Big Brother Book Club: The Stainless Steel Rat and the Plus-Size Sleuth

This past week we were lucky to notice a few books new to us on the 1 train. The more we observe our fellow subway riders, the more we realize how different their tastes are. Yes, there’s a certain vampire nov

el that keeps appearing, but in general diversity beats out the bestsellers.

Among the more obscure choices we spotted: The Stainless Steel Rat for President. Amazon wasn’t much help with this one, but after a quick Wikipedia search, we discovered that this book is part of series of science fiction novels by Harry Harrison, written between 1961 and 1999. Its zany illustration and vintage cover are what caught our eye — it looked like it’d been salvaged from a rotting storage box or plucked from the dollar cart at a tiny used bookstore.

The basic plot of the series hints that these books would present us with numerous giggle opportunities. It chronicles the escapades of James Bolivar diGriz, a thief who justifies his crimes by only stealing from institutions who he is certain are covered by insurance. Of course, the Rat has a love story to tell. James Bolivar’s beloved, Angelina, “is a criminal mastermind much like the Rat, only less ethical and more willing to kill.” We wish we could delve further into the plot that Wikipedia laid out, but we’ve got more books to reveal.

Also making an appearance on the 1: Orlando by Virginia Woolf, Kick Me: Adventures in Adolescence by Paul Feig, Lush Life: A Novel by Richard Price.

On our way to a Thanksgiving gathering Upstate, we cheated and checked out the reads in the waiting area of JFK’s Terminal 5. A handsome violinist sitting across from us was perusing The World Since 1945 by T.E. Vadley, another read with a vintage look. Charles Dickens’s Little Dorrit, a timely choice, whose plot revolves around a debtors’ prison called The Marshalsea, was being read by an elderly woman. This is one we’re sure Margaret Atwood is familiar with, given her recent publication of this and this.

A few more mainstream titles appeared in the waiting area as well, like Sue Monk Kidd’s gem The Secret Life of Bees, whose film adaptation is still in theaters, and Dan Brown’s Angels & Demons.

An installment of Meg Cabot’s Heather Wells mystery series also appeared. We wonder if Heather Wells — a plucky ex-pop star who loses her boyfriend and her waistline — could rival our favorite childhood sleuth Miss Drew. Our loyalty to the brainy redhead makes us doubtful, but we’re thrilled that Cabot is trying, and in doing so, presenting young women with a plus-size hero in creating Wells.