In which the author discusses five books he’d read, if time permitted.
1. Economic Report of the President, by Council of Economic Advisers. Does anyone else think it’s weird that Amazon has released a free Kindle version of the Economic Report of the President? I’d make a joke about collusion between government and major corporations, but I can’t figure out who’s profiting here: 1) I don’t think anyone’s going to run out and buy an Amazon Kindle so they can instantaneously access this riveting document and 2) I don’t think that the Council of Economic Advisers has any great incentive to ensure that their scintillating report is available in an exciting new format. Maybe this is just one of those value-neutral, semi-humorous, but historically insignificant examples of cross-cultural, near-Jungian synchronicity, like the indie rock/hip-hop Judgment Night soundtrack, or when Andy Warhol was on Love Boat.
2. Willie Mays: The Life, The Legend, by James S Hirsch. Speaking of alternative hip-hop, Rage Against the Machine was an obscure band from the 1990s that made a little-known video called “Killing in the Name” (Please note: this is a link to an “official” YouTube video that is most definitely NOT the official “Killing in the Name” video I first saw in 1993) about American Indian Movement activist Leonard Peltier. Peltier, convicted of killing an FBI agent in the 1970s, is a controversial figure. Maybe Rage would have found more success if they’d written songs and made videos about people that everyone can admire. People who, against all odds and in the face of much adversity, broke down the color barrier in baseball. People like Willie Mays. And maybe, had Rage Against the Machine been more successful, Harvard alum/guitar-pedal loving guitarist Tom Morello never would have had to start Audioslave with Soundgarden refugee Chris Cornell.
3. Taming the Gods: Religion and Democracy on Three Continents, by Ian Buruma. I just finished watching Bill Maher‘s Religulous, and boy, are my arms tired. So, too soothe them, I will place this fine hardback book — also about the confluence between religion and political culture — in my upraised palms and read, read, read to my heart’s content. Who knows what will happen?
4. Saving Henry: A Mother’s Journey, by Laurie Strongin. Laurie Strongin, the author of this book, gave birth to a child struck with Fanconi’s anemia, which I don’t totally understand, but seems really terrible and fatal, since people don’t generally write books about how their children were struck with minor colds or boo-boos. But check this out via press release: Strongin and her husband “became the first couple to undergo an extremely controversial procedure called preimplantation genetic diagnosis (PGD) to conceive a matched sibling. Their embryos, conceived in a lab, were screened and tested so that the best match could be implanted in Laurie’s womb through IVF. Her next child’s cord blood could then be used to save Henry’s life—but only if the child was born before Henry’s blood failed.” Jesus Christ! Nothing like a brutal story of a genetic miracle to make one feel thankful that one’s cubicle has a window and, by some administrative oversight, that window is sunny and south-facing.
5. A Reader on Reading, by Alberto Manguel. I know it’s really New Yorkery (the magazine, not the city) to enjoy books about writing as an art or reading as a craft or writing as a craft or reading as an art, but the pale, thin, astigmatized among us who’ve spent the last 27 years reading and writing as much as possible just can’t resist the (semi-masturbatory) temptation to, from time to time, dip into a tome about dipping into tomes, if you know what I mean. Because every writer and every reader is a dreamer, living in a poetic (or prosaic) world where, somehow, fictional Londoners or Parisians or New Yorkers (the people, not the magazine) or Martians or Indians or doctors or lawyers or prep-school dropouts or Mormon vampires are more real than actual Londoners or Parisians or New Yorkers (the people, not the magazine) or Martians or Indians or doctors or lawyers or prep-school dropouts or Mormon vampires, because reading is magic, dig?