Winter Reading 2014

Winter 2014 runs from December 21st to March 19th, just short of 12 weeks. It’s about 4 weeks in and I’ve read seven books so far. With the exception of Resonate and Fool’s Gold, it has thus far been an excellent reading winter. Looking at the list, I see a few themes that frequently factor into my reading: Jewish themes, haiku/poetry, classics, and a book about New York. I don’t know why I’ve read so many books featuring New York since I have never been there and feel no real connection to the City. Besides New York and other regular themes, several of the books below are holdovers from previous lists, in particular: Let’s Explore Diabetes with Owls, The Bus Driver Who Wanted to Be God & Other Stories and, East of Eden. I’m on the way with the David Sedaris one, and I just have to make a point to read Steinbeck and Etgar Keret. Vertical Elegies 5: The Section is a book of poetry that has been on my shelf for a while, and while I’ve looked in on it occasionally, I can’t say I’ve really read it. Sam Truitt‘s book, his whole persona even, may actually be something beyond me; a kind of postmodern urbane that I don’t know if I’ll follow well. One way or another I’ll have a good time figuring it out — will make sure to have the WWW nearby.

Clumsy: A Novel by Jeffrey Brown
An adorable graphic novel showing the unbearably cute moments and abundant sex that featured into the author’s year-long relationship with Theresa. Displaying the episodes out-of-sequence created dramatic irony which added just the right amount of pathos.

Fool’s Gold (au) by Gillian Tett
A clear, occasionally dull, narrative following J.P. Morgan (later JP Morgan Chase) through the wild spree of financial innovation that resulted in complex takes on credit derivatives, and eventually, largely as a result of group think and greed, led to the Great Recession. Only recommended for those are interested in the topic.

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith
Betty Smith’s coming-of-age story of an intelligent pre-teen in turn-of-the-century New York charmed the h-e-double-hockey-sticks out of me. From the beginning I was taken with Francie and the rest of the Nolans, and engaged in Betty Smith’s story of the trials they endured during their slow rise in the world.

Statutory Interpretation: The Search for Legislative Intent by Ronald Benton Brown and Sharon Jacobs Brown
Quick and highly enjoyable rundown of methods to use when figuring out what the whole legislative body meant when they wrote a law.

endgrain by Dee Evetts
A solid book of down-to-earth haiku containing mostly good poems with a few duds here and there.

Resonate by Nancy Duarte
An excellent guide to crafting presentations that is an absolute slog to read straight-through. If anything, just flip randomly to any page repeating several times until it becomes tiresome.

Ghosts by Henrik Ibsen
Ibsen’s play about the “ghosts” of the past coming suddenly to the forefront of a long-suffering widow’s life, haunting everyone, is a stark meditation on several themes, including consequences of the past, the context of moral judgement, and public/private identities. A powerful, if somewhat contrived, plot.

Let’s Explore Diabetes with Owls (au) by David Sedaris
Sedaris bounces back from the disappointing Squirrel Meets Chipmunk with style. The essays in this book showcase the author using the signature humor I have come to expect from his delightful books.

I Dissent: Great Opposing Opinions in Landmark Supreme Court Cases by Mark Tushnet
Tushnet intelligently highlights important dissents then proceeds to edit them down, explain them ineffectually, and assure that they don’t matter. Worth reading, but only for legal enthusiasts.

Rabbis and Wives (Sacred and the Profane) by Chaim Grade
Though the three novella-length stories in this book were a little slow for me, I appreciated Grade’s lyrical descriptions and literary techniques.

Favorites of the winter were A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith, Ghosts by Henrik Ibsen, and Let’s Explore Diabetes with Owls by David Sedaris. See the Spring Reading 2014 booklist here.

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