in which the author discusses five books he’d read, if time permitted.
1. The Other Eighties: A Secret History of America in the Age of Reagan, by Bradford Martin.
The ’80s weren’t just about Reagan. They were about Sandinistas and hardcore and Penelope Spheeris. Except that people mainly just remember Reagan and have forgotten about hardcore and only remember that Penelope Spheeris directed Wayne’s World. And isn’t history what most people remember? I just got really depressed.
2. Townie, by Andre Dubus III.
The next time I get in a fistfight, it’s gonna be a Massachusetts. Fistfights in D.C. between, say, a longtime OMB employee from Fairfax and a lifer at the Dept. of Labor from Tenleytown don’t have the same gritty quality as those, say, between a pipe-fitter from Lowell and a longshoreman from Barnstable—-even if those D.C. fistfights happen on H Street after 3 a.m. instead of in Adams Morgan before 1:30 a.m. And there’s nothing that I love more than a gritty fistfight that ends when the victor asks the bloodied loser, “What, are you, like, f*ckin re-tah-ed?” while he or she is sprawled out on the sidewalk.
3. Jesus of Nazareth: Holy Week: From the Entrance Into Jerusalem to the Resurrection, by Pope Benedict XVI.
If you’re interested in Jesus and the Pope writes a book about him, you should probably read that book because, even if you don’t like the Pope, you should be ready, willing and able to answer affirmatively when someone at a party says, “Hey, did you read what the Pope said about Jesus?” Otherwise, you’ll be left out of the conversation.
4. When I Grow Up, by Al Yankovic, illustrated by Wes Hargis.
“Weird Al” Yankovic didn’t just write a children’s book, but became just plain “Al” in order to do so. Life just keeps getting weirder and weirder.
5. Nowhere to Be Home: Narratives From Survivors of Burma’s Military Regime, edited by Maggie Lemere and Zoë West.
I know it’s a downer, but it’s really important to read oral histories about misery in faraway places to remember, at least once in awhile, that there is a life beyond your laptop, your girlfriend’s laptop, the next 12 episodes of Battlestar Galactica, your iPad, and your growing stable of “Words with Friends” rivals.