Weekend Reading Assignments: Mobsters, Comic Books, Libertarians and More!
Book recommendations from the staff of THE WEEKLY STANDARD.
12:03 PM, Apr 30, 2011 • By THE WEEKLY STANDARD
One of these days when Hollywood needs a break from the superhero genre, they're going to make comic book movies out of Greg Rucka's fantastic Queen & Country books. Based on a small British MI6 team of agents, Queen & Country might be the most realistic spy series done in the last 20 years: The agents spend most of their time sitting around, waiting for something to happen. When missions do crop up, they spend most of their time observing. Often, whatever the situation is, it turns out to be a false alarm. And the biggest obstacles are almost always internal: fights between Her Majesty's different ministers and bureaucrats. Yet somehow Rucka makes it all grippingly awesome. Don't blame me when you wind up addicted.
One of the great perks of our business (and there are oh so many!) are the free books. They come in by the boatload—galleys, hardcovers, and paperbacks. They share the bookshelf alongside other books no longer wanted by our staff—quite understandable because if you didn’t occasionally shed books, your office would eventually resemble the hanger at the end of Raiders of the Lost Ark.
I'm working on a profile of Senator Rand Paul for the magazine. For research, I've spent a lot of time with books by and about libertarians. There's none I like better than Brian Doherty's Radicals for Capitalism: A Freewheeling History of the Modern American Libertarian Movement. Doherty's huge book is entertaining and informative in equal measure. You learn to distinguish your Ayn Rand from your Murray Rothbard in record time. And while I'm not a libertarian, I've gained a new appreciation for them while reading Radicals for Capitalism.
Easily one of the funniest books I've read in eons is Steve Hely's How I Became a Famous Novelist. It's a pitch perfect satire of the publishing industry -- at one point in the novel Hely goes so far as to reproduce an entire fake New York Times bestsellers list where his mocking of publishing trends is uncomfortably true to life. (The number four non-fiction book is Needs Improvement in All Areas, "an attack on President George W. Bush, written by his former kindergarten teacher.") The novel tells the story of a guy who deliberately sets out to manipulate the obvious formulaic conventions of the book market to make money and get back at his ex-girlfriend. He studies the market trends carefully and ends up (insincerely) writing a bestseller called The Tornado Ashes Club, while skewering everything from author readings to what happens when Hollywood purchases the publishing rights. Hely abandons his cutting satiric vision for a hollow redemptive ending, but the book's so funny you'll forgive him.