Thursday, May 9, 2013

Reading is FUNdamental (see what I did there?)

One of the things I've been trying to do this year is read more.  Elizabeth is an abundant reader and her influence is strong like bull.  Plus, I have wasted way too much time over the years watching episodes of Scrubs, The Office, and Parks & Recreation on DVD.  

I find that my tastes lend themselves more to non-fiction, and in particular narratives about survival, the wilderness, athletics, and generally being a bad-ass.  I delve into fiction once in a while, but I often struggle to get into novels and do not get out of them what I get out of non-fiction.

The ladies have had a book club going for a while now.  They meet once a month, rotating between each others' homes, enjoying wine and hors d'oeuvres while discussing their current book.  I often teased Elizabeth that I would show up to a meeting so I could discuss books with them. However, the creation of a men-only book club seemed a better idea.  I know separating the sexes is sort of anathema to progressiveness in this day and age, but I do still believe there is value in men hanging out together.  And in the case of book club, hopefully we are exercising our minds and not just getting drunk.

With that, Evan and I (mostly Evan) organized "Manly Book Club" with several of our male friends, primarily those whose wives/girlfriends are in the ladies' book club.  We'll meet once a month for dinner, beers, and hearty discussion. Hopefully some feats of strength competitions as well.

Now, what do we read?  I have been slowly picking off books from The Art of Manliness' "100 Must-Read Books."  Some of them are decent enough suggestions, but as Dave pointed out, some, like Ulysses, The Republic, and anything Russian, would take a billion years to read.  A poll of the assembled group indicated that we have a greater general interest in non-fiction, with a specific interest in tales of survival and manliness.

Thus, our first book is Skeletons On the Zahara by Dean King.  It's an account of a crew of American sailors who shipwrecked off the western coast of Africa in 1815, are captured, sold into slavery, and forced to endure the Sahara Desert.  It arrived in the mail yesterday, and thus far, it's pretty entertaining. I look forward to a lively discussion.  A manly discussion.

Here are books I have finished in 2013.  Some of them I started at the tail end of last year, but I was lazy and did not finish until after the new year.

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald (Where's DiCaprio?)

Running With the Kenyans by Adharanand Finn (Not terribly complex, but a good take on what current running culture is like in Kenya.)

14 Minutes by Alberto Salazar (Who knew Salazar was that catholic?)

Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand (Fantastic book.  Louis Zamperini is the epitome of bad-ass.)

Open Season by C.J. Box (Wyoming author who writes mind-candy mystery/crime novels featuring a fictional game warden protagonist set in a fictional Wyoming town.  This is his first of an on-going series.)

Touching My Father’s Soul by Jamling Tenzing Norgay (A great education on the Sherpa customs and beliefs regarding Everest, a look into the life, relationships, and mind of the author's father, Tenzing Norgay, and another first-hand account of the 1996 Everest season, since I assume we have all read Into Thin Air by now.)

The Room by Hubert Selby, Jr. (I exchanged my Selby, Requiem For a Dream, with Becky for this one.  Selby is always a dark and pitiless read.)

Shooter by Jack Coughlin (Raided my father's book stores.  Lots of military stuff, as one would expect from a retired, 27-year USAF veteran.  This is the autobiography of the top-ranked Marine Corps sniper.  Focuses primarily on his role in the Iraq War.)

Team 7-Eleven by Geoff Drake (Dad's book.  Not the most well-written book, but entertaining. Good history of cycling in America before Armstrong fucked everything up.)

Art of War by Sun Tzu (Dad's book.  Probably did not get out of it what I was supposed to.)

Seal Team Six by Howard Wasdin (Dad's book.  Interesting and informative perspective on many conflicts, especially The Battle of Mogadishu in 1993.  Dude was there.)

Down the Great Unknown by Edward Dolnick (Very entertaining narrative about Powell's 1869 Colorado River expedition.  Another ultimate bad-ass.)

Just Ride by Grant Petersen (Silly book I borrowed from my dad.  Attempts to throw commonly held cycling beliefs and practices out the window.  I do not believe it succeeds.)

Wild by Cheryl Strayed (I borrowed this from Elizabeth.  The ladies read this for their book club last month.  This was, hands down, the best book I have read in a long time.  Highly recommended.)

Kings of the Road by Cameron Stracher (Narrative about the rise of the running boom, centered on Frank Shorter, Bill Rodgers, and Alberto Salazar and their battles at Falmouth.  Again, not a challenging read, but a great story.  I read it cover-to-cover in an evening.)

Dubliners by James Joyce (Thought I'd get classical with this one.  A little boring.  Reminded me that I prefer non-fiction.) 

The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini (Currently reading.  I know I'm behind the times and this book has sat on my shelf for years.  I figured it was time to see what was all the rage in 2003.)

Skeletons On the Zahara by Dean King (Our first Manly Book Club book.  I am two or three chapters in as of this morning.)

I have an ever-growing list of books I wish to read.  Some I may suggest to the book club.  Some, I reckon, should probably have something to do with that thesis I have never written.

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