Last year I got to experience some new things. Some of these things were not actually made in 2013, but last year was the first time I got acquainted with them. My list will have good things and bad things about each item.
I always read a lot of books each year. Some of them stand out.
- Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts-This book is beautiful and immerses the reader into a world of an Indian slum in Bombay. Quote: “It took me a long time and most of the world to learn what I know about love and fate and the choices we make, but the heart of it came to me in an instant, while I was chained to a wall and being tortured. I realised, somehow, through the screaming in my mind, that even in that shackled, bloody helplessness, I was still free: free to hate the men who were torturing me, or to forgive them.” The book is amazing.The downside of the book is that while there are amazing characters and amazing events, there is not an overarching story that ties everything together.
- Batman and Philosophy The Dark Knight of the Soul by William Irwin- This book exists and explains our (American) sociological desire for a dark hero or anti-hero. There are no great quotes, but I love the concept of this book. The downside of this book is that if you are not a Batman fan, you will not know some of the character references. The philosophical exercises and explanations are based on actual philosophy courses, but the subjects are based on the Batman mythos.
- Hyperbole and a Half by Allie Brosh- This book is based on a blog.There are some of the most hilarious stories I have ever read in this book. There are also very serious descriptions of clinical depression. One of my favorite quotes is what she wrote as a 10 year old to her 25 year old self in a letter “Write back soon”. The downside of this book is there is some language. The other downside is that she makes it seem like clinical depression can be resolved by yourself if you just want it enough.
- The Mercy Prayer by Robert Gelinas-This book talks about how Jesus is merciful and that we should pray for mercy. No downside comes to mind.
- World War Z (Audio Book) by Max Brooks-This book is a zombie book with a slightly different twist. It is told “interview style” after the zombie event. The audiobook is one of the few times that the audio is better than the written. The audiobook has a different celebrity for each chapter. It is incredible. The downside of this book is that the zombie outbreak is treated as a virus outbreak. It is dark and can be depressing, especially if you think of it as a virus that causes a form of mental insanity and can be spread easily.
- American on Purpose by Craig Ferguson-This book has some great memoirs of a Scottish comic trying to make it big, having to get off alcohol and drugs, and trying to be funny. I think he is one of the funniest men alive. The downside of this book is that he uses a lot of “coarse” language.
- Cold Days by Jim Butcher-Harry Dresden, Wizard and Private investigator. The sardonic wit and action of Harry Dresden pretty much state that I will read his books until he joins the happy fluffy bunny gang and teaches kids about friendship. I love the series and, as a bonus, the audiobooks are read by James Marsters. The downsides of this book are twofold. One-it is a geek book (series) primarily addressed to a male audience. Two-He uses magic, but does not have inhuman beauty,pointy ears or live forever. This upsets certain people in my life.
- Death by Black Hole by Neil deGrasse Tyson- This book is written by a doctor of astrophysics. It is about astronomy. The downside of this book is that you will have to accept that the universe is billions of years old or you will be continually angry with the author.
- The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum-This book was very different from what I remember of the movie. I read a couple interviews with the author afterward and found that he had many allusions to real world situations. The downside of this book is that you think you know the story and you already have an image of what all the characters look like. This can mess you up because, for example, the lion is actually a lion and not a man dressed as a lion.
Books you can skip reading because I already read them for you
- Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace-This book is loooooong with a capital F. There are three separate stories. They do not have a resolution, or (in some cases) a conflict. The story is told out of sequence with time.Professors and poly-sci majors claim that the book is great. I am convinced that they did not actually read the book and are just parroting what they have been told. While reading this book, I felt that I had committed a crime and been caught, and this was my punishment. Bonus: There are whole chapters in French, inexplicably placed in the middle of a book written in English. (Yes I looked at different copies)
- The Way of the Peaceful Warrior by Dan Millman-This book is supposed to be an inspirational book written by a man who suffered a back injury and learned to love life with the help of a wise old man. This book is actually only about that subject if you “squint” with your imagination. Imagine being told that an artist had drawn a beautiful painting of a circus with acrobats and elephants. Now imagine that when you meet the artist, it is an eight year old armless boy trying to use finger paints with his face. You look at the paper and see squished up face parts, but no circus. This is how I felt while reading this book. I was told that it was amazing. When I read it, I felt that both the author and my friends who liked it were on drugs. The story is patched together like trying to remember a night before a hangover, but with the added bonus of incredible lucid episodes of pretentiousness.
- Men on Strike by Helen Smith-This book is a “Men’s Rights” book written by a woman. Now you would think there should have been a couple red flags with that sentence, but then you are more forward thinking than I am. For those of you that don’t know, the “Men’s Rights” topic is an ill-fated one that will never (ever) be seen as a real problem. There are problems in American society with things like; family courts often automatically giving child custody to mothers (even when the mothers have criminal records or severe mental illnesses), men being misrepresented in sitcoms as incompetent, and men in general having to deal with other gender biased problems. In actuality there are many discrepancies. For example, as a veteran I can get some college scholarships. If I were a female veteran I would be able to apply for hundreds or thousands more than I can now. Most of the time, when I hear men complain about this stuff (family court excluded), I think “Stop Whining” or “AND she expected me to pay for everything on our date!” (which means the same thing, but is funnier in my head). The truth is that there are fewer men in college than there were fifteen or twenty years ago. The other truth is that the laws that allow more scholarships for women (or other issues) were enacted because there was an unfair advantage. The other other truth is that most of the men who feel they are “being punished” by these laws are young enough that they don’t remember the other way, so they feel they are being punished for doing nothing. So why did I put this book in the “don’t read” pile (besides the controversial subject matter)? This book is proof that you can make numbers fit into any thesis. First, the author spends a lot of time trying to prove there is a problem, but uses the most inane examples (“Homer Simpson is shown as a buffoon”). Second, she uses statistics that are meaningless. She stated that in 2008, the college enrollment for degrees beyond a Bachelor’s Degree was exponentially lower for men than for women. Her conclusion was that it was because of all the “pro-woman” mentalities of colleges driving away men intentionally.Wait, 2008? Wasn’t that the year of one of the largest stock crashes in America? Wasn’t there a massive recession? Didn’t our banking system almost collapse, making getting loans difficult? Didn’t the government stop approving new loans (including for student aid) for a while? I honestly could not finish this book. It was written as if men are some lost tribe of mentally handicapped people who needed to be coddled. Between her “look at me, I care about men” attitude and her “you can just put numbers anywhere without context” style, I stopped caring. I am a man and some of the issues she was talking about have affected me in the past and I…stopped…caring. One of the last bits that I read was that men are worried about being wrongly accused as pedophiles (true). Then she said that they were so worried, if they saw a child who was not their own fall and get hurt, they would not run over to help. First-how hurt? Are we talking skinned knees or are we talking needing lifesaving aid and medical care. Second-Have you ever seen a female stranger run over to help a kid who just fell when she was not under legal obligation to (or when she did not know the kid)? Maybe, but it is probably just as rare. Plus, woman strangers laugh at kids hurting themselves too.
- Bill the Vampire by Rick Gualtieri-The excerpt I read from this book made it seem like it was a story about an average cubicle worker who got turned into a vampire but was trying to keep his day job. The excerpt was from page 2 of the book. I bought it and made it to page 10 before I realized that it wasn’t funny, or campy, or fun to read. This book was like going to a party with THAT guy. The guy who has never had an actual human laugh at one of their jokes, but thinks they are funny. That guy who asks you every day “Working hard or hardly working” and thinks it is funny every time.
- Enter the Zone by Barry Sears-This is a diet book and amazon uploaded the French version to my kindle. I don’t really have an opinion on the book, but, by the time I fixed the issue, I didn’t want to read it.
I am sure that I read more great (and awful) books in 2013, but those stood out. I wrote about them here because no one ever asks me what I have read recently when I go to social events. *Gasp!* Maybe I am THAT guy! Nah, I am always funny. Sometimes other people think so too.