What to Read???
Holy Crow! After months of inactivity: two blogs in one day. I ought to pace myself.
I was just sitting here procrastinating and contemplating the piles of crap around my desk. I’ve been reading some good stuff lately, and I thought I share my good fortune with the population of the Internet.
I just started reading Devil in the White City, by Erik Larson. I haven’t read much, but I can tell it’s gonna be DAMN GOOD. It’s one of those great non-fiction books that reads like a good novel. The setting is the 1893 World’s Fair in Chicago and the two main characters are the Fair’s chief architect and a serial killer. How bad can that be? The amazing thing is that the author claims NOTHING in the book has been invented for dramatic purposes. Even all the dialogue has been drawn from historical documents.
That kind of authenticity is impressive, but I’m a sucker for good “historical fiction,” anyway. Books like Caleb Carr’s, The Alienist seem to have been written just for my taste. I love the mixing of true historical fact with compelling fictional characters. A good example I’ve read recently is Forever, by Pete Hamill. Hamill is a reporter and a Historian of New York City. His novel Forever tells the story of an Irish immigrant who, in 1741, comes to New York and becomes gifted with immortality—so long as he never leaves Manhattan island. This is a great story, and Hamill weaves the personal tale of Cormac O’Connor with the history of New York City up until 9/11. Great stuff. Hamill’s other books are also well worth a look. I loved his memoir, A Drinking Life even more.
I think I mentioned in a previous blog that I’ve been on a “New York” kick lately. The Pete Hamill books were part of that, so I should also mention that his recent book, Downtown: My Manhattan was also quite good. In a way, it picks up where A Drinking Life left off; telling Hamill’s life story along with that of the streets he walked.
Still, the best “New York” book I’ve read has to be The Power Broker, by Robert Carro. This book is really an epic tale about the amazing life of Robert Moses and the awesome power and influence he wielded over the landscape of the city. Really amazing, but a huge commitment; this sucker is 1100+ pages, not including notes. For an abbreviated look at Robert Moses’ life, I recommend that you watch the PBS Series New York, Directed by Ric Burns. It’s a great documentary available on DVD, and Moses figures prominently in the last couple of episodes. It was this documentary that made me want to read The Power Broker.
Before I jumped into the Chicago book (last night), I was reading about yet another metropolis: Bombay. Maximum City is another fascinating read by author, Suketu Mehta. I bought this book on a whim, knowing nothing about it. I just picked it off of a shelf at random in the bookstore and read a couple of pages. I was hooked instantly. Mehta is a Bombay native who, after living much of his life abroad, returned to write this portrait of a complex and shadowy city. He tells the story from different perspectives; befriending criminals in the city’s underworld and the police that hunt them, becoming a player in the “Bollywood” film scene and entering the secret world of “bar dancers.” It’s an inside look at a world I never new existed, but one I’d like o know more about.
SO, I guess I’ve been reading about cities. Maybe my next blog will be about the comics I recommend. Unfortunately, there aren’t too many. Guess that will be an easy one to write! ;)
Here are some handy links if you wanna buy any of these. Let me know what you think!