All posts tagged: Politics and Prose

Is it Too Early for a “Best of the Century” Book List?

This century is not quite 20 years old and yet we’re already seeing a “100 Best Books of the 21st Century” list from The Guardian. I’m more than okay with that. Anticipating the Politics and Prose Holiday Member Sale and assorted bookstore sales events across the country this weekend, I thought that—like me—you may enjoy a peak at books others are recommending before you rush out to make your purchases. I love lists of recommended books. Summer reading lists? Bring ’em on. The “Not Your Summer Reading List” is okay as well. If you are the President of the United States (well, a former one anyway), I want to see what you are reading. The same goes for famous writers. I love these lists because I believe in the power of the written word. I pick up fresh insights from seeing what others are reading. Writer Cheryl Strayed said she was seven years old when she understood that, as Margaret Atwood wrote in her poem Spelling, “a word after a word after a word is …

The Deep Rhythms of Life

If you are a hammer, then everything looks like a nail. I try and remember that old adage when I consider things I read or hear.  Given my career, training and perspective, I often see historical overtones, even—perhaps—when they don’t exist.  So with that grain of salt, I’ll note that over the course of a recent weekend, I took part in three conversations that all struck me as narratives somehow important and related. The first was not really a conversation. But it felt as if I was on the listening end of one as I went on a Friday night to hear Lucinda Williams and the Drive By Truckers in concert.  Both were great, but it was the music and between-songs patter of Lucinda Williams—her stories, if you will—that made me think about the way in which we can break out of our pasts and stand out from what is expected. Williams has been writing and performing emotionally devastating lyrics for four decades. But she also takes courageous stands against racism, sexism, and hate in …

Observations from the Road (Or The “I’ve Been Everywhere” Edition)

Life on the road can become a blur.  I began writing this from the Molly Pitcher Inn’s dining room which overlooks the Navesink River in Red Bank, New Jersey. Candice and I have come here to celebrate the 40th wedding anniversary of her cousin Mary Beth and husband Greg.  It is the second time we find ourselves in Red Bank in three weeks, as we were here earlier in the month to celebrate with family and friends the life of Candice’s aunt and godmother, and Mary Beth’s mother, who passed away at age 90. June is perhaps a bit more than typical in terms of travel (16 out of the first 24 days spent on the road), but only at the margins.  Good thing that I enjoy it.  In June alone I’ve not only visited Red Bank twice, but I’ve also been to Madison, Wisconsin (one of prettiest small college cities in America…in the summer); Athens and Atlanta, Georgia (my God, they never stop building highways); Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (a gem of a city with much …

Flying Fish, Hipster Neighborhoods, and Wonderful Friends – We Must Be in Seattle

After the long and draining drive on Sunday in our Not All Who Wander Are Lost tour, we spent Monday resting, meeting up with friends, and simply enjoying Seattle. I always love my trips to this Northwest city, but none more so than this visit when I was able to share some special places with Claire, who was seeing it for the first time.  On recent business trips I have discovered a new favorite hotel in Seattle – the Paramount – and so we woke up Monday morning smack in the middle of Seattle’s downtown. But we didn’t wake up too soon.  We needed the morning to catch up on sleep and exercise and to finish up the previous day’s blog post, so we had a leisurely morning. And – as you can see – my late nights have caught up with me and these posts are now coming out the following morning.  (I know that a few folks are reading, because at least one family member called Candice to make sure we were okay …

From the Bookshelf

Despite a busy fall schedule of work and travel, I’ve managed to finish several books that have sat on my bookshelf for various periods of time. Some are hot off the press, others have been waiting for me to pick them  up for more months than I care to admit. All were worth reading, and two were terrific finds.  So here are a few thoughts on a season’s worth of reading – beginning with the one I finished earlier this week, and working backwards from there. Lawrence in Arabia:  War, Deceit, Imperial Folly and the Making of the Modern Middle East by Scott Anderson. This new work on the Middle East of World War I falls in the “terrific finds” category. Obviously much has been written about the exploits of T.E. Lawrence – the famous “Lawrence of Arabia.” In this book, however, the veteran war correspondent Scott Anderson weaves in Lawrence’s story with those of three spies from the era (German Curt Prüfer, American – and Standard Oil employee – William Yale, and Zionist Aaron …

How College Students Can Lead to a Wonderful Holiday Weekend

When a colleague asked about our plans for the upcoming holiday weekend, I told her that Andrew and Claire each had friends from college who were in town and would be staying with us.  I assumed our role was “To stay out of the way.” Thankfully, I was wrong.  Jason, Jordi, Jackie, Kelsey, Claire, and Andrew were delightful guests and hosts, sharing some of their time with us and also giving Candice and me the space to enjoy our weekend with each other. We began with our “traditional” July 4th celebrations – and all the twins’ friends joined us (rather enthusiastically, I think).  While the Takoma Park July 4th parade didn’t have quite the pizzazz of a presidential year (I miss the “Mutts for Mitt” floats with dog puppets on top of cars and there wasn’t anything to reach the level of last year’s “precision grill team”), we still had a great time laughing at the floats and enjoying the world music you always hear at our little slice of Haight-Ashbury here in DC.  Afterwards, …

Hope Springs Eternal

With less than two weeks until pitchers and catchers report (11 days to be exact, but who’s counting?), it seemed like a good time to get into baseball shape…with a visit to the bookshelf. I had picked up Dan Barry’s 2011 book Bottom of the 33rd:  Hope, Redemption, and Baseball’s Longest Game while on a recent trip to Politics and Prose bookstore (home, by the way, of one of the best baseball sections of any bookstore in the Washington area).  I thought it looked like a fun read – a story about the longest game in baseball history. But what I found was much more – a little gem. The game began at 8 p.m. after a 30 minute delay due to faulty lighting on April 18, 1981 – Holy Saturday – and was extended until 4 a.m. on Easter morning, April 19th, when the game was suspended after 32 innings and 8 hours with a 2-2 tie.  Two months later, on June 23rd, the Rochester Red Wings and Pawtucket Red Sox resumed the game …