In the middle of…at the end of… Current status as of this posting is incomplete
At the beginning of the month, I was giving Six Four, the 2017 global bestseller, a third chance. Honestly. Third times a charm. It was difficult getting a grasp on the many similarly sounding Japanese names-characters. It’s a griping crime novel but even more insight into Japanese business culture and behavioral norms. The worthy NY Times write-up. Still a third to go before complete. I own it, so I’m in no rush.
I sat the book down again after Manhattan Beach by Jennifer Egan landed in my audible library loan queue. I have to give precedence to these loaners as I have a finite amount of time to get through them. And I didn’t even make it! I was 91% complete when it auto-returned. Ugh. I did enjoy it minus the plot-centers around deep sea diving.
Manhattan Beach takes place during the World War II era and tells the haunting and propulsive intertwined stories of heroine Anna Kerrigan, the Brooklyn Navy Yard’s only female diver, her father Eddie Kerrigan, who works for both the union and the mob, and nightclub owner Dexter Styles, Eddie’s complex and charismatic boss.
Jennifer Egan is a contemporary author I’ve known about for years yet never read. So in my usual fashion, I sought out a few of her books via the library. I only got halfway through A Visit From the Goon Squad, but I did quickly enjoy The Keep. Of the these three works, The Keep was my favorite. The New York Times has the most descriptive of reviews.
Two cousins, irreversibly damaged by a childhood prank, reunite twenty years later to renovate a medieval castle in Eastern Europe. In an environment of extreme paranoia, cut off from the outside world, the men reenact the signal event of their youth, with even more catastrophic results. And as the full horror of their predicament unfolds, a prisoner, in jail for an unnamed crime, recounts an unforgettable story that seamlessly brings the crimes of the past and present into piercing relation. -Amazon
Saving the two best for last: the book I was most engaged with (and still about 50 pages short of finishing) is The Almost Nearly Perfect People: Behind the Myth of the Scandinavian Utopia. Yes, a lot of the idealism can be true but the faults still exist also, deeply. And just like cultures and stereotypes exist within the different states in the U.S., so too in the Scandinavian countries.
Journalist Michael Booth has lived among the Scandinavians for more than ten years, and he has grown increasingly frustrated with the rose-tinted view of this part of the world offered up by the Western media. In this timely book he leaves his adopted home of Denmark and embarks on a journey through all five of the Nordic countries to discover who these curious tribes are, the secrets of their success, and, most intriguing of all, what they think of one another.
Why are the Danes so happy, despite having the highest taxes? Do the Finns really have the best education system? Are the Icelanders as feral as they sometimes appear? How are the Norwegians spending their fantastic oil wealth? And why do all of them hate the Swedes? In The Almost Nearly Perfect People Michael Booth explains who the Scandinavians are, how they differ and why, and what their quirks and foibles are, and he explores why these societies have become so successful and models for the world. Along the way a more nuanced, often darker picture emerges of a region plagued by taboos, characterized by suffocating parochialism, and populated by extremists of various shades. They may very well be almost nearly perfect, but it isn’t easy being Scandinavian. -Amazon
The other book I have barely begun, but very much encouraged and exited about is Jonah Goldberg’s new Suicide of the West: How the Rebirth of Tribalism, Populism, Nationalism, and Identity Politics is Destroying American Democracy. Whew, a mouthful. It’s the history; it’s the culture; the truth about our tribal instincts. It’s his wonkiness; his wit; his slinging metaphor. He is one of the very few political authors of which I read all of his newsletters and subscribe to his podcast The Remnant. I have listened to 9 interviews he’s given over the course of his book tour, and each telling offered up something different. I truly believe it will go down in history as a conservative classic, and deservedly so. It’s his third book and apparently his greatest. I’ll certainly be cheerleading some more next month after I’ve had time to digest it.
With his trademark blend of political history, social science, economics, and pop culture, two-time NYT bestselling author, syndicated columnist, National Review senior editor, and American Enterprise Institute fellow Jonah Goldberg makes the timely case that America and other democracies are in peril as they lose the will to defend the values and institutions that sustain freedom and prosperity. Instead we are surrendering to populism, nationalism and other forms of tribalism. -blurb
That’s the gist of it; my hands are still full obviously.