Good Books Lately

Been on a travel jag lately.  It may get old, but it also provides blocks of time for reading that don’t seem to present themselves at any other time.  (At least, not for me)

So, in answer to the time-honored conversation starter, “Yes… I have read some good books lately.”  Here’s five of them.

At risk of understatement, I was blown away by Lawrence Wright’s Going Clear – Scientology, Hollywood, & The Prison of Belief (Vintage Books, 2013).  Wright’s scholarly, carefully researched approach stopped me in my tracks.  The New York Times Book Review observed, “Lawrence Wright bends over backwards to be fair to Scientology… This makes the book’s indictment that much more powerful.”  I came away thinking, even if Wright is exaggerating to the point where only a tenth of his facts and assertions are true, the whole thing is deeply troubling.  Haven’t seen the HBO documentary on the book.  Look forward to it.

Like most of America, I loved The Girl on the Train (Riverhead Books, 2015) by Paula Hawkins.  I inhaled the whole thing on the flight from Boston to San Francisco.  (And I’d classify myself as a slow reader.)  I would not have thought that a compelling story could result from, well, a girl on a train, but this one had me from start to finish.

Anthony Doerr’s All the Light We Cannot See (Scribner, 2014) is a powerful story.  Barnes & Nobles summarizes it simply enough as “the story of a blind French girl and a German boy whose paths collide in occupied France as both try to survive the devastation of World War II.”  Through the lens of an obscure story about that war, it shows both the troubling and encouraging sides of human interactions.

I was also able to add to my growing collection of books on music and musicians.  At the top of the list is Brian Sweet’s Steely Dan – Reelin In The Years (Omnibus Press, 2008).  Perhaps due to their steadfast commitment to extreme enigmatic privacy, there’s not a lot of stuff written about the dynamic duo of Donald Fagen and Walter Becker.  Here you have guys schooled in jazz chops who almost reluctantly got into rock and roll.  Furthermore, they’re far more into orchestrating music than performing it.  (I was surprised to learn that they don’t even play on some of their biggest songs!)  I would call Donald Fagen the Duke Ellington of Rock.  Even Donald might like that.

And finally, I got totally sucked into I Want to Take You Higher: The Life and Times of Sly and the Family Stone (Backbeat Books, 2008) by Jeff Kaliss.  I’ve been a Sly fan since high school. (True Confessions: My Hyde yearbook quote was from one of his songs.)  Strange dude, for sure, but he’s truly timeless.  Songs like “Everyday People” and “Hot Fun In The Summertime” will never die.

Onward,  Malcolm Gauld