Winter Reading 2013

Winter 2013 began on Saturday, December 21 and ended on Wednesday, March 19. During that time I read 12 books, which equals just under one book a week, about half a book lower than my average. It was a good cycle for reading in that I got through a few big, important books for me. In particular When They Come for Us, We’ll Be Gone has been on my shelf at home for a while and I’m glad I read it. The book was a true learning experience for me since my parents rarely talk about the circumstances that led to my family being let out of the Soviet Union. It was fascinating to learn about the people and events behind the several decades worth of struggle that finally made it happen. Another type of learning experience were Bruce Boyer’s Elegance: A Guide to Quality in Menswear and The Social Animal by David Brooks. While the former did very well to teach me about style with humor and poise, the latter brought together mountains of research to show personal and societal development from numerous angles. All three of these books inspired me in their own way.

The Nordstrom Way to Customer Service Excellence: The Handbook for Becoming the “Nordstrom” of Your Industry The Nordstrom Way to Customer Service Excellence: The Handbook for Becoming the “Nordstrom” of Your Industry by Robert Spektor
Though the advice in The Nordstrom Way is good and the anecdotes fit the bill, the book blew the same note one too many times.

Life Itself (au) by Roger Ebert
An enjoyable biography by the patron saint of movie critics. Ebert is intelligent, witty, and tells good stories.

When They Come for Us, We’ll Be Gone: The Epic Struggle to Save Soviet Jewry by Gal Beckerman
Comprehensive history of the trans-atlantic movement that fought to allow Jewish immigration from the Soviet Union. An important book for me, since my family was at the tail-end of said immigration.

Surprised by Joy by C.S. Lewis
Though I liked Lewis’s style and some elements of his story (particularly, the literature he discussed), I found his tendency to over-intellectualize annoying. Still, the only folks I would truly caution to avoid Lewis are those with an anti-Christian bias.

Elegance: A Guide to Quality in Menswear by Bruce Boyer
A classic introduction to Anglo-American-by-way-of-Europe style. Easily a must-read for fans of enduring taste over fashion.

The Social Animal: The Hidden Sources of Love, Character, and Achievement The Social Animal: The Hidden Sources of Love, Character, and Achievement by David Brooks
So interesting were Brooks’s insights on how the society of one and many is constructed that I went through this one twice. A nice balance to the left-leaning theories one gets in school.

Ready Player One (au) by Ernest Cline
Even though this book is rife with 80s pop-culture references that were beyond me, the page-turner plot was such an enjoyable adventure that I took the CDs home because my commute never felt long enough.

Y: The Last Man, Vol. 1: Unmanned Y: The Last Man, Vol. 1: Unmanned by Brian K. Vaughan
All the men in the world except one die of a mysterious plague — a promising start. Though volume one didn’t hold me, I’ll probably be trying a few of the others to see if things improve.

Sherwood Anderson by Irving Howe
A good biography of Sherwood Anderson, though better in its literary criticism then proper biographical research. Not that I agree with all of the former. See my Goodreads review for a my full thoughts.

Giovanni’s Room by James Baldwin
A short, poetic remembrance of a tumultuous affair in the life of the young, attractive, and closeted protagonist. An essential read for fans of LGBT literature that led to a good discussion at West Hollywood Library’s Lambda Lit Book Club.

Main Street (au) by Sinclair Lewis
Lewis does the small-town equivalent of Babbitt in capturing the local color of time and place, except here his main character, Carol Kennicott, could not carry the show. Hopefully Lewis’s Arrowsmith is better.

Subliminal: How Your Unconscious Mind Rules Your Behavior (au) by Leonard Mlodinow
Covers a lot of the same ground as similar books on the topic, but if you’re looking for a neat, easy-to-understand survey of the science of the unconscious mind, Dr. Mlodinow’s book is the way to go. As an added bonus, there’s even some professor humor.

Since winter ended, I’ve kept about the same pace in my reading taking in streams of Buddhism, science fiction, and a few topical non-fiction books (about chronotypes, ancient civilizations, Benjamin Franklin). Just finished Chaim Potok’s Davita’s Harp and have moved on to Digital_Humanities, an overview of digital methodologies in humanities research.

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