Thursday, December 18, 2014

Gheorghemas Day Seven (of a Possible Dozen)

On the seventh day of Gheorghemas, Big Gheorghe gave to me...

Seven Books For Reading (Seriously)

Six Beers Worth Drinking

A fiiiiifth Golden Ring..... (please?)

Four Years of Marcus;

Three Scummers Picking;

Two albums to look forward to; and

A fat guy in a jersey

Last year, I read twenty-two books (according to my Gheorghemas post). Not too shabby, if you look at how many books most Americans read each year. And many of these books were either long or difficult . . . or both: Infinite Jest, The Goldfinch, Far From the Tree, Columbine, etc

Congrats to me.

Though I titled last year's post Seven Books for Reading, it might have been better titled: Seven Books You Can Brag That You Read (To Other Elitist Bastards). I'm proud I powered through them, but I'm not sure they were practical recommendations.

This year, however, was different. This year I read a shitload of books-- many of them short and many of them easy (two superb traits that our fearless leader Rob possesses). Plus, I was really sick in the spring with the flu and bronchitis, and I went on a cross-country trip for much of the summer. So I had some serious reading opportunities. I am proud to say that I read forty-six books, and many of them are actually books for reading: crime fiction and travel and sports and financial stuff. Here are the seven most memorable-- and I've included the covers so you can judge them:

1) The Sixth Extinction: an Unnatural History by Elizabeth Kolbert

Megafauna and an impending biological apocalypse (if you're partial to humans). This is the only "serious" book on the list, but it's vivid, surprisingly readable, and contains information vital to human survival-- so you might want to skip it and move down to the crime-thrillers.

2) The Cold Cold Ground by Adrian Mckinty

It's 1981, and a hipster Catholic cop (who is partial to The Clash) treads some dangerous ground: he's a member of the Belfast RUC, the mainly Protestant police force . . . and being the token Catholic on the force is difficult enough, but he's also simultaneously dealing with the constant civil unrest and a bona fide serial killer. Read the trilogy.

3) Play Their Hearts Out: A Coach, His Star Recruit, and the Youth Basketball Machine by George Dohrmann

If you're a parent and/or a coach, you need to read this book. It's a wild ride, full of highs and lows, despicable characters and inspirational moments, and it will change the way you view youth sports. A Mark recommendation.

4) The Power of the Dog by Don Winslow

I read this in August, while I sat on the beach at Sea Isle City, surrounded by my friends and family. While they laughed and had good times, I was immersed in a world of DEA agents, drug cartels, and torture. LOTS of torture. Winslow reads like a blend of two of my favorite authors: James Ellroy and Elmore Leonard; after I read this one, I went on a Winslow binge: Savages, The Winter of Frankie Machine, The Dawn Patrol . . . they are all worth reading.

5) Ready Player One by Ernest Kline

This book was so entertaining that I felt guilty while reading it. I recommend it to anyone enjoys references to Joust, Zork, TRS-80, War Games, Pac Man, John Hughes, Dungeons and Dragons, and things of that ilk.

6) Another Great Day at Sea: Life Aboard the U.S.S. George H. W. Bush by Geoff Dyer

British critic Geoff Dyer is a professional grouch and a fantastic writer-- I'll read just about anything he writes (even an entire book about a nearly unwatchable science-fiction movie).  To write this relatively short book, he crammed his long and rangy body into an aircraft carrier for a few weeks; then, in spectacular Geoff Dyer fashion,  he just hung around, complained a bit, and observed how things went: his insight is alternately absurd and inspirational . . . and if you've never been in the military, then this book is not only entertaining, but it's also educational (warning: if you're on the flight deck, watch out for the cables!)

7) A three way tie: Flash Boys, David and Goliath, and Think Like a Freak

Michael Lewis, Malcolm Gladwell, and the Levitt/Dubner duo have been churning out some of the slickest, most entertaining, and totally excellent non-fiction ever written. Even though these these three books will probably be considered minor efforts in their collective oeuvre, they were still totally entertaining and totally worth reading. Flash Boys sheds light on the dark and weird world of high-frequency trading; David and Goliath turns multiple underdog stories upside-down; and Think Like a Freak explains what David Lee Roth and King Solomon have in common.

Below is my entire list of books from 2014. Right now I am reading The Gentleman's Hour by Don Winslow and A History of the American People by Paul Johnson. I will certainly finish the Winslow book; it's a crime thriller set in San Diego-- lots of surfing, drugs, and male camaraderie, but I doubt I will get through the Paul Johnson tome . . . but there's always next year.

The Unwinding: An Inner History of the New AmericaAfter the Music Stopped: The Financial Crisis, the Response, and the Work Ahead , What I Learned Losing a Million DollarsThe Cold Cold GroundAmerican Hippopotamus , Play Their Hearts Out: A Coach, His Star Recruit, and the Youth Basketball MachineFutebol: The Brazilian Way of LifeLooking for AlaskaThe Lizard King: The True Crimes and Passions of the World's Greatest Reptile SmugglersThe Improbability PrincipleThe Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural HistoryThe InterestingsDare MeAll Joy and No Fun: The Paradox of Modern ParenthoodBrain on Fire: My Month of MadnessYou Should Have KnownDog SoldiersLost in My Own BackyardExpiration DateThe Improbability PrincipleFlash BoysThe Noble Hustle: Poker, Beef Jerky and DeathIt's Complicated: the social lives of networked teensStuff Matters: Exploring the Marvelous Materials that Shape Our Man-Made WorldAnother Great Day at Sea: Life Aboard the USS George H.W. BushNo Place to Hide: Edward Snowden, the NSA, and the U.S. Surveillance State Travels with CharleyThe Lost ContinentUngifted: Intelligence Redefined, The Truth About Talent, Practice, Creativity, and the Many Paths to Greatness Empire's Workshop: Latin America, the United States, and the Rise of the New ImperialismPower of the DogThe Second Machine Age: Work, Progress, and Prosperity in a Time of Brilliant TechnologiesI Hear the Sirens in the StreetDavid and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling GiantsUncharted: Big Data as a Lens on Human CultureThink Like a FreakBad Land: An American RomanceShelterReady Player OneThe Fever Over EasyThe Teacher Wars: A History of America's Most Embattled ProfessionSavagesThe Winter of Frankie MachineDawn PatrolHow We Got to Now: Six Innovations That Made the Modern World 


T.J. said...


rob said...

the 'please prove you're not a robot' mechanisms have gone plaid. i now have to check a box next to text that says 'i'm not a robot'. wouldn't a really smart robot just laugh at that.

maybe i am a robot.

rob said...

also, which team wouldn't do an rg3 for cutler trade? a smart team wouldn't take cutler's salary, but that's not a description of washington's management.

still not a robot.

Clarence said...

I'm not a robot without emotions, I'm not what you see. I've come to help you with your problems so we can be free.

rob said...

need work gift etiquette advice. it's the time of year when people in the office give each other small gifts, ranging from a bottle of wine to cookies. i'm lazy, so have yet to do anything. i'm also a bit uncomfortable with the whole thing - it's awkward. i'm considering making a donation to a charity that matters to the people i work with (the human fund, natch) and sending everyone to whom i'd otherwise get a gift a note telling them that i donated. thoughts?

T.J. said...

I'm a killer robot driving instructor that time travels...for some reason. My best friend is a talking pie.

Danimal said...

Rob - a few years ago I made the motion to get rid of the holiday gift exchange at work. I think everyone was and is tickled. It WAS awkward, felt obligatory, not to mention stressful. Be gone I say!

Danimal said...

Heading to Chi-town for a pow wow tomorrow. Staying near airport with a free day essentially - excited about the prospect of seeing a movie in a theatre. Any suggestions?
I'm not a robot, but have played one on tv.

rob said...

agreed, danimal, but it's already started this year, so moving to abolish it is probably off the table.

Greg said...

I'm a funky disco robot

Mark said...

Black Keys were fantastic. And I drunkenly destroyed a ton of baklava post concert.

rob said...

anyone staying up late to watch the finale of the colbert report this evening?

Shlara said...

For you 90s era Bullets fans, there's a great TBT photo of the front office on my FB page. Same era as "You the Man"

Coach Lynam, GM John Nash and Mr. P himself are in the picture. It was from the team holiday card that year.

Dave said...

there's only one finale worth talking about today: serial. west side hitman!

rob said...

speaking of colbert, kendrick lamar was his last musical guest ever. on last night's show, lamar debuted an untitled track. it's pretty damn amazing:

Danimal said...

In Chicago. Hotel is right next door to Big 10 Hq' fact I can see into some of the offices, or rather, they can see into my hotel room. Oh yeah.

Also - just watched Jay Cutler interview. I like the guy.

Mark said...

Speaking of Cutler, you may or may not remember my fear/prediction from a month ago that Cutler would sink my other wise dominant fantasy team (11-2 regular season, NBD) in my $ league. Fast forward to this week...I'm in the finals and Cutler's been benched for Jimmy Clausen. Lovely. Just lovely. Winner gets $1000 and I'm starting Alex Smith at QB.

And yes, I realize none of you care.

Whitney said...

Midnight is late?

rob said...

for those of us that aren't vampires, yes. or robots.

you're a robot vampire, aren't you?

mayhugh said...

I've read 2 of the 7 recommendations. Think Like a Freak was a lightning fast read that was much better than their second effort. I also got to drop a "weed your own garden" reference in a meeting recently; got a positive reaction.

Nixing the holiday gift exchange is tricky. We tried to do it a few years back, when it had snowballed to the point of a bunch of folks trying to one up each other, including people buying everyone else electronics that were a couple to a few hundred bucks. We succeeded in toning it down but not in eradicating it. It's not going to pass the smell test with several if you try to put the brakes on midway through holiday season.

I suggest you suck it up with a 10-15 dollar bottle of wine for the closest 6-9 people and then approach nixing the holiday gifts for next year in like March.

kevy said...

three way tie for 7th? how lame is that.

ps, I don't think he finishes books.

(ask him how The Echo Maker ends)