Books I Read in April

I know, I know. I’m 2 weeks late in posting this. But, you know… life.

Shakespeare: The World as Stage, by Bill Bryson. I really love Bryson’s writing style and it helps keep what could have been a dry biography and makes it quite entertaining. Great book if you want a quick read about Shakespeare and Elizabethan theater.

A Short History of Nearly Everything, by Bill Bryson. So I’ve been on a Bryson kick. This is a terrific read that doesn’t nearly have everything in it. But close.
The Most Dangerous Book: The Battle for James Joyce’s Ulysses by Kevin Birmingham. I wanted to read Ulysses before going to Dublin in April. I read about 3 pages and realized it was not what one would describe as a light airplane read. So I picked this up instead. I knew that Ulysses was considered obscene when it was published but didn’t realize that since it was serialized, every new episode that was published cause problems and how the Postal service had a lot more power in the early 20th century. This is half biography of the book and half biography of James Joyce. Very well researched and written.

Young Skins by Colin Barrett. Short stories set in Ireland. Some are good, some not so good. So it’s like any other collection of short stories. Skim mode was set to high during some of these.

Bill Bryson’s African Diary, by Bill Bryson. I went back too often to the Bryson well this month and this book wasn’t worth the read. It was short and I think the profits went to a charity but it was also boring as hell.

How to Set a Fire and Why, by Jesse Ball. I really enjoyed the first half of this book before it turned into a cheap knockoff of The Catcher in the Rye. Very angsty which is fine but it just lost me.

What have you guys been reading?

How to Improve Your Life in One Easy Step

Stay off Twitter. If you don’t go near Twitter than you are already in a better spot than most.

Seriously, I’ve deleted Twitter from my phone and have stopped looking at it altogether. (Whatever I post to this blog automatically gets posted to Twitter and I’ll probably just leave it up for that reason.) There are too many ads now (of the clickbait variety), the algorithm that dictates which followers tweets you see in what chronological order is completely wacky and everything boils down to Trump. Life is too short for that. And now, you have the added benefit of people of the same political ideologies fighting about which candidate is best to take on Trump for 2020. Hard pass.

(I’m skipping the 2020 battle royale for the moment. It’s way too early for me to give a shit. And, I’ll take any of them at the end of the day over the most corrupt piece of lying shit we have ever had in government who will surely get us all killed)

If you want to make life even better, stop paying attention to the 24 hour news stations. They are terrible. And they all love Trump for being a ratings machine.

For my part, I’ve stopped political blogging mostly. And none of it matters. The GOP will protect Trump no matter what at this point.

A perfect example. Lola here is not watching CNN or looking at her Twitter timeline:

Books I Read in March

March sucked. March always sucks. It’s a month based on lies. Yeah, it’s nice and sunny out, but still as cold as February. I’m glad it’s dead. I was really worried that the Mueller report was going to be released in March. Because, March sucks and everything that happens in March is just terrible.

But, we still have books. And books are wonderful no matter what burning shit pile of a month you’re in. So here’s the latest roundup. And as always, please use the comments to share what you have read.

Brain Food: The Surprising Science of Eating for Cognitive Power, by Lisa Mosconi. This was partially entertaining, then became mostly annoying. I hate books that tell you what you should be eating because these foods will make you smarter, better looking, and immortal. It would have been better off as a Medium article instead of an entire book.

Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking, by Susan Cain. I’m an introvert!! I should have loved this book. But another article inflated to a book. March got off to a slow start.

The Best American Travel Writing 2014 When the weather is crappy, my mind wants to be anywhere else but in Boston. So a book of travel essays were what the doctor ordered.

I’m a Stranger Here Myself: Notes on Returning to America After Twenty Years Away by Bill Bryson. I love Bryson’s writing style. He is that rare voice that can be funny without overdoing it. I just started reading another book of his which should make the April list.

The Woman in the Window, by A.J. Finn. I’m suspicious of these Gillian Flynn style books that have been all over the place. I tried the Woman on the Train, or The Woman in Cabin whatever and couldn’t get past the first 10%. So I expected this to be going back to the library within the first few minutes of cracking it open. But it was surprisingly good. At least the beginning. I think he lost it about halfway through but not a bad effort. Coincidentally, about halfway through I found an article on the author which puts him in a sketchy light so that may have prejudiced me against the second half of the book.

The Border (Power of the Dog, #3), by Don Winslow. This trilogy is just phenomenal. It’s like if The Wire was a 2700 page trilogy on Mexican drug cartels. The third book in the series was just released a few weeks ago and is probably the weakest of all three because it feels a bit repetitive if you have read the other two. But it’s still one of the best books I have read this year so far.

Becoming, by Michelle Obama. I just finished this up yesterday. A solid autobiography although I feel like it could have been a little more detailed. It did make me miss having competent, thoughtful people in the White House. Those were the days…

What I Read in February

A little late posting this but I’ve been busy, the weather has been shitty, and my mood matches the weather. But here are the books I read in February:

The Life We Bury, by Allen Eskens. I had really high hopes for this one. It had a good rating from GoodReads and the premise was interesting. A student doing a paper interviews a terminally ill convicted murderer. The writing was a bit lacking for me and despite an entertaining start, it collapsed soon after. Meh.

Diet for a Small Planet, by Frances Moore Lappe. This one feels pretty dated and although a precursor to other books in this genre, I just wasn’t feeling it.

The Pillars of Hercules, by Paul Theroux. I’m good with Theroux’s travel writing for about 300 pages and then I want it to end.

Keith Richards: The Biography, by Victor Bockris. Probably the best read of February for me. I’ve read Richards autobiography but it’s nice having the light pointed from a different direction.

Goodbye Things, The New Japanese Minimalism, by Fumio Sasaki. A friend recommended this to me when they recommended Marie Kondo. Poorly written (or poorly translated at least), and completely nonsensical. It’s weird for an author to hate consumerism and then herald Steve Jobs in the next sentence. (He was referring to Jobs’ hardware designs, but, COME ON!) The only thing I got from this book is that minimalists are the vegans of materialism.

How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie. I’m an introvert so I really don’t care about “winning” friends nor influencing people. But, this is the granddaddy of self help books. So I thought I would give it a spin. And the only thing I learned from this is that self help books have always been filled with nonsensical dribble. Carnegie’s basic principle is, just be agreeable and people will like you. Hard pass.

The Hunger, by Alma Katsu. Because the Donner Party wasn’t fucked up enough, let’s add some supernatural element to it. Ok, it worked for me!

Pancakes in Paris, by Craig Carlson. True story of an American who opens up an American breakfast diner in Paris. Quick and entertaining. Made me crave for pancakes at 11pm. That’s not good.

Elevation by Stephen King. A novella! Unfortunately, it was one of the worst stories I’ve read by King. But the amazing thing to me is even when King is far from his best, he’s always entertaining at the very least.

The Beautiful Fall: Lagerfeld, Saint Laurent, and Glorious Excess in 1970s Paris, by Alicia Drake I’m not into fashion and had to skim some sections but the actual biographical part on Yves Saint Laurent was very well done.

And did you read anything good last month? Post your recommendations in the comments.

So I Tried an Impossible Burger

I haven’t eaten a mammal since last August. So Mrs. C and I thought we would try an impossible burger. There’s a Wahlburger’s fairly close to my house so we went there. The verdict… It tastes pretty good. A someone who has eaten a lot of steak and burgers in their lifetime, it’s nowhere close to the best burger I ever had. It has a smokey flavor to it which was a bit too much. But for a plant based meat substitute, it was really pretty good.

That being said, my stomach feels terrible now (an hour after eating), but I’m not sure if it’s the burger or the pile of onion rings I ordered as a side. Probably both. My body hasn’t had that level of grease in a long time. This may be a long night.

What I Read in January

I’ll try to update this monthly if I can.

I use Goodreads to track my reading and find it an indispensable tool in finding out what my friends are reading. In no particular order, here are the 8 books I read last month.

The Poisoner’s Handbook. I loved how this nonfiction book started out and thought I was going to love it. And I did for the first half. It started getting redundant about halfway through. I feel that it was just a bit disorganized for my taste but a nice walkthrough of different poisons from the early 20th century.

Queen of Sorcery and Magician’s Gambit. Books two and three of The Belgariad which is one of my favorite series of all time. It’s simplistic, your usual hero’s journey/LOTR derivative, but also filled with old friends. It’s my comfort reading and I am unapologetic about my love for it.

The Death of Mrs. Westaway. It keeps you guessing although I wasn’t a fan of the writing style.

The Outsider by Stephen King. Not one of his strongest books but it starts out fast and you can’t help but turn the pages. About halfway through it loses its steam and kind of coasts to the finish line. But the beginning really is good enough to recommend it.

Moral Letters to Lucilius. Only if you’re in the mood to delve into some stoicism. If so, dive in. If not, see The Outsider.

The Word is Murder. A nice spin on Sherlock Holmes if Sherlock was a grizzled former police detective and Watson was a screenwriter. Actually, that sounds like a terrible premise but it does actually work on the page.

Year One by Nora Roberts. I think this is the first Nora Roberts book I have ever read which is weird considering that she has written 25,000 books. Actually, that’s probably the reason why I have stayed away from her books. I rarely trust authors who write that much. (King is the exception.) They get kind of a James Patterson odor about them imo. But, this is my favorite books that I have read to this point. It’s a nice post-apocalyptic fiction which is a mix of The Stand and The Walking Dead, so there’s very little new ground here other than a supernatural element where some of the survivors end up with supernatural powers. I’ll gladly read book 2.

What have you guys been reading?