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.

Troy’s Book Club: A Time of Terror

March 21, 2017

Though I’ve know the name “Dr. James Cameron” for nearly 20 years, it’s only just recently that I finished reading his memoir, “A Time of Terror: A Survivor’s Story.” Dr. Cameron was the founder of Milwaukee’s America’s Black Holocaust Museum, a facility devoted to helping Americans understand just how deeply racism has affected American culture, on the general and personal levels. Dr. Cameron’s life was a testament to how strongly he held onto hope and love for all, even for “decent and freedom-loving white people.”

I am certain that the majority of people, at the time they begin to have self-awareness, can never truly imagine the line that their life might draw across History. Could Dr. Cameron, raised by a single mom with two sisters, have imagined one day he’d be the father of five children, a husband of 68 years? Could the young boy shining shoes imagine that his life’s vocation would be to educate people on the ills of systemic and personal racism? Could a 16-year old conceive of a night that would begin with a car ride with friends, could end with him being the sole survivor of a lynching mob that killed two others, and leave him the only known survivor of an American lynching?

A Time of Terror tells that story in Dr. Cameron’s own words. It impressed on me how far my country still has to go, to fulfill the “American Ideal.” The book mainly deals with Dr. Cameron’s early life, through the lynching attack, and then his time in jail after that, up to his freedom from jail. A chapter devoted to his adult life is written by Reggie Jackson, current head griot at the ABHM.

This book offers an important window into American history, in an era that our country still hasn’t determined how to own up to.

You can find Dr. Cameron’s book at Boswell Books!

(I have a small note to make, of something I’m rather proud of. The chapter on Dr. Cameron’s adult life features a photo of mine, of Dr. Cameron at a KKK protest from the late 1990s)


Troy’s Book Club: Maya Angelou and Stan Lee

January 27, 2017

Two books to briefly write up: Maya Angelou’s “Wouldn’t Take Nothing For My Journey Now” and the compendium of “Just Imagine: Stan Lee Creating the DC Universe”. Both were interesting reads as they were each authors that I was well-acquainted with as personalities, but hadn’t read much of their books before.

Maya Angelou, was a modern Renaissance woman – spending her 50+ year career writing (poetry, memoirs, and scripts for plays, movies, and TV), dancing, and being an activist. While her name is usually associated with “I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings”, her first of seven memoirs, “Wouldn’t Take…” was written later in her years. It’s an easy read, filled with 2-4 page short essays on various thoughts and ideas she’s come up with over the years – relating her “wisdom of the ages.” It was a fun way to be introduced to her and to get a sense of who she was. What an amazing woman!

Stan Lee, is one of the biggest personalities associated with Modern American comicbooks. He shares credit for creating many of most famous Marvel comicbook characters in the late 1950s/1960s – Spider-man, the Fantastic Four, the Incredible Hulk, and many others. It has been quite awhile since he was a regular writer on any book, and “Just Imagine…” was an interesting project that threw him back into the role of comicbook writer. Stan has >always< been associated with Marvel Comics, but for this project, he was writing DC Comics’ characters! Marvel and DC are consider “The Big Two” of comics, so to see Stan re-create iconic DC characters was pretty fun. What made it particularly interesting is that Stan was paired up, mostly, with modern artists, but his writing style still had his classic 1960s flavor. Made for some very interesting comicbook stories. For instance, Batman, we all know, is Bruce Wayne, a millionaire whose parents were murdered when he was a child. Stan’s Batman is a black man framed for a murder he didn’t commit, who serves his time, becomes an all-star wrestler, and eventually a night-time vigilante! So, I won’t say the writing was “great”, but it was pretty fun, and it was really neat to see what Stan’s scripting is like and how various artists interpreted his ideas. Good stuff!

If you’d like to read these books, too, check them out from the Milwaukee Public Library, or find them at Boswell Books – Maya, Stan!

Oh yeah, and over a year ago, I read a neat book by Nick Hornby, where he talked about a really great biography of Charles Dickens. I’ve gotten that book now, too, and added it to my read-pile! It’s a ways down the list, but I WILL get to it! 🙂

Troy’s Book Club: Crenshaw

January 5, 2017

“Crenshaw”, by Katherine Applegate, is a book aimed at younger readers, but really is enjoyable, I think for readers of any age. It’s written from the point-of-view of a young boy whose family is going through some difficult financial times – his dad has gotten sick, his mom is working multiple part-time jobs, his little sister is annoying …and his long-gone imaginary friend, a giant cat, has just re-appeared. Honestly, with our economy still fragile, and our society increasingly divided, now seemed a serendipitous time to read a story about life-near-poverty.

This book is a quick read for an adult, given the reading-level it was written for, but that seemed appropriate given the age of the main character. It was neat reading the book from his perspective. This book reminded me again of the power of reading to make us all more empathetic, even for fictional characters!

I got my book at Boswell Books, but you can also find it at the Milwaukee Public Library (who have many of Applegate’s other books, too).


Troy’s Book Club: Make Love !**The Bruce Campbell Way

November 1, 2016

The latest book I’ve read is one of the funniest, and more strange, books I’ve read. I picked up “Make Love*!  *The Bruce Campbell Way” because, hey, BRUCE CAMPBELL and with a title like that, how could I not be intrigued?

I got “Make Love!”, thinking it was some sort of memoir about life in the world of B-movies, but I was wrong. It’s actually a fictional account of b-movie actor, “Bruce Campbell”, trying to be part of a “classy” movie production and how it all goes wrong, wrong, wrong! What also makes the book entertaining, is that it’s littered throughout with poorly Photoshopped photos of Bruce, illustrating moments in the story. So, if you’re looking for a fun, light read with lots of Hollywood name-dropping involved, check this book out! 🙂

Troy’s Book Club: 11/22/63

July 30, 2016

Growing up, I read a LOT of Stephen King – Pet Sematary, Cujo, Salem’s Lot, Misery, It, The Stand, The Dead Zone, The Talisman, The Tommyknockers, Cycle of the Werewolf (man, he wrote a LOT of books!)… but I haven’t read any Stephen King in quite awhile. I’d heard about this book, but didn’t really know its deal. Then one day, I pulled a complete impulse-buy at a store’s cash register and here we are!

11/22/63 is a time travel story, about a man who wants to try and prevent the assassination of JFK. There’s nothing “spoilery” in that statement, as the cover itself gives a big suggestion about what the story might be dealing with. You can tell though, by looking at the thickness of the book that there is a LOT more going on than just that one aspect to the story. I will say this – it’s a drama, a thriller, a horror story, a love story, oh yeah, and time travel is involved in a novel way. If you enjoyed classic TV like the Twilight Zone, you’ll probably really enjoy this book, too. 🙂

Go get it at the Milwaukee Public Library, or the coolest local bookstore, Boswell Books!


Troy’s Book Club: Hello Goodbye Hello

May 17, 2016

“Hello Goodbye Hello” is as much a collection of short-stories (of real meetings between famous folks) as it is an experiment in formatting. The author, Craig Brown, tells 101 tales of encounters between the famous, the infamous, and others. Each story is exactly 1001 words, and daisy-chains from one story to the next (for example, Ernest Hemingway meets Ford Madox Ford, then  Ford Madox Ford meets Oscar Wilde, then Oscar Wilde meets Marcel Proust – you get the idea).

Honestly, I was so-so about this book. It was interesting, some of the stories; others, I didn’t know who either of the participants were. The saving grace was that it >is< an easy read. At only 3-ish pages per story, there’s not much commitment to any narrative. So, for me, it was a pretty perfect bedtime book…read two, maybe three stories, and move on to another book for a chapter, come back to HGB the next night, and putter on along.