Question of the Day

We haven’t done one of these in a long time. Let’s give it a go to escape from the news.

What’s something you have given up in the last year?
Eating mammals. Last August, I decided to start cutting my meat intake. I figured I would start with beef and pork products. I was a huge meat eater for the majority of my life. When I would go out to eat, burgers and steaks were what I looked for first on the menu. I thought I would just try to give it up for a month. I’ve been reading more about factory farming, and I was wondering if I would still eat animals if I actually had to be the one to kill them. I don’t think I could kill a pig. And definitely not a cow. So I went a month choosing either the fish or vegetable dish. Sometimes chicken. And that month went longer. It’s been over a year now since I have eaten a mammal. (There may have been some pork products I unknowingly ate since a lot of restaurants use pork in soups as flavor. New England clam chowder, I’m looking at you.)

Do I miss it? No. I don’t really crave a burger or bacon. It’s a little more tricky when looking at a menu but I’m still eating fish and chicken so ordering is not a problem. I think I would like to start limiting my chicken intake, and I have to an extent. I’m not actively trying to become a vegetarian, but as I get older I seem to be drifting that way.

Books I Read in August

Ways to Hide in Winter by Sarah St. Vincent I’m not going to say this book was not memorable, but I read it about 30 days ago and just had to look it up to see what it was about. Oh, yeah. Not bad. I think. I dunno.

D-Day Girls by Sarah Rose We are always hearing about our heroic boys who stormed the beaches of Normandy to free Europe from the Nazis, (which had some good people according to some orange-tinted presidents) but rarely do you hear about the women heroes who risked their lives for the war. One of my favorite books of the year.

Good Omens, by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman A reread for me given that I binge-watched the show on Amazon (David Tennant got most of the official publicity when he was cast but Michael Sheen was really amazing.) and it’s just a wonderful light-hearted end of summer read.

Watchmen by Alan Moore Another re-read but well worth it. Alan Moore’s writing is so tight in this that even the comic within the comic is a page turner.

Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik I have had this book in my queue for almost a year probably. Whenever I got to the front of the library line and it became available, I tossed it back and went to the back of the line. It just seemed a little silly on paper. A retelling of Rumpelstiltskin? Meh. But I figured I’d give it a start and just remove it from my list altogether if the first few pages sucked. So I read a chapter, and was immediately sucked in. Whoa. This is some hard hitting stuff. This is my new prime example of not judging a book by its cover. I had to go back and add more books by Novik to my list. Just an amazing read.

Post Office by Charles Bukowski I have never read Bukowski before despite knowing quite a bit about him. I was kind of blown away by his style at first. The writing is matter of fact and not very flowerly but there’s an element of honesty to it. But it’s a depressing read. The plot is basically, wake up with a hangover, go to work at a bureaucratic hellhole, drink, get laid, drink, gamble, drink, wake up with a hangover, go to work at a bu…. etc.

Books I Read in July

After a crappy month of reading in June, I got back into a groove for July. Yeah, there are still two days left in July but I need to start a new book tonight and there’s no way I’m reading anything in two days so here goes this month’s list.

Hamlet, by William Shakespeare I haven’t read Hamlet in ages so thought I would give it another run through. I had forgotten how wishy washy Hamlet was in the first 2/3rds of the book. Still one of my favorite of Billy’s plays though. I should reread Macbeth next.

Art Through the Ages, by Helen Gardner, picked this up at the library just to go through some art history. It’s a monster of a book though (in terms of actual weight.

Diary of a Genius, by Salvadore Dali, this is a very short read, maybe 200 pages, but 200 pages in the mind of Dali is more than enough. It covers a few diary entries and is well worth it to hear his musings on random topics like why he loves accidental coffee spills and how artwork by children is just annoying when adults act like it’s amazing.

The Posthumous Memoirs of Brás Cubas, by Machado de Assis, I need to read more Brazilian authors (Not Paulo Coelho though. UGH). A look at 19th century Brazilian society through the eyes of a recently deceased narrator who reflects on his life. Very witty and sharply written. I need to read more books by Machado de Assis.

Fall, or Dodge in Hell, by Neal Stephenson, Oh, Neal…. I have such a love/hate relationship with him. This book is extremely long, (well, all of his books are) and I just couldn’t get a good handle on it. There are certain sections in the beginning I enjoyed, and just as I got a handle of that arc, the section would end putting us in a completely different narrative. I gave up halfway through this one sadly.

The Library Book, by Susan Orlean, A look at libraries through the prism of a library fire in California a while back. This book gets very high ratings on GoodReads. I thought it was ok but just got a bit bored about the fire.

The Judgment of Paris: The Revolutionary Decade That Gave the World Impressionism, by Ross King, One of my favorite books from the month. A nonfiction account of the art world in the 19th century which focuses mainly on two artists. Manet and one of the most famous artists of that period who is practically unknown nowadays, Ernest Meissonier. Manet’s painting, Le déjeuner sur l’herbe, caused a stir when it was displayed in the Salon des Refuses (It was rejected from the Paris Salon), where it was openly mocked, derided, and then went on to be considered one of the first paintings of the Impressionists.

Machete Season: The Killers in Rwanda Speak, by Jean Hatzfeld Oh, a book about the Rwandan genocide as told by men who participated in the killing of their Tutsi neighbors. My god. This is a hard book to read. They talk about killing and raping like it was a menial chore like taking out the garbage. I gave up about 3/4ths the way through.

Barbarian Days: A Surfing Life, by William Finnegan, There is surfing in this book. A lot of surfing. I probably should have realized this by the title, but I thought there would be some surfing and then something else. I was wrong. Ok, it also passes for a travelogue, with surfing. It’s very well written, if you like surfing. Did I mention that it’s about surfing?

Level 7, by Mordecai Roshwald, Whoa, I had never heard of this one before. Written in the late 50s when nuclear war with the Soviets was not a question of if, but of when, this is told through the eyes of one of the people whose job is to push “the button” and has been basically imprisoned in an underground bunker for the rest of his life (along with other members of the military).

Books I Read in June

This one is going to be a real short one. I usually read before bed and after moving the office and other stuff, I was asleep after only a few pages. Also, one was the size of an encyclopedia so…

Anathem by Neal Stephenson. I read this when it first came out. It’s a bit of a pain to read because he invents so many words that there’s a glossary at the back. At the time, I photocopied the glossary, shrunk it, and bound it so I wouldn’t have to flip to the end to see what a damn jeejah is. But now with an ebook, you can download a glossary and just tap the word. Brilliant. The book is brilliant also but my complaint is that it probably could have been edited down a bit. But, that’s Stephenson.

Conversations With Friends by Sally Rooney. I was on the waiting list for her new book, Normal People, which is getting rave reviews (and that I am reading now) so thought I would give her freshman effort a try. It is nicely written but I didn’t quite get involved in the plot. Normal People grabbed me by the throat right away, although I’m only about a third done with it.

Under the Skin by Michel Faber. Whoa. Where the hell did this book come from. (I guess it’s a movie but I haven’t seen it and the reviews are that it’s loosely adapted from the novel which is never a good thing, unless the novel sucks) I honestly had no idea what I was about to read. It made it onto my list for some reason and I figured I might as well give it a go and get it off my list if I hated it. Probably the best read of the year up to this point. It’s a sci-fi book but doesn’t reveal itself as one until you’re invested in the story. Faber masterfully pulls back a little bit of the curtain at just the right time. There’s nothing better than being lost in a book when you have no idea where the author is taken it. He made all the right turns at all the right places. Highly recommend it. I am intentionally not talking about the plot because why ruin the surprise.

What have you guys been reading?

I Guess I Like Beer Now

I never cared for beer. Just didn’t like that bitter hoppy taste. I tried it here and again and it just never tasted like something I would want to drink. I ended up drinking cocktails and wines but stayed away from the fermented barley juice.

Then, Ireland happened. The first pub we went to in Dublin (The Bank on College Green), I decided to give beer another try. I really didn’t expect to like it. I ordered a Smithwick’s Red Ale. And…. it was good. Smooth, not too bitter. Wait, I could have another one.
The next day we went to the Guinness Storehouse and:

It was damn good. So I’ve been trying different types and I’m still basically a beer infant. So far I’m enjoying stouts (Guinness, Murphy’s) and belgium/french style beers (Blue Moon, Kronenbourg 1664).

So thank you Dublin, from the bottom of my rotting liver.

Books I Read in May

It’s going to be a short list. May was busy, busy, busy and instead of reading I ended up sleeping. But, let’s do this anyway.

The Princes of Ireland by Edward Rutherfurd. I started May still on an Irish kick. The thing is, looking back on this, I barely have any memory of what this book was about and I read it less than a month ago. I gave it three stars on Goodreads though so I guess it was ok. My god, my memory is shit.

The Good Neighbor: The Life and Work of Fred Rogers by Maxwell King. This one I remember. What else can say about Mister Rogers? He was just an amazing person. I forget if this was in the book or a story I read somewhere online while reading the book but he was an ordained minister and very religious. But he never preached on his show. When asked why he said that he never wanted a child of a different religious background to feel left out of his show. Just an amazing man.

The Yellow House by Patricia Falvey. We’re back in Ireland. Belfast, early 1900s to be precise. This book has some flaws but it’s written beautifully and the protagonist is a strong catholic Irish woman in the wrong part (for her religion) of Ireland during the push for independence. There’s a love triangle that’s a bit forced but besides that it’s a good yarn.

Underground: A Human History of the Worlds Beneath Our Feet by Will Hunt. A nonfiction book that takes you through the catacombs of Paris and subway tunnels of NYC. It gets a little repetitive for my taste but a quick read nonetheless.

How was your May reading?

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?