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.


15 years, 1 month ago

Cahill, How the Irish Saved Civilization (just finished, again) Geoffrey of Monmouth, History of the Kings of Britain Jones, the End of Roman Britain (I skipped a chapter, so I'm technically not finished - I just couldn't go on. But I need to). Savage, The Anglo-Saxon Chronicles O'Leary, The Most Ancient Lives of Saint Patrick Sten, The Mexican Codices Reiersgord, The Kensington Rune Stone

Aileen Dingus 15 years, 1 month ago

Ye gads. I'm practically illiterate compared to you guys, and I read more than just about anyone I know.

On the books right now: Horwitz, Confederates in the Attic (again) Gurganus, The Oldest Living Confederate Widow Tells All (again) (hmm... I sense a theme here)

Just finished: Blanton, They Fought Like Demons Stephenson, The Baroque Trilogy and Cryptonomicon (again) Dennis, Auntie Mame (fantastic- even better than I'd hoped)

15 years, 1 month ago

Scratch O'Leary from my list, I guess. I ordered a copy thru Amazon that was supposed to be here this week (for my fall class on ancient Ireland), a $20 copy of the 1895 printing. But I just got a note that the book was sold to someone else and the next-cheapest hardcover is about $100. I don't need it in my collection that badly. If I read it, it'll be the Gutenberg edition, but I'm not sure I want to print off ~300 pages or read it online, so I have to go looking for another...

OtherJoel 15 years, 1 month ago

Yeah, A Man Without A Country was alright. I prefer his commentary when it's embedded in his storytelling, but there were some decent moments.

Speaking of Vonnegut, I just watched the movie adaptation of Breakfast of Champions. I didn't think that one would translate well to the big screen, and I was right.

As far as reading, I've been on a Coupland kick. Just read Hey Nostradomus! and All Families are Psychotic; now I'm reading Generation X for the first time. On deck is Girlfriend in a Coma.

I also picked up The Road the other day, based largely on praise from l.com folks.

Chris Tackett 15 years, 1 month ago

Counterculture Through the Ages by Ken Goffman aka R.U. Sirius - an interesting look of a few of the major counter cultures from Abraham to the cyberpunks.

Moyers on America by Bill Moyers - Moyers is probably my favorite media professional. I think his thoughts on public broadcasting and journalism should be read/heard by everyone, which is what you'll get in this collection of speeches and essays from the past three decades.

World Changing: A Users Guide to the 21st Century - This isn't really a book you'd read start to finish, as it's more of a reference guide, but i've enjoyed what i've read so far. It's basically a collection of innovative ideas for making positive changes in the world.

Hell in a Handbasket by Tom Tomorrow - This collection of weekly political cartoons spanning 2002 to 2005 was a bit depressing to read at this point, especially the pieces from '02 and '03. It's really something to see how a cartoonist could be so right about just about everything years before the msm.

Rush Limbaugh is a Big Fat Idiot and Other Observations by Al Franken - older but funny. Even if Franken doesn't win the Senate in 2008, he will certainly go down as one of this eras great political satirist (along w/ Colbert). Not as good as his latest books, but worth the $.50 it cost me at Library Book Sale last month!

Steal This Book by Abbie Hoffman - another of the books i got at the book sale. Under today's standards, a lot of the content and technology it discusses are outdated, but it was interesting to read this "guide to revolution" to get an insiders look at what the youth of the 60s the 70s were thinking at the time.

Conscience of a Conservative by Barry Goldwater - also from the book sale. I'll probably write more about this one at some point. I'll just say it's interesting to see read Goldwater's words in today's context, especially while watching the candidates vie for their party's nomination.

Zen in the Art of Writing by Ray Bradbury - eh.

Currently reading: Democracy Matters by Cornel West - his thoughts on race, religion and imperialism in America.

Democracy in America by Tocqueville - Joel, your blogging inspired me to pick this up. Plus, it was $0.75! And, I'm definitely thinking I'm due for a novel or two, as well. :)

Jill Ensley 15 years, 1 month ago

OtherJoel, have you read Microserfs? I rather enjoyed that one.

OtherJoel 15 years, 1 month ago

Jill Microserfs and his recent "follow-up," JPod, are definitely on my list of ones to read soon. I also learned Coupland has also written a screenplay recently -- a film called "Everything's Gone Green" that should be out soon.

CafeSiren 15 years, 1 month ago

Anybody out there could recommend a good T.C. Boyle book to start with? Friends have recommended him to me numerous times, but I've never gotten around to it, and I'm not sure where would be the best place to start.

lori 15 years, 1 month ago

So, I need some "graphic novel" suggestions for an 8 year old kid who likes stuff like Calvin and Hobbes, Get Fuzzy, and Asterix and Obelix. You all seem like a hip group of readers--any suggestions from your childhood?

Aufbrezeln Eschaton 15 years, 1 month ago

I've been doing trash novels recently; I read Peyton Place and Return to Petyon Place, and was having so much fun wallowing in badly-written tacky that I had to go dig out my copy of Valley of the Dolls and read it again.

At the moment I'm crying my way through "Year of Wonders", and I swear if one more baby dies I'm going to start drinking, 8 in the morning or no. It's nice and easy reading compared to the Maimonides' Mishneh Torah I'm working through to make myself feel better about buying "The Idiot's Guide To The Talmud".

Joel 15 years, 1 month ago

Lori: My wonderful emigre-immigre wife happens to be a bit of a graphic novel geek, so I've picked up some from time to time. A good one, that I've seen only part of the series, is "Bone." It is, if I remember correctly, age-appropriate.

But look at it first. 'Cause I might remember incorrectly.

lori 15 years, 1 month ago

Oh, Jill, Chunky Rice looks awesome. Anything with rodents and animals (but especially rodents) goes over well in our house.

I just checked out Roman Dirge on amazon.com and you are right, Leslie, that looks right up her alley. Lenore and Peter the Pirate Squid both look great.

Thanks for the recommendations; I didn't even know where to start to look.

leslie 15 years, 1 month ago

No reading lately because I'm on a nonapologetic TV binge.

Lori, the Lenore comic book series by Roman Dirge. About the antics of a little dead girl--right up J's alley.

manofleisure 15 years, 1 month ago


Yiddish Policeman's Union - Michael Chabon (just out) Falling Man - Don DeLillo (out mid-month) The Pesthouse - J. Crace (reviewed for SF Chron., yesterday)


Flight - Sherman Alexie Winter's Bone - Daniel Woodrell Orlando - Virginia Woolf Scarlet Pimpernel - Baroness Orczy Dark Knight Returns - Miller

Just started Georges - Alexander Dumas (new trans. out from Mod. Library - race, colonialism and swashbuckling - hard to beat)

Chabon's a hoot; DeLillo's outstanding; loved the Crace but not his best;Alexie's novel a dog;Woodrell a master; Woolf the best time travel transgender novel ever; Pimpernel, he's a smooth operator.

lori 15 years, 1 month ago

Joel: Interestingly enough, she just came home with two of those books from the library the other day. How many are there in the series?

Leslie, I knew you'd come through--I forgot to ask you and Mr VH yesterday.

Thanks, and if anyone else has more suggestions, I'd like to hear them.


liz 15 years, 1 month ago

I've gotten further in Omnivore's Dilemma than I did in his other book, "The Botany of Desire". I swear the only thing I remember from that one is something about Johnny Appleseed being an effeminate hobo. I'm currently stuck on the last chapter of OD. It's a great work, but none of it has shocked me - except the part about corn being in EVERYTHING.

I recently enjoyed The Glass Castle and The Namesake. I should make it down to Liberty to see the movie if it's still there.

Leslie, what are you watching? I'm guessing it's decent, maybe even an HBO series, if you're unapologetic. The only show I admit to watching is Grey's Anatomy. Love Sandra OH, Izzy drives me nuts.

Jill Ensley 15 years, 1 month ago

lori, there should be....nine in the series. There are two versions in serialized form now, one specifically for the 9-12 set, with color, and the regular graphic novel. There's also a complete version, but it's hefty. I LOVE Bone. Such a great story, beautiful artwork.

And Lenore is only good if you're a young teenage fangirl. Sorry. I have Roman Dirge issues.

Try this too:


Craig Thompson is teh awesome. I loves me some graphic novels.

OH! And Scott Morse!


Jocelyn Craft 15 years, 1 month ago

Oooh, lori, ask me about graphic novels. ^^

There are... 7? 9? in the scholastic editions (or will be). Let's put it this way: Books 1-3 are issues 1-19, and there were 55 issues.

Other suggestions:

"Owly" by Andy Runton. Actually friendly to all ages, a very sweet comic featuring an owl and a worm. Probably not sardonic enough for the 8-year-old, but you never know. I love Calvin, and am still charmed.

Hrm. Everything else I have at the moment is probably a bit older-audience than 8. If you want to borrow anything yourself, however, just give me a call. ^^

Friends of Lulu does have a list of recommended graphic novels with good reviews, sorted by genre with ratings and such. It's here:


I imagine you (and J) can find something good there, if nothing else. ^^

leslie 15 years, 1 month ago

Liz, for some reason I got hooked on the Tudors, though I can't recommend it. It's very self-conscious. Maybe it's the costumes I like. I've also been watching Anthony Bourdain--surely in this town comparisons have been made to Tom King? Also, the Sci Channel Planet Earth series is beautiful. Otherwise, channel-surfing: King of Queens, Seinfeld, that sort of thing.

I think what I really want is a good Taxi binge.

liz 15 years, 1 month ago

Yes, as I was watching No Reservations last night, I realized it was another show I'm willing to admit to liking, although, sometimes the producers jack with it too much. The "Fear and Loathing" theme from the Las Vegas episode reeked of a 20 something intern who had just discovered Hunter S. Thompson.

Tim vonHolten 15 years, 1 month ago

i think "maakies" would be a hit for any child who's mother curses as much as you.

Deb Townsend 15 years, 1 month ago

"Budding Prospects" was a great TC Boyle read, its the one I started with!

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