September is one of my favorite months of the year. It might have something to do with it being the month of my birthday, although who likes being reminded that they’re a year older, but I’d like to believe it has to do with the fall weather and the release of new books. Perhaps, it may have something to do with me receiving some amazon.com gift card money- courtesy of my birthday- to splurge on some books I was too cheap to purchase on my own. The irony of someone who buys 10-12 books a month being too cheap to splurge on a $15 kindle book is not lost on me. It is, however, a true statement.
Some good books this month, and I had a hard time picking a Book of the Month.
Book of the month: Cry Father by Benjamin Whitmer. Patterson Wells is drifting after the death of his son. He made bad choices before his son’s death, and the pattern continues. He wants to disappear, from society, from his past, from his present, and maybe even from himself. This is a superb novel, even if it is a crime novel, depicting the sadness of human life and the cycle of people making bad choices and suffering the consequences of their actions. What makes this book stand out, aside from the quality of the writing, the stark descriptions of the landscape, are the letters from Patterson to his dead son. Interspersed throughout the book, they are sad, emotionally-charged, and elevate this book to another level. They alone are worth reading.
Q Road by Bonnie Jo Campbell. One country road and a whole of lot of odd neighbors. Some are trying to preserve their way of life, while others are trying to bring the country to the city. Polite to one another on the surface, but anger, resentment, jealously, and lust bubbles underneath among these neighbors. Oh, and there’s murder or two as well. Quite entertaining.
The Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage by Haruki Murakami. Murakami is one of my favorite writers and this book, recently published, received great reviews. The Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki differs from 1Q84 or The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, but I enjoyed it a great deal. Some compared it to Sputnik Sweetheart. On a return trip from college, Tsukuru Tazaki, is cut off from his four high school friends without explanation. They no longer want to see him or even talk to him. Years pass, and a girlfriend challenges him to find why his friends excommunicated him from the group without explanation. She believes this cutting off traumatized Tsukuru and hinders his ability to engage in relationships. Almost made this my book of the month.
The Cage and Ashes by Kenzo Kitakata. I almost never buy actual physical books anymore. Ebooks are cheaper, I can read them anywhere, and they don’t take up space in the house. If a book isn’t available as an e-book, I almost always pass and wait for the publisher to get with it. My youngest brother sent me The Cage by Kitakata, which is only available in paperback, which isn’t available as an e-book. I would’ve missed out on some wonderful Japanese noir. A middle-aged businessman who had left a life of crime is drawn back to the underworld with potentially disastrous consequences. I found Kitakata’s work so amazing, I bought the other three books of his translated into English, and also not available as e-books. Ashes was tremendous as well. I can’t remember the last time I read an actual book.
I also read Piggyback by Tom Pitts and Missing by Sam Hawken.
The Prophets of Smoked Meat by Daniel Vaughn. A seemingly encyclopedic review of Texas BBQ. Vaughn is now the BBQ editor for Texas Monthly. His book increased my hunger for BBQ, if that’s possible, and gave me a better understanding of what makes good BBQ and how some places prepare it. After reading this book, I couldn’t wait to have some more brisket. I drove to Waco for the Waco Wild West, rode 67 miles on my bike, and then, in great hunger, I drove to a popular Waco BBQ restaurant only to be severely disappointed. With my new knowledge, I could tell the minute the cashier handed me my food that I wouldn’t be enjoying the meal. With one look, I could tell the meat had been overcooked and would lack taste. One bite proved me right. I tried a whole lot of BBQ sauce on it, but this meal couldn’t be rescued.
Gunshots in Another Room: The Forgotten Life of Dan J. Marlowe by Charles Kelly. I’ve read one book by the noir master Dan J. Marlowe, but I had no clue about the chaotic life he’d lived. A public servant who served on the city council, a man who corresponded with and helped a notorious bank robber, and a writer of some of the most brutal pulp novels, not to mention a few ‘adult’ novels, which he wrote to supplement his income. When his wife died, he packed up, moved to a new city, and launched his quest to become a writer, which succeeded. Twenty-odd years later, he suffered a stroke which robbed him of his memory. He would read his own books and not even recognize them. That bank robber he assisted, he returned the favor by helping Marlowe recover. A great book.
I also read A Spy Among Friends by Ben MacIntyre (about the infamous British spy who turned out to be a double-agent for the Russians), and Books, Movies, Rhythm, Blues by Nick Hornby
Documentaries, TV, and Movies:
As for TV, I’m slowly working through Rectify from Sundance, and I found time to watch The Fault In Our Stars. Like the book, it’s a tear-jerker.
I managed to find time to write a blog post this month: 45 Great Things From My 45 Years.
As for my next book, it’s coming along, and yes, I know I keep saying the same thing every month. However, I have decided on a title – They Took Me For Granted. Coming??? Eventually.