For the love of reading

Books. I love books. I’ve always loved books. I guess that’s what happen when you grow up in a household run by high school teachers. My mom was an English teacher and my dad, a history and psychology teacher, published several of his own books in Australia around the time I was born, they’re sitting on the hallway shelf I built under the stairs along with my DVD and Blue Ray collection. Books.

One of my favorite times of the school year growing up happened once a month when the teacher would hand out this little color pamphlet of all the books we could order (if our parents were inclined to cough up the money). It was Amazon v1.0. While my parents weren’t one to buy us kids things (outside the obligatory mother loads of birthday and Christmas gifts we looked forward to just as much as Ralphy did for his Red Ryder BB gun) I knew they’d always allow me to order one (yes, just one) book every month. So I’d study the options in detail, circle two or three or five with my number two pencil, and agonize over which book to order. The next day I’d return the form to my teacher with a handful of cash and wait in agony over the next several weeks, checking the mailbox at the end of the long gravel driveway immediately after disembarking the bus every day, for that priced item. Sure, I could have picked something up from the library, but this would be my book, and I couldn’t wait to experience that new book smell while flipping through those new book pages. It’s why I still prefer walking out of Powell’s with a pile of treasure rather than ordering online or reading something on my Kindle.

Looking back at my life, I haven’t read nearly as much as I would have liked to. Too much time wasted in irrelevant pursuits and struggles. Too much brain fog from Lyme (there was a decade or so period over which reading more than a few paragraphs at a time was nearly impossible, if not simply insane making). But now I’m reading again. I have been reading again. It’s become an obsession.

Needless to say, when I read my brain is in high gear and the neurons are exploding like fireworks and I’m thinking, “Wow, I want to write about this, I want to share, I want to have someone to share this with!!!” I’d considered writing reviews, both as blog entries and on Amazon, but that didn’t sit right. Nah. I don’t care to write reviews. Not that I don’t feel I have useful insights that might help others decide if something’s worth reading. Nah. I just want to share! Selfish, right?

Today, as I finish one book and start another, before I mentally prepare to get outdoors and do something other than read and write, I wanted to take a moment to share some of the things I’ve finished reading, so, and in no particular order:

A Thousand Brains: A New Theory of Intelligence by Jeff Hawkins – I am super interested in how the brain works. Consciousness. Intelligence. It’s sexy. Picked this up at Powell’s a few months back on a whim and had to temporarily halt after the first hundred pages. It was too intense. Couldn’t stop visualizing the theories of intelligence as a description of the deepest working of our minds as well as the applications to Artificial Intelligence. Had to put the book down for a while. Finished it today. Good read. Was a little disappointed in the last third of the book with seemed more like regurgitation of something Richard Dawkins or Carl Sagan has already discussed ad nauseam, “Mes c’est la vie!” Couldn’t help but wonder if the author, based on his writing style and logic, is on the spectrum (been wondering that of a lot of author’s I’ve read about lately).

Unmasked: My Life Solving America’s Cold Cases by Paul Holes – I’d kept picking this up and putting it down, but finally gave into the urge during my last Powell’s visit. Literally almost forgot to mention it in this blog entry (I’ve inserted it in just now) but it’s another example of a book by someone who doesn’t identify as “on the spectrum” but clearly has all too many of the traits and it again has me wondering if I’m just attracting these types of thinkers into my life right now or if they’re just more prevalent than we’ve ever imagined. Must read for true crime junkies. And as with so many things I become interested in I’ve now ordered another book about his most famous case by an online sleuth made famous by an HBO documentary.

Unmasking Autism: Discovering the New Faces of Neurodiversity by Devon Price, PhD While the previous comments regarding the previous books were speculation, Unmasking Autism is a book written by an openly autistic man. As with many of my literate explorations, I purchased the book as part of my recent journey titled: “I have to learn absolutely everything I can about autism from as many perspectives as possible.” Dr. Price is a political journalist—not necessarily the lens I was hoping to view autism through—but it provided a unique and interesting perspective and if there’s something I’ve come to firmly believe is that everyone’s got an interesting story to tell and I want to hear it.

How Fascism Works: The Politics of Us and Them by Jason Stanley As previously touched upon, during the Lyme phase reading for the joy if it was nearly impossible, but I was on a WWII kick and would force myself to read everything I could get my hands on in this regard, so it goes without saying that I learned a lot about the history of fascism. When I saw this book my first instinct was to purchase it, followed by, “I’ve read enough on this topic,” followed by, “You don’t know everything, dipshit, read it!” Good book. Filled some gaps in my knowledge, esp. RE: the face of racism in America during the 1920’s. Which brings me to:

The Second Coming of the KKK: The Ku Klux Klan of the 1920’s and the American Political Tradition by Linda Gordon – When I was a kiddo I used to sit around my dad’s classroom after school while he graded papers. Sometimes he’d have a television cart with VCR in the room playing some documentary (actually, now that I think of it, a lot to times it was a physical film projector—Goddess I’m that old!!!). One day there was something about the KKK and I said something like I’m glad we don’t have those kind of people in Oregon and he matter of factly mentioned that the Pacific Northwest was a hot bed of KKK activity after the American Civil war. My instinct wasn’t to believe him, but history was his bailiwick, so it planted the idea that my community wasn’t as innocent as it seemed. Recently, I caught an episode of the Oregon Public Broadcasting documentary series Oregon Experience that was about the Oregon Klan during the 1920’s. Interesting—but disturbing stuff—so when I saw this book it was a, “Would you like to learn more?” moment followed by, “Absolutely, yes.” I think what intrigued me most is that I learned that the ‘20s clan was literally a pyramid scheme. The financial scam both explained its explosive growth and ultimate downfall. I think this should be required reading in Oregon High School history courses.

Prairie Fires: The American Dreams of Laura Ingall’s Wilder by Caroline Fraser As we settle down for bed my wife and I inevitably have something on the tele. We always pick something we both like, something we can enjoy episodes of for weeks at a time, and often something we consider “comfort food”. Right now that happens to be episodes of the show Monk. But this past winter it was a complete rewatching of the ’70-’80s series Little House on the Prairie. My family watched the program religiously growing up so it’s always held a special place in my heart, but I knew I hadn’t seen every episode, especially of the last few seasons, and it was time. But this time around I wasn’t as interested in the stories as I was the story behind the stories. What was going on on set? Who were these actors? What were their lives like? This translated into the purchase of every autobiography of every major actor that had been a regular on the show. After I chewed through all those I found this, a book about the real Laura Ingall’s Wilder. And god, was this book ADDICTIVE! I could not put it down and wanted to reread it afterwards. Talk about getting (as close as you can) to the real story of real people with interesting stories to tell. The TV program, while I love it for what it is, didn’t prepare me for the real lives of the real people who (didn’t but did but didn’t but did but really didn’t) live it. The book also helped me better understand a part of human history I didn’t know a hell of a lot about other than the propaganda of cowboy and Indian movies. What an enlightening piece of history between those pages. Another book I think American’s should pick up!

Making Haste From Babylon: The Mayflower Pilgrims and Their World – A New History by Nick Bunker To be completely transparent, I’ve never been interested in the Pilgrims, so why the hell did I order this one? Came up in a documentary, as my book suggestions often do. Was this book about the pilgrims? Absolutely. But what it was really about, and what had leaned me towards it, is that it’s an accounting of what the European world of the time looked like. I learned about English laws. I learned about manufacturing and culture in The Netherlands. I learned about sea travel. I learned about customs and religion and philosophy and fashion and economy and war and peace. It was truly a romp through the time and that changed my understanding of these people as cartoon characters planting corn and Thanksgiving with the Indians to a world wide drama rich in stories, a living, breathing world that brought about the modern one.

That’s it for now. There are piles I read last year that I won’t get into. These are my recent victories. And to be fair, I didn’t go into great detail on any of them. I’m sitting, writing, as part of my daily practice (which I avoided yesterday), and not going into any particular depth nor holding myself to some high and mighty writing standards beyond get it down and don’t let autocorrect misspell fucking. Part of my free writing practice which I need to do from time to time to keep the juices flowing. Every day. Every ducking day. Wash, rinse, repeat, right?

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