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?

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…