2015 was a busy year with lots of time spent on the road and not enough spent at home with my family or relaxing with a good book. Nonetheless, I did stumble across a few excellent books in the last 12 and updated my reading list accordingly.
Two books stood out. Let me tell you about them briefly.
If you’ve heard about the recent Jessica Jones series on Netflix, you might be interested in some background reading. Alias Omnibus, by Brian Michael Bendis and Michael Gaydos, collects Jones’ background in the Alias stories for Marvel by Bendis and Gaydos, along with some related storylines from other series (as I understand it). The Netflix and Marvel stories differ enough while tackling the same tough material to make both worthwhile reading/watching.
I also received Von Dutch: The Art, The Myth, The Legend, by Pat Ganahl, as a gift and frankly couldn’t put it down. Ignore for a second the recent “Von Dutch” fashion marketing phenomenon, which has nothing at all to do with the man. Dutch was arguably the inventor and master of modern decorative hot-rod pinstriping. Ganahl, a talented, long-time automotive journalist working mostly in the hot rod scene, created a fascinating portrait of the reclusive, eccentric Von Dutch, told mostly through the recollections of people who knew him. The discrepancies in the stories say as much about the fans, friends, and hot rod scene as they do about Dutch. A fascinating and finely told bit of history.
As for all that traveling… while I haven’t acquired a taste for audiobooks yet, I have been listening to hours and hours of podcasts. Two I particularly enjoy are:
Dan Carlin’s Hardcore History features some great, in-depth, wide-ranging narrative overviews of historical people and events. I particularly enjoyed Wrath of the Khans, a five-episode history of Genghis Khan and his hordes, and Blueprint for Armageddon, a six-episode history of World War I as told through personal accounts and diaries.
Beware: these are long-haul listening, and a single episode can go on for hours. On the other hand, I love Carlin’s ability to bring characters to life though quoted excerpts from source materials, as well as his tangent thoughts on those sources and the historians behind them.
Quick note to mention that I’m updating my Reading List page from using Amazon affiliate links to instead linking up reviews or other relevant discussion.
Two reasons for this:
First, I’m a proponent of supporting local, independent booksellers and I feel that directing readers to Amazon undermines that.
Second, the Amazon links were a convenient way to direct readers to book summaries and reviews. The affiliate links were a “bonus,” but one that never actually paid off. So why bother? There are other sources of more useful reviews. (For example, check out the 1937 review of The Hobbit by C.S. Lewis!)
Replacing older links will be an ongoing project, so check back in occasionally for new book recommendations as well as new review links.
One of my projects — long on the back burner, but now moving forward again — is to survey American history by reading the biographies of the U.S. presidents (or as many as practical). Why biographies? Because people make history, and I find it more interesting to understand their experience, motivations and reactions to events than simply a chronicle of what happened and when it went down.
To get this project going again I spent some time trying to find one or two well-reviewed biographies for each president. You’ll find the results on my The Presidents Project page and I’ll continue to update the list based on recommendations and further research.
I also included the biographies of a few other notable non-presidents, and that list may also change over time.
Hopefully you’ll find this useful. Enjoy!
Tl;dr version: I started keeping a reading list and decided to post it here for your edification.
Longer version: For most of my life I’ve been a voracious reader. And it’s been great making a career out of three things I really enjoy: reading, writing and computers.
However, when I became a full-time editor, my reading habits changed significantly. I can’t say that I stopped reading because, let’s face it, an editor reads all day as part of the job description. And that’s fine. Even now, I spend much of my day scouring the news and RSS feeds and Twitter for great stories about technology, programmers and the magic they do (plus hippie politics and a few other esoteric topics).
But all that reading during the day (and often into the evening) meant I had little enthusiasm left for pleasure reading in the evening. Though I hadn’t given up altogether. My daughter, wife and I read the Harry Potter series together during 2010 and the beginning of 2011. That got the fire burning again…
When we moved earlier this year, we gave up cable TV and gained a working fireplace. On top of that, my current work involves a bit more writing — excellent alternative exercise for the mind. We have a fantastic independent book store just a few blocks away, too. All that lends itself to more time and interest in evening (and lunchtime, and…) reading.
If figured at least one book a month would be a good target and decided that keeping a journal of my reading would be a good idea track my progress. So far I’ve achieved a bit better than that book-a-month goal. Better yet, I’ve read some great books so far and have a nice queue of books on the shelf for the winter.
So if you’d like to follow along with my reading, check out the reading list page from time to time. I’ll do my best to keep it up to date.