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The Oligarchs: Wealth and Power in the New Russia
David E. Hoffman
The Master and Margarita
Mikhail Bulgakov, Diana Burgin, Katherine Tiernan O'Connor
Nonviolent Communication: A Language of Life
Arun Gandhi, Marshall B. Rosenberg
Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy
Eric Metaxas, Timothy Keller
Parting the Waters: Martin Luther King and the Civil Rights Movement 1954-63
Taylor Branch
The Path to Power
Robert A. Caro
The Nature of Nebraska: Ecology and Biodiversity
Paul A. Johnsgard
Thelonious Monk: The Life and Times of an American Original
Robin D.G. Kelley
Cutting for Stone
Abraham Verghese
A Long Way Down - Nick Hornby

I've said it before, and I'll say it again: You can judge a book by its cover. Personally, this isn't a book I would have been interested in, from the cover. (My wife knew how much I had liked High Fidelity, and she saw this at the library so she grabbed it for me.) Look at this cover: There's no focus, there's no idea. There's nothing to draw you to it, other than the author's name. That's pretty much how the text of the book is as well. It suffers from a severe lack of focus, the characters are completely undeveloped and uninteresting. The only thing that makes it at all worth your time is Hornby's prose. He's funny, and he does a great job of making things funny that you wouldn't expect to be. But that's really not enough to redeem the rest of the book, especially since he's not funny very often in this one.

The book is about four people (whose shoes you see on the cover there) who all go to the top of the same building on the same New Year's Eve with the intention of jumping. The awkwardness of the situation keeps any of them from doing it, and they spend the rest of the book interacting over a period of the next 90 days. It's told in a kind of round-robin first-person style, with characters taking turns telling the story (fortunately he does largely save us the torture of having them retell the same events from different points of view). Publishers' Weekly describes the book thus: "a bold setup, perilously high-concept, but Hornby pulls it off with understated ease." They're right about the first part, wrong about the last. Throughout the entire book, it feels like nothing but high-concept drivel. As I said, Hornby gets in a few good jokes, and I suppose it's impressive that he's able to turn comfortable jokes from such a macabre source, but the jokes are too few and the rest of the novel too boring.

Honestly, I was beginning to fear that I wouldn't finish another book this year. Were it not for that fear, I definitely would not have finished it at all.