Category Archives: Books

Carl Hiaasen

I was reminded two days ago of Carl Hiaasen, when I was going trough a pile of books someone was getting rid of, and came across one of his. I always grab whatever Hiaasen books come along free, because I know that at some point, this will happen:

“Huh. That reminds me of something in a Carl Hiaasen book. Have you read any of those?”

“Uh. No. Never heard of him.”

“Well, you should. He writes pretty fun novels, like the one where the Native American guy and the ex-reporter hired a helicopter to drop Guccis and Macy’s gift bags full of poisonous snakes onto the deck of a luxury cruise linger off the Florida coast.”

“Huh.”

“Oh, and there’s one about bass fishing. Double Whammy. It’s the name of a lure. Get it?”

“Uh.”

“Oh never mind, it can’t really be explained, you can’t really describe these books so anyone. Just read it.”

And by this time I’ve dug out one of those Hiaasen novels I’ve been saving to give away, and I shove it into the person’s hands. “Just read this.”

And they do, then they read all the other ones too.

Carl Hiaasen’s first novel that got widely read is Tourist Season. It has been some time since I read it, but roughly, it is about a group of renegades who are living in the everglades (as in IN the everglades) and intent on stopping tourism in Florida, in order to see development roll back. They use interesting techniques.

The rest of Hiaasen’s novels, at least for several in a row, follow a similar approach. The main character is an ex-something. Ex journalist, ex cop, whatever. This individual finds himself embroiled in some sort of scheme or plot, typically involving grungy good guys pitted against truly evil villainous villains. Somewhere in there is a female love interest of the ex-dude.

While most of the characters change from story to story, two stay the same. One is the former governor of Florida, and the other his the Governor’s former body guard named Jim.

So the next two are in line are Double Whammy (the bass fishing one) and Native Tongue which is, obviously, about the blue nose vole.

Hiaasen also wrote several books for kids, with the same style but OK for eight to 12 year olds or so. Both my kids like them. See: Hiaasen 4-Book Trade Paperback Box Set (Chomp, Flush, Hoot, Scat).

The actual order of Carl Hiaasen non kid, fiction, books is as follows:

Not including the Governor of Florida:

Powder Burn, 1981
Trap Line, 1982
A Death in China, 1984

Including the governor of Florida, mostly, though I’ve not read the last three:

Tourist Season, 1986
Double Whammy, 1987
Skin Tight, 1989
Native Tongue, 1991
Strip Tease, 1993
Stormy Weather, 1995
Lucky You, 1997
Sick Puppy, 2000
Basket Case, 2002
Skinny Dip, 2004
Nature Girl, 2006
Star Island, 2010
Bad Monkey, 2013
Skink-No Surrender (2014)
Razor Girl (2016)

Hiaasen is a journalist and commentator long with the Miami Herald. He’s written several non fiction books that include his columns.

Today, of course, I’m reminded of Carl Hiaasen again, for a sad reason: His brother, Rob, was one of those killed in today’s tragic shooting in Maryland.

This Book Is A Little Too Perfect For Summer Reading!!!!

When climate scientist Michael Mann and cartoonist Tom Toles wrote The Madhouse Effect: How Climate Change Denial Is Threatening Our Planet, Destroying Our Politics, and Driving Us Crazy, they had no idea how bad it was going to get. Perhaps they needed to be more alarmist.

Anyway, this overview of climate change politics and denialism, in both text and cartoon form, is out in a new edition that has an updated “in the times of Trump” chapter, and in paperback form.

Pick up your copy of The Madhouse Effect, excellent summer beach reading, today!

The award-winning climate scientist Michael E. Mann and the Pulitzer Prize–winning political cartoonist Tom Toles have been on the front lines of the fight against climate denialism for most of their careers. They have witnessed the manipulation of the media by business and political interests and the unconscionable play to partisanship on issues that affect the well-being of billions. The lessons they have learned have been invaluable, inspiring this brilliant, colorful escape hatch from the madhouse of the climate wars.

The Madhouse Effect portrays the intellectual pretzels into which denialists must twist logic to explain away the clear evidence that human activity has changed Earth’s climate. Toles’s cartoons collapse counter-scientific strategies into their biased components, helping readers see how to best strike at these fallacies. Mann’s expert skills at science communication aim to restore sanity to a debate that continues to rage against widely acknowledged scientific consensus. The synergy of these two climate science crusaders enlivens the gloom and doom of so many climate-themed books?and may even convert die-hard doubters to the side of sound science.

Facts and Fears: The Russians Did Elect Trump

General James Patton is famous for this advice. Carefully account for and consider all the facts, and all your fears. Armed with this information, make a plan. Then, put aide your fears and attack! James R. Clapper, who is the offspring of an intelligence operative and who has spent his entire life engaged in intelligence, under each and every one of the United States Presidents from Lancer through Renegade, just wrote a book. In it, he gives us something to be afraid of, when he presents a startling and important conclusion. Continue reading Facts and Fears: The Russians Did Elect Trump

Tom Wolfe

American Studies expert and author, Tom Wolfe, has died at an appropriate ripe old age. If you have not read The Bonfire of the Vanities, which is one of his fiction books that is essentially, pure non-fiction, then you must. Never mind that a mediocre movie was made out of it. Bonfire is one of the key books of modern history, documenting in a fictional story about fear and loathing among the ultra-privileged, about racism and class, about Masters of the Universe and social bouquets. It is the quintessential novel of the 1980s, and since the 1980s is the most important decade ever, you must read it. I personally missed the 1980s, I was either underground, literally, under a huge pile of graduate work, literally, or in a remote jungle, literally. But when I got back from all of that I read the book and learned what had happened.

Wolfe also wrote The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test, and The Right Stuff.

His book The Kingdom of Speech critiques both Darwin and Chomsky, for reasons that seem pretty legit to me, though I hasten to add I’ve not read it, only summaries of it (and maybe an article somewhere by Wolfe).

Life on Earth: Dinosaurs; A Kids science book

I usually think of flip-lift books as being appropriate for little kids who can’t read yet. I remember my daughter being obsessed, for two years or more, with an Arthur flip book. She needed to look under every single flap, in order (many were in fact numbered or had letters on them, to teach counting and the alphabet, so there was indeed an order). There were pictures, not words, under the flaps. Continue reading Life on Earth: Dinosaurs; A Kids science book

How to keep your kids out of trouble in this modern age

Do you worry that your kid is going to be rejected from civilization, or, at least, college or the boy scouts or something, because of dumb stuff they do on line? Do you see evidence that your children are copying the jerky characters that grace our TV screens and movies, and are becoming too annoying, compared to how we all were when we grew up? Do you want to just tell the up coming generation to GET OFF THE LAWN!!!!

Here is a way to do that. Continue reading How to keep your kids out of trouble in this modern age

Strange Survivors: Book Note

Strange Survivors: How Organisms Attack and Defend in the Game of Life by Oné R. Pagán is an excellent book with the evolutionary arms race, competition, and nature red in tooth and claw (and many other parts) as its theme. Well written and humorous, and scientifically accurate.

Mike Haubrich and I interviewed the author, and the Ikonokast Podcast of that interview IS HERE.

From the Publisher: Continue reading Strange Survivors: Book Note

Garden Insects of North America: Ultimate Guide to Backyard Bugs, New Edition

BOOK NOTE: I interrupt this book review to note that Genius: The Life and Science of Richard Feynman is currently available, again, as a Kindle book, for two bucks. And now returning to our regularly scheduled review.

Garden Insects of North America: The Ultimate Guide to Backyard Bugs is not a pocket field guide. How could it be? There are over a million species of insects and probably a lot more (huge numbers certainly remain to be discovered) and of them, some 100,000 exist in North America. I’m actually not sure how many are represented in this book, but several thousand distributed among some 3,000 illustrations, mostly color photographs. Continue reading Garden Insects of North America: Ultimate Guide to Backyard Bugs, New Edition

Give The Gift of Nostalgia and Angst

For a holiday gift this year, consider giving a book about politics, since politics this year is so very special.

There are two kinds of books out this year of special interest. There is a plethora of books that expose the evil underpinnings of the white supremacist meritocratic oligarchic patriarchy. And, there is a growing collection of books about the last time America was going under for the third time, and the people of those times. Here is a selection for you to ponder. Continue reading Give The Gift of Nostalgia and Angst