The Golden Spruce: A True Story of Myth, Madness and Greed, John Vaillant
This book got a glowing review, no pun intended, in Outside
magazine, and it's totally worthy of the praise. Here's a succinct version of the story: some Pacific Northwest Haida lived on a tiny island with a very sacred, isolated and biologically unique tree--a spruce with gold-colored needles that figured heavily in their creation mythology. Then Europeans arrived. Logging got big, rapacious, clear-cut-happy and high-tech. An ex-logger and wilderness-survival type, right out of Edward Abbey fiction, had what was either an epiphany or a religious vision or a psychotic episode or all three. He kayaked through some of the roughest ocean water in the world, cut down the tree and then disappeared shortly before his trial. He's presumed dead, but nobody really knows. And there's an epilogue. Great stuff.
Privilege: Harvard and the Education of the Ruling Class, Ross Gregory Douthat
Part memoir, part journey to conservatism, and very small part examination of what social class and meritocracy have wrought. I finished it, but I wouldn't particularly recommend it. Nicholas Lemann's The Big Test
is, for me at least, a much more interesting treatment of this kind of thing. If you must read about folks whose educational ambitions find themselves suddenly out of their (Ivy) league, there are plenty of better choices available. (Erich Segal's book are not among them.)
Another Bullshit Night in Suck City, Nick Flynn
Slacker type gets a job in a homeless shelter, meets his estranged, crazyish, novel-writing father, writes a novel about him. Recommended for people who like literary fiction, memoirs, or biographies about crazy people, as well as anyone who likes to read about parents and children. Great title, too.Can't Stop Won't Stop: A History of the Hip-Hop Generation, Jeff Chang
Have I mentioned how much I like books with the phrase 'cultural history' in the title? This book should have some of that. Years from now, it will occupy a place in the pantheon of hip-hop scholarship alongside David Toop and Tricia Rose. Excellent for anyone interested in hip-hop music or just modern cultural history. To paraphrase a review I read of Boogie Blind's Live at the PJs mix, Chang picks his spots, and when he hits, he hits hard.
Blowing My Cover: My Life as a CIA Spy, Lindsay Moran
Decent memoir--Moran is a good writer, and much of the book is fairly interesting, especially the segments related to CIA training. She's an engaging character, and, more than anything, this is a breezy read whose high points come during the incredulous descriptions of CIA training exercises involving made-up countries Vaingloria and Malevolencia, and whose low points come when Moran tries to make sense of the job, and the CIA, post-September 11.
Fried Chicken: An American Story, John T. Edge
By now it's a familiar story--author examines classic American foodstuff, travels the country like Charles Kuralt soaking up local color, chatting with entrepreneurs, elderly lunatics, plucky immigrants and true-believing neo-traditionalists, includes a few recipes, makes me hungry for chicken. You know the drill. This sounds dismissive, but it's not meant to--I love this kind of book. It's a fun time. The author, director of the Southern Foodways Alliance, is passionate and knowledgeable. And I've got his Apple Pie
, next in what he plans to make a series, on my to-read pile as I write this.
An experiment in one-sentence reviews:Hell Bent for Leather: Confessions of a Heavy Metal Addict
, Seb Hunter
It's a British Fargo Rock City, only not as good.Courtney Love: The Real Story
, Poppy Z. Brite
Brite makes Boswell look skeptical, and given Love's, uh, poetic conception of truth, this is a dealbreaker.Can't Take My Eyes Off You: 1 Man, 7 Days, 12 Televisions
, Jack Lechner
Like Super Size Me
, except in print, and with televisions; a sort of sequel/homage/update/whatnot to Charles Sopkin's '60s Seven Glorious Days, Seven Fun-Filled Nights
The thing is, I am perfectly capable of watching a lot of bad television and then having insights about it--I don't need some other guy to do it for me.Stranger than Fiction
, Chuck Palahniuk
Since he published this nonfiction/journalism anthology, I figured I'd give him another chance, but he's still not my thing.