Four days ago, I finished two books.

Two weeks ago, I finished an 800 page book in two days.

Two days ago, I finished two books.

Uh, what, LP? You ask.

Blessed audiobooks, that’s what!

Andrew Carnegie: The Biography (audio book)

This was fascinating. It was a really well-done biography (not always easy.) The author did well against Carnegie’s own widely read autobiography, against the myth and legend of the Carnegie name, and Carnegie’s wife’s fiercely protective work on his legacy.

I really enjoy learning how household names get their start. Carnegie came from NOTHING and got dang lucky with money. It really was like he was meant to have it. (This was also at the time before insider trading was illegal. It was par for the course for anyone in business. He saw opportunities and took them, major. He also took some massive risks – like, literally risked ALL.)

The most interesting part for me, aside from how one chooses to live with all that wealth, were the paradoxes contained in Carnegie: he didn’t want to give his workers raises or better hours, but he gave them, their communities, and communities around the world libraries and other donations that would drastically improve their quality of life. He was the least ruthless of the major capitalists of that age (by comparison), yet he made the most profit. Carnegie was a huge advocate for world peace, but considered making bullets and did make armor for warships. This poor immigrant had no political or formal education, but ended up with incredible access to multiple Presidents – to the point he annoyed them by being a doddering old man who injected his “thoughts” into major world events.

He was the richest man in the world, and the first millionaire to pledge to give away his millions.

I think history has tilted for Carnegie because of the huge impact donating his riches has had on the world (especially to libraries! Yeah!) Nonetheless, it was fascinating to learn about his many facets.

Dune (audio book)

FINALLY. I’ve been intending to read this book for about 10 years. Why hadn’t I? I have no idea.

It was … weird. It was science fiction, so of course it was weird. (Do the sand worms make it fantasy?)

I can see why it might have been amazing back in the day. Before ecological annihilation were mainstream. Before Eastern philosophy was so pervasive in Western vernacular.

Its top quote on Goodreads:

“I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain.”

The book is essentially how one Jesus-type figure grows up, and then confronts the apocalypse and return. Some of it is confusing and too esoteric. And some of it, like the quote above, were definitely probably revolutionary back in the day. In the current generation, it’s mainstream. Everything comes from somewhere, eh?

The main female character (the Mary figure) gets a bit annoying. Her inner life is portrayed as a little repetitive and anxious. Especially once her son comes “into his power.” He is still like 15, and she is supposed to be a highly trained, revered master? Yeah …

There was also one chapter where the author mentioned “her unborn child” like 97 times. I almost threw my phone across the room.

The ending was also a bit amorphous. I understand there’s a huge series after the original, but I would like to feel like I got some sense of what was going on after (especially since diary entries from the future were dotted throughout this book …)

I’m glad I’ve read it.I intend to look into a bit more about why it’s such a BFD.

No More Mr. Nice Guy (eBook)

This was an interesting book that I read for an online group. It is a quick read, with really in-depth exercises. (While it ostensibly aims at men, it applies to women too!) The author suggests meeting with a group and/or accountability partner, which would of course take longer. I’ve also done a lot of the work outlined in the book, so that probably helped speed things along.

I liked his no-BS style and his ability to cut to the core of issues. Most of which are fear, fear of abandonment, and feelings of inadequacy. His final chapter is on career, so that hit me pretty hard and gave me some good things to think about. I’d recommend it for a friend going through a transformational phase, who is willing to look at this stuff.

Top quote, via Goodreads:

“In general, people are not drawn to perfection in others. People are drawn to shared interests, shared problems, and an individual’s life energy.

Humans connect with humans. Hiding one’s humanity and trying to project an image of perfection makes a person vague, slippery, lifeless, and uninteresting.”

The Senator’s Wife (audio book)

Did you know that women struggle with how they look? Their changing roles as wives, child-bearers, and in the workplace? Did you know that childbirth is really painful? That famous men cheat? That it’s one-sided, and women have no autonomy or power in a relationship?

Then … don’t read this book.

I was looking for something “light” and I got it, alright. Blech.

Desert Solitaire (paperback)

This was my favorite of the bunch. I bought it at Terry Tempest Williams’ home book store, in Moab, the town at the center of the book’s geographic world. He wrote it while a park rangers at my favorite park down here, Arches.

I held on to the book for about six weeks after buying it, waiting to read it until I could savor it, and I am so glad I did. I’ve been reading it in bed and in coffee shops and over tea.

It’s a beautiful meditation on the region I’m in right now. The author, Edward Abbey, is basically the Thoreau of the Southwest. He is writing in the 1950s, a fascinating period of social change, when America shifted from a focus on the natural, the outdoors, to the cubicle and the city. He’s writing about a region that is some of the most remote and challenging in the country. He does it in a very focused and poetic way.

There’s a chapter he has on the National Parks System, automobiles, and Industrial Tourism that is amazing. You can read it here (not the same Lauren.) It really made me think, especially considering my own recent trip and what I’ve seen in the parks, from both the administrators and tourists. This chapter also made it ironic as hell that the Park Service is selling it in National Park gift shops. I’m sure that one has Abbey howling in his desert grave, either in indignation or appreciation for the double underline that does to his point.

I don’t often reread books, but because Abbey brings to life the atmosphere of this region that I love, it makes me want to dive back in again. I highly recommend it, and would venture to say it’s a must-read for college students.

Next?

What books are you reading? Which books should I read next? What are the best atmospheric nature books? The best biographies? What niche genre do you love?

Happy pages!