Monday, May 17, 2010

The Stack

Writing has been insane lately-- I just missed doing 10000 words in one day over the weekend and have been pushing at about half that all week.  Which means some other stuff is being neglected.

The books that I have almost finished, trying to buy time to kill the last few pages or chapters include:
"On the Wealth of Nations" by P.J. O'Rourke- I usually really enjoy P.J.  This one reads like he was writing for the paycheck and didn't really understand the material ( Smith's "The Wealth of Nations") or why he was writing it.
"The Sociopath Next Door" by Martha Stout, PhD.  Good stories and occasional brilliant insights, but in a goo of non-standard definitions and what seem to be an idea to reject any definition of conscience that doesn't fall back on a divine spark.
"Guards, Guards" by Terry Pratchett.  This is the one book that I have been told (ad nauseam) will get me to enjoy fiction again.  So far, I appreciate Pratchett's way with words (though it is wearing thin now that I've read several others) and there are two concepts I think he has explained as well as anyone.  But as far as fiction telling deeper truths... not seeing it.
"Leadership and Training for the Fight" by MSG Paul R. Howe (ret).  Someone really needed to write this book as an antidote for all the books written by managers on the subject of leadership that don't know there's a difference.  It is raw, written for himself and those who want to follow in the Master Sergeant's footsteps.  There are almost as many lessons in how it is organized as there are in the stories or specific points.

Those are the books in progress.
The next one's from the library, so has to be read next:
"America's Secret War" by George Friedman.  Up close, the situation in Iraq looked completely different to me than it did from a distance.  More coherent, more positive.  It was also clear that our last president knew Arabic culture far more intimately than our current one (Arabic culture, not Muslim.  Know the difference.)  It's also abundantly clear that people with definite opinions are basing them on even less information than I have.  So Stratfor's take on it should be at least interesting and well-documented.  We'll see.

Then, and the point of this post, I received some very thoughtful gifts in San Francisco from Maija and Dale.  Almost everything above was my excuse that I won't be able to get to them for awhile:
"Values for a New Millennium" by Robert L. Humphrey, J.D.  Dale tells me this is the ethical underpinning of what he teaches his Bujinkan students.  People I respect speak highly of the late Mr. Humphrey, so I'm eager to get to it.
"Shop Class as Soulcraft" by Matthew B. Crawford.  I like things (people, stuff and skills) that are useful.  This one should be cool.  And I just now noticed the card.  Thanks, Maija
"Dirt" by William Bryant Logan, subtitled "The Ecstatic Skin of the Earth"  I suspect that dirt, like walking and breathing is one of those basic things that most people don't look at very closely.
"Oak The Frame of Civilization" also by William Bryant Logan intrigues me, much like the books Cod and Salt-- little things of immense impact in history.

On top of writing.  Editing "7". Lectures at a private college tonight and tomorrow.  Prepping for the private lessons and seminar in NY next week.  Conflict Communications in Minnesota and a second-level seminar in Seattle in June...
Busy, but the kind of busy that I like.


Jay Gischer said...

Unfortunately, I can't evaluate your comments on Pratchett without knowing what other books you've read besides Guards, Guards. Although I did think it was funny, if you're reading Pratchett mostly in the order he wrote, the best is yet to come. GG is the start of something big, and very good, though.

Anonymous said...

I found that sociopath book interesting, particularly the part where they compare sociopath's brain scans to other people.

But it bothered me that the writer seemed to think all soldiers who ever killed in combat fell into the same category as remorseless murderers.

Travis said...

"America's Secret War" is probably the single best book I've read on the subject. It's unfortunatly not footnoted to sources but that's about my only complaint. I'm almost through "The Next Hundred Years" right now. It's interesting but because it attempts very long term geopolitical forecasting it reads more like Tom Clancy then anything else.

Maija said...

Hmmm - I'm going to have to read the 'cod' and 'salt' books now :-)
It is so interesting to take something like cod, or the oak tree for instance, and use it as a lens to view history and human behavior. The inter connectedness of our lives is so fascinating to me.
There was a guy on the radio being interviewed about his new book on Prohibition - "Last Call - The Rise and Fall of Prohibition". Just fascinating how he pulls in not only the temperance movement, but womens' sufferage, the klu klux clan, racial integration, income tax, and of course organized crime.
Haven't read it yet, but intend to:

James said...

Naahhhh...the book you've got to read is "Heroes Die". I felt like I'd read an extremely entertaining primer on Existentialism when I'd finished.

Tiff said...

A grad student, I empathize. Both writing and reading are my passions, but doing them both at the same time is definitely a pain in the ass.

Pratchett has left me in stitches before, and I definitely recommend "Mort" and "Good Omens" (co-authored with "Sandman" author Neil Gaiman) -- both have a good fictional commentary on the irony of human nature.

On a side note, I'm psyched (ha, pun!) about the fiction writers course.

And on another side note (been meaning to ask for a while)... The title of your newest script, "7" -- any reason for that title in particular (other than the obvious 7 points you discuss)?

Oh, wait -- silly me. You're just going to tell me to read it and find out! :)

Todd Erven said...

I'm reading "Salt" now. It's very interesting.

Matt said...

Currently reading Salt as well. And will be reading more of Kurklansky when i finish it. Heard lots of good things about Cod & The History Of The Basque People. Do let us know what you think of Shopcraft is soulcraft, as Maija has recommended it a couple of times now, & if i get a good review through someone else I will probably buy it. (I do not often purchase books these days, for a small surcharge I can order most books I wish to read through the library.) On Pratchett, I understand exactly where you are coming from. Bless him, he is a British Instituition now though.

Can anyone tell me if my boredom with fiction is because I am growing up? Or growing old?

Loved Meditations btw & looking forward to the new one.