and it’s mostly ammunition diagrams. Figures the content would be as boring as the cover. The author’s name also made me chuckle, as “Dwight Schuh” is dangerously close to “Dwight Shrute.” I wonder if he hunts mule deer on the open country of his 60-acre beet farm…

IMAG0212And the winner of the month. The spine of this guy caught my attention as I was shelving it with the other early readers, and I thought to myself, “Wow, Dragon Puncher might be the most awesome title for a book I have ever heard of. I can’t wait to see what’s on the cover.” I did not expect to see an actual cat in a cartoon cat suit, yet it somehow is even more amazing than anything I could have pictured in my mind. When I teach my future children to read, you can bet they will be doing so to Dragon Puncher.

See y’all next year! I hope one of your New Year’s Resolutions is to pay more visits to your local library!

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Library Bookspotting November 2012

It’s been crazy busy, so I have two months’ worth of library bookspotting to catch up on, but lucky for you, it’s worth it. Here goes!

My library has a pretty respectable collection of Spanish language books for all ages. This one is meant for early readers and asks the literary question “Who was Anne Frank?” (and why did she have such a gigantic head?) We have a whole collection of these “Who was” children’s biographies, and all the heads are huge. Sorry, Anne, but this caricature-like cover really doesn’t add to the somber tone.

I often rip on serial mysteries and how hokey their titles often are, but this one has the double whammy of a horribly puntastic title and an equally ridiculous cartoon cover image. I do like that they included the whitewashed fence in the background, I just wonder what they called the Tom Sawyer version.

The thumbnail doesn’t do this book justice, since you can’t see that it’s called “Afterbirth”. I think this is another case of the Japanese not quite getting the other meaning of the translation, kind of like they did with “Night Head.”

Did you know that Al Roker also wrote mystery novels in his spare time? Neither did anyone else. At least it doesn’t bear the characteristically punbelievable title convention, but all of his mysteries are set on the set of a talk show, which is a little uninventive from the likes of Al Roker.

I just couldn’t resist snapping a pic of this early reader that got returned right after the election. Regardless of what political side of the fence you’re on, it’s a fair question to ask. Some might be surprised to learn that this book actually contained pages.

I was a little taken aback by this children’s biography only because I can’t believe they couldn’t find a picture of Michael Jackson that didn’t look like his face was scratched up by an angry cat. There are probably more pictures of Michael Jackson than there are McDonald’s fries in the world’s landfills, and yet this is the one they put on the cover.

That’s all for this episode! Stay tuned for more horrible library finds as the holidays wear on.

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Library Bookspotting for September 2012

September was a great month for me, both personally and professionally, both of which I will elaborate on in a future post. For now, savor these tasty gems I found while volunteering at the library last month.

It’s a good this fiction (?) novel is geared toward junior high boys, because otherwise men of all ages might track it down and enjoy it. How do I know? My fiance laughed hysterically and said he would read it, and all he reads is programming books. I think we can all recall a day this very thing has happened – I once ate street tacos for every meal and yes, it ended badly. And The Day My Butt Went Psycho is supposedly based on a true story…

This one’s a little hard to read since the cover’s so busy, but it’s a children’s cookbook called The Star Wars Cookbook: Wookiee Cookies and Other Galactic Recipes. I’ve been trying to get a good shot of this one for awhile, but it never stays on the shelf for long. I want to believe that the publishers of this fine specimen had no idea that Wookiee Cookie had another, more grownup, meaning, so I will give them the benefit of the doubt. After all, they knew the correct spelling of Wookiee – which blew my mind when I discovered it. I’ll have to check it out and try the Boba Fettucine for myself sometime.

Remember how I told you that mystery novels, particularly those in series, have ridiculous titles based on bad puns? Well, here’s another case in point. Roast Mortem (part of the Coffeehouse Mystery series) is about as stretchy of a pun as you can get. Despite its terribly punny title, this book actually doesn’t look half bad.

The Assassination of Abraham Lincoln is an I-Can-Read book. I can’t think of more appropriate subject matter to use to teach my child to read with than the in-cold-blood killing of our 16th president. I’ll avoid this one like the plague – I’d rather wait until the dog passes away to explain the concept of death instead of using poorly illustrated photos of Abraham Lincoln’s assassination.

Stay tuned for October’s finds!

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Library Bookspotting for August 2012

I collected some great gems volunteering at my local branch library this month. Have a look for yourself!

This is an I-Can-Read book, so if you want to teach your kid to read and teach him a valuable lesson about the merits of public sewage servants, this is the book for you. What I really want to know, though, is how they convinced 1988 David Boreanaz to pose for this cover.

I just couldn’t resist snapping this cover. My life experience hasn’t involved many baboons, but I truly believe that this baboon is the most melancholy baboon in the animal kingdom. He looks like he hit the bong before his youth non-fiction book cover photo shoot.

We have an absolutely unreal amount of cookbooks, even for our small branch. You can get all kinds of holiday-themed cookbooks, your favorite celebrity’s cookbook (I’m looking at you, Alicia Silverstone), and cookbooks meant to transport you to a bygone era where men manned the grill and women had 18-inch waists with ridiculous titles like this one.

I don’t care how old I get; I will never not laugh at the title of this book. I’m guessing that when they started the series (A Look at Mars, A Look at Venus, etc.), they failed to take the full Milky Way galaxy into consideration. By the time you get to Uranus (snicker), you can’t very well deviate from the theme. Besides, it’s not like the intended audience of this book is a bunch of immature children or anything. Oh, wait…

That’s all for this month, but I’ve got some great ones already for September, so be sure to come back next month!

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Library Bookspotting for July

As many of you know, I volunteer once a week at my local branch public library. While I would never dream of bashing another author for his or her efforts (yes, even Stephenie Meyer), I often come across books that make me giggle (A Look At Uranus) or just say double-you-tee-eff a few times. Because many of these are just too good not to share, I’ve decided to make this a monthly feature on the site called “Library Bookspotting”. Are you looking for an RSS feed icon? It’s over there —>

I’ll also be live-tweeting a book each week while I’m at the library if you want to watch me on the Twitterz. For now, I’ll just share all the ones I have snapped pics of so far.

Oh yeah, did I mention I am in Texas? Of  course I am, because there is no way this book could exist anywhere but in Texas. For those of you who don’t know, Colt McCoy was the quarterback for the University of Texas, and is a regular folk hero here in Austin. The premise of the book was about Colt’s upbringing on a farm in rural Texas with an evangelical Christian family that worshipped football (as most of Texas does), just in case you couldn’t tell that from the ridiculous cover.

I’ve been curious about the images O’Reilly uses on the cover of their technology books for a long time. A book on XSLT with a horned owl on the cover? I suppose it makes about as much sense as anything else. But this one? Just how does an Olde West-inspired heist, complete with firearms, represent Open Source and Free Software Licensing? Are they implying the software is highway robbery? How could they? It’s free!?

Yes, this is a graphic novel (a young adult graphic novel, I might add) called “Night Head.” Now yeah, I’m sure that this didn’t originate in the US, but you’d think someone would take a second look at the title to make sure it means what you think it means. And definitely before putting in the young adult section of a public library. Yikes.

This is a children’s non-fiction whose sole purpose, I believe, is to train crazy cat ladies from a very young age. For the record, I am a dog person, and I would never tell my dog a riddle because she is too dumb to even understand the difference between food and dirty gym socks most days.

For some reason, mystery books (especially those in a series) have the cheesiest titles I’ve ever seen. For the record, cahoots is one of my favorite words, but even for this feline-themed mystery series, this title is REALLY reaching.

You can find all these books at your local library, but you don’t have to take MY word for it…

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