What I'm Reading 2007: Vol. 2
Here are the books I've read in the last couple of months."The Omnivore's Dilemma," by Michael Polian: Every book you read changes you, in some respect, but few have affected my behavior so much as Michael Polian's look at the human food chain. It actually started well before the book was published; one of Polian's articles in the New York Times Magazine a few years back -- an article that later becomes a key part of the book -- followed a cow from its birth in South Dakota to "processing" in Garden City, Kan.; it actually persuaded me to radically cut back on my consumption of red meat - not, I should add, because I found the process icky (I helped make sausage in high school or college), but because the process of getting a steak on your table is wildly inefficient in its use of environmental resources ... perhaps even irresponsibly so. The expanded book has prompted me how to search for locally grown grass-fed beef, but it has also helped me find some balance: There's no such thing as a "perfect" meal -- at least, not one that can be consumed by most of us most of the time. But I'm now convinced of the need to be thoughtful and purposeful about my groceries."Man Without A Country" by Kurt Vonnegut: Believe it or not, I read this before his death a few weeks back. This is a final collection of essays and ponderings, a combination of jokiness, cynicism and profound humanism that can only be called Vonnegutian."Fiasco" by Thomas Ricks: A closely reported history of the Iraq War and why, so far at least, it seems to have mostly gone wrong. It's not just civilian officials that deserve the blame, Ricks argues, but military leaders who lacked the foresight and preparation to prevent the insurgency, then to combat it smartly once it began. This, oddly, also a book that prompted deep, nonpolitical reflection on my part, as I started considering the differences between strategic leadership and tactical leadership in my own professional life."Gilead" by Marilynne Robinson: I blogged about this book when I completed it in March. Not much to add, except to say that it was one of the great and moving pieces of literature I have ever read. Truth is, it took me about three weeks to pick up another book; everything that I could read seemed to pale in comparison.Still in process: "The Essays of E.B. White," and "Democracy in America."Looking back, this is an oddly nonfiction-heavy set of books for me. Time to tackle a novel.Tally so far in 2007: Eight books across four months and one week. It's not going to be a record-setting year, but the reading has been wonderful so far -- and that's what matters.