Weekend Reading

BowieIn this edition, Renaissance men, witches, the beef on big-scale farming, and more.

Jon Foro: Remember when a famous rock singer said I hope I die before I get old? Well, the rock singers are getting old, and their biographies just won’t stop. Two forthcoming books take on the lives of musicians who have unfortunately passed, each transformational in his own way: Lou Reed and David Bowie. Reed was about as inscrutable as they come, and that is perhaps the reason that Anthony DeCurtis’s Lou Reed: A Life is only the second major account of the New York legend’s life. A Rolling Stone editor for more than 35 years, DeCurtis is in a uniquely good position to tell Reed’s story, drawing on interviews with family and contemporaries, as well as his own friendship with the artist himself. As for Bowie, there seem to be as many books about him as he had personas. Dylan Jones’s David Bowie: A Life shares not only a subtitle with the Reed book, but its approach, as well. Featuring information taken from “180 interviews with friends, rivals, [and] lovers,” this one promises – literally, in the promotional copy – to be “insightful and deliciously gossipy.”

Erin Kodicek: Walter Isaacson is known for his bestselling biographies of Benjamin Franklin, Einstein, Steve Jobs, and more. This October he will release Leonardo da Vinci--the story of "history's most creative genius." Blending a passion for art and science, da Vinci created two of the most iconic works of art, ever: The Mona Lisa and The Last Supper (for starters, he was a bit of an overachiever). As lauded as he became, da Vinci was a bit of a misfit (removing the flesh off cadaver faces so he could closely examine and better draw them probably didn't help). But, da Vinci embraced his inner oddball, and this, coupled with insatiable curiosity, helped fuel his success. Through his story, Isaacson once again inspires us to ask big questions and "think different," something the subjects of all of his books have in common.

Alison Walker: Maybe it’s Seattle’s smoky, hazy weather, but my weekend reading is taking a decidedly dark turn. I’m excited to read the first issue of Redlands, a new horror comic by Jordie Bellaire and Vanesa R. Del Rey.  Set in small-town Florida and featuring a coven of witches, this story breathes new life into Southern Gothic. I’m also excited to finish David Walton’s The Genius Plague, which is one of the most entertaining and fast-paced scifi thrillers I’ve read this year! I have stayed up past my bedtime twice this week, completely entranced by this book’s mycological plot twists. 

Adrian Liang: Rising tensions between the U.S. and North Korea are making me think of One Minute to Midnight, a thorough and gripping account of the Cuban Missile Crisis. From its genesis, through negotiations, and finally to the decision to create a blockade against the Soviet ships sending nuclear warheads to Cuba, reporter Michael Dobbs explores how creative thinking lead to dodging one of the closest brushes with nuclear war that the U.S. has experienced. A more modern history that I’m tearing through right now is American Radical: Inside the World of a Muslim Undercover FBI Agent (October 23). In the past ten years, this FBI agent has gotten close to Muslim extremists living in North America to expose their plots and unravel the threads that tie them back to Al-Qaeda. It reads like a thriller but throbs with a genuine passion that makes the hatred of the plotters all the more scary—and the FBI agent’s own dedication to protect the U.S. and stay faithful to the generosity of his religion all the more heroic.

Sarah Harrison Smith: All summer, I’ve been thinking about the meat and dairy industry, without really making any changes to my eating habits. I love to cook French food, and most of the recipes I use call for butter and eggs, if not meat. But my conscience is bothering me. I know too much about big-scale farming to feel good about everything I’m buying at the supermarket. Nathan Runkle, founder of the advocacy organization, Mercy For Animals, comes from a long-time farming family, and has worked to raise awareness of industrialized farming practices and negotiate changes to animal welfare practices. I’m reading his forthcoming book, Mercy for Animals: One Man’s Quest to Inspire Compassion and Improve the Lives of Farm Animals, and hoping it will help me find my way to a middle path.

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