Books I Read This Month

I had a lot of time on planes this month, which meant lots of time for reading! Here’s what I got through from the heady to the sublime:

Man’s Search for Meaning by Victor Frankl

I can’t believe I only just read this book. It came recommended from so many people, I could no longer ignore it. Most recently, I heard Scooter Braun talk about its impact on his life and business, specifically regarding Justin Bieber and the “Purpose” album.

In 1991 the Library of Congress asked readers to name a book that made a difference in their lives. This book was in the top ten.

Against the backdrop of his experience in four concentration camps , Frankl illustrates how man is capable of surviving even the most brutal suffering so long as there is some sense of meaning, some purpose to his life. But at the same time, suffering in itself is not a necessary prerequisite to meaning.

The latter half lays out a birds-eye view of logotherapy and provides a compelling argument for optimism in the face of tragedy.

He touches on one of my favorite themes in writing: that no matter how out of control circumstances seem to be, you always have control over how you respond.

It boils down to the Nietzsche quote that “He who has a why to live can bear almost any how.”

You can and should read this in a weekend.

Benjamin Franklin: An American Life by Walter Isaacson

In the Founding Father Fantasy Draft I take Jefferson first every time. But there’s something so approachable about Franklin. He’s the founding father I could imagine having a beer with, and I think the closest thing we have to a true American Renaissance Man.

He has this kind of Doc Brown mad scientist vibe. He’s the one who wanted to the national bird to be the Turkey! Like that crazy uncle who you know isn’t really crazy but just a misunderstood genius.

After hundreds of pages of reading, it wasn’t until typing that last paragraph I realized that the image of Franklin I most readily call to mind is Jack Black’s portrayal.

Isaacson is the biographer who wrote that Steve Jobs biography that inspired that guy in your office to start being a total asshole with completely unreasonable expectations.

He gives Franklin the same treatment, taking into account a variety of sources and really giving a complete view of the man — good and bad.

I had no idea, beyond the famous “Poor Richard,” how many character personalities Franklin developed for the purpose of arguing unpopular viewpoints , or attacking his opponents, in his own publications. It was the 1700s equivalent of using fake accounts to write posts and direct the conversation in the comments section of your own blog. A manipulative practice indeed, regardless if the positions he and his characters held are on the right side of history.

Two main takeaways: Industry and Economy. Work hard and don’t spend your money on pointless stuff.

Mona Lisa Overdrive by William Gibson

I finally finished the Sprawl Trilogy! The shortest books that took me the longest to get through.

If the name William Gibson means nothing to you, know he’s a cornerstone of the Cyberpunk genre. Little references are sprinkled to him everywhere. He coined the term “Cyberspace” and the term “The Matrix” as a visual representation of the data on the web in his books. That he wrote in the eighties. On a typewriter.

Chances are if you’ve seen it in a Cyberpunk influenced movie, The Sprawl Trilogy originated it. Beyond the idea of “The Matrix” as the 3-D graphical interface of the Internet’s data, this book explores a character going under and living within a computer simulation of life. Sound familiar?

This is definitely the headiest of the trilogy, addressing the ethics of the use of new technologies on prison inmates, the negative consequences of fame, and atonement for past sin against retribution from those wronged. It even contains a heft reference to one of my favorite short stories.

Definitely a less fun read than Neuromancer, and a less thrilling ride than Count Zero, but a fantastic conclusion to the trilogy.

The Walking Dead Volume 25: No Turning Back by Robert Kirkman

As much as I’m excited for the Total War storyline on the TV Show, what’s come after in the comics is so much more interesting to me. I’m treading lightly to avoid spoilers here, but the show branches from the comics in so many ways I’m just going to go for it.

I’m really excited to see how the Negan / Rick relationship continues to play out. Also the graphic cover makes me think he gets loose at a point. But this is a slippery slope Rick is walking. Using fear as a weapon historically doesn’t end up well for the leaders of men.

The Whisperers I believe are the most formidable enemy Rick & Co. have ever faced, and we’ve seen how human Alpha can be, and how quick she is to mask it with ruthlessness.

I really hope Carl’s first love doesn’t continue to put the group in jeopardy. But I’m sure it will.

If anybody has any other comic / graphic novel recommendations I’d love to hear them. Trade paperback #26 doesn’t ship until September 20th, and I could use something to tide me over until then.

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