With COVID-19 being a thing and all, I went on a tear and read seven books this month. Here’s a brief description of each if you happen to be looking for a good read while in stay-at-home mode.
Robin by Dave Itzkoff
Robin Williams was one of the most iconic, celebrated comedians of the 70s, 80s, and 90s. He took the world by storm with his frantic style. Unfortunately, that frantic state was also internal, and it eventually lead to his death. Like a lot of comedies, his story is also a tragedy, and Itzkoff tells the whole story in a masterful way. Super insightful and worth your time.
Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neal Hurston
I had never read a book by Zora Neal Hurston. In fact, while I had heard of Their Eyes Were Watching God from it’s film adaptation a few years ago, I’m not sure I’d ever heard the name Zora Neal Hurston. I got her name from one of last month’s books, and I had to check it out. Boy, am I glad I did. This novel was breathtaking, the kind I couldn’t wait to read each day and was bummed when it ended. Zora Neal Hurston belongs with Faulkner as 1A and 1B in best 20th Century American authors. Beautiful and a must-read.
The Conscience of a Conservative by Barry Goldwater
The infamous Republican politician from Arizona lays out the foundational philosophy behind conservativism. His ideas were the foundation for a generation or two of Republican politics. It has been cited by the Religious Right in the 80s and continues to be cited by Tea Party politicians today. Super interesting. Read it if you like political philosophy.
Braving the Wilderness by Brene Brown
I love almost everything Brene Brown writes, says, tweets, etc. She has a way of telling the truth in a direct yet gentle way. Braving the Wildnerness is about what it means to be vulnerable in a world that doesn’t exactly incentivize such things, and what it means to truly belong — to others as well as to oneself. As with all of Brown’s titles, I totally recommend it.
On Bullshit by Harry Frankfurt
I know, I know…language. But this was a good one. Surprisingly, it was actually quite an academic examination of why we skirt around the truth. It parses out the differences between lying and, well, bullsh*tting. Written by a real-life, fancy philosopher and printed by none other than Princeton University Press, it examines the practice of persuasion “without regard for the truth.” This one didn’t quite live up to my expectations, but it was interesting and the time commitment is minimal. Worth a perusal if you’re the curious type.
God Save Texas by Lawrence Wright
The subtitle of this book, “A Journey Into the Soul of the Lone Star State,” tells it all. By writing about every corner of the state, Wright covers food, music, politics, art, and nature. I loved diving into his one, and Wright is a brilliant storyteller. A Texas lifer, he recounts stories from his own experience — from cycling near San Antonio to run-ins with Karl Rove over Monday morning breakfast. If you love Texas or just great storytelling, it’s a must-read.
A Little Life
It is hard to summarize this novel, which was prize-winning and worthy of a review all its own. As I’ve tried to read books from different authors who represent different backgrounds and cover themes I don’t often read much about, this one really challenged me. Still, fundamentally it is about family and friendship and life and death — as so many great stories are. This would be a super challenging read for many in my circle, but it is one of the most beautiful novels I’ve ever read.