What it's all about...

The purpose of this blog is simple: Reading

My friends and me used to get immense joy from reading great books, sharing them, and maybe discussing them over a few beers. We no longer live in close proximity and for most of us free time comes at a premium.

This year, I have made it a personal goal of mine to turn off the TV and read more. I got through 3 books pretty quickly and realized that I wanted "that old thing back" - that community of being able to share these great books with others, so the blog was born.

If you see a book review and the book sounds interesting and you want to purchase the book, you can do so by directly linking to Amazon.com through a text link on the book title. I will be donating all proceeds (probably .15 this year) to Reading Is Fundamental (

Sunday, December 30, 2007

The Road to Los Angeles

The Road to Los Angeles
By John Fante

Book Reporter: Joelman

Our protagonist is Arturo Bandini, and Italian-American 20-something living in Los Angeles and supporting his sister and mother. Arturo fancies himself a literary and cultural superior to those around him, particularly his mother and sister (both of whom are devout Catholics). Our hero struggles with his status as the "bread winner" and the fact that he is only professionally viable as a manual laborer. In his own mind, Bandini pumps himself up as a womanizer, a man to be feared, and a talented author. In fact, Bandini is a fool, mocked by the Mexican and Filipino laborers that work alongside him. The interplay between his real life and the life he lives in his head is humorously entertaining (if not slightly biting). Despite Bandini's obvious flaws and delusions, you can't help but wonder if he will ever finally break free from his real and imagined chains and become someone.

Bottom line: The "Great Bandini" is a humorous and interesting protagonist, one that lives with intense inner monologue that makes anyone feel sane by comparison. Bandini's "acting out" is something that most angst-filled young men can identify with, making him a timeless protagonist.

Recommendation: Strong Read

The Wine of Youth

The Wine of Youth
By John Fante

Book Reporter: Joelman

This book is a compilation of short stories (likely with an autobiographical thread) that take place during Fante's youth as an Italian American growing up in Colorado. Fante works where many themes converge: growing up Catholic & Italian, dealing with dysfunctional parents, alcoholism, and poverty. These common themes thread together the different stories like familiar snapshots. Growing up Catholic is the dominant theme, and entire stories are dedicated to the sacraments - particularly the sacrament of reconciliation.

Fante does an outstanding job of re-creating the world of his youth where he and his brothers share a bed and must bring in coal for their mother each morning. This is a world where our hero is dominated by the nuns who consistently regard our hero with disdain. Our hero's father, Guido, a mason, goes on multi-day benders while his mother locks herself in her room to cry the days away. It is a sad and cold world that shows what poverty can do to a family and the resolve that it often instills in its children - to get the hell out and never look back.

Bottom Line: This is a great book to read if you are a Fante fan or someone that grew up Catholic or around Catholocism.

Recommendation: READ

Average American Male

The Average American Male: A Novel
By Chad Kultgen

Book Reporter: Joelman

This book was recommended to me by my good friend Steak, who picked up the paperback in an airport bookstore. He handed the book to me rather surreptitiously in front of his apt in the Marina with one stern piece of advice: DON'T LET YOUR WIFE READ THIS BOOK OR EVEN READ OVER YOUR SHOLDER.

Our un-named protagonist is caught in a power struggle of trying to satisfy his basic sexual needs with a girlfriend who is more interested in taking the relationship towards marriage (and less and less interested in being adventurous). This is the story of the "everyman" who yearns to maintain the spontanaeity and freshness that exists early on in the relationship. We follow our protagonist through the intimate details of his inner monologue as he finds himself get sucked in further and further away from what he truly wants. His disdain for his girlfriend grows as she further digs in her heels to keep the relationship moving towards her desired direction.

Bottom line: This book is hilarious with a few exciting twists and turns that will keep you reading. Chad keeps it simple which makes this book a pleasure to read. Additionally, he writes short chapters - which allows the reader to read a chapter whenever a few spare minutes reveal themselves.

Recommendation: MUST READ