Route 66 Still Kicks

Route 66 Still Kicks coverRoute 66 Still Kicks: Driving America’s Main Street
Rick Antonson
Skyhorse Publishing; August 15, 2012, 385 pages
KIndle edition $9.99, Amazon paperback $11.91
Purchased during an Early Bird Books sale for $1.99

I have a long history with Route 66. My family lived in Barstow during the years I was in first through fourth grade. Route 66 ran through Main Street in the town before the Interstate was built. When I attended Pitzer College the northern border of the campus was Foothill Boulevard, which was the old Route 66 in the area. During my years in Oklahoma my first wife Ruth and I, on one trip from Tulsa back to Oklahoma City, abandoned the turnpike, an Interstate highway, and traveled Route 66 through the old towns that the turnpike bypassed.

When I saw that the Kindle edition of this book was on sale for $1.99 I of course immediately bought it. And what a delight it was.

Rick Antonson got a bee under his bonnet and decided that he wanted to drive as much of the old Route 66 as possible. He recruited a friend, Peter, and they rented a Mustang in Chicago for their trip. They discovered that much of the old highway was hard to find, but it was findable nonetheless. They took risks, sometimes venturing down unpaved parts of the road. They seemed to have an aversion to shaving and to Laundromats. They met interesting people and they ate good food. Mixed in with all this was some fascinating history of people, places, and of the highway itself. Not to mention a detailed discussion of that iconic Nat King Cole song.

If Route 66 and its history resonate with you, you will find this book a kick.


Daisy Jones & The Six

Daisy Jones and the Six coverDaisy Jones & The Six: A Novel
Taylor Jenkins Reid
Ballantine Books (March 5, 2019), 368 pages
Amazon hardcover $15.99, Kindle edition $11.99

I actually read this book in hardcover, not as a Kindle e-book. Terry and I both read the review in the New York Times Book Review and thought it would be a fun read. She picked up the hardcover at Barnes & Noble and I read it when she was done. We were right. It was a fun read.

The book is presented as an oral history of a seventies rock band, with each member of the band presenting his or her perspective of events. The band’s supposed songs are even printed at the end of the book. There might be a tendency to view this as a fictionalized history of Fleetwood Mac, although there are probably more differences than similarities to that band’s history. Daisy Jones herself is something of a Stevie Nicks, although even here there are as many differences as similarities.

The book is a fast, enjoyable, and engaging read. There is something of a surprise near the end of the novel when we learn who the supposed interviewer and author is. And at the book’s conclusion I had tears in my eyes. I don’t cry at the end of novels. I did this time.

If you are a fan of seventies pop music you will find Daisy Jones & The Six well worth your time.


Save Me the Plums

Save Me the Plums coverSave Me the Plums: My Gourmet Memoir
Ruth Reichl
narrated by the author
Random House Audio, 2019
$19.60 for Audible members, more for non-members
purchased with an Audible credit

I read My Kitchen Year, Ruth Reichl’s memoir cum cookbook, when it came out in 2015, so I was keen on reading, well, listening to, her latest book. My Kitchen Year is Reichl’s story about her life in the year after Gourmet magazine, of which she was editor-in-chief, was shut down, and in it she included a number of recipes that helped her make it through that year. Save Me the Plums is her narrative about her decade at Gourmet.

This is one of those audiobooks that is made far better by being read by the author. Reichl describes being lured to the Condé Nast publication from her job as food critic for The New York Times. She describes how she helped revitalize the magazine, which had become staid and stale. She talks about the lavish expense accounts and other perquisites that came with being part of Condé Nast. She talks about the politics of publishing and the idiosyncrasies of Condé Nast owner S.I. Newhouse. She describes the belt-tightening that came with the Great Recession and Newhouse’s decision, sudden and unexpected, to shut down the magazine. Throughout it all Reichl offers a variety of recipes.

This book will appeal to a variety of audiences: foodies, lovers of food writing, and those with an interest in the magazine publishing business. Enjoyable, engaging listening.


Horizon

Horizon coverHorizon
Barry Lopez
Knopf (March 19, 2019), 592 pages
Kindle edition $14.99, Amazon hardcover $18.00

One would think that if one were to select a book to read from an award-winning author whom one had not read before, one would start with one of their classic books. In the case of Barry Lopez that might be Arctic Dreams or Of Wolves and Men. Me, I started with his most recent book, Horizon.

Not a Barry Lopez classic, but highly readable and enjoyable. Lopez describes his visits to the Oregon Coast, the Galapagos Islands, Africa, Australia, and the Antarctic. He describes not only his own travels, but delves into history as well. He writes about Captain Cook, Charles Darwin, the Leakey family, and the earliest Antarctic explorers. The writing is entertaining and engaging and it was delightful to read about Lopez’s explorer spirit. The history was fascinating, except for some of the more unpleasant bits which Lopez describes unblinkingly.

For travel writing and for history this is good reading.


Almost Everything

Notes on Hope coverAlmost Everything: Notes on Hope
Anne Lamott
narrated by the author
Penguin Audio, 2018
$12.25 for Audible members, more for non-members
purchased with an Audible credit

I have not read an Anne Lamott book for several years. When I decided to add an Audible subscription to my Amazon account, however, this is the first book I purchased with one of my credits. I was past due for an Anne Lamott fix.

The book did not disappoint. I was very familiar with Anne’s voice from her many appearances on the late, lamented West Coast Live, a highly intelligent public radio program that Terry and I faithfully listened to each week. It only made sense that she narrate her own book; another voice would not have sounded right.

Anne writes about family, friends, recovery, and writing. She writes about people whose lives were cut short by disease. But she also talks about community, about faith, about grace, and, naturally, about hope. She says people who engender hate want exactly that: for us to hate them, and we should thwart them by not doing so. That makes me seriously reconsider my own feelings about the current occupant of the White House.

She writes about grace. “We can’t logically get from where we were to where we are now. I think that is what they mean by grace.” She calls grace “spiritual WD-40.”

There is not a lot new here. Anne Lamott is Anne Lamott, although I did learn for the first time about her son’s struggle with addiction and recovery. If you are an Anne Lamott fan, however, you will find yourself in familiar and comfortable territory with this book.


This is Audible

If you have ever purchased an audiobook from Audible you know that every book starts with a familiar voice saying, “This is audible.” (Rather like the “You’ve got mail” from the heyday of AOL. Someone whose voice became familiar to millions and who probably got paid very little for recording the phrase.) That Audible voice was present in the early days of the company and it is still very much present today in the Amazon-owned era.

AudibleI wrote a couple of weeks ago about my audiobook dilemma. I liked the fact that I could download audiobooks from the library at no cost, but I disliked the fact that most new titles were unavailable, being already checked out by others, and that I was under time pressure to finish the book. I said that I didn’t have a problem in principle with the Audible monthly fee, but I didn’t want to put yet another monthly subscription on my credit card.

Here’s was I did. I was already aware that I was in overwhelm mode with my streaming video options, so I decided that was a good place to cut back, allowing me in good conscience to take on the Audible subscription.

My first impression: I am delighted. When I was an Audible subscriber many years ago the selection was somewhat limited. I had a credit that I had to use each month or lose (they later began to allow credit rollovers), but there wasn’t necessarily a book available that month which I wanted. These days almost every new book that comes out has an audio version, as well as print and ebook editions. Amazon makes it easy because when you search for a book the entry displays all the various formats that are available. I am not by any means going to give up reading print books in Kindle format, but many books do lend themselves to the audio format. While I will continue to read my Kindle books in the evening, I have audiobooks which I can listen to while walking, driving, doing yard work, or simply doing daily mundane tasks. It’s nice to be able to listen to an audiobook while emptying the dishwasher.

There’s another benefit that having an Audible subscription provides. I get my one credit each month, but if I come to the end of a book before I come to the end of the month the cost of that second audiobook is considerably less for Audible members than it is for non-members.

I think the value of the subscription is going to be well worth the cost.


The Origins of Creativity

Origins of Creativity coverThe Origins of Creativity
Edward O. Wilson
narrated by Jonathan Hogan
Recorded Books, 2017
Audiobook $17.95, Kindle edition $8.98
audiobook borrowed from the Santa Clara County Library System

This was enjoyable listening. Edward O. Wilson is a distinguished Harvard scientist who first made his name in the field of entomology (the study of insects – as opposed to etymology, the study of word origins). In particular, he is one of the foremost experts in the world on ants.

This book goes far beyond the ant world, however. His thesis is that we can do a lot to salvage culture and society by the coming together of science and the humanities. In this discussion, he describes storytelling in hunter-gatherer societies, the social conventions of insects, the evolution of the genus homo, and archetypes in movies. Wilson also discusses religion, though not always in a favorable light. At the same time, he has some positive things to say about religion and even admits to a couple of moving religious experiences in his own life.

The narration by Jonathan Hogan is excellent. His inflection, cadence, and pace make this a very enjoyable book to listen to. I did at times think that maybe I should be reading the print version; there were times when I wanted to flip back a few pages, something that is easier to do in print than with audio.

Overall, however, this was a delightful and educational listening experience.