Going Postal, by Terry Pratchett

Moist von Lipwig is at the end of his rope–literally. He’s scheduled to be hanged for the crimes he committed under the name of Albert Spangler. A superb conman, his luck’s finally run out. Or not…

Lord Vetinari, being the brilliant political schemer that he is, has decided that while, yes, Albert Spangler has to die for what he’s done, Moist von Lipwig really ought to be spared and put to, shall we say, better use? Moist is presented with a choice: obey Vetinari, or walk out through a door leading to a very deep pit.

Moist makes the wiser choice, and is told that he must, no exceptions, restore the Ankh-Morpork Postal Service to its former glory. So off he goes, to the old Post Office where he encounters the two remaining employees, Postman Groat and Stanley Howler (he’s a little odd, but it’s only to be expected since he was raised by peas); literal tons of undelivered mail; and a very odd pigeon coop on the roof. Not to mention the unwelcome information that a number of previous Postmasters have died under mysterious circumstances shortly after being given the job, threats from the sinister head of the Grand Trunk clacks line (think a telegraph, but Pratchett-style), and a chain-smoking golem-rights advocate named Adora Belle Dearheart.

Failure is not an option; neither is mediocrity–Vetinari won’t allow it. Moist needs to use every one of his ill-gotten skills (and gains) to ensure the Post Office once again reigns supreme.

Going Postal is one of Pratchett’s best. The comedy is pitch-perfect; Moist is a brilliantly shady protagonist you can’t help but root for. The bizarre combination of hacking, government services, and equal rights shouldn’t work, but instead it elevates the book into something beyond mere words on a page. Read it for the fun, read it for the story, read it for the insights–it really doesn’t matter why you read it; only that you do.

Favorite Line:

What kind of man would put a known criminal in charge of a major branch of government? Apart from, say, the average voter.

Don’t read if: you hate obsessive pin collectors, bizarre midnight rituals, golems covered in paint, or smoking gnus.

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Much Ado About Nothing, by William Shakespeare

Today we’re going old-school, all the way back to the 16th century, in the town of Messina…

Don Pedro has just returned to the home of Leonato after a successful battle against unnamed foes, bringing with him his best-slash-favorite comrades in arms (Benedick and Claudio) and his bastard half-brother (John, who is, of course, a bastard in more ways than one). Everyone is overjoyed by Pedro’s arrival–successful military campaign, house full of hot soldier types, what’s not to love? Everyone, that is, except Leonato’s niece Beatrice. She and Benedick go way back, and not in a good way. They fight. A lot. I’m sure you can see where this is going.

Leonato’s daughter Hero, however, is happier than most–she and Claudio are in love, and his prowess in battle means he finally has the stature to request her hand in marriage (John, meanwhile, hates that everyone is happy and wants nothing more than to make everyone as miserable as he is, so he and his cronies spend the entire play trying to screw everyone over). Minor shenanigans ensue, and Claudio and Hero get engaged. Yay! More rejoicing (except from John, of course, because he is that guy who has to wreck everything for everyone, all the time). As plans for the wedding get under way, a plot is hatched (by asshat John) to ruin the wedding.

But we don’t really care about any of that, because this whole story is really about Beatrice and Benedick. They rant about each other to anyone who will listen, and at each other whenever they’re in the same room. The back-and-forth between the two is simply phenomenal. And their constant bickering, of course, gives their friends an idea: let’s get these two together. So now major shenanigans ensue.

This play is (in my opinion) one of Shakespeare’s absolute best. It’s fast-paced and funny, with a biting wit that wouldn’t be out of place on TV today (although, yes, some of the language is a bit archaic, which brings me to another point. There’s a series called No-Fear Shakespeare, and it’s got both the original text and a modern interpretation, which is perfect for anyone who has trouble with old-fashioned language. If you’ve been wanting to try Shakespeare but find the whole olde-tymey thing a bit intimidating, try those. ) Give this play a whirl, and let me know if you think I’m right, or if I’m just making a whole lot of ado about nothing.

Favorite Line:

Ha! ‘Against my will I am sent to bid you come in to dinner;’ there’s a double meaning in that.

Don’t read if: you really don’t like witticisms, snarky women, snarky men, plots to besmirch a good name, or happy endings.