May 8, 2017

Recent Reads

43. I Killed Adolf Hitler
What if we lived in a world where it was legal to hire assassins to kill people who annoy us? Dysfunctional family members, annoying co-workers, that person who cut you off on the highway, a loud neighbor, oh, that neighbor who does not use a pooper scooper after their dog .... the list would be endless, and it is rather fun to contemplate. Suddenly minor annoyances can be looked at in a different light, and part of what this fun graphic novel does is explore the pettiness of humans. But wait, someone invents a time machine, and an assassin is hired to go back in time and kill Hitler. Things do not go as planned, and following along as the plot unfolds is a fun thought experiment. The art is classic Jason, colorful and anthropomorphic. A quick, fun read. Rating: 3 stars.

44. Ghettoside: A True Story of Murder in America
Book blurb: A masterly work of literary journalism about a senseless murder, a relentless detective, and the great plague of homicide in America.

I listened to the audiobook, which is wonderfully narrated by Rebecca Lowman.

Journalism is dead. We've all heard that lament over the past several decades, and it is certainly true when it come to mainstream media, particularly TV, but Jill Leovy is here to remind us that there are still journalists doing the heavy lifting, if only we would look away from the Kardashians for a hot minute, and give them the attention they deserve.

One day a young black man is shot and killed on the streets of South Los Angeles. It'd be one thing if this was an isolated incident, one rare enough to make the news, but it isn't that. This kid (and make no mistake he's a kid) is just one of hundreds of young black men killed in LA every year, and I assure you if that was happening in your neighborhood there'd be a media frenzy. So why isn't there more coverage of these murders? Why are the majority of killers never arrested? Does it really not matter when it's young black men dying? Does anyone care? This narrative non-fiction work takes on these questions head on.

This is the true story of one crime among many, a portrait of the victims, their families, the communities, and the detectives who are all linked together in this tragedy. I learned a lot, and was both angered and heart sick by what I learned. Can you even imagine living a life where you don't know if the young men in your family will live to the ripe old age of 21? We are not talking about a war zone in a different country, but when medics are sent to South LA hospitals for training before being shipped out to war zones there is something really wrong here at home. The litany of the dead men over such a short period is hard to read about, and there were entire sections I was in tears.

I did not enjoy a single moment of this book, but it might well the most important book I read all year. Add this one to the list of required reading for all Americans. Highly recommended. Rating: 5 stars.

45. Difficult Women
I am trying to read more short stories and I love this author, so picked this one up knowing that it was going to be a tough read. I had no idea just how tough it was going to be though.

These stories should put to bed all that "likable women" chatter. There is not a likable woman in these stories, and who really cares? Not me. Every single story was a gut punch, and I had to pace out my reading of this collection as the stories do a deep dive into really dark places. I needed trees, sunlight and lots of hugs while reading this book. I can't say that this was an enjoyable reading experience, but it was a compelling read, and I went through the entire range of emotions during the process.

One of my complaints about short stories is that just when I settle in, they end and leave me wanting more. This collection was the first time I experienced a sense of completeness when a story ended. The writing is really good, and the unflinching look at these women and their experiences takes one's breath away. As with any collection, there are some stories I did not love as much as others, but this is collection worth reading.

P.S. I have yet to read An Untamed State, and based on this collection, my reluctance to pick it up is well founded. Rating: 4 stars.

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