Good Reads: ‘Team of Rivals’

I have been reading this book on and off for a couple of years. I normally read on the go, and lugging a 700+ pager around with me is not something that I have really done since law school. I finally finished it a couple of weeks ago, and now I’m kind of sad that it’s over. “Team of Rivals” by Doris Kearns Goodwin is an extremely well written (obviously, since she’s got a Pulitzer), chronological account of Lincoln’s life. The focus of the book is on Lincoln’s political career, but it is obvious that his professional demeanor was shaped by certain aspects of Lincoln’s humble upbringing, also covered in this text. Before reading this book, I didn’t know the full extent of Lincoln’s true genius (not in the hyperbole way that people have used to dumb down this word) and strength of character. It is unlikely that the US will ever see another person of Lincoln’s caliber occupying its highest office. I highly recommend this book.

Good Reads: ‘We, The Drowned’

This book was a bit of a deviation from my normal fare, in that, it’s fiction. I have a hard time reading just for entertainment’s sake. I like to be able to take away bit of new practical knowledge from every book I read, even if it is just a story about someone’s life. I was able to justify reading We, the Drowned because, while fiction, it is based on the history of Marstal Denmark from the 1840s through the end of World War II. I’m fascinated by that era generally, and because of my Danish heritage, I’m specifically interested in the history of Denmark during that era. There was added entertainment in the fact that several of the characters in the book bore the same names as my ancestors.

Prior to reading this book, I knew nothing about Marstal. Having now read the book, I actually have a pretty strong desire to visit. It is a small town in the southern part of Denmark, on the island of Ærø. The book is written from third person, but not in an omniscient voice. Instead it is written from the collective voice of the town of Marstal. As the title of the book would suggest, Marstal has a history laden with sailing. Carsten Jensen does an amazing job of telling this story, creating very detailed imagery with the text. This is true to the point that I would not suggest this book for readers who shy away from a bit of gore. It spans over two world wars, and graphically depicts the ugliness that occurs at sea during wartime.

The book was a bit slow to draw me in. But once it did, I did not want it to end. Luckily it is 675 pages, so it lasted me a little while. I would definitely recommend it to anyone who enjoys learning about that span of history, merchant sailing, or just reading a really good story.

Good Reads: Anthony Kiedis’ ‘Scar Tissue’

This was another book that I got in my Christmas stocking. Thanks, B. I had actually asked for this one. One of my colleagues mentioned that his wife was reading it and enjoyed. Since I was a massive RHCP fan growing up, I felt like I needed to get in on this action.

By way of background, I was extremely passionate about music in the early 90s. Listening to and playing music were two of my main hobbies. I won’t say that Red Hot Chili Peppers was my favorite band. But they were definitely in heavy rotation on my CD player. And as a bass player, Flea was definitely my favorite (Les Claypool was a close second). Reading this book was almost enough inspiration for me to break the bass out of storage and give it a slap. Alas, my bass guitar is still collecting dust in the closet.

The book reeled me in right away. I had no idea that AK was from Michigan. Anthony’s way of story telling is very matter of fact and easily conjures visuals, occasionally too vivid. His voice in the beginning of the book is very humble and to the point. I wish that he would have been able to sustain that voice through the entirety of the book. Unfortunately that is not the case. Nonetheless, I did find the story fascinating. I especially loved reading about RHCP’s interactions with other personalities from that era that I was really into, i.e. Kurt Cobain.

Some takeaways from the book:

  1. Anthony Kiedis is an addict
  2. Los Angeles in the 70s and 80s was a free-for-all
  3. Anthony Kiedis is not a musician (at all), despite being in a band
  4. Apparently speedball is like coke, but the high lasts longer
  5. Aside from the drugee lingo, this book may have actually diminished my vocabulary except for the word “accoutrement,” a word that no one actually uses in real life, yet inexplicably appears on multiple occasions in this text
  6. Anthony Kiedis dated Sinead O’Connor, and was dumped by her
  7. AK is still pissed about being dumped by Sinead
  8. Black tar heroin is most easily sourced in Mexico

If you read at my pace it will take multiple sittings to finish (~460 pages). If you read at Angela Libby’s pace, you will finish it in 1.5 hours. If you can look past all of the humble (and not so humble) bragging, the blatant retorts to negative media, etc., there is a lot of wacky entertaining stuff in this text. Overall, I’d say it is worth the read.

Good Reads: ‘Never Use Futura’

Book reviews are not something that I usually do on here, but whatever. I got a couple of books for xmas that I really enjoyed and I decided that I may as well pass along my thoughts for any like-minded people who may come across this and are looking for a good read. I had actually not even heard about this book. But B heard some design nerds say some good things about it and naturally thought that I would enjoy. She was right.

The book is a good mix of history, design, opinion, wit, and dry humor. I don’t even hold it against Douglas Thomas (the author) that he has affiliations with Brigham Young University. For those who don’t know me well, it is a pretty big deal for me to be able to overlook that fact, hehe. Futura is a typeface that was originally developed by a guy named Paul Renner and released in the late 1920s by the Bauer type foundry in Germany. In the past couple of decades, it has been popularized by the artist Barbra Kruger, then Shepard Fairey (as a nod to Kruger), and Supreme (as a blatant rip-off of Kruger).

Reading this book was like taking a guided tour through the museum of Futura. The text is pleasantly broken up by visual examples of the subject matter. Whether it is examples from old publications or overlaid examples of modern variations to illustrate distinction, the visual aides are always on point. It is one of those books where I couldn’t help but think the entire time I was reading “I wish that I knew as much about ANYTHING as Thomas does about Futura.”

It is a super easy and fun read, barely 200 pages. I read it in a single sitting, partly because I couldn’t put it down, partly because of its relatively short length. I would definitely recommend this book to anyone who is into design aesthetic, art and/or history.