MaronI discovered Marc Maron about five years ago, when I was trolling for new podcasts to add  to my “work iPod.” Back then I listened for about 10 hours per day, five days per week, and was ripping through an enormous amount of material.

One of the first Maron podcasts I heard was his infamous encounter with Gallagher, which was episode 145. As I type this, he’s up to 673 episodes, and I’ve listened to them all. Except for one, which I turned off in disgust: his interview with the pretentious-cock lead singer of Radiohead. Oh my god! That man is insufferable.

In any case, I’ve become a Maron fan. He’s a longtime stand-up comic, and interviews “creatives” (comics, actors, writers, musicians) on his bi-weekly podcast. He also has a very funny situation comedy on IFC, that’s successfully worked its way into my bloodstream. I was just watching it last night, laughing my ass off.

And this morning I noticed his memoir is temporarily reduced to $1.99 for Kindle. I own it, of course, but haven’t gotten around to reading it yet. I do not hesitate, however, recommending it. Snag the thing, before the price goes back to twelve bucks, or whatever. The man has had his share of adventures.

PythonI’m not a huge fan of “oral histories.” I’ve certainly read some good ones, like the MTV book, but I generally prefer a more traditional approach.

However… this is about Monty Python, and the surviving members cooperate. So, it earned a place on my Amazon Wishlist. It feels like I know a lot about this stuff, and yet there’s much, much more I don’t know. Ya know?

A cousin introduced me to Monty Python, way back in 7th grade. It was impossibly silly and absurd, and sometimes there was nudity! I became fully-invested, as did many other people I knew. We’d never seen anything like it. At the time, comedy on American TV meant Alice or Maude. Monty Python felt like it was being beamed in from a distant, far-cooler planet.

This morning, while scrolling through the ol’ Wishlist, I noticed that Monty Python Speaks! is temporarily 99 cents for Kindle. Oh, hell yes. My cursor was a blur to the Buy Now button. And my massive reading backlog continues to grow. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

In Times Like TheseI finished reading this one a few weeks ago, and had a great time with it. As the title suggests, it’s, you know, an adventure story involving, well, time travel.

It begins with a group of friends waiting out a thunderstorm in a dugout, hoping to get their planned softball game in once the rain and wind moves on and becomes somebody’s else’s  problem. But it’s not to be. A power line is knocked loose by the storm and drapes the dugout, blasting our new pals ass-over-tits. When they regain consciousness, something feels a bit off, and it doesn’t take them long to learn the reason. They’ve woken up in freaking 1985!

The novel is a lengthy, fun ride. The characters are likable and real, and there’s no shortage of twists and turns in the plot. Will they figure out a way to return home to 2009? Will they even want to? Along the way they meet plenty of memorable characters,  and encounter any number of compelling situations. It’s highly entertaining. And today it’s free for Kindle. If it sounds like your kind of thing, you won’t be disappointed.

DC TripI knew nothing about this book or its author, but it was recommended to me by a creepy Amazon algorithm that seems to know what I’m thinking, my moods, and all about that terrible thing in August of 1979 with the beanbag chair, etc.

I liked the cover, and the $1.99 price was right in my wheelhouse. But it was this customer review that sealed the deal for me:

This book was seriously hilarious. I hope they make it into a movie and somehow make the movie as good as the book. D.C. Trip is full of horrible teenage girls, underage drinking, accidental drug use, public bathroom BJs, many f-words, and all kinds of inappropriate behavior, which is part of what makes it so good. It made me wish I was a teenager again so I could get in the kind of trouble that makes a great story to tell the grandkids but doesn’t do any lasting damage.

Sounded like my kind of thing! And at two bucks… sign me up. I just started reading it last night, and was alone in my silent living room laughing my ass off. Like a mental patient. I’m only about 15% into it, but can already recommend this one. It’s well-written, hilarious, and kinda filthy. Perfect!

Dead MountainIn February of 1959, in the old Soviet Union, nine college students departed for a challenging hiking excursion and never returned. What rescue workers found has been the subject of more than 50 years of speculation and debate. It’s one of Russia’s greatest unsolved mysteries.

The hikers’ bodies were located in random spots away from their camp, as if they’d scattered in a panic. Some were not wearing shoes, there were various causes of death, and one was missing a tongue. Also, there was evidence that their tent had been slashed with blades from the inside-out.

What circumstances could lead to such a scene? All nine students were elite hikers, with years of experience. Of course, there have been no shortage of theories. The most interesting involve a secret military exercise gone awry, and/or visitors from outer space.

There are several books about this incident, but Dead Mountain appears to be one of the few serious ones. The author traveled to Russia several times, where he examined original documents from the investigation, interviewed relatives of the deceased, and even spoke with a hiker who started out with the group but had to turn back because of illness. He also ventured into the mountains and visited the spot where the hikers set up camp.

I read this book a few months ago, and loved it. You get to know the students and their personalities. You travel with them by train at the beginning of their doomed excursion. Then you take part in the rescue mission. It’s the kind of thing that’ll stick with you. I recommend it highly, at any price. But today it’s $1.99 for Kindle. You simply can’t go wrong.

Please note: At the end of the book the author presents his own theory of what happened. I don’t know if I buy it, but it’s interesting. It also doesn’t detract from the overall story. This is a good one, my friends.

cuckoosThis is the latest addition to my Kindle. It’s a crime novel released a couple of years ago, by an unknown author. At first few people were paying attention, but the book quickly began generating a buzz. Here’s a perceptive reader review, posted shortly after the novel appeared:

This book is so well written that I suspect that some years down the road we will hear the author’s name is a pseudonym of some famous writer. Lots of description made one feel like another occupant in the scene. You could feel the weather, the tension, the pain, the atmosphere in the gatherings.

Nicely done, reader! As it turns out, “Robert Galbraith” is actually J.K. Rowling, author of the Harry Potter novels. At this point she’s released two additional books featuring London private investigator Cormoran Strike under the Galbraith name, and they’re reportedly gritty and grimy and built for an adult audience.

I’ve been intrigued from the start, but don’t like paying full-price for my books. I mean, what am I, Ted Turner? Finally, my patience paid off (once again) and I downloaded The Cuckoo’s Calling for just $2.99. As I type this, it’s still at that low price in the Kindle Store. Check it out, if you’re so inclined. I’m looking forward to it!

boyslifeI read this book many years ago, probably when it first came out in paperback, around 1992. But I just downloaded it to my Kindle, and plan to read it again soon.

When it comes to books and movies, and that sort of thing, I don’t have a very good memory. I’m amazed when people can talk about specific scenes in films they’ve only seen once, a long time ago. With me the forgetting begins almost immediately. While the credits are rolling… the degradation is already underway.

What I do recall, however, is my emotional reaction to books and movies. Not so much the specifics, but how I felt about them, in general. And I remember being blown away by Boy’s Life, thinking it was surely one of the best books I’d ever read.

My vague recollections: it’s very Southern, it’s a well-crafted coming-of-age novel, and there’s a mystery element. And… it’s really, really good. I remember thinking it was almost To Kill A Mockingird-good. But I’m going to read it again, to confirm all this.

Today Boy’s Life is $1.99 in the Kindle store. My central nervous system is telling me it’s a good one. And I’ve learned to trust the system.

shit-my-dad-says_coverBack when I was writing my “shitty jobs” memoir, chasing a mainstream publishing contract and making myself even crazier than usual, my agent suggested I read a few similar books to see how others have approached the process. Loving the idea of taking a break from the endless rewrite chore, I took her up on it.

However, one of her suggestions was Shit My Dad Says. Seriously? I had an attitude about that book, and the author in general. I had to begrudgingly admit he was a funny writer, but his whole shtick bugged me. Ya know? He became world famous after opening a Twitter account and posting the supposed random “shit” his dad said around the house.

I believed it was all fake. I mean, it was pretty interesting how his dad apparently walked around mumbling his hilarity in less-than-140 character bursts. How convenient. A lot of it was funny, sure. But, it felt like a gimmick to me. The fact that I was struggling, and this dude was flying high had nothing to do with my attitude. I’m certain of it. Nothing at all.

But, I read the book, and loved it. It’s genuinely funny, and warm. There’s a lot of heart in this thing, and plenty of laughs. It’s the story of Halpern moving back in with his aging father, after years of being on his own. It’s really good, and his dad seems like a wonderful man. I was wrong, OK? Sheesh. I’m only flesh and blood here… Today the book is priced at $1.99 for Kindle, as is its follow-up, I Suck At Girls. Both are recommended.

Jurassic ParkI’ve never read this book. I saw the movie at some point, but don’t remember much about it. There’s a good chance I was drunk, but that’s neither here nor there. Didn’t Newman get eviscerated during the first reel? It’s all very unclear to me.

I’ve also never read a Michael Crichton novel. He was super-popular, which was a strike against him in my eyes, back during snobbier times. Plus, his shit was science-heavy, wasn’t it? Funk dat.

But, I’ve heard and read so many people say that Jurassic Park the book is an absolute blast to read, I added it to my Kindle Wishlist somewhere along the line. It feels like two years ago. And today my patience paid off, once  again. I snagged that baby for $1.99.

I don’t know what’s going on with it. It might be a one-day price reduction, so grab it now if you’re so inclined. I’m going to wait for a gray winter day, and get into this thing. Should be fun.

choirboysI read this book at least twice when I was in Junior High School. At the time I thought (knew!) it was the most subversive and audacious thing ever written. I simply couldn’t believe it existed.

It’s a novel about a bunch of disgruntled and frustrated cops in current-day (1970s) Los Angeles who get together after hours for hard-drinking bitching sessions, which they have dubbed “choir practice.”

I loved it when I was 14 because the characters were hilarious in a way I’d never experienced before. Nobody I’d known talked that way, Well, kids did… kinda-sorta. But this was taken to a whole new level. The cops’ opinions were outrageous, and expressed in ways that had me crying with laughter. And their creative use of profanity was nothing short of art.

And the cool thing about it? It was a bestselling novel, available for purchase right there at the Kroger checkout. So, I could carry around what must be the wildest, most amazing thing ever created, and nobody would even question it. It felt like I was pulling the world’s biggest scam. I’m not kidding, this book — along with MAD magazine and National Lampoon — helped warp me forever.

I haven’t read it in 35 years, but I downloaded it to my Kindle today, since it’s priced at $1.99. It’ll be interesting to see what I think of it now. My memory tells me it’s something that would NEVER be published in 2015; there’s something to offend every special interest group known to man inside this book. At least I hope I’m not disappointed, and find out I have it wrong.