mini-reviews: the art of the con and a false report

Like many people, I’m fascinated by true crime, and often the genre dominates my non-fiction reading. In May, I listened to two different but equally interesting true crime books on audio:

The Art of the Con by Anthony M. Amore was an interesting look at modern fraud and forgery in the art world. The profiles are pretty fascinating: a woman who sold fake art she claimed was real and procured from a wealthy estate, one person who employed Chinese immigrant artists (in the country illegally) to copy famous works, a high-quality scanning (giclée) operation, faked “antique” photography, and more. There’s a pretty good chapter on web-based schemes too. Amore’s writing leaves something to be desired—it’s less narrative and more news reporting. I got through it in just a couple days on audio while drawing, but I can see how this wouldn’t necessarily be a page turner on paper. I would have liked a little more information on the techniques the forgers used to recreate the masters’ style in their fakes. Still, this may be a decent place to start if you’re interested in true crime in the art world. Basically, the old proverb stands true for art, too: a fool and his money are easily parted. And if a deal on a piece of art is too good to be true, it probably is. [Listened to audiobook in May 2018.]

A False Report: A True Story of Rape in America came out this year, and couldn’t be more important or timely. T. Christian Miller and Ken Armstrong crafted a very engaging and fascinating examination of not only one specific rape case, but also some psychology and history on the subject. In 2008, a young woman named Marie reported that she had been raped. Within days, Marie’s honesty and integrity was called into question, as much under investigation as her rapist. She eventually broke down and said she made up the rape. The situation she was in was really horrifying and enraging. A few years later, Marie’s rapist, who was a serial predator, was caught and convicted. There is a profile of Marie’s rapist—his habits, history, and mental state. But he is not the focus of the book. The authors describe the misogynist history of rape investigations and how women pretty much have never been believed. [Listened to audiobook in May 2018.]

mini-reviews: vacationland and instant replay

More non-fiction! Here are a couple of great, diverse celebrity memoirs I recently listened to on audiobook:

I’ve wanted to read Instant Replay for years, the diary of inside linebacker Jerry Kramer of his experience of the Green Bay Packers’ historic 1967 season. I’m sure my dad has a copy somewhere but I just hadn’t gotten around to it. When Kramer was recently inaugurated into the NFL Hall of Fame, though, my interest was renewed and I was able to listen on audio. What a great book! It’s definitely for a niche audience; if you’re not familiar with the team, key people involved, or the game of football, you will likely not be interested. Kramer may not have the most eloquent “voice,” but he’s a straight-talker just like Lombardi was, and Kramer’s day-to-day account here of his last season playing, as well as Lombardi’s last season coaching the Packers, is full of great stories from both on and off the field. A must read for any Packers or football fan for sure. [Listened to audiobook in April 2018.]

I listened to John Hodgman‘s Vacationland on audio while flying back to the States from Singapore a couple weeks ago. I enjoy Hodgman’s humor in small doses, so maybe listening in one long sitting wasn’t the best for me, but I’d definitely recommend audio over paper for this one. His sly delivery makes all the difference on many of these stories. Sometimes he meanders off-topic and much of it is navel-gazing white privilege, but at least Hodgman acknowledges this and his self-deprecating humor makes it work. I enjoyed it and it was a good way to pass the time, even if it won’t be very memorable in the long run to me. [Listened to audiobook in June 2018.]

mini-reviews: creative quest and bored and brilliant

I was on a non-fiction bender the last few months, and perhaps it’s because I’m sort of embarking on this new “career” as a freelance artist, but I was really interested in reading about creativity lately.

As soon as I saw that Questlove had another book coming out I requested it right away from the library. If you’ve read his fantastic 2013 memoir Mo’ Meta Blues some of the stories will be familiar to you, but here Quest relates them to unlocking creativity within. He’s even more full of questions in Creative Quest than in Mo’ Meta, and it’s like he’s having a conversation with you, especially if you listen to the audiobook version: how can we figure out how to practice creativity together? I do wish I had been more proactive about listening along to all the music he references, but it was tough with the audiobook. I think he fixated on curation-as-creativity a bit too much for my taste, but I LOVED the “micro-meditations” method he talks about, which I use all the time while drawing. Many of the techniques he goes through are not revelations—much is common sense—but Quest’s inquisitive, warm nature makes readers feel like creativity is something we can all practice, not just gifted musicians, artists, etc. Just a fun, encouraging, quick read I totally recommend. [Read ebook and listened to audiobook in June 2018.]

Bored and Brilliant came up in my library suggestions after I finished Creative Quest, and I thought it might be a good companion read. Unfortunately, this one didn’t live up to Quest’s book, and neither did it live up to its own subtitle. Where Creative Quest is more about the creative process, Bored and Brilliant is more about ditching distractions, specifically your smartphone. I thought this would be more about the meat of allowing your brain to explore ideas and think deeply, or techniques to do so, but it was more about how to stop being so addicted to your smartphone. While I agree that we all need to cut back on our devices and social media, and I also agree that spending some time being bored is a good thing, I don’t agree that simply doing so is like the Field of Dreams: “if you put down your cell phone, creativity will come.” It’s not quite as easy as that. If you have trouble disconnecting from your phone, then this could be a helpful book for you, but if you’re looking for insights into actually unleashing creativity in yourself then maybe skip this one. I loved that while I was playing video games while listening to the section on the pros and cons video game play has on creativity, lol! [Listened to audiobook in June 2018.]

reading recap: june 2018

I had a just-okay reading month for June. Here’s what I got through:

  • Revenge (audio) … Yōko Ogawa, read by Johanna Parker and Kaleo Griffith
  • Creative Quest (ebook/audio) … Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson
  • Before the Fall … Noah Hawley
  • Fates and Furies (audio) … Lauren Groff, read by various
  • Bored and Brilliant (audio) … Manoush Zomorodi, read by author
  • Vacationland (audio) … John Hodgman, read by author

I loved Creative Quest and Vacationland, but the rest didn’t quite live up to my expectations. I was happy to get to some fiction, though, as well as one paper book. I’m still really heavy on audio; I’d love to have more balance and less time with technology. More detailed thoughts on all these books coming soon!
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reading recap: may 2018

I was on a real non-fiction bender the last few months! Here’s what I read in May:

  • A False Report (audio) … T. Miller Christian and Ken Armstrong, read by authors
  • The Rise and Fall of the Dinosaurs (audio) … Stephen Brusatte, read by P. Lawlor
  • Dead People Suck (ebook) … Laurie Kilmartin
  • Mozart’s Starling (audio) … Lyanda Lynn Haupt, read by Linda Henning
  • The Recovering (ebook/audio) … Leslie Jamison, read by author
  • Everything is Horrible and Wonderful (ebook) … Stephanie Wittels Wachs
  • The Art of the Con (audio) … Anthony M. Amore, read by Michael Johnson

My favorites were The Rise and Fall of the Dinosaurs (perfect to get me pumped for Jurassic World 2) and Everything is Horrible and Wonderful, about life and death of the brilliant tv/comedy writer Harris Wittels. I ugly cried reading that one—you can read my thoughts on the linked title above. Looking back I can see I was pretty terrible about reading any paper books: it’s all audio and ebook! But I’m proud of myself for reading two ebooks. I’m pretty terrible with that medium.

June recap coming soon, as well as more detailed thoughts on all these books!
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reading recap: april 2018

Wow, did I ever fall behind! My 8-year-old laptop died and I didn’t have a chance to replace it until recently. I’m in Wisconsin visiting friends and family now but will be catching up on my little reviews here when I can. For now, here are the books I read in April:

  • I’ll Be Gone in the Dark … Michelle McNamara
  • Darkness Visible (audio) … William Styron, read by author
  • In the Kingdom of Ice (audio) … Hampton Sides, read by Robert Petkoff
  • Heart Berries (ebook) … Terese Marie Mailhot
  • Educated (audio) … Tara Westover, read by Julia Whelan
  • Being Mortal (audio) … Atul Gawande, read by Robert Petkoff
  • The Lost City of the Monkey God (audio) … Douglas Preston, read by Bill Mumy
  • Instant Replay (audio) … Jerry Kramer with Dick Shaap, read by John Pruden
  • The Asshole Survival Guide (audio) … Robert I. Sutton, read by author

Another month of all non-fiction. My favorites were I’ll Be Gone in the Dark about the Golden State Killer, which was just made all the more fascinating since that monster was caught about a month after I finished reading this book, In the Kingdom of Ice about the U.S.S. Jeanneatte‘s doomed 1879 mission to the Arctic, and Jerry Kramer’s  Instant Replay, his behind-the-scenes diary of the Green Bay Packers’ historic 1967 season.

In other bookish news for me, I’ve also fell behind on my TBR Pile Challenge, but hopefully that won’t be too hard to get back into after this Wisconsin visit. More recaps and reviews here in the coming days!
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