Quick Reflection on the Books I Read in 2016

Quick Reflection on the Books I Read in 2016

Walden by Henry David Thoreau

I remembered being forced to read this in high school. I tried to tackle this again in 2016 but honestly, I got very bored and moved on. As an adult, I found a couple of things very lame. First, he could still hear traffic from the road and see people every now and then. I mean, for Christ’s sake, he was in New England, not Alaska.

Perhaps it was a different time, but now with all of the crazy adventure stuff people do, even going into space, being a couple of miles from town seems pretty lame to call nature. Henry David Thoreau fans feel free to light me up.

House to House by David Bellavia

 

This book was really raw. It’s macho, but I am not sure there is really any other way to experience or talk about war nowadays. While, as a society we are so amped up on social media, 24 hours news, constant political barrage, and Hollywood blockbusters, it’s easy to forget that there are these are real wars with a lot of physical pain involved.

Even when you are on the “winning” side like the US in Fallujah, we forgot that men went door to door for 7 days strait with very little sleep. Explosions and tank engines rumbling. Jets and helos roaring overhead. Tracers, and lights, and constant bullets and wires and IEDs, etc, etc. Not to mention just walking miles and miles slowly, carefully and under constant threat of death or dismemberment.

If you want to understand what a modern war looks, feels and sounds like, read this book. It is eye opening. I walked away grateful I am just on my crazy travel adventures and typically not running from people shooting at me, or worse being forced to track said people down and kill them.

Daemon Haunted World by Carl Sagan

 

This was a really good book. I would recommend it for anyone that is too confident in their data, much less their own conclusions. He demonstrates a lot of damage that humanity has done too itself by being way too confident in our own data and conclusions. We have always known people could fall short with conclusions, but this book  was very apropos for the 2016 election. Data and conclusions have always been corrupted. In fact, humans are really bad at remembering things in general. We remember things out of order, we rewrite history in our minds, we project images of things that didn’t even happen. It’s all in this book.

My conclusion, religion and science were one art for many many thousands of years. Since religion and science have split starting strongly happening in the 1700s, recorded observations and methodological (nobody is objective) interpretation of data is our best bet on moving this world forward without killing ourselves. Sadly, it doesn’t appear we are doing that very well.

Cyclepedia Suzuki SV650 Service Information

This is the first motorcycle I have ever worked on and hence the first motorcycle manual I have ever used. This manual got me up to speed pretty quickly. I had plenty of experience working on cars, but many things are different on bikes and this manual had the right level of detail to help me understand all of the basics like changing the oil, coolant, brake pads, brake lines, brake fluid, battery, checking the chain, and even helped me understand how to take the seat and tank off to rebuild the carburetor and pet cock. To actually understand the carburetor, I used a lot of online posts from svrider.com.

Journey to the End of the Night by Louis-Ferdinand Céline

 

 

This year, I focused a lot of reading on material from the 1850s to early 1900s (before WWII). This period and this book is so surprising because there are uses of language and culture that feel so modern. At the same time there are settings and events that blow your mind with how insane they are. This book is both one of the most deeply dark pieces I have ever read while at the same time somewhat inspiring. The story is somewhat autobiographical and tracks Celine’s journeys as an infantryman in WWI, as a trapped company worker in Africa, as a slave on a pirate ship, as a factory worker in Detroit (where he falls in love with a prostitute), and eventually back to France where he becomes a doctor in a poor neighborhood in Paris. It is a wild, wild ride.

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

This was a great sci-fi book. It tracked the adventures of a late teen age boy who grows up in a post apocalyptic world where everybody goes to school in massive online world. When the creator of the world dies, he leaves behind a competition to find three keys. Whoever wins the competition will win the biggest fortune in the world.

But, the world creator grew up in the 80s and loved all pop culture including music, movies, books, and games. To win the competition, it’s absolutely necessary to know a ton of trivia and be really good at 80s video games. The book was amazing and made me fall back in love with Oingo Boingo.

I heard the movie is coming out soon and I am glad I read the book first.

Blond Bombshell by Tom Hold

This was a great sci-fi comedy. It’s about a bomb sent to the planet Earth to blow it up. There’s only one problem, the bomb is also the highest tech Artificial Intelligence in the universe and changes it’s mind about doing the deed. The planet that wants to destroy the Earth is made up of a race of super intelligent dogs.

From creatures made of pure text, to intelligent bombs and dogs, this book is hilarious and witty the entire way through. I would definitely suggest it for some fun reading.

God’s Middle Finger by Richard Grant

 

This book tracks Richard Grant’s real life adventure through the Sierra Madres (mountains) in Mexico. This guy really, really reminded me of myself. He has a thirst and hunger for life that few have. He spent a lot more time than I did riding the Chepe and living in the little villages. He was warned many many many times not to go to different places and got away with most of it.

From crazy Tarahumara Indian rituals that are mixed with catholicism to  drug dealers in the desert, its all in this book. I am really, really glad I read this book after I did my trip through Topolobampo in 2015 not long before they caught El Chapo in the same region. I remember seeing neon lights in the desert and talking to the cab driver. I asked him, what’s out there? He responded, prostitutes, drugs, alcohol. As Zorba would say, the whole catastrophe.

Luckily, I am safe back at home enjoying a close to 2016 🙂

Forever War by Joe Haldeman

 

I was told to read this book by my buddy Jo Sugiura and it was right on. Also, I learned that Robert Heinlein, who wrote another one of my favorite books Starship Troopers, walked up to Haldeman and said the book, “may be the best future war story I’ve ever read!”  I genuinely agree, this book was absolutely and utterly phenomenal. I have also heard that it may become a movie soon, but had never been adapted because of some legal rights problem that happened a long time ago.

Either way, the way chronology (because of the near light speed travel) there are all kinds of twists with culture, government, war, linguistics, and even tactics when fighting the enemy. I have NEVER seen somebody use the creativity that he did in describing the events that happen. In the end, a man goes to war, and comes back changed. Read this book….

What Matters Most is How You Walk Through the Fire by Charles Bukowski

 

 

A huge thanks to Robbie Schneider for turning me on to Chuck. I typically hate poetry, but Bukowski is poetry written for men, plain and simple. He was a post man for many years, lived in the ghetto most of his life, loved it even. He is a warrior and a scholar, I will leave you with one of my favorite pieces from the book.

CARLTON WAY OFF OF WESTERN

while the rents go up
this is where the poor people live
the people on ATD and relief
the large families with poor jobs
and the strange lonely men
on old age pensions
waiting to die.

here among the massage parlors
within the smog and the tiredness
even the dogs look
kindly inept
don’t bark
chase cats,
and the cats walk up and down the
passages
and never catch a bird
but the birds are here with us””
it’s only that you can’t see them
you only hear them
somewhere
at 3:30 a.m. in the morning
after the last streetwalker has made her
score.

the rents go up here too
but compared to the others
we are living for free
because nobody wants to live with the
likes of us.
none of us has new cars
most of us walk
and don’t care who wins the
presindency.

but we have wife-beaters
just like the others
and child-beaters
just like the others
and sex freaks
and tv sets
just like the others

and we’ll die
just like the others
only a little earlier and we’ll drink
just like the others
only a little cheaper stuff
and lie
just like the others
only with a little less
imagination.

and even though our streetwalkers don’t look
as good as their wives
I think our cats and our birds and dogs are better
and don’t forget the
rent.

Progress and Poverty by Henry George

 

While reading this book, I was struck time and time again by how thorough he had thought through each argument. The basic premise is that land is a completely different thing that improvements made to land. Human endeavor is the only way to improve land and so a man has the right to that improvement, but not to charge rent without ever improving the lant. Per John Locke, a man has the right to keep what he makes – for example, if a man cuts down a tree and carves a bow, he has a right to keep that bow. The problem is, we all need access to trees or we can’t actually improve the world. The land holders gain value from the construction of trains, roads, and cities without actually improving their own land.

Basically, George thinks everything should be a land tax. I think he is genuinely right. We historically did have a system like this, but slowly changed to income, payroll, and sales taxes as WWI and WWII happened. Also, the South was constantly against this system because of how much land they all owned. All other taxes slow down the exchanging of money for goods and services and hence are unjust. Only land is truly owned by all and hence should be taxed.

I think I finally understand why my property tax shows a piece for improved and unimproved portions. I also think I understand why Holland is so efficient with their use of land, while the US has messed this up for about 100 years now.

I leave you with a quote about Henry George by Albert Einstein, “Men like Henry George are rare unfortunately. One cannot imagine a more beautiful combination of intellectual keenness, artistic form and fervent love of justice. Every line is written as if for our generation. The spreading of these works is a really deserving cause, for our generation especially has many and important things to learn from Henry George.”

Up From Slavery by Booker T. Washington

 

Coincidentally, the last book I read this year was also probably one of the best books I have ever read in my entire life. During Black History Month in 2017, I plan to share tons of quotes from this book. Booker T. Washington is genuinely one of the most rare of men that I have ever read.

He was born as a slave in 1856 and was freed in 1865 when the Civil War ended. From then on, he strove harder than anyone I have ever heard of to get an education. He slept under a sidewalk, didn’t eat for days, and eventually won his way into a school by cleaning a schoolhouse room for hours to impress the woman that judged whether he could enter the school.

After he finished his schooling, he went on to start the Tuskegee Normal and Industrial Institute. Almost every building was built by the students and every student had a rigorous schedule of both academic and physical labor.

This man was genuine, and one of the most positive people I have ever heard of. This book is so inspiring, I think every single American should read it. When you are thinking about complaining about anything, think back to this book, ask yourself how it is an opportunity to do more, and you will always be successful.

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