Ordo, by Donald Westlake

Tags:  general-fiction
Ordo, a novella of just 73 pages, is the second work in Hard Case Crime’s Double Feature. Ordo Tupikos, a sailor in the US Navy in the early 1970s, is enjoying some down time with friends during a work break. One of them asks him why he never told them he had been married to movie star Dawn Devayne. Ordo thinks his friend, a practical joker, is kidding, so he brushes him off.

A Travesty, by Donald Westlake

Tags:  crime-fiction detective-fiction
A Travesty is the first of two short novels in Donald Westlake’s Double Feature. The story opens with New York film critic Carey Thorpe looking down at the body of the girlfriend he’s just accidentally killed in her own apartment. A series of thoughts run through his mind, most of them converging on self-preservation: how can he get out of this mess without being fingered as the killer? Well, no one saw him walk in.

Truly, Madly

Tags:  non-fiction biography
Stephen Galloway’s Truly, Madly describes the long and tragic arc of one of the twentieth century’s most extraordinary love affairs. Laurence Olivier and Vivien Leigh fell in love while each was already married to someone else. Each had a child, and neither was suited to parenthood or fidelity. Olivier’s first wife, Jill Esmond, seemed to recognize early on the intensity of the Olivier-Leigh bond, and what it meant for her marriage.

The Case of the Velvet Claws

Tags:  crime-fiction detective-fiction
Perry Mason makes his first appearance in The Case of the Velvet Claws. The book begins with a Mrs. Eva Griffin approaching Mason for a favor. She’d been out on a date the night before with a man who wasn’t her husband. The police showed up to investigate a robbery at the hotel where said date occurred, and they took statements from witnesses. Eva Griffin’s date was a powerful local politician, powerful enough to get the police to exclude his name from the witness list.

My Cross to Bear by Gregg Allman

Tags:  non-fiction memoir
Gregg Allman’s memoir, My Cross to Bear, covers a lot of ground, from the murder of his father to the musician’s coming to terms with his own fatherhood late in life. Gregg and his older brother, Duane, were born in Nashville and raised by a single mom who could barely keep the family afloat. The brothers were sent off to military school at a young age–Gregg was only eight–to avoid being sent to the orphanage.

Seven Theories of Religion

Tags:  religion non-fiction
Daniel L. Pals Seven Theories of Religion describes seven different attempts to describe what religion is, how it arose, and what it means to society. The book begins with a look at the two writers who first attempted to study religion through a scientific lens: E.B. Tylor and James Frazer. Both men described what they perceived as the evolution of religion across numerous societies around the world. They each described essentially the same progress, from primitive magic to animism (where everything in the world was inhabited by some spirit) to polytheism to monotheism.

The Holographic Universe by Michael Talbot

Tags:  non-fiction
The premis of The Holographic Universe is not that the universe is a literal holograph, but that a holograph may be the best metaphor for understanding the universe. Michael Talbot describes how holographs are made: using mirrors and lenses, you split a laser beam into two parts, the object beam and the reference beam. The object beam reflects off the object you want to record (a strawberry, or a bird, or whatever) onto holographic film, while the reference beam hits the same film at the same time from a different angle.

How to Win Friends and Influence People

Tags:  non-fiction
Everything in this book is common sense, but it’s the kind of common sense people need to be reminded of all the time. Want to get along with people? Consider things from their perspective and treat them well. Simple enough, right? In principal, yes. In practice, no, because there are too many things in our reactive emotional nature working against it. This is a persistent problem in human nature, with whole religions devoted to solving the problem of people not being able to treat each other well.

Suburban Dicks by Fabian Nicieza

Tags:  mystery detective-fiction
Fabian Nicieza’s Suburban Dicks opens with the murder of a gas station attendant in West Windsor, New Jersey. As a pair of inept young cops are trying to secure the crime scene, a minivan pulls into the station. The pregnant driver’s toddler has to pee, and she does… all over the evidence. The driver of the minivan, Andrea Stern, a once-promising criminal profiler whose career was cut short by motherhood, picks up more details in her brief survey of the scene than the cops can gather in weeks.

The Maltese Falcon

Tags:  mystery detective-fiction
Hammett’s books are dense with action and full of twists. Snooze for a second and you’ll have to go back and re-read the whole chapter. While many have commented about Hammett’s hardboiled style and seedy underworld characters, what really struck me in this one was how the author keeps the reader grasping throughout. You never know what’s going to happen next, nor do you know the significance of events as they’re happening.
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