They Can’t Kill Us Until They Kill Us

*Reposted from my prior “review” on Goodreads*

Although I feel it’s a bit of an injustice to an author’s talent to compare them to another author, putting a frame of reference on something that you just read in an effort to increase its visibility is best done by associating the unfamiliar with the familiar.

Abdurraqib made me feel the same way that reading Nick Hornby did years ago. I absolutely devoured Hornby’s “High Fidelity” due to its conversational style and informative pop culture references and this book was no different. I loved reading the music criticism, and found some new tracks to listen to.

That is not all this book is talking about though. As a black man in America, Abdurraqib obviously holds strong opinions regarding “race relations” in this country of ours. The fact that he is able to seamlessly weave back and forth between musical criticism and political opinions is an enviable skill. Additionally, although I didn’t agree with all of his points, I did enjoy the food for thought. Where else would you find an eclectic blend of opinions that runs the gamut from Allen Iverson, Carlie Rae Jepson, Fall Out Boy, and Chance The Rapper to many others?

I am a huge fan of the semantic landscape of an author’s work as well. The way an idea is conveyed is, in my opinion, sometimes even more important than the substance of said idea. I’ve read on certain subjects that, in the hands of a weaker author, would bore one to tears. This is not meant to diminish the punch that some of these essays convey, it just means that the man can formulate an idea in a way that makes the passages a true “experience”. Some of the sentences that Abdurraqib puts to paper in this book were heartbreakingly beautiful. The best example of what I mean is the essay “Brief Notes On Staying // No One Is Making Their Best Work When They Want To Die”. Wow, that one was beautifully depressing but oh so beautiful.

I enjoyed this book more than the one I read by Taheesi Coates a couple of years ago, honestly. While I felt Coates was an impressive wordsmith as well, I didn’t get the feeling that he allowed for the nuances in relationships (and his book came across as browbeating) while Abdurraqib conceded, at times, the flaws on either side of the “race discussion”. There are still some of the broad generalities I disagree with that feed his narrative, but it is the man’s prerogative to feel the way he feels; I’m just here to be the audience.

When all is said and done, this was an impressive work and I highly recommend this book.

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The Unexpected President : The Life and Times of Chester A. Arthur

20171014_112315~01.jpgI mentioned previously that my goal for this year (and most likely the next couple as well) was to read a biography of each US President, preferably in chronological order. I made it through the first five without incident (excepting the James Monroe bio, which took an extended amount of time) and then decided to take a break before diving into our 6th President, John Quincy Adams. During my break, I read several other non-Presidential books before receiving an email from a book publisher. This email asked if I would be interested in an advance copy of a biography about our 21st President, Chester A Arthur, with my only payment being a review of it. I agreed and here we are! The book I just finished is called “The Unexpected President : The Life and Times of Chester A. Arthur” by Scott S. Greenberger.

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US Presidents One through Five

potus-seal

I mentioned previously that I had stumbled across Best Presidential Bios when I started planning my 2017 reading goals. Considering how often you write things out there into the ether and they go unanswered, it has been fantastic to read both this gentleman’s reviews/thoughts AND get responses to my own from someone who has gone down this Presidential bio road as well. It might be considered “cheating” to regurgitate my comments from HIS page over on my own here but at least it’s not “plagiarizing” 🙂

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2016 In Books

emersonWhen I discovered Goodreads several years ago, I had no idea that such a place even existed online. Discovering a place where fellow book nerds congregated and discussed books they were reading, books they wanted to read, and all else literary made me incredibly happy. It also gave me the option of cataloging all the books I’ve read and consolidating my scattershot reading habits into some definable “goals”.

After the passing of a young friend of mine in 2015, I made 2016 the year that I immersed myself in a world of reading in which I gained spiritual, philosophical, and overall educational insight. Overall, I read 40+ books, but I’ll only touch on what I feel were the top ten I read in 2016.

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2015 In Books (Part 3)

shelfThe goal this year was to wrap up my thoughts in a couple different posts, so as to mitigate the need to read a several thousand word blog post. Well, 2015 was pretty productive for me as far as reading goes, so here is another doozy of a post. Please forgive me if it seems a bit disjointed, seeing as work has kept me quite busy these last few months and I have written this in bits and pieces since Part 1 and Part 2.

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The Children’s Blizzard

blizzard_cover“The 12th of January, 1888, is, and long will be, remembered, not only by Dakotans, but by many in the northwest, not for the things we enjoy, love, and would see repeated; but for its darkness, desolation, ruin and death, spread broadcast; for the sorrow, sadness and heartache that followed in its train”.
-Caleb Holt Ellis, 1909

Considering that horrible events transpire on a regular basis, each and every one of them relative to one’s direct involvement in them, I’m not sure if many people remember this event and/or continue to discuss it’s impact on turn of the century Prairie life. This is not a derogatory sleight by any means, only more of an observation.

We remember the things that matter to us, plain and simple.  Unless you have a vested interest in the history of the weather service, the advent of frontier pioneering, or your bloodline includes someone effected by this tragedy, you may have no idea that it even happened. As for me, I’ve heard the story through the years of the school teacher who roped her children together (turns out this is actually disputed on both sides as to its veracity) to traverse the snow storm but had no idea this was “that snowstorm”.

This book, although tragic, was an incredibly rich read. The author, David Laskin, has created a narrative for this tragedy that intertwines the stories of multiple people involved. From the immigrant families attempting their luck at homesteading to the military officers in charge of weather forecasting (in its infancy here), this is an absolute page turner. Laskin does a fantastic job of breaking down, in layman’s terms, the conditions that both led to the storm and continued to feed its ferocity.

As a quick summary, this book is about a  blizzard that occurred across the Midwest on January 12th, 1888. Striking fast, and without warning (one of the sharply contested arguments about the weather service and it’s shortcomings back then was the inability, for a multitude of reasons, to relay the danger in time), over two hundred people froze to death. Referred to as the “Children’s Blizzard”, due to the large amount of school children unable to make their way home from school before being overtaken, this was a tragedy that had not been expected or seen before.

As a gift a couple Christmases ago, I finally got around to reading this. For those whose To Be Read list is ever expanding (like me), you know the struggle of not having enough time to read all the books you’d like and the “SQUIRREL!!!” moment when you get distracted by a book that must be read immediately, skipping to the front of the line.

Bottom line is that I would definitely recommend this one if you can get your hands on it.

In Defense Of Reading

hammockIn a world where technology has improved our lives and continually increases its own ability by leaps and bounds, humans have had to adapt to living at a constantly moving pace. With the instant accessibility of information now, reading a good paper-and-glue book seems to be less and less given its proper due (not that I have a problem with ebooks; on the contrary I enjoy them even though you can’t sniff them). I felt moved to declare my love affair with reading and point out the glaringly obvious fact that people do a good amount of reading, whether they will admit it or not. Now, you may think that reading doesn’t need anyone to defend it, and you may be right, but I have to get it off my chest. To anyone who knows me personally (or even has read this blog for any amount of time, just look at the previous blog post), you know that I am a firm believer in the power of a good book. I have been reading since I was a child, and have always preferred the company of a good book to a reality tv show (or most television for that matter).
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