Looking for a book to read? Here are five with the Muttrox seal of approval.
The Alienist by Caleb Carr — Kind of a Sherlock Holmes Jack the Ripper kind of feel. Great book. Everyone in my family has read it and liked it, and it was a huge bestseller. “The Alienist” is a professor of abnormal psychology, but it is set before such a science really exists. So
he is pioneering it while being scorned by most of society (even though he’s completely right), and gets wrapped in a mystery about a mysterious figure. Told from the point of
view of one his admirers (a la the Sherlock Holmes). You can’t go wrong with this one. It even has Theodore Roosevelt! Bully!
The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver — Well known book, mostly relegated to hickbook status. Roughly. it’s about a very very zealous missionary who picks up his southern belle wife and 4 daughters to move them to the Congo. They have no idea what they’re getting into at any level. Won many prizes, and probably deserved them all. Advantage for men in relationships: You will get bonus points from your better half for reading this.
Cryptmonicon by Neal Stephenson – It’s categorized as SF, but it’s not. Not sure what it is really except terrific. It’s almost 1000 pages, and they just keep getting better. It’s awesome. I took it home over winter break in 2000, stayed up late every night reading it, and continually blew off my in-laws so I could read another few chapters. Just could not put it down. Yes it’s long, but it’s worth it. (OK, you want some plot? There are two parralel stories. One is in current day about a hacker type who is trying to start a business forming a data haven. The other is set in WWII, and is mostly about a marine and a code-breaker whose paths cross. And lots of stuff happens, and you begin to find out it really is just one story…)
How the Mind Works by Steven Pinker — Interested in what makes you tick? This book explains so much about how humans reason, think, and feel it’s scary. The main thesis is that our mind (if there is such a thing) is rooted in the brain. The brain is a result of an evolution. A glorious kludged together heterogenous device. It blew my brain up every 5 pages or so with something that was so obviously true about humans and human life that I had never noticed before. Also very readable, and very funny (some good 3 Stooges references made their way in there.)
Steel Beach by John Varley — Warning: Science Fiction. I liked it a lot, and I think it’s very readable without being complete brain candy. One of my brothers read it and called me a jackass, so opinions are split. I think he’s a jackass, so who ya gonna believe?
These are listed more or less in order of accessibility. Everyone will appreciate the first two, the odds get longer after that.