Home > Uncategorized > What I’m Reading (Jan 2016)

What I’m Reading (Jan 2016)

2016 began with a fair amount of traveling (Washington, DC, Atlanta, and Phoenix), all work-related mind you, and the foreseeable future forecasts more of the same. One would think with all that time on airplanes that I might’ve read more, but a few of those flights were spent working, so alas, just the normal ten or so books again.

Dispatches From Pluto by Richard Grant. Grant happens to be one of my favorite travel writers (see his other two books, which are great) and so I eagerly picked up this new tome. It’s a different sort of travel book. Grant moves to Mississippi with his girlfriend and they embark on a new life in a small-town, which is a far cry from New York, where they’d previously lived. All told, another excellent book from Grant.

Recently, I read an essay, which turned out to be an excerpt from When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi, a intelligent and somewhat young doctor diagnosed with cancer. At first, the treatment succeeds allowing him to return to his work, but then the cancer returns. The end you can guess. These are his thoughts, well-written, well-told, and last two paragraphs, particularly the last one, might be the best part of the entire book.

Speaking of his eight-month old daughter and the message he wants to leave her, he wrote:

“When you come to one of the many moments in life where you must give an account of yourself, provide a ledger of what you have been, and done, and meant to the world, do not, I pray, discount that you filled a dying man’s days with a sated joy, a joy unbeknownst to me in all my prior years, a joy that does not hunger for more and more but rests, satisfied. In this time, right now, that is an enormous thing.”

Tom Nolan and Suzanne Marrs compiled the correspondence between two writers, Eudora Welty and Ross MacDonald, who became close friends. Meanwhile There Are Letters provides an intimate look into a friendship that spanned years. Yes, the letters were never meant for public eyes, but they are fascinating to read, a picture of friendship unmatched.

Of course, no month is replete without a couple of noir and mystery books. Made To Kill is a different sort of noir book. Set in the 1950’s, the main character is a robot whose memory lasts only a day, works as a private detective, and has a secret job as a paid hit-man. Throw in Hollywood, nuclear war, and Russian spies and you have an entertaining tale.

John McFedtridge is a name people mention again and again as a writer’s writer of crime fiction. Black Rock is set in Canada in the late 1960’s and follows a policeman who gets involved in the investigation of a murder while most of the police efforts are spent on diffusing bombs throughout the city. Dirty Sweet is a modern day crime novel, also set in Canada, and includes drug dealers, gangers, internet moguls, and a desperate real estate agent. I’m continuing to read more of his books.

Somewhere, somehow, my interest was peeked in the writings of Kierkegaard again. I know, crime fiction to existentialism. Maybe it isn’t such a leap, come to think of it. There’s a new biography of Kierkegaard coming in the Fall, so in the meantime I found a series of introductory books called, How To Read. So far, I’ve read How to Read Kierkegaard and How To Read Nietzsche (although I’m not I understand Nietzsche anymore than before).

Three more round out the month. The Genius of Michael Jackson by Steve Knopper purports to be the exhaustive biography of Jackson. The book felt like a cursory overview; however, an in-depth look at all the crazy events of his life might be a two thousand page book.

On the Move by Oliver Sacks is a snapshot autobiography of his life. Startling to me was the drug addiction he struggled with as a young doctor. Lastly, He Killed Them All by Jeanine Pirro, is about the case of Robert Durst. Another crazy story.

As for any viewing, I watched a documentary or two, but nothing that stands out. Especially since I can’t remember the title.

I think January might be the first month in some time where I’ve read more non-fiction than fiction.

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