I was crazy productive on the book-reading tip in April!
High Fidelity – Nick Hornby
Another in my series of re-reads. Apparently I bought this while in Portland, Oregon for work, Halloween week 2002. How do I know this? Well, A) I remember, silly. But also, B) one of my Delta boarding passes from that trip, that I apparently used as my bookmark in my initial read, was still tucked inside. That was a great trip, as I recall. One of my clients took my kayaking on the Willamette River. I stayed with our good friends, who two years later would become our first daughter’s godparents. I know I ate good food and drank good beer, it was Portland for Pete’s sake. I’m pretty sure I saw my old college roommate as well as a high school/college friend who both live out there. And I recall it being absolutely beautiful, as the fall often is in Oregon.
I had forgotten how great Hornby was in his first few books. Man, he could write about being a young guy trying to figure out what to do with your life. I’ve enjoyed his later works, but none of them have been as good as his first 3-4. This inspired me to watch the movie again. I couldn’t find a service that streams it so I ordered the DVD. It’s sitting on the TV console, waiting for the right night to crack open.
Pawnee: The Greatest Town In America – Leslie Knope
Something light for our spring break trip. Everything you would ever want to know about the finest small town in Indiana.
Moneyball – Michael Lewis
Nine Innings – Daniel Okrent
Two more re-reads. I probably should have read these in the opposite order, but I wasn’t thinking.
Moneyball is just such a great book, whether you like baseball or care for the statistical revolution that has run through the game over the past decade, or not. Lewis is a fantastic reporter and writer and makes this totally accessible for even the non-fan. One thing that jumps out reading it now is how the arguments about statistical analysis that were just beginning to hit baseball 15 years ago are common across society now. Politics is the best example. Conservatives would tend to be aligned with the scouts, relying on faith in their core beliefs to explain the world, while Liberals would be the stat-heads, relying on empirical data to craft their arguments. Or maybe that’s just a convenient way for me to align where I stand in both baseball and politics. Nonetheless, that same faith vs. numbers argument is happening all over the place now.
Nine Innings is also a phenomenal, if slightly dated, book. Through a game between Baltimore and Milwaukee in June 1982, Okrent attempts to explain all aspects of baseball as it was then. Everything from how media rights were sold to how teams were built, how different managers ran a game, how certain players developed, and on and on. I’m partial to it because A) it was written during and about the era of baseball I fell in love with and B) that era was probably the most egalitarian in baseball history, with small market teams winning just as often as their big market brothers. And then there was the range of styles that were played at the time. Whiteyball, Billyball, Harvey’s Wallbangers, Earl Weaver’s strategic mastery. Things were a lot different 30 years ago.
The Dinner – Herman Koch
This has gotten a lot of attention over the past year, making an appearance on this spring’s Tournament of Books. That’s not to say that everyone loved it. Some critics raised serious concerns about the plot.
It is centered on an evening in which two Dutch couples, brothers – one of whom is poised to become Prime Minister – and their wives, meet at a fancy Amsterdam restaurant for dinner and discussion of an unnamed family crisis. Slowly the crisis is revealed, and it’s rather disturbing. Slowly the ultimate resolution of the crisis is revealed, and it is even more disturbing. Characters who seemed normal at the beginning of the evening are shown to be quite mad by the end of the night.
That part, I really liked. I enjoyed the slow descent into madness, not quite as dark as Daniel Woodrell’s work but in a similar vein.
Like many, though, I found the path the families take to resolution to be profoundly unbelievable.
Still, though, it was a good read, if not a classic one.
Solo – William Boyd
Finally, I raced through the most recent James Bond novel. Boyd places Bond back in his original timeline, putting him in the late 1960s. So I was prepared for something that made me think of the original, Sean Connery Bond.
Boyd missed if that’s what he was aiming for.
Bond drives nice cars, beds gorgeous women, and dines on the finest foods and beverages. But you never get the feel of who he really is. He’s not the dashing playboy of Connery, nor the ruthless Bond of Daniel Craig. There are elements of both but he is never clearly defined.
The story is a bit of a mess. The villain is in constant flux and never reaches truly evil levels. Resolutions come too easily.
This falls well short of the rather modest standard that Sebastian Faulks and Jeffrey Deaver have set in their recent Bond novels.