Sign up for our free newsletter
Free D.C. news, delivered to your inbox daily.
in which the author discusses five books he’d read, if time permitted.
1. Repeat Until Rich: A Professional Card Counter’s Chronicle of the Blackjack Wars, by Josh Axelrad. You know it’s tough times, economically and personally, when you’re in an airport with nothing to read and find yourself in the financial advice/gambling section of a Hudson News and suddenly, magically, a copy of a basic strategy book on buying real estate at auction, or on shorting financial stocks, or on poker, or on blackjack appears in your hand, and you stand in the Hudson News staring at it and think, “This book could change my life!” and then you buy it and read half of it on the plane but, when you get home, you never quite get around to reading the other half, but you put it on your bookshelf next to a copy of Henry Rollins’ collected lyrics anyway.
2. Supreme Power: Franklin Roosevelt vs. the Supreme Court, by Jeff Shesol. Spring 1993. Cheltenham High School. Cheltenham, Pa. Those were the days. Junior year, driving to the Taco Bell in Flourtown during lunch, listening to Rage Against the Machine, the second Pearl Jam record and, if someone had brought the portable CD player, the remastered version of Led Zeppelin’s Physical Graffiti. Oh, those lovely, legendary lunch hours…well, the hour was actually just 49 minutes, leaving barely enough time to drive 309 North, a notoriously pot-holed road that connected Cheltenham and Flourtown, run into Taco Bell, and order a bean burrito (a burrito which, mysteriously, was chock full of onions, but, even today, does not come with rice). Still, if we ate fast enough, we could order Pepsis and drink them fast enough to refill them (for free!) before driving back to high school before the bell for sixth period rang and, on the ride back, smoke Camel cigarettes and sneak in a quick discussion of FDR’s court-packing scheme, always a hot topic amongst MTV’s Alternative Nation. You remember — when FDR got the New Deal through Congress, but the Court declared so much of it unconstitutional that he endorsed a plan to replace every justice over 70 with another justice? Bruce Springsteen wrote a song about it. I think it’s the fourth track on Born in the U.S.A., the only track on the album that didn’t have a video.
3. Just Give Money to the Poor: The Development Revolution from the Global South, by Joseph Hanlon, Armando Barrientos, and David Hulme. I’d planned to write something substantive and insightful about the Peter Singer-y philanthropic methodology put forth in this tome by Messrs. Hanlon, Barrientos, and Hulme, but now I’ve got “Give it Away” by RHCP (Red Hot Chili Peppers) in my head, so the day is pretty much shot.
4. The 57 Club: My Four Decades in Florida Politics, by Frederick B. Karl. Florida: we love it because it’s warm, sunny, home to Disneyworld, has dog tracks and crocodiles, and sits between the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic Ocean. We also love its cheap condos, foreclosures, Cuban food, Cuban exiles, and rejection of Rudy Giuliani in 2008. We also can’t forget about the Everglades, or beautiful places like Tallahassee and Gainesville, and Lake City, where Ted Bundy struck and where I saw the movie Speed in 1994 while waiting for my car to get fixed. There’s also Miami, home to Don Johnson and that actor who played Tubbs, and jai alai, and cigarette boats that go really fast (I used to wonder when watching Miami Vice: Could you drive one all the way to Europe?), and Ft. Lauderdale, where many episodes of Girls Gone Wild seem to have been filmed. The Sunshine State: just like paradise, only less so.
5. Alan Phelan: Fragile Absolutes, by Sean Kissane, Du an Bjelic, and Alan Phelan. Foreword by Enrique Juncosa. Amazon.com makes a compelling case for this book: “For this project, Irish artist Alan Phelan (born 1968) took italicized words from Slovenian philosopher Slavojiek’s Fragile Absolutes: Why is the Christian Legacy Worth Fighting For? and used them associatively towards 15 ideas for works realized in a variety of materials and processes, from handcarved marble to video and papier-mache sculpture.” I prefer a simpler argument: 1) This is an art book. 2) Chicks (and dudes who wear tight pants) dig art books. 3) Thus, I dig art books.