We’re All Damaged, by Matthew Norman

Of the books I read while on vacation this past week – or all the books I’ve read yet this year – this is my favorite. We're All Damaged, by Matthew Norman

We’re All Damaged is a novel that, in my mind at least, goes in the same category as The Junk-Drawer Corner-Store Front-Porch Blues and The Art of Racing in the Rain: introspective novels that delve into the reality of life, and the fact that all’s not always sunshine and unicorns.

Andy, Matthew Norman‘s main character, is definitely damaged, having lost his wife, his job, and his way. A family emergency pulls him back from New York, where he’s hiding from himself (though he’d probably not admit it), into the mess of his life.

Maybe it’ll just… work itself out.”
“That’s stupid,” I say. But maybe it isn’t. Maybe, in fact, it’s brilliant. My parents are Catholic. Technically Jim and I are Catholic, too. Maybe this is how Catholics do it. We accept a certain level of unhappiness—like we have an unhappiness equilibrium built into our brains—and then, one day, we drop dead.

While dealing with – or not – the family and friends and his history with them, he meets someone who will change everything.

But not in the way you might expect.

Be You. Do Good., by Johnathan David Golden

Johnathan David Golden is the founder of Land Of A Thousand Hills coffee, a company who’s tagline “Drink Coffee. Do Good.” is more than a slogan, it defines their mission. Working directly with farmers in war-torn Rwanda, they provide us delicious coffee and the farmers with sustainable, profitable business.

Be You. Do Good.Golden encourages us, in his new book Be You. Do Good.: Having the Guts to Pursue What Makes You Come Alive, to examine our lives and our livelihood. Our work should be an outpouring of our passion, not just something to fill in the day and our bank accounts – “If you try to find all of your meaning or purpose in something you do from 9:00 until 5:00, you’ll be disappointed.”

As a Christian, it’s often tempting to say “I’ll go when God sends me,” but Golden points out that we’re sent every day, and that journeys all begin with a single step. There are some that don’t require that we even know the eventual destination, just an initial inkling of direction.

“You can move. You are not a tree.”

Black Hat Jack, by Joe R. Lansdale

Joe R. Lansdale’s “Black Hat Jack” is an… interesting western about an African American Cowboy and his partner exploring the great west and getting into trouble with Native American Tribes. Black Hat Jack, by Joe R. Lansdale

I wouldn’t exactly recommend it to kids nor adults who are squeamish about rough language, but it’s a good tale.
The writing style reminded me a bit of Mel Brooks’ Blazing Saddles, a bit of Quentin Tarantino’s Django Unchained – take that as an indication of the language and attitudes of some of the characters – as rough as it seems genuine to the place and period.

The Lathe of Heaven, by Ursula K. Le Guin

A man comes to you, saying that some of his dreams come true. The Lathe Of Heaven, by Ursula  K. Le GuinNot in a “I dreamed I’d get a new car and the next day I won a sweepstakes” sort of way; he says that he’s actually changing the past, and that what we remember isn’t real. Or wasn’t real. Or something.

On the surface “The Lathe of Heaven,” by Ursula K. Le Guin, is an interesting short novel. Decent science fiction, and a fun read.
When you sit back and think about it, perhaps reading it again, you realize that there’s more depth to the novel, much more. It’s not as much about George, the dreaming man. The story is told from his point of view as he’s manipulated by his doctor, and it’s exploring the temptation we have to “play god” and attempt to change the world “for the better.”

Summer Reading

Flying Saucer at the Hyattsville Branch Library, Hayattsville MDAs a youngster I spent a whole bunch of time, especially during the summer, at the public library. Libraries, actually, plural – my mom would take me to several in the area though my favorite was always “the library with the flying saucer.” I’m pretty sure she even had a job there for a while; I seem to remember her showing me the switchboard she worked.

One great thing that Public libraries do every summer to encourage kids to read more is to host a Summer Reading Club. They weren’t really “clubs” per se, there were no meetings or anything like that, but it was a fun way to track how many books I read through the summer months. That’s probably at least partially what lead me, as an adult, to join Goodreads. Of course, there were incentives – prizes of about the Cracker-Jack box variety, but they were prizes – if you read at least some number of books or were the kid who read the most. Summer Reading ProgramOnce our children got reading on their own, my wife and I signed our sons up as well.

As an adult though you were pretty much out of luck until recently. Goodreads is great for tracking, and even has had a yearly reading challenge for the past several years.

Today I just learned that our friends at the Atlanta-Fulton Public Library (twitter: @AFPLS) have a treat for adults – a summer reading program just for us. Yup, the Adult Summer Reading Program! We get to sign up and then write a review for each of the books we read during the months of June and July… and there are prizes! There’s nothing about it that I can find about it on their website, and you’ve got to fill out forms using paper and pen for each book you read, but if you’re in the Atlanta area be sure to stop by your local branch and check it out.

Thank You, AFPLS


some of the books I’ve submitted:

Thunderbird, by Jack McDevitt

Thunderbird, by Jack McDermittA “stargate” type portal is found in North Dakota, opening to various worlds and… other places.

How far will we reach, who gets to explore, and how to handle the expected / anticipated / feared Contact With Others — those are a few of the questions explored in Jack McDermitt’s novel “Thunderbird.”

There were a few places where I found the story to be a bit disjointed, as we jump between different characters and situations pretty frequently. It also it felt as though I’d stepped into a story already in progress, as there was very little of the backstory of just how the portal was found (more on that later). Nonetheless, I enjoyed this book quite a bit.

It was especially good to see non-“traditional” treatment of Sioux and EuroAnglo characters working together without it being a big deal; the differences and conflicts that existed felt natural, organic and not overplayed. The federal government stayed out if things a bit more than believable, but hey that’s why they call it fiction :)

After reading this novel, as I was entering it into Goodreads (a site which I recommend for anyone who’s “serious” about tracking and/or sharing the books they read), I realized that this was actually the second in a series of books. “Thunderbird” is a sequel to “Ancient Shores,” wherein I suppose I’ll get the backstory I was looking for. You should probably start there.

Shaken Awake

“If a homeless man froze to death on the steps of a church, what would it change?”

Shaken Awake

That’s the question being asked by my friend Allen in his new book, Shaken Awake. Allen uses real-life events that many of us here in the Atlanta area experienced just ten months ago to tell a tragic tale, one that – though this is a book of fiction – happens much too often not only in Atlanta but in cities all across our nation.

During my business travels, I’ve seen homeless on the streets of Austin, and Orlando. I’ve been approached with pleas of assistance in Washington and San Francisco. I’ve jogged through camps under bridges in Portland. And yes, here in Atlanta I’ve spoken with some of those living on the streets and have volunteered in night shelters.

Reading Allen’s book made me ask myself “is that enough, what else can we do – what else can I do?” I encourage you to get a copy and answer questions for yourself.

Shaken Awake will be available from Amazon and other retailers later this week, in the meantime keep an eye on http://shakenawakebook.com/

Update: Shaken Awake is now available for Kindle devices and software at Amazon.

More Dave Robicheaux

book cover: Light of the WorldI see that many people have visited this site for a list of James Lee Burke’s novels about Dave Robicheaux, Lousiana detective. He’s written more since I compiled that list, so I just updated it with four additional novels for you. Mr. Burke has written other novels as well, about other characters. I’ve not (yet) tried any of those but they’re likely to be good as well.

Book Recommendations by a Dozen

I was fortunate to spend two days last week with some very smart people as my company hosted a completely non-company-specific, non-tool-specific, non-technology-speicfic peer conference; twelve people in a room discussing the craft and profession of software testing, what changes we see happening and would like to see, and how we might be able to influence them.

On day two the question was raised: “what are you reading or do you recommend?” The following is the list that was produced. This is completely non-edited, everyone was welcome to post their recommendations and talk a bit about them. I am not endorsing all of these; many I’ve not read and a few I’d not even heard of before. Heck, there wasn’t agreement among all the participants on every book, some resulted in quite a discussion.

Note to the participants – I went from our hand-written notes on the wall; if I’ve mis-read something or found the wrong book, please let me know and I’ll update this.

disclosure: all these links are tagged with my Amazon Affiliate code — if you purchase through these links I’ll get a small percentage (which will undoubtedly go toward more book purchases), and I’ll be able to see what books were purchased (but not by whom; Amazon respects your privacy at least that much).