Good Reads: ‘A Short History of Nearly Everything’ by Bill Bryson

This is another recommendation from my old man. It is actually his copy (complete with hand-marked copy editing, haha). This was my first read by Bryson, and I quite enjoyed it. Brittany has read most of his catalogue, and got so excited when I picked this thing up, that she bought me 4 or 5 other of his books to read. Anyway, the premise of this gem is that Bryson was interested in science, but could never pay attention to the dry text that is so ubiquitous in science writing. So he set out to explain science in a way that is captivating (and even entertaining). In my opinion, he succeeded. It doesn’t hurt matters that he is a pretty funny writer. I definitely recommend this book to fellow nerds.

Good Reads: The Path Between the Seas

I can safely say that David McCullough is one of my favorite authors. McCullough is a guy who was initially recommended several years ago by my dad, who also loves nerdy books about history and engineering. The Path Between the Seas is a book that I have been working on since the summer. I honestly didn’t have much time to read for pleasure this summer because of the amount of renovation work that has consumed the majority of my free time. So, at 600+ pages this one took a few months for me to get through. Admittedly I also thought the book started out a bit slow. But once I got past the story of the failed French attempt to the part where John Stevens took over the canal project, I had trouble putting the book down. The dude was such a badass that in order to avoid freezing to death one night while scouting railroad lines in present day Montana, he spent the entire night pacing back in forth in sub-zero temps after his Native American guide had abandoned him. Afterward, he proceeded on without the guide and finished the job. They don’t make ’em like they used to.

Anyway, I found the engineering aspects of the Panama Canal fascinating. It is pretty incredible what they built with such crude (by present day standards) machinery. I would definitely recommend this one to any of my fellow history nerds.

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: ‘The Passion Paradox’

This is probably not a book that I would have chosen to read on my own. B reads a ton of these self mastery type of books because of their relevance to her line of work. She recommended it to me because one of the authors was a competitive runner. The crux of this book, “The Passion Paradox,” by Brad Stulberg and Steve Magness, is unpacking what catchphrases like “finding your passion” and “living a balanced life” really mean. Further, the book uses historical real world examples of how applying such ideas in one’s life does not always yield the intended consequences (i.e. long term success, happiness, fulfillment, etc.). I normally find these types of books cheesy and only marginally (if at all) scientific. But I really did enjoy this read, and it caused me to scrutinize some personal traits with a new perspective after having digested the text. Worth checking out, in my opinion.

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.