“I’m not a book guy so I can’t say I’ve heard of it.”
That was a text sent to me, in reply to my “I’m reading in bed” and “Augusten Burroughs ‘This is How'” [at 9pm on a Tuesday]. I wasn’t a book guy either, or hadn’t been for quite some time, until I discovered an underrated genre called nonfiction.
I find fiction challenging. If the stories and tales take time to build momentum, my stamina and tolerance wanes.
Being a member of the millennial generation, it shouldn’t surprise anyone that for all the fiction I don’t read, there are blogs, magazines, and digital news clips I devour with zest. I attribute this to a technology-driven shortened attention span.
After some recent book referrals and gifts, and out of a concerted effort to diversify, I have eased back into my reading eyes and haven’t looked back. A-D-D be damned.
Watching movies and recent travels have spurred additional book purchases, as ways to better absorb a time in history, or city’s distinct character.
I thought I would summarize each one I’ve read recently…
The Life You Were Born To Live by Dan Millman
This instruction manual cum self-help guide instructs in the process and practice of calculating life path numbers, which are unique to each person’s birth date.
Each numeral of your life path number has a significant theme, which can vary in intensity based on where they fall in your multi-numeral number.
Mine is 31/4, which means…I am here “to work through issues of stability, creativity, and emotional expression, learning to channel my energy in constructive ways and to master a step-by-step process to my goals.”
The book goes through all the potential number combinations, and gives context to each numeral operating in either the positive or negative. For instance, my number includes 3, 1, and 4: 1s make the best addicts OR creative artists, 3s make the best manic-depressives OR orators, and 4s make the best vacillators OR analysts.
There is a lot of fascinating information in the book, which I think you have to be open to accept if it is to have any impact on your perspective. Dan Millman is an accomplished professor with a resume that includes Oberlin College, UC Berkeley, and Stanford, so his work should not be marginalized.
Miami: Mistress of the Americas by Jan Nijman
After visiting South Florida, and watching Scarface, I felt the necessity to read up on this fascinating global city, virtually in my backyard.
This book is a sort of high-level history of the city and its inhabitants through the years. It goes into detail on the political drama that brought Miami to the forefront at the end of the previous century. It also makes predictions about where Miami is headed.
Quick, informative read if you’re curious about how South Florida in general has evolved over time.
The Cocaine Wars by Paul Eddy, Hugo Sabado, and Sara Walden
This book follows the lives of several key players in the Miami drug business from the mid-70s to late 1980s. It gives equal airtime to the dealers and smugglers as it does to those in law enforcement during that time, who struggled to control drug use and distribution while avoiding the temptation to join in on the action.
There was a serious corruption problem in Miami during that time, and this book dissects many of those cases in detail.
I was less interested in the bits about the Bahamas and its inhabitants, who had an impact on Miami’s drug scene in that the island nation was a integral distribution layover point.
Miami Babylon by Gerald Posner
Unlike the previous two literary pieces, Babylon focuses exclusively on the creation, development, and happenings of Miami Beach. It is a distinct community, separated by water and mindset, from the City of Miami and its environs.
Much of the island’s urban history is dominated by wealthy entrepreneurs from the Midwest, like Carl Fisher, who helped set its layout, dictate architectural styles and standards, and exclude certain ethnic and religious groups until the 1960s.
Sometime in the 70s and 80s, the Beach became more demographically balanced, while losing its appeal with snowbirds and falling into disrepair. Many of South Beach’s residents were older, poor Jews and recent Cuban immigrants, including Marielitos.
It was also a battleground for preservationist activism, led by visionaries who saw the value of Art Deco.
Thereafter and through recent times, it became the poster city for European tourism and investment, night clubs, celebrities, and LGBT activism.
Gerald Posner lived the Miami Beach life for some time, and still extensively researched and interviewed to create Babylon’s encyclopedic timeline of events and scandals. I loved it!
Uptown/Downtown: Growing Up in New Orleans by Elsie Martinez and Margaret LeCorgne
After visiting New Orleans for the second time, I felt the urge to delve in, as it is quickly becoming one of my perennial favorites.*
Uptown/Downtown is a truly captivating tale of two women’s adolescent memories of living and growing up in the city, mostly in the 1930s and 1940s. Their stories are charming, their writing graceful and full-bodied. Life in the Crescent City at that time sounds wonderfully rich in culture and activities, the way many people prefer the city still was, I’d bet.
It is obviously a pre-Katrina depiction, one that I think anyone who loves NOLA should read. Especially readers my age. It paints an entirely different picture, and it makes me want to meet the two authors so I can ask a bunch of questions.
It was also a much-needed escape from modern problems, devices, and perspectives. How wonderful (and a novelty!) that people in that time saw no issue in walking nearly three miles to get to a park, or to the public pool. Not because they didn’t own a car, but why drive when you can easily walk?
*not a distinction I take lightly
This is How by Augusten Burroughs
I haven’t read more than three chapters of this book, but I like what I’ve absorbed. Hannah sent this book to me, and my mother, per our current shit life situation.
Burroughs uses his signature self-deprecating, witty, intelligent style to convey concepts I would say are akin to those in The Life You Were Born to Live. Chapters are titled things like “How to be fat” and “How to make yourself uncomfortable.”
I’ve written similar dictates about how learning to deal with awkwardness and being uncomfortable makes you a more resilient person. Burroughs and I are of the same mind on many matters.
It sounds comedic, but offers far more practical, tough-love advice to the reader. Looking forward to burning through the rest!
Thanks for the Feedback by Douglas Stone & Sheila Heen
I picked this up at the Oxford Exchange book sale a while back. I love giving constructive criticism, and have long been fascinated by the mechanism of feedback. How to deliver it, how to accept it, and how to take negative and turn it positive.
I haven’t even cracked the cover, but I intend to.
Parisian Gentleman (blog)
Not a book. But such good reading. It’s written out of a love of quality suiting and sartorial principles. Lacking pretension, to my surprise.