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I borrowed this book from a friend the other day and absolutely fell in love with it.  It is a rough travel guide type of thing; the first half is devoted to general information on things like eating, sleeping, and getting around in Europe; the second half is filled with amazing places to see in Europe that are much sweeter than the standard tourist traps.

The friend who I borrowed it from just used it in Italy and said that it saved his life over there.  It is absolutely packed with useful information.  It was so interesting that I ended up reading the entire thing straight through like a novel….what that says about me I don’t know, except that it is an amazing book and if you’re planning on going to Europe or are even interested in it, you should buy, beg, borrow, or steal (not really the last one) Europe Through the Back Door.

There was information on planning your itinerary, places to see and avoid, times to go, how to act, where to eat, how to get around when you don’t speak the native language, how to get good, cheap hostel/hotel rooms, and so much advice that you can only get from someone who has been there a thousand times.

The best part is that the author, Rick Steves, actually has a sense of humor and can write well.  This is always a refreshing change after thousands of guidebooks that sound as though they were written by someone who didn’t know how to laugh.

It’s updated every year or every few years, too, so you can always have an updated edition.  It’s definitely more than just a guidebook.  I would recommend this book as a suplpement to any more location-specific guidebooks that you are buying for your trip.  No matter where you go in Europe, you will find useful information in here.  I give it five thumbs-up burritos for simple amazingness and usefulness.

Now I can’t wait to go try it out in Europe myself.  Oh, for the day…



The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy is simply my favorite five-book trilogy ever written.  If you watched the movie that goes by same name, don’t be put off reading this book.  It’s like comparing a housecat to a mountain lion. 

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy is collectively five books in a series, labeled a trilogy, and absolutely hysterical.  We have Monty Python humor going on, P.G. Wodehouse, Terry Pratchett, and then times that by ten and you have Douglas Adams. 

The books (which you can buy in one enormous volume) begin with a man named Arthur Dent, who is about to be rescued by his friend Ford Prefect, an alien from the star system of Betelguese, from the imminent destruction of Earth by bureacratic, nasty aliens called Vogons to make way for an intergalactic bypass.  This is in the movie.  The movie doesn’t go much further than this.  The books, however, use all this as basically only one part of the very first book. The rest is all about Arthur Dent and his amigos Ford Prefect, Trillium, and the President of the Galaxy himself, Zaphod Breeblebrox.  Unlike in the movie, Arthur and Trillium don’t have a little love story going on, (although Arthur wouldn’t mind).  The differences abound.  The books are so complex and bizarre that you really have to read them twice to get it.  Even then, I’m not really sure if there’s something there to “get” or if it’s just a bunch of bloody good random ideas sewn together into something that I really didn’t want to end. 

I don’t want to ruin the plot for anyone, –although there really isn’t much of a plot that could be ruined– but the ending is not very happy.  But don’t let that put you off reading it.  I loved it.  It remains one of my favorite books of all time and I’m definitely going to read it again this week while getting used to this polyphasic sleep thing–which, by the way, starts tomorrow!  I’m so excited.  I hope it works with my mother of a track schedule. 

Just bored…and I thought other people probably are too, or they wouldn’t be reading this. The best way to cure boredom when you’re broke and have no life is to read a book. And with the way the economy is, I’m sure there are many other people broke and without a life. And then I thought, of course, that I should tell everyone about my favorite books. I would be reading right now, but I’ve read all my books. And the library is a long way away when gas is $3.32 a gallon.

If you want to read a book but can’t really find one or can’t make up your mind, I have a few suggestions for you.

If you’re looking for funny books:

Try Terry Pratchett’s series of Discworld books. The humor is along the lines of Monty Python, and if you’re into that sort of thing, they’re hilarious and also a quick, absorbing read. Very nice for airplane rides, doctor’s waiting rooms, etc. Not so great for people who don’t get British humour. You’ll think they’re dumb. My personal favorite is Going Postal. The best thing is, they’re cheap. You can go to Barnes and and pick a few up for six or seven dollars each. I highly recommend them.

If you like King Arthur fables, read Mary Stewart’s The Crystal Cave. There have been thousands and thousands of remakes of the Arthur story, but this one is quite ingenious. It tells the story of Merlin (Merlinnus in the book.) Stewart’s writing style is reminiscent of J.R.R. Tolkien in the Lord of the Rings books, i.e., “epic.” But extremely fascinating. In my opinion, her best book . The others in the King Arthur trilogy are alright, but this one is really, really, good.

I loved Mark Twain’s A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court. It’s Mark Twain. What more can be said? Everyone should read this book. Twain writes about a man who somehow gets transported into the past–into King Arthur’s time–and supplants Merlin as the greatest wizard with his knowledge of technology. Disaster ensues. It’s funny, thoughtful, and a little sad, like most of Twain’s work. Five stars.

For literature, read Amy Tan’s Saving Fish from Drowning. It’s a beautifully-written, poetic book, like all of Amy Tan’s work. A woman’s ghost follows her friends on a trip to Burma–she died, otherwise she would have accompanied them. She observes as calamitous things happen to them. I read this book a long time ago and need to read it again. I can’t remember what exactly happens to them. This is another one of my favorite books. For a serious read, or if you like travel, this is a good book for you.

I don’t know what category John D. McDonald’s books should go into. They’re kind of a philosophical mystery thriller adventure depressing book. His Travis McGee series is based in Florida. The hero(ish) of the books, Travis McGee, lives in a houseboat, scorns civilization, and is a kind of “rescuer” of lost money. People who have been cheated out of or who have had their money stolen come to him–he will get it back, but he takes fifty percent of the profit. In every book he gets a girl–he gets a “commission”–then there are unforeseen problems–the girl gets killed–he gets beat all to hell and still wins–he goes on a depressing philosophical rant–and it ends up with him with a new scar or two and a girl shorter, but ready to tackle the next job. McDonald’s work can most closely be compared to Carl Hiaasen’s books. Like Hiaasen, he expostulates on the industrialization and commercialization of Florida. Don’t get me wrong about the sameness of the storyline. Every book is different, and fascinating, and he is a really philosophical and thoughtful. But a lot of people die in almost every book and they are intensely depressing. Expect to be in a bit of a fug after reading one of these.

Hmmm, what else can I write about…

Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. You have to read this book. In search of the American Dream… in search of pie, and Red Sharks, and giant lizards, and Las Vegas, and the Vincent Black Shadow… Hunter S. Thompson wrote this as so called “gonzo journalism” after his own drug-addled trip to Las Vegas. It’s a different look at the American system and the American Dream. I don’t know how to explain it. Just read it. You’ll never think the same way about Las Vegas again.

Well, that should get you all started and I’ll be back later with some movie reviews or whatever, maybe more book reviews, or song reviews, or something review. This was kind of fun. I’ll be back anyways. Until then,



August 2020


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