Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Summer Book Reviews

The Mosquito Coast, Paul Theroux
I was really looking forward to this book, but overall it kind of disappointed me. Not because it wasn't brilliant (it was), but because because it didn't keep me engaged the entire time. Also, it was quite dark and left me with an uneasy feeling. The main character, Allie Fox, is a brilliant and complex man who decides to move his family to the jungle of Honduras and start his own civilization. Told from the perspective of his son the book focuses on both the genius and the madness of Fox and you are never sure exactly which side is going to win out until the last chapter. The book was fine, but without much of a moral point to take home and I found my enjoyment of it often waned for several chapters before it picked up again. Theroux's Mosquito coast is a commentary on many things; North American consumer culture, atheisim, and the nature of man but without a moral compass it seemed that these points got lost in the story. So yes, a "great" book in terms of it's style, content, and dramatic ending but overall it left me feeling flat. 2.9 ninja stars out of 5.

A Walk In The Woods, Bill Bryson
A Walk In The Woods is Bill Byrson's humorous chronicle of his attempt to (without knowing anything about hiking backpack one of the world's longest trails). His partner in crime is a poor and recovering alcoholic with severe social skill handicaps and their resulting adventures are funny. This book made me laugh out loud on the plane to Belize, while I was relaxing in my hammock, and late at night when I was worrying about scorpions in our bed. As comedy it's pure gold. As a book about "conquering" the Appalachian Trail? Well, let's just say you wouldn't want this to be you only reference on how to do it. This is a great fluffy read, readable by the chapter and a great softcover to throw into your pack on your next camping or canoe trip. Not much for inspiration here, but as fluff it does the job. Just so you know it's a bit crude in places but worth the ten bucks I spent on it. 4.1 ninja stars out of 5.

The Long Way Round, Ewan McGregor & Charley Boorman
For me this was a one time read that I enjoyed very much. There is something fascinating about reading how two movie stars attempt to travel around the world on motorcycles. Not only do they have the regular challenges of safety, logistics, and funding that anyone else would have but they also are celebrities and celebrities have completely different challenges to add to the mix. Ewan McGregor (Obi Wan in Star Wars Episodes 1-3) is definitely the "star" of the book but there is enough in this read to interest almost anyone. The authors are quite open about their challenges, moodiness, fatigue, feelings towards each other and their benefactors, and especially about their joy of biking. Some of the things they fall into are quite fascinating, as an example when they fall in with East European mafia types. This book is quite rude and if it was a movie would be probably be rated "R," but it was definitely entertaining, especially if you are a biker or have contemplated a long distance trip of any kind. I rate it 4 ninja stars out of 5.


Marc said...

The Bill Bryson gets 5/5 from me. Brilliant stuff! One of my favourites.

Mark said...

Hey Marc, yes, definitely a good one. The problem I think was the context. I read "The Shack" right after which kind of overshadowed it. Since the Shack is so emotionally, religiously, and mentally engaging the effect was to make the "fluffy" Walk In The Woods seem smaller in comparison. But you are right, it is brilliant.