"Hope is the Thing with Feathers" by Christopher Cokinos.
Being as curious about birds and avian life as I am, this book was a really interesting and fun read. The title also references Emily Dickinson, so throw on a few extra cool points for that. The author, a former Audubon council president, takes us through the stories behind the extinction of several vanished North American species. It reveals a lot, not just about the behaviors and history of these long-gone birds, but also about the historical attitudes of humans toward our wildlife. I sent this book on to Tim in Vegas, hoping he'd appreciate the odd humor and great factoids this book carries about birds.
"Water for Elephants" by Sara Gruen
I decided that I wanted to read this book before Robert Pattinson finishes making a movie of it, and it becomes a total fan-girl wasteland. It was actually quite good. You could really tell that the author put a lot of time and energy into researching the traveling train circuses of yore. She also did a good job alternating between the hero in the past and present, keeping his voice consistent. I did find it a little predictable though. A good, quick read with lots of fun scenes, plus the awesomeness of a sassy elephant.
"A Confederacy of Dunces" by John Kennedy Toole
I really really enjoyed this book. The characters are rich and the backdrop of New Orleans is really vibrant. Ignacius Reilly is a really horrible person, but you can't help but be fascinated by his incredibly narrow and self-righteous world view. I laughed out loud more than once reading it, particularly in the scenes with octogenarian secretary Miss Trixie. My favorite read in this batch o' 5.
"A Tale of Two Cities" by Charles Dickens
This classic had some really really amazing parts, but also some really really boring parts that I found myself slogging through. Overall though, I'd say it as one of the best Victorian novels that I've read. The scenes depicting the French revolution were especially graphic and engrossing, and Madame Defarge is a memorable, crazy bitch. Also, Lucie was a prime example of this. So hot.
"Jurassic Park" by Michael Crichton
Not to be confused with a novelization of the movie! My book even has a "Soon to be a major motion picture" emblem on the cover. If you like the movie (and who doesn't?), I say reading the book is totally worthwhile, because there's more of everything! Way more scenes with dinos attacking, way more John Hammond being a self-centered jerk, and more exposition around why and how the dinos start to mate. Also, it's revealed that the dinos have already escaped from the park and are wreaking havoc on the mainland within the first 10 pages of the book. Other important differences include; Dr. Grant loves kids, Ellie is way younger and hotter and engaged to somebody else, The little girl doesn't know shit about being a hacker and is actually younger than the boy, and the mathematician is not actually Jeff Goldblum. I read this in like 3 days, it's a good beach read thriller.