Books This Year, So Far

I have been trying to make an effort to read more books. I read a good amount but want to read even more. A huge part of being a good writer is to be a voracious reader.

I finally broke down and asked for a Kindle for Christmas. I fought it for years, but finally succumbed. While I don’t consider myself a convert (I still prefer analog books), there certainly is an ease to the little, slim machine that fits in my jacket or back pocket of my jeans. Being able to check out books from the comfort of my bed or at 2:30 a.m. when I hear about a book on TV or online is a plus too. The biggest selling point though was the ability to make notes, highlight passages and look up words on the spot. Super helpful. Books read on my Kindle are denoted with (K).

My mom occasionally asks how many books I read in a year. Since I had no idea, I thought I would start keeping track.

Halfway through March, here’s what I have read so far this year:

TheBoatmaker

I had the good fortune of going to a wedding or baby or engagement dinner at the end of last year and having a conversation with someone who works at Head House Books and told me I should stop in. I did and picked up this, Blur and What We See When We Read (an amazing and fascinating book).

I thoroughly enjoyed the read. From the stark style to the tale itself, it is a book that is both good and different that it left a lasting impression. It contains one of the most beautifully written letters in it that I eventually want to memorize.

 

YouAreAWriter

A quick read. Like, an hour. Most of it contained things I already knew but there were enough little gems here and there that made it worth the 60 minutes.

 

Busted

Written by The Inky’s dynamic duo of Wendy Ruderman and Barbara Laker and based on their Pulitzer Prize winning Tainted Justice series, the book is a peek into both the process and people that make up the story. Not just a straight up recounting of the the series and work that went into it, the book contains personal narratives of both Ruderman and Laker. It reads somewhere in between investigative journalism and Ruderman’s Facebook page. (K)

 

SoulOfAPeople

Some of my favorite writers of all time spent time in the WPA trenches. Nelson Algren, Studs Terkel, Jack Conroy, Richard Wright, Saul Bellow, Ralph Ellison, John Thompson, John Steinbeck, Zora Neale Hurston, John Cheever.

The Works Progress Administration was a controversial part of FDR’s New Deal. Essentially the government created work for writers during the Depression. One result was the American Guide Series, a massive undertaking to document every state, city and town in the 48 states. From history to local customs and folklore, each guide is a wealth of information. Far from dry, you can imagine how the cadre of esteemed writers incorporated color and often uncomfortable realities into the guides.

This book isn’t about the guides or the program as much as the people and efforts necessary to produce a canon of work. This was my second crack at reading this, and this time it stuck. Only fitting, I copped this when I finished. (K)

 

Blur

I hadn’t read Kovach and Rosenstiel’s first book, The Elements of Journalism, but I will now. While most books on journalism are written for journalists, this was crafted for news consumers and presenting the information from the vantage point of someone who is not studied in the craft.

This makes it very digestible for those not in the know of the trade and I couldn’t help but think what an invaluable resource it would be for students. I think it should be mandatory reading and can envision an intro class being built around the book or at least using it as the textbook.

Hugely resourceful and full of invaluable information, my copy is now a reference book full of highlighting and underlining. I plan on rereading it again soon and periodically.

 

TheWorstHardTime

Another book I previously picked up and didn’t finished. Oddly enough, I read it on the beach while vacationing in Playa del Carmen, Mexico.

I picked this up for a few reasons. Being fascinated by worlds and lives and people’s existences that are not remotely like my own, The Dust Bowl during the Great Depression? I couldn’t imagine. It won the National Book Award for Nonfiction so I also wanted to read it as a work of journalism. Egan provides an excellent Notes and Sources chapter at the end where he cites where information from each chapter was drawn from.

I know this isn’t a book for everyone, but I found it amazing. Jaw droppingly amazing. I can’t fathom…

 

Currently Reading:

DirtyWars

Years ago I read The Dirty War about the conflict in Ireland. Scahill’s book looks in-depth at the how and why as the United States fights around the world in the Global War on Terror. Super interesting. I’m only about a third of the way in, but it is basically laying out the building blocks of foreign policy and the players in the lead up to 9/11 and how certain people capitalized and seized the opportunity to push agendas.

I do think it’s odd how the cover art is of the author. He’s not the story or in the story, but…

This is also an example of how using a Kindle is great. It can be tough to keep all the people and government/military acronyms straight. Highlighting those words immediately brings up who or what they are so I can read relatively uninterrupted.

I usually juggle a few books but this is a longer one and since I checked it out from the library (from the comfort of my bed at 2:30 a.m), I need to finish by the due date. Which is also a great motivator to read whenever I get a few minutes. (K)