0 for 3

“Sigh. I’m 0 for 3 in recent books and movies!”

That’s what I said to myself after finishing a book that I had recently taken out of the library. What I meant was that I had disliked all three of the most recent books and movies that I had attempted to read (or watch or listen to).

But “finishing” is the wrong word…and that’s the point. I shouldn’t have said “finishing.” It was actually the third book or movie in a row that I couldn’t even finish. That disturbed me.

Then I realized that I wasn’t giving it enough perspective. Actually I wasn’t 0 for 3; I was 4 for 7, and that’s a lot better. It’s just that the three bad ones were in the forefront of my consciousness. So now you want to know what the seven were, and why I disliked three and liked the other four. First of all, here were the three I couldn’t finish (a series of novels, an old movie, and a non-fiction book):

  • Allegiant series, by Veronica Roth. (I am told that this YA trilogy was an offshoot of the popularity of The Hunger Games, but I really wouldn’t know, not having read The Hunger Games. Regardless, Roth has created a tedious series based on a  flawed and unexplained premise. If you’re going to create a believable world, you need to foster a willing suspension of disbelief, and in this case Barkis isn’t willing.)
  • The Mirror Has Two Faces. (This 1996 movie may have an all-star cast — even featuring a math teacher! — but nothing can save it from an insipid plot and boring assumptions, even though Roger Ebert called it “a moving and challenging movie.”)
  • The Town, by Mark Leibovich. (This non-fiction tell-all about Washington Politics came highly recommended, so I tried listening to the audiobook version. It was much too full of name-dropping and “inside baseball” gossip for my taste, so I didn’t bother finishing it.)

OK, moving on now to the four I liked:

  • Would you kill the fat man?, by David Edmonds. (Partly psychology but mostly philosophy, this exploration of variations on the classical moral dilemma of killing one person in order to save ten was fascinating and thorough. It managed to be remarkably light and readable for a philosophy book, while retaining a satisfactory amount of depth. Read it!)
  • Shady Characters, by Keith Houston. (OK, this one isn’t for everyone. Another non-fiction work, it’s all about unusual punctuation marks, such as the interrobang, the octothorpe, and the ampersand. Yes, the ampersand isn’t unusual, except that it used to be part of the alphabet. If you’re like me, you’ll revel in this light but detailed account of everything you wanted to know about punctual. If you’re not like me, you’ll find it tedious.)
  • The All-Girl Filling Station’s Last Reunion, by Fannie Flagg. (This is a novel about identity, adoption, and history. I had been worried that it would just turn out to be chick lit, but it mostly isn’t. Part of it is just a mainstream novel, part is historical fiction. It’s funny and engaging, and the historical components about Polish immigrants in the midwest and women flyers in World War II provide enough serious content.)
  • Critical Mass, by Sara Paretsky. (More serious and darker than the typical Sara Paretsky mystery, this one centers on a combination of physics, high-tech companies, and the lasting effects of the Holocaust. But it’s never grim or boring — just realistic. If your taste in mysteries runs to cozies, this won’t be your cup of tea; otherwise, read it.)

Categories: Books, Movies & (occasionally) TV