Books Jan 2016

by Dave Michels

Books I completed this month.

Under the Banner of Heaven: This is my second Krakauer book. The first was “Into Thin Air” which retells a disastrous year on Everest. “Under the Banner of Heaven” is also documentary style, but instead of Everest it’s the Mormons – actually the fundamentalist Mormons, and Kraukauer is pretty tough on them. While the book targets one group, it raises interesting questions about religion in general. For example, why is one person’s belief that God wants them to kill any more sane or insane than another person’s belief that God was them to live life as a virgin?   This is a pretty heavy book filled with murder, incest, and of course plural marriage. It’s very interesting, but not exactly fun reading.

Born Standing Up: A Comic’s Life: I read a lot of autobiographies by comedians. Steve Martin’s was a bit shorter than most, but that’s because it only focuses on the stand-up part of his life. Steve got his performing start working the magic store at Disneyland after school. The book ends when Steve decides he’s done with stand-up – which was actually quite some time ago. Most people didn’t even notice he quit because he so seamlessly transitioned into movies, screenplays, and books – none of which is discussed in the book. It’s a good book about perseverance.  I particularly like the admission that part of his success was due to not realizing how bad he was.

The God Delusion: Dawkins attempts to explain and condemn religion in this book. He’s a well known biologist that systematically addresses all the arguments in favor of religion and explains why they are false. It’s actually very compelling, but knowing the explosive nature of the topic, spends so much time defending his points that the book feels too long. It was particularly interesting to read the book know – with Trump’s anti Islamic stance, so much religious rhetoric among the Presidential candidates, global warming concern, abortion/Planned Parenthood, and so on. Religion is a very confusing topic. I recommend this book, but be prepared to question preconceptions.

The Price of Salt: Golden Globe nominated movie “Carol” was based on this novel. I discovered Patricia Highsmith after viewing the movie adaptation of her novel “The Talented Mr. Ripley” which I enjoyed. She has an interesting, murderous mind. I read “Strangers on a Train” last year which is about two random strangers conspiring to murder for each other. “The Price of Salt” isn’t a murder mystery. It’s about two women that fall in love (platonic love as far as I can tell) in a time that wasn’t so (relatively) tolerant of such behavior. Patricia wrote it anonymously, and didn’t claim authorship until much later in life. I do not recommend this book. It, like “Strangers on a Train” is well written, but too slow for 2016. Movie adaptations are probably the ticket for Highsmith, but then I haven’t seen Carol.