Recent Reading

I haven’t really kept up on posting anything about what’s on my reading stack, but I actually have been reading quite a bit lately. Part of it is a release from the stress of work (and specifically, the stress of trying to make sure that when I disappear to go to China in the immediate future that I don’t leave a mess of unfinished major tasks for Jeff) and part of it is to keep from going crazy as we wait…

I’m currently in the middle of two books: Barça: A People’s Passion by Jimmy Burns (an unexpected Christmas gift from Chuck) and The Man Who Ate Everything by Jeffrey Steingarten (loaned to me by Mark). Steingarten is hilarious, and I knew I was in for a treat when he opens the book by touching on his food aversions and how he (mostly) got past them — those aversions include some of my favorites: Greek food, anchovies, Indian desserts, and clams. Right now, however, Steingarten is playing second fiddle to Burns. Barça is rich in the history of one of the great football clubs in the world, a club with a unique history interwoven with the politics of Spain and a club whose history is populated with some of the greatest players in the history of the game. The book is about much more than just the sporting side of the club, and has been a real eye-opener. Understanding the history of the club within the 20th century history of Spain and Catalonia puts a completely different stamp on the nature of the rivalry between FC Barcelona and Real Madrid. I am within 25 pages of the end of the book and, although it has not necessarily been an easy read, it has been both worthwhile and very enjoyable in terms of both the history and the football.

Over Christmas, I also read The Whistling Season by Ivan Doig (probably my favorite contemporary writer) and Playing for Pizza by John Grisham. Pizza is fluff but enjoyable; sort of the the futbol Americano version of Joe McGinness’ The Miracle of Castel di Sangro but not as filling and without the twist at the end. The Whistling Season did not disappoint at all; it had been a couple of years since I last read anything by Doig, so this was a real treat. Vintage Doig, but with a touch more humor (or perhaps the humor is closer to the surface?); I don’t remember laughing out loud with Doig in the past, but I did in several passages here. The book follows a pair of threads separated in time by 40-ish years in the life of a young man in western Montana and more than just touches on the ways in which school and teachers can influence life. Definitely worth reading, and if you aren’t yet a fan of Doig, this one would serve as a great introduction to an extraordinary Western US writer.