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Dec 12

Written by: Diana West
Saturday, December 12, 2020 6:54 AM 

I have a friend who drank 26 espressos a day so he could read all night. Or so he claimed. I certainly share the resolve, if not the habit. 

Here are a few books I read across this year which, sans espresso, turned out to be books I couldn't put down, as the wonderful phrase goes. One of them is also a book that keeps you up at night, which is something quite different. 

That one, the most important one, is The Invisible Rainbow: A History of Electricity and Life by Arthur Firstenberg. Everyone should read it. This deeply researched and mind-blowing work is hard to put down -- hard to stop thinking about -- and will not only keep you up at night, but will turn those glowing pinpoints of lighted phone chargers and signal boosters you see in the dark into sinister hot spots you may well find yourself unplugging, moving elsewhere, and regarding quite uneasily from hereon out. (Worst of all, it saps your energy, the theory goes.) You may even want to ditch your smartphone. I did, even before I read the book, and I am doubly glad I did. And no, we don't "need" 5G.

Firstenberg combines the history of electricity with the history of health and well-being on earth, and the rise of the former and the decline of the latter seem to be inextricably linked. From germ theory to influenzas to all manner of previously little or unknown disease (including "Covid 19"), Firstenberg harnesses the scientific literature to drive readers to confront compelling, non-conventional explanations for illness and the decline of life on earth. 

Now for some relief.

Final Verdict by Adela Rogers St John is not entirely without pain exactly, being the complex story of the rise and fall a magnetically brilliant American defense attorney of early 20th century California, but Adela Rogers St. John's memoir of her father, Earl Rogers, is a marvel nonetheless in its writing and feeling and depiction of a frantically exciting existence in long ago and very free America. It definitely helps to read it in a hammock strung up between two tall pines if at all possible, as I was able to do over the summer.

One of the vivid interludes Adela describes is her visit to Jack London's country idyll, the experimental farm he tried to establish as one of his many lavish enthusiasms. I think she was 12 years old at the time (precocious doesn't begin to describe her child wisdom) and her description of the great writer (and socialist) sent me looking for the biography of him that she considered to be the best.

I found this London bio fastest on online (despite Arthur Firstenberg) at archive.org: Sailor on Horseback by Irving Stone. Highly recommended.

A couple of other books on my list to read which are more in line with our unfortunate times happen to be two "unmasking" books. Unmasking Obama: The Fight to Tell the True Story of a Failed Presidency by the always excellent Jack Cashill and Unmasked: Inside Antifa's Radical Plan to Destroy Democracy by the courageous Andy Ngo.

In the meantime, I am in the middle of Middlemarch by George Eliot, which is an addicting antidote to the news.

 

 

 

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