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Kurt Vonnegut is one of my favorite writers and this biography does a great job of tearing down the myth of Vonnegut and tells the story of a deeply flawed yet brilliant man. There’s a lot to be learned about Vonnegut’s process as well as the years of nose-to-the-grindstone hard work he had to get through to be not only published but respected as a writer. If you’re a fan of Vonnegut or know a Vonnegut fan, this should be at the top of your reading list.
This book by Jeff Ryan illuminates Nintendo’s path to dominance. Nintendo had been a trading card company since the 1800s, but were stuck in obscurity and financial dire straits. They even experimented with Love Motels (cheap rooms that could be rented by the hour for the purposes of, well, love). That business model failed. Now Super Mario is more recognizable and ubiquitous than Mickey Mouse. This chronological narrative of Nintendo is a quick read and illuminates the path to dominance in the once stagnant world of home video games.
"Console Wars is thoroughly engrossing. It’s a classic David versus Goliath tale that tells the inside baseball of the 16-bit wars between Sega (David) and Nintendo (Goliath). Told mainly through Sega’s perspective, readers learn the absurd amount of competition in the resurgence of the home console market of the 90s. It’s also a tale of American style business versus Japanese style business and the cultural prejudices that were prevalent throughout the time. This book is amazingly told, well researched, and written well. A reader can easily consume 200 pages without noticing the time go by at all. I was bred on the Sonic vs. Mario war and always chose Sonic. Sonic’s origin story is particularly interesting because of the culture clash between his Japanese designers and the American marketers. Every battle was hard fought for Sega of America but they usually won to stunning results. It’s a great read and I highly recommend it.”
“By 1986, Reagan was growing tired of trying to make diplomatic ties with an aging Soviet leadership. He was no spring chicken himself, but when compared to the Soviet leadership, he was a vibrant leader. That’s why when Gorbachev became Secretary General of the Soviet Union’s Communist Party, many in the West became excited. Gorbachev was young compared to his predecessors and recognized that the Soviet Union could not go on competing in the nuclear arms race with the United States without going bankrupt, and was desperate for reform. Adelman, who was in Reykjavik for this historic meeting, expertly narrates the inside baseball of what was going on between the two parties. It’s important to consider the source when reading a book like this and although Adelman is a Reagan man through and through, his portraits of the Soviets is fair and balanced. He paints no one as a bogeyman. It was surprising to me that this book was a good, if biased, analysis of Reykjavik since I come nowhere close to Reagan’s politics. Regardless of your political affiliations, it’s good to get more than one narrative of a person, or of a leader, or event and this book is actually a fair interpretation of the summit."
“Colson Whitehead’s latest, The Noble Hustle, is the darkly humorous tale of him joining the World Series of Poker (WSOP) after a lifetime of playing $5 buy in games with friends. Poker fans will love this book; it’s a great rundown of all the subcultures that are involved in tournament play from the old timers to the internet trained robotic kids. Non-poker fans will love it for the same reasons. Whitehead is not himself a huge poker person and the unfolding of his story is a joy to read. It’s hilarious, it’s insightful, and it’s written with beautiful prose. I highly recommend this to anyone with even the slightest interest in poker.”
“Earth Wind and Fire. Oh, hell yes.”
“The title really says it all.”
This petite 15th anniversary hardcover reissue keeps all the original mystery and presents scores of delightful and inspiring photographs of people and cats engaging in their favorite dance routines as well as moving testimonies of the personal transformations brought about through this uniquely joyous form of human-animal connection.
Owen Egerton is one of the best writers operating today and, holy cow, he’s an Austinite. Each story in this collection is a gem. They are funny, often absurd with dark turns, and as a whole collection, extremely satisfying. Throughout each of Egerton’s books, I’ve noticed a strong Vonnegut feel, but after reading How Best to Avoid Dying he’s also quite in line with George Saunders. But don’t let those comparisons fool you, Egerton is a unique voice all his own.
“This book has been my white whale for years now. And, finally, at 28 years of age, I’m ready to harpoon this sucker. It’s pretty awesome. You hear so many things about how great & classic this book is supposed to be, so you get intimidated by it. But, it is an awesome, totally weird book that’s completely relatable.”
“It’s funny. It’s insightful. I loved it and I learned so much about the process of making TV. It’s chaotic, and there is absolutely no formula to success. Live From New York is not a narrative, but it’s a bunch of interviews with the actors, writers and hosts of Saturday Night Live. It tells the fantastic stories of SNL. My favorite parts are about Chris Farley, his life and death. It’s insightful, but it’s also just so incredibly sad. They describe him as a “man boy,” which sounds like it should be a joke, but it’s actually pretty depressing. His inspiration was John Belushi, but Farley never felt like he was able to live up to Belushi’s legend. While everyone around him loved and adored him, he fell into a dark hole of drugs and alcohol to ease the pain of feeling like he never measured up. Chris Farley was my fist real favorite SNL cast member, so it’s great to get this perspective on him.”
Difficult Men by Brett Martin is a great exploration of TV’s Third Golden Age, as it’s come to be known. On the cover is Tony Soprano and Walter White so the reader would be easily tricked into thinking that the book is about the anti-hero that dominates current TV. It is actually about the men who created these characters.
“Besides Strunk & White’s Elements of Style, this is really the only other book on writing that a writer needs. Not only are you sure of Stephen King’s legitimacy on the subject unlike so many other books on writing, but his account is extremely readable with anecdotal stories of struggle and success and enough practical advice to keep you going. He pulls no punches but also spares no encouragement. Reading On Writing is a rewarding endeavor that gives practical advice on writing without being overly technical and stodgy-sounding. Stephen King is a master of the craft. Whether or not you are a fan of King’s, if you’re a writer you owe it to yourself to read I.”