Normally, I never read non-fiction books. I always felt like I was reading a text book for a class and was immediately overwhelmed by a mixture of boredom and unwanted responsibility. However, in the last few years, I've started reading more non-fiction than fiction. Maybe it's a sign of age. More likely, it's because my interest in what's going on politically and socially in America has grown. As I start to look beyond my own cocoon, I want to get a clearer understanding of why this country is the way it is.
I've recently picked up two excellent non-fiction books. The first is "Killer on the Road: Violence and the American Interstate" by Ginger Strand. She examines how the highway system changed America, adding mobility, but also destroying neighborhoods, isolating the poor, and setting many communities adrift. She does this by using different mass murderers who used the highway system to conduct their crimes. In the chapter about Charles Starkweather, Strand includes a quote from a reader to the Washington Post commenting on how the country's push for consumerism and mobility had changed us. The reader said, "The things are getter better; the people are getting worse."
The second book I picked up is "This Town: Two Parties and a Funeral plus plenty of valet parking in America's Gilded Capital" by Mark Leibovich. Funny and depressing in equal measure. I'm a long time fan of the Daily Show so I love sharp clear-eyed political humor and Leibovich delivers the goods. The thing is, I was halfway through when I had to put the book down and stop reading. Not because it had lagged or got boring, but because it was just to damn true about the self-serving greed of the people who run our government. The concept of politicians as public servant has become a cynical joke. Still, don't let my sadness stop you from enjoying Leibovich's excellent book.