Category Archives: Books

Summer Reading: Medium Raw

Or cooked well-done?

I feel like a jaded music fan when it comes to Anthony Bourdain. I was there from the beginning. I read Kitchen Confidential when it first came out, man. I ate at Le Halles when he was still behind the stove. Needless to say, I’m still a huge fan of his television work and his writing. By no means has he sold out, but his snarky edge and no bullshit attitude has increased his appeal far beyond foodies and fellow chefs.

This is a blessing and a curse. The ravenous popularity of Confidential, his “obnoxious” (Bourdain’s word) tell all, has opened the door to Bourdain’s mainstream success but also painted him in a corner. In Medium Raw, Bourdain’s latest effort, it feels like he spends too much time explaining or apologizing for the success of Confidential. Some years later, he doesn’t seem content. He’s in a different place and I can’t tell if he’d trade in all the money and fame just to once again be an anonymous chef working the line every night.

Bourdain is angrier than ever in print and has an even sharper tongue. His criticism of vegetarians, the processed meat industry and the Food Network is solid, but easy prey. His food writing is the most exciting and the book contains probably the best examination of rock star chef de jour David Chang to date. The tiny travel vignettes transport you to lands you’ve probably only seen on No Reservations. Continue reading

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Summer Reading: Delivering Happiness

What makes you happy?

Does money buy happiness? For some, the immediate answer would be yes. But for Tony Hsieh, entrepreneur and CEO of Zappos.com, the answer is simply no. Happiness is not just an emotion, but a state of mind.

In Delivering Happiness: A Path to Profits, Passion, and Purpose, Hsieh tells the story of how he guided Zappos.com from a fledgling start-up to a 1 billion dollar annual business. The (New York Times Best Selling) book is part autobiography, part how-to, and part self-help. Hsieh is not the best writer, (as he openly admits), but his tone is conversational and comfortable. Never does he sound preachy or act like he’s looking down on his audience.

The book uses the theme of happiness to examine the success of Zappos.com. How do we become happy? How do we develop an enriching career? Do you love what you do for work? All questions that Hsieh tries to address. Zappos has separated itself from other online retailers because of it’s outstanding customer service and has become famous for their unique corporate culture. We’re not talking just a ping pong table in the break room here. Zappos has a serious commitment to it’s culture by investing in its people, providing a positive work environment and keeping things “fun and a little weird.” All things companies say they do (or want to), but rarely follow through. Continue reading

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I Only Roast The Ones I Love

Take Notes!

I’ve decided for my 30th birthday that I would like to be roasted. You know, some big party where I sit in on a dais in front of a crowd of people and my friends all take turns making fun of me. Everyone gets drunks while eating good food and laughing about how I use to be fat. While I would be the brunt of all the jokes, I could think of no funner and funnier way to celebrate a milestone birthday. Now, I don’t actually think it would be successful, because I don’t have that many friends and the friends I do have would be terrible at writing roasting jokes. But this seems like a great idea after finishing Jeff Ross’ I Only Roast the Ones I Love: Busting Balls Without Burning Bridges. Continue reading

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Artie Lange – Too Fat to Fish

Yes, A New York Times Bestseller

Yes, A New York Times Bestseller

I’ve never been a listener of The Howard Stern Stern Show, but I vaguely knew who Artie Lange was before picking up Too Fat to Fish and seeing him demolish Joe Buck on live TV earlier this week. Artie is a fat comedian who has struggled with drugs his whole life, and was in the massively underrated film Dirty Work. Too Fat to Fish isn’t an amazing piece of literature, but it has some funny stories, mostly revolving around cocaine abuse and Artie’s struggles to work in Hollywood and remain sober. Continue reading

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The Man Who Saved Britain – Simon Winder

Don't judge a book by its cover

Don't judge a book by its cover

Unfortunately I am guilty of judging this book by its cover. Upon seeing it in the bookstore, I said, “James Bond? Sociological commentary? SWEET!” I mean look at it; Suave Bond holding his PP7, fresh from target practice with a sexy woman in heat at his feat? Now that’s why I got that tat!

What started out as excitement about reading another book about the character of James Bond and his impact on the British culture, quickly turned into boredom. While there is nothing wrong with Simon Winder’s British writing style, tone or thesis focus, I just found the book dry and long-winded at times. I expected an analysis of Ian Fleming’s famous fictional (yet semi-autobiographical character) and his effect on his home nation. What I got was a long history of Britain and its struggled interspersed with book and movie plot summaries along with the occasional personal anecdote.

It is an interesting idea to look at a country’s history through the creation of one of its most famous creations. Winder is successful in his conclusions but I find myself not really caring. I am a huge Bond fan and am usually eager to learn more about his character and cultural impacts but this book is more about England and its evolution framed through Bond’s exploits.

The Man Who Saved Britain is a solid, factual book filled with interesting arguments. If you can tolerate British humor and long stretches of dense prose, check out this work of non-fiction but don’t feel it should be high priority on your summer reading list.

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God Save the Fan by Will Leitch

Will Leitch’s God Save the Fan is a great summer read whether you’re a sports fan or not. The book examines the over saturation and effect of media, most notably ESPN, on today’s sports fan while being extremely funny in the process. The chapters go by fast and the tone is light and conversational, taking on many topics that you and your friends might cover at your local bar over a round of beers. I particularly enjoyed the chapters on fantasy football and stories of behind the scenes action at ESPN that the worldwide leader doesn’t want you to know about.

Leitch, a seasoned writer who has spent the last three years as Editor of the excellent sports blog Deadspin.com, doesn’t aim to educate or even inform with his novel. I believe the point is to snap sports fans out of there ESPN-induced coma and prove that we don’t need 24 hour coverage of games, fantasy leagues are more fun than the majors and that sports are only meant to be an escape from life, not what your entire life revolves around. While Leitch is leaving Deadspin at the end of June to take a gig at New York Magazine, he has been one of the most vocal leaders in the young sports bloggers versus crotchety old newspaper columnists war that has recently exploded. (See the Buzz Bissenger video from Costas Now below). I don’t think Leitch has all the answers or is right about everything in God Save the Fan but it is a quick read that will make you laugh out loud and question the next time you watch the same Sportscenter for three hours in a row.

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