The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test by Tom Wolfe

It was easy to pull Electric Kool-Aid off the shelf after reading the Grateful Dead biography. Tom Wolfe brilliantly describes Ken Kesey’s Merry Prankster scene, of which the Grateful Dead were a major contributor, in this somewhat novelized, novel-length report. Continue reading “The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test by Tom Wolfe”

A Long Strange Trip by Dennis McNally

A few weeks ago I found out that a man I’d lost touch with killed himself last spring. He’d been a magnificent influence on me in the early 1990s. We wrote for the same magazine, but his writing was many leagues beyond my work horse prose. Where he would wax romantic, I would wane maudlin, and he wasn’t afraid to tell me so. But he was kind. One late night in his office cluttered with rock specimens, empty bottles of great wines and hundreds of books, he let me recite “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” in its entirety. I was nervous, so he handed me a stress ball to squeeze. That’s a good friend. I’d forgotten his kindness. Continue reading “A Long Strange Trip by Dennis McNally”

Myths to Live By by Joseph Campbell

As I wrote in my unfinished report about Joseph Campbell’s Masks of God, I encountered Joseph Campbell (who I refer to as “the other JC”) in around 1987 after his death and after he had done the famous Powers of Myth interviews with Bill Moyers. Nothing makes me feel more like a water buffalo in a herd than trending with the rest of America after a PBS special. Continue reading “Myths to Live By by Joseph Campbell”

Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain & The Last American Man by Elizabeth Gilbert

I read The Last American Man and Kitchen Confidential back to back, which wasn’t planned, it was just that I craved these biographical short books as ┬átransitional material after five volumes of Karl Ove Knausgaard’s My Struggle. I tried to start My Struggle Volume Six, but my brain revolted. What I needed was an all-American male palate cleanser, make that two, and these books served the purpose well. Continue reading “Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain & The Last American Man by Elizabeth Gilbert”

My Struggle, by Karl Ove Knausgaard

Brene Brown, author of the two self-empowerment books Gifts of Imperfection and Daring Greatly, must love Karl Ove Knausgaard. My biggest takeaway from this six volume, 3,500 page autobiography is how brave Knausgaard is, how naked. The books are like a grove of winter trees, dour, stark and beautiful, and, at 3,500 pages, it took at least a grove of trees to produce them. Continue reading “My Struggle, by Karl Ove Knausgaard”

The Orphan Master’s Son by Adam Johnson

Adam Johnson, I learned from reading the back flap of my cherished First Edition of The Orphan Master’s Son, is a professor and lives in San Francisco. I got chills–genius is always so close and yet so far, right? I feel a stupid sort of pride in the fact that the author of such a great book lives in my neck of the woods.

I originally read this book right after it came out. I had just joined a book club and it was the very first book I read with that club; unfortunately it and maybe a couple of others were the only few books I thoroughly enjoyed over three years in the club (which in part led to the formation of the SBC). I reread The Orphan Master’s son last week and it was every bit as good as I remembered with the added oomph being that I now know so much more about North Korea (thanks, Donald Trump) than I did in 2011, and that made it all the more impressive and intriguing. Continue reading “The Orphan Master’s Son by Adam Johnson”

The Sisters Brothers by Patrick DeWitt

Who could imagine a novel about a pair of contract killers could be heartwarming and sometimes sweet? The Sisters Brothers by Patrick DeWitt is all that and also extremely funny. From the title to the last line, it is original and entertaining. It makes me want to read everything else DeWitt has written but that desire is tinged with fear that nothing else will be quite as good. Continue reading “The Sisters Brothers by Patrick DeWitt”

An Object of Beauty, Steve Martin

Steve Martin’s novel, An Object of Beauty, is itself an object of beauty. It’s got a super sexy dust cover, thick and creamy, with slick raised lettering that looks like it was cut out from a modern masterpiece. There are nicely reproduced photos scattered throughout the book of paintings and sculptures that are mentioned in the text, which is so fun for the reader to be able to instantly see the art the characters are referencing. Continue reading “An Object of Beauty, Steve Martin”

The Goldfinch, Donna Tartt

I got a copy of Donna Tartt’s The Secret History as soon as it hit the bookstore. My favorite bookstore at the time was a satellite of Berkeley’s famous Cody’s, located in the Opera Plaza on the corner of Van Ness and McAllister in San Francisco. It was the same bookstore where, if you put a dollar in a glass jar, you were allowed to look at Madonna’s Sex book for a minute, and there was a line for that privilege, which seems awfully quaint now, with the internet and everything. It was 1992. Continue reading “The Goldfinch, Donna Tartt”

On Nature, Lucretius

I haven’t read philosophy since my 20s. Without a classmates and a teacher to be accountable to, philosophy is just behind math, science and cook books on my snore setting. But a girlfriend wanted to read it so I agreed to temporarily form a book club of two and let my selfish guard down slightly. She better not flake out and not read it because it’s pretty fucking tedious. But gold mining is tedious too, and occasionally the odd nugget makes the process completely worthwhile. Continue reading “On Nature, Lucretius”