Tuesday, September 6, 2016

From Chicago to Wakanda to Plaszow to Selma - Doug's Summer Reading List

Doug: With yesterday's observance of Labor Day here in the States, summer has unofficially come to an end. And as we've done in the past around here, we like to query the reading lists of friends and discuss that of your hosts. I always look forward to these times to get recommendations and really to just get a finger on the pulse of our readers' preferences inside and outside the comics/graphic novel genre.

I was really floored when I set to gathering images for today's post. I knew I'd been somewhat prolific since May -- way more than in the past several summers -- but I had no idea how ravenous an appetite for reading I'd had. So in chronological order (because I'm a history guy, you know...), here are my accomplishments.

In May I actually finished a book I'd started in the fall of 2015. Having lived in the Chicago area for 95% of my life, my wife and I have an interest in Chicago history. So last year, while she read The Devil in the White City, I started Sin in the Second City. You can see from the taglines on the book's cover what it is basically about. It centers on a pair of sisters who arrive in town with the goal of setting up the best brothel in America. The Everleigh (get it?) Club was notorious, and the circumstances around its existence and demise were compelling reading.

I followed that book with a biography of Eliot Ness. I probably haven't seen but one or two episodes of the 1959-63 television show The Untouchables, but I love the 1986 film of the same name that starred Kevin Costner, Sean Connery, Andy Garcia, and Robert DeNiro. Last year my wife and I toured Union Station, site of the most memorable scene from that film. So I've had this closet interest in Ness, and upon seeing the book for sale at the Chicago History Museum I purchased it. Like all people and events, lives and circumstances tend to be romanticized over time. This would definitely be true of the history of the Untouchables, a story actually promoted by Ness himself. I had not known that after Prohibition ended Ness landed in Cleveland and became that city's Public Safety Director. Ness led an interesting, and conflicted, life to be sure. It was a good read.

When I headed to Washington, DC in mid-July I wanted to read something that could probably be conquered in the four-plus hours (round-trip) of flight time. Having recently downloaded a file of all the Tarzan novels to my Kindle, I chose Jungle Tales of Tarzan. It was my third read of that book, and its format as a collection of short stories was perfect. This also helped to set my mind for seeing the Tarzan film, which I did after my return.

For light reading while in Washington, because being immersed in the Holocaust definitely requires a mental break, I took my copy of the the Black Panther Marvel Masterworks. I've long been reporting that a storyline I'd never read but needed to was "Panther's Rage". I actually read the first three issues (of 13) while away from home, and then finished it upon my return. I have something in the works for later this fall in terms of a review of the story. Footnote: As Marvel is soon releasing a paperback Epic Collection version of the "Panther's Rage" story, and with the Marvel Premiere BP stories also included, I decided to sell my Masterworks and pre-order the softcover as a replacement. My copy sold on eBay last month for $120, so it was a wise decision financially.

While at the Holocaust Museum, a colleague recommended I read My Grandfather Would Have Shot Me. You can see the tagline on the cover. But the kicker is that the author's grandfather was not some obscure Nazi lost to the sands of time. No... Jennifer Teege's grandfather was none other than Amon Goth, commandant of the Plaszow Labor Camp and immortalized in Steven Spielberg's Schindler's List. Goth and his mistress, shown a couple of times in the film, had a baby girl just months before the War ended and Goth was hanged for his crimes. That baby girl grew up and had a relationship with a man of African descent which bore a daughter, Jennifer. Ms. Teege did not know the full truth about her background until she was an adult and how that new knowledge turned her life upside down is the theme of the book. Fascinating reading.

I felt like I needed something a little lighter to help balance the Teege book. On Amazon's Kindle Store, books that have fallen to the public domain are offered for a free download. While browsing I found the first Lone Ranger book and snatched it up. It was OK -- I found it perhaps more sociologically interesting in terms of the attitudes and stereotypes than I found it to be any sort of high literature. But I'm glad I read it. Funny, because I could "see" Clayton Moore and Jay Silverheels in my head the entire time I read it and much of the dialogue seemed like it could have been used later in the television program.


I mentioned to a Twitter friend a few weeks ago, as he was on his way to hear Rep. John Lewis (D-GA) speak that I regretted passing on a rally in DC after the Dallas shootings. Lewis was to be the main speaker at a rally on the Capitol lawn. If you are not aware, John Lewis remains a major figure in the Civil Rights Movement, and is the last living person who spoke at the March on Washington on 28 August 1963 (site of Dr. Martin Luther King's famous "I Have a Dream" speech). Lewis has authored a memoir in the graphic novel format. March has been issued in three volumes. I have read the first two and am awaiting the third installment, which will arrive with the Black Panther book I mentioned above. Highly recommended!

While reading March I was also reading Robert E. Howard's only full-length Conan novel, Conan the Conqueror. I read it from a Kindle file of Howard's complete Conan stories. It was a solid read, and a nice balance to the themes of Lewis's memoir. I'll recommend any Howard Conan, and follow it up with a tip of the hat to the way Marvel (notably Roy Thomas) handled the character in the Bronze Age.

So summer's over and I've begun reading Viktor Frankl's Holocaust memoir Man's Search for Meaning. But you know I'll have to have a mental diversion from those difficult events and themes, so from the Kindle I will also soon begin Johnston McCulley's The Mark of Zorro. That, and all the comics I read so that I can bring the reviews your way for consideration are on the horizon.

Now, how about you?



Anonymous said...

Holy Cow ! You have very broad horizons, my friend. Where else would you find a Holocaust memoir nestled between a Marvel comic and the Lone Ranger? I've certainly picked up a couple of books for my reading list there. Thanks Doug.


Edo Bosnar said...

Wow, those are some pretty impressive reading accomplishments, Doug. And your post provokes this sort of love/exasperation response in me, in that I love reading about what other people are reading, and become interested in many of the books, but then kind of get frustrated by the fact that I will probably add a bunch of stuff to my already crippling "to-read" pile.
Anyway, as I mentioned in our private correspondence, I just got slammed with work this summer (July and August) and did not get an opportunity to catch up on any reading - like I normally do most summers. Even before July, I was pretty busy, but if we go all the way back to May, here's some of the stuff I managed to read:

Glory Season by David Brin - a coming-of-age story set on a planet colonized by humans in the distant future, in which society is entirely dominated by women - and indeed, men only account for a very small percentage of the population. Just a wonderfully constructed, very well-written SF novel. Highly recommended.

Old Man's War by John Scalzi - a very easy-to-read enjoyable space opera, which now has me interested in reading all of the follow-up books.

Seven of Harlem Cycle detective novels by Chester Himes - a few years back while eBay browsing I found incredibly cheap copes of the two omnibus volumes that each contain three novels, plus a dirt cheap copy of Cotton Comes to Harlem. This was the only big summer reading project I managed to get through just as July started. These are really fascinating books: hard-boiled detective fiction set in 1950s Harlem.

As to comics, I managed to read my Iron Fist and Power Man & Iron Fist Epic collections (and I now have the second PM&IF volume on pre-order). Also read the two-volume Original Johnson graphic novel by Trevor von Eeden, which is basically a biography of early 20th-century heavyweight boxer Jack Johnson, although von Eeden embellished quite a few details and added some fictional elements to the story.
And a certain BAB host now has me re-reading the Panther's Rage story for reasons that will become clear later... ;)

Redartz said...

Doug, your reading list is incredible! Very impressive! That "March" gn is on my list of "to read" (which is like Edo's- very extensive).

My summer list is pretty slim (he writes with some chagrin). I love reading, but just can't seem to get enough time free. Yet I did fit in the following:
"DC- The New Frontier" by Darwyn Cooke; a birthday gift from my son and daughter-in-law. Fantastic book.
Have been re-reading "The October Country" by Ray Bradbury, after a lapse of several decades. One of my favorites as a teen.
Also re-reading "The Stand" by Stephen King (maybe I need to quit re-reading and grab a new read).
For some variety, I also dove into some electronics texts and, of course, numerous comics...

Anonymous said...

The Summer ? I've only read two books in the whole of 2016 so far - "Walking The Himalayas" by Levison Wood and "The 100-Year Life" by Lynda Gratton & Andrew Scott which investigates how societies will cope when everybody (supposedly) lives to 100 years old.

david_b said...

Wow and WOW, I haven't read too much for leisure this year yet, but have been picking up the old floppies of the original Panther 'Jungle Action' series. I'm still amazed/annoyed they did such a limited run of the Masterworks edition, so I'm boycotting it in exchange for the original run.

(Eh, I needed to invest in another short-box anyways, making my count now at seven....)

Along with what you mentioned Doug, I assumed 'Rage' would go to softcover at some point. I just decided to buy essentially 'reader copies' of the run for $2-$5 each.

Other than working most of the weekend upgrading Windows servers here at work to 2012, I did pop in the 1st Season of Batman:TAS yesterday.., spent a few hours enjoying what I still feel is THE best Batman treatment, besides Dozer's '60s series.

Anonymous said...

Some cool books there, Doug. I might have to check a couple of them out. I keep meaning to read McGregor's Jungle Action stuff, but I never seem to get around to it.

I actually had a fairly busy reading schedule this summer too. I managed to devour a number of books: Crocodile on the Sandbank by Elizabeth Peters (about an unconventional lady in Victorian times who takes an interest in archaeology and ends up helping to solve a murder); Swords and Ice Magic by Fritz Leiber; Callahan's Crosstime Saloon by Spider Robinson; a couple of Star Trek novels; The Silver Pigs by Lindsey Davis (about a P.I. in Ancient Rome named Marcus Didius Falco, there's a lot of historical detail but it's written kind of in the style of Chandler or Hammett); and Neil Gaiman's American Gods (with the TV show coming out, I figured I'd better finally read the book!) I also read "One Summer: America 1927" by Bill Bryson (a cool look at a pivotal year in 20th century history)

At the moment, I'm reading A History of Food by Maguelonne Toussaint-Samat. As for comics, I've been reading some early 70s Dr. Strange and some old Superman stuff; I've actually been thinking about starting a blog, but I'm not sure if I'll do it or not...as Doug and Karen know, it's a major commitment! So I'm messing around, practicing reading comics and writing reviews to see if I can stick to a schedule, but I'm still not sure if I can or not...I guess I'll see how I feel after a few weeks of it :)

Mike Wilson

david_b said...

Tooo Funny..:

I just looked up Panther's Rage on Amazon and under "About the Author", it lists Billy Graham as 'world-renown evangelist'.

Sheesh, not trying to be cynical here, but I sort of expected it would say that.


Anonymous said...

Mike, I read "One Summer: America 1927" a couple of years ago - it was especially interesting to me because my (late) father was born in October 1927 - but not in America :D

Martinex1 said...

Amazing and eclectic list Doug. Like others I have not read as much as I'd like to lately. I read the Devil in the White City recently. And I am glad to see you recommend March as I've been eyeing that and have heard good things.

My next book to read though is "Pym" by Mat Johnson; it's a satire following up on and responding to "The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym" by Poe. I've had that on my list for a while and need to get to it.

The Silver Pigs sounds interesting Mike W. - I've never thought about detective work in Roman times.

Anonymous said...

@Colin Jones: I think Bryson is actually British, but moved to the States and lived there for a long time. He's written a couple of interesting-sounding books about England that I haven't read yet.

@Martinex1: Yeah, I thought it sounded like an interesting premise too, that's why I read the book. A lot of the situations are very noir-ish (he has a friend on the "police force", he's constantly getting the crap kicked out of him or thrown in jail), but there are some inversions of the usual tropes too...for instance, he's afraid of his domineering mother! There's a whole series and I've only read the first one so far, but it was pretty good, so I'll probably check out some more.

Mike Wilson

Doug said...

Thanks for the interaction and suggestions today, friends. Nice forum for us to exchange ideas.

And Mike Wilson, you go right ahead and start a blog. We have appreciated having you as a guest writer at this space, and I am certain there would be some among us who would love to read your musings.


Anonymous said...

Currently reading A Dance with Dragons (by George RR Martin of course). Funnily enough, I have all 6 seasons recorded on DVD, but have only watched up to season 3. Dunno why, but I seem to read the books at a faster pace than watching the series. I read the second novel, A Clash of Kings, a 1000+ page monster in no time flat yet sitting down to watch one episode seems like a huge slog for me. Maybe I prefer reading to watching TV?

As for lighter fare, I'm halfway through my Essential Captain America Vol 4 which I picked up recently at a local comic con (yay T&T has comic cons now!). I have a box filled with 21 unread books, titles at a glance - Cyborg by Martin Caidin, To Sell is Human by Daniel H. Pink, Mythology by Edith Hamilton, The Seven-Per-Cent Solution by Nicholas Meyer, Working With Emotional Intelligence by Daniel Goleman and The Acts of King Arthur and his Noble Knights by John Steinbeck. Talk about diverse and eclectic!

At the snail's pace I'm reading at right now, I'll probably finish them by, oh, say 2045!

- Mike 'booksnail, not bookworm' from Trinidad & Tobago.

Edo Bosnar said...

Mike from T&T: a backlog of 21 unread books? How adorable... :P

Mike W.: Bryson is American, born and raised somewhere in the Midwest (Iowa, I think); he talks about it in one of his earlier books (the only one I've read) about his travels through small-town America. He's been living in the UK more or less permanently since the late '70s, though.

David, re: Graham. Yep, and if you click his name at the top of the page where all of the authors are listed under the book title, it goes to a link of the evangelist's books. I suppose it's kind of funny, but it's also kind of sad that a really solid (and sadly, now deceased) comic book artist's identity basically gets erased by Amazon because he shares a name with someone more famous than him.

Karen said...

Always interesting to hear what everyone is reading. It seems like there is a wide range of interests. It doesn't surprise me - I kind of assume we are all readers first and formost.

So far this year I've plowed through 16 books - a lot of that on my lunch break. Just focusing on titles since May, there was The Black Powder War, by Naomi Novik, which is part of a series that is essentially 'the Napoleonic Wars with dragons'; On The Move, the late Oliver Sack's autobiography; The Perdition Score, continuing the Sandman Slim series by Richard Kadrey; Life by Keith Richards (first 1/3 of the book about Richards' early life was good, middle was one long search for heroin, and last 1/3 was boring beyond belief); Sleeping Giants by Sylvain Nuevel - Highly touted SF novel that had a great premise but I found disappointing, mostly underdeveloped; and Killfile by Chris Farnsworth which was very entertaining- sort of a psychic Jason Bourne.

I just started reading Ready Player One, which is loaded with more 80s references than I actually remember being in the 80s....

Garett said...

Nice to read all the lists here.

Recent comics:
The 4 Parker graphic novels by Darwin Cooke. All great for art and storytelling, although the last one was a little thin.

John MacEnroe- You Cannot Be Serious. I disliked him as a player with his bratty attitude, but he's turned into a very good commentator.

Andre Agassi- Open. More literary and sensitive than MacEnroe's book. Agassi should be writing for a living.

Maureen McCormick- Here's the Story. Like tabloid reading but fascinating for anyone who grew up with the Bradys in the '70s.

Nelson Mandela- Long Walk to Freedom. Still reading this one, but very interesting to learn about Mandela's humble beginnings and the series of opportunities that allowed him to rise up.

Kenny Rogers- Luck or Something Like It. I had no idea about Rogers' musical background before The Gambler, including jazz and psychedelic rock. Took him a while to find his place.

I much prefer autobiographies to biographies, as you get the voice of the person. Even if they had help writing, it still comes through.

Anonymous said...

@Edo: Argghhh, I got it backwards; I knew it was one or the other . Thanks for the correction :)

@Doug: Thanks for the encouragement; if I ever actually get it off the ground, I'll let you know. (And I'll still be willing to contribute to BAB, as long as you guys still want me :)

Mike Wilson

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