Well if nothing else, this year I will [probably] at least do a monthly blog update to tell you about what I’ve been reading. Whether or not this is actually interesting is a whole other story, but whatever, it is my blog.
This month brought the theme of more things that are terrible or at least suck mildly, but make very interesting books.
I finished off 12 books this month—down 3 from last month if we are quantifying this, but there are also no short fiction books on this list like there were last month, such as the 27 minute read that was Steal Like an Artist, and 3 less days in the month.
Here’s what I read in February 2019:
- Without You There Is No Us: My Time with the Sons of North Korea’s Elite – Suki Kim. I’d understood the culture of North Korea to be restrictive, I didn’t know what that “looked like”. American/South Korean journalist Suki Kim goes undercover as an English-teaching missionary in a boys school in North Korea (Yes. Journalist undercover as a missionary under cover as an English teacher), the resulting book is extremely interesting.
- Bringing Columbia Home: The Untold Story of a Lost Space Shuttle and Her Crew – Michael D. Leinbach. I remember watching news coverage mixed with the Saturday morning cartoons. It is one of those things, like 9/11, that burned into my pre-teen mind at age 12. I was not aware of the intense search for debris, for remains, the painstaking efforts to return the pieces found in Texas to Florida to “reconstruct” what happened, written by then Shuttle Launch Director, recovery team leader, and Columbia Reconstruction Team leader, Michael D. Leinbach.
- Prisoner: My 544 Days in an Iranian Prison—Solitary confinement, a sham trial, high-stakes diplomacy, and the extraordinary efforts it took to get me out – Jason Rezaian. After listening to this episode of Pod Save the World, I quickly dove in to Rezaian’s account of what happened after he and his wife were imprisoned by Iranian authorities. (If you read this book, the podcast is likely a great pre- or post-listen, as it includes former Obama Deputy National Security Advisor for Strategic Communications, Ben Rhodes, who worked among the team to free Rezaian, adding a whole other layer). This book does a good job of also capturing the attempts made by the Washington Post and US authorities, that from the inside of Evin Prison, Rezaian knew nothing about.
- Playing Dead: Mock Trauma and Folk Drama in Staged High School Drunk Driving Tragedies – Montana Miller. I actually downloaded this one by accident from Bookshare but decided to read it anyways. As someone who participated in a “Day of the Dead” in high school, the possibly Canadian version of “Every 15 Minutes”, I was curious about any effectiveness/deterrence research surrounding these staged events. I was also shocked by the huge dramatization and special effects involved in these “performances” at US schools investigated in this book. By the way, it was a tough slog, and I gave it 2/5.
- Playing Dead: A Journey Through the World of Death Fraud. The book I was actually intending to download also could have been more interesting than it actually was. The author really rambled on a lot about her own fantasies of just disappearing, but instead of disappearing she writes a book about what happens to people who choose to disappear.
- Then They Came for Me: A Family’s Story of Love, Captivity and Survival – Maziar Bahari. Another book of a captured Canadian-Iranian journalist at Evin Prison in Iran. This book, turned into the movie Rosewater, focuses much on the interrogations Bahari underwent, and his family’s pursuit to free him. Contrasting this with Rezaian’s book was also interesting.
- Parkland: Birth of a Movement – Dave Cullen. Author of COLUMBINE, Dave Cullen’s tactic in this book shifts from what happened during the Parkland school shooting and discovering the motives of the shooters (as he did in Columbine) to a focus on the uprising of students to protect any more kids from dying or suffering as a result of lax firearms laws. He spends weeks, months with the kids who started #NeverAgainMSD—and those who felt in left in the shadows—and crafts a comprehensive story. Reading this on February 12, just days before the one year anniversary of the Parkland shootings, I was repeatedly shocked by just how recently this all unfolded.
- Parkland Speaks: Survivors from Marjory Stoneman Douglas Share Their Stories – Sarah Lerner (Ed.) An often heart-wrenching collection of writings, stories, and poems from MSD students processing the tragic shootings at MSD. (As usual, I constantly wanted “more” information and of course, this is not the book nor format for that.)
- Poison Candy: The Murderous Madam: Inside Dalia Dippolito’s Plot to Kill – Elizabeth Parker & Mark Ebner. Dalia Dippolito hires a hitman to kill her husband—the day of his “death” she arrives home to police, police cars, and police tape, and is taken to the police station… To find her friend reported her intentions to police and her hired hitman was, in fact, an undercover police officer.
My Goodreads review says it best: “I think this book COULD have been really good but it was written in a way that was so boring. I heard about this case from the Court Junkie podcast [which I’d gotten into days before], and wanted to learn more but beyond some random tidbits, the time invested in a 40ish minute podcast was much more worthwhile.” (Here’s the podcast.)
- Maid: Hard Work, Low Pay, and a Mother’s Will to Survive – Stephanie Land. Recently, my friend Ryan wrote an article for CNN about this book’s author. It provides an “insider’s” perspective at a position nobody wants to be in: homelessness, transitional housing, and working minimum wage jobs to survive. This book is an eyeopener into the “working poor”, and why it can be so hard to get out of the trenches, when the government support that allows you to pull yourself up is stripped back as soon as you hit a barely survivable income level.
- The Year of Living Biblically: One Man’s Quest to Follow the Bible as Literally as Possible – A.J. Jacobs. An agnostic dude who writes memoirs about things he does for a living writes down all the “rules” from the bible and tries to follow them as literally as possible for a full year. While a bit “long” at times, I was constantly captivated by the logistics of this pursuit—from goodreads “which, let’s be honest, a book like this could definitely be boring, which it was certainly not.”
26/115 — 23% of the way to my goal in 16% of the year. Hopefully I continue to crush this one ;).
What are you reading?