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May 2018 Book Recommendations

From a Whole Foods in Austin, TX
May 29th, 2018
Dear Friend and Reader:

Happy belated Memorial Day! I hope it was a safe, relaxing, and contemplative time with loved ones.

I spent the holiday weekend at Laguna Beach, in a dark theater getting scared by A Quiet Place, at Dodgers' stadium surrounded by friends, and lakeside with a terrific biography of a fighter pilot who changed the art of war forever. 

Below are three books I tore through earlier this month. I hope you get as much out of them as I did, and as always, if you decide to go your own way, be sure to let me know where you land. 

See you in June! 

There are 400 billion birds on earth. That's 80 per human. And yet for as resourceful, and resilient as the feathered species are, author and "bird nerd" Jennifer Ackerman contends we still know very little about them—and worse, largely dismiss them. "Our language reflects our disrespect. Something worthless or unappealing is 'for the birds.' An ineffectual politician is a 'lame duck.' To 'lay an egg' is to flub a performance. To be 'henpecked' is to be harassed with persistent nagging. 'Eating crow' is eating humble pie." ... 

But birds make tools. They count. They imitate behaviors of other birds and even humans. They invent new solutions to old problems. They remember where they put things—especially the Western scrub jay which can recall up to 33,000 winter food caches. They can anticipate and guard against storms. They exploit opportunities. They make nests according to certain esthetic standards, even in the absence of females and the chance of mating...These incredible feats and others suggest profound mental capacities and abilities, ones comparable to those found in some primates.

Weighing it at a featherlight 250 pages, The Genius of Birds is rich with eight self-contained chapters, that explore a trove of anecdotal observations, neurological studies, fascinating experiments, and lots of open questions.

I finished this book sitting on a bench overlooking Lake Rancho Santa Margarita at sunset. A Canadian goose honks from the distant bank at a man, until joined by what might be its mate. And across the water, closer to me, a chorus of bold sparrows sing atop a pair of swaying palm trees and the adobe roof slats of the local Starbucks. I will never look at or listen to a bird the same way again.

Full recommendation here

Nothing against Harry Potter, but for me A Series of Unfortunate Events takes the cake. Long before the Netflix series and (much better) movie adaptation, there were 13 books. Each book had thirteen chapters, recounting the unfortunate journey of three orphans, Violet, Klaus, and Sunny Baudelaire. They must escape from Count Olaf's never-ending plots to steal their inheritance fortune, and discover the truth about their parents' mysterious deaths. And then there is Lemony Snicket himself. 

The coy and quirky detective-narrator, the one assembling this series of unfortunate events for us the readers; for me, he is the most interesting part of the novels. His enigmatic persona weaves throughout via self-referential, fourth-wall-breaking moments in the form of witty vocab lessons, philosophical quips, and over-the-top anecdotes that heighten the ominous, yet playful tone of the story's world.

The Bad Beginning is one hell of a fun read. Rereading it eighteen years later, I still laughed out loud at times and can't wait to dive into Lemony Snicket's other series, All the Wrong Questions, a spoof of kid-detective and noir genres.

You can read my full recommendation here

After dropping out of his English college and moving to France to cook 'in a great kitchen' for 68 hours a week, David Ogilvy then returned to the home island to sell Aga cookers door-to-door. During WWII, he served in the field of espionage and wartime propaganda at Camp X, successfully sabotaging the reputation of business supplying the Nazis with industrial materials.

After the war, and a full decade at Gallup's research institute in New Jersey, Ogilvy started his own agency. In ten years, he turned $6K into over $60+ million in billings on Madison Avenue. Ogilvy is known as 'the father of modern advertising' and his books Confessions of an Advertising Man, a tongue-in-cheek-titled, tour-de-force book on business ethics published in '63, remains a perennial seller to this day.

The Unpublished David Ogilvy fills in more gaps of the man—the agency he built, the ads he created, and the culture of creativity he nurtured—via a mosaic of impressionistic tiles in the form of letters, notes, memos, speeches, ads, interviews, and photographs. 

Full recommendation here.

Nobody Knows

If The Beach Boys handed their mic to a melancholic gal who loves sincerity and reverb.


The Civil War
Ken Burns

"The Civil War was fought in ten thousand places..." and this epic documentary explores them all. 

Netflix (Password? Nope.)

Jamaica Kincaid

The most moving and lyrical stream of consciousness I've ever come across. ♦

The New Yorker

Thanks so much for reading. Seriously. If you do get something out of these emails or my blog, it would really mean the world to me if you would forward this email to a friend or family member. That way I can continue to grow this community. Even just a simple email forward helps a lot. And of course, so does clicking through my blog's various links to Amazon and making a purchase. Whether you buy the books I linked to or something else entirely, I'll get a small percentage of the sales from Amazon, which helps to offset the costs of building and growing my blog. It's been a fun side project so far, but I'd love to one day do it full time if there's enough support.

I've been recommending books on this monthly email and my weekly blog for over five years. It's always very rewarding to hear from fellow readers about what they're enjoying too. Recently, a subscriber let me know about an upcoming Greek play being performed at the Getty Museum's outdoor amphitheater in LA. And another shared with me their thoughts on The Lagoon: How Aristotle Invented Science because of my love for history and philosophy. Yet another clued me on to Lawrence Block, a popular pulp fiction writer.

See you next month!


"Forty-Second Boyd was going to wax some Communist ass."

- Robert Coram,

🇺🇸 Happy (belated) Memorial Day. 🇺🇸  

Copyright © 2018. Jon Glatfelter. All rights reserved.

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Jon Glat · 57 Bombay · Irvine, CA 92620 · USA

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