October was a pretty crazy month and I was only able to read one book, so I knew I had some catching up to do if I was going to meet my goal of 52 books in 2012. In order to help get back on track, I decided that my November reading would consist solely of books 350 pages or less. I managed to get six books in over the past month, so here's a quick look back at what I've been reading.
My good friend Jason has recommended many of the books I've read over the years, and this recommendation didn't disappoint. I've always been a sucker for scientific "what if" scenario books, where the author explores what would happen to our society of some random change was thrust upon us. The Long Earth explores the question of what would happen if it was suddenly discovered that there were an infinite number of earths, and that anyone could travel through them with almost painless ease. Suddenly gold and silver isn't quite as rare as it once was, entirely new continents are available for exploration and development, and overpopulation is a concept that simply doesn't exist anymore. I really enjoyed reading this book, and the only reason I'm docking it any stars is that I wish it had explored the idea a bit further, and possibly not let me down quite as much on some of the big mysteries that were presented early on.
The Long Earth by Terry Pratchett and Stephen Baxter -
I'm actually not sure how this book ended up in my to-read shelf, but I'm glad it was. I was browsing my list for something short to read, and stumbled upon this one. It's an interesting story about our perception of ourselves and our life experience, and how malleable it is based on how we choose to remember things. Tony, the story's protagonist, is a middle-aged man who is suddenly put faced with dealing with some events from earlier in his life, and he gradually realizes that the things that happened when he was younger didn't go exactly as he had recalled, and perhaps he didn't behave quite the way he remembers behaving. I wasn't completely sold on the way the book was wrapped up, but the style of writing really spoke to me. Lots of highlighted quotes in this book, and definitely a story I'll be going back to in the near future.
The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes -
I love Kurt Vonnegut. He writes with an honesty that I really enjoy. His final novel, Timequake, is a strange mashup of memoir and fiction that was a little hard to follow at times, but it had a really conversational tone that I had fun reading. I'm quite certain that I ended up highlighting at least 25% of this book as I read it, and while it wasn't a very cohesive book, I was absolutely worth the time.
Timequake by Kurt Vonnegut -
This was "the book" in Christian circles several years back, with everyone insisting that it was amazing and that it would change the way you thought about your faith. On our drive out to California in 2009, January and I read a different Donald Miller book to each other and I remember really enjoying it, so I was hopeful that I would also enjoy this earlier work of Mr. Miller's. Unfortunately, I felt like it just came across as a strange mix of self-deprecating and self-congratulatory. Repeatedly, the author would write about some thoughtless, thing he did back when he was younger and it turned out to be something really smart instead. It just got kind of grating. I have no doubt that the author is a good guy, but it just didn't feel all that genuine.
Blue Like Jazz by Donald Miller -
Truman Capote's classic non-fiction novel about the murder of a family in rural Kansas in the 1950's. My problem with this book may have been my expectations. I didn't really know much of anything about the actual events the book was based on, but I was expecting a sort of true crime novel, and that's not really what I got. There was no mystery, no suspense. Within the first chapter, Capote tells you exactly who perpetrated the murders, and then just spends hundreds of pages going over what happened, from the days before the murders through the prosecution and sentencing, and agonizing detail. "Agonizing" being the key word here. I was just really bored through the entire book, with the exception of the killers' confession.
In Cold Blood by Truman Copote -
This is the book I was referring to when, on speaking with January one of the first times we met, I said that I didn't "read books other people read." This book seemed to be everywhere at the time, and I think I found it kind of annoying. I did read David Sedaris' Holidays on Ice a few years ago and really enjoyed it, so I thought I'd finally give this one a chance. Like Holidays on Ice, this is a collection of short stories, and it's really easy to read. Each chapter took anywhere from 5-15 minutes to read, so this was a great one to read in small bits over the course of a day or two. If you like clever, self-deprecating humor, definitely put this one on your list.
Me Talk Pretty One Day by David Sedaris -
One month and six books left to my goal of 52 books in a year, and I'm feeling pretty confident. The holiday season will be busy, but I'm also taking a week off work between Christmas and New Years, so I'm hopeful that six more short books won't be hard to pull off. Check back in January for my final reviews, after which I will, naturally, put together a top ten list of this year's best books and quotes.
It's a short one this month. With all the work we've been doing on The Salt Mines, I've been left with very little time to do any reading. In fact, the only reading I was able to get in was a furious 48-hour session during a business trip to DC. But one book is still progress, so here's the review.
I wasn't 100% sure what to expect when I started this book. It's one that pretty much everyone has been aware of since becoming super popular over the past several years, but I still didn't really know anything about it. I got the vague impression that it was very raw and gritty, and while it didn't turn out to be that intense, it was still fairly dark. If you're as unfamiliar with the story as I was, I won't spoil anything for you, but it's a pretty heavy mystery novel wherein the protagonists are working to solve a crime whose trail has, at least seemingly gone cold more than forty years prior. As with many grand crimes of this scale, nearly everybody comes under scrutiny at some point, and by the end nobody is really left untouched by what is discovered. Really easy read, and if you enjoy crime novels it's definitely recommended.
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson -
So, two months to go, and 12 books to read. Check back next month, when I review six very short books.
It's been a quiet month here on the blog, but it's been far from quiet otherwise. Yesterday, January and I opened up two new businesses in our neighborhood, so we've been running around like crazy getting last minute renovations and details ready for our grand opening last night. Now that I finally have a minute to catch my breath, I wanted to write a little bit about the business that I'll be most directly involved with: The Salt Mines Coworking Space.
When we bought our house back in 2007, two bedrooms seemed great. Four years later, we lost that second bedroom office to our little Lucy, and my office turned into whatever chair I happened to sit in around the house. By the time she learned to walk, she started to get confused about why Papa couldn't play with her during the day. So we started to look for some space outside of the house where I could go during the day to get work done.
So when we saw a storefront office space available less than half a mile from our house, we were definitely interested. The space was pretty perfect, but the rent was a little higher than we could justify on our own. We wondered to ourselves if there were other people in our neighborhood in similar situations, who just needed some space outside the house where they could focus on work during the day. So we took the leap, did some minor renovations on the space, and opened it up as The Salt Mines, Clintonville's newest coworking space.
If you're unfamiliar with the concept, coworking spaces are offices where individuals -- usually the self employed, telecommuters, or small business owners -- can rent some office space with other individuals to work. Typical office setups are highly collaborative, without cubicles or walls, so people can work on their own or bounce ideas off each other as the need arises. Our space is fairly small, but we have room for a dozen or so people to come in, set up their laptop, drink some coffee, and get some work done.
If you're interested in coworking, you can read more about The Salt Mines web site. I'm excited to have a new office space to go to every day, and I can't wait to see who joins me over the coming weeks and months!
I've been reading a lot of fiction this year. An awful lot of fiction. Of the 35 books I've read since January, a scant 5 of them are nonfiction. In an effort to tip the ratio away from such a fiction-heavy rotation, I decided that September would be "nonfiction month." I have many more fiction books that I'm eager to check out, but it seemed like a good idea to take a month out from the world of the made-up and invest a little time what actually is and has been.
My best-friend-in-law Tasci recommended this book a few months ago, so I was willing to take a chance on this seemingly bland topic. Get it? Salt? Bland? Nevermind. Salt is something we don't think much about these days, but for thousands of years it helped shape the course of history. Up until a hundred years or so ago, salt was a relatively rare substance and those who controlled the salt controlled the power of commerce. The book was really interesting, but a bit dry at points. I really enjoyed the parts discussing the scientific makeup of salt, as well as the role salt played in early US history. If you're a history buff, it's worth checking out, but be prepared for a few slow parts.
Salt: A World History by Mark Kurlanski -
I'm an introvert. I know this may surprise a lot of people reading this, but it's true. It's not easy being an introvert in an extrovert's world, but that's the situation I've found myself in for the past 34 years. This book does a really nice job detailing the differences between introversion and extroversion, and makes the case for a better understanding between people of each persuasion. Really, though, I mostly recommend this book for people who have important people in their lives who are introverts, whom they want to understand better, especially extrovert spouses and parents of introverts. It will give you a good introduction into better understanding how we work.
Boom. There it is. "The N-Word." In the history of the spoken word, perhaps no other word has had as much power to anger, infuriate, subjugate, or at the very least make people uncomfortable. This book covers the history of the word, the history of its acceptance and use in the popular culture, and the way in which it has been dealt with in recent history since becoming widely recognized as taboo. It was definitely an uncomfortable read, but sometimes uncomfortable subjects need to be addressed. I'm not certain I agree with the author's conclusions about the words appropriateness or the way it should be handled, but I think it's a subject should perhaps be tackled head-on instead in hushed whispers behind closed doors.
Nigger: The Strange Career of a Troublesome Word by Randall Kennedy -
After reading Stephen King's 11/22/63, I was really interested in the idea of how American history -- and world history -- has hinged on a series of small events, and how radically things might have been different had things gone another way. Then Everything Changed explored this very question in a handful of specific events: The near-assassination of JFK in 1960, JFK's assassination in 1968, and a critical gaffe in during the 1976 Presidential debates. After getting into this book, I'm not sure that it's accurately categorized as "nonfiction," as the assumptions the author makes about these "alternate histories" take a few liberties that could be construed as far-fetched. Obviously, we have no way to know what actually would have been, but Greenfield makes an entertaining guess. Definitely recommended for history buffs who want to debate the author's story, but also very much recommended for people of my generation, born just after these events took place, who don't know a lot about the twenty critical years in US history before the 1980's.