Tag: Fascinating

Bill Bryson – Made in America | Review

Title: Made in America

Author: Bill Bryson

Type: Non-Fiction

Page Count: 480

Rating: 3.25/5

As a general rule, I’m a pretty big fan of Bill Bryson, although I will admit that I’ve enjoyed some of his books more than others. This is one of the ones that I didn’t quite enjoy as much as the others, but mostly because it’s just a super dense read and because the print on it is so tiny that you feel like you’re straining your eyes just to read it.

The good news is that the core subject matter here is pretty interesting, especially if you’re the kind of person who’s quite bookish or who’s fascinated by the written word. That’s because it basically covers the history of American English, beginning at the beginning with the formation of America and carrying on through pretty much to the modern day.

That gives this book a pretty weird vibe wherein it feels kind of like a history book and kind of like a dictionary, which is why I made this book one of my bedtime books. You’d have to be kind of mad to pick this up as your main read because of how difficult it is to lose yourself in it. It’s not really one of those books that you can binge on, you know?

With all of that said, there’s some great stuff in here, and I particularly liked the origin stories for some early Americanisms. Because of the makeup of the United States and its early colonies, US English has a bunch of words borrowed from French and Spanish, as well as from the many Native American languages that are now sadly extinct.

The thing that I struggled with was the way that so much of the text just consisted of italicised words in lists and stuff. You’d get a couple of paragraphs of really fascinating history and then just as you’re gearing up and getting into it, he’d hit you with a long list of the different words that relate back to that bit of history and eventually I just found my eyes glazing over.

So I think it would have been a little more interesting if he’d selected fewer words to talk about and made it matter, rather than just throwing everything at the wall and seeing what sticks. That makes it a better choice for a reference book perhaps, especially with the comprehensive sources and index at the end, but it doesn’t work so well if you’re just trying to read it like a normal book.

So make of all of that what you will. I would probably recommend it to people who are interested in language and the origins of words, but not to the general reader. Even if you’re a bit of a Bryson fan, you might find it heavy going. Yeah.

Learn more about Made in America.

 


Stephen King – Danse Macabre | Review

Title: Danse Macabre

Author: Stephen King

Type: Non-Fiction

Page Count: 480

Rating: 4/5

I wasn’t expecting to like this book as much as I did, mainly because it’s non-fiction and obviously King has a reputation as the master of horror. Still, it’s a non-fiction book about horror with a little bit of memoir and autobiography thrown in, and that makes it a pretty fascinating book if you’re a fan of either horror or Stephen King.

At the same time, it’s definitely dated in a lot of places. For example, he mentions an exciting new punk band called The Ramones and makes a reference to a book he’s writing where a parent loses a child, and I’m pretty sure he was talking about Pet Sematary. Kind of weird really, because the Ramones later recorded a song of the same name.

He also talked about how Kubrick did a good job of the movie of The Shining, and that was weird to me because King famously doesn’t like it. Perhaps he changed his mind later on. He also talked about how there aren’t enough works about haunted cars, which he later changed with Christine (still need to read it) and From a Buick 8 (actually terrible).

The fact that it’s a non-fiction book means that by its very nature, it has something of a different tone to King’s other stuff, although you can definitely tell that he’s the one who wrote it. Perhaps it’s also that he was a little younger and therefore closer to the start of his career. Whatever the case, he comes across as almost irreverent at times, though not in a bad way.

He always treats the works that he covers with the greatest of respect even when he doesn’t necessarily enjoy the work in question. He acknowledges that something can be hugely influential and important to a specific genre of film and literature, even if he doesn’t like the work itself. It’s a bit like how you can enjoy rock music without being a fan of The Beatles.

I don’t think that this book necessarily has a widespread appeal, but if you’re either a Stephen King fan or a fan of classic horror – and let’s be honest, if you’re one then you’re probably the other – then this will be right up your street. If nothing else, you’ll find yourself walking away with a whole bunch of recommendations to check out. I know I have.

Of course, some of the stuff that he covers here is pretty niche, to the point at which you’d probably struggle to track some of it down. Other is much more well-known, from Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde to The Exorcist and even King’s own books. He also writes in a way that doesn’t ruin things that you haven’t yet experienced, which I was worried about. Good stuff!

Learn more about Danse Macabre.

 


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