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What do I Read?

I love the vast majority of books I read and usually end up thinking, "I wish I could write like that".  Here are some that I really like and a few that I really don't.

Great Reads

The Lost Continent, Bill Bryson

The ultimate American road trip from a fellow Iowan.  A great look at our country.  Funny.  Insightful.  A good travel book makes you want to go.  I want to go.  Other greats by Bill: A Walk in the Woods, The Mother Tongue.

Parliament of Whores, PJ O'Rourke

I sometimes try to articulate my political leanings, but PJ said it better in this book.

Blood River, Tim Butcher

After my own trips to Africa, I find the continent both scary and fascinating.  Tim's adventure - overland into DRC from the south, and then down the Congo River to Kinshasa - is crazy and amazing and totally absorbing.  I wish I could have gone with him ... with a company of US Marines.

Uncommon Carriers, John McPhee

What's it like to be a truck driver or work on a towboat?  How does UPS's gigantic sort facility work?  This is a super-cool book that takes you inside the transportation industry, written in John McPhee's style that's somewhat stream-of-consciousness, and sometimes kind of weird, but you always know exactly what he's talking about. 

God's Middle Finger, Richard Grant

A travelogue into the wide-open spaces of the Mexican Sierra, trying to stay clear of the Sinaloa drug cartel.  A primitive, tense adventure just across the border.

Seabiscuit, Laura Hillenbrand

As a rule, I don't do horse stories or dog stories, but my friend John brought this book along on a mountain biking trip and he was totally engrossed.  When he finished he said, "that might be the best book I've ever read".  So I bought it and he was right. Another seriously awesome read by Laura: Unbroken.  

Roughing It, Mark Twain

Mark (Sam) heads overland across the US to Nevada for various adventures as a newspaper writer and silver prospector.  His description of the mornings on the stage coach is exactly how I feel after pulling an all-night drive across Nebraska and into Colorado. It's awesome to be at-large in a large world.  My favorite Twain. 

Harry Potter series, JK Rowling

Fiction isn't my thing - fantasy even less so.  But, sometimes we need an escape.  I love Neville Longbottom and Severus Snape.  I have a Lucius Malfoy Halloween costume.  The suspense is real, the characters are easy to connect with, and you're always left with the possibility and the hope that the good guys will win and live happily ever after.

This Rock, Robert Morgan

Another of the few fiction books that I really, really like.  It's worth it just to read the one-paragraph description of the pig pen.  You can see it, smell it, hear the flies buzzing around it.  Amazing bit of writing.  

The Shit List

(Books I wanted to like, but didn't.)

River Horse, William Least Heat Moon

Could have been a great adventure travelogue, but William's arrogance that stayed just below the surface in Blue Highways is more apparent here.  His intolerance of things he finds disagreeable becomes acidic after a while.  It's a trip I'd love to take, but I found myself thinking, "I'd hate to travel with this guy".

Prairie Erth, William Least Heat Moon

William, I get it, you know more words than I do.  Having to get out the dictionary twice in every paragraph kind of spoils the reading experience. 

Breakfast at the Exit Cafe, Wayne Grady

A couple of Canadians do a US road trip and bitch the whole time.  It's obvious they came to validate their superiority. I took this book with me on a trip to Nigeria.  As I was roasting under my mosquito net, clamping my sphincter shut against the diarrhea, waiting for Boko Haram to attack, it was hard to take their first-world, entitled, "we're smarter than you" attitude, and I couldn't stand the constant shower of shit on my country.  This is the only Nook book I've ever asked Barnes and Noble to remove from my reading list.