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.

dead wake coverI’ve read several of Larson’s books, and enjoyed them all. In fact, The Devil in the White City is one of my all-time favorites. Holy crap, that book’s great!

Larson writes non-fiction historical books almost in the style of novels. Meaning, they’re fun to read and will transport you to another place and time. They’re often as suspenseful and engrossing as any thriller.

Dead Wake is his latest, and is about the sinking of the Lusitania — a British passenger ship — by those delightful Germans. Almost 1200 innocent people died, and the incident led to the United States getting involved in World War I.

Today the book is priced at $3.99 in the Kindle Store. I haven’t gotten to this title yet, but have no doubt it’s a great read. I recommend it without hesitation.

Beer In Hell coverBack during simpler times, before Tucker Max went from small-time blogger to millionaire media king and I remained a small-time blogger, the two of us had a significant crossover readership.

I Hope They Serve Beer In Hell is Max’s first book: a collection of stories originally published at his blog. Which means they’re probably about getting drunk and hooking up with women. I haven’t read it, but it was a massive best seller and changed the author’s life forever.

I don’t know. It’s supposedly funny, and might very well be something I’d enjoy. But the whole hooking up with women and bragging about it part makes me a little hesitant. The Kindle version is temporarily reduced to $3.99 though, so I thought I’d mention it here. If you’ve been meaning to read this one, now’s the time. Let me know your thoughts!

zevon coverThis oral history of Warren Zevon’s “turbulent” life was released shortly after the singer/songwriter died of lung cancer at the way-too-young age of 56.

From the Publisher’s Weekly review:

For those who know them, the brilliant, dark songs of Warren Zevon (1947-2003) inspire nothing short of adoration; for those who don’t, this stunning biography of the irrepressible rock ‘n’ roll singer/songwriter should send them sprinting to the nearest record store. By taking an unexpurgated, oral-history approach to Warren’s life, his former wife and lifelong friend Crystal has crafted a sharp, funny, jaw-dropping rock biography that’s among the best of the sub-genre. Provocative and unflinching, her account distills Warren’s journal entries and the author’s exhaustive interviews with 87 family members, business associates, band mates, fellow musicians and former lovers into a chronology ranging from Warren’s ancestry to his death.

This is a good one, my friends, and right now it’s priced at $1.99 in the Kindle Store. I love Warren, but even if you know nothing about the man… I’m confident you’ll enjoy his wild real-life story.

Beth Cooper coverI bought the hardcover version of this book when it was a new release. Somebody I trusted suggested it, assuring me it’s my kind of thing. It’s currently upstairs on one of our shelves unread, dusty, and yellowing.

There’s no real reason for this, other than I buy ’em much faster than a read ’em. It’s still something I want to get to, eventually.

And now that I’ve bought a second copy for my Kindle, there’s a better chance of that actually happening. As I type this the novel is priced at $1.99, but who knows how long that will last? Amazon acts in mysterious ways. The Suggestaholic suggests you snag it without delay.

From the book’s description:

Denis Cooverman wanted to say something really important in his high school graduation speech. So, in front of his 512 classmates and their 3,000 relatives, he announced: “I love you, Beth Cooper.”  It would have been such a sweet, romantic moment. Except that Beth, the head cheerleader, has only the vaguest idea who Denis is. And Denis, the captain of the debate team, is so far out of her league he is barely even the same species. And then there’s Kevin, Beth’s remarkably large boyfriend, who’s in town on furlough from the United States Army. Complications ensue.