What I’ve Been Reading: John Barleycorn by Jack London

John Barleycorn is not only atypical of Jack London’s work, it’s different than most books about drinking or drug abuse. Assumed by most to be an autobiography, John Barleycorn also functions as an in-depth reflection on the lifestyle of a heavy drinker. London got drunk as early as five and seven years old, and that is where his drinking story begins.  London tells of his exploits throughout his teenage years and early adult life, including being an oyster pirate, deep-sea sealer, miner, student, and writer. London packed an incredible amount of action into a short life, and John Barleycorn tells…

What I’ve Been Reading: Beastie Boys Book by Michael Diamond and Adam Horovitz

My only real complaint about this book is that it’s incredibly unwieldy. You’re risking serious bodily harm if you read it while lying down. If you drift off into a nap for even a second, it’s unlikely your arms will support this behemoth. But if you know the Beastie Boys, or read this book to learn more about them, they have never been in the business of practicality. Their music-making process is largely based on thumbing their nose at organization and convention. They obviously approached this project with the same attitude. And, of course, they produced a book with their…

What I’ve Been Reading: Capital Murder by Chris Papst

Papst documents an interesting and troubling time in Harrisburg. As a central PA native, it’s obvious the city is still struggling from the effects of the either severe mismanagement or arrogant corruption. I’d say it’s somewhere in between those two after reading, although a case can be made for both. I was fairly young and unaware of these political shenanigans when they were happening. I also lived just far enough away to be pretty insulated from it in my daily life. I only knew that I could see a decline in much about the city nearly every time I visited…

What I’ve Been Reading: Palo Alto by James Franco

I’ve been lazy about posting reviews of the books I’ve been reading, so I need to catch up a little bit. This post and a few in the future will be about books I read in 2018.  Hopefully I’ll catch up to what I’m currently reading sometime this spring. Thanks for reading! Palo Alto Review Palo Alto is a collection of short stories by James Franco. Although not necessarily related to each other, they’re unified in that they all portray the lives of adolescents in Palo Alto. One can assume that the stories are at least partially based on Franco’s…

What I’ve Been Reading (and Watching): Call Me By Your Name by Andre Aciman

I wanted to read Call Me by Your Name after I watched the movie (directed by Luca Guadagnino) . I was especially interested to check it out after the movie won Best Adapted Screenplay at the Oscars (screenplay written by James Ivory). The movie was a truly excellent adaptation of the source text. Overall, I enjoyed the movie more than the book, although I did like both versions. As with nearly any comparison of a book and movie adaptation, each has its merits. The following might have some spoilers, or at least information that might make your first viewing/reading less enjoyable.…

What I’ve Been Reading: South and West by Joan Didion

I am always impressed by writers who have the ability to record intricate details of their experiences while traveling. I don’t feel like I can write well when I’m on a vacation or some excursion far away. I’m always either doing my best to soak up the experience or resting from the exhaustion of doing just that.  I suspect that there are two major reasons that I have not developed the skill to thoroughly document any travel experiences: I’m probably more crunched for time versus writers who are on some kind of writing assignment or simply take longer trips than…

What I’ve Been Reading: The Bassoon King by Rainn Wilson

Although I am a fan of the The Office and the character of Dwight, I’ve always been a bit annoyed by Rainn Wilson. I always get the sense that he is trying way too hard to be funny. He constantly punctuates his sentences with uncomfortably lame jokes to the point that I have a hard time listening to him. He’s the kind of person that seems to have a hard time “turning it off” to just have an actual conversation. The writing in this book is… unfortunately very similar in most chapters. If I were editing the book and took…

What I’ve Been Reading: Rabbit Redux by John Updike

I am very much a fan of John Updike, becoming interested in his work first through his short stories and then extending my reading to his novels. In fact, I would rank him as one of my favorite novel writers, and I appreciate him more and more as I grow older. Reading some of his stuff here and there throughout the last couple decade, I learned that his “Rabbit” books are generally considered his best works. Or, at least, they’re pointed to as his works that best represent his style of writing and display some of his most personal explorations…

What I’ve Been Reading: American Fire by Monica Hesse

One of my favorite genres to read is any kind of true crime non-fiction. I saw a brief review of American Fire in TIME magazine before the book was actually released on July 11th. I was immediately interested in the story and ended up purchasing it not too long after it went on sale. In 2012 and 2013, a rash of arson fires occurred in Accomack County. This sprawling county is located on the eastern shore of Virginia. It was once a flourishing agricultural area, but is now a sadly typical rural area struggling with the issue of almost entirely…