Reading List, December 2012: My Last (And Next) Five Books

It’s been way too long since my last Five Books list. But it’s been a crazy-busy last few months, and for a while there my reading seemed to have just fallen off a cliff. But hopefully I’m back on track now. So herewith, are the last five books I’ve read, and a semi-wild guess at the next five.

The Submission1) The Submission, by Amy Waldman. I wrote about this book here, and I still feel it’s one of the best novels I’ve read recently. The story involves a selection jury for a memorial to go at Ground Zero on lower Manhattan.The entry process is anonymous, and the winner turns out to be Muslim. The resulting uproar will be all too familiar if you look back at the “Ground Zero Mosque” flap from a couple of years ago.

After The Submission, things got a little scrambled. I had several books going at a time for a while there, and it seemed like I wouldn’t get through any of them. I finished one, but then the Summer Olympics happened, an election happened, and my reading stalled. Once October rolled around, I was able to get back on track and finish some books. Here they are, in the order I completed them.

the-greatest-prayer-crossan2) The Greatest Prayer by John Dominic Crossan. This probably isn’t one I  would have chosen on my own, but it was selected by our minister for a Vacation Bible School summer reading study.

The “greatest prayer” refers to the Lord’s Prayer, and the book dissects the prayer, line by line, to examine the meaning of the individual sections as well as the prayer as a whole.  The book’s prologue calls it “a radical manifesto and a hymn of hope for all humanity in language addressed to all the earth.”

That sums it up pretty well, I think.

Anyway, it was an interesting read and an enlightening discussion.

divine providence3) Divine Providence by Charles Camillo. It has nothing to do with religion, but everything to do with the flood of 2011, and the Corps of Engineers’ and Mississippi River Commission’s multi-layered efforts to fight it. Camillo works for the Mississippi Valley Division of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The division and the commission had to fight the flood from Cairo, Ill., down to the mouth at the Gulf of Mexico, and it was a harrowing battle  in each location as the record-setting crest moved downstream. For the first time in history, the Corps had three floodways operating at once—Bird’s Point in Missouri and Morganza and Bonnet Carré in Louisiana. In the end, the Corps won, but just barely.

whoIam4) Who I Am by Pete Townshend. This is one I looked forward to from the moment I first heard he was writing it. I bought it for my iPad on the day it was released, and jumped right in.

Pete Townshend, if you don’t know by now, is the guitarist and songwriter for The Who, and one of the intellectual leaders of rock music — throughout the Who’s long career, he wrote a number of commentaries, including a regular column in Melody Maker magazine and several memorable articles in Rolling Stone, among others.

In this book, he goes lays it all out, back to his childhood, his very early musical influences, the growth of the Who, the creation of Tommy, Who’s Next, Quadrophenia and their other albums, and his life during what I consider the post-Who period—although he and Roger Daltrey are actually still going strong, as evidenced by last week’s 12-12-12 concert.

As I figured I would, I loved this book. There were a lot of great surprises in it for me. But I don’t really want to go into those, because there are some important people who I know haven’t read it yet. So here are a couple of things I didn’t like about it: way too much information about his affairs and the dissolution of his marriage, and too many details about his various studio setups, particularly in recent years (I’m not a audio tech geek; he obviously is). But you can put up with those things; if you’re a Who fan, it makes a great read.


5) The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd. This is actually one of the books I had started way back in June. but events got in the way. We had this in the house, and my friend Anne said it would be a great follow-up after reading To Kill A Mockingbird, so I jumped in. She was right, and it was a great book. After starting it and being unable to continue at the time, I started again from the beginning in November, and sped through it.

I did enjoy the book, and it was indeed a worthy successor to Mockingbird, although Harper Lee’s novel remains the best book I’ve read this year, and maybe ever.


Along the way, over the course of these last five books, I’ve been moonlighting with some other books, as well. There were the two audiobooks I listened to during a driving trip to Little Rock, Ark.

And I also undertook another project: I read the four gospels of the New Testament. Once or twice when I was younger, I set out to read the Bible, but I started with the Old Testament. But, as I’m sure many others did before me, I got bogged down in the begats and gave up on it. Starting with the New Testament felt much more “contemporary,” since that’s the stuff we talk about in church all the time. Contemporary goes in quotes because I was reading the King James version. As I move forward from there, I think I’ll switch over to a more modern translation (although I did enjoy the use of the verb “stinketh” in John 11). And yes, I will move forward, with Acts and on through the New Testament, and then on back to the Old Testament, unless someone wants to suggest a better plan. I’m open to suggestions of a direction to go from here, either in terms of a reading plan or for a favorite translation.


And now, I will hazard a guess at the next five books I’ll be reading:

•   Farther Away, by Jonathan Franzen. I’m already about halfway through this book of essays and speeches … some great stuff so far.

•   A Christmas Carol, by Charles Dickens. My annual rereading of the classic Christmas story.

•   The Preacher King: Martin Luther King and The Word That Moved America. A Kindle bargain book a few months ago; I’m looking forward to diving in.

•   A Month of Sundays, by John Updike. Another reread; it’s been a couple of decades since I last read this one, and some of my views have evolved a little in that time.

•   Stan Musial: An American Life, by George Vecsey. It’s been on my list for a year and a half now; this time I’m going to do it.


Previous Five-Books lists:

List: My Last—And Next—Five Books

Reading List: January 2012

Reading List, May 2012: My Last—And Next—Five Books

Who’s Next

The story behind this album cover is supposedly that The Who had asked Stanley Kubrick to direct the movie version of their album Tommy. Kubrick declined; in response, they pissed on this concrete monolith, a reference to his film 2001: A Space Odyssey.

A good portion of my summer vacation in 1971 was spent trailing my two older brothers and cousin around Brainerd, Minn., visiting every record store and head shop in hopes of finding the new album by The Who. My cousin had just seen them in concert at the Mississippi River Festival, and “obsessed” is not too strong a word to describe his quest to find the record. That show at MRF lives on in St. Louis lore as one of the best …Keep reading

List: Top 5ive Albums Of The 1980s

Everyone loves lists, right? Well then, here comes a list: the best albums of the 1980s.

Any such “Top” list having to do with music is going to be controversial, of course. But this one may be less so than others, at least for me. These five albums simply stand out from all the rest. These were some of the strongest efforts by their creators, and helped shape both my life and the music business in general during that decade and for years thereafter. There are going to be other lists in Shoulblog in the future, some music-related, but I wanted to start with this one because it is, in fact, the most cut-and-dried.

Even though this exercise seems pretty …Keep reading

April 28, 1980: The Who At The Checkerdome

Note: This is the third of a three-part “mini-series” of posts. The first two parts are here and here, but if you’d like you can start right in with this one.

The St. Louis Who concert announcement may have been the worst-kept secret in the world. By the time they actually went public, in about February or early March of 1980, rumors had been circulating for days or weeks, so I pretty well knew what to expect, and I was ready to pounce. The details: tickets would be sold by mail order only, with a cashier’s check or money order sent to a post office box, first come, first served, yada yada. At $11 each, they were the most expensive concert tickets I’d ever bought. AND, there was a service charge on EACH ticket of a WHOLE DOLLAR. But it was the WHO; well worth the price. I had a … Keep reading …

Why Should I Care If I Have To Cut My Hair?

“I’ve got to move with the fashions, or be outcast…”

The story of our WHO weekend in 1980 continues. Episode 1 is here.

After our adventure in Columbia, Geoff and I rode the bus back to St. Louis on Monday, arriving mid-afternoon at the downtown bus station. I showed him around a bit; I think it was his first visit to the city, other than trips in and out of the airport. I still remember his question: “Where are all the people?” Yes, St. Louis in mid-afternoon is a ghost town compared to NYC, but hey, it’s home.

We got a ride home from my dad, going home on highway 40, which took us past the Checkerdome, with the marquee: “The WHO – Sold Out” We’d be back there in a few hours, and … Keep reading …