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August 2019 Booklist

Know Your Value: Women, Money, and Getting What You’re Worth by Mika Brzezinski – I read this in June or July and forgot to put it on my post and didn’t include it in my little cover collage. An indictment on how well I enjoyed this book? Perhaps a little. It was fine. Pretty basic stuff about negotiating and making demands, stuff I’ve read or heard before. If I were back in the corporate world vs owning my own business this would come in handy as a nice refresher. I did recommend it to a young woman who was complaining about work as she’d just found out she was making considerably less than her male peers, some of whom started after her. Same old song and dance. She was contemplating her next move. This book is exactly what someone in her shoes would need right now. The basics, in a quick, relatable format as a kick in the pants to get what’s rightfully hers.

Reconstruction: America’s Unfinished Revolution, 1863-1877 by Eric Foner – He was the professor for my Civil War and Reconstruction classes at Columbia, so naturally I wanted to read his book. He was also the main champion for the creation of the Reconstruction Era National Park. It was all a bit redundant from my studies which goes to say what a great instructor he is and how thorough his lectures were that I felt like I already knew everything. But it all bears repeating. This is the stuff that needs to be taught in schools. The book expired before I finished it, though, so I feel a little guilty for not reading the whole thing. But…hey! I already studied for almost 2 years with the guy. Too often Reconstruction is thought of the work of incompetent black politicians and carpetbagger Yankees lining their pockets. But from this period came the Fourteenth and Fifteenth amendments and so much more.
A quote from Prof. Foner in an article re: the monument in the NY Times: “This was a pivotal moment in history that really changed the Constitution, and changed the definition of American citizenship, which, in parentheses, is really under attack right now,” Prof. Foner said. “It really began the process of making African-Americans equal members of American society.” I’m super excited to go see Prof. Foner at the NY Historical Society where he’ll be discussing his latest book which is also about Reconstruction, though I’m not sure I’ll read it. Shhhh…

Everything is F*cked: A Book About Hope by Mark Manson – Really enjoyed his first book The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck so got on the waitlist for this one. I finished this in one day. Super short and engaging. I really do like his style, even with all the unnecessary cursing which I know turns people off. He had a huge chunk on how to start your own religion which was really interesting to me as I have been toying with the idea of a solo show about my “god” David Lee Roth and how religion and who we look to for guidance is all circumstantial but also follows all the same patterns, just wearing a different fabric. This book was less about giving advice from his perspective of experience and more about examples and studies throughout history. One example he cited a case study found in Descartes’ Error by Antonio Damasio about man “Elliot” whose brain surgery resulted in leaving him completely without empathy. Feelings are essential to a balanced way of life. This exact case study was featured in another book I recently read (wish I remember exactly which one). Clearly Damasio’s research had some impact on authors I read and he has a healthy list of published books, so I’ve added him to my “to read” list. Back to Manson. It’s such a quick read, I’d recommend it for that reason alone.
What’s not to lose? He also reiterates one of my biggest takeaways from his first book: With commitment comes freedom. I’ll quote:

“Commitment gives you freedom because you’re no longer distracted by the unimportant and frivolous. Commitment gives you freedom because it hones your attention and focus, directing them toward what is most efficient at making you healthy and happy. Commitment makes decision-making easier and removes any fear of missing out; knowing that what you already have is good enough, why would you ever stress about chasing more, more, more again? Commitment allows you to focus intently on a few highly important goals and achieve a greater degree of success than you otherwise would.”

Before We Were Yours: A Novel by Lisa Wingate – Apparently this is based on real events so, truthfully, I would have preferred to read a non-fiction book about this. I always prefer fact over fiction. That said, I didn’t know that going in. My library app recommended this one to me (algorthmsm and A.I. have me pegged), and I bit. Alternating between events from the 1930s* to present day*, it follows the story of some poor swamp boat kids who are taken into custody (kidnapped, truthfully) and given up for adoption in spite of having a family (past) and a lawyer daughter, her senator father who is battling cancer and his mother who has Alzheimer’s and is in a nursing home (present). It’s really lovely. I enjoyed this very much and the author did provide some factual information and recommended reading about the real-life woman, Georgia Tann, who operated the black market adoption ring. Not sure that I’ll read more about it…the book did a fine job of educating me and I’m familiar with the stories in the news. Definitely recommend this one.

*Hmmm, is this a trend? A lot of books do this, including my own memoir! I do like the device, just noticing it a lot lately)

It’s All Relative: Adventures Up and Down the World’s Family Tree by A.J. Jacobs – Another book that I got when I thought I would expand the QED bookstore. It touched off all the right bells for me (mixed metaphor, I’m sure) with genealogy, history, what constitutes “family” and the revolution of DNA.

I’m cracking up at this book but also devouring all the fun facts. He’s got a really snappy, witty writing style so it’s a really fun read. I’m going to gift this to my mom or sister-in-law for sure. I think they’d both like it but also this is just to see if they read my posts. 😀 I reserved a few of his other titles based on his style alone and not on the subject material (God is one, don’t remember the other).

Comedy Sex God by Pete Holmes – I met Pete and his first wife just days after they’d moved to NYC. It’s nice to see him happy and enjoying success. I always get the audiobook version of comedians’ memoirs so I can hear their delivery, cadence and, well, just to hear their voice again. It’s always weird to hear about people and places during which I was there. He mentions my former assistant at Comix several times and my husband. “Christian Finnegan got me to stop wearing my cell phone in a soft, clear plastic case I clipped on to my belt with two words: ‘Belt clip’?”

Holmes grew up in a fairly strict Christian household which stunted his sexual maturity, so there’s lots of the “sex” from the title. It touches on his trajectory in comedy, and I laughed hard and out loud a few times at times. The book is only lightly about comedy, though. Much of it is about his evolution from this sheltered Christian kid who judged others and denied himself to a young husband and comedian whose wife leaves him to an atheist to this matured, spiritual version of himself who is enlightened thanks to the help of gurus Ram Dass & Maharaji. It gets a little hippy dippy with talk of psychedelics, spirituality, and “what is *this*?” that we’re experiencing, but in a good way (in my opinion). I see some negative reviews wish he’d just stuck to talking about his comedy and sex life, but I found his journey away from and finding god and not being ashamed of it all to be quite thought provoking. Plus I’ve had my fill of comedy and sex talk. ?

Two things that kept cropping up in my mind after finishing the book:

1) A funny analogy that I appreciated has Jesus of Nazareth on the football field running an amazing kick off return all the way to the 25 yard line. But then he’s tackled and the ball is fumbled and YOU are suddenly on the field holding the ball with Jesus screaming at you to “GO! GO!” Instead of running, you put the ball down to clap and celebrate his incredible return. Pete says, “Dude, you’re supposed to run with the ball. Yes, worship, celebrate, sure. Fine. But get on with it. He showed you the plays…don’t just celebrate his ascension, get to ascending yourself. Go and do likewise.”

2) Pete shares this insight from Barry Taylor, the road manager for AC/DC, who said, “God is the name of the blanket we throw over the mystery to give it shape.”
An exasperated Pete says, “Come on! Shouldn’t I have heard this in church? Why am I hearing this from the road manager for AC/DC?!” ?

The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead – Historical fiction and a riveting, gorgeous piece of writing. While it is historical, it’s also a bit fantastical imagining the underground railroad as a literal one built by slaves with rails and conductors and engineers operating underground. But I’ve read my share of slave narratives and studied so much of the Civil War and Reconstruction era to know that the extreme violence and nightmarish situations weren’t pure fiction. I’m always struck by how casually horrific acts violence were carried out. I was so invested in the heroine Cora’s escape from slavery and the pitfalls and traumas she sustained along the way that I found myself staying up later to finish chapters and missed my subway stop. Terrific read.

January 2019 Booklist
February 2019 Booklist
March 2019 Booklist
April 2019 Booklist
May 2019 Booklist
June 2019 Booklist
July 2019 Booklist