On the eleventh day of Gheorghemas
Big Gheorghe gave to me:
Eleven books for reading
Ten (plus one) Months of Gheorghness
Nine cheers for Mike
Eight Miscellaneous Items - Probably for Next Christmas (or for yourself, or perhaps a fellow GTB'r right now, just cuz)
Seven (Give or Take) Voters (Should Be) Voting
Six Simpler Memories
Five shows to binge watch on TV
Four Random Thoughts
Three Punk Rock Playlists
Two Digits Throughout History
And the debut of Mac McFis-ty
Since this post goes to eleven (and some Gheorghies are watching Stranger Things) I'll start by revisiting my son Ian's Halloween costume. He looks almost as much like Eleven as I resemble Brad Pitt (when I face-swap with Stacey).
My annual book list also goes to eleven this year. It's no secret that I love to read, and I still get very excited when I'm in a good book . . . but I will readily admit that as I get older, it's harder for a book to engrave itself in my memory.
Can you read too much?
One thing inevitably reminds me of another, and I end up in a byzantine labyrinth of free-association. I think this may be a consequence of getting old. The same thing happens to me with movies and TV and stand-up comedy. And it happens with music, which drives me crazy.
Music doesn't have the same effect on me as it did when I was young, which is probably a good thing, as when I was young, music often drove me to violence, moshing, fisticuffs, warped and distorted ideas, capricious moodiness, and a general fanatical weirdness that is no longer age-appropriate.
But I miss that mainlining of emotion, the wild highs and lows. It happens occasionally, when I've had too many beers while cooking dinner and Google Play music tosses out a Liz Phair song that hits home, but it's rare. Normally, music evokes a much more manageable emotion: nostalgia. Nobody gets hurt and it's fun to have those moments, but it's not exactly The Cult at Hampton Coliseum, when I lost a pint of blood fighting for Ian Astbury's razor sharp tambourine in a mosh-pit (my friend John also had a grip on the tambourine, and he had to go to the ER for stitches . . . our blood was thin because we had been drinking with Whitney since 9 AM).
I have a hard time listening to new stuff, unless it's very different from what I used listen to. Which is why I listen to a lot of jazz and electronica, which is why my wife and kids often find whatever I'm listening to unbearable . . . although I did have a nice run this year: I totally dug the new Tribe Called Quest album, and this alerted me to the fact that I never listened to their first album, Instinctive Travels and the Paths of Rhythm . . . I started my Tribe Called Quest fandom with Low End Theory and never went backwards.
So I got a little bit of that "It Feels Like the First Time" feeling, and it felt good. But mainly, I've heard too much, seen too much, consumed too much, and while it's made me intelligent and well-versed it has also made me a bit calloused and jaded and rather cavalier. Everything reminds me of something else, or a combination of several things . . . Out of Africa meets Pretty Woman.
Whitney would attribute this to my mental age (91) and he's probably right . . . but that's another post.
The music metaphor also describes much of my reading.
According to Sentence of Dave, I read over forty books this year . . . which is fairly typical. If you project that over my life, it ends up being too many books, many of which are derivative. If were pressed, I could only recount a few in detail. The one surefire winner on this year's list is Death Comes to the Archbishop by Willa Cather. I reread it when we traveled to New Mexico, and I loved it even more than the first time I read it. So that one holds up.
As for the rest, who knows? I'm not sure that reading strengthens my mind. My brain is all clogged up, full of junk, it's a demented, disorganized, jumbled mess. Judging by the amount I've read, I should be smarter or have a better memory or be a better writer or something. I understand reading a book is a major commitment, and there's a good chance that you won't remember the details in ten years. Still, the process is meditative, and according to a recent study, book readers live longer than non-book readers. So while I can't assure you that these books will change your life, or that you'll remember them, they still might be worth reading.
This post is long enough, and I'm tired from our family vacation in Vermont, and so instead of providing blurbs, I've simply linked the titles to the Sentence of Dave summaries of each book.
Or just trust me, and take a couple of these titles out of your local library. That's what I do. What have you got to lose? True, the previous borrower may have taken your copy into the bathroom and perused it while taking a huge smelly dump . . . but you could exact vengeance on the next borrower and do the same thing . . .
Confession: while I try not to take library books into the john, I certainly stain a few pages of every book I check out with various foodstuffs.
Weapons of Math Destruction: How Big Data Increases Inequality and Threatens Democracy by Cathy O'Neil
Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of Family and Culture in Crisis by J.D. Vance
The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead
The Short and Tragic Life of Robert Peace: A Brilliant Young Man Who Left Newark For the Ivy Leagues by Jeff Hobbs
Death Comes to the Archbishop by Willa Cather
The Milagro Beanfield War by John Nichols
Roadside Picnic by The Strugatsky Brothers
But What If We're Wrong?: Thinking About the Present as if It Were the Past by Chuck Klosterman
Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind by Yuval Noah Harari
Seinfeldia by Jennifer Keishin Armstrong
The Nix by Nathan Hill