I was recently nominated for The Booker award by Lorna at Lorna’s Voice. It’s always a little awkward for me to receive these nominations from bloggers like Lorna, who are eminently more qualified to write blogs than yours truly. But being the type who is perpetually needy for attention and recognition, I would never decline such a gracious gesture.
The Booker Award, generally considered for people who do a great deal of reading (and writing) is probably one of the most undeserved I have received. I am not the kind who constantly has a book in his hand. In fact, I tend to go a good while without picking up a book and then proceed to devour 2 or 3 books in a very short time span. I once read the protracted The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich in a couple of days when I was inexplicably assigned Naval Reserve duty on a destroyer that was in dry dock. Go figure. Anyway, I have long been addicted to these fits of reading. I finally joined a support group called Binge Readers Anonymous to try to deal with this. It starts out something like this: “Hi, my name is Al and I’m a binge reader.” We then recite the binge readers serenity prayer: “Lord, grant me the serenity to read just a few chapters at a time, the courage to actually use a bookmark, and the wisdom to not read War and Peace in one sitting.” You get the idea.
However, accepting this award means I have to tell you about the books I read, not my bizarre reading habits. It’s not an exaggeration to say that well over 90% of my reading is non-fiction. I know, you’re thinking that most novels are themselves based on real life experiences, so what’s the problem? Well, that requires me to differentiate the fact from the fiction. History was my favorite subject in school all the way through college and I want mine served to me on a silver platter. No period of U.S. history has escaped my list of good reads, with several on European history as well. The genre is pretty varied; biographies, inventions, military, crime, courtroom trials and major historical events, to name a few.
Another requirement of this honor is to name my 5 favorite books. That would be impossible to do, so I’m going to just tell you the last 5 books I’ve read. No, I didn’t read these all at one time, as my sponsor at the support group keeps very close tabs on me. Anyway, here they are: 1. Outrage by Vincent Bugliosi, about the O.J. Simpson trial. 2. Nothing Like it in the World by Stephen Ambrose, about the building of the Transcontinental Railroad. 3. Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand, about a famous Jewish track star who became a Japanese prisoner of war during WWII. 4. Another Day in the Frontal Lobe, by Katrina Firlik, a neurosurgeon who reveals various secrets of her trade and 5. In the Garden of the Beasts by Erik Larson, about the American Ambassador to Germany in the 1930’s as Hitler’s reign of terror begins, unaware that all the while his daughter is having affairs with assorted nefarious characters. My current read is A Magnificent Catastrophe about the tumultuous election of 1800.
I should take this opportunity to say a little more about Erik Larson, my favorite author. You might have read or heard about the book Devil in the White City. In it, Larson writes about the expansive and glamorous World’s Fair of 1893 in Chicago. It’s the quintessential example of his literary style. He takes an historical event, weaves a tale around it with delicious, fascinating fact and detail, and then adds a little syrup with a second storyline. This one’s about a serial killer that uses the Chicago fair as enticement to lure his victims. Larson does this with all his writings; Isaac’s Storm, about the devastating hurricane in Galveston, Texas in 1900, still the greatest natural disaster in this country’s history. He ties this in with establishment of the National Weather Service; and Thunderstruck, about a famous early 20th century murder by a doctor in England, which was one of the first crimes solved with the help of then modern technology, the wireless radio. DISCLAIMER: I received no stipend from Mr. Larson to act as a shill for his publications.
So there you have it. If you ever wondered about the reading habits of your semi-literate pal, Al, now you know. However, I do occasionally take time away from heavy reading to enjoy a good novel, as you can see below.