What I Read in Summer 2016

summer2016-1

May

  • Michael Lewis, The Big Short: Inside the Doomsday Machine (2011) – On to new nightmares. I’ve got more books to read by Michael Lewis but I increasingly would rather read a nasty Baffler takedown of his smug court jester routine than any more of his preening. I can’t help but feel there is a lot sacrificed here for the sake of the narrative but that resulting narrative is a blast. A fun lurid read that builds a case for the system by comfortably illuminating flaws with a wink.
  • Bethany McLean and Peter Elkind, The Smartest Guys in the Room: The Amazing Rise and Scandalous Fall of Enron (2003) – This is better, and the associated documentary is better than the film of The Big Short. More than the technical aspects of the crazy financial structure – which I really enjoyed reading through – this book covers some of the cultural aspects of the Enron story: the 1990s New Economy; the weird prophetic futurism; Clinton-era decadence. Did 9/11 end the 1990s or did the fall of Enron end the 1990s? Maybe it was the latter that set a true disjuncture for the decades.
  • Jennifer Egan, Look At Me (2001) – A weird book that I’m glad I read but am still uneasy about. I like a novel that evokes another and this brought to mind Tom McCarthy, Remainder, which I read in the spring, and Don DeLillo, Americana, which I read maybe 10 years ago and have rarely thought of since.
  • John R Stilgoe, Outside Lies Magic: Regaining History and Awareness in Everyday Places (1998) – I love that subtitle. I found a hardcover copy of this in a Value Village many years ago, maybe 2005 or 2006, and replaced it with a cheap used paperback from Port Book and News in Port Angeles last year. But it’s not very good. That subtitle is a good as it gets, and it’s what I wanted, but this is really Mickey Mouse. I read this quickly at Youbou on the Victoria Day weekend.
  • Marian Engel, Bear (1976) – Also at Youbou, on recommendation from Mike Hingston. Terrific book; “as plausible as kitchens, but shapely as a folktale, with the same disturbing resonance” says Margaret Atwood.
  • Larry Pynn, Last Stands: A Journey through North America’s Vanishing Ancient Rainforests (1999) – A beautiful book about forests; the sort of book I save for Youbou, staring at trees and clearcuts and logging trucks passing by and no reason for a town there anyway but for cutting down all the trees.
  • Kasuo Ishiguro, Never Let Me Go (2005) – I enjoyed this, and read it on recommendation of Margaret Atwood, In Other Worlds. I read this fast, maybe in a day. I read the school scenes as a mirror of John le Carre somehow, but I couldn’t place which novel and still can’t. The clubby cloistered world, equally privileged and tragic.
  • Alan Hollinghurst, The Folding Star (1994) – The best novel I’d read to date in the year; a beautiful book. Better than The Line of Beauty maybe and much better than Swimming Pool Library. This is an absolute fever dream.

summer2016-2

June

  • William Gibson, The Peripheral (2014) – 124 choppy chapters, perfect show-don’t-tell fiction. A rush after the languor and  The first 50 pages or so are wholly disorienting. The plot, as the world comes into focus, becomes a bit pedestrian but the structure and the pace and the fun: William Gibson is either the best worst writer or the worst best writer, to crib Carl Wilson’s take on Paul Simon.
  • ed. Mike Davis and Daniel Bertrand Monk, Evil Paradises: Dreamworlds of Neoliberalism (2007) – I read this first in 2009 and it suffered from distance the second time. The Peripheral is future and I read this as ‘the now’ but it is rapidly ‘the past.’ I should have followed up with the inspiration for this collection, from 1991, Variations on a Theme Park, which I read first in 2008.
  • John Branch, Boy on Ice: The Life and Death of Derek Boogaard (2014) – I remember this, when Derek Boogard died, and I remember seeing him in games before that, a terrible hockey player by almost any measure. This is not an easy book to read, both for the brutally bleak subject and the poor writing but I am glad to have taken the time and I am glad the story was written.
  • Mike McGonigal, Loveless (2007) – One of my favourite records.
  • Ben Watt, Patient: The True Story of a Rare Illness (1996) – An excellent memoir. I read this before I saw his show, 20 years later, in Seattle, after he made two of my favourite new records of the last decade, Hendra and Fever Dream. I mean to write more about this book, his records, and his old records, once I read Tracey Thorn’s books next year.
  • George Packer, The Unwinding: An Inner History of the New America (2013) – I took this to Seattle with me to read on the ferry, in bars, over breakfast. The best sort of history, told through three long stories and many short fragments, of years and of people. I had been looking forward to reading this for several years and it was the best election year book I read about the United States.

summer2016-3

July

  • John Updike, Rabbit, Run (1960) – After my trip to Seattle we went to Port Angeles for Canada Day. I wanted to read the rest of the Rabbit books but I read this first in 2010 and needed to restart in order to continue. I read this in Tofino, February 2010, while hiding out from the first week of the Olympic games. I enjoyed it more the second time – as a better reader? or in a better space. My friend Renee suggested reading slowly but I sped through, the propulsion of prose.
  • John le Carre, Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy (1974) – We watched the BBC show, all seven hours, so I read this again for the third time – 2007, 2010, and now 2016. A thoroughly modern fable, richer in weight each time. Unlike so much spy fiction there is no stand-in for the audience, no dummy through whom we learn the words and the secrets. More show-don’t-tell fiction. A claustrophobic, bureaucratic study in power politics and one of my favourite novels.
  • Jan Morris, Heaven’s Command: An Imperial Progress (1973) – Connie Sachs says to George Smiley, “Trained to Empire, trained to rule the waves. All gone. All taken away” and there are maybe few lines more directly revealing of Le Carre’s context. The British empire, conventional and territorial, was still recent memory in the 1970s. Book one of three – “an impressionistic evocation”
  • John le Carre, Our Kind of Traitor (2010) – I read this in a rush after seeing the movie, which I didn’t know was coming until it was up on the marquee at the Odeon downtown. I’m glad I read the book second, because the end of the film would have been too disappointing to see otherwise. It rang false in the theatre and it was – the book is as brutal and bleak as ever.
  • Jennifer 8 Lee, The Fortune Cookie Chronicles: Adventures in the World of Chinese Food (2008) – A fun enough book but the seams show; chapter 14 is even explicit – “my editor asked for this bit, and I didn’t want to write it, but here it is anyway. Whatever.” The hook – who invented fortune cookies? – is thin for 300 pages but I’ve eaten enough Chinese food in Vancouver to enjoy the anecdotes nonetheless.

Summer2016-4

August

  • Carol Shields, The Box Garden (1977) – A beautiful small novel, as always, and the first of two weeks in Youbou.
  • Ursula K. Le Guin, The Word for World is Forest (1972) – The first novel of hers that I have read, and what a beautiful title – The Word for World is Forest. I save books about trees and forests to read at Youbou, surrounded by trees and clearcuts and ghosts.
  • Margaret Atwood, Surfacing (1972) – I couldn’t find my old pocket book, with a beautiful Alex Colville cover, so I bought a new trade paperback copy just before we left town. Seemed like such a good idea – read about going to the lake while at the lake. But no, not a good idea. What a terrifying book. Robin’s measure for a scary movie is ‘could it happen at Youbou’ and this, yes, yes it could. I read this first in my penultimate month of high school and a second time in August 2007 while staying in a UVic dorm for a CFS meeting.
  • Madeleine L’Engle, A Wrinkle in Time (1962) – “unusual demands on the imagination” indeed. I read this many times in the 1990s. Hard to tell what I would have thought of it today had I not read it before, deeply.
  • Madeleine L’Engle, A Wind in the Door (1973) – “Merry Christmas ’95” it says inside. If anything this is even weirder. I read this first 22 years ago – and that was only 22 years after it was published.
  • Madeleine L’Engle, A Swiftly Tilting Planet (1978) – I understood “Wrinkle in Time” and “Wind at the Door” as a child but this one tested me; I think I only read it twice, effectively declaring surrender. The second time I used it for a book report – “In this chapter, Charles Wallace flies on the unicorn again and goes inside a different person, fifty years later” – that did not help me to understand. Reading it now, yeah, I think I get it.
  • Jane Rule, After the Fire (1989) – A beautiful small Galiano story; grounding and restorative after ‘A Swifty Tilting Planet’
  • Susan Orlean, Saturday Night (1990) – Marvellous survey of fifteen different ways that people in America spend their Saturday nights.
  • Jeff Vandermeer, Authority (2014) – I want to like this trilogy more than I do but the writing is just not strong enough to sustain the strange mania of the plot. Maybe the third book will resolve the weird detail and hanging threads but I am not inclined enough to read it quickly and will end up forgetting where this book left off.
  • Salim Jiwa and Donald Hauka, Margin of Terror: A Reporter’s Twenty-year Odyssey Covering the Tragedies of the Air India Bombing (2006) – As subtitled, more of a reporter’s notebook and memoir than a history and often dedicated to proving the author’s superior instinct over cops and others. But still a fascinating secret history of Vancouver that I feel foolish for not having known when I started to work in politics 12 years ago.
  • Rebecca Solnit, The Faraway Nearby (2013) – I started this in Youbou but read it mostly over the following week back in the city.
  • Joan Didion, Political Fictions (2001) – Tremendous essays, on Reagan-Bush-Clinton-Bush. I read this first in 2009.
  • Lauren Beukes, The Shining Girls (2013) – I enjoyed this; sci-fi horror from the cheap shelf at Munro’s.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

What I Read in Spring, 2016

spring-2016-1

January

  • John le Carre, Our Game (1995) – Started in Youbou over New Year’s. On a longer trip I’ll generally pack a spy book just-in-case; a reliable place to go if nothing else is working. I’ve packed The Russia House to Youbou and back at least five times. In a sense it’s a tribute to the genre (‘in emergency: open book’) but also gives the books short shrift: is this pulp or literature? The Globe and Mail said about Our Kind of Traitor in 2010: “Let me be specific: I think Le Carre deserves the Nobel.” On the strength of Our Game I would disagree. All the long set-up pays off and such a perfect bleak end but it is also a prime example of an observation I once read that ‘Le Carre is excellent until a pretty woman wanders into one of his plots.’ He does not write women well, which only matters in a literary sense when he tries to, and the unfortunate crux of this story is a love triangle balanced on a woman who is never given space or voice – just a cipher for the protagonist’s angst.  Set in England, then Moscow, then Chechnya.
  • Peter Hopkirk, Like Hidden Fire: The Plot to Bring Down the British Empire (1994) – The strange alliance between Germany and the Ottoman Empire to cripple India and therefore Britain during World War One. I have a pile of books about the Great Game and Central Asia and Our Game set the stage for the spring by ending in Chechnya, 1995. This is not analytical history – my quick review from January: “History that reads like a thriller” it says on the back and that is accurate – it is a blow-by-blow account of what happened and then what happened next. Lacks analysis or context. Not thoughtful but a very fun yarn. Worth reading if you are into this bit of history but not very illuminating about the world we live in or life in general.”
  • Peter Balakian, The Burning Tigris: The Armenian Genocide and America’s Response (2003) – Working through the late Ottoman world. This reads as a book about the Armenian Genocide that was send back by an editor for an American spin. Which is not a condemnation; the American philanthropic response is a fascinating case study but it reads as a postscript to the main story. This summer we walked past a commemoration of the Armenian Genocide at the Vancouver Art Gallery and there were Turks on the fringes of the crowd, holding flags and handing out slips of paper with the ‘truth.’ This is not history – this is the world, today.
  • Rob Ferguson, The Devil and the Disappearing Sea: Or, How I Tried to Stop the World’s Worst Ecological Catastrophe (2003) – I finished this in Vancouver, staying at my friend Amanda’s house to volunteer in a Coquitlam by-election. The Aral Sea is nearly gone now; a sad and real coda to these bleakly comic efforts to save it 15 years ago.
  • Tom Bissell, Chasing the Sea: Lost among the Ghosts of Empire in Central Asia (2003) – Not as good as the last book, largely due to the narrators. I’m used to reading half-accounts of the Great Game in modern books but this was one of the poorest. There’s a lot I really enjoyed about this – the detail and the travel and the setting – but became fed up with the author, largely on account of his previous Peace Corps trip to Uzbekistan which I felt was a dubious underpinning for the story and frustratingly unexamined. But what a remarkable part of the world! I finished this when I was back in Vancouver for the Coquitlam by-election; I spent all day in a zone house on Westwood Plateau before watching the advance count in a Coquitlam Centre office.

    spring-2016-2February

  • Lutz Kleveman, The New Great Game: Blood and Oil in Central Asia (2003) – The Great Game never ended. I bought this in October 2009 at Left Bank Books in Seattle. I tuned into this part of the world when I took a 200-level international relations course at SFU and chose Kazakhstan as my subject. This is an excellent if brief survey of the region at the turn of the century, told country-by-country.
  • Artyom Borovik, The Hidden War: A Russian Journalist’s Account of the Soviet War in Afghanistan (1990) – I started Ghost Wars and put it aside quickly to read this again. Phenomenal account of the Soviets in Afghanistan at the end of the 1980s. “Afghanistan isn’t a country. And half a year has gone by since it’s been a war. For those who were there, Afghanistan is more like a prayer.” I read this first in spring 2011.
  • Steve Coll, Ghost Wars: The Secret History of the CIA, Afghanistan, and Bin Laden, from the Soviet Invasion to September 10, 2001 (2004) – “And they all lived happily ever after” ; well, no. The model for Al Qaeda was the Soviet war in Afghanistan: drag the imperial power into a guerrilla war it can’t win and bleed it of money and soldiers over a long morale-crushing grind in a desert it does not understand. And due to the decision to invade Iraq – given public legitimacy by 9/11 – that is exactly what developed for the US. This is written in hindsight – we all know the end and very few players lived happily, if they lived at all – but the context is well drawn. A terrific book and well worth the scale.

     

    spring-2016-3 

    March

  • Linda Svendsen, Sussex Drive (2012) – ‘Laureen Harper fan fiction’ I read this billed as – yes! It is exactly that. Robin read this and did not like it so I read it next, as a break but still connected – this Canada is at ‘war’ in Afghanistan albeit led by PM ‘Greg’ and wife ‘Becky’ who hangs out with a faux-Michaëlle Jean as GG.
  • Shawn Colvin, Diamond in the Rough (2012) – A further day-long break from Afghanistan to read Shawn Colvin’s memoir. The secret history of some of my very favourite records in 1995-96.
  • Janice Gross Stein and Eugene Lang, The Unexpected War: Canada in Kandahar (2007) – I read this in 2011 after I read The Hidden War for the first time, and wrote about them both obliquely at the time. It’s all awful but most frustrating are the details about the defence department’s panic over the US. Repeatedly, the military bureaucracy warns the government that anything but total acquiescence to the Americans’ presumed plans will result in diplomatic disaster and repeatedly, the Americans reply, when queried, that they don’t care very much at all what Canada does or doesn’t do. The end result is a long and vague non-war ‘mission’ in Afghanistan to make up for the supposedly-major snub over Iraq; Canada playing sidekick to a new Great Game for a new empire.
  • Kevin Patterson and Jane Warren, Outside the Line: The War in Afghanistan in the Words of its Participants (2007) – What I wrote about Canada and Afghanistan in 2011 is more apt for this book – “soldiers holding flags before puck drop at the Saddledome; Don Cherry saluting the dead each Saturday night on Coach’s Corner; a Tim Horton’s outlet opening on the base; the Stanley Cup in Kandahar. Our Prime Minister: Commander in Chief; Hockey Fan.” Nearly a decade later, this set of personal narrative from Canadians in Afghanistan – both soldiers and civilians – magnifies and clarifies the ridiculous waste of it all. Looking back, the patriotism of the era is nothing but reprehensible, for which I blame both Paul Martin’s faux-Bono humanitarian banalities and Stephen Harper’s wretched hockey-in-the-desert mythmaking.
  • Tom McCarthy, Remainder (2005) – I read this in Vancouver during the BCTF AGM, while eating ramen on Denman, listening to the Blue Nile on headphones, walking west down the side streets from Burrard. I didn’t entirely like it at the time but it stuck with me and that is a good novel: weight and meaning. My friend Brenton promised me pages of notes from his reading of the same but he has not delivered. Looking back now I like it more and more. The odd sort of novel that reappears and haunts.
  • Ahmed Rashid, Descent into Chaos: The US and the Disaster in Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Central Asia (2009) – There it is in the title – ‘disaster.’ The first and only book from Asia I read this spring; the only non-Imperial perspective aside from Peter Balakian on my reading list.
  • Fred Wah, Diamond Grill (1996) – I read this in Youbou after finishing Descent into Chaos; when I retreat to the woods, I read about BC. I have a terrible habit of buying terrific books and leaving them to sit on the shelf for years. I bought this at PulpFiction in 2010 and I should have read it right away, and again, several times, since. The point is to read but also to remember; the book as context for life, day-to-day. This is a foundational text for the province.
  • Renee Sarojini Saklikar, Children of Air India (2013) – As is this, written by my friend Renee in 2013. I read it again, better, in Youbou, this year, and will read it again, in Youbou.
  • Jenny Offill, Dept. of Speculation (2014) – And this too, small books in Youbou. More prose poem than novel, a small and sad story that I read in one evening straight through.
  • Alan Furst, Blood of Victory (2002) – I bought this in 2007 on the recommendation of an SFU administrator and tried and failed to read it in July 2008 judging by the baseball ticket stub tucked inside. I picked this up and looked at it over and over until I finally bought Night Soldiers and read that right away at the end of 2010 and since then I have read one of his novels – sequentially – every year. The plots stand alone but the atmosphere builds. Blood of Victory was the wrong place to start but it works as book no. seven.

    spring-2016-4 

    April

  • Michael Hastings, The Operators: The Wild and Terrifying Inside Story of America’s War in Afghanistan (2012) – What a wretched mess. The war evolves and lands in the lap of a new president who was elected essentially on his opposition to the whole adventure in the first place.
  • Jessica Hopper, Then First Collection of Criticism by a Living Female Rock Critic (2015) – Mostly great essays about rock music.
  • Don DeLillo, The Names (1982) – My favourite novel; one I have read five times since 2004 and twice in 2007. Which makes it interesting that I would be hard pressed to remember the ending or explain what plot there is. Which is why I can read and enjoy it over and over – I’m still learning it.
  • Graeme Smith, The Dogs are Eating Them Now: Our War in Afghanistan (2013) – And what is Canada left with? What was the point? This was written over trips to Afghanistan from 2005-2011 and those questions become less clear with every chapter.
  • Benjamin Black, The Silver Swan (2008) – I tried to read one more Afghanistan book, What We Talk About When We Talk About War by Noah Richler, to finish the month but put it aside and may yet throw it out the window. The first 35 pages are ponderous and boring enough until he asserts Canada’s innocent and virtuous history, presumably in counterpoint to its armed entry into Afghanistan and its new identity as a ‘warrior nation.’ I’m just as skeptical about the Afghanistan mission but I don’t think the country’s prior absence from similar battlefields was due to any innate goodness but rather circumstance. Nothing innocent or virtuous about this country and if that is your basic premise, I won’t read your book. Instead I wasted the end of the month with a John Banville Irish mystery.

 

 

 

 

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

What I Read in Fall 2015

fall 2015 1

September

  • Elaine Dewar, Cloak of Green (1995) – A big terrific book: “the links between key environmental groups, government and big business.’ I retained almost no details due to reading this through the federal campaign but this book is a lot of fun. Elizabeth May, a bit player in the core story but consistently popping up in different guises, comes off very poorly and the book prompts the same question that came up during the Saanich all-candidate debates: does she even know she’s lying? And if she does know, does she care? This book is helpful in establishing that behaviour as a long-standing trait rather than an effect of her time in electoral politics. The most interesting theme of many is the interaction between Canadian environmental groups and the Kayapo people of the Brazilian rainforest, the former’s ostensible heroes but who come off as abstract mascots and far more sophisticated than their foreign boosters expect or can ultimately accommodate.
  • Paul Auster, The Brooklyn Follies (2006) – All I could ask for in a campaign novel.

fall 2015 2

October

  • Ian Fleming, Casino Royale (1953) – I read this before in September 2010 and read it again after we saw the new Casino Royale at the Vic Theatre.
  • Graham Fraser, Playing for Keeps: The Making of the Prime Minister, 1988 (1989) – Fantastic 450 pages on the 1988 campaign. Reaching the stage of the 2015 campaign where all I could read about is Canadian political history.
  • Brooke Jeffrey, Strange Bedfellows: October 1992 and the Defeat of the Powerbrokers (1993) – I meant to read this earlier in the year, during the Translink referendum in Vancouver, because I used the 1992 vote as a cautionary example, as it indeed turned out to be: every institution/elite buys in and the whole thing crashes nonetheless. But the most frustrating parallel turned out to be the overbearing doomsaying on the part of the Yes forces in each case. Almost 25 years after Charlottetown, Quebec has not signed on to the constitution and it doesn’t matter and nobody cares. Similarly, transit won’t get much better and it will, in fact, get a bit worse every year but the region will be the same, more-or-less, for a while until the logjam breaks.
  • Russell Smith, Confidence (2015) – The first book I read after the end of the campaign; short stories. I read most of this at the Northern Quarter, holding down a table for the Wednesday quiz.
  • Alan Furst, Kingdom of Shadows (2000) – Annual Alan Furst book. I read one every year.
  • Olivia Manning, The Levant Trilogy – The best example I know of an objectively very dull set of books gaining force and meaning through sheer weight. I read the first trilogy in 2014 and found this set both faster and more paced but also missing the ever-present doom of the first, set in Bucharest and Athens. These three are mostly in Cairo where the war is more clearly present but at the same time less threatening, now a sea away from the real German front.
    • The Danger Tree (1977)
    • The Battle Lost and Won (1978)
    • The Sum of Things (1980)

fall 2015 3

November

  • Sara Levine, Treasure Island!!! (2012) – The most fun I had all year. I bought this at Pulpfiction on Commercial and read it in Richmond the next day. “Hilarious and troubling” or else “deranged and marvellous.”
  • Michael Lewis, Trail Fever (1997) – Some of this is very good but reading Michael Lewis on politics is difficult; the light-hearted glib above-it-all vs. actual real world. 1996 Republican presidential nomination as carnival sideshow. Fascinating as a document of the last pre-Internet presidential campaign.
  • Elizabeth Drew, Whatever It Takes: The Real Struggle for Political Power in America (1997) – Terrific book about the 1996 congressional campaign, where Republicans abandoned Bob Dole, who won the nomination in Trail Fever, and kept their majorities in Congress by promising opposition to Clinton’s second term.
  • Jeff Vandermeer, Annihilation (2014) – This book is a real trip. I read this on the way home from seeing the Ride reunion show in Vancouver. The more I read, year-over-year, the tougher I find science fiction. The answer may be in giving it more time; reading slowly. I would read old sci-fi short stories in-between textbook chapters at SFU and raced through. Those bad habits have become entrenched. I am in no rush to read parts two and three of this set but the longer I wait, the dimmer part one will become.
  • Margaret Atwood, In Other Worlds: SF and the Human Imagination (2011) – Who could give up on science fiction with this collection at hand?
  • Jonathan Lethem, Gun, with Occasional Music (1994) – And is this science fiction? I loved it; perfect show-don’t-tell, no exposition. As good as Inherent Vice, almost, and equally ruining straight detective fiction.
  • Stevie Cameron, The Pickton File (2007) – The prelude to On The Farm, which I have but have not yet read, written while most of that material was still under a publication ban. I’ve read that this is a stop-gap, rushed to meet deadline while the court case dragged on under a surprise ban, which may be true but I think it is a valuable text. It’s a reporter’s notebook, the story of the story, the slow revelation, and a basic guide to life in Vancouver between 1998-2007 – the same slow civic revelation that is so easy to forget, Pickton locked up, all done, finished. But it’s not done, not finished, it keeps going.
  • John Darnielle, Wolf in White Van (2014) – The first book that I read for my first book club: three people reading two books over nine months.

fall 2015 4

December

  • Maggie de Vries, Missing Sarah: A Memoir of Loss (2003; 2nd ed. 2008) – A mirror of The Pickton File; or the inverse? From the reporter’s notebook to real life. Terrific important book; read it read it read it. The author’s sister lived in the Downtown Eastside, disappeared in 1998, and Pickton was found guilty of her murder.
  • Adrianne Harun, A Man Came Out of a Door in the Mountain (2014) – The story goes on and on; here, a novel drawn from women murdered and missing on Highway 16 in Northwest BC. Bizarre and intense fever dream. The basic terror of the rainforest.
  • Eden Robinson, Traplines (1996) – I read this 10 years ago, August 2005, and read it again; the basic terror of the rainforest, Northwest BC. I still don’t like the third story, ‘Contact Sports’, which was continued in Blood Sports, which I really didn’t like. The fourth story, continued in Monkey Beach, is one of the best of the province. From Kitimaat to East Vancouver and back again.
  • Eden Robinson, Monkey Beach (2000) – I read this before Traplines, in March 2005, in or on the way to or from Port Alberni. The basic terror of the rainforest. “Northern Gothic” it says on the back – a rich vein and one to explore on and on. I found a book this year titled Rainforest Macabre.
  • Alice Munro, The Moons of Jupiter (1982) – I read a book by Alice Munro every year but it was the wrong way to break the spell of the rainforest.
  • Mary Roach, Packing for Mars: The Curious Science of Life in the Void (2010) – Light, fun, sure. Post-rainforest daze. I read this after we saw The Martian at the IMAX.
  • Walter Shapiro, One-Car Caravan: The Amazing True Saga of the 2004 Democratic Race from its Humble Beginnings to the Boston Convention (2004) – A neat book, following the candidates from their initial announcements only until the first caucus in Iowa.
  • Joe Trippi, The Revolution will Not be Televised: Democracy, the Internet, and the Overthrow of Everything (2004) – Joe Trippi ran Howard Dean’s campaign in 2004, which I followed at the time; the first real Internet campaign and the model for Bernie Sanders in basic outline. The difference is that the campaign, in Dean’s case, found the candidate, and they were never quite on the same page. Was Dean ever the candidate his legions believed he could be? The contextless ‘Dean scream’ is blamed for his downfall, split-second TV madness, but this book essentially argues that internal contradictions destined the whole enterprise to unravelling soon than later. I found this at a Book Warehouse long ago, on deep discount when they closed down the Yaletown shop.
  • Jane Rule, The Young in One Another’s Arms (1977) – A perfect little book of Old Vancouver. I read most of this while sick, up all night, up in the morning, watching the sunrise.
  • Sven Birkerts, The Gutenberg Elegies: The Fate of Reading in an Electronic Age (1994) – I read this at Youbou at the end of the year. Some of it is so good, some of the best writing on reading I’ve ever known; other chapters have dated very badly over 22 years.
  • Peter Gzowski, The Game of our Lives (1981) – I read this over and over as a young hockey fan, nine and 10 years old, my father’s hardcover. Gretzky before he won; basic myth and national text.
  • Bruce Serafin, Colin’s Big Thing (2004) – Hooray Vancouver; a core text.
  • ed. Michael Hingston, Short Story Advent Calendar (2015) – Through the month we read a short story every day, picked and packaged by my friend Mike Hingston.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

What I read in Summer, 2015

summer2015-1

May

Don Martin, King Ralph: The Political Life and Success of Ralph Klein (2002) – In honour of the Alberta election, which had me paying attention to Alberta politics for the first time since I bought this book. It is not good. A glib and friendly book. Provides argument for my case that the only way the Alberta Tories sidestepped defeat in 1993, 2008, and 2012 was by picking outsiders for the leadership. Had any of Nancy Betkowski, Jim Dinning, or Gary Mar won, they would have faced the same bleak fate as machine-man Jim Prentice. Where Ed Stelmach and Alison Redford failed yet Klein succeeded was in re-consolidating the party post-election. Most important is the reminder that none of these dynasties, as we remember them, were sure things throughout their course. Every election, every budget, is fraught.

Mark Lisac, The Klein Revolution (1995) – A smarter, less clubby take on Alberta and Ralph Klein. Particularly interesting information on the Don Getty government, in this as well as King Ralph; a government more in the mold of BC’s old Socreds than the neo-con rage of the 1990s.

Alissa Nutting, Tampa (2013) – A quick and uneasy novel. The Guardian compared it unfavourably to American Psycho which I agree with but which maybe misreads American Psycho. This is more like Crash insofar as reliable narrators with sexual perversions but not nearly as interesting or rigorous.

Bret Easton Ellis, The Informers (1994) – I read over lunch at the Thai restaurant downtown when the house is not in session. The same server saw me reading two books by Joan Didion in April, then saw me reading this and was excited – “we read the same books! Oh man! You read great books!” Sorry ma’am but I will be back with a giant book about Mulroney next month and you will be disappointed.

Dava Sobel, The Planets (2005) – The Informers was well-styled but I wanted to read something beautiful and what better than “an incantatory serenade to the solar system.” I was not disappointed – this is a beautiful small book about the planets, how they were found, and what they mean.

Jacqueline Susann, The Valley of the Dolls (1966) – I regret turning to this rather than reading more about space. I have a nice book about the moon (‘a brief history’); a nice book about how they found Neptune; a nice book about looking for new moons around other planets (‘Moonhunters’). But I read this – “the All-Time Pop-Culture Classic” – and that’s fine. I found this at Value Village. 30 million people can’t be wrong; that’s more than The Great Gatsby or even The Cat in the Hat. Not as much as Bridges of Madison County, mind. An amazing blur between outright lurid and fantastically restrained and maybe a perfect reflection of the time? I don’t know; I wasn’t there but I am trying to figure it out.

Kate Braid, Journeywoman: Swinging a Hammer in a Man’s World (2012) – The perfect antidote. And, the book that disillusioned the server at the Thai restaurant downtown about my taste in books. “Oh, it’s the memoir of a construction carpenter in BC who is also a poet.” You say it sounds interesting, and I agree, it is really terrific but yeah, it’s not Bret Easton Ellis. This is a marvellous book; maybe the most satisfying book I have read this year.

Graham Steele, What I Learned About Politics: Inside the Rise – and Collapse – of Nova Scotia’s NDP Government (2014) – The book that I wish every MP or MLA would write upon retirement. Graham Steele was the Finance Minister from 2009-2012, after serving as an opposition MLA from 2001-2009 and a caucus staffer before that. He’s angry about it all, and I bought Howard Epstein’s book as a counter-narrative, but it is a genuine story and I am grateful that he put it out into the world.

Carol Shields, Dressing Up for the Carnival (2000) – I read this on the way to Vancouver and I don’t remember a thing about it, even now upon review. Very short stories; about 10pg each on average.

summer2015-2

June

Rebecca Solnit, A Field Guide to Getting Lost (2005) – A perfect and beautiful little book. I will read this again, soon.

Raye Ringholz, Uranium Frenzy: Boom and Bust on the Colorado Plateau (1989) – A Field Guide to Getting Lost finishes off in the American West, a perfect excuse to continue with this book that I found years ago at the Left Bank Books in Seattle. A wonderful narrative history of the uranium boom in Utah – a gold-rush tale complete with stock mania and sudden millionaires and lucky strikes and the atomic bomb. The mythic West meets the brutal future.

Catherine Caufield, Multiple Exposures: Chronicles of the Radiation Age (1989) – Placing ionizing radiation in context from the 1890s on to the 1980s. Fascinating and lucid.

Tom Zoellner, Uranium: War, Energy, and the Rock the Shaped the World (2009) – I’ve read a lot of popular histories in this field but there is always a new frame; in this case, the original uranium mines, first in what is now the Czech Republic and then in what is now the Congo. Before the Colorado rush, which fuelled the boom of the 1950s, the uranium for Fat Man and Little Boy came from central Africa, via Belgium, after years of storage on a dock in New York.

ed. Thomas Frank and Matt Weiland, Commodify Your Dissent: Salvos from The Baffler (1997) – If only I’d found and read this at the time. All I had was Adbusters slogans and No Logo which was fine and helpful but this is what I was really trying to figure out. I was sitting in Surrey trying to figure out coffee shops and Beatniks and The Baffler had answers for me in 1993! They knew it was all nonsense. That’s what I thought too, but I was in Surrey and it seemed better than what was otherwise on offer and I thought it was probably nonsense; who do you ask about these things? Adbusters helped but those weren’t answers either. I put up BUY NOTHING DAY posters in my high school for the sake of being obnoxious and to what end? It was all in the Baffler, and now I know. This is obviously a bit dated – I’ve solved some of these high school questions myself in the intervening years – but these are cyclical issues.

Russell Smith, Young Men (1999) – I read this first in 2010; terrific pre-internet stories.

Donna Tartt, The Little Friend (2002) – A big novel for Youbou. I looked at this in shops and figured I’d probably never read it until I found it for $4 at the Value Village. Sit inside a big novel for long enough and you become trapped.

summer2015-3

July

Briony Penn, A Walk on the Wild Side (1999) – Still at Youbou. An almanac, collected from columns written for Monday magazine. A piece of old Victoria and a really wonderful set of anecdotes about this part of the world. Some of these are obviously shoehorned columns but the pride-of-place makes that easy to overlook. Had Briony Penn been elected as an MP in 2008, she’d probably have held her seat in 2011 and would be in cabinet today; Elizabeth May would have stayed in Nova Scotia or some other remote part of the world.

Ted Conover, Whiteout: Lost in Aspen (1991) – One of my favourite books of the year. I read about it, briefly, and there it was, two days later, at the little Fairfield Book Shop, which I tended to not stop in but will always look through now as I’ve never seen a copy of this anywhere else. Ted Conover wanted to figure out what the hell was going on in Aspen, Colorado at the end of the 1980s so he went there. A perfectly strange story.

John le Carre, A Murder of Quality (1962) / Call for the Dead (1961) – The first (later) story is OK; the second (earlier) is really, really good. The first Smiley stories, together at last.

Ted Conover, Newjack: Guarding Sing Sing (2000) – The New York corrections department turned down his request to shadow an officer, so he got hired on as a prison guard.

Debra Ginsburg, Waiting: The True Confessions of a Waitress (2000) – Not as good as Hey Waitress but a very good workplace memoir to follow Newjack.

Patricia Nelson Limerick, The Legacy of Conquest: The Unbroken Past of the American West (1987) – Back at Youbou. I read excerpts from this in history class at SFU, sometime in 2006; this was the first book of the New Western History. I finally found a copy this year in Seattle at Magus books. What is actually going on in the West, behind the myth.

Lawrence Martin, Harperland: The Politics of Control (2010) – I started work on the federal campaign and figured it was time to start reading my Stephen Harper books, in case he lost; now is the time, before they stale-date. But I stopped after this; I want to know how the story ends before I read these analyses. This book is brief and almost glib but covers the Harper minority governments well. In the wake of the 2011 majority, those first two governments were easy to overlook but their tone and climate shaped the last four years more than anything.

Ken Finkleman, The Newsroom: The Complete Scripts (1997) – This was only $1 at the thrift shop next to the campaign office on Yates st! What the hell, for a dollar it might be fun to have on the shelf. But I read it right away, over a day or two, and it’s funnier than I remembered.

Susan Riley, Political Wives: The Lives of the Saints (1987) – I found this at a thrift store in Ladysmith. Alternate title: ‘Walk Softly and Marry a Big Prick.”

summer2015-4

August

Jamey Heath, Dead Centre: Hope, Possibility, and Unity for Canadian Progressives (2007) – This was a blast to read in early August, when it seemed the plan mapped out herein – supplanting the Liberals as the Tories’ counterpart and leaving the Bloc and Greens for dead – was within reach. This is a history of the 2004 Liberal minority and the 2006 campaign that I should re-read now in the context of a Liberal restoration.

Siri Hustvedt, The Blindfold (1992) – The enduring question during an election campaign: to read politics or read novels? It took ages to read through Harperland and Dead Centre but just a weekend to read this terrifying little novel. From the back: “Hustvedt’s stakes are high, and one reads her novel at serious risk to one’s well-being – the only kind of reading that counts.”

Brian Topp, How We Almost Gave the Tories the Boot: The Inside Story behind the Coalition (2010) – More recent history. And more ammo for the story of a slow and inexorable Liberal collapse that seemed real in August; less so today. We know now: there was no ‘new normal.’ The game was the same as it ever was and the rules remained.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

What I Read in the Spring, 2015

Spring2015-1

January

  • Caleb Crain, Necessary Errors (2013) – Great big mostly boring novel. Gay American kid in Prague after the fall, 1992. He lives his life. Similar to Olivia Manning, The Balkan Trilogy: he has friends; they talk; they go drinking. Long tortured analogy between flowering capitalism and flowering sexuality. Perfectly pleasant way to spend a few intense days and I think there is a space for this, a long novel where not much happens. I read this mostly at Youbou and bought it at Pulpfiction on Main because it looked big and pretty.
  • Brooke Jeffrey, Divided Loyalties: The Liberal Party of Canada, 1984-2008 (2010) – Huge and wonderful secret history of Canada. It really ends in 2006 but that’s the major disjuncture in the major arc: the marvelous drama and intrigue of the long Turner-Martin vs. Trudeau-Chretien warfare.  The years from 2006-2011 are merely a long and arduous denouement. A highly accomplished history.
  • Patricia Highsmith, The Price of Salt (1952) – Entry two in queer-lit January. I read this on a quick trip to Vancouver. Just as terrifying and claustrophobic as anything she wrote but published secretly under a pseudonym by a lesbian press. Todd Haynes is making a movie that will be out before the end of the year.
  • Gore Vidal, The City and the Pillar (1948) – Entry three in queer-lit January.  I bought this at Pulpfiction on Main and read it the next day on the same trip; “the first serious American homosexual novel” it says. And it is worth noting that this was published as anything else of his at the time, under his own name, while The Price of Salt was kept secret until the 1980s.
  • George Lakoff, Don’t Think of an Elephant: Know your Values and Frame the Debate (2004) – I should have read this at the time although it is still a fun trip back to the panic of the early George W. Bush years. The interesting ideas around framing and discourse are common parlance now and the rest seems oddly quaint and very specifically American.
  • Kaitlin Fontana, Fresh at Twenty: The Oral History of Mint Records (2011) – A secret history of Vancouver, and an amazing alternate history of how I might have spent my last 12 years. I went to a lot of rock shows in Vancouver between 2001-2004 and If I hadn’t run for a position on my student society’s board of directors in 2003 I might have kept going to shows and taken rock music seriously as a public endeavour rather than a private hobby. I saw most of the Mint bands between 2000-2004 at the Pic Pub; Richards on Richards; the Sugar Refinery; Video In; the Milkbar – a hidden geography of the downtown core: long-gone venues that I remember more vividly than any rock shows before and since.
  • Jennifer Woodruff, NDP Country (2014) – I read this so no one else would have to; a memoir of Gwen O’Mahony’s short term in office as MLA for Chilliwack-Hope from April 2012 – May 2013 written by her CA. It’s not a good book but it is an important little story and I am glad it’s been told. I had a small role in this, going out for a vacation E-day to pull the vote in Harrison Hot Springs with Gerry Scott. Makes a strong case that the turning point in the 2013 election was Gwen’s election in 2012. By winning Chilliwack-Hope with just 41% of the vote the BC NDP allowed the BC Liberals to make a persuasive case to their base that a split in their core vote was real and jeopardized even their safest seats. If Laurie Throness had won in 2012, the Conservatives may have survived until 2013 and the press (and our base) would have lacked the no-safe-seat narrative that proved intoxicating to the point of somnolence.

Spring2015-2

February

  • Arthur Phillips, Prague (2002) – An identical plot (i.e. none, really) to Necessary Errors but set in Budapest, not Prague. The Prague of the title is the relative paradise of Prague as imagined by the Americans in Budapest; the Prague of Necessary Errors – published 11 years later – fits perfectly into the space written here. This is a better book.
  • Judith McKenzie, Pauline Jewett: A Passion for Canada (1999) – Perfect small biography of a fascinating and complex but essentially anonymous opposition MP. Important and wonderful history.
  • Margaret Mitchell, No Laughing Matter: Adventure, Activism, and Politics (2008) – Not a good book but exactly the sort of unvarnished, direct memoir that we need from more MPs. Margaret Mitchell was MP for Vancouver East from 1979-1993; and I am curious if that run from 1979-2015 (and beyond?) is the longest run of female representation for any seat in the country?
  • Audrey McLaughlin, A Woman’s Place: My Life & Politics (1992) – There is a letter inside on MP letterhead dated April 1997, near the end of Audrey McLaughlin’s second full term in Parliament: “Dear Friend, please find enclosed my book…” I tend to be wary of books written by politicians who are still facing election but this is refreshingly substantive. The 1993 election was bad for the NDP and Audrey’s leadership has since been struck from our story; our current myth draws a line from Ed Broadbent to Jack Layton and while there is an obvious and glaring gender dimension to this omission there is a lesser but notable aspect of celebrating our relative successes while diminishing our relative failures and that is to our detriment.
  • Ian Fleming, Doctor No (1958) – Not sure why I read this when I did. We watched the movie again a month later and with the exception of the final sequence it is very faithful.
  • Ian McLeod, Under Siege: The Federal NDP in the Nineties (1994) – A fascinating follow-up to Audrey’s book and also fascinating to read in reflection on the BC caucus since 2005. I’ve worked with a lot of people who also worked in the 1993 campaign; some of whom are named in this book and provided interviews. We don’t talk a lot about this period – 1988-’94 – but it is just as interesting, if not more so, than the more recent campaigns. This was the time that I first became aware of the NDP – a party with nine seats in the house – and until 2011, the very existence of the federal party was a subject of debate.
  • Rebecca Solnit, Men Explain Things to Me (2014) – The third in a series of short blue books; a fun and very direct set of essays. I’ve bought five more of her books since I read this.
  • Caroline Adderson, Ellen in Pieces (2014) – A big easy novel to read while we were moving. I liked this more than her other novels that I’ve read – Sitting Practice and A History of Forgetting.

Spring2015-3

March

  • Mark Simpson, Saint Morrissey: A Portrait of This Charming Man by an Alarming Fan (2003) – I found this at the new Pulpfiction on Commercial Drive; I wondered about it and nearly left it on the shelf but finally took it home. Morrissey is complex and wonderful and this is a fun book by a smart fan.
  • Morrissey, Autobiography (2014) – There was no ambiguity about this one. I didn’t know there was a hole in my life shaped like this little book until I knew about it. Unlike the Bruce Cockburn memoir, which I knew was underway for maybe four years before it finally came out last year, this was an amazing secret. And it’s terrific.  Here is a passage chosen at random (pg. 391). It’s all like this. All of it. Constantly breathless prose.
    • Leaving the hotel for the soundcheck I catch the glare of the very famous Eric Cantona frozen for an age-long few seconds as I emerge from the lift. In the mid ‘90s Cantona had been asked during an interview the very lazy ‘So, what have you been up to lately?’ question, and he had replied ‘Listening to Morrissey.’ With my usual tact I had been quoted in Time Out magazine during more or less the same period, saying, ‘I’m very fond of Eric Carmona as long as he doesn’t say anything.’ On this day in Paris, Carmona has clearly measured both quotes, and although I offer him a rarely used smile, he doesn’t want it and he turns away coldly, and I am nixed like a fatty at the church steps. Eric takes his place in the hotel restaurant for the catch of the day, which is evidently not me. 
  • Lee Marshall, Bob Dylan: The Never-Ending Star (2007) – Studies in intentional stardom, from Morrissey to Bob Dylan. It took me years to even try to listen to a Bob Dylan record; I finally tried Blonde on Blonde in 2009 when I read that ‘all night long, we would sing that stupid song,’ in Doctor Wu, was in fact Visions of Johanna, and I could get past the mess of myth and crack Dylan through the lens of Steely Dan, which I understood. This is a very smart book, by a smart fan, all about the myth and the construction of stardom.
  • Suze Rotolo, A Freewheelin’ Time: A Memoir of Greenwich Village in the Sixties (2008) – Another angle on the Dylan myth through a wonderful book that isn’t very much about Dylan at all. Rather than build the myth, this breaks it down. I found this on the Munro’s discount shelf two or three years and finally broke the myth down enough through The Never-Ending Star myself to read this and I’m glad I did.
  • Don DeLillo, Libra (1988) – The most interesting takeaway from A Freewheelin’ Time was the paranoia that descended, particularly after November 1963. I’ve read this in fiction before but to read it in memoir seemed a confirmation. I read Libra before in 2006 but I’m a better reader now and what better time to re-read/revisit this spectacular book – a perfectly paranoid version of November 1963 and Lee Harvey Oswald.

Spring2015-4

April

  • Joan Didion, Miami (1989) – Throughout Libra Miami is invoked with totemic force both as a specific city and as a paranoid state of being and this book, which I read only glancingly in January 2011, sustains that paranoid state over 200 pages. “… not exactly an American city as American cities have until recently been understood but a tropical capital: long on rumour, short on memory, overbuilt on the chimera of runaway money and referring not to New York or Boston or Los Angeles or Atlanta but to Caracas and Mexico, to Havana and to Bogota and to Paris and Madrid.
  • Lesley Gill, The School of the Americas: Military Training and Political Violence in the Americas (2004) – And a book, that I found hidden away in the basement of the Russell Books auxiliary on View St, to put an academic framework and rigour to that paranoia. A sympathetic and inquisitive book about an unconscionable campaign of state-sponsored terror, waged by the US against Central and South America over decades. “An in-depth expose of the militaristic mentality, socioethnic tensions, and outrageous atrocities of the empire’s Praetorian Guard.”
  • Julie Greene, The Canal Builders: Making America’s Empire at the Panama Canal (2009) – And further back to the roots of the School of the Americas and a story that I only recently understood: the Canal Zone was under colonial rule until the 1980s. I remember having a sense in high school in the late 1990s that Central America was somehow the front line of I all. I was reading about globalization and sweatshops and No Logo and Adbusters and post-Cold War, Central America was the new contested turf. After 2001 that title swung back to the Middle East and it’s taken me another 14 years to really consider what was going on south of the border.
  • Joan Didion, The Last Thing He Wanted (1996) – Another terrific book that I read in a rush six years ago and considered more deeply this year as an older, smarter reader. A novel located somewhere between Miami and Libra.
  • Carmen Aguirre, Something Fierce: Memoirs of a Revolutionary Daughter (2011) – And the last book in the series, a straight and direct memoir to wrap the last six books together into a real story, a lived life.
  • Carol Shields, Small Ceremonies (1976) – And a palate cleanser, a perfectly brief Canadian novel with no plot.
  • David Lodge, Paradise News (1991) – A wonderful little novel about tourism.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

What I Read in the Fall, 2014

fall2014

September

  • Olivia Manning, The Balkan Trilogy – Staying in Europe; now British ex-pats in WWII Romania and Greece. Three books, together in one 900pg+ volume. Probably the most boring book I’ve ever read but a testament to the Stockholm Syndrome theory of large novels. The weight and depth and scale is persuasive.
    • The Great Fortune (1960)
    • The Spoilt City (1962)
    • Friends and Heroes (1965)
  • Alan Hollinghurst, The Swimming-Pool Library (1988) – Edmund White says “I can think of no other book that is at once so literary and so highly sexed.” Gay men in London, in the 1980s and at the end of empire.
  • Michael Drummond, Renegades of Empire: A Tale of Success, Failure, and Other Dark Deeds Inside Fortress Microsoft (1999) – The secret history of our times.

October

  • James Wallace, Overdrive: Bill Gates and the Race to Control Cyberspace (1997) – And even more. What an incredible time; on the cusp of the internet.
  • Thomas Pynchon, Inherent Vice (2009) – What a terrific and hilarious and disorienting novel to read in the rush of an election campaign.

November

  • Joan Didion, The While Album (1979) – I could have read this in a day, several summers ago, but I spent two weeks with it and will still need to read it again. I still don’t know how to read during campaigns. I’ve had this waiting on my shelf for six years.
  • Chad Harbach, The Art of Fielding (2011) – The slightest and least consequential 500pg novel I’ve ever read. The cover is full of voluminous praise – “triumphant” or “a universe unto itself” or “tender, funny, poignant” or “witty, intellectual, big-hearted.” I wanted a big novel to read after the election was done and gone and this was serviceable, ‘readable’ but totally meaningless. All that distinguishes this novel is its unnecessary size; it might as well be written for teenagers. From Value Village.
  • Robert Shrum, No Excuses: Concessions of a Serial Campaigner (2007) – A reassuring book. Bob Shrum has lost more elections than I have and he kept on going for a very long time. This poor dude lost with Gore in 2000 and again with Kerry in 2004. It’s ok to lose an election. There are lots of reasons and lots of factors and that’s all fine. This is a marvelous secret American history.
  • Benjamin Black, Christine Falls (2006) – I read this on route to Port Townsend. Long and bleak and fraught.
  • Carol Shields, The Republic of Love (1992) – I read this teriffic, tightly-wound little novel in two days while we stayed at Manresa Castle in Port Townsend. A beautiful and humble little book.

December

  • Alan Furst, Red Gold (1999) – Better or worse? Maybe the least memorable but I read one of these every year and I am never disappointed. I read this on the Coho, heading back from Port Angeles.
  • Alison Owings, Hey Waitress!: The USA from the Other Side of the Tray (2002) – One of my favourite books of the year, found in a pile at Russell’s Books. Interviews with 35 different waitresses across the US. A wonderful secret history of our time.
  • Mark Leibovich, This Town: Two Parties and a Funeral – Plus Plenty of Valet Parking – in America’s Gilded Capital (2013) – A real downer and difficult to read. It felt inappropriate to read; I’m just some dude in Canada – should I be reading this lurid stuff? I love the little story about Harry Reid though – “There are people who could be majority leader who could probably be better than I am. They’re smarter, they’re better-looking, they speak better. But they don’t have the job. I have the job.”
  • Alice Munro, Dear Life (2012) – I read this on a trip to Port Angeles.
  • Michael Ondaatje, In the Skin of a Lion (1987) – Everyone’s favourite novel! I liked it but not as much as The English Patient or Anil’s Ghost, although I read the latter seven years ago and should probably read it again soon.
  • Laton McCartney, The Teapot Dome Scandal: How Big Oil Bought the Harding White House and Tried to Steal the Country (2008) – A big but strangely decontextualized popular history of a terrific scam.
  • Lucy Moore, Anything Goes: A Biography of the Roaring Twenties (2010) – This provided some but not all of the context I was missing for The Teapot Dome Scandal.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

New Books, December 2014

Most of these are from our two December trips to Port Angeles and Port Townsend. The balance are from Value Village or the cheap shelf at Munro’s.

new books december 2014

  • Geeta Dayal, Another Green World (2009)
  • Amanda Petrusich, Pink Moon (2007)
  • Alexander Cockburn and Jeffery St. Clair, Imperial Crusades: Iraq, Afghanistan, and Yugoslavia (2004)
  • Doron Swade, The Difference Engine: Charles Babbage and the Quest to Build the First Computer (2000)
  • Eric Ambler, Background to Danger (1937)
  • Barry Schwartz, The Paradox of Choice: Why More is Less (2004)
  • Timothy Egan, The Good Rain: Across Time and Terrain in the Pacific Northwest (1990)
  • Timothy Garton Ash, History of the Present: Essays, Sketches, and Dispatches from Europe in the 1990s (1999)
  • Michael Hiltzik, Dealers of Lightning: Xerox PARC and the Dawn of the Computer Age (1999)
  • Robert Sullivan, The Meadowlands: Wilderness Adventures on the Edge of a City (1998)
  • Christopher Isherwood, Goodbye to Berlin (1939)
  • Anthony Burgess, Tremor of Intent (1966)
  • George Packer, The Unwinding (2013)
  • Thurston Clarke, Searching for Paradise: A Grand Tour of the World’s Unspoiled Islands (2001)
  • Andrew Blechman, Pigeons (2006)
  • Rose George, Ninety Percent of Everything (2013)
  • Douglas Brinkley, The Quiet World: Saving Alaska’s Wilderness Kingdom, 1879-1960 (2011)
  • Michael Hastings, The Operators: The Wild and Terrifying Inside Story of America’s War in Afghanistan (2012)
  • Margaret Atwood, Alias Grace (1996)
  • Bret Easton Ellis, Glamorama (1998)
  • Mortimer J Adler and Charles van Doren, How to Read a Book (1939, revised 1972)
  • Paul Roberts, The End of Oil (2004)
  • Dave Thompson, Depeche Mode: Some Great Reward (1994)
  • Dana Priest and William M. Arkin, Top Secret America: The Rise of the New American Security State (2011)
  • Lee Marshall, Bob Dylan: The Never Ending Star (2007)
  • John Lukacs, The Legacy of the Second World War (2010)
  • David Graeber, Debt: The First 5,000 Years (2011)
  • Michael Turner, Hard Core Logo (1993)
  • Jane Rule, Taking My Life (2011)
  • Bill Mullins, Becoming Big League: Seattle, the Pilots, and Stadium Politics (2013)
  • Robert Campbell, In Darkest Alaska: Travel and Empire Along the Inside Passage (2007)

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized