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What to Read -- Archives : April, 2010

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    A death row lawyer offers unsettling view of executions

    Autobiography of an Execution

    David R. Dow
    is an attorney living in Texas and he has a job that most Texans don’t respect: defending death row inmates.

    Texas is the kind of state that kills its criminals with regularity and doesn’t think twice. Unlike other states, such as California or Illinois, that have wrestled with the legality and methods associated with the death penalty, the majority of Texans seem to consider putting someone to death no big deal.

    Dow is not one of them. As a professor at the University of Houston Law Center and the litigation director of the Texas Defender Service, a nonprofit legal aid corporation that represents death-row inmates, Dow has served as the attorney for 100 men on death row.

    For dozens of years, Dow has fought to stop his clients from being put to deat...

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    Posted by Ms. Frances L. Dinkelspiel on Apr 24 2010 8:39AM | 1 comments

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    "Wake" first book of Robert J. Sawyer's WWW trilogy

    David's mention of Blindsight reminds me to tell you how much I enjoyed the first book of Robert J. Sawyer's WWW trilogy.   Wakenow available in text and audiobook forms, follows the parallel stories of a blind teenage girl and of the Internet. It was serialized in Analog magazine starting in the issue of November 2008, (where it accompanied an epilogue to Paul Levinson's novel The Plot to Save Socrates which I've previously mentioned).

     Caitlin Decter (whom I have 

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    Posted by Mr. Gerry Jay Elman on Apr 18 2010 3:02AM | 1 comments

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    Sentimentality: The High Cost of Cheap Thrills, posted by Wallis Leslie

    Anyone remember The Bridges of Madison County by Robert James Waller? At the time, I vowed never to abuse my own measly talents or the spirits and intelligence of readers by offering up such marketable falsity. What a crock that children would be thrilled to learn that their mother had a steamy Clint Eastwoodian fling in intervals between hanging out the laundry and rolling the pie dough. 

    Or perhaps readers have seen the 1940 Hollywood version of the perennially produced Our Town by Thornton Wilder? Not to be a spoiler (but the play was already spoiled by this filmed version), in the movie Emily doesn't "really" die but wakes from a "bad dream" that she had died. 

    Now I'd probably sell out, but I still question whether a book's apparent "happiness" is sentimental or genuine. As David Guterson’s Snow Falling on Cedars came to an end, I found myself wishing intensely for goodness to prevail. I kept tell...

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    Posted by Ms. Wallis Leslie on Apr 17 2010 1:41PM | 1 comments

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    what does it mean to be intelligent?

    That's the central question in Blindsight, an unabashedly literary and unflinchingly dark novel of philosophy and first contact, by Peter Watts. You can read it for free, online here, perfect for downloading to your Kindle or iPad.

    It's hard to know where to start to talk about a book this complicated. A basic plot synopsis -- a group of 5 very different people are sent out to investigate an alien that appeared in the far reaches of our solar system, only to discover that the alien is extremely alien, and communication might not even be possible -- really doesn't tell you what reading this book is like.

    The narrator (Siri Keaton) has had major portions of his brain removed to cure epilepsy, and as a result doesn't experience empathy. His solution: figure out how everything works just by obs...

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    Posted by Mr. David Orr on Apr 15 2010 10:28PM | 2 comments

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    hello world (plus Blackout, by Connie Willis)

    I'm the newest contributor to this space; I suppose I was invited to bring a slightly different perspective to the blog. At least, I hope so, since I have read only one of the books discussed here by others, and that was  Oedipus Rexmentioned by Wallis, which I read for school nearly two decades ago.

    What I mostly read is science fiction (and certain kinds of nonfiction, about which more in a future post). What I plan to write about it good science fiction. Most genre fiction (maybe most fiction of any kind?) is pretty much garbage. Combine that with lurid covers and fairly lax publication standards, and the general low opinion of science fiction is pretty well justified.

    But a great science fiction novel tells a story that can't be told in any other...

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    Posted by Mr. David Orr on Apr 5 2010 9:36PM | 1 comments