I was recently asked by someone if I had read any good books lately. About the same time, I was listening to a podcast from Book City Roanoke featuring Council Member Bill Bestpitch, where he was discussing the influence books have had upon him and what he was currently reading. So, these two occurrences prompted this week’s post – here is what I am reading currently or have read recently.
What Type of Book?
First, it is important to know that I am one of those readers that is typically reading five or six different books at a time. Could be due to eclectic interests or an inability to focus, I will let you draw your own conclusions. I generally read books about cities (should be no big surprise), history (especially history about cities), and current issues. I rarely read fiction but when I do it will likely be something by Cormac McCarthy, any Irish author, or historical fiction (think Cold Mountain or Devil in the White City). I also enjoy collections of essays from time to time, especially those by Wendell Berry or Thomas Merton. In addition to the books that I read, I enjoy (no judgment please) reading economic reports, journal articles, and other various articles and studies related to public policy, governance, and the like.
With the aforementioned in mind, I am currently reading four books in addition to diligently working my way through the book of Acts in the New Testament. The first is Stamped from the Beginning by Dr. Ibram X. Kendi. I was fortunate enough to attend Dr. Kendi’s presentation at the Melrose Branch Library last year and have been participating in a book group presented by Book City Roanoke on the same. I am nearly finished with this book and have found it immensely informative and incredibly thought-provoking. It is a must-read for anyone wanting to learn more about the history of racism in our Nation, and what we need to be doing to address it.
The second is The Divided City: Poverty and Prosperity in Urban America. This book highlights the inequities in economic growth occurring in our Nation and most of our cities, and suggests some remedies for addressing the associated challenges. The third is Urban Forests, a fascinating look at how trees have played (and still play) a significant role in forming the character of our towns and cities, and the many people that struggled to ensure they remained so. The next is a bit more obscure, the fourth is entitled The Canal on the James: An Illustrated Guide to the James River and Kanawha Canal. The book details the history of a canal first promoted by George Washington when he was working as a surveyor, intended to connect the Atlantic Ocean to the Ohio River via a canal paralleling the James and Kanawha Rivers. Only portions of it were built – as far inland as Buchanan – before the enterprise ceased, bested by the railroads and topography. The book highlights locations where remnants of the canal may still be seen.
Other books that I recently completed that are worthy of taking a look at include Inclusion by Jennifer Brown, a book that explains why diversity and inclusion are so important to the viability of businesses and organizations. Another is The Future is Asian, which provides a fascinating glimpse into the growth of Asia and its likely continued dominance in economic expansion and global influence. Finally, I just completed Cities: The First 6,000 Years, which offered an interesting overview of how and why cities came into being and how vital they have been to economic growth and innovation through the centuries.
What might be next? I also must confess that I am constantly seeking out additional books to read or purchase, so I have a long library wish list as well as a tall stack of books to choose from. Of particular interest is Thomas Jefferson’s Education, a book about Jefferson’s grand vision for a University and his struggles at trying to secure its success; Ballpark, a book about the role baseball and baseball stadiums have played in various cities; How to be an Anti-Racist, Dr. Kendi’s follow-up to Stamped From the Beginning; and Barrio America, a book about the role Latino immigrants have played in revitalizing many American cities.
So there you are, an insight into what I am reading and may read next. There truly seems to be more to read than time to read! Happy reading.
-- Bob Cowell