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Each month the Pizza Beer Book Club reads a book and
engages in fiery edge-o-the-seat intellectual discourse.

Download the official Pizza Beer Book Club theme song in MP3 format: RIGHT HERE (2.3MB)
Be sure to check the extended version with avant-garde freakout: RIGHT HERE (5 MB)
 
The books thus far:
I AM LEGEND by Richard Matheson
Reading in progress...
WATER FOR ELEPHANTS by Sara Gruen
PLOT:
Down-on-His-Luck hops a train and finds employment with a Depression-era traveling circus. Swindling, love, and murder ensue.
OPINION:
Stocked with vividly quirky characters (and animals). Plenty of  ridiculous, occasionally harrowing, anecdotes that coalesce into an enjoyable story.
GRADE: B
THE TIME TRAVELER'S WIFE by Audrey Niffenegger
PLOT:
Guy time travels to various points in both his wife's and his own timeline.
OPINION:
Pizza Beer is a manly bookclub, but we read this anyway. I begrudgingly admit that, for a "soaring celebration of the victory of love over time", it was pretty dang good. Real good, in fact.
GRADE: A-
THE TENDER BAR: A MEMOIR by J.R. Moehringer
PLOT:
Fatherless JR grows up in the pub-laden town of Manhasset, NY, where, fortunately, the bars are fully stocked with all manner of engaging father-figures. Boy eventually graduates from bar to New York Times.
OPINION:
Moehringer has a gift for bringing a wide assortment of personalities to life. A self-deprecating tone makes for an entertaining read.
GRADE: B+
MONSTER ISLAND: A ZOMBIE NOVEL by David Wellington
PLOT:
UN Weapons inspector leads a team of teenage girl-soldiers through the zombie-infested streets of Manhattan in search of medication to prolong the life of an Somaliland warlord overseeing the care of his daughter.
OPINION:
Brings some unique elements to the living-dead-apocalypse genre, mainly in the form of Gary, a recently deceased who has managed to retain his intelligence and humanity (more or less). Pleasant zombie reading.
GRADE: C+
SOON I WILL BE INVINCIBLE: A NOVEL by Austin Grossman
PLOT:
Egomaniacal supervillian makes (yet another) attempt at global domination - it's up to the super team The Champions to save the day.
OPINION:
A respectful satire of the superhero genre. Grossman puts a contemporary angle on many of the classic hero clichés. Powerful fun. Check the elaborate Official Website.
GRADE: B
THE RIVER OF DOUBT: THEODORE ROOSEVELT'S DARKEST JOURNEY by Candice Millard
PLOT:
After losing a run at the White House in 1912, Roosevelt seeks out insane adventure along uncharted rivers in the darkest depths of the Amazon jungle.
OPINION:
It's an astoundingly arduous journey almost too crazy to possibly be true.
GRADE: B
THE RUINS by Scott Smith
PLOT:
Thriller/suspense type deal in the Mayan-infested jungles of Cancun Mexico. Got your unprepared tourists wrangling with over-the-top horror.
OPINION:
Some nicely built tension only makes it feel as though the story is going somewhere. An undemanding, somewhat protracted, read that concludes with an wholly unsatisfying ending.
GRADE: C-
RAGTIME by E.L. Doctorow
PLOT:
Historical fiction at the turn of the 20th century. Stocked with an impressive cast of characters (Harry Houdini, JP Morgan, Henry Ford, Freud, etc) and plot threads that effortlessly intertwine into an amazing narrative.
OPINION:
Deserves the reputation as being one of the great works of American literature.
GRADE: A
(should'a been A+, but Mr. Johnson didn't care for the lack of quotation marks. Because he is a big wussy.)
COMPANY by Max Barry
PLOT:
A satirical look at the drudgery of corporate life takes a very unexpected turn, transcending the usual Dilbert-esque anecdotes.
OPINION:
Max Barry manages another enjoyable, easy read with his penchant for clever dialogue, interesting plot developments, and agile pacing. Particularly amusing for those who can relate to the corporate culture.
GRADE: B
ELVIS, JESUS AND COCA-COLA by Kinky Friedman
PLOT:
Kinky Freidman - writer, detective, musician, eccentric - investigates the murder of a former girlfriend.
OPINION:
It's not about the story, it's about the characters. Friedman breezily manages a colorful cast of friends in this cleverly written, farcical "mystery". Too many adroit phrases and oldfangled sayings to possibly count.
GRADE: B
THE BAD TWIN by Gary Troup
PLOT:
Heir to the Widmore fortune hires a bottom-rung PI to investigate the disappearance of his twin brother. PI travels the globe, always a step behind.
OPINION:
The book does a decent enough job of making with the mysteries and plot twists and saucy encounters. The tie-in to the TV show Lost is disappointingly tenuous at best.
GRADE: C+
TRANSMISSION by Hari Kunzru
PLOT:
Indian programmer Arjun Mehta lands a contract job at an American anti-virus company. He loses job and hatches scheme to create a virus, kill it, and win back respect/paycheck. The plan, of course, goes horribly awry.
OPINION:
A generally light read, aimed at (though certainly not exclusively for) the tech crowd. Strong ending leaves a bit better impression than the book probably deserves.
GRADE: B-
THE KITE RUNNER by Khaled Hosseini
PLOT:
Fictional account of two friends growing up together in Kabul, Afghanistan with the heritage and culture and kite flying sports. Eventually one flees to American while the other stays behind to experience the horrors of the Talban rule.
OPINION:
Some powerful storytelling - enlightening and entirely convincing. Hosseini ponderously spells out every bit of symbolism, otherwise top shelf material.
GRADE: A
THE NARROWS by Alexander C. Irvine
PLOT:
Historical fiction set in WWII-era Detroit. Regular Joe working the Ford golem assembly line ("Frankenline") becomes embroiled in supernatural espionage. And a magic dwarf.
OPINION:
Story hints at some fanastical events, but never completely delivers. Still, an enjoyable easy read (that could use some tightening up in the middle).
GRADE: B-
THE THIRD POLICEMAN by Flann O'Brien
PLOT:
Surreal tale of a murderer forced to wrestle with the delusion of existence, eternity, and bicycle theft. The absurd story almost defies description.
OPINION:
A blend of satire and philosophy that's probably a little too strange for it's own good. Astoundingly, the forward of the book spoils the ending (heads-up).
GRADE: C+
COLD: A NOVEL by John Smolens
PLOT:
Convict walks away from prison in Michigan's snow-bound Upper Peninsula to visit with apathetic girlfriend and evil brother. Becomes entangled in bizarre plot to profit off the UP's natural resources.
OPINION:
Characters, while well-defined, are generally unlikable. Dialogue and story is a dilute shade of Elmore Leonard. Still, light enjoyable reading.
GRADE: B-
BLOOD MERIDIAN by Cormac Mccarthy
PLOT:
"The Kid" wanders the 1850's Texas-Mexico border with an army of Indian hunters, encountering all manner of gore and extreme violence along the way. Shades of Apocalypse Now.
OPINION:
A deceptively ponderous effort that no member of the book club desired to complete (despite obvious allure of said gore/violence).
GRADE: Incomplete
EXTREMELY LOUD AND INCREDIBLY CLOSE by Jonathan Safran Foer
PLOT:
After losing his father in the 9/11 attacks, 9yr old Oskar methodically (therapeutically) combs New York City for a lock that matches a mysterious key left by his dad.
OPINION:
Fantastic off-beat story. Book is interspersed with photographs and typographic oddities somewhat on the gimmicky side. Also frustrating narrator changes from one chapter to the next with little or no indication when the switch happens.
GRADE: A-
THE PLOT AGAINST AMERICA by Philip Roth
PLOT:
What if aviator Charles Lindbergh (Nazi sympathizer) defeated FDR in the 1940 Presidential elections under the platform that America would not enter WWII?
OPINION:
Historical fiction that doesn't require a thorough knowledge of actual events to appreciate. Roth is obviously a mighty talent, though the heavy plot does tend to meander. Felt as though 1/2 the book we were being told what happened rather than shown what happened.
GRADE: B
A SCANNER DARKLY by Philip K. Dick
PLOT:
Undercover cop Rob Arctor is tasked with keeping tabs on his drug dealing alter ego Fred. Substance D (highly addictive drug of the future), fractures his personality. Rob and Fred gradually lose sight of the fact that they are the same person.
OPINION:
Dick is a man with some heavy thoughts, clever ideas, and a strong message about the drug culture. A difficult though ultimately worth-while read.
GRADE: B+
EYEING THE FLASH: THE EDUCATION OF A CARNIVAL CON ARTIST by Peter Fenton
PLOT:
The title neatly sums up the story. Carnies fleecin' the yokels in 1960's Detroit.
OPINION:
Who doesn't want to read about swindlers and crooked games of chance? Light reading, interesting characters. Fails to maintain steam through to the end.
GRADE: B
ONE FOR SORROW, TWO FOR JOY by Clive Woodall
PLOT:
Evil magpies are slaughtering all smaller bird species. It's up to one of the last surviving robins to drum up an army and crush the genocidal Corvidae.
OPINION:
Despite the press (and dust jacket), 1S,2J isn't of the same caliber as Watership Down, nor Lord of the Rings. An intriguing storyline is undercut by poor pacing, shallow, prototypical characterization, and average writing. Disney has optioned this book, despite startling moments of brutal carnage. And the bird rape scene.
GRADE: C
LOSER GOES FIRST: MY THIRTY-SOMETHING YEARS OF DUMB LUCK AND MINOR HUMILIATION
by Dan Kennedy
PLOT:
Humorous, blunt memoir of a slacker stumbling through one poor decision after another (yet somehow landing on his feet).
OPINION:
Dan's clearly a witty guy, but the writing skillz are somewhat lacking. Entertaining and forgettable. Would've gone down smoother as a collection of short stories.
GRADE: C+
BONE: ONE VOLUME EDITION by Jeff Smith
PLOT:
After being run out of Boneville, three Bone cousins embark on an epic adventure that steadily gains momentum and scope until culminating in a Tolkienesque rasslin' match with a new princess in one corner and possessed locusts in the other.
OPINION:
A stout 1300+ page blend of Pogo, Scrooge McDuck, and Lord of the Rings. Writer/illustrator Jeff Smith delivers a thoughtful adventure fantasy in a lively, generally entertaining package. Occasionally a tad too cute for adult tastes...
GRADE: B
FLUKE: OR, I KNOW WHY THE WINGED WHALES SING by Christopher Moore
PLOT:
Marine biologist Nathan Quinn unwittingly stumbles into an imaginative (and more than a little wacky) global conspiracy while studying humpback whale songs.
OPINION:
Moore tosses around a bit of environmental/marine education while makin' with the funny. Generally absurd with a hint of spirituality and plenty of sharp dialogue - all bundled into a storyline that probably goes a little too far "out there".
GRADE: C+
LIFE OF PI by Yann Martel
PLOT:
It's the same old tale you've read a thousand times: son of a zoo keeper finds self in life raft on Pacific ocean. With a tiger.
OPINION:
Thoughtful, to the point of profound. A fantastic survival story told in an oddly convincing, and amazingly well written, fashion. Awesome.
GRADE: A
THE RULE OF FOUR by Ian Caldwell and Dustin Thomason
PLOT:
Quest for the Holy Grail hidden crypt through a series of puzzles and adventures.
OPINION:
Shades of DaVinci Code wrapped in an fairly average, though well researched, novel. A strong ending left a better impression than TRO4 probably deserved.
GRADE: C+
POMPEII by Robert Harris
PLOT:
An ancient mystery/adventure in the last couple days of Pompeii before Vesuvius makes with the exploding.
OPINION:
Where "Drop City" (below) unloaded strong writing into a serviceable story, Pompeii is at the opposite end of the spectrum. A quick, exciting read - way better than expected, despite the sinister spectre of "education" lurking within...
GRADE: A-
DROP CITY by T.C. Boyle
PLOT:
Hippy commune in the late 60's uproots and relocates to the cold, dark wilds Alaska in hopes of escaping The Man.
OPINION:
Fantastically well written tale that plods along and sets up, though in retrospect fails to deliver, many a compelling conflict (man vs. man, man vs. nature, etc).
GRADE: B
JENNIFER GOVERNMENT by Max Barry
PLOT:
One character chases after another (insert additional character, repeat) in an alternate reality where massive corporations run the world. Various plot threads eventually converge, clever plot ties up nicely - "now let's go get that puppy".
OPINION:
Believable futuristic concepts in the vein of Cory Doctorow. Slick corporate satire atop an engaging, fast-paced story. Light, enjoyable reading.
GRADE: A-
THE COMING OF CONAN THE CIMMERIAN by Robert E. Howard
PLOT:
Over a dozen short stories, presented in their original unedited form. Solid sword/sorcery tales chronicling Conan's considerable resume - cunning thief, swashbuckling pirate, seasoned general, and weary king.
OPINION:
Though not every story is a winner, each page is thick with adventure, bloodshed, and voluptuous babes. Writing was much better than expected.
GRADE: B
YOU SHALL KNOW OUR VELOCITY by Dave Eggers
PLOT:
Road trip story of two fellas on an ill-conceived one week jaunt through Africa and Eastern Europe, handing out $30,000 along the way as a misguided means of alleviating guilt over the sudden death of a close friend.
OPINION:
Clever dialogue set to a meandering (occasionally repetitious) plot that's unpredictable and contemplative. Completely loved the writing style.
GRADE: B+
  YSKOV - soft cover edition (as read by 80% of Pizza Beer Book Club membership):
OPINION:
This edition of the book, as the front cover notes, includes some alterations and additions not found in the first-printing (above). A bizarre chapter added to the middle completely knocks the legs out from under the story - to such a degree that we are forced to grade the paperback version separately. Amazing.
GRADE: C+
ORYX AND CRAKE by Margaret Atwood
PLOT:
When not flashing back to a bleak pre-apocalyptic future, chronicles the exploits of a man struggling to survive in a bleak post-apocalyptic future.
OPINION:
Very convincing look at impending technologies and inventions. The flashbacks, which only feel like they comprise about 95% of the book, went a little too far back - otherwise a well-written tale. Loved the survival stuff.
GRADE: B
DEVIL IN THE WHITE CITY: MURDER, MAGIC, AND MADNESS AT THE FAIR THAT CHANGED AMERICA
by Erik Larson
PLOT:
The grizzly exploits of the charismatic H.H. Holmes ("America's first serial killer") wrapped around a very detailed look into the 1893 Chicago World's Fair.
OPINION:
Though not what I'd call "thrilling" every single step of the way, the subject matter did make for a very interesting read. Historically accurate t'boot (which has made me a fount of useless World's Fair trivia)...
GRADE: B
LULLABY by Chuck Palaniuk
PLOT:
About a poem, or "culling song", that kills folks when spoken (or thought) and a reporter tracking down copies of the book in which the poem appears.
OPINION:
Standard Palaniuk - at neither his best nor worst (though perhaps his shortest). A twisting blend of dark humor, odd trivia, and that which is outright disturbing. Best book cover yet...
GRADE: B-
THE DA VINCI CODE by Dan Brown
PLOT:
Quest for the Holy Grail through a series of puzzles and adventures.
OPINION:
Highly entertaining, though not a particularly challenging book. Certainly filled with interesting concepts on religion, art, and history.
GRADE: B
VILLA INCOGNITO by Tom Robbins
coverPLOT:
Opens with a folktale set in Japan, closes with MIA drug smugglers in Vietnam. Much weirdness in between.
OPINION:
Constant flash-backs hinder any progress the plot wants to make. Strange and well written, the story comes off as generally unsatisfying. I hear this fella writes great books - but this ain't one...
GRADE: C-
LAMB: THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO BIFF, CHRIST'S CHILDHOOD PAL by Christopher Moore
coverPLOT:
Life of Jesus, including the "lost years" not found in any bible.
OPINION:
Pure hilarity. Moore cranks out quite the amusing religious satire. Pokes fun, yet obviously has a lot of heart. Jesus + kung-fu...
GRADE: A
THE BEST AMERICAN NONREQUIRED READING 2002 by Dave Eggers (Editor), Michael Cart
coverPLOT:
A collection of hip little short stories from a variety of trendy sources (The Onion, McSweeney's, Time, Esquire, Modern Humorist, etc).
OPINION:
20% great, 30% bad, 50% whatever. Journal of a new COBRA recruit and My Fake Job were the gems - it's pretty well all shades of average after that.
GRADE: B-
THE MINOTAUR TAKES A CIGARETTE BREAK by Steven Sherrill
coverPLOT:
"Uuuuuuungh." One of those "slice o' life" books about the immortal Minotaur from ancient times. Nowadays he's a down-on-his-luck cook living in a trailer park and lookin' for love.
OPINION:
Unfortunately this wasn't the most exciting slice o' the Minotaur's life. Recommended if you are hip to the character-study scene.
GRADE: C+
DOWN AND OUT IN THE MAGIC KINGDOM by Cory Doctorow
cover

PLOT:
Disneyland of the distant future!
OPINION:
Whoooo Sally, some really fantastic concepts. All those brilliant ideas don't manage to gel into a very compelling story, however. Certainly above average. Download for free...
GRADE: B+

THE LIST OF 7 by Mark Frost
coverPLOT:
The crazy zombie-fightin' adventures of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.
OPINION:
Slow moving but generally entertaining. Many a nod to the classic Sherlock Holmes tales. Mad props to m'boy Character Dialogue.
GRADE: B
CATCH ME IF YOU CAN: THE TRUE STORY OF A REAL FAKE by Stan Redding, Frank W. Abagnale
coverPLOT:
One man's crazy journey into the thrilling world of check fraud!
OPINION:
Better than the movie, of course. Some quick, light readin'. Almost too crazy to be true.
GRADE: A-
POWDER by Kevin Sampson
coverPLOT:
Chronicles the trials and tribulations of a fictitious Liverpool band on the path to fortune and glory.
OPINION:
Just a bit on the tedious side. About 200 pages too long... Worth avoiding.
GRADE: D+
THE LAST AMERICAN MAN Elizabeth Gilbert
cover

PLOT:
Biography of Eustace Conway, a true man of nature.
OPINION:
Strong out of the gates, warbles a bit towards the end (not unlike Eustace's own life). Despite the way he complains about his luck with the ladies, the guy was a babe magnet.
GRADE: B-

THE TURK: THE LIFE AND TIMES OF THE FAMOUS EIGHTEENTH CENTURY CHESS PLAYING MACHINE
by Tom Standage
coverPLOT:
Story of a chess playing automaton that took on all comers and amazed audiences for 80 years. 18th century artificial intelligence or hoax?
OPINION:
Good stuff, though came away feeling somewhat manipulated by the author. Curiosity alone will keep the pages turning.
GRADE: C+
AMERICAN GODS by Neil Gaiman
coverPLOT:
Road trip story. Old gods (Odin, Loki, etc) vs. new gods (Internet, TV, and the like). Main character named "Shadow" caught in the middle.
OPINION:
Doesn't quite measure up to the reviews and attention that book has garnered. Worth a look for those Gaiman fans tho.
GRADE: C+
KITCHEN CONFIDENTIAL: ADVENTURES IN THE CULINARY UNDERBELLY by Anthony Bourdain
coverPLOT:
Behold the high steaks (he-ho!) world of food and food cookery.
OPINION:
Bourdain expends great amounts of energy (and words) attempting to convince readers that the life of a chef is a thrilling and dangerous rock-n-roll rollercoaster ride. What. Ever.
GRADE: C
THE CHEESE MONKEYS: A NOVEL IN TWO SEMESTERS by Chipp Kidd
cover

PLOT:
Art school at a state university with a wonky graphic design professor.
OPINION:
Nicely captures the art school experience. Nailed the time period. Chip "The Kidd" is a graphic design legend and thusly cranked out quite the swanky package here.
GRADE: B