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Archive for the ‘Books Read’ Category

Good Sunday afternoon to all the people out there. By out there I mean those who may just happen to stumble across this blog, be it your Google reader, CSS feed, or somehow mysteriously wound up here while trying to find the “Western Wind” a cappella music group, who has been bringing high quality non-instrumental music your way since 1969.

If you are here to read my musings on life, music, running and school teaching, then you have indeed come to the right place.

Since I last wrote on July 7th, the school year has begun and life is once again filled with grading papers, catching up on emails, and various meetings throughout the week. I hate to say it, but by Friday evening of each week I am usually in bed by 9:30, with barely enough energy to read two pages of whatever novel I may be working on at the time.

So I have decided to try my best and give a quick update on all that has happened over the past couple of months in short little bullet points of information.

  • My girlfriend and I went to Cancun, I drank way to much water there and got sick on my return home, thus causing me to miss the Bon Iver show at the Ryman.
  • I read all the Hunger game series, book two was my favorite.
  • The have watched all the Titan’s games so far this year and have been impressed. As I say that, they are getting killed by Pittsburgh right now!
  • I watched both seasons of Twin Peaks this summer, and I thought it was AWESOME!
  • Like I said before, the school year has begun, but I am really excited about it and love every single one of my classes. I now know each of the students names, although I have yet to come up with any great nicknames so far.
  • My girlfriend and I celebrated our 1 year anniversary. Part of the celebration was acknowledging our relationship via facebook.
  • Finally I have begun assisting in coaching the middle school boys’ soccer team. Sure it take more time out of my day, but I am happy to lend a helping hand and spend my afternoons out in the beautiful Fall weather.

So that is about it. I leave you with a little film footage I shot of birds flying at sunset yesterday in downtown Nashville. My girlfriend and I had just visited with her cousins, in town for a concert the night before. The song is “A Short Reprise…” by Sufjan Stevens

I hope to not be a stranger to this post for so long in the future.

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How do I know if a book is good, well for me it’s pretty simple. What I am searching for when I read is a story is something that captures me and forces me to think about it all the time. My imagination runs pretty full on its own, so for someone else to come in and force me to think about their ideas and their creations, well to me that is in essence the beauty of storytelling.

So far this year I have read some interesting books, a really good issue of the Oxford American, and some short stories here and there, but nothing really hooked me. Perhaps it is my own fault, maybe my mind frame is causing me not to delve into these books that have been sitting on my shelf for far too long. Over the past 3 or 4 years I have consistently moved from book to book, sometimes while reading more than one at a time, but that is just not the case in 2010. Well, that is until recently.

After reading a superbly written article on all that was the TV show “The Jersey Shore,” in Rolling Stone this last winter, the author of said article, Rob Sheffield, caught my attention. After reading a couple more of his pieces I ended up purchasing his book Love is a Mix Tape on Amazon, and stored it away with the rest of my unread books for the year. I finally picked up the book about a week ago, and finished it last night.

Without giving too much away, I will just tell you that fellow music writer Chuck Klosterman perfectly sums up the book when he said, “Love is a Mix Tape is happiest, saddest, greatest book about Rock N Roll that I have ever experienced.” To me the book was funny, well written, and thought provoking throughout each chapter, and sometimes all within the same page. And yes there is some heart break in there too, and not the funny/romantic comedy type.

In the end, Love is a Mix Tape proves to me something that I have always sort of thought anyways, that making a great mixed tape (or now mixed CD) truly is an art form. Sure it may never be put up in galleries (although Sunday Bloody Mundy’s 2009 “Best of Mix” should be!), but I truly believe that the pursuits behind making these collections of our musical selfs is just as creative. So read this book, compile a new mix for someone, and take the opportunity to try and make it that perfect mixed CD with a strong opening and killer closer.

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Much like my friend Graham Stoner , I hate being sick. I hate the constant nasal drip, the ensuing cough, the sleepless nights (even after taking Nyquil), the crazy Nyquil dreams when I do fall asleep, the constant feeling that my brain has been replaced by cotton candy, and so on. But probably the worst part, for me anyway, is that I tend to become a bit of an ornery cuss. I prefer to isolate myself back in my room, only coming out to take more medicine and refill my glass of orange juice.

In a sense, I become a true hermit, and I basically force myself to really get an understanding of what it feels like to live without any communication with others. Here is what I have discovered though, in the end it may not be the best idea. Sure I finished a book that I had been putting off for two weeks, I watched an interesting 80’s film called The Razor’s Edge, and I finally caught up on all the sleep that I have been forgoing the past month. But all that aside, I missed the human interaction to which I have grown so accustomed.

Over the weekend my brother and I also watched a 4 hour documentary called “Running Down a Dream,” which chronicled the life and times of Tom Petty. First off, I was little surprised that Tom Petty’s life would need 4 hours to encapsulate, but truthfully it was very fascinating. Not only has Petty created over 25 songs that so many people can belt out any time they come on the radio, I had no idea how much influence he has truly had on music throughout the past 30 years. The best part of the 4 hours though came from Heartbreaker’s keyboardist Benmont Tench, who said that his philosophy behind making music was always “Make it matter.”

Such a simple statement, but something that I think needs to constantly be reawakened in my own brain from time to time. It is extremely easy to fall into a life pattern of going through the motions. I am going to try my best to carry that quote around with me for a little while, trying my best to remember to make my actions matter. That is right after I fully get through with this cold.

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Top 5 Books of 2009

As I closed the book to the 40th book I read in 2009 (the list of which can be seen on my books read page tab above), a number of thoughts ran through my brain. One was that I was pretty proud of myself for having pushed myself farther than I ever had in my pursuit to read 52 books in a year. On the same accord, however, I remember that I read a good many of those books when I was unemployed and it was so cold outside that I did not want to remove myself from the warm shelter of blankets that I had created. Another thought is that even though this was the largest amount of books that I read in a year, it was also some of the worst books that I read. There are some books in here that I have a hard time remembering exactly what the point of the plot was even about, and to my own surprise 4 out of 5 of my favorites reads this last year came from the world on non-fiction. 

          There was not a classic piece of literature that stands out as being exceptional, and probably the strangest thing I read (and I can’t even remember why I read it) was a biography on President Martin Van Buren, who was the U.S.’s 8th President. I am happy that I read an entire book of poetry this year, a first for me, and I plan to make that a continued practice each year. Through historical books I learned of the unbelievable horrors that occurred in the Balkans in the 1990’s and the changes in education at the turn of the industrial revolution, through short stories I witnessed better ways to add humor to characters and how to scare an audience from the first paragraph, and through memoirs I saw two prime examples of what can really work to make you laugh and what can work to make life seem unbearable. 

          But in the end, I finish my best year of reading with both happiness and regret. The happiness comes from achieving a new level in my over all goal. I can easily say that reading is my favorite pass time, and something that I know I will do throughout my entire life. The regret comes from a lack of effort on my part to enter my own work into the realms of the literature world. So without further adieu, here is my list of five best books that I read in 2009.

 

The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson (the most interesting)

A Million Miles and A Thousand Years by Donald Miller (the most inspirational)

I’m Down by Mishna Wolff (the funniest)

The Most They Ever Had by Rick Bragg (the hardest to come to terms with)

The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman (the best piece of fiction I read all year)

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