Featured, Good Reads, Sundry

Book Giveaway: My High School Nephew

We are preparing to move back to California, and my nephew has reported that he has no plans for this summer before his senior year of high school, so late one night I tore through the shelves for volumes I thought might find a suitable home with his family. I figured to create an “annotated bibliography” and why not post such a thing online for the sake of possible discussion?

See the World

“Vacation Work’s Work Your Way Around the World” by Susan Griffith
An outdated guide that can give a sense of ways one might spend more time overseas. (Though the first advice is that the best place to work and save money for travel is usually the USA.)

“Dark Star Safari” by Paul Theroux
Paul Theroux is best known for his books about railroad travel, but in his overland journey from Cairo to Capetown, there are few trains. A taste of travelling in Africa, including an actual wild life safari.

“Japan” by Lonely Planet
An out-of-date guidebook which might have interesting stuff for a Japan-o-phile to read.

“Teaching English Overseas: A Guide for Americans and Canadians” by Jeff Mohamed
Worth a skim if you think you might want to live overseas one day.

“Overseas Timetable: Surface Transport for Africa, Asia, North and South America and Australia” by Thomas Cook
Outdated, but fun “travel porn” if you wanted to fantasize or estimate the different ways you could get around the world’s surface. Europe has its own book of the same size.

Coming of Age

“The White Boy Shuffle” by Paul Beatty
A fictional coming-of-age experience of a nerdy young black man in California. I particularly enjoyed the parts that recounted the LA Riots.

“Not Without Laughter” by Langston Hughes
Another fictional coming-of-age of a young black man, this time in the 1930s.

“Apartment 4B, Like in Brooklyn” by Evan Ginzburg
Short stories of what it was like to grow up in 1960s Crown Heights, as the neighborhood turned black. (This year I have lived in the same area, which is “gentrifying.”)

“Son of the Revolution” by Liang Heng
An autobiographical account of growing up in Communist China, through the Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution. This is a book I had to read in college which I held on to because it is such a great story of what it is like for a young man to grow up under vastly different circumstances.

Question Convention

“No More Prisons!” by William Upski Wimsatt
A very different kind of book: Wimsatt explores different ways to make life more fulfilling and successful. It was originally published by the anarchist Soft Skull press, if that gives you any idea. The title serves as both a call against our modern prison system, but also for emancipation from the less visible prisons we find ourselves trapped in.

“Heart of a Dog” by Mikhail Bulgakov
A short, sweet novel narrated by a dog in Moscow.

“Death at an Early Age” by Jonathan Kozol
Explains the numerous failings of public education in 1960s Boston. It was weird how much similarity I had personally witnessed in the Chicapo Public Schools of the 1980s.

“The Omnivore’s Dilemma” by Michael Pollan
A long-winded exploration of the failings of our contemporary food system, and how we might go about eating right.

“The Years of Rice and Salt” by Kim Stanley Robinson
An alternate history of a world in which no Europeans survive the 14th century Black Death.

“The Diamond Age” by Neal Stephenson
Science fiction set in a near future where there is no longer any shortage of food or stuff: now humanity has thoroughly different problems. Totally blew my mind.

“The Myths of Innovation” by Scott Berkun
How great technological advances actually come about. (And how they don’t.) Good storytelling helps to better understand the creative process. (Signed by the author.)

“Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything” by Levitt and Dubner
Applying the science of economic statistical analysis and field research to explore questions economists don’t usually explore, like the economics of drug distribution in Chicago. A fun way to look at things from a different angle.

“Fast Food Nation” by Eric Schlosser
The history of fast food in America and how it works today, between government and industry, and how it is hurting us.


“A History of the World in Six Glasses” by Tom Standage
A unique and enjoyable World History told from the point of view of how different beverages through history influenced the shape of particular civilizations.

“A Little History of the World” by E.H. Gombrich
A quick way to get up to speed on the idea of history, and some of Western History in particular. The intention is a good story-telling narrative for kids, but the narrative quality is inconsistent, and there is a definite German cultural bias. Possibly worth a quick read.

“David Thompson: The Epic Expeditions of a Great Canadian Explorer” by Graeme Pole
Among the things one might do with one’s life, surveying the Western Wilderness of Canada in the early 1800s . . . definitely an excellent adventure!

“To Live” by Yu Hua
Inspired the Zhang Yimou film of the same name, a fictional autobiography that starts at the end of Imperial China, through personal tragedy, the Japanese occupation, the civil war, and trying to raise a family through the difficulties of the Communist era. The protagonist and his story are so engaging I couldn’t put the book down.

“How to See Europe on 50 Cents a Day: A Tramp’s Trip” by Lee Meriwether
This guy sounds like Uncle Bill or maybe even Grandpa Howard: Lee Meriwether travels around Europe, mainly on foot, in the 1880s, conducting surveys of the economic circumstances of Europeans. It is fun to see what “backpacking” was like in a much earlier time, and I enjoyed the peeks into traditional European peasant economics.


“Drawing for Older Children and Teens: A Creative Method for Adult Beginners, Too” by Mona Brookes
I never got in to this book, so hopefully some people with more free time than I have can dig it.

“Sams Teach Yourself GIMP in 24 Hours” by Joshua and Ramona Pruitt
An outdated edition that might still help someone learn a thing or two about editing computer graphics.

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