Day: December 30, 2004

2004 Reading List

I’m not a big New Year’s Resolution guy, but I do normally write down a few goals for the coming year. One of my entries this time last year was to read 24-30 books in 2004. I passed the lower end of that threshold in May and was sitting at 36 books the day M.¬†was born. Not a bad year, although it sure helped to travel to the West Coast on a regular basis for six months and to live with a woman who works 2-3 overnight shifts a week. I think my goal will be a little less ambitious this year, as I’ve discovered it’s pretty much impossible to knock off three books a week when you’ve got a little one. A couple observations:

This number is actually a little low from what I read in total, as I didn’t include the numerous baby and computer books I’ve read in a manner other than cover-to-cover. There are at least five baby books I read 90% of, as well as four other Mac books I’ve knocked 75-80% out of the way as I’ve taught myself how to use my new computing platform. However, since none were finished, I don’t count them.

Interesting that my year began and ended with the same book. I got Wolves of the Calla last Christmas and read it as soon as I completed the book I started in late ’03. With the release of the last two books in the Dark Tower series this year, I decided to start from book one before I knocked them off. I just closed the back cover of Wolves for the second time this morning.

Without a doubt my book of the year is Fortress of Solitude. Every year there are a few buzz novels that everyone seems to be reading. Fortress didn’t sell at the same level as The DiVinci Code, but it certainly garnered a lot of attention at its release. It’s one of my all-time favorite books. A fantastic tale. Language that is so beautiful to read it almost hurts. Absolute perfect spirit of the times translated to fiction. I spoke to a couple readers on my trip to Kansas City who are either reading it now, or had just finished it. I was glad to hear they agreed that it was a phenomenal work. My highest of high recommendations.

Next to Fortress, the book that moved me most was Season of Blood: A Rwandan Journey. Reasonable people can argue about any foreign policy action of the United States. There is no justification for not taking steps to end what is probably the purest example of genocide the modern world has seen. Stalin and Hitler were evil men who took great pains to kill efficiently. The evil doers in Rwanda were far worse, in my opinion, because they didn’t use gas, electricity, or other methods to kill large numbers of people with minimal effort. In Rwanda, young men were handed crude machetes made from scrap metals then paraded through villages hacking people’s heads open until no one was left living. It was medieval killing in modern times, and everyone in the West should be ashamed we allowed almost a million people to die in less than three months.

I’ve still got quite a list of books I’d like to read, and I add to it constantly. I’ve got roughly 1000 pages left in the Dark Tower saga, then I hope to add some more variety to the list in ’05. Hopefully you can find something here that interests you. If you need a synopsis or recommendations, let me know.

1 Wolves of the Calla – Stephen King
2 Milk It! – Jim DeRogatis
3 Imagining Argentina – Lawrence Thornton
4 Drinking, Smoking, & Screwing: Good Writers on Good Times
5 Out of Sight – Elmore Leonard
6 Joe College – Tom Perrotta
7 Sellevision – Augusten Burroughs
8 The Expectant Father – Armin Brott
9 Glamorama – Bret Easton Ellis
10 Rum Punch – Elmore Leonard
11 Shutter Island – Dennis Lehane
12 Plainclothes Naked – Jerry Stahl
13 In the Footsteps of Mr. Kurtz – Michela Wrong
14 Breakfast on Pluto – Patrick McCabe
15 Gun, With Occasional Music – Jonathan Letham
16 Krakatoa: The Day the World Exploded – Simon Winchester
17 Little Green Men – Christopher Buckley
18 Season of Blood: A Rwandan Journey – Fergal Keane
19 Black Hawk Down – Mark Bowden
20 Nine Innings – Daniel Okrent
21 Moneyball – Michael Lewis
22 Foul Ball – Jim Bouton
23 Rotten: No Irish, No Blacks, No Dogs – John Lydon
24 Thieves in High Places – Jim Hightower
25 The Boys of Summer – Roger Kahn
26 Into the Wild – Jon Krakauer
27 The Catcher in the Rye – JD Salinger
28 Lies & The Lying Liars Who Tell Them – Al Franken
29 The Fortress of Solitude – Jonathan Letham
30 What’s the Matter With Kansas? – Thomas Frank
31 McCarthy’s Bar – Pete McCarthy
32 The Sweet Forever – George Pelecanos
33 The Heart of Darkness – Joseph Conrad
34 Mac OS X for Windows Users – David Coursey
35 I Was Right On Time – Buck O’Neil
36 The White House Mess – Christopher Buckley
37 Sex, Drugs, & Cocoa Puffs – Chuck Klosterman
38 Wilco: Learning How to Die – Greg Kott
39 The Partly Cloudy Patriot – Sarah Vowell
40 The Gunslinger – Stephen King
41 The Drawing of the Three – Stephen King
42 The Wastelands – Stephen King
43 Wizard and Glass – Stephen King
44 Wolves of the Calla – Stephen King


The Year In Music

Another pretty good year is about to go into the books. This time last year, we were hiding the fact that S. was pregnant until we had sonogram #1 and were sure all was well. We spent our New Year’s trip to a cabin in southern Indiana swapping my empty beer bottles for hers under the table so our friends wouldn’t notice. M. arrived, and life changed forever, in July. We watched over a dozen friends welcome children to the world as well. I kissed the corporate world good-bye for the time being in September. We just about finished furnishing our home. I moved to a Mac and got an iPod. I spent time in Arizona, California, and sucked my company into sending me to Portland twice in six weeks. I also made four trips to Kansas City, with the obligatory visits to my favorite barbecue haunts. Not much to complain about, and a lot to be thankful for.

2005 is shaping up to be another year of changes, as I begin grad school in two weeks and search for a place in the non-profit world to supplement my academic pursuits. S. faces some major changes in her job in the coming year. M. will continue to grow like a weed (or a tick, more appropriately), and demonstrate new tricks every day. We’ve got a trip to Puerto Rico booked, hopefully a trip to Portland, and of course, a couple trips back to KC.

Along with reading, music is my biggest time filler. 2004 was an interesting year for several reasons. Alternative rock made a big comeback, although it’s not nearly as prevalent as during the 90s heyday. MP3 blogs sprang up left and right, opening a new world of music to those of us who lack a local station that plays quality music. In the months AM (After M.), my discovery of new music slowed way down, so my top ten songs of the year list is heavily weighted towards the first half of the month. Unlike recent years, though, I had no trouble coming up with a list.

10 – Neighborhood #3 – The Arcade Fire: Some songs you just don’t get at first, second, or even third listen. This was one of those songs, and it took awhile to get. But eventually it did made sense. The darlings of the indie music press, The Arcade Fire is a band I’ll be exploring in more detail in 2005.

9 – Vertigo – U2: Every time I look at my iPod, I think of this song. Mission accomplished, Bono.

8 – Won’t Give In – The Finn Brothers: A simply gorgeous song full of maturity and emotional strength.

7 – American Idiot – Green Day: I just got the single, rather than the whole album, so I can’t comment on the strength of the larger work. The single was a tremendous statement, though, full of power and fury that would have made the punk gods proud.

6 – Can’t Stand Me Now – The Libertines: The sound that sums up what it must feel like to be a drug-scene hipster in the UK.

5 – Portland, Oregon – Loretta Lynn: Stunning. Brilliant.

4 – Take Me Out – Franz Ferdinand: Ass shakin’ music for the new millennium.

3 – Jesus Walks – Kanye West: Taking hip-hop to a whole new level and direction. This was a song I totally got the first time I heard it.

2 – Spitting Games – Snow Patrol: Songs of unrequited, teenage love are always relevant. When they sound as good as this, they’ll last forever.

1 – Float On – Modest Mouse: One of the least likely hits in recent memory, this song would have been #1 on my list regardless of the personal angle. A song so ugly it’s pretty, the fits, starts, and shrieks combine to create a universal anthem to better times always being just around the corner. Even the song structure upholds that idea, with the bridge before the final reprise creating a false end before those four little guitar notes at the 2:34 mark lead back into the sing-along close. Every time I hear this, I’ll think of listening to it in my office on July 24, and hearing S. yell down that it was time to go to the hospital and have a baby.

Honorable Mention:
Handshake Drugs – Wilco
Irish Blood, English Heart – Morrissey
Death Cab for Cutie: They didn’t have any ’04 releases, but I found a couple of their CDs at the library and have become a big fan. (ED: Heck, I just used one of my iTunes gift certificates to grab another of their albums.)

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