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1. Difficult Men: Behind the Scenes of a Creative Revolution: From The Sopranos and The Wire to Mad Men and Breaking Bad, by Brett Martin
I got super bummed when Tony Soprano died. (Because I think of James Gandolfini as Tony Soprano, I will hereafter refer to Gandolfini as “Tony Soprano” in print and in conversation. If you think about it, he always kind of was Tony Soprano. Sure, he played a general and a wild thing. But, even as a general and a wild thing, he was always kind of pissed off, and even when he wasn’t playing an Italian, he seemed sort of Italian. Is it too soon for me to say that?)
2. Make: Analog Synthesizers, by Ray Wilson
I will never build an analog (or digital) synthesizer, just as I will never buy a rain barrel or read Thomas Pynchon’s Gravity’s Rainbow, but dreaming is still legal.
3. All the Great Prizes: The Life of John Hay, from Lincoln to Roosevelt, by John Taliaferro
John Hay is one of those guys who shows up when you least expect it, like John Cazale or Glenn Wilson. As in: Who’s that guy standing next to Robert DeNiro in The Deer Hunter? Oh, that’s John Cazale. Or: Who threw out that lead-off hitter from right field who looked like he had a for-sure single? Oh, that’s Glenn Wilson. But in John Hay’s case, it’s like: Who was Abraham Lincoln’s secretary? No, not his secretary of state—-that was William H. Seward. I mean, who was his secretary secretary? F—-king John Hay!
4. The Son, by Philipp Meyer
I’m not going to apologize any more: This is a Western, and I’m a guy who likes Westerns. Next week, I stop shaving and wear sweatpants to work.
5. The Resurgence of the West: How a Transatlantic Union Can Prevent War and Restore the United States and Europe, by Richard Rosecrance
If the United States and Europe are going to meld minds to dominate the rest of the world, we have to figure how to convince Italians to stop charging for using bathrooms at rest stops and how start getting decent Italian food at American rest stops.