Weekend Book Review – Time Bandit

I just finished reading Time Bandit. I wish I had spent my time better. The book was written by Andy and Johnathan Hillstrand, with William MacPherson. The brothers Hillstrand are among the boat captains that star in the Discovery Channel’s Deadliest Catch. They are Alaskan king crab fisherman.

When I first got the book title, my first thought was about the movie Time Bandits. That movie is one of my favorites. The name of the book is the name of the authors’ boat: Time Bandit. The authors’ father named the boat after the movie.

The story opens with Johnathan out fishing on another of his smaller boats. The engine dies and the battery dies, leaving him stranded on the Bering Sea with no way to call for help. The book then jumps back and forth from the stranded boat to past stories of the adventures and misadventures of the brothers. The obvious comparison is to Sebastian Junger’s The Perfect Storm. I am not sure whether it is a fair comparison or not. Regardless, as I was reading the book I kept thinking about The Perfect Storm.

I have not watched the Deadliest Catch, so I was not familiar with king crab fishing or the brothers Hillstrand. Perhaps I would have enjoyed the book more if I had watched some of the show first. But I didn’t. After reading the book, I am not any more inclined to watch the show.

Johnathan comes across as cliche. He drinks hard, works hard and lives hard. Johnathan portrays himself as indestructible. So it is no surprise that at the end of the book he is rescued just in the nick of time. I thought his brother Andy sounded more interesting as he tries to balance his time fishing in Alaska with his horse farm in Indiana.

You can better spend your time re-reading The Perfect Storm or Linda Greenlaw’s The Hungry Ocean.

Book Review: The Toothpick

I just finished reading The Toothpick: Technology and Culture by Henry Petroski. Here is the New York Times Book Review that caught my attention to the book: Consider the Toothpick.

It was a good read, not as good at Cod: A Biography of the Fish That Changed the World or Salt: A World History, but it was good. This was one of the author’s reasons for writing the book:

“For whatever reason, the usually forgotten toothpick came to my mind one day when I was searching for an engagingly simple device that would serve to illustrate some basic principles of engineering and design and that at the same time would help reveal the inevitable interrelationships between technology and culture.”

There was some fascinating history and information. According to the book, in the mid-1980’s toothpicks were in 97 percent of American homes and that Americans consumed over million toothpicks each day.

Book Review: Backyard Giants

I just finished reading Backyard Giants: The Passionate, Heartbreaking, and Glorious Quest to Grow the Biggest Pumpkin Ever. It is a quirky subject, but very well written by Susan Warren (who is also the deputy bureau chief for Wall Street Journal in Dallas).

The book followers a group of growers in Rhode Island in their pursuit to grow enormous pumpkins to win pumpkin growing contests, to break the world record and to reach the 1500 pound benchmark.

[They] belong to a special breed of gardeners that compete to grow the largest flowers, fruits and vegetables they possibly can. At the end of every season, special events are held where the botanical marvels are weighed and measured and prizes handed out. Thus, the world has been gifted with its first 269-pound watermelon, a 124-pound cabbage, a 24-pound tomato and a carrot nearly 17 feet long. It is pumpkins, thought, that have taken center stage. No other vegetable or fruit grows that big, that fast.

This was a great story and was very enjoyable to read. Yes, it is on a quirky topic. But the story of hard work and sacrifice is as true for these competitors as it is for any others.

Book Review: The Big Over Easy

I just finished reading The Big Over Easy by Jasper Fforde. Mr. Fforde is a literary jokester, spoofing both nursery rhymes and mystery fiction protocol, including anagrams, secret twins, and the butler who did it. I first started reading some of Fforde’s books a few years ago with The Eyre Affair, followed by the other Thursday Next books.

The Big Over Easy centers around the murder of Humpty Dumpty. At first it looks like the alcoholic Dumpty just fell off the wall. Then it looks like he might have been pushed or shot. Fforde moves through the world of nursery rhymes and mystery cliches.

This book was not as good as The Eyre Affair. Bur it did make for good reading on the train. I was a science major, so I probably miss many of the literary references in his stories.