Fotos, Randomness

31, Pico Union and summer reading

31 at Hoover and Pico

When I was a kid, I never left home for a short or long car trip without a book tucked under my arm. When my mom would take me to library, I’d come back with a tall stack. My mom would look at me, “are you really going to read all those?”


I don’t read for fun as much as I’d like to these days, but I still get some good reading done on my short commute to work. Lately, my commute feels too short and I find myself reading my book as I walk up to the office. This summer’s bus reading (so far):

Down & Delirious in Mexico City: The Aztec Metropolis in the Twenty-First Century by Daniel Hernández
I’ve been following Daniel’s blog since he started, I think. I knew this book was coming, but didn’t expect that it would feel so familiar after reading about some of the characters and anecdotes in his blog. I picked up Down & Delirious at a book signing in Lincoln Heights in early March. I read the introduction, but stopped there because I didn’t have time to dedicate to it. I’m glad I picked it up again, because I really enjoyed it. It made me want to return to D.F. for a second trip and re-experience that sense that there was so much going on all the time. It was sensory overload. Hernández is a great writer and draws the reader in as he describes a variety of D.F. neighborhoods, landscapes and characters as distinct as a young fashion designer to a veteran punk. My favorite chapter was “The Originals of Punks.” Another plus: Hernández includes a lot of other texts, both primary and secondary, about the youth subcultures he’s discussing. For the academic in me, it was a good way to round out the voices from the “experts” and the subjects in youth subcultures.

Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic by Alison Bechdel
Sean has supplied me with several great comics and graphic novels in the past year and a half. Fun Home is undoubtedly the most literary of all those graphic novels, well memoir. I didn’t know much about Bechdel, but quickly learned about her tragicomic childhood, teens and young adulthood. Tragicomic is probably the best way to describe her stories about her father, his death, her coming out process and other key events in her young life. Fun Home is a quick read; I read it on the long drive back from Yosemite.

The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle by Haruki Murakami
Prior to Wind-Up Bird, I’d only read one other Murakami work, his non-fiction memoir on distance running (What I Talk About When I Talk About Running). I liked that well enough and had heard good things about his novels. Still, I had no clue what to expect. I picked up the novel on a quick trip to Barnes & Noble for some camping trip reading material. I got Wind-Up Bird for me and Born to Run for Lori. I didn’t start reading until after the trip, which was probably good because it’s not the easiest novel. After I finished, I was a little unsatisfied and confused. I still want to talk about it with someone especially before I jump in to another Murakami novel.

21: The Story of Roberto Clemente by Wilfred Santiago
Another quick, yet touching read. Anyone who knows about Latinos in baseball, or baseball for that matter, knows about Clemente. He’s legendary for a great reason: he was one of the best ballplayers ever and he was quite the humanitarian. Sadly, it was that desire to improve the world that led to his demise. Even though I knew all about Clemente’s death and the events leading up to it, I was still left crying at the end of Santiago’s 21.

Mixed: My Life in Black White by Angela Nissel
I picked this one off of Sean’s book shelf. (Sensing a theme here?) I read a few pages and decided I wanted more. Nissel is funny and has a way of describing those painful childhood memories that you cried about at the time in a way that makes them seem not-so-bad. She had a lot of those memories as a mixed girl growing up in Philadelphia in the ’70s and ’80s. Even though I’m not mixed, I could identify with some of Nissel’s experiences doing the sorta-militant nationalist thing in college, distrust of “the man” and being color struck in the wrong direction. I may have never gone as far as laying in a tanning bed to get a darker shade of brown, but I definitely envied my brothers who looked much more indigenous.

One Perfect Day: The Selling of the American Wedding by Rebecca Mead
This one deserves it’s own post. As someone planning a wedding and still reeling from the initial sticker shock of the cost of average American wedding, it was interesting to read see weddings from the other side. Mead covers the wedding industry primarily from the perspective of the vendors who sell brides gowns, memories, honeymoons, ceremonies and receptions reflecting her individual taste. I felt something was missing with Mead’s take down of the wedding industrial complex. It’s the same thing I see in blogs… they’re just so, um, white. The US is a diverse place and weddings reflect that, but you don’t get that from One Perfect Day. Still, it’s a good read for some background on how something like the diamond engagement ring came to be part of weddings.

The Dirty Girls Social Club by Alisa Valdes-Rodriguez
Okay. I didn’t read this. I got 20 odd pages in and decided I hated it. There were too many italicized words that didn’t need to be emphasized and sentences ending in, “you know!” It’s going back to the library.

Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen by Christopher McDougall
I’m half way through and so far loving Born to Run. I didn’t expect it to be one of those can’t-put-down books. I borrowed it for an afternoon from Lori as I lounged around at my parent’s house and recovered from a big lunch and a 17-mile long run that morning. Lori’s still reading it so I had to leave it at the house, but as soon as the library opened up Monday morning, I went and picked up a copy for myself. So far, Born to Run reminds me of Michael Lewis’ Moneyball… but switch out minor league ballplayers for Tarahumara distance runners. I’m pretty sure I’ll be done with it well before the due date. And then I’ll be sad because it’s over and I wish I’d paced myself.

Any other suggestions? I still have about 5 weeks of summer left and a handful of half finished books in my bookshelf I hope to tackle.

What are you reading?


2 thoughts on “31, Pico Union and summer reading

  1. Great list. I just bought The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle! (I’m finishing up Catfish and Mandala right now and very much recommend it, especially if you’re interested in hyphenated American memoirs or Southeast Asia.)

  2. I’m totally getting 21 for my classroom. I loved Fun House, I read it long ago. Found the suggestion in Wizard Magazine and it totally changed my view of Wizard. (I’m loosing my Lit degree snootiness slowly.) I had the same reaction to the Dirty Girls Social Club, ese libro me da asco. I don’t get what the big deal was!

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