Life and Death on the New York Dance Floor 1980-1983 by Tim Lawrence

I first discovered this book from the Benji B. radio show on BBC Radio 1. I guess the author, Tim Lawrence and crew put together an LP compilation of the music that is part of the subject matter in this book. Benji played a bunch of tracks from the compilation (which were awesome) and talked up the book enough that I had to check it out. I still haven’t finished “Life and Death on the New York Dance Floor 1980-1983” yet. But I’m enjoying every chapter. If you are a sucker for NYC’s cultural history like I am, I would definitely recommend this book, whether you are a music fan or not.

Good Reads: Phil Knight’s ‘Shoe Dog’

I have been sitting on this one for a long time. “Shoe Dog” by Phil Knight came recommended by several friends back when it was first released. I finally knocked it out on flight last summer, but am barely getting around to posting this eightish months later. As a person who enjoys college sports, running, history and sneakers, this book checked a lot of boxes for me. Before reading this book, I had only known bits and pieces of the Nike story. My knowledge was mostly based around Prefontaine and Bowerman, but I didn’t really know much about Knight. It is a great story, and Knight is a pretty good story teller. I highly recommend checking this one out.

Good Reads: Flea’s ‘Acid for the Children’

I was very exited when I saw that this book was dropping. I saw a review for it in the New York Times (but did not read the review, as not to spoil the book). I did, however, immediately pre-order it on Amazon. I was finally able to read it over Thanksgiving. “Acid for the Children” is a Memoir written by Flea, the bass player for the Red Hot Chili Peppers. After reading Anthony Kiedes’ book earlier this year I was curious to see how the writing style of the two band mates would compare. To avoid badmouthing Kiedes, I’ll just say that I enjoyed Flea’s book much more.

“Acid for the Children,” tells the story of Flea’s childhood, up through the time that the Red Hot Chili Peppers were formed. It starts with his early childhood in Australia, grade school in Rye New York, then adolescence and early adulthood in Los Angeles, CA. Flea breaks up the narrative with reflections upon his past from his current-day self. The story is incredible, but Flea’s prose alone is worth the read. I highly recommend this book.

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: ‘Say Nothing’

It has been a while since I was so captivated by a story that I couldn’t tear myself away from it. I read this book in a weekend.  “Say Nothing” by Patrick Radden Keefe, tells the true story of a widowed mother of 10 taken from her family in 1970s Belfast by the IRA and “disappeared.” I was both fascinated and disgusted by the factual basis of what I was reading. My mind was blown learning accounts of neighbors killing neighbors, and tenement houses turned war zones. Further, it all takes place in recent history/current day, in a supposedly developed western nation. In addition to telling an otherworldly story, the book helped me make sense of many U2 and Sinead O’Connor lyrics that I learned growing up. Everything from Bloody Sunday to Margaret Thatcher’s stance on the North Ireland conflict are covered in this text. The book was randomly recommended to me by none other than my barber. I was sitting in the chair getting my hairs did when he asked me “do you read?”. Apparently his reaction to this book was similar to mine. He strongly suggested that I check it out. Having now read it myself, I also highly recommend it.

Good Reads: ‘The Greater Journey’

‘The Greater Journey’ by David McCullough, contains two of my favorite elements; history and Paris. Admittedly, I have read just about every book this guy has written. I like the way that he is able to take such a massive amount of historical information and present it in a way that reads like a novel rather than a text book. Acknowledging that this type of book is not for everyone, here is my take, in case it sounds interesting–

In the decades preceding the civil war, and up until WWI, scores of prominent Americans traveled to, and lived in Paris during a time that became an era of cultural cross pollination between French and American culture. This book details the experiences of several such Americans during their time in Paris. One (un)surprising takeaway from the book is that descriptions of Paris written by the Americans of yore, heavily overlap with my present day sentiments about the city. Bread and butter fa’ life!

Good Reads: ‘When’

I randomly grabbed this book at an airport newsstand recently. I didn’t know much about the author, and had not previously heard of this book. ‘When’ by Daniel Pink is a relatively quick read, at ~200 pages. The premise of the book gives credence to the old idiom “timing is everything.” I found the text fascinating. It was very satisfying to learn that there is some science behind that mid-afternoon intellectual slump that experience on a daily basis. I really enjoy any book that teaches me something about myself. I would recommend this book to anyone.

Good Reads: ‘David and Goliath’

B is a big fan of Malcolm Gladwell. This book ‘David and Goliath’ was my first exposure to his work. It is a quick read. I was able to knock it out during a recent flight. Overall, I enjoyed the book. But I had to take it with a grain of salt.

The premise of the book is that the most favored to succeed can actually sometimes be at a disadvantage by conforming too rigidly to the accepted paradigm of “success” in the respective field. To bolster this thesis, Gladwell gives various examples of underdogs leveraging some unique characteristic to dethrone the heavily favored alternative. As an illustration for this phenomenon Gladwell uses an inverted parabola that roughly equates to the economic law of diminishing returns. In layman’s terms, he makes the argument that there can be too much of a good thing (money, intelligence, athletic ability, etc..).

While I found the book entertaining, I don’t necessarily subscribe to the notion that being and underdog can be leveraged advantageously in all instances. I agree that in certain cases that can be true, the same way that there are exceptions to almost every rule. In my opinion there was enough data and analysis that it wasn’t just another “embrace your flaws!” fluff piece. I thought it was worth the read.

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.