Nightstand Books We Recommend
Sticky Fingers, Garden State Gangland, What’s Wrong with China?, The Star Wars Cookbook, Anatomy of a Miracle
March 4, 2018
STICKY FINGERS: THE LIFE AND TIMES OF JANN WENNER AND ROLLING STONE MAGAZINE By Joe Hagan
Sticky Fingers: The Life and Times of Jann Wenner and Rolling Stone Magazine is a 574-page road map of an America that has all but disappeared. From heady San Fran to the corporate wasteland of midtown Manhattan, this is author Joe Hagan’s warts and all portrait of a former high school nerd who would go on to publish the paper of record for the late ‘60s revolution. Sticky Fingers covers the whole tableau of Rock n Roll: Mick, reckless sex, quaaludes, a naked David Cassidy, Freak Power, Jefferson Airplane, more ‘ludes, more reckless sex, John and Yoko and one very brief mention of Jefferson Starship. It’s a quick read.
Wenner wanted a vanity piece. Hagan went another way. Perhaps a biography can be too revealing — when Graydon Carter sides with a subject, you know things have cut too close to the bone.
GARDEN STATE GANGLAND: THE RISE OF THE MOB IN NEW JERSEY By Scott M. Deitche
Rowman & Littlefield, $35
The Garden State is known for so much: The Jersey tomato, really tan jacked dudes fist pumping along the Jersey Shore and, of course, Bruce Springsteen. But when it comes to bosses, the Garden State was home to some of the most notorious mob bosses in history. Known also as the armpit of America, New Jersey wreaked of organized crime from the Black Hands at the turn of the 20th century through the “organizations” into the ‘70s.
Scott Deitch, who’s one of the foremost biographers on the mafia, is the grandson of a bookmaker who served time. Deitch delves deeper into La Cosa Nostra (this thing of ours) than Tony Soprano ever did in a therapy session with Dr. Melfi. And The Sopranos this book is not. (Though you’ll want to curl up with it on your own couch with a hero sandwich loaded with gabagool.) Though these were horrific men who killed at will, how could you not fall a little in love with fellas like “Doc,” “Longy,” “Nucky,” “Sam the Plumber,” “Puddy,” “Gyp,” “Scoops,” “Little Pussy,” “Reds,” Streaky,” “Happy” and “Richie the Boot”? The dense 183-page magnificent mafia manual will have your back up against the wall thinking, am I next?
WHAT’S WRONG WITH CHINA? By Paul Midler
Good question. I mean, until this book, it never occurred to me there was anything wrong with it, from their standpoint; just things like human rights atrocities and runaway pollution and a severely and uniquely stratified class system that we in the west find alternately horrific and unimaginable, or just plain don’t understand. Our relationship with China, in the west, has always been strained and poorly and often lazily articulated, and includes our glossing over savage treatment, by the one-time colonizing British of the Chinese in China, and our own often inhumane treatment of them in America. We have not historically seen them as equals and now they don’t see us as such.
So, what is wrong with them? They are an exponentially growing economy, virtually an equal military power (like hand grenades, close enough is good enough) and the largest population on earth, about four times ours. As Paul Midler’s engaging book points out, most Chinese don’t see anything much wrong with their country or way of life, but by any objective measure they are held back by a culture deep-rooted in pre-modern times and historically distrustful of outsiders. They operate on a different societal wavelength and although they have the technology and industry to match anywhere, they seem averse to make that system compatible with anyone else’s.
China is perhaps the most exotic large country on Earth, partly because, even today, with all the information that rains on us, we still don’t know or understand much about it. Midler’s illuminating book is meant to be a business one, but I think it’s more a superbly rendered travel book.
–Bob Guccione, Jr.
THE STAR WARS COOKBOOK: BB-ATE: AWAKEN TO THE FORCE OF BREAKFAST AND BRUNCH By Lara Starr
Chronicle Books, $19
A long time ago, in a galaxy set probably somewhere in California, George Lucas created Star Wars and in turn created one of the largest merchandise rackets in the history of pop culture. Forty-one years after Luke Skywalker became the new hope for the Rebel Alliance, a cookbook has been published as the new hope to satisfying the morning cravings of Jedis, padawans, younglings and even those dark lords from the evil Empire. Targeted towards children ages six and up, but of course appealing to any Star Wars fan, the namesake cookbook features 29 easy breakfast and brunch recipes, giving you the energy to fend off any Sith. Start your morning off with Chewie’s Bacon, Luke Skywaffles, Admiral Ackbars, a Breakfast Poe’Boy and wash it all down with a tall glass of fresh-made Vitamin C-3PO. Go forth and cook! May the breakfast course be with you…
ANATOMY OF A MIRACLE: THE TRUE* STORY OF A PARALYZED VETERAN, A MISSISSIPPI CONVENIENCE STORE, A VATICAN INVESTIGATION, AND THE SPECTACULAR PERILS OF GRACE By Jonathan Miles
Crown/Hogarth, $27 (March 13th)
Spoiler alert: it’s not a true story. Or is it? I’m still not sure, but that’s all due to the brilliance of Jonathan Miles. He takes the approach of an investigative journalist to uncover the story of paraplegic war veteran Cameron Harris of Biloxi, Mississippi, who is the beneficiary of a “miracle”. As his sister buys Cap’n Crunch, a pack of smokes and beer from the Biz-E-Bee, Cameron stands from his wheelchair and instantly regains the use of his legs. What follows is the viral celebrity mania that our culture has created and Cameron must deal with what happened before and after the miracle. It’s surprising, engaging and reads like a podcast you can’t get enough of. And with a cast of characters so uniquely Mississippi, it’s as much an entertaining train wreck as it is a realistic glimpse of humanity, told by those who sure like to talk.
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