Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Reader Wednesday: Over There

Today I heard for the first time from my nephew, who is in the reserves and is presently stationed in Iraq. He reports that during the day where he works it can be as hot as 120 degrees, and he works twelve hour shifts, six days on, one day off. He also misses his girlfriend. I've been writing to him since he left the States in hopes that my letters would catch up to him. We're all counting the days until he comes home.

My nephew is a doll. He's tall, blond, built, and extremely charming. He has his mother's wicked green eyes, which routinely cause palpitations in the hearts of many young co-eds. When he's not serving in the reserves or going to school, he works as a waiter, and makes a small fortune in tips. He loves all things Superman, and has watched every episode of Smallville at least a dozen times. His brother is taping the show for him while he's over there so he won't miss any of the season.

Like so many American families, we would very much like to have him come home in one piece. So we pray a lot, too.

Every month I pack up a box of books to send to troops. In the grand scheme of things it's not much, but it gives me a chance to express my appreciation to the men and women who serve our country, and hopefully give them a couple hours of entertainment. This month, the box will be for my nephew and the soldiers who serve with him.

I want to get this box out of here, so I'm going to hit the bookstores this weekend to finish filling it up. I would love to get some suggestions from you readers out there on some titles you think would appeal to my nephew. Think superheroes, humor, restaurant- or food-related fiction or nonfiction, or anything that might entertain a smart guy in his early twenties. Share your recommendations in comments to this post by midnight EST on Friday, June 1, 2007. I will draw one name at random from everyone who participates and grant the winner a Bookwish.* This giveaway is open to everyone on the planet, even if you've won something here at PBW in the past.

*A Bookwish is any book by any author of your choice, provided that 1) the book is currently available for order from an online bookseller and 2) the book is priced up to a maximum of $25.00 US dollars. I will throw in whatever shipping costs are involved for free.


  1. The Zombie Survival Guide: Complete Protection from the Living Dead (Paperback)

    by Max Brooks

    It uses current military weapons and tactics in a how-to book on killing zombies.

  2. Anonymous11:31 AM

    The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams.

  3. Anonymous11:37 AM

    Hi, Cathy G here. I would suggest any book by James Rollins, Neil Gaiman for suspense and Sci Fi, Nancy Martin's Blackbird sisters books are great for mystery (more for women), Alex Kava's books are good.......

  4. Anything by Charlie Huston. Caught Stealing is the first in one series and a treatise on Murphy's Law. (You thought your day couldn't get any worse, Hank? Pffftt.) Then there are the Joe Pitt books (Already Dead, No Dominion), which are modern detective noir, the detective being a wiseass vampire with poor interpersonal skills.

    If he's a man who can check his adulthood at the door (superheroes, what am I saying?), try The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan for some adolescent adventure and Greek mythology with funny modern updates.

  5. Hmm, maybe Dies the Fire by S.M. Stirling or one of my favorites, Stranger in a Strange Land by Robert A. Heinlein.

  6. The Hungry Ocean, (a Swordboat Captain's Journey) by Linda Greenlaw

    The Lobster Chronicals, by Linda Greenlaw

    Heck, anything by Greenlaw. Her books are a little slice of Americana wih a dash of Down East humor. (I'm a Mainer at heart, what can I say)

  7. Also, if I get picked, add the booty into your nephew's box.

  8. Dean Koontz' Life Expectancy. Killer clowns and pastry. (Hey, you said food-related)

    And one of my all-time favorite funny books, Escape from Katmandu by Kim Stanley Robinson. This book is the reason my toddler says "Namaste".

    If that's not enough, the manga series Ranma 1/2 cracks me up, but you kind of have to be into kung fu humor.

  9. Anonymous12:12 PM

    I have two 20 something year old nephews in the army, one is in Korea and the other in Germany, and both are avid readers. They have told me that anything by Michael Crighton is a great read and that they enjoy his older stuff as much as anything new. They said that because of the diversity of topics he writes about, every novel is unique.

  10. He's read everything by S.L. Viehl, I presume? ;)

    Try Jasper Fforde, starting with The Eyre Affair. LOL, not what it sounds like, that's for sure.

  11. Anonymous12:37 PM


    There are a ton of comics-related tie-in novels out there right now. There are some Batman paperbacks by respected genre writers like Alex Irvine and John Shirley:

    Plus some Hellboy novels edited by Chris Golden are pretty good:

    As for restaurant-related fiction, Poppy Brite's recent books take place in the food service industry:

    Oh, and I've heard good things about this:

    Hope this helps.


    Jeff P.

  12. How about graphic novels? My husband just finished "The Watchmen," and we've both been eating up the "Y: The Last Man" series.

  13. Alan Bissett's The Incredible Adam Spark might be what you're looking for. You can read more about it at .

  14. Sorry - link didn't work! Alan's website is at

  15. My son enjoys all the books by Carl Hiaasen.

  16. Hmmm...humor, restauraunt/food related makes me think of Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain.

    I can't think of any superhero-like books, but if the package for your nephew were to go out late July, I think that Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows would be out.

  17. Anonymous1:49 PM


    you said food-related. The main characters are gay,so I don't know if your nephew would be weirded out, but Poppy Z. Brite's Liquor series is an incredibly fun read. Also, Patrick Rothfuss' Name of the Wind, and also Warren Ellis' comic Transmetropolitan, Garth Ennis' Preacher, and Perdido Street Station by China Mieville.

    Good reads, all. =)


  18. Anonymous1:50 PM


    I second Kitchen Confidential- great read.

  19. Okay, if he likes humor I know that books by Lewis Grizzard, if they're in print still, are hilarious. Chili Dogs Bark at Midnight, Don't Bend Over in the Garden Granny, You Know Them Taters Got Eyes, When My Love Returns From the Ladies Room Will I Be Too Old To Care are all really great and funny books.

    I haven't read the next one but I've heard of it, and seen it a couple times online, but if he's into fantasy he might like Bored of the Rings, a parody of the Lord of the Rings trilogy.

    Also Dean Koontz's Odd Thomas novels--Odd is a fry-cook, and Dean Koontz's Tick Tock--Deliverance Payne is a waitress.

    Hope that helps, Lynn. Hope he enjoys him and I'll pray for him.

  20. Definitely Neil Gaiman. I'd go with some classics, too -- Wodehouse, Chesterton, CS Lewis's Perelandra / Out of the Silent Planet books. I read Mark Haddon's The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time last year and really enjoyed it -- might be something he'd like, too.

  21. Anonymous2:07 PM

    How about Anthony Bourdain, world traveler and fearless chef? [I just saw the comment above...and second the suggestion] No Reservations is a culinary travelogue:

    I have not read this, but author Erica Orloff thinks this guy rocks.

    Hope this helps!


    PS Could you post the address where you mail books for the troops? I want to send books a couple of hand drawn thank you cards from my kids :)


  22. Anonymous2:17 PM

    I concur with the Lightening Thief recommend...excellent.

    Also anything by Bill Bryson..very guyish..dh loves them...and says it takes you away from where you are.

    The new mystery series Bahamarama is smart and funny. Jamacian me crazy is the follow up book.

    Harlan Coben is a great is Lee Childs.

    Paula Deen's new warts and all autobiography is a great read about food and life and making it through very hard times. There are reciepes at the end of every chapter that connect to the chapter contents. It's actually an inspiring read and features her two sons who are about your nephews age in most of the book.
    Lots of good stuff on her start up and the restaurant biz which he would probably identify with.

    I think Jamie Oliver has a book out about his 15 restaurant, etc...where he takes kids and trains them to make it in the restaurant biz.

    If you pick any of these titles..please put one of these above books in the box for the soldiers instead of to me. Great idea the previous poster had!



  23. I really like the Tom Clancy books. There are quite a few, so that should keep them busy for some time.

  24. Anonymous2:54 PM

    Hubby does non-fiction...two titles he recently REALLY enjoyed were #1 Riding Rockets: the Outrageious Tales of a Space Shuttle Astronaut by Mike Mullane, and Wild at Heart: Discovering the Secret of a man's Soul by John Eldredge. -dl

  25. Anonymous3:41 PM

    Your nephew sounds like a living doll.

    Dean Kootnz's BY THE LIGHT OF THE MOON, which is his take on superpowers. Someone already mentioned Charlie Huston, who is fantastic. And, of course, I love Robert Crais and Lee Child like there's no tomorrow.

  26. This is going to sound odd, but I have a 25-year-old firefighter brother and a 17-year-old tough track star brother. Their "comfort reading" is always any Calvin and Hobbes.

    Maybe THE DAYS ARE JUST PACKED? Or there's always the essential collection. The bonus is I (and my brothers) still chuckle over them, even after multiple reads.

  27. Anonymous3:56 PM

    Get him a role playing game, so he and the troops there can entertain each other. There is a great superhero game out called Mutants & Masterminds by Green Ronin press. Make sure to send some 20-sided dice, too.

    Various folks in the gaming industry have sent over boxes of games to keep the troops' spirits up. It's a good way to pass the time, and it lets folks become a part of the story, not just read one.


  28. If they're smart and therefore actual readers, Neal Stephenson's Cryptonomicon. It's quite long and might not appeal to those who aren't especially bookish, but it's very popular among the guys I know.

  29. In the food category, anything by Anthony Bourdain. Hard core, in your face. Especially KITCHEN CONFIDENTIAL. And I second CRYPTONOMICON. For a softer take on food, Ruth Reichl's memoirs are fabulous. (She was the NYT restaurant critic for a while, now edits GOURMET.) Also, HEAT: AN AMATEUR'S ADVENTURES AS KITCHEN SLAVE, LINE COOK, PASTA-MAKER AND APPRENTICE by Bill Buford is a great read. (Especially if you want to go behind the scenes with Mario Batali.) (An acquired taste, to be sure.)

  30. How about Terry Pratchett? My brother and his friends seem to like the Discworld series lately.

  31. Anonymous5:00 PM

    Shirley Jump's books with food themes:
    The Bride Wore Chocolate
    The Devil Served Tortellini
    The Bachelor Preferred Pastry
    The Angel Craved Lobster


  32. I would suggest Falling by Christopher Pike. It's a great mystery/thriller. I would think guys my age would love it. I know I did.

  33. As far as intelligent humour goes, I think it's pretty tough to beat anything Max Barry's put out there.

    As for food/restaurant related fiction, does Chuck Palahniuk's Choke qualify?

  34. Anonymous5:45 PM

    Bill Bryson: I'm a Stranger Here Myself. (Humor, americana)

    Doc Sidhe, Aaron Allston's fantasy riff on Doc Savage

    Steven Gould: Jumper (Juvenile, but worth reading as an adult. Superhero like read.)

    Steven Gould: Blind Waves (Just because it's a cool book.)

    What about the Wild Cards series? It's old, and you may have to hit a used bookstore, but he may not have read it yet.

  35. My intelligent, twenty-something husband likes classics, so I recommend Jules Verne's 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, James Fenimore Cooper's Last of the Mohicans, a favorite is Dumas' Count of Monte Cristo, or Hugo's Hunchback. Etc ad nauseum.


  36. Anonymous6:16 PM


    Good Omens by Neil Gaimen and Terry Pratchett - very funny, and some unusual hero characters in it!

    The Blonde by Duane Swierczynski - Great thriller, with a tenuous food link: the opening line "I poisoned your drink".

    From the "PI as hero" mould:

    Anything by George Pelecanos
    Anything by Harlen Coben
    Anything by John Connolly

  37. I second the Mutants and Masterminds role playing game. My husband and his friends love it and have been playing it for months now.

    Also, while this is for down the line, he'd probably love DVDs of the TV show Heroes when they come out (I suspect in Sept., before the new season starts). All superheroes. Great show.

  38. Christopher Moore's Biff and also You Suck. And Scott Westerfield's Uglies/Pretties/Specials. And Scott Lynch's Lies of Locke Lamora.

    Question: if someone, say me, wanted to send troops (say your nephew's) my books as a contribution to distraction, how would I do that?


  39. The Big Book of Amber by Roger Zelazny (fantasy). Yeah, it's fantasy and it's around 1000 pages, but it's one of the most original ideas in terms of characterization that I've come across, and it's funny as hell in a snowstorm in some places.

  40. My son owns a comic book store and every month sends some to the soldiers. Apparently comics go over well because not everyone is a book reader and they make for an easy read.

  41. Anonymous7:08 PM

    I'd suggest The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, which is about two teenage boys who create comic books. There's a golem in the book too! If I remember correctly Chabon won a Pulitzer for it.

  42. Anonymous7:19 PM

    The new book by Barbara Kingsolver: ANIMAL, VEGETABLE, MIRACLE: A YEAR OF FOOD LIFE.

    Description from

    Hang on for the ride: With characteristic poetry and pluck, Barbara Kingsolver and her family sweep readers along on their journey away from the industrial-food pipeline to a rural life in which they vow to buy only food raised in their own neighborhood, grow it themselves, or learn to live without it. Their good-humored search yields surprising discoveries about turkey sex life and overly zealous zucchini plants, en route to a food culture that's better for the neighborhood and also better on the table. Part memoir, part journalistic investigation, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle makes a passionate case for putting the kitchen back at the center of family life and diversified farms at the center of the American diet.

  43. I agree with Neil Gaiman, Neverwhere is a gooder. Mmm, also Empire by Orsen Scott Card is wonderful and might apeal to the soldier in him.

  44. I'm an advocate of Marvel comics. You can never be too old for a good comic book ;) I recommend Origin (a collaboration) by Jemas, Quesada, Jenkins, Kubert, and Isanove. Or Kushiel's Scion by Jacqueline Carey. Other goodies include Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card and Maximum Ride: The Angel Experiment by James Patterson. Humor-wise? I thought the blurb for You Suck by Christopher Moore looked pretty funny...and anything by David Sedaris.

    Okay, those are some of the ones I can think of. Hope your nephew enjoys whatever you send him...and hope he returns soon safe and sound ;)

  45. Robert Aspirin - Any of his Phule books (Phule's Company, Phule's Paradise, A Phule and His Money, etc.) or his Myth books (Mything Link, Myth Conceptions, Another Fine Myth, etc.)

    Harry Harrison - The Stainless Steel Rat series or his Bill the Gallactic Hero series.

    John Myers Myers - Silverlock

    Send your nephew my thanks along with those books, Lynn.

  46. The Science of Superheroes written by Bob and Lois H. Gresh

    And Fear Nothing, Seize the Night, both by Dean R. Koontz

    Kitchen Confidential, book and/or DVD of the TV series

  47. How much longer is he there for? I hope the time goes by quickly and safely.

    Has he read The Dresden Files? (I think the first book is Storm Front)... But that has supernatural-ish creatures, and the humor is awesome...I'm a huge Smallville fan, and I like it quite a lot! :)

    Also, maybe American Gods (Gaiman) or some nice Terry Pratchett?

  48. Anonymous8:19 PM

    Any Calvin & Hobbes Collections

    Because everybody should have a tiger at their side.

  49. # Watchmen by Alan Moore
    # Batman, the Dark Knight returns by Frank Miller
    # Kingdom come by Mark Waid
    # Batman : year one by Frank Miller
    # Astro City: Life in the Big City by Kurt Busiek
    # Consuming passions : a food obsessed life by Michael Lee West
    # Insatiable : tales from a life of delicious excess by Gael Greene
    # Two for the road : our love affair with American food by Jane Stern
    # Kitchen Confidential
    # Eat Fat

  50. Anonymous9:55 PM

    I love the Jack Daniels series by JA Konrath.

  51. I concur with all the suggestions for Anthony Bourdain, and I'll add a few others:

    -1632 by Eric Flint (the guys in my fiance's unit passed that one around quite a bit while he was over there)

    -Alien Taste by Wen Spencer (another hit with the guys of the 332nd CASF) and the other books in that series

  52. Hunt for Red October by Tom Clancy or The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams.

  53. Anonymous10:48 PM

    I just finished the Dresden Files series (the first 9 books that are in print) by Jim Butcher. Absolutely wonderful series about a wizard private investigator set in Chicago. They were quick reads for me, just because I got so involved, I basically gave up real life for a while just to finish them. A great escape into a fantastic world of fantasy and myth.

    And a bonus, the tv show based somewhat on the series that airs on Sci-Fi comes to DVD with it's first awesome season this August.

  54. Hmm. How about one of Robert Liparulo's works? Comes A Horseman is out in paperback now. Germ is his latest. Both are good.

  55. I second the Harry Dresdin series. Wonderful characters and great humor in between the drama.

    Also, A. Lee Martinez's Gil's All Fright Diner and In the Company of Ogres.

    Gil's premise sounds like the start of a joke: a vampire and a werewolf walk into a diner... and try to prevent the end of the world.

    Ogres feateres Never Dead Ned, an army accountant whose only talent is self resurrection. When he's put in charge of Ogre Company, a group of misfits, he has little time to whip them into shape before they have to face Rucka, the world's most powerful demon (and at 19 inches tall, very sensitive about his height).

    Also, I'd like to suggest The New Destroyer: Guardian Angel by Warren Murphy and James Mullaney. It's the latest in a series about Remo Williams, the enforcement arm of a secret agency and his teacher and mentor Chiun.

    The series has great characters, wicked humor, a willingness to take on controversial issues (in GA, illegal immigration), and a willingness to lampoon windbag celebrities and politicians.

  56. Anonymous3:43 AM

    PJ Tracey's books are pretty good and quite light to post (Want to Play, Live Bair etc.). Robert Asprin's 'Phule's Paradise@ books are good humour - making me laugh out loud on a crownded train can't be bad. John Connley (sp?) has some 2 in 1 books out at the moment. There are female soldiers, so you could add Kim Harrison, Christine Feehan, Jacqulyn Frank and Kresley Cole to that list. Lets see, Jim Butcher's 'Dresden' novels. Simon R Green's 'Nightside 'novels. My list is endless...

  57. Anonymous8:00 AM

    I was going to suggest Hiassen and Konrath, but somebody beat me to them. Dave Barry would be my choice for humor, but I guess you've probably thought of him. :)

  58. Anonymous8:55 AM

    I really enjoyed Rob Thurman's Night Life and Moon Shine. Made you think and had just enough gore and action to satisfy any male.

  59. Anonymous9:05 AM

    Echoing some of the earlier posters, I'm sure, but...

    My son (in his early 20s and in the military as well...) adores Neil Gaiman (particularly anything in the American Gods universe, so that and Anasi Boys are good choices). He also loves the mysteries by Carol O'Connell (the Kathy Mallory books) and he *appropriated* my copy of 300 by Frank Miller (the graphic novel, not the movie novelization).

    As for my own suggestions, Terry Pratchett goes for humor. I always end up laughing very hard at his books.

  60. The Amulet of Samarkand by Jonathan Stroud, #1 in the Bartimaeus Trilogy. Bart's a smartass genie and leaves footnotes to make sure you really grasp that about him. Despite the young wizard ostensibly playing the lead, it's much darker and more mature than Harry Potter in both theme and language.

  61. And in keeping with the djinn theme, Rachel Caine's Weather Warden books are kickass. First one is called Ill Wind.

  62. My recommendation would be Clive Cussler's Dirk Pitt novels or some westerns.

  63. All of Larry McMurty books. Deadly Errors by Allen Wyler, All of Joseph Finder novels, China Mieville is great too.

  64. Barry Eisler is great.
    Mark Terry's new book the Devil's Pitchfork.
    James D. Doss does great novels
    Public Enemy by Will Staeger

  65. Stealing the Dragon by Tim Maleeny
    Ask the parrot by Richard Stark
    Havan Passage by Jay Lillie

  66. The Lost Van Gogh by A.J. Zerries
    Lost and Found by Jacqueline Sheehan

  67. Everything Changes by Jonathan Tropper
    Farewell Summer by Ray Bradbury and all of his books!
    I'll never be long gone by Thomas Christopher Green
    Everything that Laura Lippman writes
    Seeker by William Nicholson

  68. Anonymous12:17 PM

    He would probably like the military sci-fi of John Scalzi's trilogy: Old Man's War, The Ghost Brigades, and The Last Colony.

    Also, Charlie Stross's The Atrocity Archives would probably be a good fit, in an X-files, Men in Black meets H.P. Lovecraft kind of way.

  69. Anonymous12:35 PM

    Second on Rob Thurman's Urban Fantasy books (2). The inseperable brothers aspect may appeal, as well as the action. A good read for females as well. -dl

  70. Old Man's War or Androids dream by John Scalzi. Both are great reads.

  71. Some for the ladies as well as the gents...

    The Nightrunner books by Lynn Flewelling (Luck in the Shadows, Stalking Darkness and Traitor's Moon).

    L.E. Modesitt's Fantasy books (either the Saga of Recluce or the Corean Chronicles - - with the Recluce saga, although they can be read in order some of them also 'clump' in duads e.g. Magi'i of Cyador and Scion of Cyador)

    Kay Hooper's psychic FBI unit books

    Dauntless and Fearless by Jack Campbell

    Kim Harrison's Rachel Morgan books

    Charlaine Harris' Sookie Stackhouse books

    Trudi Canavan's Black Magician Trilogy

    Peter F. Hamilton

    J.R. Ward's Black Dagger Brotherhood books

    Linnea Sinclair's books - Finders Keepers/ Gabriel's Ghost/ Games of Command/ An Accidental Goddess

    P.C. Cast - esp. Goddess of Spring and Goddess of the Rose

    C.E. Murphy's books - Urban Shaman/ Thunderbird Falls

    And I'll stop there!

  72. A couple of great new authors I think he would enjoy are Colleen Gleason and Jacquelyn Frank. They both have new books out in June and can't wait to get my hands on both! Hope your nephew stays safe and returns soon.

  73. My suggestions: Jasper Fforde's books, the Spellsinger series by Alan Dean Foster, Prostho by Piers Anthony, and the Signs of the Zodiac series by Vicki Pettersson.

  74. Anonymous8:35 PM

    There are so many good suggestions already. I shall add Stephen Donaldson's The Gap series, starting with "The Real Story"

    John Ringo's A Hymn Before Battle

    David Weber's Honor Harrington series. The first is "On Basilisk Station"

    Should you draw my name, please instead add another book to the box.

    J. F. Simonton

  75. Jim Butcher's Dresden files

    The Twinkie Deconstructed by Steve Ettlinger

  76. Anonymous11:05 PM

    Wow, so many good fiction recommendations! I'll stick to nonfiction:
    The Physics of Superheroes by James Kakalios
    Man Who Ate Everything by Jeffrey Steingarten
    The Cartoon History of the Universe by Larry Gonick (or any of the other 'Cartoon Guides' series by him)
    Spineless Wonders by Richard Coniff - although it doesn't hit any of the specifics you called out, what guy wouldn't like a book about bugs?

  77. Anonymous11:40 PM

    My brother did two tours in Iraq, he's a marine. He loved Clancy, Koontz, Anderson Cooper, Piers Anthony, Frank Miller, Josh Whedon...and any Biographies of writers, animators, actors from the past.

  78. Anonymous12:06 AM

    I really had a hard time thinking of anything you might not have already thought of/read. None of these are food-realted, but when I was in France for a year I had an opportunity to catch up on some reading I'd felt I missed in college. I went through Steinbeck, Nabakov and Kurt Vonnegut and read V by Pynchon, but am still trying to figure that one out. I also enjoyed Foucault's Pendulum by Umberto Eco (I didn't like The Name of the Rose nearly as well). Out of these, the Steinbeck's might be the most practical given his hours. I've sent several boxes of books from our home to a neighbor and told him to pass them around as well. Maybe our books will cross paths.

  79. Anonymous3:54 AM

    The Quantum Gravity Series from Justina Robson : Keeping it real and Selling out (Robocop meet faery) are really good books, fast pace and fun.


  80. What boys that age who I know have told me they liked:
    "Snow Crash" and "The Diamond Age" by Neil Stephenson.

    "Anansi Boys" by Neil Gaiman

    Any of the Kabuki graphic novels by David Mack (starts with Circle of Blood).

    "A Walk in the Woods" Bill Bryson

    I fourth? Fifth? Anthony Bourdain, but don't get "The Nasty Bits" if he hasn't read Bourdain before - its mostly short articles and I think guys I lent it to prefered "Kitchen Confidential" as a first book by him.