Books I Read This Month (Nov./Dec.2021)

Dragonball- Akira Toriyama
How Money Got Free: Bitcoin & the Future of Finance
Concrete Revolutio (Complete Saga) – Bones & Nylon
Watchmen – Alan Moore & Dave Gibbons
The Divine Spark: Psychedelics, Consciousness, and the Birth of Civilization – Graham Hancock et al.
The Legend of Grimjack (Vol. 2) – Ostrander & Truman
Judgment Day – Alan Moore
Hate Inc. – Matt Taibbi
Beyond Order: 12 More Rules for Life – Jordan Peterson
The Real Anthony Fauci: Bill Gates, Big Pharma, & the Global War on Democracy and Public Health – Robert F. Kennedy Jr.
Inventing English: A Portable History of the Language – Seth Lerer
Chinese Script: History, Characters, Calligraphy – Thomas Hollman

I almost retired this column…not because I no longer wanted to write it but because I neglected reading any books. For a month or two, I mostly read newspapers and magazines, a few books here and there, and spent a lot of time playing games on my tablet and jamming out to Kacey Musgraves during my daily walks. But theres only so much mindless entertainment I can consume before I feel my brain literally rotting….

Nothing screams “I havent got pussy in years” than willingly reading manga, which are Japanese comics read from right to left. “Dragonball” was enteraining, much like the tv show, except surprisingly racy. (Bulma is kinda slutty.) “Concrete Revolution” is also a hit anime show about a secret government task force made up of witches, aliens, and other superheros set in Tokyo. Worth reading.

“How Money Got Free” traces the history of Bitcoin, focussing on its transition from underground internet money to mainstream adoption. MT. Gox, Bitpay, and Blockchain (the wallet app) are some of the big players in this story, representing the different philosophical approaches to crypto (should it remain decentralized, an anarcho-libertarian’s wet dream, or should it face the same kind of regulation that mainstream financial services do?)

“Watchmen” and “Judgment Day” are two Alan Moore classics, based on a similar premise:what if superheroes were real? “Watchmen” was the first graphic novel I ever read, but it’s only after rereading it now have I been able to full appreciate how revolutionary it is. “Judgment Day” makes a courtroom drama riveting instead of boring, and a metaphor for the power of words/ telling your own story.

“Hate Inc.” is one of the best books about politics and the media that Ive read in awhile. Matt Taibbi was/is a political correspondent for Rolling Stone, by the way. He gives a brief history of the media in the US, while pointing out the business model undergirding the enterprise. While in the past, media companies tried to make the news as impartial and unbiased as possible, aiming for the broadest possible audience, the media today seeks to be as divisive as possible. The internet makes it possible for members of a political tribe to never be exposed to contrary views. (Taibbi likens watching/reading the news to smoking cigarettes, which I love. The news is bad for your health.) In such a climate, with a media elite out of touch with the average citizen, Taibbi argues, Trump’s election was inevitable. In the wake of 2016, however, the media skipped the soul searching and doubled down on their same strategy, which explains the Russiagate disaster He draws a parallel from Trump-is-a-Russian-spy to Saddam-has-WMDs, and points out that many of the same people were purveryors of both lies. They became the useful idiots for the FBI/CIA/ deep state in both instances, which Taibbi considers the most daming indictment of his colleagues. What’s crazy about his analysis is that Taibbi is raging liberal (he writes for Rolling Stone afer all), and relentlessly shits on Fox News and Trump throughout his critique, which is a testament to jus how dishonest the mainstream press corps has become.

I decided to read “The Real Anthony Fauci” after seeing it on the WSJ bestsellers list a couple weeks in a row, and Im glad I did. For anyone that thinks the coronavirus pandemic is a little more complicated than virus=bad, vaccines=good, this is a must-read. While I dont agree with every conclusion Kennedy draws, it’s tough to argue the data laid out here. He also limns the unholy alliance between Fauci, Bill Gates, Big Pharma, intelligence agencies, and other bad actors that formed in the years leading up to the pandemic and beyond. I wont say any more except that if you think its weird how newscasters sound more like Pfizer sales reps than journalists for the past year, or how they taunt the dying unvaccinated, this is the book for you.

“Inventing English” is an accessible history for anyone interested in how English evolved. Lerer starts with Caedmon’s hymn in Old English, goes thru the works of Chaucer and Shakespeare, and ends with Eminem. “Chinese Script” was a useful introduction to Chinese for someone like me, who has no familiarity with the language. Basically, Chinese is made up of thousands of different characters, all with different meanings, that can be combined in unique ways to create new meanings. Calligraphy, the art of writing these characters, is a high art in China, and some of the ancient calligraphers’ works go for millions of dollars today. Being an accomplished calligrapher has been a point of pride throughout the history of China. 

I thought “The Divine Spark” was gonna delve into ‘Stoned Ape’ theory a lot more, instead of just addressing it tangentially (although this volume does contain a piece written by the brother of that theory’s originator, Dennis McKenna, who’s a much duller writer than his brother Terrance). Still, there were compelling pieces about the nature of consciousness and the effects of psychedelics upon it. Is consciousness something that arises due to synapses firing in our brains, or is it something permeating the universe, which our brains only pick up, like an antenna?

Finally, “Beyond Order” is Jordan Peterson’s new book, a follow up to his “12 Rules for Life”. What I love about Peterson is that he does not paint a pretty picture and give you reassurances everything will be okay–instead, he acknowledges life is hard and full of suffering, and so is creating a life worth living. The format follows that of the previous book: each chapter lists the rule in its title, and then is accompanied by an essay fleshing out his point and drawing on works of literature, scientific studies, and personal anecdotes. Some of my favorites include “Imagine what you could be, and then aim single mindedly at that” and “If old memories still upset you, write them down carefully and completely” (ive already been doing the latter).

(Welp, im not gonna put off writing this column again, and write the ones for this past fall. In the meantime, happy reading! Nothing like a good book when its snowy outside.)

1 Comment

  1. trinashinin says:

    I fkkn love reading your column! Please do not STOP. I “look forward ” to your writing. . Glad you’re still pushin’… Happy Holidays to you B!

    Like

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