Troy’s Book Club: Americans We

March 3, 2018

AMERICANS WE, by Eugene Richards, is a powerful photo-book. I’ve enjoyed this book for many years, but my recent re-reading of it had a new level of impact. I went through the book slowly, with the woman I’ve been seeing, and we took turns reading the text out loud to each other. It really was an exceptional way to read a book.

Richards has been making powerful images for decades, and anyone who considers themselves a photographer or student of photography really needs to spend some time with this book. It’s goldang required reading.




Troy’s Book Club: Always Looking Up

March 3, 2018

Happened to find this book in my Mom and Dad’s coat closet, back around the holidays 2017. I needed a break from comics for a bit, and could use a bit of encouragement, too. Who >wouldn’t< want some encouragement from Alex P. Keaton? 🙂

This memoir, Michael J. Fox’s second, was about life after his Parkinson’s diagnosis, his leaving the sitcom, SPIN CITY, the beginnings of the Michael J. Fox Foundation, and his efforts to start swaying politicians to understand the significance of stem cell research. Oh yeah, and he and his wife’s effort to raise their family while dealing with all the previously-mentioned.

It was a fun, interesting, convivial book. A nice, light read, and a good reminder that many of our perceived limits can be gotten through if we have the right motivations and keep trying to live a life of purpose and love.

There’s a whole lotta copies at MPL, so go check it out! 🙂 



Troy’s Book Club: If You Try To Please Everybody…You Will Lose Your Ass

December 30, 2017

A few years ago, while on assignment for a local magazine, I had the opportunity to meet, and photograph Stephen Einhorn, a MKE-area businessman. It was pretty common for these assignments to end with an exchange of business-cards. This time though, was unique in that Stephen gave me a book – a book that he wrote, joking that he had plenty of copies to go around!

The entire title of the book is “If You Try To Please Everybody…You Will Lose Your Ass: Jokes and Reflections on Business and Life.” This is a fun, light read, with a format that is easy to mosey through. Each page is a joke, followed by a particular lesson. All these jokes and lessons are spread across chapters like “Behavior Counts”, “Value Added”, “Worry and Guilt”, and a few more besides.

I think it’s really neat that Stephen wrote this book, as many people comment about wanting to “write their memoirs”, but only a fraction follow through. And while wanting to tell your life story is neat, fewer people talk about wanting to write a book that is all about what they’ve learned in life, the values they’ve developed, and a whole lotta jokes beside. So, my hat is off to Stephen. He did something really kinda neat here, and I’m just bummed it took me so long to get around to reading it. Ah well, that is just how it goes sometimes.

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Troy’s Book Club: A People’s History of American Empire

December 12, 2017

This book was particularly good to read this Fall, as we are still adjusting to a new POTUS, and his rampant nationalism. As much as he yells “Make America Great Again”, it’s imperative to really understand what is in America’s history…and there are >many< blemishes.

Howard Zinn is a writer I’ve often heard about and one I’m glad I finally got to read. This graphic-adaptation of his book was real interesting and made me a lot more informed about my country’s history. I’d recommend it to anyone who wants to know more about what kind of country the United States really has been.

You can get this from my favorite local bookstore, Boswell Books.


Troy’s Book Club: A Wrinkle In Time

December 2, 2017

Having heard lots of Twitter-chatter about the upcoming movie adaptation of A WRINKLE IN TIME, and how many women I knew who held great affection for the book, and yet I’d never even heard of it. I had to see what it was all about.

Turns out the thin novel by Madeleine L’Engle is about a young girl, her oddly mature younger brother, and a friend of hers, as they travel the universe trying to find her father who’s been missing for years. It’s a neat bit of whimsy, fantasy, hope and love, and learning to believe in yourself.

I will admit though, that I was a bit disappointed when I came to realize the book was more a “first chapter” in a few-book story, than a completely self-contained story. As I was reading and getting closer to the end, I was wondering, “wow, how is the author going to wrap this up?” and then suddenly the book was done.

I’ll probably go to see the movie when it comes out, just to see how it translates to the screen. Should be pretty neat, I think.

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Troy’s Book Club: The Great and Secret Show

July 25, 2017

Clive Barker has a special place in my reading-lovin’ heart. He created the worlds of Hellraiser and Nightbreed, which have inspired horror film fans for years; he wrote Weaveworld, another novel I’ve been wanting to re-read for quite some time; and when I was an intern at Marvel Comics, the office I worked for oversaw the “Barkerverse“, a family of comics all based on concepts from Clive (from that time, I have a framed photo-stat of a drawing by Clive, of my favorite of those characters – “Ecto-kid“!).

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To me, Barker has that ability in his writing to bring a lot of different variables into play in his horror/fantasy writing. Sometimes there’s just shadows that creep you out, sometimes it’s body-horror, sometimes it’s sex/sexuality-based, sometimes it’s straight-up monsters-who-would-even-think-of-that horror. With “The Great and Secret Show”, Barker created a sprawling epic of good vs. evil, that managed to feel ever large, and also intimate. I suppose that is a common attempt by writers – to make the personal feel all-affecting, like when personal heartbreak “ruins the world” for a person. Too, this book deals a lot with the theme of destiny vs self-determination, nature vs nurture.

With a novel as “game-board”, this particular game has many pieces, and Barker does a swell job of moving them from board-space to board-space – whether that means a back room in a rural post office, an isolated ruin, other dimensions, time-travel, underground caverns, trashy motels, dusty Mexican towns, or decaying Californian suburbs. I was impressed a lot by this novel because it sets up a LOT and it seems that it would be near-impossible for a writer to tie up all those threads by the book’s end. Barker manages to do that though, AND leave room for the story to keep moving on. Really enjoyed it and maybe have to go re-read Ecto-Kid now, and moved Weaveworld up on my To Read list…

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Troy’s Book Club: Wisconsin At War

March 22, 2017

I’ve always had a decent interest in history and have often wondered how those who have come before us have shaped where we are today. What’s also thought-provoking to me, is trying to understand how each of us is a wealth of experiences – good and bad – that make us who we are in >this< moment, and then that moment is added to the past that continues to defines us. There’s this wisp of our past, following us through all our days.

WISCONSIN AT WAR was a good read for me because it kept reminding me of that idea – we are all made up of our past experiences – and to a degree, we get to determine how heavily those experiences decide who we are. WISCONSIN AT WAR is a compilation of interviews/anecdotes from various WI veterans, from various wars, in various arms of service.

What makes these stories so “real” for me is that each story ends with a brief follow-up on what that veteran went on to do. It was a good reminder of how much we may not really know about the people we encounter on a day-to-day basis. For instance, in the story of Willard and Wilber Diefenthaler “identical twins from Kiel…”, who both served in WWII, ending up at prisoners of war, a situation that ended up with Wilber dying…

After I returned home, I arranged to move his body to the American cemetery in France. Sometimes I look in the mirror and see him, even after 50 years. Thinking about him makes me cry some more.

Willard took an electronics course after the war, worked in TV repair, and ended up owning a machine shop in Kiel until he retired.

Anyone who hasn’t served, will find an even greater appreciation for our veterans from reading this book, and people who have served may find stories and feelings they recognize, and experiences they can relate to. I’m really glad I got to read this book.

Get this book from Boswell Books or the WI Veterans Museum Store. And for the WI Veterans Museum in Madison, WI, click HERE.