Nightstand inspection! Who's reading something awesome?

garbage-land_l[1]Now that we’ve got an entire wing dedicated to the bookish pursuits — EW’s Shelf Life Blog, where “every day we write the books”– there’s not as much literary chatter here on PopWatch. But since I just got back from vacation, and my primary vacation activity is nearly always reading, I’ve got a pile of recommendations… and I’m looking for something new to sink my teeth into.

This trip, I tackled a slew of non-fiction. First, John McPhee’s Uncommon Carriers, a series of essays that I originally fell in love with via the New Yorker. The author rides shotgun with the men (and very occasional women) who work in “freight transportation”: 18-wheelers, trains, barges, ocean ships, even UPS. Fascinating, hilariously detailed profiles of careers and modes of transport we take for granted.

Next, Jon Krakauer’s Where Men Win Glory, a.k.a. “the Pat Tillman book.” I’m a total Krakauer geek, and I always feel the need to bring at least one crushing depression-fest with me to the beach; the tale of the NFL football player who chucked it all to join the Army Rangers after Sept. 11th only to be killed by friendly fire certainly fit the bill. More than just an examination of Tillman’s unconventional heroism, it’s a sickening deconstruction of the machinations behind our country’s ongoing War on Terror.

Palate cleanser: Joe Torre and Tom Verducci’s The Yankee Years.

The last book I read — and the most impactful — was Elizabeth Royte’s Garbage Land, in which the author sets out to discover where her trash goes. The journey starts at her local Brooklyn sanitation division, then explodes into the world-wide business of waste disposal, which seems 1) very profitable and 2) largely an exercise in staving off the inevitable. I’m glad I won’t be on the planet to see how this story ends, and I’m extra pleased with my decision not to breed at the moment — but while I’m here, I can at least try and minimize my contribution to the problem. First step: I’ve started taking my own cup to Starbucks. As my friend Sarah pointed out last night, “Yeah, but you’re still going to Starbucks.” Yes. Well, baby steps.

What about you, PopWatchers? What are you reading? What do you recommend? And what’s the last book that changed something about the way you live your life?

Comments (73 total) Add your comment
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  • Cole9219

    I just read Youth in Revolt. it may be a teen book, but it is pure awesomeness!It is hilarious!! Just try it (if you haven’t already!).

  • Em

    I just finished The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery, and I recommend it without reservation. I have also been reading George R.R. Martin’s “A Song of Ice and Fire” series, which, while a little racy for my tastes, is still pretty fantastic.

    • mrkittysmom

      I am starting this and just hope id does not disappoint.
      Lief Enger’s So Brave, Young and Handsome was just terrific.

  • Rachel

    I know it’s very popular right now, but I just finished The Help and really liked it. I just started A Thousand Splendid Suns but if it is anything like The Kite Runner, I may have to read it later. That book gave me the sads for days.
    In completely fun, not too serious reading – before The Help I finished the 3rd installment of Jen Lancaster’s memoirs. i highly recommend Bitter is the New Black – very funny.

    • Nancy

      I loved The Kite Runner…but I love A Thousand Splendid Suns even more.

      • Jane

        Oh that Book is amazing!
        Yet, so sad.

  • Sarah El

    I’ve been reading mostly older stuff for a class I’m taking called Narratives of Suffering. The booklist is really great actually, ranging from The Book of Job to The Road. Right now we’re almost halfway through the 15 book list, currently halfway through Incident in the Life of a Slave Girl by Harriet Jacobs. Next up is The Sound and the Fury, then Hiroshima, Endgame, Ariel, Beloved, Maus I, Maus II, and The Road. Previously on? Job, King Lear, The Sovereignty and Goodness of God, The Loss of the Ship Essex Sunk By a Whale, Moby Dick, and the poetry of Emily Dickinson.

    Although, I’ve always got time to flip through How to Tell if Your Boyfriend is the Antichrist.

  • Rachel K

    I’m currently in the middle of the Stone of Tears (the second book in the Sword of Truth series) by Terry Goodkind and I absolutely love it. If you enjoy fantasy series (His Dark Materials, LOTR, Wheel of Time) I highly recommend it!

  • Allie

    right now i’m reading eldest by christopher paolini. it’s pretty good, and i’m almost done with it. not sure what i’ll read next. maybe i’ll check out the lovely bones. i want to see the movie so it might help if i read the book first. before i started eragon, i was reading half-moon investigations by eoin colfer. hilarious!!

    • Allie

      oops, before i started eldest i mean, haha.

    • Cole9219

      Half Moon Investigations is hilarious and the ending is surprising!!! Eoin Colfer is one of the best kids authors out there.

      • Allie

        yes he is, cole! i really want to read airman and the wish list. i’ve heard that they’re hard to find. if i get a barnes&noble gift card for christmas, maybe i’ll buy them online. the artemis fowl series is really great as well!

    • NYTeach

      I got hooked on the Artemis Fowl books when I was teaching 5th grade a few years ago. I’ll have to check this one out!

      • Allie

        you should definitely check out half-moon investigations! adults will enjoy it as well as kids and young adults. i might even check out and another thing, even though i haven’t read the rest of the hitchhiker’s guide series. i’ve also heard that the supernaturalist is good as well, but hard to find like airman and the wish list. guess i’ll have to buy online, lol.

  • Dana

    currently reading The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane by Katerine Howe and just finished The Weight Of Silence by Heidi Gudenkawt. Loved The Help.

  • Dustin

    I’m reading the Song of Ice and Fire series by George RR Martin, which I really recommend, but the book that really got to me, in a good way, is At Swim, Two Boys by Jamie O’Neill.

  • Mincha

    Brian McGilloway’s Borderlands is the most impressive detective novel I’ve read lately. And George Singleton’s story collection, These People Are Us, is funny and brilliantly warped.

  • Eve

    I just finished Kurt Vonnegut Jr’s “Breakfast of Champions” and loved every second of reading it. Such an awesome book.

    • Cole9219

      I think I am gonna start that today. I bought it in the summer but still haven’t started!!!

  • Misha

    Okay, I couldn’t pass up the chance for a plug! The last book that truly changed my life was my first published novel, Homesong, about the intersecting lives of a small Virginia town, told from the perspective of two former residents who are unexpectedly reunited 20 years after their respective “escapes.”
    A book that I read recently which was not written by me (wink) was Glittering Images, by Susan Howatch. It’s the first novel in her Starbridge series about the Church of England. This book was full of characters pretending to be something that they’re not (projecting their “Glittering Images” on the world). It was really gripping!

  • Swerds

    “Rage Against the Meshugenah” by Danny Evans. Excellent book about the male journey through depression, although it really speaks about working through depression for someone of either gender.

    From a little deeper in the stacks: “My Lobotomy” by Howard Dully. Very fast read yet thoroughly engaging.

  • kristen

    “Cutting for Stone” is a behemouth, but totally worth it. I found myself lost in the woven tapestry of the story. Truly excellent.

    • Robin

      I just started this book yesterday and am more than halfway through. It is excellent! I already know I’m going to be sad when I finish and can no longer spend time with these characters.

  • Mary

    Loved both “The Help” and “Cutting for Stone”. Also try Julia Spencer-Fleming and Deanna Raybourn’s series if you’re into mysteries — nice love stories mixed in with the mystery.

  • steve

    I couldn’t put down the “Story of O!” Every page something just jumped off the page and hit you below the belt. Amazing!

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