Solider’s Whereas


Whereas: Poems
Layli Long Soldier

Another book of contemporary poetry, this one short listed for the National Book Award. More formally experimental than Smith’s Don’t Call Us Dead, this one left me feeling a bit cold. While stylistically interesting, I found it a bit cold, and I prefer my poetry rawer, I think.

Still, and all, in the last couple of years I’ve come around to the idea that its important to keep up with contemporary poetry, even if only modestly. Where things are headed, especially in the minds of our smartest young people, can come from reading their poetry and even when it doesn’t resonate, perhaps it is worth the effort.

Recommended for the enthusiast.

Heraclitus Fragments

FragmentsHeraclitus

A strange and beautiful little book collecting the surviving fragments of poetic writings of Heraclitus, a pre-socratic philosopher and poet. None of the fragments collected here are complete, so it difficult to under how exactly they fit into the longer works to which they once belonged, but here, in a relatively new translation, and presented one to a page, they have a kind of mysterious and compelling beauty. I read the whole thing in one sitting and now it sits by my bedside, frequently re-read when I need a moment or two of beauty before bed.

 

Recommended.

Heraclitus

Heraclitus by Moreelse

Woodward’s Fear

Fear: Trump in the WhitehouseBob Woodward

You know this one. Woodward’s latest tell all, this time about the campaign and first year of the Trump presidency.

I read all the Woodward books, largely out of habit at this point, and I weighed whether or not to read this one – I have enough trump in my life, thanks. I decided to dive in, because, well sometimes you have to look the ugly in the mirror.

And ugly it is. As someone who follows the news carefully, I didn’t learn much of anything new here, but it was still a bleak ride through the narcissism and incompetence of Trump and the sycophancy of so many of his advisers and supporters.

One moment stuck out more than all the rest for me – Charlottesville. Trump’s “both sides” comment, followed by his half hearted walk back, followed by what is reported here as Trump’s regret for walking back the comment because it made him seem weak was a deeply jarring for me. That the president of the united states could not wholeheartedly condemn the actions of the white nationalist at Charlottesville still shocks and depresses me.

All and all, a classic Woodward book of solid reporting and lots of Washington gossip. Except this time, the stakes feel higher. If this is your sort of thing, you’ve surely already read it. If it isn’t, you aren’t missing anything earth shattering.

Recommended for the enthusiast.

Smith’s Don’t Call Us Dead


Don’t Call Us Dead

Danez Smith

A stunning work of poetry. A book that left me breathless, and thrusting it into my wife’s hands, saying “you need to read this”. A work both political and deeply, deeply, personal full of poems that address race, love, manhood and more, tackling the deeply toxic race relations in America with nuance, compassion and serious writing chops.

Many many years ago I heard Tariq Ali say that if you want to understand a culture, read its poetry. He was talking about Iraq, but the same holds true for U.S. If you want to understand America, in all our horribleness and beauty, read Danez Smith.

Recommended.

Danez Smith

Danez Smith

Kurtz’s Stronger Than Iron

Stronger Than Iron: Not Finishing Was Not An Option
Wayne Kurtz and Stefan Zetterstrom

There are endurance events, like a marathon, or even a half marathon. And then there are ultra endurance events, like 50 milers and hundred milers, and, I’d argue, ironmans. But then there is shit that is just so crazy that’s its hard to even fathom. These kind of events are often lumped into the category of “multi-day” or extreme ultra endurance. They include things like the 200 mile foot races, double ironmans, and things like what this book is about – a triple DECA ironman. Or three x ten times the distance of a standard ironman.

 

For those counting at home, that’s 72-miles swimming, 3,360-miles biking, and 786-miles running.

 

Yeah, a lot more than a half marathon.

 

This is a self published book about the exploits of the very unique brand of athelete who has the drive, time, and means to engage in this sort of craziness. It focused on a single event that occurred in Italy where a number of the top athletes in this world of ultra endurance ironmans tried to take it to the next level.

 

I’m not gonna lie, this isn’t very well written, in fact, its pretty bad. But if you need a dose of inspiration to get out the door for a 5k, it can be inspiring to read about these everyday people who do incredible things.

 

Recommended for the enthusiast.

Donin’s To Pray As A Jew

To Pray As A Jew: A Guide To The Prayer Book And The Synagogue Service

Hayim Halevy Donin

A detailed discussion of the technical aspects of the rituals and traditions of Orthodox Jewish prayer. Literally a handbook that takes you, moment by moment, through Shabbat and daily services, and prayer at home.

As I’ve written about here before, I’m a convert to Judaism and my wife and I have been more and more drawn to orthodox services. So if, like me, you’re interested in traditional and/or orthodox prayer, but get lost in the complexities, this is a very helpful, if dry, resource. There is little in the way of theology or spiritual discussion here, but much in the way of technical, clear instructions. For example, if you want to know exactly how to put on tefillin in the orthodox manner, this is for you. If you’re looking for a whether or not women should put on tefillin, this isn’t for you.

That said, though I surely disagree with the author on numerous points of practice, I found this very informative and helpful.

Recommended for the enthusiast.

Walker’s Why We Sleep

Why We Sleep: Unlocking the Power of Sleep and Dreams
Matthew Walker, Phd.

A truly terrifying book about the long term health consequences of cutting your sleep short. Especially if, like me, you’re the parent of young children, who drinks coffee and alcohol.

Its all around a grim scene, increased risk of all cause morbidity, increase likelihood of alzheimer’s, increased likelihood of obesity. There’s basically no good news. While the book covers a lot of ground (why we sleep, why we dream sleep in children and adolescents, etc.) it was the warnings about consuming caffeine and alcohol (short answer – don’t) and the tips for high quality sleep (shut off the damn phone) that really resonated with me.

Time to cut back on the wine and coffee and shut the light off earlier – I want to live for a long time to come.

Recommended for the enthusiast.

Matthew Walker, Author of Why We Sleep

Matthew Walker, Author of Why We Sleep