The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt
Unbelievable. The energy with which Roosevelt lived his life is mind-boggling. This book taught me the value of enthusiasm and vigor. It’s a fat of life, I think, that people who attack their problems with the most energy usually win, and TR is living proof of that. This book covers his life before his presidency, and it’s incredible to see his work habits. Always making moves quickly as soon as he got a new position, always expanding his power and finding new responsibilities to take on. Seeing each job as an opportunity to excel. I think it’s easy to look at TR and assume that this attitude was in some way aided by a certain fixity of purpose or a lot of money in the bank, but the surprising truth is that he was deeply uncertain of his path at nearly every stage in this part of his life. He was also in debt, so much that he couldn’t afford to buy champagne when dining with dignitaries. The fact that this didn’t seem to put a damper on his spirits and his dedication to the ‘strenuous life’ is astounding.
The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler
Raymond Chandler invented the hard-boiled urban private eye in this book. Full of murky crimes, dangerous dames, and lots and lots of rain, this book just oozes atmosphere. The plot is somewhat secondary in fact– it’s almost too convoluted to pay any attention to, but the writing is so good and the character so interesting that you don’t mind. I always knew this was a classic, and now that I’ve read it I can see it’s influence all over the place, in books and movies and music and art. It’s like listening to the Beatles– they sound hokey and trite until you realize that they aren’t following the trend because they invented it.
Eating the Dinosaur by Chuck Klosterman
This one had a long gestation period. I wasn’t crazy about it until I went back through my notes and realize how artful and profound some of the ideas are. He does an excellent job at seeing connections between disparate pieces of society. For example, the NFL and the GOP, or Nirvana and Waco, TX. Some really fascinating insights here into sports, the meaning of celebrity, media, and culture, and with a lot of humor as well. I definitely want to read more Klosterman.
Dry by Augusten Burroughs
I read this in like 2 sittings. The writing is just so effortless and well-crafted. I was a little disappointed that this was really more of a memoir involving addiction, and not a book purely about addiction. He really doesn’t go very deeply into the nature of addictive behavior, which I think is an incredibly important things for everyone to study. We’re all addicts in one way or another, I think. But it was a great read nonetheless. I’m not the first one to compare Burroughs to Sedaris, and despite being ostensibly a book about addiction and with a plot that involves the death of an AIDS victim, this was a quick and light read.