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Book 23

  1. Portis, Charles — True Grit (215 pages)
  2. Simpson, Joe — Touching the Void (210 pages)
  3. Bardin, John Franklin — The Last of Philip Banter (207 pages)
  4. Millar, Martin — The Good Fairies of New York (278 pages)
  5. Millar, Mark — Kick-Ass (190 pages)
  6. Sachar, Louis — Holes (225 pages)
  7. Baxter, Stephen — Moonseed (523 pages)
  8. Buchan, John — The Thirty-Nine Steps (152 pages)
  9. Bukowski, Charles — Post Office (167 pages)
  10. Palahniuk, Chuck — Fight Club (211 pages)
  11. Bemelmans, Ludwig — Madeline's Rescue (50 pages)
  12. Rennison, Nick — Bloomsbury Good Reading Guide, Eighth Edition (508 pages)
  13. Rucka, Greg & Steve Lieber — Whiteout (120 pages)
  14. Rucka, Greg & Steve Lieber — Whiteout: Melt (106 pages)
  15. Orwell, George — Homage to Catalonia (267 pages)
  16. Moore, Brian — Catholics (87 pages)
  17. Chatwin, Bruce — The Songlines (296 pages)
  18. Funke, Cornelia — Inkheart (555 pages)
  19. Eddison, E.R. — The Worm Ouroboros (521 pages)
  20. Milligan, Spike — Puckoon (152 pages)
  21. Jones, Diana Wynne — Power of Three (293 pages)
  22. Juster, Norton — The Phantom Tollbooth (264 pages)
  23. Jeffreys, Daniel — America's Back Porch (286 pages)

Page count: 5883.

Daniel Jeffreys is a Bristol-born journalist who spent years in the US chronicling the parts of America many of us would prefer to sweep under the carpet and pretend never existed. The perfect Fourth of July reading! Different chapters cover different phenomena, including an organisation that pays its members if they legally kill someone in the act of committing a crime, a young lady in the West who pulled off the perfect crime, snake handlers in Appalachia, hit men in Florida, a town in Idaho that enforces a ban on extramarital sex, Burning Man, Area 51, agencies hired to test marital fidelity, Oklahoma's extremist right-wing groups, prison rodeos and Christian rodeo associations, and restaurants that serve Death Row last meals. Jeffreys attempts to provide some narrative unity through the ubiquitous presence of Charlie, a New York-based homeless Navajo, who embodies the subject of one of the chapters and continuously is referred to in unrelated chapters.

A lot of this material is fascinating, some merely of passing interest. I wondered how some of the material really belonged. Perhaps the most interesting thing about the book wasn't the specific places, events, or people talked about but the author's viewpoint, as a Brit, on these very American things. However, his often cynical, mean-spirited opinions sometimes felt a bit misplaced, even if they did occasionally get me to chuckle.

I have to wonder, though, about Jeffreys' accuracy in reporting, for his chapter on Burning Man sounds nothing at all like what any of you who have been there have described. Additionally, a friend of mine who is a movie maker recently produced a documentary based on last year's Burning Man, and it, too, portrayed something completely different from what is in this book. Perhaps Burning Man was different in the '90s, though.

All in all, an interesting but flawed and not particularly insightful book.

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