Sunday, September 13, 2009


by Ken Grimwood
Adult Science Fiction
Available now in paperback

People LOVE this book. My fiance's mom, Diana, is one of those people, and she lent REPLAY to me almost a year ago. Because I'm the worst future-daughter-in-law ever, I put the book on a bookshelf and forgot about it for eleven months, but this week I finally read it.

Jeff dies at the beginning of the novel, only to wake up 25 years earlier in his eighteen-year-old body. He relives his life with every memory intact and dies on the same day as before, replaying those 25 years again and again. Each time he makes new choices and a different impact, but it all disappears in October 1988 when he dies and returns to 1963.

I can see why people love this book. The author, Ken Grimwood, was obviously profoundly affected by the events of the 1960's and 70's. The timeline from 1963-1988 is almost a main character in the novel, with the kind of vibrancy and nuance that all the best literary characters have. Jeff keeps living this period of time, and each replay has a different flavor. I can imagine that, if I had been alive during those years, the setting would have been an incredibly nostalgic and compelling aspect of the novel. But unfortunately (and/or fortunately) I wasn't born until 1985, and I feel like I was missing something. I didn't know much about the 60's and 70's, so there was none of the suspense of knowing that a really huge event was about to happen.

Despite my historical ignorance, I enjoyed REPLAY. Jeff has a lot of interesting relationships with women, sometimes more than once with the same woman under a different set of circumstances. There's also an interesting set of physical and philosophical questions as Jeff attempts to try to figure out why this is happening to him.

I would definitely recommend this book to others--though probably not anyone younger than me.

Bringing Down the House: The Inside Story of Six MIT Students Who Took Vegas for Millions
by Ben Mezrich
Adult non-fiction
Available now in paperback

Lately I've been reading a ton of nonfiction, but this one takes the cake. I've been special ordering it for people for over a year, but a book about Vegas and blackjack didn't really appeal to me until I saw the movie. The story is so exciting and dramatic that I HAD TO KNOW which parts were true and which were artistic license. When I read the book, I wasn't disappointed--the story of these six MIT kids is at least as awesome as the movie implies, if not more so.

The MIT blackjack team led double lives for years: by day they were college students, businessmen, and nerdy Asian-Americans. By night (or, actually, on the weekends) they were Vegas high-rollers with all manner of disguises, alter egos, and impressive connections. They won tens of thousands of dollars every night. And they did it all with math.

You can't really believe this stuff until you've read it. Mezrich's writing is the perfect blend of narrative, interviews, and personal experience. I can't wait to read his new one, Accidental Billionaires, about the guys who invented Facebook.


Anonymous said...

Glad you enjoyed the "nonfiction" book, "Bringing Down The House", and the movie "21" but, except for the fact that a team of professionally managed, highly trained college students and others consistently beat the game of blackjack in casinos throughout the world, the characters and story lines contained in the book and movie were fictionalized. The most accurate description of the team can be found in an Inc. magazine article on Bill Kaplan, the founder and leader of the team -

Wikipedia's history of the MIT Blackjack Team is also reasonably accurate although, of course, subject to revision at any time.

diana said...

So glad you finally read "Replay". Your point about the time period is a good one. This book is probably best appreciated by a member of the baby boomer generation. I thought the whole premise of reliving a time was so interesting and thought provoking. Now, to get Casey to read it!

Tristan Bancks said...

Thanks for reminding me of 'Replay'. It was a favourite book from my teens and I'd almost forgotten about it or I'd started believing that maybe I'd dreamt it???

It's like a much-better 'Groundhog Day' from memory. I'll have to track it.

I like your blog!