I thought to myself today that it had been a couple of weeks since I updated here at So Much To Read. And I log in and find out that it has been almost exactly a month. Life happens, and I’ve been too busy to write, and nearly too busy to read.
So I need a fresh start. If I go back and try to write full entries on the books I’ve read since Bissinger, I’ll probably feel too overwhelmed. Instead, here’s a quick and dirty rundown.
“America, America” was the last fiction book I read and it may end up being my favorite book of the year. Ethan Canin has written a modern-day “All The Kings Men” and while it is dangerous to write in the same territory as Robert Penn Warren, Canin has managed a beautiful novel, full of fascinating characters, emotions and subtleties about American politics and class. My friend (and now neighbor) Abby recommended this book to me, and while I don’t usually give shout-outs, this book was just so wonderful that she deserves a mention. The relationships in the book are enough to entertain, but the plot–a political scandal that slowly unfolds–is terrific for anyone with even a mild interest in politics.
“Looking Forward To It” was the first book I tackled in the new house. Stephen Elliot’s reporting on the 2004 campaign was a flashback for me, and triggered some fond and not-so-fond memories. Elliott isn’t writing like Theodore White, he’s writing in a style closer to Hunter Thompson. That said, he doesn’t even approach the achievements of great gonzo journalist. Elliott is half-focused on the primary, and half-focused on himself–the book feels like it is therapy for the author. Hell, I can’t fault him for that, plenty of people go work on campaigns as a way of addressing their own demons. (As a matter of fact, plenty of people run for office as a way of addressing their own demons.) Elliott does make me long for the campaign days. That summer and fall working in Presidential politics will always be fondly remembered. I’ll also say that I loved that my dear friend Jennifer made several appearances in the text.
I stumbled across “Looking Forward To It” as I was preparing for the Mercantile Library discussion group that I’m hosting this summer and fall. Our first book was “Making of the President 1960,” a book that I’ve now read 4 times. Theodore White invented a genre (how many authors can say that) and even to this day I’m not sure anyone has written a better campaign book than White. Maybe “What it Takes” but “Making of the President” might win on points because it was first. The first discussion was terrific–I enjoyed hearing all of the different perspectives on a book I thought I knew backwards and forwards. Ultimately, that’s the rush from any book club or discussion group–learning something new by listening to someone else.
I’m also about finished with “It’s Even Worse Than It Looks” by Thomas Mann and Norman Ornstein. You can probably guess by the title it is about Congress. The first half of the book is thoroughly depressing–it makes you think that we aren’t up to the task of fixing our country’s problems. The second half of the book offers some solutions. Unless the last 30 pages have some sort of miracle solution, I’m probably going to be left feeling pretty depressed about the state of things in Congress.
And finally, I just started the new Dave Eggers book. That will be the first full review now that regular posting has returned. Sorry for the drought in posting, we’ll get things back on track now.
Thanks for reading.