in which the author discussses five books he’d read, if time permitted.

1. To Save America: Stopping Obama’s Secular-Socialist Machine, by Newt Gingrich.
I’ve been real busy lately waiting for that scene in my life where Newt Gingrich shows up on my front porch wearing a black helmet and holding a red lightsaber and, while engaging me in Jedi swordplay, is like, “Dude—-I am your father.” Maybe, if I’m reading his new book when he rings the doorbell, he’ll show mercy and spare me the dreaded Vulcan neck pinch. Then again, he’ll probably be too busy trying to pass a bunch of laws limiting my reproductive rights to bother with the whole neck-pinch stratagem.

2. Eating with the Enemy: How I Waged Peace with North Korea from My BBQ Shack in Hackensack, by Robert Egan and Kurt Pitzer.
Some restaurateur from Jersey somehow befriended Korean diplomat Han Song Ryol during the 1990s and, when not serving up veal piccante, played an obscure role in North Korean peace talks with the Clinton and W. Bush administrations. Sounds like a lot more fun than the guys who owned the restaurant I washed dishes at as a teenager, who threw dead mice in the dishwater, beat me at poker, and yelled at me for making myself mozzarella sticks. (Though, truth be told, I did make myself mozzarella sticks way too often—-at least once per shift, sometimes more. I must have cost that joint thousands in unreported mozzarella stick losses.)

3. The Literatures of the U.S.-Mexican War: Narrative, Time, and Identity, by Jaime Javier Rodríguez.
You know, the U.S.-Mexican War’s not really my (air-quotes) “thing.” Alternately put, I’d say it’s not really my (air-quotes) “jam.” I don’t know much about it. I don’t know what it was about (Annexation? Probably…). I don’t know the names or the bios of any of the major players (Was Santa Ana in this war? Probably. Davy Crockett and Jim Bowie? Maybe…) Until I looked it up on Wikipedia, I didn’t even know the U.S.-Mexican War took place in the 1840s. (You can check out the Wikipedia entry here, but because the U.S.-Mexican War’s not really my [air-quotes] “steez,” I didn’t read the entry.) So don’t ask me if the U.S.-Mexican War involved the Alamo, or was fought by T.R.’s Rough Riders, or whether the conflict proved a historical extension of the age-old Jeffersonian/Hamiltonian debate between states’ rights and a dominant central executive. Because I feel like I know too damn much these days, and I’m trying to remain totally ignorant about a number of subjects (U.S.-Mexican War included), so that, in my golden years, I still have stuff to go read about in the library at the old folks’ home.

4. Sh*t My Dad Says, by Justin Halpern.
This book is the kind of book you see next to the cash register at the bookstore and, even though you’ve already bought $50 (or maybe $100) worth of books, you’re like, “Shit, this is hilarious. I’ve got to get it for my dad.” Then, when you actually give it to your dad for his birthday or for Father’s Day (or for no reason at all, just because he’s a good dad, sniff…), he doesn’t quite get the joke and wonders aloud why you just didn’t get him Truman by David McCullough, which is what he asked for. And, in this way, Sh*t My Dad Says sits unopened on your father’s bookshelf for 10-20 years, or, if he’s in the mood to clean up his library, gets donated to the Elkins Park Free Library, which, quite obviously, doesn’t want it.

5. 39 New Saints You Should Know, by Brian O’Neel, foreword by Joseph Pearce.
We, as a species, can always use new patron saints, so it’s important to keep apprised of “newly released” saints like the ones profiled here. I, for one, need a saint to pray to for intercession to relieve the shame I feel when I’m searching YouTube for Ronnie James Dio videos and a co-worker has to tap me on the shoulder to ask me an important work-related question that I can’t hear because I’m listening to the Ronnie James Dio version of “Paranoid” and so I have to say “Huh?” and take off my earbuds. Where’s the fucking saint for that, goddammit?