Book of the Month: A Book of Migrations

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June’s book of the month selection is something a little bit different.

It is non-fiction. It is travel. But it is a meandering, in-depth sort of travelogue, a scouring of the history, culture, and collective consciousness of a country that managed to capture my own soul: Ireland.

Rebecca Solnit traveled around the country on foot in the early half of the 90s, ruminating on what makes Ireland so Irish. She covers a number of subjects, including ancient history, recent history, many public figures, and the roots of Irish restlessness, from their propensity for bird imagery to the necessity of mass emigration.

Solnit’s prose is not easy, but it is beautiful. She creates shockingly gorgeous sentences that probe to the depths of the matter, and are always concise, yet somehow view the issue from a slightly sidewise angle. I loved the way she made me think so differently about a place that I thought I knew a lot about. She weaves a few stories of her own experiences in the country amidst the other stuff, but those stories really just act as jumping off points for bigger things.

By the end of it, I felt like I understood Ireland a little better, as well as an aspect of myself that I hadn’t known was unknown. Not your average travel book, and definitely worth a look if you like a long, slow, savory reading experience.

What did you read this month? What was your favorite? Least favorite? 

(My least favorite was definitely Beautiful Disaster by Jamie Maguire. We have to stop perpetuating this ridiculous notion that possessive, violent men are sexy. Shudder.)

(Psst! Find the rest of my book of the month recommendations here.)

Book of the Month: A Book of Migrations

Book of the Month – Homicide: A Year on the Killing Streets

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Last year, I read a book called Difficult Men, which was all about the men (sigh, because it’s always men) behind some of the best TV shows, the ones that brought on a new wave of television (ex. The Sopranos, The Wire, and Mad Men). This book talked about The Wire and its creator, David Simon, extensively. In the midst of that discussion, a book Simon wrote, entitled Homicide: A Year on the Killing Streets, was mentioned. It sounded interesting, so I added it to my list of future reads.

Well.

This book is like nothing I have read before. The premise is this: In the late 1980s, David Simon, a reporter, gained no-holds-barred access to the Baltimore homicide squad for a full year. He followed them around on their cases, hung out with them, got into their brains, and then he wrote this book.

It is captivating, on so many levels. It is a fascinating look at the city of Baltimore, a place that has long been besieged by violent crime (it still is). It is an illuminating examination of the police force and how it functions, both as an independent entity and within the city of Baltimore. It is a searing and heartfelt portrayal of the men (because it is almost entirely men) who dealt, on a daily basis, with the most brutal atrocities that human beings can commit against one another. Not only how they dealt with the violence on a professional level, but, more importantly, and more interestingly, on a personal level.

Simon really gets under these guys’s skin. He gets into their heads. He understands them and the system that they work in in a way that is probably completely unprecedented. I was often appalled reading this book, many times disgusted and disgruntled and disillusioned. But I couldn’t put it down. (It is the reason I have started bringing a book to the gym, so I can read while I ride the stationary bike.) When it was over, I missed those detectives with a fierceness that surprised me.

I haven’t read very many books like this. It is, on occasion, very dense. But it is an extremely worthwhile read, whether you like a good murder mystery, or whether you are interested in psychology, or whether you’d just like some insight into police work in the 1980s. Do be warned, though: Simon does not pull punches when it comes to the gruesome and brutal nature of what the cops encounter. I can’t recommend this book enough, and I can’t wait to get my hands on his other book, which, ironically and, perhaps, inevitably, is about the year he spent on the other side of the law, getting in good with Baltimore’s drug culture.

Find other books I have recommended here

Book of the Month – Homicide: A Year on the Killing Streets