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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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” 🙂

Continue reading US Presidents One through Five

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.

Continue reading 2016 In Books

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.

Continue reading 2015 In Books (Part 3)

2016 Reading

IMAG0610I’ll go ahead and kick this post off with the following two disclaimers;

1) It may get icky and perhaps even a bit touchy-feely. If you are feeling that a more manly bout of reading is in order, check out THIS page.
2) I hope you’re reading with a browser that allows for tabs because I’ve got some links throughout here that you may want to peruse later on.

Don’t want to stick around for the whole thing? Alright then, no worries. The short summary? I’m planning on reading only those pieces of literature which will benefit me in both a spiritual and an intellectual sense this coming year. Starting with spending more time in my Bible, I plan on making my way through the works of some heavy duty Christian thinkers, to include CS Lewis, GK Chesterton, Dietrich Bonhoffer, George MacDonald, AW Tozer, Ralph Waldo Emerson, and even some Martin Luther. Everyone I listed made it into my crosshairs via a mix of both recommendations from people whose opinion I respect and/or a result of my own digging around for some definitive Christian theology.

That’s about it, really. I’ll go more in depth in a sec, but I know it’s football season so feel free to take off if you’ve read the prior paragraph.

Continue reading 2016 Reading

2015 in Books (Part 2)

shelfTo make it a tad bit easier on the eyes for anyone out there reading this (Helloooo??? Are you there???), I’ve broken the list down into a couple of postings. I’ve been quite diligent in pursuing my reading goals the last couple of years and I enjoy sharing what I’m reading with you, as a fellow nerd. With no further ado, here’s what I’ve been reading from March until early July (Part 3 to come later).

The Children’s Blizzard by David Laskin
Read from March 09 to April 10, 2015
-Really enjoyed this one and wrote a “review” previously on here.

Phantastes by George MacDonald
Read from March 24 to April 10, 2015
-Recommended by the same friend who told me about “The Everlasting Man” last year, this is another heavy one. I don’t mean heavy in the sense of the storyline; it’s mostly the dialect of the narrator (a result of being published initially in 1858). It had some high points for me, and the narrator is INCREDIBLY descriptive throughout.

Tinkers by Paul Harding
Read from April 08 to 09, 2015
-I can respect what the author was going for, but this was so uneven I can’t rate it any higher than a 2.5 or 3. When it hits, it’s amazing. For me though, it was more miss.

The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson
Read from April 07 to 08, 2015
-Really enjoyed this one. Good sense of creepiness all throughout. Definitely made up for the previous Shirley Jackson I read. Had a few “hair-standing-up-on-the-back-of-my-neck” scenes. When you are visualizing what someone else has written and it creeps you out, that’s some good writing right there.

Tell No One by Harlan Coben
Read from March 31 to April 07, 2015
-I had a love/hate relationship with this book. The best analogy I could come up with is if Lifetime Movies could be turned into books, this would be a prime candidate. Initially published in 2000, the references to dial-up modems and clicking on “hyperlinks” made it feel quite dated. I can’t think of any other way to describe it, but it was almost like having the internet explained to me by my grandmother.

The story about a missing wife and a crime that may or may not have occurred is semi interesting, but the delivery was hokey and hackneyed in my opinion. I would read more of this author, definitely, because I could see some potential in his imagination. This book was my first option, though, since the ebook selection at my local library is depressingly limited (I can get my digital hands on a ton of romance novels though!).

The Postman Always Rings Twice by James M. Cain
Read from March 27 to 28, 2015
-Wow. Now THAT is how you write a thriller. Short and to the point. Most excellent. Not a single word wasted throughout.

The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight In Heaven by Sherman Alexie
Read from April 9 to 16, 2015
-After really enjoying Diary Of An Indian earlier this year, I wanted to read more of Sherman Alexie. Friends recommended this as my next foray into Alexie’s work and I have to say that it is definitely quite a bit different, tonally. This may have a lot to do with the fact that although humorous, “Diary” hinted at the annoyances of living on a reservation while “Tonto” showed the author’s downright disgust with the Native American’s lot in life. There IS humor here and several chuckles to be had, but there is more frustration and anger than anything else. A collection of short stories, I found it a bit disjointed. Not terrible, but not necessarily one of my better reads so far this year.

The highlights (for me) include the following;

“The Only Traffic Signal On The Reservation Doesn’t Flash Red Anymore”, a sad but humorous tale of two guys discussing who may make it out as a basketball star and who will be left to deal with alcoholism. A great blend of humor and sadness, one of the few that I thought provided a good balance.

“This Is What It Means To Say Phoenix, Arizona”, the story that “Smoke Signals” is based off. Very witty, with two characters you can’t help but enjoy reading about as they deal with the loss of one of their fathers and the trip to Phoenix.

“Imagining The Reservation”, a hypothetical “what if” about the different ways that Native American life would/could be different if history had played out differently. Heavy, but a very interesting and well-written one.

One thing I noticed that I thought was very cool, was how Alexie made small word additions that turned a simple sentence into so much more. A passage mentions the dinner of macaroni and cheese, but changes the cheese to “commodity cheese”, completely altering my visual of those delicious little neon orange noodles. A simple dish usually, specifying the fact that this is “government” cheese shows the disparity between the Mac and Cheese I would eat and the mac and cheese of Alexie’s characters. Several other places discuss leaving the character’s “HUD house” vs just stepping out of the house. Alexie definitely knows what he is writing about, and he does a great job of portraying the malaise inherent in reservation living.

Dad Is Fat by Jim Gaffigan
Read from April 16 to 22, 2015
-My son and I both love The Gaffigan. As a father, I got a kick out of a lot of his stuff in here. Now, I only have one child so I couldn’t necessarily relate to his having FOUR of those little buggers, but this had quite a few chuckles throughout.

Searching For God Knows What by Donald Miller
Read from April 11 to 28, 2015
-I read “Blue Like Jazz” previously and it resonated deeply with me. This one had high points and low points, but I’m sorry to say wasn’t as powerful as “Jazz”. Not a bad read, by any stretch of the imagination, just not as good as the first Donald Miller I read.

Night Falls Fast by Kay Redfield Jamison
Read from April 22 to May 3, 2015
-As someone who wrestles with depression from time to time (I’d imagine there are quite a few more out there that do, without mentioning it to people), this one was interesting. I’d read some Jamison before and wasn’t all that impressed, but this one was fascinating. A fairly objective look at what drives people to suicide and how they accomplish it, this book is not a feel-good read at all. Still an interesting one though, and recommended.

NOS4A2 by Joe Hill
Read from May 6 to 23, 2015
-Really enjoyed this one. A fantastic creepy book about a vampire, done in an unconventional way. The main character IS a vampire, in the technical sense of the term, but not quite how you may think. Great read from Stephen King’s son.

Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End by Atul Gawande
Read from May 26 to June 1, 2015
-Absolutely fantastic read. Somber, yes, but still an incredible study on how modern medicine has become more about checking a list of boxes than realizing the importance of allowing people to have “quality of life” even if it means less time spent here on Earth.

I truly, truly liked this book and Dr. Gawande’s anecdotes. Highly recommend this one.

Part 3 will be coming a couple more months down the line.