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).

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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!

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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.

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Troy’s Book Club: How To Win Friends and…

May 16, 2016

I’ve been real slow in finishing books lately, but am churning along, reading 2-4 books at the same time, and tons of comicbooks, too. So, I guess that might be slow me down a bit. I guess I like to keep a lot of “literary balls in the air” at the same time.

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I finished my second Dale Carnegie book last week – “How To Win Friends and Influence People.” The first book of his I read, “How to Stop Worrying and Start Living” was actually the second book he wrote, while “How To Win…” was his first book. One of the reasons I find Carnegie’s writing so interesting is in trying to imagine how his books fit in his milieu, when  he was writing. “How To Win…” was written in 1936…while the US was still working its way out of the Depression. “How To Stop Worrying…” was written in 1948…not long after the end of World War II.

His writing is suffused with an endless stream of optimism, a “can do” attitude, and a “if you just give it your best shot” approach to success. I can see how his books would have had an appeal at the time of publishing. Heck, I can see why they are still read. For me, I enjoy his suggestions as much as I enjoy his “okey-dokey” approach to things. Chapters are titled like “How to Make People Like You Instantly”, “The High Road to a Man’s Reason”, “How to Dig Your Marital Grave in the Quickest Possible Way” and “Give the Dog a Good Name”.

Dale’s writing is easy to read and he makes his points clear with a simple style of writing and lots of examples. I love his examples because they usually begin something like this, “I recently received a letter from Gerald Turnkey, an executive at an air-conditioning firm in West Greenlake, New Jersey. Gerald was having some hard times with his salesmen…”. I enjoy these anecdotes he shares and their specificity. .

So much of the wisdom in Dale’s books are pretty common sense, but as is so often the case “common sense ain’t that common”, and so we can all benefit from a reminder or two!

If you want to read and learn from this book, get it from the Library or Boswell Books!


Troy’s Book Club: More Baths Less Talking by Nick Hornby

October 21, 2015

I’ve read many different kinds of books over the years – biographies, fictions of all kinds, romances, autobiographies, self-improvements/motivationals, poetry, and probably literal tons of comicbooks. So, I guess it isn’t that big of a surprise that I would enjoy a book that is a person talking about the books he’s been reading. “More Baths Less Talking” is a collection of Nick Hornby‘s columns for Believer magazine,…from 2010-2011. So yeah, I had a really fun time reading about what Nick Hornby was reading five years ago.

What’s even an even bigger testament to Hornby’s skill as a writer, is that he not only makes each column quite interesting, sprinkled through with such good humor, but that he even finds a way to make this collection of individual columns have a satisfactory “conclusion” when you read the last entry. And there’s now a whole lot of other books, from 2010-11 that I’d like to read, but especially biographies of Montaigne and Charles Dickens. And this, too.

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