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Discussion in 'Books' started by downndirty, Sep 27, 2014.
FOCUS: Recommend and discuss non-fiction books.
I'm not sure how this thread is supposed to work, but I have been thinking about this book a lot, so I figured I would throw it out there as a recommendation.
The Worst Hard Time: The Untold Story of Those Who Survived the Great American Dust Bowl by Timothy Egan
I'm biased since this is where I'm from and my grandparents lived through this, but this is a tremendous book. You are probably familiar with The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck. This is a book about the people who stayed behind. It tells the stories of several individuals, families, and communities in Colorado, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Kansas, and Texas affected by The Dust Bowl. It's one of those books that makes me think, "Damn, I'm a lily-livered coward because I would have lasted a week." It's well reported and sourced, and it provides a damn good view of what happened. Even growing up where it all happened 70 years later I went through life thinking the Dust Bowl was just caused by severe drought. Reading this changed my mind and gave me a hell of a lot more respect for the senior citizens in the community. It's great for the history, but even more powerful is its showcase of the human spirit.
New York Times Review-- which surely does a better job than me.
The Better Angels of Our Nature by Stephen Pinker.
This is one of the first books that really encapsulated how things were turning around. It talks about the various ways the world is improving and many of the problems we've had in the past are being turned around. He makes a strong case that as a species, we keep expanding empathy and that is the secret to the development we've had in the past 200 years. Dude writes a shit-ton of interesting other books.
Stephen Pinker has a few areas of study. He's either a dilettante or a very smart mofo. Probably the latter according to Wiki: "Steven Arthur Pinker is a Canadian-born U.S. experimental psychologist, cognitive scientist, linguist, and popular science author. He is a Harvard College Professor and the Johnstone Family Professor in the Department of Psychology at Harvard University and is known for his advocacy of evolutionary psychology and the computational theory of mind."
One of my must read non-fiction works is his Blank Slate. He makes the case for genetic predispositions instead of a purely environmental impetus to intelligence, personality, artistic talent, deviance, crime, etc. A lot of information in here dealing with not just current issues in education and upbringing, but a large history of evolution and genetic fitness and their roles in human behavior. This isn't necessarily written for academics either. It's erudite, but conversational in narrative. Plenty of simple, relevant examples to prove his "argument." Amazon has a copy for $1.50. That's not too much to blow considering this is as dense as a textbook.
Merle's Door by Ted Kerasote
Probably one of the best books written about dogs. A Labrador Retriever who loved to hunt elk, survived wild on Navajo cattle lands, thought for himself and was a damn good dog all around. Also interspersed with science on dog domestication and human culture, hunting ethics, skiing, camping and all sorts of other great stuff.
Don't tell mum I work on the rigs, she thinks I'm a piano player in a whorehouse by Paul Carter is a fantastically readable memoir about a long career on the oil rigs. One of the greatest entertainment reads I've ever had the pleasure of owning while still feeling like it's all at least fairly close to gospel truth.
I have a few mutual acquaintances with the Author from working around the mining and oil sector out of Australia, and the general consensus is that he's a nice genuine guy, and his stories have been widely corroborated in the industry by other rig crews who were there. The writing is rough - the author clearly isn't a liberal ivy league educated creative writing major. But his knack for story telling is just brilliant.
I just finished Joe Perry's 'Rocks' - his life in and out of Aerosmith. I've got some shit to say. But first:
The song 'No More, No More' knocked me on my ass. I didn't get the whole Aerosmith thing when I was younger - not that I didn't like them, but I wasn't crazy about them. Then I heard 'No More, No More' - and specifically the Outro solo. My God, and I'm not kidding when I say this, I've never been the same since from a musical standpoint. I love guitar, and a whole lot of guitarists, and solos.
But that one? Holy fuck. It embodies everything I've ever wanted to be as a guitar player, and without getting too melodramatic, a human being. To me, it's absolute perfection. From the initial double stops with liquid reverb. He slowly finds his way to the first refrain. And then BAM. It hits. It hits again. And again. If you really crank it, you can hear the cigarette smoke, the pot, the booze, the wonder of it all. It's a fade out (which I normally hate - such a cheap way out). But every time I turn it a little louder, just to see if I can hear that one extra note.
So call me a convert. I have a space at my guitar altar for Joe. Like Jimmy Page, Clapton, Hendrix, Satriani, Van Halen, Vai, Johnson, Walsh and others, he barged his way in on that one solo.
It could also be that one August morning, many years ago, I had that album in heavy rotation while I was trying, in vain, to create my first real hard rock band. I also had the best sex I've ever had to that song.
So yeah, a bit of baggage.
What disappointed me was that it was so thin on music and long on drama. I know Tyler and Perry don't get along. We all do. But Goddamn, man. Take the higher road. You're a guitar god. Let that speak. Don't be such a pussy. Yes, Tyler is a handful, but realistically, the greatest period in your life was when you two lived together and created 'Get Your Wings,' 'Toys in the Attic' and the majesty that is the title of your book: 'Rocks.'
Best Aerosmith Album ever.
I'm angry, yet satisfied. Like a blow job from a girl I hate. Not first choice, not last. But thank you.
I have no idea if that makes sense, but as I get older the dichotomy keeps me interested. And hopefully not boring.
And this book is not boring.
9/10. Yeah, I know, weird, but then again 'No More, No More' and 'Combination' haven't been out of my head in 4 days.
DMT: The Spirit Molecule by Rick Strassman
It's generally considered that any drug that is used recreationally is bad. Other than weed they're all lumped into the same category as something that's either going to develop into a dependency, or it's trashy hippy drivel that responsible people treat like Herpes. For a drug to be accepted it has to have a narrowly defined purpose, and it has to be manufactured by a corporation. For these reasons, and the fact that DMT highs are so intense I was surprised that the author was able to receive approval for his research from the FDA.
In the book Strassman takes you through the entire process. Why he was interested in psychedelic research, opinions on psychedelics within the psychiatric community, the dozens of hoops he had to jump through to get approval, how he selected his subjects. It is not a long book, but it is very meticulous, and the first half is purely scientific. However, as the research develops he continually applies scientific principles and psychiatric doctrine, but this becomes increasingly difficult.
He specifically picks subjects that are either married or have a stable social life, and have successful careers. He also chooses people with a history of psychedelic usage to help minimize the potential of a subject panicking during their trip. What's interesting about DMT is our brain produces it naturally (and it exists in most complex organisms) and when you take it the drug has a short duration relative to other psychedelics, but you are utterly incapable of reacting to stimuli in your environment. On acid you will hallucinate, but you're more grounded in your environment, and hallucinations typically relate to what is happening around you.
Strassman and his research team take a number of physiological measurements during the administration of DMT, but they're not very interesting or useful. The trip reports and bizarre conclusions the subjects come to after taking the drug are. The parallels between various subjects are also compelling, but ultimately inconclusive. What is viewed during the trips are related to patients themselves, but oddly specific themes and experiences repeat themselves.
The research never goes anywhere definitive, and Strassman remains objective about the results. He finds the subject matter fascinating, but he never falls into the trap of proclaiming his study as more than it truly provides. Definitely worth the read if you are curious about what direction drug research is going these days. Since it's publication research into DMT has increased among a small, but a growing group of psychiatrists and neurologists.
I would be interested to see if DMT has true potential with regards to treating patients in therapy. If it can get results, as Strassman's research often suggests it would, it seems by far more preferable than putting someone on prozac or anxiety medications for the rest of their life. The over prescription of medications is becoming a big problem in the first world, and it's not at all uncommon that a prescription, or several prescriptions for the same patient become a bigger problem than the reason they were prescribed in the first place.
I bought this based on your suggestion, and the fact that history intrigues me. I also lived in Oklahoma for about a year, so I'm familiar with the area.
It just arrived today and I've only had a chance to thumb through it, but it looks to be pretty good.
I also bought the book Scootah suggested about the oil rigs, but it hasn't arrived yet.
As far as me making a recommendation, by far the best book I've read recently is The Boys in the Boat - By Daniel James Brown. I can't say enough good things about the writing, and it looks like it will be made into a movie. Best read it now before Hollywood gets a hold of it and (Probably) fucks it up so it appeals to the mass of movie goers.
It arrived in the mail yesterday. I just finished reading it.
Very entertaining and actually had me laughing out loud a few times, and that rarely happens with books.
I second the recommendation, it's a great read.
Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer and No Way Down by Graham Bowley. If you're interested in knowing how very small mistakes above the death zone on the world's two tallest mountains can lead to the deaths of over a dozen people, look no further. Covering the 1996 Everest disaster and the 2008 K2 disaster respectively, it's a fascinating look into a high stakes world and the people who make it their dream.
Loved that book - fascinating. I recommend watching the IMAX Everest film after you read it, since Krakauer discusses it, and it's an interesting parallel story. Especially watching the bonus features on the DVD to see the interviews with Dr. Beck Weathers et al.
Oh I've devoured everything I could find about the '96 disaster. The IMAX movie, the PBS Frontline documentary (Storm Over Everest), the Everest movie that came out a few years ago, etc.
Every bit of it is fascinating from so many angles - the triumph and tragedy, the politics, the logistics of filming, and the technology. (And, since then, now there is a helicopter that can fly that high - remarkable.) I enjoyed Into Thin Air much more than Into The Wild.
You should check out No Way Down. It's not as good, because it's hard to compete with Krakauer both as a writer and as a first hand witness, but it's similarly done by a journalist who interviewed all the participants and put together the most accurate narrative possible, and I really enjoyed it.