All posts by Jeff

Kitchen Confidential: Adventures In The Culinary Unberbelly by Anthony Bourdain

Chef Anthony Bourdain was largely unknown before this book was published in 2000. This, his first memoir, became a surprise bestseller, and set its author on a course for stardom. It chronicles his professional and personal life, and describes the high-end kitchens where he cut his teeth as a world populated by “wacked-out moral degenerates, dope fiends, refugees, a thuggish assortment of drunks, sneak thieves, sluts, and psychopaths.”

From the official description: From Bourdain’s first oyster in the Gironde, to his lowly position as dishwasher in a honky tonk fish restaurant in Provincetown (where he witnesses for the first time the real delights of being a chef); from the kitchen of the Rainbow Room atop Rockefeller Center, to drug dealers in the east village, from Tokyo to Paris and back to New York again, Bourdain’s tales of the kitchen are as passionate as they are unpredictable. Kitchen Confidential will make your mouth water while your belly aches with laughter. You’ll beg the chef for more, please.

Kitchen Confidential is temporarily priced at $2.99 for Kindle. Not sure how long that’s going to be the case, so I’d recommend not waiting until tomorrow.

Dreamland: The True Tale Of America’s Opiate Epidemic by Sam Quinones

The author of this book was the guest on a recent episode of Marc Maron’s podcast, and I thought it was an odd choice. I still do, in fact. Maron generally interviews comedians, actors, and musicians. When he does have an author on as a guest, it’s usually a novelist. However, it turned out to be one of the best recent episodes of the show.

Sam Quinones is an investigative reporter, and Dreamland is the book he wrote about heroin, and how its use is now epidemic in America. He blames the pharmaceutical industry for aggressively peddling pain pills, the medical industry for choosing to treat symptoms instead of underlying problems (to save money, of course), and a group of people from a specific village in Mexico for marketing heroin in small cities “like pizza.”

It’s that last part that I found the most fascinating. Quinones claims that nearly everyone who lives in that Mexican village is involved, “including the mothers and daughters.” They move into a small U.S. city — like Huntington, WV, which is not far from where I grew up — and set up shop like Domino’s. They have a phone number you can call, and drivers who will deliver the drug straight to your door. It’s wild, and terrifying.

While I was listening to the interview, I went over to Amazon and added the book to my Wishlist. And today it’s $2.99. If you find the subject interesting, I don’t think you can go wrong with this one.

Becoming Richard Pryor by Scott Saul

I’m super-excited about this one. It’s a serious biography of the great comedian, critically acclaimed, which has been on my Amazon Wishlist since before it was even published. Today it’s $1.99 for Kindle. Patience pays dividends once again!

Richard Pryor released an autobiography in 1995, and it’s undoubtedly entertaining. But… there’s some question about the truthfulness of it. Pryor told many contradictory stories about his early days, and who knows which versions he included in the book?

A biography like this one excites me more. Here’s part of a review of the book: “Pryor has had the good fortune to fall into the hands of a writer with the smarts to understand both his greatness and his madness. Becoming Richard Pryor is a first-rate biography.”

I have no idea how long the book is going to remain at the reduced price, so I recommend buying it today, before midnight, Amazon Western Time. I did. And now it’s going straight to the front of the reading queue.

Hitsville USA: The Motown Singles Collection 1959-1971

This is one hell of a great gift idea. You can thank me later. It’s four CDs maxed-out with classic songs that almost everybody can agree are great. Nobody doesn’t love Motown, right? Right.

And today it costs less than ten bucks per disc, at Amazon. Plus, free shipping? It’s insanity. It’s one of those things you could take in your car during a long trip, and not a single person would bitch. Even the bitchiest of bitches couldn’t bitch about this one.

Plus… get this! If you buy the box set for a friend or family member, Amazon will throw in all the mp3s for free. So, some lucky person will get the compact discs, and you’ll get all the downloads. As I type this, the mp3s alone cost about ten dollars more than the CDs plus the mp3s.

From the product description: Nearly every one of these 104 tracks is a hit, and we mean a big hit, from 36 different, very famous artists-the Supremes, Temptations, Stevie Wonder, Smokey Robinson, Martha Reeves & the Vandellas et cetera, et cetera . A must.

Like I say, there’s no need to thank me today.

Elliot Allagash by Simon Rich

This is my latest Kindle acquisition: book #617. To tell you the truth I don’t know a whole lot about it. However, I concluded that I might like it because of the following:

  • Whenever I see a list of the funniest novels of the year, there’s almost always a Simon Rich entry. He must be doing something right.
  • This one appears to be a cringey, uncomfortable school story, and I’m always a sucker for the cringey, uncomfortable school stories.
  • The blurb at the top of the cover says “An enjoyable little dose of poisonous cynicism.” Yes! I’m in.

Plus, it didn’t hurt that the price is $2.99 for Kindle. I’m not sure if that’s the everyday price, or a temporary situation. But I snagged it. In fact, I snagged it for the second time. There’s a paperback version — with a different cover — kicking around here somewhere. I’m now re-buying books I already own, because I prefer reading on a Kindle.

You’ll notice that the novel has mixed reader reviews at Amazon. That would concern me, and probably dissuade me from buying it, if it were in a genre other than humor. You can always count on humorous fiction receiving too many negative reviews. I think it’s the people who are really good at math who have a problem with subtle comedy. It’s just a theory. Indeed, two of my favorite humor novels, A Confederacy of Dunces and The Dog of the South, receive an inordinate number of one-star reviews. How anyone could trash those true works o’ genius is a mystery to me. It’s gotta be the fucking mathematicians, right? I can think of no other explanation.

About a Boy by Nick Hornby

I believe everybody who’s ever worked in a record store has read Nick Hornby’s debut novel, High Fidelity. It’s a very funny book about a group of guys who, you know, work in a record store. They have a lot of pop culture knowledge, and strong opinions. They argue and bicker and make Top 5 lists, which they then argue and bicker about. The main character’s girlfriend has just left him, and it upsets him greatly that her new boyfriend has a subpar record collection.

Hornby’s second novel is About a Boy, and it concerns a perpetual adolescent (sensing a theme?) who lives in London, dates as many women as possible, and generally lives like an adrift 22 year old hipster, even though he’s now 36.

Then he starts seeing a woman with a troubled 12 year old son, and our hero finds himself in the improbable position of being a role model. He tries to help the kid grow up, even though he hasn’t fully grown up himself. It’s unclear who the Boy in the title is referencing. It could go either way.

This second book is also very funny, and charming as well. It was made into a successful movie, and later a TV series that I never saw. I’m fairly sure it’s Hornby’s biggest selling novel, and basically made him a literary star. I read it a long time ago, right after High Fidelity, but plan to revisit both books soon.

About a Boy is $1.99 for Kindle today.

Invasion by Sean Platt & Johnny B. Truant

Hundreds of orbs are sailing through space, moving toward Earth. ETA: six days. Nobody knows what in the open-face hell is going on, but there’s no shortage of speculation and panic. The government has already been caught lying about what they know, and society is on the brink of collapse.

The family at the center of this adventure novel is attempting to get from New York City to a vacation home in the Colorado mountains, where they plan to hole up and hopefully ride out whatever is to come. You might find this difficult to believe, but they encounter quite a few problems along the way.

I read this one a couple of months ago, and had a great time with it. I like how the titular invasion is something ominous and threatening, but not actually happening until deep into the book. And even then… it’s not exactly clear what’s going on.

But there’s always book two… and three… and four. This is the first entry in the so-called Alien Invasion Series, which contains seven books. I plan to read them all, and own most of the novels already. This first installment is free today, and probably tomorrow. Oh, these guys know what they’re doing.

If this sounds like your kind of thing, I’m confident you won’t be disappointed.

The Fugitive: The Complete Series

I’m nearly finished watching this series, and the first three seasons are fantastic. They’re black & white and atmospheric, and do a great job of capturing the melancholy, desperation, and paranoia of a person on the run. It’s also exciting, and quite suspenseful.

Dr. Richard Kimball, as portrayed by David Janssen, is a man wrongfully convicted of the murder of his wife. He’s sentenced to die in the electric chair, and while being transported to “the death house,” as Cannon calls it in the voice-over, there’s an accident and Kimball escapes. In every subsequent episode — 120 in all — he’s in a different town, using a different name, working some different but menial job.

The fourth season isn’t as good, but it’s not a complete disaster. It doesn’t help that it’s now in color. Plus, the situations are a little more ludicrous, which means the writing is starting to slip. But I’m powering through to the end. The final episode was one of the most-watched in TV history. Something like 72% of all televisions in America were tuned in to learn Dr. Kimball’s fate. I’m not there yet, so don’t tell me. I assume he’s captured and quickly fried up like Sizzlean? Yeah, probably not.

This series was released a few years ago in a too-expensive DVD version, more than $200, I believe. Fugitive nerds bought it anyway, and howled in protest because some of the original music had been replaced. Finally, it was re-released with all the problems ironed out, at a much lower price. I think I paid about $55 for mine. Right now it’s even less than that. Crazy, man!

I’m too young to remember this show in its original run, but have always been intrigued. I was aware of the cult following it has, and it seemed right up my alley. Plus, the movie version, with Harrison Ford as Richard Kimball, is one of my favorites. I wasn’t disappointed. The Suggestaholic doesn’t hesitate in suggesting this one.

I’m now mildly obsessed with David Janssen. He was apparently a notorious boozer and womanizer, who died of a heart attack at the young age of 48. The man was running wide-open. His pallbearers included Johnny Carson, Rod Stewart, and Gregory Peck. And that’s clear evidence of a life fully-lived right there.

Furiously Happy: A Funny Book About Horrible Things by Jenny Lawson

Jenny Lawson has a website that’s not unlike my own West Virginia Surf Report. She writes about her life in a humorous way, and has a biting sense of humor that I appreciate. The big difference between her site and mine? Hers is about a million times more popular.

But that’s OK. She works harder, is probably funnier, and managed to strike a nerve with people. I applaud her achievements. I don’t really get jealous of other folks’ success, I just beat myself up for not getting there too. I repeat certain phrases like “You’re a walking, talking piece of shit. Why don’t you just throw yourself into a fucking canyon, loser?” Life-affirming mantras like that.

In any case, this is Jenny’s second book. Both are memoirs, and both are huge bestsellers. To be honest, I had a little trouble with the first one. I started to read it, and stopped. But I think the brain chemicals were just mixing in some unfortunate way that day; sometimes the chemicals are not my friend. People I know and admire assure me the book is both hilarious and great. It remains on my Revisit Soon list.

And the second book is temporarily $3.99 for Kindle. I’m not sure if it’s a one-day thing, or what. But I’ve never seen the price this low, so snag it if you’re so inclined. I was all over it like a cheetah on a birdwatcher.

Mosquitoland by David Arnold

mosquitolandThis is my latest Kindle acquisition: book #615 on the device. Previously, it had been residing on my Amazon Wishlist for many months, because, I believe, I read an article that listed it as one of the funniest novels of 2015. Beyond that, I don’t know much about it.

It’s described as a Young Adult book, which is fine by me. At this point in our history, YA should not scare away any not-so-young adult readers. There’s a lot of greatness under that heading. Don’t let snobbery or prejudice block you from greatness.

Plus, there’s a School Library Journal review of the book on the Amazon page that suggests that some of the humor is insensitive. Yes! Insensitive and inappropriate humor is, needless to say, a big-time positive.

And there’s this blurb, which sealed the deal for me: “…reminiscent of Ferris Bueller’s Day Off if done by John Hughes with Jack Kerouac.”

But, the real reason I finally pulled the trigger on it was price, of course. All roads lead to cheapness. Yesterday, as I was scrolling through my outrageously bloated Wishlist, I noticed the price on the Kindle version had been reduced (temporarily, I’m sure) to $1.99. It’s still there, as I type.

And that’s the secret: do the research, try to identify all the good books, put them on your Wishlist, and wait for a temporary price-drop. It’s how a person ends up with 615 amazing books on their Kindle. Well, that and a light dusting of mental problems.

The hunt continues!