So, I've been reading...

Well dudes, I have made it to 30.Thirty books. I have read a total of thirty books in my lifetime.

I am proud to say it, although a little shamed that Ben Mezrich is the one who helped me cross the finish line. As I said in my last review of his book Bringing Down the House, he has become known as a bullshit artist. Passing off complete fabrications as non-fiction, thus whoring the entire genre. I feel like I've been cheated on.

Nevertheless, the books are good. They keep you reading. Actually, The Accidental Billionaires was really just okay. Long story short: An awkward Harvard drop-out started Facebook and made billions. Who cares. Everybody already knows that. The tagline reads "A tale of sex, money, genius, and betrayal." There is no sex in the book (not that I was really hoping for it), no incredible genius, and no real betrayal. Sure, there is money, but that is to be expected, and it comes rather anti-climactically. It is really just a dumb story about an odd kid. Not that great.

Busting Vegas was a great read, and definitely interesting, but Mezrich really overhypes the teams "genius" plan. They basically just do everything they can to try to see a card in the deck and wait for it to come out. Lame. Every moron in the world thinks of that the second they walk into a casino. To their credit, though, they did it pretty well - but anything can be perfected with hours and hours of practice. Plus - who really knows? Mezrich has lost all credibility with me.

Am I lowering my standards here? I feel dirty.

Anyway,

here is my newly updated list. All 30 books, in order.

  1. Superman: Doomsday & Beyond – Louise Simonson
  2. The Illustrated Man – Ray Bradbury
  3. The Catcher in the Rye – J.D. Salinger
  4. Wild at Heart – John Eldredge
  5. Waking the Dead – John Eldredge
  6. Dangerous Wonder – Michael Yacconelli
  7. Messy Spirituality – Michael Yacconelli
  8. Run Like an Antelope: On The Road With Phish – Sean Gibbon
  9. The Sun Also Rises – Ernest Hemingway
  10. Into Thin Air – Jon Krakauer
  11. Blue Like Jazz – Donald Miller
  12. Through Painted Deserts – Donald Miller
  13. Searching For God Knows What – Donald Miller
  14. Velvet Elvis – Rob Bell
  15. Rich Dad Poor Dad – Robert Kyosaki
  16. What Jesus Meant – Gary Wills
  17. No Shortcuts to the Top – Ed Viesturs
  18. Into The Wild – Jon Krakauer
  19. To Own a Dragon – Donald Miller
  20. No Compromise: The Life Story of Keith Green – Melody Green
  21. Eiger Dreams: Ventures Among Men & Mountains – Jon Krakauer
  22. Under The Banner of Heaven – Jon Krakauer
  23. Three Men in a Boat – Jerome K. Jerome
  24. Born on a Blue Day – Daniel Tammet
  25. The Survivors Club – Ben Sherwood
  26. The Road – Cormac McCarthy
  27. Bringing Down The House - Ben Mezrich
  28. Rigged - Ben Mezrich
  29. Busting Vegas - Ben Mezrich
  30. The Accidental Billionaires - Ben Mezrich
*By the way - to those of you who think I have cheated on my week off from Facebook because you saw this on there - my blog automatically posts to Facebook when I write something new. So suck it.

I Read Another Book

A friend of mine borrowed it from another friend, and they were both coming over to my house, so one friend brought the book to give back to the other friend, but I intercepted it.Bringing Down The House - by Ben Mezrich.

It was fantastic, and an easy read. In fact, I read this book faster than any other book I've read before, finishing it in just over 24 hours. The subtitle is: The Inside Story of Six M.I.T. Students Who Took Vegas For Millions. You might have heard of it, and you more likely have seen the movie based on it: 21, starring Kevin Spacey and a bunch of Hollywood babyfaces, plus Lawrence Fishburne's not-so-baby face.

Anyway it was a great and entertaining book and I am looking forward to reading more by Mezrich. However, I must point out that I was utterly disappointed to find out, after reading the Wikipedia article about the book, that many of the pivotal scenes in the book were largely exaggerated, if not entirely fabricated by the author. If you are going to read it though, I would suggest reading the Wiki article afterwards, its a spoiler.

I am a bit of a non-fiction purist, and it bothers me that someone snuck a load of crap into a book that I was convinced was completely true. Either way, I think Mezrich learned his lesson about passing off fiction as truth, due to the huge amount of criticism he got after the truth actually came out, so I expect his next non-fictions to be just that.

All-in-all, I definitely recommend this read. Good stuff.

So with book #27 down, I give you my updated chronological lifetime list, which seems to grow more like an oak tree than a weed, slow and steady, sure of itself.

  1. Superman: Doomsday & Beyond – Louise Simonson
  2. The Illustrated Man – Ray Bradbury
  3. The Catcher in the Rye – J.D. Salinger
  4. Wild at Heart – John Eldredge
  5. Waking the Dead – John Eldredge
  6. Dangerous Wonder – Michael Yacconelli
  7. Messy Spirituality – Michael Yacconelli
  8. Run Like an Antelope: On The Road With Phish – Sean Gibbon
  9. The Sun Also Rises – Ernest Hemingway
  10. Into Thin Air – Jon Krakauer
  11. Blue Like Jazz – Donald Miller
  12. Through Painted Deserts – Donald Miller
  13. Searching For God Knows What – Donald Miller
  14. Velvet Elvis – Rob Bell
  15. Rich Dad Poor Dad – Robert Kyosaki
  16. What Jesus Meant – Gary Wills
  17. No Shortcuts to the Top – Ed Viesturs
  18. Into The Wild – Jon Krakauer
  19. To Own a Dragon – Donald Miller
  20. No Compromise: The Life Story of Keith Green – Melody Green
  21. Eiger Dreams: Ventures Among Men & Mountains – Jon Krakauer
  22. Under The Banner of Heaver – Jon Krakauer
  23. Three Men in a Boat – Jerome K. Jerome
  24. Born on a Blue Day – Daniel Tammet
  25. The Survivors Club – Ben Sherwood
  26. The Road – Cormac McCarthy
  27. Bringing Down The House - Ben Mezrich

Where Men Win Glory

I just finished my 27th book of all time, and have proudly added it to my comprehensive list (below).The book was amazing, thrilling, captivating, and addicting. To be honest, I was skeptical about the subject matter at first. I am not really into football and I didn't really care to read a book about some meat-head jock who went to the Middle East and strangled a bunch of towelheads with his bare hands all in the name of GW Bush. Not the case. If you are worried about that you can lay your fears comfortably aside. Pat Tillman, by Krakauers account, was an anomaly. A ferocious and violent football player, and voracious reader of classic books, a wildly captivating and intelligent conversationalist, and a fearless gladiator. He respected all people that deserved respect, and intensely followed orders given to him by his "senior" officers who were often several years younger than he.

He died a stupid and careless death in the middle of a stupid and careless war and was utterly humiliated and publicly disrespected in his death.  In my opinion, no worse thing could have happened to him. This book, and it's amazing insight into the behind-the-scenes US Military cover up and perception twist campaigns only confirms and furthers my thoughts about war and government and politics.

Krakauer aptly quotes one of Tillman's fellow Army Rangers (now retired) in the book:

From the moment you first join the Ranger Battalion it's ingrained in you that you will always do the right thing. They're not like "Please do the right thing." It's "We will fucking crush you if you don't do the right thing." You will adhere to every standard. You will always tell the truth. If you fuck up once, you're out on your ass. Then you see something like what they're doing to Pat - what officers in the Rangers are doing - and you stop being so naive. The only two times where I personally was in a position to see where the Army had the choice to do the right thing or the wrong thing, both times they chose to do the wrong thing. One of those times was what they did to Pat. It made me realized that the Army does what suits the Army. That's why I won't put that uniform back on. I'm done.

Well done once again, Mr. Krakauer. You have now stepped easily into the role of my favorite author, and I am sure you will not disappoint. Looking forward to your next endeavor.

Next up (depending on how entertaining it is): This Wheel's On Fire by the legendary Band drummer, and quite possibly coolest old man ever, Levon Helm.

  1. Superman: Doomsday & Beyond – Louise Simonson
  2. The Illustrated Man – Ray Bradbury
  3. The Catcher in the Rye – J.D. Salinger
  4. Wild at Heart – John Eldredge
  5. Waking the Dead – John Eldredge
  6. Dangerous Wonder – Michael Yacconelli
  7. Messy Spirituality – Michael Yacconelli
  8. Run Like an Antelope: On The Road With Phish – Sean Gibbon
  9. The Sun Also Rises – Ernest Hemingway
  10. Into Thin Air – Jon Krakauer
  11. Blue Like Jazz – Donald Miller
  12. Through Painted Deserts – Donald Miller
  13. Searching For God Knows What – Donald Miller
  14. Velvet Elvis – Rob Bell
  15. Rich Dad Poor Dad – Robert Kyosaki
  16. What Jesus Meant – Gary Wills
  17. No Shortcuts to the Top – Ed Viesturs
  18. Into The Wild – Jon Krakauer
  19. To Own a Dragon – Donald Miller
  20. No Compromise: The Life Story of Keith Green – Melody Green
  21. Eiger Dreams: Ventures Among Men & Mountains – Jon Krakauer
  22. Under The Banner of Heaver – Jon Krakauer
  23. Three Men in a Boat – Jerome K. Jerome
  24. Born on a Blue Day – Daniel Tammet
  25. The Survivors Club – Ben Sherwood
  26. The Road – Cormac McCarthy
  27. Where Men Win Glory - Jon Krakauer

Books I've Read: In Chronological Order

Like I said, I've only read 26 books in their entirety in my life. I have kept a list of these books over the years (which has not been difficult) to keep track of the ones that I thought were good enough to finish. I've probably started over 100 books, but alas, my attention is sold at a very low price. The first book on the list I probably read around 1993. The last I finished Monday. Here they are, in chronological order (just in time for Christmas).

  1. Superman: Doomsday & Beyond – Louise Simonson
  2. The Illustrated Man – Ray Bradbury
  3. The Catcher in the Rye – J.D. Salinger
  4. Wild at Heart – John Eldredge
  5. Waking the Dead – John Eldredge
  6. Dangerous Wonder – Michael Yacconelli
  7. Messy Spirituality – Michael Yacconelli
  8. Run Like an Antelope: On The Road With Phish – Sean Gibbon
  9. The Sun Also Rises – Ernest Hemingway
  10. Into Thin Air – Jon Krakauer
  11. Blue Like Jazz – Donald Miller
  12. Through Painted Deserts – Donald Miller
  13. Searching For God Knows What – Donald Miller
  14. Velvet Elvis – Rob Bell
  15. Rich Dad Poor Dad – Robert Kyosaki
  16. What Jesus Meant – Gary Wills
  17. No Shortcuts to the Top – Ed Viesturs
  18. Into The Wild – Jon Krakauer
  19. To Own a Dragon – Donald Miller
  20. No Compromise: The Life Story of Keith Green – Melody Green
  21. Eiger Dreams: Ventures Among Men & Mountains – Jon Krakauer
  22. Under The Banner of Heaver – Jon Krakauer
  23. Three Men in a Boat – Jerome K. Jerome
  24. Born on a Blue Day – Daniel Tammet
  25. The Survivors Club – Ben Sherwood
  26. The Road – Cormac McCarthy

Some interesting facts:

1. Only six of these books are fiction, one of which being The Sun Also Rises, which could probably be considered a memoir.

2. Ten of these have something to do with Christian Spirituality, not counting the biography about Keith Green.

3. Six of these books have something do to with survival or adventure, four of which involve mountaineering.

4. Numbers one through eight I read before meeting my wife.

5. Numbers twenty through twenty-three I read while in Italy.

6. I have read every book written by Jon Krakauer and Donald Miller (except each of their newest).

7. The Illustrated Man is the only "required reading" book I ever read in school (or attempted to read).

8. The book with the most typos, misspellings, and grammatical mistakes: Rich Dad / Poor Dad. Hands down.

My Top Five:

Into The Wild // Krakauer

Under The Banner of Heaven // Krakauer

Blue Like Jazz // Miller

The Sun Also Rises // Hemingway

The Road // McCarthy - OR - No Shortcuts To The Top // Viesturs

The Road = Book #26

I just finished reading The Road by Cormac McCarthy, which has recently been made into a movie starring Viggo Mortensen and several other cool people.For those of you who know me or ever read this blog, you might know that I have read extremely few books in my life. Now with The Road under my belt I am at exactly 26 (I will publish a post later with the complete list). So anytime I actually finish a book it is a major milestone for me. I have started a lot of books, but I never finish them if they don't completely grip me. The Road gripped. I finished it in three evenings, which is my fastest time BY FAR. Before that the record went to The Sun Also Rises which I read in about five full days.

Anyways, here's what I have to say about it:

HOLY SHIT.

I have NEVER been so terrified in my entire life from reading, watching, or hearing anything. The only things in my life that have caused my heart to race and my stomach to fill to its brim with anxiety like this are real-life personal experiences, and some of those did not even come close.

Seriously. It sounds insane, especially for me, but its true. The man and the boy in the book are at 100% vulnerability the entire time. They build fires in the woods at night and every single time they fall asleep I am afraid someone will see them and do awful things to them. For the most part, when they go to sleep in the book they wake up with the next line, but at that space after the period in the sentence where they fall asleep and the first words of the next sentence I am screaming inside. Not kidding.

Maybe it wouldn't be so bad if it was just a guy by himself, cause the guy can pretty much take care of himself, but the kid. Oh man. The kid. Since I have my own kid now, it just absolutely kills me to read about vulnerable and scared children in such awful circumstances. It totally breaks my heart.

This book does not want to make you have kids, that's for sure. If anything it made me hate that my little sweet girl has to live in a world where something like this could potentially ever happen to anyone, ever. So sad. We live in a dangerous and frightening world, even here. Anything could happen at any time. Man. I don't even like to think about it.

Because all you can do it just enjoy your time and hope that everything is cool.

Anyway, the book is amazing, gripping, terrifying, freaky, insane, and everything else like that. It is mostly a story about a father and son but more than that it is a story of complete and total desperation and the lengths a father will go to to protect his children. Nothing will stop you if you are fighting for your kid. Nothing. That's what this book is about.

Also, McCarthy is a crazy writer. Very simple. Very direct. The tension is built up quickly and let down basically never. He does not seem to try to inflect tension, it is just there. All the time. Here is the main passage that has kept my attention pretty much all day since I read it.

Standing at the edge of a winter field among rough men. The boy’s age. A little older. Watching while they opened up the rocky hillside ground with pick and mattock and brought to light a great bolus of serpents perhaps a hundred in number. Collected there for a common warmth. The dull tubes of them beginning to move sluggishly in the cold hard light. Like the bowels of some great beast exposed to the day. The men poured gasoline on them and burned them alive, having no remedy for evil but only for the image of it as they conceived it to be. The burning snakes twisted horribly and some crawled burning across the floor of the grotto to illuminate its darker recesses. As they were mute there were no screams of pain and the men watched them burn and writhe and blacken in just such silence themselves and they disbanded in silence in the winter dusk each with his own thoughts to go home to their suppers.

Like I said, holy shit. That is insane. How does someone come up with that?

I do not know.

Joel Berg: All You Can Eat

Two nights ago I photographed author Joel Berg for the Clinton School of Public Service, in Little Rock.He was there as a guest speaker discussing his new book All you Can Eat: How Hungry is America? Berg is the director of the New York City Coalition Against Hunger (NYCCAH) which, as you might imagine, strives to eliminate hunger both in New York and nationwide.

I've been interested in this topic lately because it seems to me such an outrage that there be anyone struggling with hunger here in "the greatest country in the world". This is supposed to be the land of milk and honey, not a poor third world nation that can't feed itself.

Berg was one of the most captivating speakers I have ever seen in my entire life. He is a shortish, stocky Jewish New Yorker who talks and acts like a short stocky Jewish New Yorker in the best possible way. Fast, witty, blunt, unapologetic, charming, hilarious, extremely knowledgeable, sarcastic, etc. He was wild and almost crazy on stage ranting about his passion, walking all over the place, slapping his hand on the podium, talking so fast he could barely spit out the last words in his sentences before taking another breath.

He talked about the past Cholera and Malaria epidemics in the US and how we don't have to worry about them anymore because the Government wiped them out. Yes, the big bad horrible oppressive socialist government, he said. They had the authority and the money and the ability to re-plumb entire cities, and eventually the entire nation, with fresh, clean drinking water that eventually cleared up both diseases for good. He asked the crowd for a show of hands of anyone that has ever contracted Cholera or Malaria while living here in the United States. No one.

Hunger, he said, could be wiped out just as easily, if not much easier, by the US Government, and Berg has a plan to make it happen with 24 billion dollars; which sounds like a lot, but when compared to the 90 billion that the US Government spends on dealing with people who are hungry every single year, its a no brainer.

Right?

He said we are tackling hunger like volunteer bucket brigades used to tackle fires, with organized volunteers and churches running the show by having canned food drives and soup kitchens. This is all great, he said, but it just doesn't really do much, and it's not a long term solution. What we need, is professionals. Paid professionals. Paid by the Government. Just like the Fire Department. The old bucket brigades were great in their heyday; organized, strong men volunteering to save their community, but the problem was, city after city burned to the ground. He reminded us of the fires that completely destroyed New York and Chicago and other cities across the country. Berg asked for a show of hands of anyone who had ever watched a city they were living in burn down entirely. No one.

Why? Because the government solved the problem by developing a system of Fire Departments across the country and began paying trained professionals to run the show. The big bad horrible oppressive socialist government. It was a problem, and now its not.

Hunger could be the same. But not without the government stepping in. One out of every eight people living in the US live in food insecure homes, he said. One out of EIGHT.

Anyway, it was such a good talk and an important issue that I thought I should pass it along. His proposals could really solve a problem that I am pretty sure no one reading this blog has to worry about. He recommended we write our congressmen and thank them for their leadership and "gently push them" on this issue. Check out the NYCCAH website above and his personal website here.

On a side note, I got to talk to him for a few minutes while I was shooting him and he said he lives in Brooklyn, which is where I told him my brother lives. He asked where in Brooklyn and I said Williamsburg.

He said "Williamsburg, heh? So is he in a band or is he a designer?"

Ha.

It was a pleasure meeting you, Mr. Berg. Thanks for doing what you do.

I WIN.

So, basically my favorite writer is Donald Miller. He wrote Blue Like Jazz, Searching for God Knows What, To Own a Dragon, and Through Painted Deserts - all of which I have read and enjoyed thoroughly (which says a lot because I have only read 26 books in my entire life (post to come later).Anyway, Miller's new book "A Million Miles in a Thousand Years" comes out next month, but there were a few ways to get an early copy.

1. Sign up on the Thomas Nelson (publisher) website to be a book review blogger and then try to score one of the 250 books that would be pre-released at an unknown date for review (for free).

2. Find one of the hidden manuscripts that Don's friends were stashing all over the country.

3. Go to Michael Hyatt's blog (CEO of Thomas Nelson), read/watch his interviews with Don about the book, and score a free copy by submitting an awesome comment on the post.

I tried the first two, and failed.

On to number three: the instructions said that winners of the free books would be chosen based on who submitted the best and most creative comments. Mr. Hyatt would select the winners "based solely on [his] arbitrary and subjective evaluation of their comments." Here's what I wrote:

Comment

Then, yesterday, I got this:

AMillionMiles

I can't wait to read this book and I can't help but feel a little proud that the CEO of Thomas Nelson liked what I wrote.

I WIN.