Category Archives: book binge

gift guide: books for dudes

Men, guys, boys—whatever you want to call them—are notoriously difficult to shop for. It’s not that they’re fussy, but perhaps they’re just not as vocal, as the average female is, about what they want. While I fully intend on compiling a proper gift guide, let’s start with a no-fail option: books. Most people like to read so they can keep their mind sharp, for the sheer pleasure of it, or just to sound smarter in conversations. Here are a few of my favorite man-friendly picks from the last year:

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SAVAGE HARVEST by Carl Hoffman // Intrepid journalist Hoffman lived amongst the Asmat tribe and researched tirelessly to unearth the largely speculated circumstances of Michael C. Rockefeller’s 1961 disappearance.

AUTO BIOGRAPHY by Earl Swift // One 1957 Chevy and thirteen different owners paints an unparalleled portrait of Americana and spotlights the unique relationships we share with our cars.

SAS SURVIVAL HANDBOOK by John “Lofty” Wiseman // For the seasoned outdoorsman to the novice urbanite, tips on how to tie an array of knots, combat phishing scams, and bodily protection are covered in this third and updated classic.

YOU CAN’T MAKE THIS UP by Al Michaels // Dad’s like sports, and most dad’s fondly remember Michael’s distinguished career and the games he commentated on. If you give your dad this, you must say, “Do you believe in miracles?” and watch him tear up.

THE RETURN OF GEORGE WASHINGTON by Edward Larson // What guy doesn’t like George Washington? Probably the most fondly remembered American president, Washington lead a pedestrian life at Mount Vernon from 1783-1789. With exacting research, Larson discusses what key actions took place during this forgotten era.

10% HAPPIER by Dan Harris // Through his compelling personal narrative, TV anchor Harris demystifies mindfulness meditation and makes it applicable for each individual, more specifically, for the skeptics.

Like Mother, Like Daughter

The other day, I chatted with my mom about one of life’s most important questions: why coffee and books? As someone who is definitely a proponent of this pairing, it’s still one that I question every so often. And who better to discuss with the my mom? If you didn’t know it before, I think this clip is proof that we can, in fact, talk about anything!

See my mom’s version here! She’s the fair bookmother and does lots of cool things I can only dream of!

palate cleanser book

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Have you ever read a book so amazing, so knee-weakening, so poignant, that the thought of reading something else made you sick to your stomach? Okay, so maybe that’s a little dramatic, but I think we all know the feeling, if only in the casual sense. Over the summer, I read a handful of books that left me heartbroken when considering what to pick up next. I had a few dramatic conversations with my mom about this matter, at which point, she convinced me that I’d be just fine. But how could I be? These books were as real to me as the people I push out of my path in front of Fairway and my annoying neighbors, with the dog they’re “training.” Oddly (or lucky) enough, I read several of these books in succession, so there was really no suffering on my part. Maybe a little bit of unnecessary agony, but definitely no suffering. That’s when I picked up Giovanni’s Room by James Baldwin. Consider myself screwed. Perhaps one of the most delicate, concise, engaging stories fraught with emotion I’ve ever read. I’m sure you know where this is headed… The next book I picked up, which will remain unnamed that is, unless you ask me for it, was one that I was really jazzed about. It’s got a “smart” cover, a “smart” title, comes with handfuls of recommendations from “smart” people, and has been nominated for many fancy and prestigious awards. After reading roughly 98 pages, I took stock and couldn’t believe that I was nearly 1/3 of the way through. Hardly anything had happened and I didn’t care about any of the characters. In the spirit of staying true to my “50 Pages Rule,” I decided to put the book down. This, in turn, got me thinking. Do we ever read books we know aren’t that amazing in order to start over? To cleanse our palates, in a sense. In adding to this definition, I’d also like to put forth that sometimes, in the midst of reading something, we might realize that we’re engaging with a rebooter, though that’s not what we initially suspected. And you know the type, a book that is fine, but not great. You’d probably out it on the freebie pile at a garage sale or donate to book collection. This definitely isn’t the type of book to sit on your bookshelf, though you might recommend it to a friend looking for a “fun read.” This is the kind of book you’ll probably see at Hudson News nationwide, whether you’re waiting at Penn Station, or have nothing to do at TF Greene airport (ps. no one ever does). You’re not overly invested in the characters and could probably down this sucker in two days. Sometimes I find that binging on blogs or magazines can also help clear my mind. Of course I end up with an ever-growing wishlist, but at least I’ll know what to read next! While these kinds of books may not be kick starters for everyone, for some of us, that’s exactly what they are—a sparring partner, warming up with three bats, only to drop two of them. I’m definitely curious to know if I’m alone in this, or if anyone knows the feeling…

*ps. this photo depicts when my stacks were bite sized*

bookplates: in the course of human events

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I was a little surprised with myself when I picked up Mike Harvkey’s April release, In the Course of Human Events. The cover depicts a fist, bruised and encrusted in dried blood–in a word, it looks like a total dude book. *insert conversation about  marketing to gender stereotypes here* But my interest was definitely piqued and as someone who considers herself a varied reader, I picked it up. Luckily. As the first book I read this summer (okay, late spring), I knew that I was off to a really great start. Following the downward spiral of our antihero Clyde Twitty, who I found kind of lovable, Harvkey illuminates the Midwest’s rampant radicalism, which emerged amidst a desperate time. I simply couldn’t ask for anything else from this debut–a razor sharp social commentary written in the keen tone of a seasoned writer. Some parts of the novel made me cringe, which is something anyone who’s read the book can agree with, and that’s a great thing. How real does a book have to be to make the reader feel those feelings? Really real. In the Course of Human Events is so truthful, it will make all other debuts cry, wishing they were this good.

This look is very loosely based on In the Course of Human Events, only in so far as, the grit of the spot where my mom and I shot was evocative of the story’s setting and what’s more middle America than a denim jacket? Nothing. Okay, maybe rock t-shirts, but that’s it.

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*to those new to the blog, or for those who just need a refresher, bookplates is a series where i create ensembles inspired by the books i’m discussing. sometimes it’s an element of a look or something silly from the story, but is, nonetheless, reflected in what i’m wearing. enjoy!*

Lesson Learned

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My mom, who loves me dearly (right, mom?) has, on occasion, “joked” that I’m a bit of a snobby reader. She says that I like “smart” books, you know, the ones with “smart” covers—no jpegs, maybe text only, possible pearlized, and definitely a title that’s hard to remember. While I’m sure the two of us with discuss this later, for the time being, she can’t argue with what I just said, so here I go… Over the summer I tore through my mom’s books like a rabid animal. To classify my actions as tossing would be putting it lightly. Books were flying. I think I even threw a few so hard that they scuffed the wall and my mom may have ducked from time to time. But what can I say? I am an emphatic person who is very in touch with their emotions.

Many of these victims were books I knew she’d either never get to or would take her a while to get around to, but primarily, they were titles that I thought she was too good for. This is snobbish, and I realize that now. Though I told my mom that I just wanted what was best for her, really, I was inflicting my own measure of what a good book is, in a way that could possibly be viewed as judgmental. Sorry mom. The plots all started to sound the same and I suspected that many of them weren’t that well-written: Guy leaves girl or guy dies. Girl needs to start again but does so begrudgingly, with numerous trials along the way, all of which she’ll eventually surmount. Girl and guy end up together. End of story, nice and neatly wrapped up. Again, I apologize for this. Who am I to say if a book sounds repetitive? If this is what you want to read, then that’s what you should read. I love a good female friendship book, when it’s well-written and intelligent. Heck, I’ll read nearly anything if it’s got guts and stylistic interest.

Part of why I was so fervent about these proceedings was because I know that my mom, too, reads a variety of plotlines. I had also recently given her a stack of really awesome books and I couldn’t stand to watch her read a subpar book when I knew what was waiting for her. Again, this is subpar as I define it, sorry. Our clearing house actually spanned two visits and now I think my mom is on a good path. I made her a suggested pile of what to read next and she seemed to accept most of it. While this process was as much about helping her best manage her reading, it also ended up being about teaching me tolerance and understanding. At the risk of sounding dramatic, I really did learn a lot about myself by weeding through my mom’s books, and I didn’t really like what I saw. Here’s to a lesson in peace, love, and understanding!