What I Have Been Reading

books

I just finished a really amazing book a few minutes ago and it occurred to me that I have been reading some really incredible stuff as of late, from varied genres.

These are going to be far from book reviews, just my 2¢.

The Gone-Away World

A hilarious, action-packed look at the apocalypse that combines a touching tale of friendship, a thrilling war story, and an all out kung-fu infused mission to save the world.Gonzo Lubitch and his best friend have been inseparable since birth. They grew up together, they studied martial arts together, they rebelled in college together, and they fought in the Go-Away War together. Now, with the world in shambles and dark nightmarish clouds billowing over the wastelands, they have been tapped for an incredibly perilous mission. But they quickly realize that this assignment is not all it seems, and before it is over they will have encountered everything from mimes, ninjas, and pirates to one ultra-sinister mastermind, whose only goal is world domination. Unlike anything else, The Gone-Away World is a remarkable literary debut that will be remembered and rediscovered for years to come.

What a great book.  Fun read. Not usually one for sci-fi, but it wasn’t Star Wars-y. Obvious elements, of the narrative and the plot, but not so much that someone who typically doesn’t read sci-fi would get turned off. At least I didn’t. Mimes, ninjas, pirates, lyrical at times, full of fun but useless information… Reminded me of a bit of Cloud Atlas mixed with a bit of A Fraction of the Whole.

Mo Meta Blues

Mo’ Meta Blues is a punch-drunk memoir in which Everyone’s Favorite Questlove tells his own story while tackling some of the lates, the greats, the fakes, the philosophers, the heavyweights, and the true originals of the music world. He digs deep into the album cuts of his life and unearths some pivotal moments in black art, hip hop, and pop culture.

Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson is many things: virtuoso drummer, producer, arranger, Late Night with Jimmy Fallon bandleader, DJ, composer, and tireless Tweeter. He is one of our most ubiquitous cultural tastemakers, and in this, his first book, he reveals his own formative experiences–from growing up in 1970s West Philly as the son of a 1950s doo-wop singer, to finding his own way through the music world and ultimately co-founding and rising up with the Roots, a.k.a., the last hip hop band on Earth. Mo’ Meta Blues also has some (many) random (or not) musings about the state of hip hop, the state of music criticism, the state of statements, as well as a plethora of run-ins with celebrities, idols, and fellow artists, from Stevie Wonder to KISS to D’Angelo to Jay-Z to Dave Chappelle to…you ever seen Prince roller-skate?!?

But Mo’ Meta Blues isn’t just a memoir. It’s a dialogue about the nature of memory and the idea of a post-modern black man saddled with some post-modern blues. It’s a book that questions what a book like Mo’ Meta Blues really is. It’s the side wind of a one-of-a-kind mind.

It’s a rare gift that gives as well as takes.

It’s a record that keeps going around and around.

I’m a fan. Of ?uestlove, of the Roots, music, rap, history, back stories and Philly, all rolled into one. I have a bunch of notes I made as I read the book and want to do a bona fide book review at some point. Well, not quite a book review, but review my thoughts as I read it, along with a few bonus gifts, but it will take some time to put together. We will see. Regardless, if you are a fan of any of the things I mentioned above, give it a read.

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The Art of Non-Conformity / The $100 Startup

AONC: If you’ve ever thought, “There must be more to life than this,” The Art of Non-Conformity is for you.

Based on Chris Guillebeau’s popular online manifesto “A Brief Guide to World Domination,” The Art of Non-Conformity defies common assumptions about life and work while arming you with the tools to live differently. You’ll discover how to live on your own terms by exploring creative self-employment, radical goal-setting, contrarian travel, and embracing life as a constant adventure.

Inspired and guided by Chris’s own story and those of others who have pursued unconventional lives, you can devise your own plan for world domination-and make the world a better place at the same time.

I read The $100 Startup a year after my sister sent it (and a $100 bill) to me. It was a few months ago during the start of a period of reevaluation of my life and set in chain a series of books. (And reevaluations, breaking of old habits, start of new ones, tired of being a passive observer of my life whizzing by, blahblahblah.) It was an amazing book I read in two sittings. I liked it so much that it lead me to Guillebeau‘s other book, The Art of Non-Conformity. (Also in two sittings.) This book changed my life. Really. It was almost a serendipitous confluence (what a silly, wordy phrase) of me being honest, open-minded and willing to look at myself and my life and consider both external and internal changes.

These have lead to me currently reading The 4-Hour Workweek and Die Empty. Both are great so far, with helpful takeaways (“take what you need, leave the rest” type of stuff) but not even close to effecting me like the AONC.

A Walk on the Wild Side

With its depictions of the downtrodden prostitutes, bootleggers, and hustlers of Perdido Street in the old French Quarter of 1930s New Orleans, A Walk in the Wild Side has found a place in the imaginations of all generations since it first appeared. As Algren admitted, the book “wasn’t written until long after it had been walked . . . I found my way to the streets on the other side of the Southern Pacific station, where the big jukes were singing something called ‘Walking the Wild Side of Life.’ I’ve stayed pretty much on that side of the curb ever since.”

Perhaps the author’s own words describe this classic work best: “The book asks why lost people sometimes develop into greater human beings than those who have never been lost in their whole lives. Why men who have suffered at the hands of other men are the natural believers in humanity, while those whose part has been simply to acquire, to take all and give nothing, are the most contemptuous of mankind.”

I bought this a few years ago, started it and couldn’t get into it. Not the plot, but the language. I set it down and as I try to do, picked it up later. This time, I was consumed by it. Oddly enough, especially the language. The whole world that Algren inhabits and brings to life reminded me of one of my personal favorites, Ironweed. As I do with most authors I fall in love with, I started copping book after book by Algren. Of course I grabbed The Man With the Golden Arm.

Entrapment and Other Writings

Nelson Algren sought humanity in the urban wilderness of postwar America, where his powerful voice rose from behind the billboards and down tin-can alleys, from among the marginalized and ignored, the outcasts and scapegoats, the punks and junkies, the whores and down-on-their luck gamblers, the punch-drunk boxers and skid-row drunkies and kids who knew they’d never reach the age of twenty-one: all of them admirable in Algren’s eyes for their vitality and no-bullshit forthrightness, their insistence on living and their ability to find a laugh and a dream in the unlikeliest places.

In Entrapment and Other Writings—containing his unfinished novel and previously unpublished or uncollected stories, poems, and essays—Algren speaks to our time as few of his fellow great American writers of the 1940s and ’50s do, in part because he hasn’t yet been accepted and assimilated into the American literary canon despite that he is held up as a talismanic figure. “You should not read [Algren] if you can’t take a punch,” Ernest Hemingway declared. “Mr. Algren can hit with both hands and move around and he will kill you if you are not awfully careful.”

I also bought and read this on my Algren kick. “The Emblems and the Proofs of Power” and “Ain’t Nobody on My Side” were my favorites. It was almost Algren reader-ish. All sorts of his writing. While I really liked the short stories, I really appreciated the non-fiction pieces and essays. Brilliant. I’m always a fan of the underdog and Algren (similar to one of my other favorite writers, WTV) also saw the humanity in those the world wants to forget and wishes to go away. I picked up an Algren bio, which could be next on my list to read…