The Bestest 2007, Bookishness

 Bookishness: or more accurately two great books

Absurdistan: A Novel – Gary Shteyngart

The second book by master satirist gary Schtenygart is, almost inexplicably, even funnier than his astounding debut novel, “The Russian Debutants Handbook.” In it, a spoiled but oddly lovable Russian trust fund twenty-something, is exiled from the states after a joyous existence through college at an Oberlin-like liberal arts college, and a moveable feast in New York city upon graduation, and has to go back to Russia after his quasi mobster father is accused of murdering a small time crook in New Jersey. Trapped in bland post war Russia, despite a lush existence partying with a sea of American expats and living off the fruits of his father’s slightly crooked business exploits, he dreams of leaving the dreary Soviets skies and embarks on one of the funniest journey’s you are likely to read. Schentgart is a comic genius and his characters are ripped from the diaries of early Woody Allen.

The Long Tail: Why the Future of Business is Selling Less of More – Chris Anderson

For those who haven’t read the indisputable economic theory deemed the Long Tail, but do conduct the commerce of your life on the web, or who are now able to more easily maintain a particularly niche passion leveraging the internet, this is a must read. Although Wired editor Chris Anderson tends to beat you over the head with the logic and applicability of his theory, the simple and elegant articulation of how niche tastes when applied to a global market make the simple business economics work is nothing short of exceptional. My life spent combing the globe for small hard to find cultural gems, is validated in some ways in knowing that all of these artists who had formerly toiled in poverty creating for a few arrogant souls like me, now have a global audience that can access their work. The Long Tail is easily the most readable economic book you will ever find.

control freak. This is muckraking fun for indie film zealots.

The Bestest 2006 – Bookishness


Night – by Ellie Wiesel
Like “The Painted Bird” before it, this thin, horrifying memoir of the concentration camps at the end of WWII, the realities of this author’s survival and existence read like a surreal fiction. Sixty years later, the cloud of Nazi Germany still feels like a blanket trying to shake free.

Prep – by Curtis Sittenfeld
Reluctantly I found myself revisiting prep school through the eyes of a girl also from the Midwest. Although often it bordered on the aggravating, “Prep” is a good a look at the modern prep school experience as there has been in quite a while. [Read more…]

What Should I Do with My Life? : The True Story of People Who Answered the Ultimate Question – By Po Bronson

I have to say I like Po Bronson. Not so much his writing, which I think is very readable but not exactly Stegner, but more his obvious zeal for being a writer. He is also a thinker and someone genuinely concerned with examining and understanding not only his life but the lives of the people around him. In “The Nudist at the Late Shift,” he looked Silicon Valley in the eye, during its frothiest, and managed to capture that surreal energy that feels now like a fading dream or nightmare.

But with “What Should I Do,” he takes a great premise (speak to hundreds of people caught in that struggle to find a career that they can love) and isn’t able to find much in the way of a universal truth, or aggregated and implementable wisdom. Instead he seems to travel the country hanging out with some quasi-interesting people and productively and therapeutically guising his own professional writers block. And although the writing is serviceable, Po feels compelled to add his own 2 cents after each story, as if he is some kind of hipster Dr. Phil. Maybe it is my own jealousy shining through, I sure wish I could make a living writing topical popular books about my peers, but alas I am just like one of the characters in his stories who hasn’t yet found the way to professional Nirvana. I am, however, also realistic or cynical enough to have accepted both the nature of capitalism and the realities of funding a lifestyle that might create a more enduring happiness than ephemeral professional bliss.

I think the real hidden answers to the question of “What Should I Do?” are: “Get Lucky,” “Get Connected,” “Try To Be Among The First 200 Employees at Google” or “Don’t Confuse Your Satisfaction With Work, With Satisfaction In Life.” These are the answers that he should have at least acknowledged are common experiences shared by those rare folks that are in fact satisfied professionally. The subjects in the book seemed less genuinely content with their new career decisions, than they did ultimately more realistic than they were before about the nature of “work.”

It has been a tough few years, and the reality is economic prosperity like that Americans have experienced over the last 20 years may never return. But at the end of the day I believe that whether it was Po’s intention or not, the book will serve to act as either 1) proof of the universal nature of professional frustration or 2) hope for the future management of expectations, which will ultimately help ease the pain.

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Our Band Could Be Your Life : Scenes from the American Indie Underground 1981-1991 By Michael Azerrad

Our Band
For anyone who lived and breathed the American indie scene in the 80’s and loved bands from Minutemen and Black Flag to The Replacements and Sonic Youth this book a necessary and joyous read. Filled with entertaining anecdotes, from acid soaked onstage orgies at early Butthole Surfer shows, to rat infested European squats that served as both venue and bedroom. Azerrad writes like he was actually along for the ride and makes you feel like you were as well.

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