Posted by: chartroose | July 18, 2008

Overlooked Books #1

I’ve decided to write an occasional post about some notable novels that I’ve read in the past couple of years. This is partly due to the fact that I’m currently trying to read three books at once and not getting very far with any of them. Thus, I don’t have anything to review at the moment. I just don’t do well reading more than one thing at a time because my swiss cheesy brain gets all confoozled. Right now, when I pick up one of my three books, I suddenly find myself wondering how Walter Mitty suddenly became a terminally-ill meth-addicted Peeping Tom with severe spastic cerebral palsy. Also, I received an advance copy of another novel in the mail this morning and I want to have it finished before the end of the month, but I have to finish two of the books (Thurber can wait) before I feel comfortable cracking open another one. This is just too stressful!

So, I’m going to kick back and write about a couple of books I read last year or perhaps a few years before that have stuck in my brain due to their above average goodness. I’d say that I probably remember about 1 out of every 20 of the books I read. This seems terribly pathetic, but at least I know that the ones I remember must be pretty special!


Drop City – T. C. Boyle
By now, I thought I’d be tired of this guy, but I continue to be pleasantly surprised by his work. Drop City is about a hippy community that heads to Alaska because it is the “last great wilderness.” In this novel, as in some of his others, Boyle excels at exposing the dark underbelly of the utopian ideal. Someone nearly always becomes scarily dictatorial in Boyle’s novels. This power-tripper destroys others with his ego and megalomania. Drop City had one of the best climactic endings I’d read in a long time. I remember feeling disappointed that it didn’t win the National Book Award in 2003. It deserved it!
P.S. If you haven’t read The Road to Wellville by Boyle, please do! It was hilarious and also terribly icky! My kind of novel!


Natural Selection – Dave Freedman
This is this guy’s first novel, and it scared the crap out of me! I think this came out at around the same time that The Ruins (Scott Smith) was released. Natural Selection was by far the better horror novel. It’s about carnivorous manta rays that evolve for millenia on the bottom of the ocean floor and finally become able to breathe oxygen. They rise from the watery depths and begin to hunt and feast on land animals, including humans. These rays are extremely intelligent, extremely deadly and very frightening. The last battle was pretty extraordinary. I’m hoping that Mr. Freedman will come out with another scary novel soon.


Mr. Timothy – Louis Bayard
Tiny Tim grows up and solves a mystery. If you haven’t yet read anything by Mr. Bayard, you’re in for a treat. He’s a wonderful writer, and I especially enjoy his fictionalized real-life (or in this case, previously fictional) characters. Mr. Bayard’s historical settings are beautifully developed, and there’s lots of action and suspense to keep you guessing. I recently reviewed another Bayard novel entitled The Pale Blue Eye. You can read about it here.

That’s it for now. I’ll be posting synopses of more overlooked favorites sometime soon.



  1. I’ve had my eye on two out of three here for a while. Glad to hear good things about them!

    Have a great weekend!

  2. Chartroose, I have the completely opposite problem! I can’t not not read more than one book at one time. It’s a compulsion. Honestly, sometimes I wish I could. I think when I read one book at a time, it’s easier to allow myself to fall into the grip of a story. Yet, I’ve noticed that when I read only one book, I don’t read as much because I won’t be in the mood to read that particular book. I’ve learned that I simply must have a book for every mood to read or else I won’t get anything read!

    Is there something wrong with the link to your review of “The Pale Blue Eye?” I tried clicking on it and I got nothing. I’m really interested in what you have to say since I have it on my shelf at this very moment. =)

  3. Lezlie, I hope you have a great weekend too.

    J.S., my daughter reads the same way you do. I really don’t know how she keeps track of all the different stories at once. I think she’s like you–it has to be something she’s interested in at the time.

    I’ll try to fix the link.

  4. I have several of T.C. Boyle’s books (in fact I bought a collection of his short stories while on vacation), but I’ve never read a one. I’d better get to it!

  5. I just added The Road to Wellville by Boyle to my ‘Chartroose Challenge’. Or maybe I could all it the ‘Stalking Chartroose Challenge’. BTW, I’m going to write my review of When We Were Orphans but leave it as a draft until you’ve read it. I need an Ishiguro break so won’t pick up Remains of the Day for awhile.

    I can’t read more than one book at a time, either.

  6. Great idea for a post! I may copy you… BTW, I read Drop City last year; here‘s my review. Wait, dang, 2006 wasn’t last year. Did you say something about a swiss cheesy brain?

  7. “I just don’t do well reading more than one thing at a time because my swiss cheesy brain gets all confoozled.”

    Ahh, a perfect way to describe this condition o’mine! I’ll have to use this line sometime.

  8. L. H., I hope you like the Boyle novels. I think he’s one of those writers that you either love or hate.

    Care & Andi–I’m glad to know that I’m not the only airhead out there! I really don’t know how people can read so many things at one time without going nuts. They must be much smarter than I am.

    Julie–I’ll head over pretty soon to read your review of Drop City. There are still a few viable communes here in Colorado. Wierd, huh?

  9. I’ve only read Boyle’s short fiction and I’ve been meaning to get a copy of Drop City and read it. I’ve noted your other choice too, The Road to Wellville.

  10. Yes, Verbivore, read “The Road to Wellville.” It’s about Kellogg (the inventor of corn flakes) and how totally bizarre he was. I’m hoping you like it.

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