It had been several years since I was a consistent reader. There are a lot of reasons for this, but the main one was my inability to focus on reading for any length of time. When I got out of practice, I quit altogether. Once an avid reader, I didn’t read a book in 2010 at all.
Come 2011, I turned a corner. Once I finished my time working for the University, I needed something to do. I leaped headlong into reading, spending time in coffeeshops to get me out of the house and around people. When I wasn’t talking a barista’s ear off, I ran crazy with the reading, finishing 15 books with three carrying over into 2012. It’s not the reading rate that I’d like, but 15 books in five months works for me after none at all in 2010. Some thoughts about the books:
- Four W.E.B. Griffin books: they are page-turners. They’re pulp fiction. They’re the adventures I’ve enjoyed since long before Tom Clancy realized that he needed to write about something other than the Ryanverse. I had the full catalog of Brotherhood of War and The Corps back in high school, and I had friends who would raid my closet of them at MSMS. They’re like gum: you chew on it a while and then you’re done. I’m almost caught up with his military/OSS catalog now. I read these on my iPad because they’re cheap in iBooks.
- Love Is a Mixtape: I’d wanted to read this for a while, and when I got unstuck, it was a natural. I knew the gist of the story—boy meets girl, they fall in love, she suddenly dies—so nothing in there was shocking. I knew that there would be something there, though, something ineffable in the intersection of the music that we love and the times in which we love it that would be special. I don’t know a lot of the music that Rob and Renée gave each other, but that’s okay, as the music was just one actor in a good love story. Plus, I am back to making mixtapes, although for more than just girls.
- Two Gary Chapman books: I snapped out of things back in July, so I decided to do a little tilling.
- C.S. Lewis: A Year With C.S. Lewis is just the kind of thing I’d been looking for. I found it in late October and just dove in there. I’ll catch back up and probably keep reading. Lewis is good for my soul. The Four Loves is proving to be a bit dense, and it currently resides deep in my messenger bag. I would probably be farther along if I could get it on my Kindle.
- Gary Shteyngart: His novels are taut, ribald, absurd, and a lot of fun. Shteyngart looks at American culture with the perspective of a first generation Soviet Jew, and I welcome it.
- The Art of Manliness: I read this on my iPad, which is the only reason that it wasn’t thrown across the room a couple of times. I agree with a lot of what he has to say, but his insistence on “this is how you live as a man” and “psychotherapy is for weenies” fell on very angry ears. I think it was his blanket statement that psychotherapy is useless and his implication that those with mental illness were somehow not fully men that really pissed me off. That, or I’m a sensitive weenie. I would like to go camping with some guy friends, though.
- Michael Lewis: I would read a Lewis tome where he broke down the failings of the phone book-creation system, outlining why we have weak phone books and how they would be better. I have enjoyed his writing since Moneyball, so this year I bookended my reading with Liar’s Poker, his first, and Boomerang, his latest. Some people are turned off by the seemingly-dry subject matter that he chooses to tackle, but I feel like he tackles Important Things and relates them in approachable ways. I understood more about obscure financial instruments after reading The Big Short than I would have ever thought possible.
- John Siracusa’s breakdown of major OS X is always worth a read, and I want to support that work. As such, I bought the thin iBooks volume, which still ran 60+ pages.
- Jane Eyre and The Awakening: These were both re-reads from high school, and I loved each as if I were reading it anew. Yes, I like strong feminine characters in my books. You would, too, if you grew up with my strong-willed mother.
- I’m still moving through Nassir Ghaemi’s A First-Rate Madness, a study of why mentally ill individuals make great crisis leaders. I’m not sure how I feel about it yet, although I will note that many of his descriptions of what those illnesses feel like are quite true.
It’s nice to be back. I mentioned a Kindle, and you’re asking yourself, “How does an un(der)employed guy afford a new Kindle?” That’s a great story. I was doing a lot of the reading with iBooks, but I was thinking that I’d enjoy a Kindle. I figured that I’d buy one after I got a job, you know? But then a woman whom I’d interacted years ago popped back into my life. As I’d written about being a UAH engineering student in the early part of the last decade, she had emailed me to ask about what it was like for students, as her older son was thinking of attending. I traded emails with her and thought little of it after a few weeks. She dropped back in, though, and told me that both of her sons now had UAH engineering degrees and good jobs to boot, and she wanted to thank me … with a $100 Amazon gift certificate. I bought a Kindle with it.