A few months ago, the “Amazon Book Editors” put up a list with the description “100 Books to Read in a Lifetime: A bucket list of books to create a well-read life”.
It contains some good (1984, Pride and Prejudice, The Right Stuff), some decent-but-thought-provoking (Man’s Search for Meaning), some leftist cant (Silent Spring), and a disproportionate amount of lightweight fiction, books for children, and books for young adults. I’m guessing this is a consequence of Amazon editors skewing rather young.
I think the list lacks broad perspective. It is weak on science, with only the often-purchased-but-seldom-read Brief History of Time plus an obscure book on nutrition. There’s nothing on technology, nothing on business unless you count Moneyball, nothing military (though it does have two books about the victims of WWII), and weak on history.
Fittingly for a Seattle-based company, the list leans left. I mentioned that Silent Spring is there, which is disturbing given the damage and death caused by its inaccuracies and environmental hysteria. It also contains Fahrenheit 451, which is the soft lefty’s go-to entry when they think they just have to cite a science fiction book. I could name a hundred better science fiction books off the top of my head, but most are from authors who have a nasty habit of not leaning left.
While the list is worth browsing through, I thought the largest bookseller in the world should have done better. That started me thinking about the list I would recommend. My list would contain books that gave me some of the greatest return on investment in reading them. That might be by changing or refining my worldview. It might be simply great entertainment. Some of the very best combine both.
It would be the best books I could name from a wide variety of fields. Being easily bored, I’m more of a generalist than a specialist, and I like to read lots of different kinds of books. So I began composing a list, and extended and refined it several times over a few months.
Creating such a list involves some tough choices between certain books that cover the same territory. I have dodged that by having some of my entries be categories, in which I think a well-read person should be exposed to the category, but not necessary any single work in the category.
For some works and authors, I also included some follow-on suggestions.
I ended up with about 50 books and categories. Here, then, are the books I think ought to be a bucket list for a well-read person, in alphabetic order except that I separated out the science fiction and placed it at the bottom.
The ones that are also on Amazon’s list have an asterisk. No doubt I’ve left off some obvious works, and no doubt our sharp and excellent commenters will remind me.
Dear readers of QandO.
I intended this to precede my musings on the Crimea, alas, Id10T error received by WordPress novice.
Normally you may see my…observations…in the comment section here, assuming you read the comment section, and assuming you read my comments.
After years of being ‘looker’ somehow my credibility would be increased (nay confirmed even!) if I used my real name, at least, according to one particular person I shall not name (curse you Voldemort!). On reflection perhaps ‘pain in the …’ would have been a better handle for me, but when I first commented, I was only ‘looking’, hence ‘looker’. That didn’t last long.
The proprietors have apparently had enough of my Irish whispers in the background and rather than show me the door, have decided that I should try and earn my keep instead. So they’ve offered me the opportunity to stop merely being a wordy guest, and maybe do some actual work.
Trust me, I have now officially discovered writing allegedly coherent, if not thoughtful, pieces for presentation versus commenting ain’t the same thing. My level of respect for those who do so daily has risen dramatically.
I would like to express my thanks to all the contributing authors, especially Dale and Bruce, for this opportunity.
As for everyone else, I am sorely tempted to warn you to flee while you may.
There’s this college kid named Evan Ewing in LA who really wants to make a cool, short film for one of his classes. And he wants to make it about the Nissan GT-R. He loves the GT-R and he’d like to show his fellow students, teachers, and car enthusiasts how much he loves it. Frankly, he’s a bit nuts on the subject. But, the thing is, he’s a student, which means he’s a dirty, poor person. And it costs money to make movies, even really short ones. So he needs to somehow scrape up $2,500. He can’t do it himself because he’s, as I mentioned, poor and dirty. So, he’s got a kickstarter page where he’s begging for money, like some sort of shameless third-world indigent.
Normally, of course, I would spurn this money-grubbing little ragamuffin like a rabid dog. Yet, somehow, he’s touched my heart. His pathetic longing for a car that, at his age and income, might as well be made of pure unobtainium, speaks to me. Much as Celine Dion said about the looters after Hurricane Katrina, "Dey never get touch de nice tings. Dey are so poor! Let dem touch it!", I want to let him touch a nice thing.
Hey! I’m talking about the GT-R he clearly loves so much, not the very naughty thing you were thinking.
I’m not sure why he loves the GT-R. It is, after all, a Japanese car, which means that, while fast, it is a soulless chunk of machinery, in exactly the way a Jaguar F-Type is not. But he loves it anyway, so I have decided to try and help him raise the $2,500 he needs to make his movie. He is billing it as The Greatest Nissan GT-R Film of All Time, presumably because he’s never seen The Fast and The Furious. Or The Fast and The Furious 2 through 5.
Also, helping him out gives me the illusion that I am not, in fact, a horrible human being. If you would like to enjoy the same illusion of caring for others, then go to his kickstarter page and drop a sawbuck on him. Then contact your attorney to get set up to sue his pants off for the appropriate return on your investment in case of the remote possibility that he ever makes one thin dime of off it.
Photo credit: By 韋駄天狗 (Own work (本人撮影)) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html), CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/) or CC-BY-SA-2.5-2.0-1.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.5-2.0-1.0)], via Wikimedia Commons.
Originally posted at dalefranks.com.
Today, we celebrated the life of my uncle, Rev. Raymond L. Franks Jr. There are few truly good men in this world–I certainly can’t claim to be one–but Uncle Ray was one of them. He was unfailingly loving, compassionate, and kind. In the 35 years he spent in the ministry in Albuquerque, NM, he touched and bettered an uncounted number of lives. The hundreds of people who came to pay their respects today are the merest tithe of the lives he touched.
Just being near him made you want to be a better person, to be able to live by the standards that he demonstrated in his own life every day. One of the great regrets of my life is that I was unable to be the person he thought I could be. Not once did he ever display anything but love and kindness to me, and occasionally regret that I was unable to spend more time with him in recent years. Now, he is gone, I can never spend time with him again.
Though he left an incredibly rich and lasting legacy, the remainder of my life will be a bit darker and bit more empty. Time, they say, heals all wounds, but for this one, sadly, I fear the healing will never truly be complete.
The world is a measurably poorer place for his passing.
I’ll level with you: I’m in a pretty negative mood about…well…everything. I’m not talking about big-picture stuff like the direction of the Republic, or the future of the economy. I’m talking about my life. I’ve gotten to the point that literally everything that happens outside the door to my house is a hateful burden. I just don’t seem to have a sense of purpose anymore.
I was looking back at the old QandO archives, and I noticed that, I used to write and post four or five different posts every day. Now, I post my little economic statistics posts, and I’m done. I just get no sense of joy or usefulness in blogging any more. It seems like it just takes up time, but offers no reward. No money, no recognition, nothing that makes blogging about politics worth my time. Sometimes, something especially interesting comes up, so once every other month or so, I write about it here, but that’s because by far the exception, rather than the rule. Blogging about politics just seems like a burden.
It’s all so pointless. We will never convince the majority of people to embrace liberty, instead of looking to government to be Mommy. At least not until government fails so badly that its incompetence is made clearly manifest. And even if that happens, I suspect that the majority of the electorate will look for a man on a white horse, rather than freedom, and the responsibility for their own lives. There’ll always be a cohort that thinks government could do everything for everyone if only the right people were running it. And, it seems, quite a lot of people will listen to them.
Arguing with progressives is pointless, too. It’s like arguing with people in a movie theater who won’t stop texting. It’s a waste of time to say anything to them, because if they had a shred of civility or decency, they wouldn’t be doing it in the first place. If you’re a Progressive, I just assume at this point that you’re too abysmally stupid to waste time with on reason or debate.
We talked about that in the podcast tonight. A podcast that maybe 200 people or so will listen to, despite the fact that it’s one of the oldest political podcasts in existence. I enjoy talking to Bruce and Michael, but, really, it just seems like a vanity exercise. Hardly anyone will listen to it. Is it worth interrupting my Sunday afternoon for 1.5 hours to record and post a podcast that no one cares about? I don’t know.
But really, it all goes much deeper than that. I suspect the root cause of my problem is that my professional life is hateful to me.
I work full-time as a software developer for a defense contractor. I hate it. I hate programming. I never wanted to do it for a living. I got out of the air force in August, 1993 solely to get into radio. By December, I was the main daytime line producer for a 24-hour business and financial news station in Los Angeles. By April of 1994, I was the on-air anchor for four hours a day. The station management was a bunch of money-losing incompetents, however, and when they sold off 12 hours at night to a company that ran ethnic Chinese programming, I saw the handwriting on the wall. I bailed, and took a job running the training department of a software training and consulting company in Orange County. A year later, I was running the programming department. From there, a series of decisions that made sense at the time led me to the job I have today. I’m a highly-paid senior software developer who hates developing software. I have to think of an excuse every workday to go to work instead of calling in sick.
A few months ago, things seemed to be looking up. We did a bit of a re-org, and someone in each section got promoted to be the lead contractor and liaison with our DoD customer. I was appointed the lead contractor for my department. I was just starting to get into a couple of more interesting things, when, last month, my company hired an outside guy to lead my section, and sent me back to the prgramming ghetto, while all the other guys similarly promoted internally kept their jobs. I was told my technical skills were to valuable to lose to become a manager. So, once again, I’m just a code monkey, with no prospect of moving upwards.
I also have an LLC that does web development, and has kept Chris employed full-time since 2002. We just got a $20,000 contract with a major business to develop a web site. I know exactly what has to be done to do it successfully. I’m going to do it. And I’m going to hate every minute of it.
If I never wrote another line of code again, I wouldn’t miss it. At all. I’d feel nothing but relief.
I enjoy teaching, so the job I have that I really love is being an adjunct professor at a local college. But, of course, there are no full-time academic jobs available—and even if there was, I couldn’t afford to take the massive pay cut that teaching full-time would entail. So, I’m stuck at a job I loathe because I can’t afford to leave it. I still like writing, too, if not about politics. Writing about cars and motorcycles is something that I love doing. I enjoy spending a day or two with a new car or motorcycle and playing with it, and writing it up. But, of course, there’s no money in that either, even for people who do it full-time. Auto journalism is a low-paying career. I do—and have for years, done—photography and videography. I still love that. Occasionally, I get a job to do a photo or video shoot, or video editing job, but not enough to make it pay as a full-time career. I’d love to do radio again, but broadcasting doesn’t really pay the bills, either. It’s not nearly as high-paying a career as people think it is, unless you’re at the top of the profession. And with corporate consolidation, there’s no room for doing anything original anymore. Terrestrial radio is pretty much unlistenable as a result.
In short, everything I love is more or less professionally worthless to me, and the thing I hate—absolutely hate—is what pays the bills. This wasn’t the life a planned, and it’s certainly not the life I wanted. I think the disappointment of that is coloring everything else. I’m trapped in a career I despise, working for people I dislike, and I don’t see any way out. I still have a mortgage, and a family to feed, so I can’t just go off and start over in a new career from scratch.
Chris says most people hate their jobs. Maybe she’s right. Maybe I’m just hitting my mid-life crisis. I just know that I feel trapped and unhappy in my professional life, and I just can’t seem to work up any enthusiasm for a lot of things I used to love doing. I just feel so drained and dissatisfied at the end of the work day, I just want to go home, and watch TV or read, staying up as late as I possibly can, because I know that sleeping will just bring the next workday that much closer.
What I really want to do is sell my house in California, and move back to Texas. With what we would make on our current house, I could buy a house outright there, and pay off the rest of our debt, besides. That would take a huge amount of financial pressure off me, and maybe give me some space to do more things that I would enjoy as a profession. But, for a variety of reasons I can’t go into right now, that doesn’t appear to be an option.
So I feel trapped in a career that I absolutely loathe, but that I can’t escape. Every workday, I wake up, and the first thought of every single day is that all I want to do is spend the day with Chris, my dogs, my reading, and my writing, and tell the rest of the world to go to hell. Every morning, I know that literally nothing I do at work today will provide me with any positive feeling at all. I’ll just endure it, as I always do. And if everything goes as well as it possibly can, I’ll just get another chance to endure it tomorrow.
This may not be an entirely healthy attitude.