As the year wraps up, here are the recommendable books I read this past year (I’ll spare you the few that I regretted reading):
“New Seeds of Contemplation” by Thomas Merton. This could be considered one of his seminal works. I’m a big admirer of Merton and will be the 1st to admit that some of his writings can be hard to digest. Engagement is required. But I consider him a spiritual guide of sorts and strongly recommend his work to all.
“Dune Messiah” by Frank Herbert. A re-read. The conclusion to the story of Paul Atreides, the main character in the start of the Dune saga. I do hope Denis Villeneuve gets to do a 3rd movie that covers “Dune Messiah”. The 1st part of “Dune” (he split the telling of the 1st novel into 2 parts) was brilliant and I look forward to the 2nd part’s release in 2023. The books are always better but he did an admirable job conveying a very dense and nuanced story on film.
“Running with the Devil” by Noel Monk. An entertaining recounting of the era of Van Halen that is nearest and dearest to my heart (i.e. 1978-1984). As I posted previously, it is likely a skewed perspective of a shared history but it is enlightening and entertaining all the same.
I just completed reading “Running with the Devil” by Noel Monk. He was the business manager of Van Halen from 1978 though 1984 when Van Halen were, arguably, the biggest and most successful Rock band on the planet.
The book is a pretty easy read and offers a glimpse into the world of big time Rock and Roll in the 70’s and 80’s, an era of major money, ego, debauchery, and musical genius…an era that is long gone.
Full disclosure: I was a HUGE Van Halen fan. I was of the prime age when VH came about. Listening to their 1st album as a 12 year old kid was truly life-changing. Eddie Van Halen (may he be at peace) was a major musical influence on me. Through my high school years, it truly felt like VH were the kings of the world and the rest of us just paid rent. They were that big.
The book is an account of the rise and fall of the bands original line-up from the perspective of the manager. It recounts some very salacious moments in the bands history. It is a “Sex, Drugs, and Rock and Roll” tale that would have been the stuff of fantasy in my younger days.
Taking into account that it is one person’s perspective on a shared history and all the potential emotion that likely skews the telling of such a story, I did enjoy the book and would recommend it, if for nothing else than a historical lesson of a music business world that is long gone. However, my younger self’s misguided fantasies aside, I found myself being very uncomfortable and saddened by the book which, in a weird way, was an emotional response I was grateful to experience. When I was a budding wanna-be Rock star, I romanticized the idea of drugs and sex. That was, after all, the big pay off for being a Rock and Roller, right?!?!…However, having long learned that a lifestyle of promiscuous sex and drugs can lead to catastrophic ends, I was left feeling very sad about this story of the band I idolized in my younger days. This is in sharp contrast to how I would have viewed the story if I had read it some 30 plus years ago. Back then, it would have inspired and aroused me. Today, as a much older and wiser person, I was saddened…and I’m grateful for this.