Books of Summer

Just got back from a week in French Polynesia for my first real vacation since May 2004 honeymoon. The momentum to finally take a break was not so much from needing time off (although it was nice) but hitting against Google’s 30-days banked vacation limit. Turns out that I don’t mind not TAKING vacation but i have big issues with not ACCRUING it. Oh, and it was fun to have days where I spend more than 30 minutes with my wife.

Despite my dismissive stance towards unplugging, there are a few rituals that I do maintain. At the top of the list is book reading, an activity that I abstain from anywhere but airplanes and vacation. 95% of the year I’m reading blogs, newspapers and magazines because of the short-attention span theater i have most days. I just can’t resort to that “one chapter a night” type of consumption which seems to allow others to more easily integrate books into their everyday lives. I need to jump in and consume – really pay attention by having multiple hours to read – and then to finish within a matter of days. The book needs to envelop me.

And here are the four from this week:

1) Gunshots In My Cook-Up (Selwyn Seyfu Hinds)
> Collection of stories documenting the author’s love of, and involvement with, hip-hop culture from his upbringing in Brooklyn through to his days at The Source. Doesn’t really hold together an a narrative – more a collection of experiences – which the author admits in the forward.

Does make me really want to meet Russell Simmons though who seems like an understated but confident man. In Russell’s words via Seyfu’s retelling:

“This is something David Geffen told me. He said, ‘You’ve got to walk along and keep your eyes very close to thr ground. Always looking. Then you’ll stumble across someone who can take you and the success you think you have to a completely different level.’ That’s all I do Selwyn, I look for those people”

2) Feeding a Yen (Calvin Trillin)
> No one blends food, family and friendship together in a way that resonates with me more than Calvin Trillin. Here he celebrates local food in ~20 essays, many from New Yorker and Gourmet magazine.

3) The Yiddish Policemen’s Union (Michael Chabon)
> I’m a very very discerning fiction reader because i can tolerate poor writing in an essay but never in a novel. New authors take multiple independent recommendations to counter my reluctance. Chabon has a lifetime exemption with me because Kavalier and Clay is so frickin’ good. YPU was definitely enjoyable but a 9.0 to the perfect 10 of K&C.

4) Ponzi’s Scheme (Mitchell Zuckoff)
> How one man’s love of money and his mother’s approval resulted in an amazing confidence game played out before public eyes. It was delusion mixed with greed. And one wonders how many people are driven by this plus need for maternal praise.

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