Sunday, December 28, 2008

Reading

Predictably, reading and blogging both fell off the radar during the school year, evidenced by the sparseness of posts since August. Most of the reading I did was of the academic kind, for my classes, which were largely interesting in their own right but still, there's something to be said for having time to just sit down and read for your own interests. My friend Tom and I decided that we really just should quit school and catch up on our reading lists. Anyway, here's what I managed to get through during the first semester:

1. Love Is A Mix Tape by Rob Sheffield-- memoir by a Rolling Stone editor about the love of his life, his wife for an all-too-brief amount of time before she passed away from a brain trauma. Each chapter begins with a playlist of a mix that he made for her-- hence the name of the book. Speaks to the fact that music speaks to the deepest part of humanity, whether in love, in pain, in tragedy, in trial, in joy-- in everything.
2. Searching For God Knows What by Donald Miller-- more or less picks up along the same lines as another of Miller's books, Blue Like Jazz. A series of essays exploring concepts about God, how both He and then universe He designed are infinitely complex and that the sooner we accept that, the happier we will be and the more secure in our faith we will be.
3. Emma by Jane Austen-- classic English literature. I've been working my way through all of Austen's books. Having read Pride and Prejudice and Sense and Sensibility, this was my next pick. Enjoyed the storyline, but hated most of the characters except for Mr. Knightley. He's pretty much the model gentleman, a sort of Mr. Darcy with less pride.

That's all I got to read for pleasure during first semester. Over Christmas break, I have been absorbing myself in reading, and at this point two weeks in I've read through more than double the books I did in the semester. These books are:

1. Murder at the National Cathedral by Margaret Truman-- Pres. Harry Truman's daughter found her calling in writing books, and some of her most successful were the Capital Crimes novels-- murder mysteries set at famous Washington, D.C. locations. This was the first one I've read, and I found it a quick, interesting, suspenseful, and fun read.
2. Presidential Courage by Michael Beschloss-- Beschloss, a well-regarded presidential historian, picked about eight presidents (some well-known, some not), and profiled incidents during their terms of office in which they showed courage that shaped the course of the country's history.
3. John Adams by David McCullough-- this book won McCullough a Pulitzer Prize and spun off a successful HBO miniseries starring Laura Linney and Paul Giamatti, and it's not hard to see why. It's an exceptionally well-written biography of the second US president, often underappreciated for the role he played in bringing the country into being and keeping it out of an unnecessary war that they would have almost certainly lost.
4. Born Standing Up by Steve Martin-- the well-known actor's bestselling autobiography details the years he spent doing stand-up comedy, showing both how he got into it and, most poignantly, why he got out and went into film instead.
5. The Last Jihad by Joel C. Rosenberg-- OK, I admit, this one is a reread, and a frequent reread at that. The politics that Rosenberg adheres to and demonstrates in his books are way too conservative for my usual taste, but I will give him this-- the man can write a great political thriller. And that's exactly what this is. Read it-- and follow up with the sequels: The Last Days, The Ezekiel Option, The Copper Scroll, and Dead Heat.
6. The Audacity of Hope by Barack Obama-- our new president's book, written back when he was a senator (really not so long ago, I suppose)...figured it was about time I picked it up and saw some of his articulation and early formulation of policy ideas. I was very impressed by the scope and fairness of his vision for the country as he laid it out, and it only reinforced my view that the US made a good choice this election cycle. Here's hoping we're all right.
7. Promises to Keep by Joe Biden-- continuing a trend, our new vice-president's autobiography, written while he was still a presidential candidate. It's pretty well-written, with the definitive Biden flair for storytelling. But his story is compelling, and his politics (especially his views on government's responsibility for security of its people, and on international responsibility) are solid, and so despite the highly political pitches at the end, it's worth a read. The title is of course from a Robert Frost poem, Stopping By Woods on A Snowy Evening: "For I have promises to keep/and miles to go before I sleep/and miles to go before I sleep."

Still got a couple of weeks left of vacation, and more books to read, so another post like this will probably be forthcoming...assuming I have time!